May 10, 2012

If I’m a turtle, my guru is a buoy.

Neem Karoli Baba Temple at Kashi Ashram. Photo: Krishna Das

Ma Jaya’s Turtles.

Just a few days before she slipped into a coma, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati looked out over the pond on her ashram. She noticed several turtles contending for space on a little white plastic buoy, where they liked to sun themselves.

In what would turn out to be one of her last actions, Ma asked us to put out more buoys.

Now Ma is gone, but every turtle has its place in the sun.

Photo: Krishna Das

Sometimes we, her students, used to elbow each other out of the way in an attempt to get closer to our guru, and it never worked very well for us either. Meanwhile, whether we knew it or not, Ma kept putting out more buoys for us—every day another meditation, another breath, another asana, another teaching, another funny story, another urgent task, another person to take care of, or another taste of Kali’s sword.

I mention Kali because life with Ma Jaya was not all sunshine and flowers. If one of her students did something especially stupid or uncaring, Ma might take on the essence of Mother Kali herself.

As a frequent target, I experienced both utmost ferocity and astonishing kindness.

A few weeks ago, I wrote something about how this terrifying black goddess Kali has nothing to do with cruelty, including animal cruelty. This brought howls from those who believe it is necessary to chop the heads off live goats to propitiate the goddess. Yet Ma Jaya would tell us that there is no form of God that wants anyone to suffer.

And about her teaching, she would say, “This is not a religion. But if I had a religion, it would be kindness.

So it seems perfect that her last days were not much taken up with big esoteric teachings, just simple things like more buoys for the turtles.



Editor: Elysha Anderson


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