We began at 3:30 am, dressing the ladies in their new sarees, in preparation for our Maha-Abhishek, the great (maha) morning ceremony (abhishek) which features the milk-bath of Bhagavan Nityananda’s enlivened statue. A classical devotional practice, this is a taste of yoga’s ancient roots and living practice, honoring the divine in the human.
This photo is from the last time I got to take part in the morning abhishek. I am pouring honey on Nityananda’s head. You can see how alive this “statue” is, especially when the milk residue hides his golden sheen.
This morning, Board members from both Master Yoga and Svaroopa Vidya Ashram joined me in the ceremony. Dean and Shuchi (Sue) Cilley were the married couple officiating, under the Brahmins’ practiced direction. Prasad Joshi, the head of Ganeshpuri Music School (one of the Ashram’s charities) helped with translation and directions in this complex and rich ceremony.
Along with Dean, Shuchi and me, Saguna (Kelly) Goss and Amala (Lynn) Cattafi Heinlein helped pour the milk, curd, honey, sugar, rose petals and water over Bhagavan’s form, followed by drying him with soft towels and smoothing frangrant oil all over his golden body.
The process continued with layers of shawls, leaf garlands and flower garlands, and candle flame ceremonies with the drum and bells thrumming through the whole temple. An ecstatic crescendo after 2 hours led to a parade of devotees coming to greet Nityananda in the new day, with Dean handing out prasad (blessed food) to each one.
Then we gathered again, with everyone on retreat, for a final arati (candle flame ceremony) and chant. It felt like it lasted lifetimes, yet was over in an eyeblink. The process and the result are indescribable, yet we spent almost 2 hours discussing it later in the morning. To have the experience and to understand your experience – this is yoga.