A good activity for coronavirus isolation time for me is to get creative. My immediate workshop schedule is cancelled and all international trips are on hold. I find myself writing about the wisdom pressed into me by life and my personal story inspired or influenced by the pandemic.
I notice what arises in myself and others. There is the fear of contracting the virus and being one of those who get really sick. Even a fear of death as I watch those statistics rising around the world. And then worry about financial collapse as our economy takes a huge hit. Lots of reasons to be on an emotional roller coaster ride. And the waves of fear and anxiety can be very subtle, even just a low buzz of stress.
I was writing about Tantra¹ and how my interest in it started when I was a devotee of the Indian guru Osho. I got to thinking what advice would Osho have for me, and others, about the pandemic? And what about other teachers and wisdom keepers who contributed to my spiritual embodiment. What would Ramana Maharshi, and Papaji, have to say if I was fortunate enough to hang out with them for a while? These wise men of India are no longer living. I ask my mind’s eye and heart and spirit to conjure up playful visualisations …
Meeting Osho in My Imagination
I am sitting with Osho on a velvet couch in India and we are chatting over tea. Next to us is a beautiful pond with two swans gliding past. I tell him about my first taste of him when I came across the book, ‘Only One Sky: On the Tantric Way of Tilopa’s Song of Mahamudra’ which was a series of his discourses on Tantra.
I had never read anything so spiritually compelling. I felt I was receiving a direct transmission of Truth. My consciousness expanded, clarity sparkled and the concept of celebration of life entered me. In my heart there was a connection to Osho.
He smiles at me and I feel myself expanding in his beam of unconditional love. Encouraged, we reminisce about the TV film I made about him in the late ’80s. I was in the midst of integrating all the distressing things that happened in those last years of his American commune. And the loss of innocence that rocked me. And yet there was the undeniable truth of the Buddha-nature I felt in his presence.
Again, that Osho presence and smile, and the way it relaxes me into a feeling of deep acceptance. I ask him, ‘What about the coronavirus pandemic?’ He sits in silence for a long moment. Then he tells me it is a reminder of the truth of our existence. There is no certainty in life. We are here to celebrate. Not to cling to life, security and the known. But to meet the unknown, the mystery of life with celebration, laughter, and love.
I remind him that during the AIDS epidemic he quickly had his followers taking very strict protection measures. Condoms, plastic mouth dams and no kissing was the order of the day. Osho knew that the sexual freedom he encouraged would leave his tribe vulnerable.
‘Yes’, he says to me, ‘life is sacred, and we must protect it. This is love.’ Hmmm, I think, protect and celebrate, that works! We can do what needs to be done, but we don’t have to be gloomy about it. We can respect the grief and loss of life that has come for many, be deeply compassionate, and still acknowledge the inherent beauty of life. There is no need to feel guilty about joy.
Were he alive today I am sure Osho would cancel his live gatherings and very quickly adapt to the most modern technology available to spread his message.
We smile at each other and namaste our goodbye, in a heartfelt connection.
The Day I Sat with Papaji
One year after Osho died, I heard that many of his followers were visiting another guru or teacher in Lucknow, India, named Sri Poonjaji. I managed a short visit to sit with him in Satsang (gathering together for the truth). Short, but it made a big impression. Papaji was not young yet he seemed full of life and laughter. Bemused at this sudden influx of Western disciples he still held Satsang in his house and the meeting room was overflowing. There was a lot of light-hearted energy and many there were relieved to have found another living master.
I wasn’t looking for a master, yet I was in love with the energy, the vibration of expansion that filled his room and those who came close to him. He was ordinary, yet not ordinary. I later read his biography and was amazed at how he had gone from being an engineer to a Krishna bhakti, to a devotee of one of the most revered Indian sages, Sri Ramana Maharshi.
‘Call off the search’, was Papaji’s saying, and to me, that meant to stop seeking, to let go of that activity which can prevent one recognising that we already are what we seek. We are already that peace and freedom right here, right now — if we pay attention.
In a small meeting, I asked him a question and he affirmed my discoveries were on the right path. Then he told me to go home and be there. This made sense to me, coming after years of seeking, personal growth, following teachers, and travelling making films. It was time to go home in every sense of the word.
Today in my visualisation, Papaji and I are drinking fresh lime sodas while he watches cricket on his small TV. Absorbed, simply enjoying, this is a life lesson in itself. Not that I like cricket, but I love movies. We are observing social distancing and hand sanitiser is on the table.
I ask him, ‘Papaji, what to do about the coronavirus?’ He starts roaring with laughter and I feel momentarily embarrassed. Shaking that off I wait to see what he means, and I get it. There is no point in worrying about it. What will be will be. He himself is older and susceptible to a lung infection. While those around him fuss to keep him safe, he already feels safe. He tells me there is nothing to be done except to be with the truth of the moment. He is a responsible citizen who will follow instructions, but his truth is so much vaster than any restriction, his freedom so wide and deep he is already absorbed in Love and Awareness.
“Use this time well”, he says. “Be with your true nature, no matter what arises on the surface, use it to go deeper into life and being.” He turns back to the cricket match.
On a table next to Papaji sits a black and white photo of his beloved guru, Sri Ramana Maharshi. Ramana was a revered saint in South India, a teacher of ‘Advaita Vedanta’ or non-dualism. His eyes beam with clarity and kindness and I am drawn to the photo. After all, he is the source in this spiritual lineage.
Wisdom from Ramana Maharshi
A few years later, after my actual visit with Papaji, I stayed in the Sri Ramana ashram at Tiruvannamalai. Situated at the foot of Arunachala Hill which was regarded by Sri Ramana Maharshi, and Tamil saints, as the spiritual heart of the world. I loved wandering over the hill, visiting caves, and other holy sites. Luckily I was there at the time of the annual Shivaratri festival so there were many visiting sages, and Satsangs by different gurus were being held everywhere.
I imagine I am back there … entering the gates of the beautiful yet simple Ramana ashram. I am taken by the peace and the feeling of a sacred place. Wandering through the buildings and trees, I stumble across a cow stable and realise I am looking at a descendant of Lakshmi, Sri Ramana’s cow who became enlightened. A man in a loincloth is patting the cow and as I approach, he hands me a cup of buttermilk, telling me it is from the cow. As I take it, I realise that this humble man is Ramana himself.
I drink the milk and also drink in the purity of this master. My questions recede in the stillness around him, but I remember to ask him about our current crisis of the threatening coronavirus pandemic.
He sits and remains silent for many minutes, then gently begins a song of devotion to Arunachala, his sacred Shiva hill. Hearing this, there is an ancient truth that swoons me into a knowing. Then with gentle words, Ramana guides me to ask, ‘Who is this person, this I, or even this world, that I am concerned for?’ That question has only one answer, ‘I am That.’ And I am also the one who loves That.
Ramana stands up and we go together to prepare food to feed the hungry people who are suffering from the lockdown. The ashram is closed but his family have organised a safe delivery system, so Sri Ramana’s divine sustenance can still be given.
I Am Blessed
As I bring my awareness back to my living room, to this present moment, I recognise I am blessed to have been able to receive the grace of these three teachers and many more. All have inspired me in different ways to live fully, love courageously, and risk diving for the depths. A combination of Tantra and self-inquiry, with lots of love and laughter, has been a recipe I have been cooking and refining for most of my life so far.
Beloveds, we would love to hear your anecdotes about your teachers. Who has inspired you and continues to guide you on your journey of life. They could be living or dead. A world-famous Guru or a humble person who touched and influenced you greatly. Please write in the comments below.
And from Team UPLIFT
This is a shout out to all the wonderful teachers in the world – Thank you.
Cynthia Connop has been exploring and teaching transformational work for over 30 years. She is an international trainer, relationship consultant, and the founder of the Living Love workshop programs. Cynthia is also an accomplished documentary filmmaker, which encouraged her fascination with people, sacred sexuality, and relationships.