5 Short Stories
The Second Lie
There was a problem one day when we received Swamiji’s new book, from the printer. As Guruji and I leafed through the pages together, I found several central chapters had narrower margins than the rest of the book. It looked as if some of the center margins were cut off before the books were fully bound. "How awful!" I thought. "Why would the printer do this to our book?" So I showed Swamiji and he asked, "Is that true?"
"Yes, Swamiji," I insisted. “It must be. See how narrow this margin is on the right in these
He immediately phoned the printer, scolded him, and demanded a reduction in the price. "OK," he told me next. "I think I’ll rest after tea."
The whole time I made the tea I kept thinking of how sad he must be that the printer messed up his fine book, how I wish I could redo the first printing for him, but had no money to do so, how I wish I could console him. When I finally brought his tea to him I said how beautiful the cover was. (It was his idea.) "Yes," he answered with a warm smile.
So I got his blanket and pillow, tucked him in on the sofa, and set around him what I thought he’d need. He asked me to lock the door on my way out and return in two hours.
As I tiptoed out the front door, he called out in a gentle voice, "Tree, is that the truth?"
My mind became confused. Of course it was the truth. I had not told a lie since second grade, and I would never speak anything but truth to this great saint! My lips answered, "Yes, Swamiji."
"OK then," he whispered and closed his eyes.
I pulled the door shut and suddenly, like a very fast-moving video, my mind replayed my typesetting of the first four chapters of the book, the emergency work done by me while the book sat waiting, my return to the book, not remembering exactly the margin measurements, and resetting them in error! "Of course!" my mind screamed. "What have margins got to do with the printer!" I had done the awful mistake myself. And I had lied to my teacher! It all happened in a flash, before a single breath was finished. Then my thoughts flooded through me, bringing me to tears: "I’m going in right now and tell him." And then another thought: "He’ll have to get up from the sofa to open the locked door. I should not disturb him." Then another thought: "He knew the entire time where the problem lay!" What do I do now? kept screaming above all the rest.
The idea of disturbing his rest won out and I stood at the door, mentally apologizing, and thanking him for being so sweet about it.
When I returned two hours later, he said, "Yes, yes, I know" when I attempted an apology. "It’s OK. Just make us some tea." Once again I felt the immense love of the Guru as he taught.
A had a strong dream where Babaji and I were on the peak of a high mountain. Then he pushed me off the edge of the cliff and I kept falling.
When I tell Swamiji the dream later he is surprised and asked me to tell him 3 times and then went deep inside to contemplate.
Shortly thereafter, things changed for me. He became more demanding, he was more harsh, he began to scold me in front of others, and wonder of wonders, he gave me more spiritual practices.
When Jaidev and I took Gurudev to New York as he left the US, we stayed with him all day. We went to lunch at a wonderful Indian restaurant and had a superb meal. When the waiter asked if we wished to have the sweet yogurt drink, lassi, both Swamiji and Justin ordered it with enthusiasm. I knew that I was not to eat sugar, but it seemed so special that I asked. "Tree, of course you can have lassi today. I am with you and I will take care of everything so you will remain healthy. But just this once!"
I was reminded of the Gospel of Mark when the Pharisees watched Jesus disciples eating on a fast day. At the Pharisee's complaint, Jesus answered, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them and then they will fast.”
When I was ready to begin typesetting Guruji’s book, he asked me to take a special vow to eat only fruit and drink only water, wear only white during the weeks that I designed, took further dictation for, and typeset Living with the Himalayan Masters. When the manuscript was finally complete, I took it in to Swamiji as usual, kneeling at his feet and offering the work to him. He raised the manuscript into the air, closed his eyes, and offered it to his Master. Then he kissed me thanking me for my work and reached inside his kurta, removing his mala and placing it around my neck. I was so touched I cried! It had very small rudraksha beads and was already very dark from being worn. He wore it for many years during the 70's. I walked as if I had the most precious world’s jewelry around my neck, and I believe that I did.
Months later, while we were living in Honesdale, I had just finished packing his bags and gotten him all dressed in Western clothes for his trip to Chicago. We were very late due to several phone calls and he and I literally ran to the car. I was just closing his car door when he said, "My Lord! Tree, I‘ve forgotten my mala. May I wear yours?" Of course I said yes and took it off, placing it over his head, even though I was feeling the fear that I would never get the mala back! He smiled at me, said good-bye and was driven off to the airport in a quick spinning of wheels. When he returned some days later, we were very busy and I was overwhelmed with work for days. I also felt too embarrassed to ask for 'my' mala back, realizing that he must have forgotten about it. After about a week, I was making Swamiji’s bed and getting his breakfast ready. "Tree?" he asked. "Yes, Swamiji, what is it?" I replied as I turned around to him. He was standing in the doorway, a wonderful light coming from his face, with his hand holding out the mala to me. "Thank you for your kindness," he said and enfolded me in a huge hug.
Out of the Grave
When Justin and I are called down to Swamiji’s apartment one day, he speaks to us as if nothing had happened at all. He was the same old Swami that I met years ago and loved dearly.
"Tree," he said gaily, "why don’t you make us some tilk?"
I was so stunned that I could not move. My mind was confused. He had allowed so much suffering to come to us. All Justin’s incredible education background had been taken away, it was rumored that he had no degrees, students ridiculed his history, the board decided that he could not teach and announced that to the centers. My friends left me as daily I sat alone in the dining room for meals, forbidden to reply or defend him. Cancer grew within me, our car broke down so I could not escape. People threw work down on the table in front of me and walked off, never bothering to stop or discuss it. My teacher himself spoke disparagingly of Justin and myself before others, threw me out of his kitchen, then out of his office, took away his presence, took my publishing job away from its founder, gave me more cleaning for my work, did not see or speak to me for what seemed like years. What is going on my mind screamed! The confusion caused words to jump out of my mouth: "Swamiji, you killed me!"
"Yes!" he answered with big eyes and shocking pride, "but look what came out of the grave!"