Guruji the “Householder Yogi”

I thought it would be interesting to ask Guruji’s wife, Vandanaji, (who many disciples also call “Guru-ma” as a term of endearment and respect) to provide an insight into “Guruji At Home”. Does he help with the housework? Does he cook?

“Of course,” she answered. I learned that Guruji vacuums and cleans the floors whenever necessary. The kitchen is more her domain, but he always keeps the living room spotless. Sometimes he will clean the bathroom too. He takes care of the plants in the house and, of course, spends a lot of time growing vegetables in the garden. “He sees when I have had enough, asks what he can do to help in the kitchen, and does some chopping. If I am really tired, sometimes he will suddenly say, ‘OK I will cook today’”, Vandanaji adds. And his specialities are: cashew korma, shai paneer and American chop suey.

I already knew that Guruji was a familiar face down the local market in town on the first Sunday of each month, but when asked if he ever does the food shopping, Vandanaji laughed and said no, she does the shopping.

“Does he only buy the biscuits then?” I asked, because after a yoga lesson a couple of months ago, Guruji had asked me for a lift into town. Vandanaji was out at work, and she had told him to go into town to get biscuits for teatime.

“Well, sometimes I don’t like him to be home alone all day by himself. I think he will get lonely or bored – because I get bored if I am at home all day! So sometimes I send him into town to buy something,” Vandanaji said.
“Oh, I see…”
“Yes,” she continued, “but he tells me that he can sit in a corner all day long and never get bored. He says that he has lots to do. And he tells me that he is never alone.”

Here in Australia, Christmas is almost upon us with the traditional exchange of gifts. So it seems like a good week to share a few stories about Guruji, even though they can barely touch the surface of his extraordinary example when it comes to giving from the heart.

A friend and fellow disciple was with Guruji one Sunday morning at the local farmers’ market, and told me this story: “We were buying some fruit and vegetables a few weeks ago,” she began, “and the young girl at the stall was struck by Guruji’s silk scarf. ‘What a beautiful scarf!’ she said, and it seemed as if she couldn’t take her eyes off it. The next moment, Guruji was taking it off and giving it to her. Normally, if someone would do such a thing, the other would say, ‘No, no, I couldn’t possibly accept…’ But you should have seen the expression on this girl’s face! I was struck by the amount of happiness it brought her, and she readily accepted. Guruji said afterwards, ‘Why not, it made her so happy.’ It’s not like he gives his scarf to people all the time, but certain examples just stand out…” She paused. “But then again,” she said, “if you think about it, these things are nothing compared to what he is doing for us all the time – we can’t begin to imagine how he is helping all of his disciples.”

It reminded me of that rainy day in August when Guruji had asked for a lift to the supermarket after yoga, because Vandanaji had told him to buy the biscuits whilst she was at work. My daughter Jessie and I picked up a few groceries ourselves and met Guruji in the tea and biscuit isle. I was just considering whether to pick up some biscuits for us too, when Guruji asked Jessie, “Do you want biscuits too?” and she nodded shyly. So he picked up three more packets of Ginger Nuts and went to the checkout to pay for them. I trailed behind, thinking, “we can’t possibly let Guruji just pay for our biscuits too. We should be paying for his.”

“Um, Guruji….” I began, only to be silenced as Guruji gave me the kind of look which meant there was no point in even trying, so I smiled meekly, feeling rather humbled, and thought to myself, “Blessed Biscuits!”

Now, I probably know more about Guruji’s personal circumstances than a lot of people which is possibly why his generosity never ceases to amaze me. Of course it would not be appropriate to go into personal or financial circumstances here, but it is still a topic I could talk about all day, thinking about the many times Guruji has put me to shame. My “conditioned mind” says that if I earn so much in a week, what I can spend after putting money aside for the bills is limited by precisely that much. It’s natural to assume that the same principle applies to everyone else…

And then there is Guruji and his wife Vandanaji, who always give so freely for the sheer joy of giving. They give with such happiness and selflessness and so completely and utterly from the heart – it is quite an example in itself.

But in addition, Guruji seems to know precisely when someone has “something in their mind” –– and WHAM, he can chop down a person’s preconceived idea, pride, self-righteousness or perhaps even resentment due to doing some Guruseva (service to the Guru) with an act of … the most extraordinary and unexpected generosity. If you realise the magnitude of the lesson when it’s served on a platter, that sword will have you down on your knees. Figuratively speaking, of course, but it has happened to me, and it has happened to others also. We are talking about a severe blow to the ego. In this context, I am talking about generosity on the physical plane here, despite the fact that Guruji teaches only four yoga lessons a week these days, and has over the past couple of years only given Kriya Yoga initiation two to three times a year (always by donation, rather than a fixed fee). I agree with my friend who told this latest story about Guruji at the market – what Guruji gives on the spiritual level is impossible to even begin to imagine.

So chopping and cooking in the kitchen as a householder requires one kind of skill, but in addition, to wield the Sword of Pure Love as a true spiritual master only can, you would have to be what was known throughout the direct family lineage of Lahiri Mahasaya as a “householder Yogi”.

Remember how I was telling before how Guruji says, “Never think that you can give anything to Guru.” He continues: “Guru is only taking from you. Guru is taking your ego and giving you nothingness.”

Two years ago, I was thinking that if someone gave Guruji and his family the means to buy their own house, surely that would be the ultimate Guru Dakshina.* But until the “Blessed Biscuits” episode, I was missing the point entirely. He meant never, and he really meant never think that you can give anything to Guru!

Of course there is only one exception, and Christmas is an auspicious day for special Kriya practice, isn’t it, fellow Kriyabans…? I guess the trick is to try not to eat too many of those Blessed Biscuits or Christmas cakes this year then! ☺

*Guru Dakshina means “offering” to the Guru (teacher). According to the Indian tradition, Guru Dakshina is given with gratitude and joy. It is a reflection of the value you place on what you are receiving through the teachings of a spiritual master, and the act of giving invites grace … at there is a link with more information.