When I first met Guru ji, I remember being in a daze from how amazing the teachings were that he shared. At the time, I couldn’t believe anyone had a clue the way he did. During those initial months, it was also as if he read my mind and was teaching everything that I was yearning to know for years.

About a month after meeting him, the first Durga festival, called Navaratri started. Navaratri means the nine nights of the goddess. Guru ji seemed so into the festival. He’d hold program in the temple each morning and guided us all in chanting many Sanskrit verses that were directed to the goddess and particularly to Durga. The chants sang her praises and I recall feeling both completely at home and overwhelmed at how natural it all felt so quickly. It was odd since I knew nothing of Sanskrit, less of Indian culture and certainly nothing concerning a guru. Yet I felt at home.

Each day in the temple, Guru ji shared stories about the mother goddess. One day I was with Guru ji’s longest devotee, George B. Eager to connect and learn more, I chatted with him about what I was learning and how beautiful I felt it all was. George told me that the mother goddess was precious to Guru ji. He said during one particularly difficult period in Guru ji’s life that spanned a few years, a time unimaginable to bear, Guru ji had taken refuge in the feet of the mother goddess Durga. He singularly devoted himself to her, performed puja to her and made obeisance to her, singing her praises and steadily honoring her. When that time came to resolution, George told me, that Guru ji felt Durga ma had been his refuge, his safety and that from then on he was her devotee. I later noticed Guru ji kept a small brass murti (statue) of Durga in his bedroom on his private altar. He had apparently gotten that murti during that time and each morning made some small tender offering to her magnificence. Guru ji had become her devotee and the mysterious ocean flowed between them.

Having a guru is an enigma… In its fullest sense, it is both close and at the same time should remain a deep mystery. Early on in my training, as any student would, I wanted to know more about Guru ji, more about our connection, more about our link. As I deepened into my practice and in my relationship with him, I learned to allow the mystery to be with us and to trust in that. Maybe that’s what Guru ji did during that period when he was struggling so hard and working to evolve himself. Perhaps he learned to trust deeply in Durga ma, in the mantras and the puja, in the rituals that guided him, in his questions and the answers that rose within, but mostly in the mystery of the force that lay between them.

*All references to Guru ji refer to Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati in this article.

So you’ve read the Bhagavad Gita… now what?

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