Artist: Simon Pritchard. Painting: Crazy Da Must Sing
I arrived on Naitauba at the beginning of December. I was so much looking forward to dropping out, and having extended time to meditate. In the world there seems to be endless pressure to function and ‘get things done’. Wow did I need a meditation retreat! A vacation from all that busyness, some simple Guru seva, but mostly meditation, puja and Darshan (Sighting of the Guru). Yes I did. At least I thought so. But as Mick Jagger sings, ‘you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you just might find, you get what you need.’
The journey to Naitauba had been absolutely exhausting. We arrived on the Island early evening. My bed was calling me! ‘Simon, Simon, rest your weary head on my pillow.’ I really needed to sleep! The retreat manager gave us an orientation. He told us that the main project on the Island right now was to prepare Samraj Mahal, to finish construction on the lower level so that it would be ready for December 25th as a Danavia Mela Gift to Beloved. Adi Da wanted to use Samraj Mahal for Darshan and potential gatherings at the earliest opportunity.
Our retreat manager informed us that they were short-staffed on Naitauba and that the construction work at Samraj Mahal was behind schedule. Therefore until further notice the five or so male retreatants should consider ourselves as being on a service retreat rather than a meditation retreat. Also, he said, the construction at Samraj Mahal had to take place in the night, because in the morning Adi Da’s serving ladies would prepare the area around the jacuzzi-pool for Beloved, so that if He chose He could use it during the daytime.
‘We need you to go out to Da Avabhasa Chakra tonight! The truck will pick you up around midnight.’ My heart sank.
Well, there was no respite. Every night until December 25th this was the pattern. Serving all night, being picked up at Da Avabhasa Chakra around 6 am, driven back to the village, having a few hours sleep, then being picked up in the morning by the truck to take us back out to Da Avabhasa Chakra where more service was assigned. We would serve all day, not at Samraj Mahal but in and around the grounds of His House. In the evening we would be driven back to the retreat quarters to eat and freshen up, lie down or nap for a couple of hours, then be woken at around midnight to be taken back on the truck to Samraj Mahal. It was Guru Seva Olympics requiring extra resources of energy and stamina!
The ladies were on a much more benign schedule. They were doing more ladylike contemplative service, like making flower malas. They could meditate, attend all the pujas, the things I longed to do! There were times during this period where, knackered, shattered, exhausted and feeling burnt out, I longed to join with the ladies in their more simple, regular, contemplative life. If there had been a doctor on the Island who could perform a sex change, why I may just have asked for one.
To be perfectly honest right from the get go I was mostly really struggling with the fiery demand to function, what felt like (not quite but almost), around the clock. I wasn’t so much ‘rocking around the clock’ as ‘dropping around the clock.’ My energy was dropping and my humour was dipping. I had wanted to ‘drop out’, but this is not what I had in mind!
There was one thing though that kept me going! I would like to say it was ‘Bhakti’, an overwhelming devotion to Guru, or the wound of love of my Beloved Guru, a wound which when deeply felt, enjoyed, endured and suffered, releases vast amounts of Blissful energy! But that would be an untruth.
It was rather coffee and sandwiches, and the occasional cigarette! About two hours into our nightly vigil a truck would arrive at Samraj Mahal laden with coffee and sandwiches for the tireless workers. Well not exactly laden, but there was enough for a cup of coffee each and a couple of sandwiches or a piece of cornbread. Under normal circumstances the small brick of cornbread would probably have found better use as a doorstop or something, as it wasn’t so tasty, however under these circumstances, the cornbread, the sandwiches and the coffee was my pick-me-up. This small but very welcome provision really gave me a boost! A hit! I sooo looked forward to that truck coming each night, just the thought that it would be coming, and the memory of the previous middle of the night snacking sessions, would keep me going, keep my energy from flagging and keep my spirits up!
The service itself was, for me at any rate, very finickety, extremely unconsoling and bothersome. We had to sand and carve the pillars so that they looked elegant. Samraj, Mughul style! Beloved had said the architecture of Samraj Mahal should be ‘Western Mughal’ but no one knew what He meant by that exactly! Wikipedia defines ‘Mughal architecture as an amalgam of Islamic, Persian, Turkish and Indian architecture, the distinctive style developed by the Mughals in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries in what is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It is symmetrical and decorative in style’ and is epitomized in the architecture of The Taj Mahal.
But what is Western Mughal? Its not in Wikipedia! Beloved made it up, without telling us what it actually is! A bit like The Way of The Heart altogether. He tells us so much but there is no rigid formula. Somehow each individual devotee still has to work out and keep working out, through all the apparent changes in their life and circumstance, how to creatively apply the Way in their own lives, in a way where they keep themselves ‘on the edge of their practice.’
We were instructed how to carve the pillars in elegant, decorative, uniform patterns, but unfortunately we had substandard tools. Also I was not a carpenter! My hands were challenged even doing simple ‘arts and crafts’. My first day at infants school, (my first school), I was banned from the handicrafts class for the rest of the school term, because, knowing my limits even at that young age, I had ‘wasted a whole Kellogs cornflakes box’ by cutting it in two, sticking one half on top of the other half, putting some dinky toy cars inside and calling it a ‘car showroom’! When I went to my big school, it’s true, I won a prize for carpentry and much praise for my beautiful looking, extremely lifelike giraffe’s neck and head. But only because, when walking in the ‘woods’ to find the piece of wood I would sculpt from, I was lucky enough to find a fallen branch off a tree, that looked exactly like a giraffe’s neck and head! All I had to do was strip the bark off!
On top of the difficulty of doing the carving, after many nights of hard and finickety labour we were told the pattern was all wrong, and the pillars would have to be replastered, and then carved all over again in a different pattern!
Not only was I very tired, but I have a spinal ‘amusement’ (as Beloved calls health challenges), and was in considerable pain, with all the bending over to do all this carving, and more carving, and more and more carving, like it would never end!
One night I was feeling exceptionally raw, unconsoled, up against my mental, emotional and physical tendencies, bored, reactive, angry, depressed, uncomfortable, tired and vulnerable. Damn it! I had wanted to come on a real retreat and drop out into Beloved’s Bliss, not to be a labourer on a f…….g work camp! There had been no Darshan of Beloved, no meditation, just work! I had been serving Him all year, busting my arse for Him and now I’m just like an unpaid slave doing work I am not equipped for with crap tools, with managers who change, and give us confusing and contradictory messages about what we are actually supposed to be doing.
I was suffering my arse off!
Beloved meanwhile was loving it that we were doing this all night service. Most evenings, around this period of time, He watched DVDs in His cinema and at night would walk back to His House passing by Samraj Mahal.. We did not see Him but we heard that He very much enjoyed hearing the sounds of us working! One of His serving ladies joked with us that maybe we should make a tape of hammers and saws and the sounds of construction, and play the tape each night through a loudspeaker so Beloved would think we were working, while really we were back in our beds in our retreat quarters.
So back to this night I was mentioning, where I had come to the end of my rope! I consoled myself with the idea that at least the coffee and snacks would be arriving soon. The truck drove up as usual, but when we looked in the back to collect our goodies, there was nothing there! The refreshments had gone! I had a flashback to The Mummery where Raymond Darling reaches for the chicken drumstick, but it’s vanished! And then he hears the sound of his father chewing! We we were told that some of the residents must have stolen the food that was meant for us, from the back of the truck! In my head I could hear the sounds of the culprits slurping my coffee, and chewing my cornbread!
Well I was devastated. I wanted to burst out in tears. I went to the side of Samraj Mahal, my legs dangling over the side, and sat slumped in exhaustion and despair.
After a while one of my friends came over to me and put his arm around me, ‘hey Simon’, He said softly, ‘He is breaking you down.’
When my friend said this, I suddenly felt Beloved in my heart. I remembered the story of Marpa and Milarepa, where Marpa, the Guru, would deal with the ego of his disciple Milarepa by making him build a tower, only to make him knock it down again, then build it again, knock it down again and so on. I felt that maybe Beloved was using His Skilful Means of this opportunity to break us down so we could be ready to receive Him better, The Transmission of His Love-Bliss, The Love-Bliss Consciousness that He Is. He was defeating my ‘ego.’
I felt reinvigorated, reenergized. I could feel my direct relationship with Beloved again. I realized this retreat was perfect as it was, not perfect according to my egoic plan, but perfect for Beloved’s Purposes!
That night and the nights following I transcended my sulk and victim consciousness and began to practice counter-egoically, turning the faculties to Him, however difficult it still was at times. That night I began chanting for periods of time as we served, and my friends joined in. We became ecstatic. The work was transformed into Guru-seva, a means to feel and express our love for our Most Beautiful Guru.
One night, deep in my heart, I felt an impulse, to pray to Beloved. I put down my tools and walked across the lawn towards Beloved’s House, though still some distance away. I kneeled on the grass facing His Bedroom where He was sleeping and I opened my hands in a devotional gesture. Although I could not see Him, it was truly an amazing feeling to know He was there, so nearby. The moon was radiant white. She too seemed to me to be thrilled to be so close to Beloved, her rays reaching for Him as He slept.The warm Fiji air was electric with the feeling of Him. The ocean waves were washing against the shore, as though washing the karmas of many lifetimes, of billions of beings, to His Beautiful Lotus Feet to be purified.
I prayed to Him for true seriousness in my practice and right devotion to Him. On my first retreat at Adidam Samrajashram in 1990, Adi Da had Instructed us to pray for this specifically, rather than praying for spiritual experiences or something for ‘ourselves’ (not that there is ever a ‘rule’ what one should or should not pray for!). As I prayed to Him, facing His Bedroom, the feeling of Him grew stronger and more intense.
I felt the profound Mystery of Who He Is and I was in awe and wonder.
I felt Him very personally and directly responding to my heart yearning. I felt my heart touching Him and His heart touching mine. I don’t know which came first exactly but I felt the profundity and sweetness of my love-bond with Him and the wound of it, the love of it, His Infinite Unconditional Love, the knowledge of it, the miracle of it, started to overwhelm me and break my heart. I felt a deep magnetic pull from His Room pulling my hands, as though pulling me towards Him, there asleep on His Bed, God, The Divine Person, The Great One, in His Bodily human Form. Joy and grief simultaneously welled up in my heart and I was sobbing feeling deeply the wound of His Love
As my heart was widened by Him, my prayer too widened outwards to embrace more beings. I began to pray for my Gurubhais, my family and all my friends to be found by Him, to practice seriously and be awakened at heart. I began to think of individual people that I cared about, praying for them, offering them up to Beloved, from the depths of my heart, that they may be Blessed by Him. The more people I included in my prayer, in my heart, the more I felt Beloved’s Heart respond. I was feeling Beloved very intimately now, feeling Him very close, I could feel His Spiritual Body, His Spiritual Heart responding to my prayer.
I was in love communion with Him and it was the best feeling in the whole world. His Bodily human Form was in His Bedroom but His Spiritual Body was All Pervading, I could feel the whole Island and even beyond, infinitely above and beyond, as His Person.
I remembered His Instruction in 1990 while I was on retreat that through right devotion to Him and true faith in Him, His All Accomplishing Siddhis would spontaneously be activated. , He said His Siddhis had no limitations at all and could change anything at all in time or space, in the present and the future and even in the past. He Said even past historical events could be changed, the whole of human history up until this point. He Said absolutely anything could be Changed. There is Absolutely no limit at all on the Accomplishing Power of His Siddhis. Feeling the Magnitude of this Promise I began to pray for more people, people I did not like! Soon I was praying for the five billion people on earth, and then for all beings in all times and places.
After my prayer I walked back to Samraj Mahal. I climbed up to the second level of Samraj Mahal which had not been finished yet. Noone could see me there, that I wasn’t working, and I could lie down for a bit and relax. This second level was directly above Adi Da’s Jacuzzi – pool, where He stood or floated for several hours each day, though at that time in privacy, as He wasn’t giving Darshan to devotees. But I lay there and was aware of Him being in His bedroom and Him having spent a lot of time in the pool below me. As I contemplated Him I drifted deeper and deeper into the feeling of Him, and then I felt a descending Force as I lay on my back.
It seemed to come from above, from the sky, it was a powerful energy of Love-Bliss, It felt like His Person, Him, Beloved, sweeping me up in ecstasy. My mind dissolved, my heart was trembling with the feeling of Him. Delicious tremors of love-bliss swept through my body and I seemed to be levitating, though I am sure that physically I wasn’t levitating. But that is how it felt. The more I yielded to Him the more the feeling of Bliss swelled and engulfed me, lifting me beyond the feeling of being identified with the body. I could hardly contain the feeling of Happiness and Bliss of Him. I could not contain it.
However I could feel the limit of my surrender, how I was still defending myself, reluctant to love absolutely and yield and be completely dissolved in Him. I remembered how He had once acknowledged that I loved Him, ‘Simon you have to love Me?’ (‘He does love You Beloved’ said some of His intimate female devotees). ‘I know all about that’ He exclaimed, but then rubbing His Hands together vigorously as though washing His hands or rubbing a coin He Said forcefully, Powerful like a Lion, ‘But Simon you have to love me Absolutely.’
A few weeks later I would have the chance to ask Beloved about this reluctance to fully surrender, even when feeling Him so strongly. Beloved was at Samraj Mahal when He spontaneously Said He wanted retreatants to ask Him questions then and there by telephone link. It happened so fast that only three of us were around. Dina took us in the communications bure and told to us to come up with a question each for Beloved on the spot! We spoke to Beloved via a telephone link, through Dina as the intermediary. Dina relayed my question to Beloved on the phone sentence by sentence as I spoke it to her. My question was that I observed that in Darshan and other occasions when I sometimes feel Him strongly, when the loving and devotion had reached a peak in me, I contracted and withdrew from Him, like I had had enough Intensity, I was satisfied with what He had Given me, the Bliss, and then I defended myself against Him. I asked Him why I would do this? Dina looked at me and relayed His Answer, a loud and cutting – ‘Fuck you’.
When I heard this I felt like He had made a wound in my heart with a spear. My heart really hurt. He was giving me ‘a cookie from my own dough’ as they say in Holland. Reflecting to me how I do ‘fuck you’ to Him, whenever I withdraw my devotion, my love, my sensitivity to His Vulnerable Heart. I felt how my tendency is to abstract Him, relate to Him as though He is the Great Divine Guru, a Realization Machine, who is Dishing out Love and Awakening beings, and is so Mighty that He is invulnerable and impervious to my innumerable heart betrayals of Him. When of course the opposite is the case. His State is one of ‘intense armorless vulnerability.’
Now whenever I am particularly sensitive to how I am withdrawing my love from Beloved or being hyper-critical of someone, tearing them apart in my mind, I often hear His Voice in my head saying ‘Fuck you’ and it helps to straighten me out, shocks me into feeling my cruelty, my hatred, my withholding of love, so that I can feel the wound of that in my heart, and instead make a counter-egoic gesture of love, of moving into relationship, rather than withdrawing from relationship.
When I walked down the steps and rejoined my friends serving I had an excess of energy. I felt unreasonably happy, ecstatic. The feeling was infectious and soon we were all chanting ecstatically as we served, Blissfully remembering Him, Adi Da, The Great Divine Lover, our Sweetest Friend.
Usually when the truck came to pick us up about six am from the carport we were exhausted and would sit silent and slumped, counting the minutes, dying to get to our beds, and cursing the truck if it was late, which it often was.
On this night though we were all overflowing with vibrant energy. His Energy was almost Bursting out of us. Ecstatic we started to sweep up all the leaves at the carport, making huge piles of leaves. When the truck came the devotee driver could not believe his eyes. He was amazed. ‘What is it with you guys?’ He was blown away that after serving all night we were so Happy, so Full of Life! He had never seen us like this when he came to pick us up!
We sat in the back of the truck and ecstatically chanted to our Guru the whole return journey. We felt so Happy, so Blissful, so in Love with our Most Beautiful Guru, Parama-Sapta-Na Adi Da Samraj, Heart Friend of all, The Divine Person, Our Lover, our Beloved, The sweetest Being in all the worlds, The One Being Who Is Living As Every Being, Love Itself, Who Liberates everyone from identification with birth and death, and Sublimes them, Loves then, Loves them, Loves them, And Awakens all Beings to Happiness!