Our awareness is rooted in the mud.
Most mornings, when we first moved to Florida and started Kashi Ashram, we would sit around with Ma Jaya by the pond. I don’t know what she “taught” us during those times, exactly. We might read the Ramayana, or gossip, or imagine how we were going to open a line of beauty products based on the evil sulphur-smelling mud at the bottom of the pond. Of course, somebody had a cousin in the business, and we would think up brand names and design pretty jars. And of course we planned to use the proceeds to fund good works.
Meanwhile, in a spirit of scientific inquiry, we would smear the goo on our bodies, let it bake dry, rinse it off in the pond, and exclaim on how nice and smooth our skin was. Ma was an enthusiastic supporter, until some of the more credulous miracle seekers among us broke out in rashes.
Ma used to cheerfully encourage such projects, one after another, until we recognized their futility for ourselves. She would do the same with our notions of instant liberation or psychic powers. Whatever spiritual illusion we brought to her, no matter how greedy, petty, or self-serving, she might choose to embrace it, expand it, blow it up, exaggerate it—until it popped and left in its wake a moment of stillness.
That stillness was the teaching. As the years went on, there would gradually be more stillness and less illusion.
Back by the pond, even as she encouraged our illusions, Ma would quote Ramakrishna: “If you are not simple you will not recognize God, the simple one.” Be simple, be in the moment, “be here now.” They all say that, the great teachers, but we how often do we forget that awareness has its root in the mud?
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Editor: Kate Bartolotta