It’s too hot in Hyderabad, too buggy in Bangalore, so in June, July, and August, a lot of Indian holy people go on tour to Europe and the States. At their various stops around the globe, disciples, devotees, New Agers, and the merely curious pile into living rooms, church basements, auditoriums, Hindu temples, and — for those with large followings — Broadway theaters, to get a glimpse of their guru, do some spiritual practices, and hopefully get enough “grace” or shakti to last them the rest of year.
For me, guru season is always the same.
First, I get a phone call from friends saying, “Shri Mata (Baba, Sista, Brudda, Whatever-Ananda) is in town, wanna go to her (his) program tonight?”
“Gee, I dunno,” I answer, “Mattaji (Babaji, Sistaji, Bruddaji) doesn’t really do it for me.”
“Aw, c’mon, we’ll go out for Indian food after.”
We get to the hall (church, temple, living room). We remove our shoes and carefully place them where we know we can find them again, in a specific cubby (on specific stair, in specific corner, specifically sneak them into our backpacks). We listen to Mataji (Ammaji, Swamiji, Guruji, Gosh-oh-ji) give a talk on the nature of the Self (of the Ego, of Death, of God, of the Death of God). We chant in Sanskrit until we get really high (enlightened, bored, hoarse). We meditate until we fall into a great state (fall into the Void, fall into samadhi, fall asleep).
We get in line to get personal greetings (blessings, hugs, candy, smacks, scowls) from the guru. We offer the guru our salutations (flowers from our garden, homemade brownies, our baby’s photo, our entire month’s paycheck.) We leave wondering what just happened (if anything just happened, if what happened was meaningful, if there’s still time to get Indian food). We say we’ve had enough of guru’s grace (guru’s scowls, smelly shoeless crowds, mind-blowing meditation experiences, Indian food) to last us a lifetime. We find our shoes (lose our shoes, find only one shoe, find our shoes were moved to the other side of the room, find we’ve taken someone else’s shoes).
The next night, wanting more (wanting something, wanting to avoid something, wondering if we’ve missed something), we’re back.
One thing’s for certain. If you make the rounds during guru season, you’ll either find what you’re looking for, or be left with more questions than ever.
And one more thing: at least once, you’ll probably lose your shoes.