• Perennial Wisdom

India 1987


After a long and difficult journey from Tokyo to Bangkok to New Delhi, we arrived at 3:30 AM to find an empty airport, but for the nuisance of the young men trying to stick us in dilapidated taxis and scooters “for a good price.” No one met us, nowhere to go.

We drive to the Hyatt only to find every room full. So we spend an hour in the deserted coffee shop sipping our first fresh-squeezed juice and then beg permission to sleep in the lobby chairs.

At 6 AM we telephone Swamiji, who feigns surprise and anger that no one had met us. He assures us a room is ready for us at IIC. So into another cab across the city, which is slowly waking up. International Center never heard of us and, of course, have no empty rooms.

Justin phones the guru again and hands the phone to the manager who nods and agrees and mysteriously finds a lovely double room overlooking the gardens. We fall asleep at last—my legs rejoicing at being stretched out—as the morning birds serenade the sun.

Four hours later we arrive at Swamiji’s apartment. He is warm and loving and proud to show off his new place. He whisks us off to lunch and then we all separate to rest for the afternoon getting ready for the trip to Rishikesh Ashram.

Rishikesh Ashram

After our arrival to the ashram, Ashok arrives we all walk to the Shiva Virbhadra Temple complex. He tells us of Nirvanji and shows us his hut. He shows us where Mirabai, Gandhi’s disciple, lived for many years. We walk to the old ruins and touch the two lingams there while he tells the story of Siva and Sati and her father. Then to a small shrine with a stone bearing the faces of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva.

Finally he takes us to a tiny temple far in the fields that he and his friends found a few months ago. It had been covered with bushes and brambles, but they cleared around it, held a puja lovingly washing the lingam with milk and Ganga water.

We are amazed at the large size of the lingam and the shape so different from others in the area. We sit on rocks before the small opening and meditate. As I sit my heart speeds up. I feel as if a huge boulder was placed on my chest. The pressure becomes almost unbearable and it is difficult to breathe. My forehead is awake and aware and my mind sees the clear picture of me sitting on his lap, facing him, both of us also in meditation. There is light then filling my mind.

Justin and Ashok being talking and rising and I am pulled back to reality. As they leave, I offer two flowers, touching each other, red and white, on top of the lingam.

We walked to the large temple of the mother goddess, wife of Shiva, and then remove our shoes and wash hands to enter the largest temple, the new Shiva temple. It is cool on the marble floor where I sit to contemplate the large black stone, wound about with the triple coils of a copper 5-headed cobra, and garlanded with golden-orange marigolds.

We walk back to the ashram in silence in the setting sun against the purple hills, while the villagers light their evening fires.

Swami Rama came to the ashram weeks later, breaking our long retreat. He said, “So Justin, you are going to London?”


“I want to know your plans too, Theresa.”

“I don’t have any plans.”

“Are you both getting divorced now?”

“Why should we? The whole idea of divorce was for Justin to take vows. No other reason. So now you told him not until after England and so there will be no divorce.”

Swamiji looks surprised. “But I thought you are getting separated.”

“Why would you think that? Who told you that?. And why have you been spreading ugly stories about me?”

“What stories? I haven’t been spreading stories.”

“Yes, you have. I will never believe you are innocent in that. You are the only one who could have done it, who actually did spread rumors.”

“What rumors? Just name a single rumor.”

“OK. People here are saying that Justin is taking vows of renunciation because of me, because I don’t want him anymore.”

“Yes. Everyone knows that. Everyone in Chicago is saying that. All the people are talking that way.”

“And where did they hear it?”

“Oh, they got it from Honesdale. But not from me.”

“Swamiji, don’t talk nonsense. Of course it started with you. No one else knew! I spoke to no one there in one and a half years. Justin told only you.”

(Starting to smile in spite of trying to look sincere,) “No, I heard it from John Harvey.”

“Not true. Justin did not speak to him.”

“Well, I heard it from John Harvey and Phil then. And I only spoke to two people, Arpita and Dale.”

“Of course, the two biggest gossip mongers in the Institute! You are responsible for all this. Such lies! All my friends think me an evil person and are being unkind. I’m sick of this Institute. The people close to you are extremely cruel. They hurt people and are spiteful.”

“But really, I did nothing at all.”

“And you should have. You know what a lie that is. You know that Justin has planned vows for a long time because you told him so twelve years ago. And many times over the years you threatened me with Justin’s vows. Anyway, who is stupid enough to think that one would take vows for such a reason?”

“That’s right! But actually there are two ways someone can renounce. Because of spirituality and because of disgust of the world. Sometimes a woman leaves a man or his children leave and his job is not good and the world seems disgusting and so he renounces it.”

“Well, that could never apply to Justin! He loves the world. It is me who is disgusted with it, and with this Institute, and with all these mean people.”

“Justin, maybe it is Theresa who should renounce and not you! Come on, Tree, give me a massage.”

“No I will not! I’ll give you a punch like you deserve! Such ugly things you said about me!”

“But I thought they were true!”

“I’m losing patience! Are you an ignorant fool or a great yogi?”

“I think both.” (He appears charming and smiling.)

“Well then you should know us both better. Or else you should have spoken to me first before spreading rumors.”

“But you were not there.”

“So what? You could have telephoned or written to me. First Justin makes a mistake by not explaining himself properly, and then you draw wrong conclusions and spread that around to persecute me. I’m really fed up with all of you. I will go away quietly where you won’t know and where no one knows me.”

“But I’ll come searching for you.”

“No, you wouldn’t even notice I was gone.”

“Yes, I love you.”

“Baloney! You don’t care for me. You’ve only been interested in Justin all these years and taking him away from me.”

“No, no. We both love you. Now give me a massage.”

“No. I’ll give you a black eye.”

“You want to fight?”

“Yes. But you’ll be sorry. You will have to publicly apologize to me for all this.”

Pramila brings Swamiji’s lunch in.

“Ok. I will explain to Dale and Arpita the mistake.”

“Ha! You’d better tell everyone else too. Until then there is no massage. And why are you destroying my work?”

“What work?”

“The book I’m editing.”

“I will write for you.”

“You’ve been saying that for over a year. And now you’re interfering again.”

“Why do you not take lunch now and we will talk later.”

“Ha! You must want to eat. Go ahead and eat if you can, but I think your guilt will make you choke on your food.”

(Laughing merrily) “No, no. There is no guilt. I can eat. Will you beat me up?”

“Yes, I will. I’m much stronger than you right now.”

Time to plan our next adventure to England.

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