BLESSINGS FOR ELMIRA
By Antaraj~na (Deborah) Mandel
“Next time you see Swamiji would you please ask her how I can die and leave my body? I am ready to go and I can’t,” asked Elmira, who at 102 was still fully functioning mentally, but deteriorating in her physical body. She was done with her body. A spiritual being of the highest degree, she was ready to go and be with God. She was done with her earthly existence. I had been sharing my experiences with her about Svaroopa yoga and Swamiji, and she loved hearing about it. I agreed to ask the question of Swamiji, so I emailed her, and within twenty minutes I received back the most beautiful letter for me to give to Elmira. While I can’t remember the details of the letter, Elmira memorized it.
In general, Swamiji told her that she was already God and to be with herself in this knowing while she remained alive. She shared words that Muktananda had taught her. It changed Elmira’s life. She stopped wishing to die, and to accept each moment for the gift that it was. She shared the letter with everyone. She wrote Swami, and at some point Swami said that she kept the letter out on her desk, it was so special. She sent me home with a mala bead for Elmira and a mantra. Elmira insisted on putting it right on, much to the dismay of her nurse who had to undo all her breathing apparatus.
Elmira was looking forward to hearing all about India, but she died on the day I came to India with Swami. During the morning ceremony in Nityananda’s temple, she told me she had died. How incredible that I was able to say goodbye to her in Nityananda’s Temple. What a gift for me to say goodbye to her there.
Then we came to the Kumbha Mela and went by boat to the Sangham, the holy site where the three rivers converge. I had a puja done to bless Elmira. The puja took place on a boat with a Brahmin priest, who had us repeat mantras and gave us coconuts and flowers. After the mantras were finished, we released the coconuts and flowers into Ganga with our own prayers. Mine were blessings for Elmira. I feel her presence here every day. Good bye and hello. It is not an end. Only a change.
When Swamiji had sent me the letter for Elmira, at the end she wrote a note to me, “She’s ready to hear this, are you?” Those words stayed with me. After these three weeks I can finally feel that I am ready. The changes inside are profound. I am one with the Guru, I am the Guru. I receive grace from my Guru. I receive all I need from my Guru. I just have to stay open to hear it. It is all inside. It does not come from the outside. I don’t need my asana to have it; I don’t need my OM necklace to hear it; I just need to be in me. That will be my challenge when I leave India. Staying open. I hope I am up for the challenge and trust that I will do my best, just like Elmira, who, at 102 was ready to hear and live by what Swamiji had to say to her.
By Sheynapurna Peace
It’s been over 2 weeks since our return from India. It’s become apparent that some of the changes, those internal changes, have become part of who I am now – parts of my personality seem altered. It’s also clear that the freedom of our journey, during which time we were so completely cared for, was wonderful but was defined by time. There was a part of me that never wanted to return and I keep that part in India; I have many memories to access along with over 1700 photos for when memories become foggy.
I have given a lot of thought to our India experience. There is India herself: colorful, joyous, dirty, dusty, and sometimes sparkling clean. The sights, smells and sounds still resonate. Ganeshpuri, so full of Nityananda and Muktananda that grace seeps through the dust and is found in every breath.
The Himalayan Institute campus on the Sangham, with energies so ethereal and powerful they draw even the uninitiated into meditation.
And Varanasi. Varanasi almost defies description; it is such an area of contrasts. The steep steps of the ghats, each section with slightly different rise and fall, the cows and water buffalo, sadhus, foreigners taking photos, including a large boatload of tourists wearing medical face masks, each camera boasting a 6- to 10-inch lens.
The goats, monkeys and piles of dung on the walkways, laundry stretched out on the ghats drying in the sun. Hundreds of boats and boatmen, priests, temples and people and traffic everywhere. The silk shops and veggie sellers, souvenirs, statues, incredible smells of food from street corner stands, the paneer shop, tailors in their dark shops creating clothing or weavers creating beautiful silks. And over all is the Ganges, and the thousands of bathers coming to cleanse themselves in her sacred yet alarmingly polluted waters. All of this is spectacular, phenomenal, enticing and exciting. More important, however, is that special aspect of our journey, the glue holding all together.
Making it so much more than a mere trip to India was Swami Nirmalananda and the teachings with which we were daily graced. Each experience was looked at and questioned. Swamiji taught us to look beyond the external into the internal. What was really happening in Ganeshpuri, at Kumbha Mela? What is the meaning of all of our experiences? What did we see and what was there that we weren’t seeing? What could we feel? What did we know that we did not recognize we knew? This expansion was not what we expected and yet it profoundly affected each one of us and we were each aware of our changes.
India herself cannot make me more patient, forgiving, understanding, compassionate. India could not propel me into my now daily chanting of the entire Guru Gita or to my each morning rise to meditate at 4 AM. India did not open my eyes to what is happening inside myself, she did not cause the river of Grace flowing within me, within each of us. But a month in India or a month anywhere with Swami Nirmalananda – now that is a life changing experience.