The Feet of The Yogi
Yogiji taught in the morning and again in the evening. His classes were wonderful; his words magical; the yoga was transformative and the meditations blew our minds. I loved the chanting, especially when accompanied by guitars. He took time to explain yoga in terms that were understandable and insightful. We breathed until I thought I would leave my body. Then he brought us right back down to earth.
He said raising Kundalini was easy. Whoa. I thought that was what we were trying to do. He explained that keeping it up was the challenge. I figured that keeping it up meant doing yoga and meditation all day long and living apart from the pressures and temptations of the world. But he explained that to keep it up meant being in the world but not being of the world. No living in the mountains and meditating in a cave for me.
He quoted Guru Nanak: “Truth is the highest virtue, higher still is truthful living”. Our spiritual path was the path of the householder. We could carry an elevated spiritual consciousness into every challenge that confronted us. “Before you can be a spiritual man, you have to be a man,” he said emphatically. It was the first time I began to see my spiritual path as working in the world, finishing my education, getting a real job and having a family.
“There is no liberation with out labor there is no freedom which is free.” Many of his students, like me, were former hippies, fresh out of the drug culture. We wanted instant enlightenment, blasts of light and easy terms. He let us know, right from the start, that you have to work, do sadhana, live your life with commitment and dedication. Hippy consciousness would not make it in a spiritual lifestyle.
“There is nothing in this universe that is beyond you. Even God is incomplete without you.” Spiritual yogi, enlightened master, man of God he was, his basic teaching was that you had to know yourself. He made it real. He made it possible.
He told a story that I occasionally retell in my yoga classes:
Once upon a time there was a wealthy king who owned a most beautiful and precious diamond. He wanted to make a gift of this diamond to a neighboring king. The problem was how it should be delivered. The most secure way would be to send the diamond with a large contingent of his army as protection. Still this was no guarantee for success. The diamond would have to pass through the land of robber barons and warlords who themselves had large armies. This plan might also weaken his own kingdom defenses against attack from enemies who were constantly seeking an advantage. After much consideration he decided to send his most trusted Wazir, disguised as a humble pilgrim.
The Wazir left the palace through the common gate along side the throngs of people bustling in and out to provide services or sell goods. He was dressed in the tattered traveling clothes of an elderly religious pilgrim visiting the holy sites. The diamond was stashed in a hidden pouch under his clothes.
A well known and highly accomplished thief and pick-pocket learned of the Wazir’s mission. No sooner had he left the palace when the thief made contact. He introduced himself as a fellow traveler and suggested they travel together. Of course the Wazir accepted the offer as would any religious pilgrim.
That evening they camped near a copse of trees on a stream. After their meal they bedded down to sleep. The thief waited until the Wazir was snoring then went through his clothes, looking for the diamond. He found the Wazir’s pouch. Inside were a few small copper coins and some rumpled bills. The rest of his pockets were empty.
Next day they traveled far and that evening they followed the same routine. The thief searched all the Wazir’s clothes, his belongings, his blanket, his mat and his bowls. He found nothing.
The third day brought them near the next kingdom. For the last night the two bedded down for the night. This time the thief checked everywhere. He looked under stones, dug holes, climbed up in the tree branches, dove under the water of the stream. He even reached his hand down snake holes. He continued searching until morning. Still he found nothing.
That morning they reached the palace gates. The thief said, “I am so and so, the famous thief. I know you are the Wazir and you are carrying the precious diamond. May I know one thing?
“Yes, of course,” said the Wazir. “We have come to the palace. The guards are nearby. Here is the diamond.” He took the diamond from his pouch and showed it to the thief.
“Please, sir,” said the thief. “Where did you hide the diamond?”
“I put it in your shirt pocket.”
Yogiji explained that we are like the thief. The precious diamond is God consciousness. We search everywhere to find God; in books, in mountains, at religious sites, in different religions, we go to swamis, gurus, teachers of all kinds but we find nothing until we look to ourselves. When and if we find God consciousness we are always amazed to find it was with us the whole time.
When Yogiji was not teaching he could be found wandering around camp talking to folks, I followed at a safe distance. I liked the light but did not want to get burned. Most of the time, his interactions were pretty light. He hugged people, laughed and everybody seemed to love him so much. But occasionally he challenged people. An intellectual from a university in the Midwest tried to engage him in a discussion on reality. I was sort of looking forward to this discussion. I had met the guy earlier and thought his ideas were interesting. Yogiji would not even look at him. On two occasions this guy came up and said something. Both times Yogiji turned away and would not even acknowledge him. Intellectual discussions were not Yogiji’s thing.
Sandy from Tucson approached with a woman I had never seen before. They wanted Yogiji’s blessing to marry. I have no idea what happened to his first wife.
Yogiji avoided the question and started talking about Tucson. Sandy and the woman persisted. They wanted to get married.
Yogiji encouraged them to take some time, think it over and come back later. No, they wanted to get married, now.
Yogiji told them that it was not a good idea. That it would not work.
They pleaded for his blessing. They said if he would give his blessing then anything could be worked out.
Yogiji said no. They had to wait.
Next day they were back. They had waited. They had discussed it. They were sure they were soul mates and they were ready. They wanted Yogiji’s blessing to get married.
Yogiji threw up his hands and laughed. “Okay,” he said. “You can get married. But under one condition. She has to live in Phoenix and he has to live in Tucson.
And so it was. Later during the Solstice they got married. She moved to Phoenix, he lived in Tucson. That arrangement lasted several months until he walked the hundred and ten miles to Phoenix and brought her back to Tucson. As Yogiji had predicted, the marriage did not last. --
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