S and I went to Washington DC this week to meet Guruji. In downtown DC we have our new Art of Living Center, which is where Guruji was staying for three days:
It’s a four-story building located in the embassy district on 15th St NW, and it used to be an embassy. Countless hours of volunteer labor have transformed it into an oasis of spiritual learning. In this center we now have accommodations, kitchen, dining hall, meditation hall, rooms and offices for Guruji, and facilities to host regular yoga classes, long kriya sessions and courses (including residential retreats). It’s beautiful; you should definitely go and see it sometime.
Guruji had only a few meetings, so we got a lot of good time with Him. On Wednesday at midday many of us got to talk to Him one-on-one, and then He led a meditation before lunch. In the evening we had satsang.
On Thursday those of us who were there at the center in the morning went for a walk in Meridian Hill Park with Him, giving us more opportunities to talk with Him about Art of Living projects, personal questions, etc. In the afternoon He came to the meditation hall where one TV reporter for a local Indian channel was waiting for an interview with Him.
In the interview He spoke about the need to take responsibility for India’s political future by voting for the right candidates in the upcoming election. He emphasized that voting should not be done along party lines, but should be done for candidates who have character and integrity. He especially urged youths to abandon their apathy and go out and vote. In many places in rural India, votes are being bought with cash or liquor, and He urged voters not to fall victim to such tactics.
He also spoke about the conflict in Sri Lanka, which has taken a two-fold toll on that country’s long-term welfare: humanitarian and environmental. On the latter front, He said Sri Lanka is such a beautiful place, and it was sad to see so much environmental damage done to it by the conflict. He said it would take 50 to 70 years for some areas to get back to their pristine natural state. On the humanitarian side, according to His estimate, Sri Lanka has 350,000 people who are in need of supplies, shelter, medical help, etc. Art of Living is helping with humanitarian aid as well as in mediation between the government and the Tamil rebels. (In an unrelated story from Sri Lanka, Art of Living has also helped the Sri Lankan cricket team recover from their encounter with attackers in Lahore: here’s the story on IndiaTimes.)
Thursday evening was the public satsang at the Crystal City Hyatt with 1,500 to 2,000 people. The hall was full. I went there early to help with setting up. At the satsang Guruji didn’t go much into Q&A; most of the questions in the question basket were already addressed in the books Celebrating Silence and Celebrating Love, He said. (Read on below for some brief Q&A.)
On Friday we saw Him off at the Reagan National Airport. He was headed to the Canadian Ashram where a part 2 course (silence retreat) had already started, and participants were waiting for Him.
Some Q&A snippets from Guruji:
[On jobs] A lot of people have written letters or asked in person about jobs. Those who are looking for a job, consider this a three or four month sabbatical. Use the time wisely. Learn some new skills. Playing the guitar, or singing, or poetry, or anything else. Do some courses, do some seva. When the economy gets better, you will be refreshed and rejuvenated for a job.
The economic situation in America and in other places will improve. And it will improve soon, you won’t have to wait very long for it. In the meantime, use your time wisely.
[Before leading meditation] There are three requirements for meditation. I am nothing, I want nothing, I am going to do nothing. If you say I am going to meditate, then no meditation will happen. You have to let go of your identifications and be willing to do nothing at all. And you also have to want nothing. Even if you want to drink water or shift your position, then you are not in meditation. I am nothing, I want nothing, and I am going to do nothing.
[Looking through the question basket at satsang] All of these questions have been answered in Celebrating Silence and Celebrating Love. Everyone should read those books. You never know how powerful they can be. Once when I was traveling I met a customs officer who recognized me, and he took out his copy of Celebrating Silence. A friend had gifted him that book, and after he started reading it, his life had taken on a new direction. It was completely transformed. And he had not done any course or Sudarshan Kriya. He said to me, “Can you please sign this book?” Normally I don’t do it, but just for him since he had such a strong connection with the book, I signed it for him.
[On problems] There are five ways to deal with problems. First, know that everything is changing. These problems are not permanent. Second, know that you have the capacity to face it; you are more powerful than the situations around you. Third, see that there are many others who have much bigger problems than you have. See how you can help others and be of service; automatically your problems will appear insignificant. Fourth is knowing that you have always been helped; having the faith that you will be taken care of. Fifth is seeing the whole cosmos as everything is nothing.
If these five don’t work, you can always give your problems to me.
At DCA, some of us also chatted with senior teacher Rajshree Patel (affectionately called Rajshree didi).
[Rajshree didi on patience] My first time in India, Guruji told me something that He repeated many times over the years. I was teaching an advanced course, and I used to complain to Guruji about my course students asking me the same question over and over: “What time does the session begin?” I had already announced clearly that it would begin at 6 am, and over and over people would come to me and ask the same silly question, and it bothered me no end. Guruji said, “Patience for other people’s ignorance is the last skill to come.” And it wasn’t the only time He said that. He has repeated it over the years to me patiently.
[Rajshree didi on time] Sometimes you may know that you are ready for something, but the time has not yet come. Just the other day He turned to me as we were walking, and said, “You should have thousands of people around you now. Why isn’t that happening?” It was totally out of left field, I didn’t know what to say. I said, “I don’t know Guruji, what is needed of me?” He just replied, “Waqt” which means time. Even for Him and His work that’s the case. He is completely ready but the time is not.
Overall we had a very beautiful time with Guruji, as we always do. 🙂