The final part of my story of my odd path as a Druid with a Guru.
Recently I reposted a couple of blog posts from several years ago (and another iteration of my blog) about my introduction to my “Guru” Neem Karoli Baba, and so I wanted to catch up, with how this has all panned out in the last three and a half years.
I have to say, I’ve never been one to join organized religions-I did one and it really didn’t work out well. With all respect to those who find joy and nourishment in their faiths, the religion I was a part of (a branch of Christianity) was filled with egos, pushiness, misogyny, and people (men) who were downright creepy. I was 13 to 16 years old, and the church I belonged to was pushing me to date a 25 year old man. So I’ve had a very, very bad taste for organize religions since then, and with Christianity, I’m sorry to say, I have not changed my mind. Having said that, this is not meant to be a slam to Christianity. I have friends who really are good “true” Christians and walk a beautiful walk. I appreciate them in my life because they are the gift that shows me that not all religious people are alike. This is just to explain where I came from and a bit about how I got to where I am.
I have spent time in many faiths and studying many religions, many traditions. By now I should have a degree in Comparative Religions. But just like with other parts of life, it took me a long time to realize that what I seek, while fed by external sources, really does originate from within. All of it. It’s not so much that I had to find the Source within-I always knew it was there…but I have mellowed. I’m to the “fine wine” stage of life-I am comfortable with who I am, and no longer seek like I used to. I am comfortable with the weird mish-mash of faith that makes me who I am. Totally, gloriously comfortable.
I do however find it almost funny, that I am now a Druid-or rather a druid-in-training, who has a Guru-who also walks a path of Bhakti. I’m finishing up the first of three courses-the Bardic grade of OBOD (The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, out of the UK.) This it seems is the most “me” spiritual path I’ve ever found. I’ve always loved nature, and trees especially, really more than people. So knowing there was a spiritual path that was nature based, but also hails from the land of a large number of my ancestors (Wales), seemed like a good fit, and a good bet to spend money on for a correspondence course (something I rarely do) and I was right. It’s a wonderful fit. And I’m told I will love the next grade even more, based on people who know me and have taken the full course.
Many of the bona fide Druids I’ve met are very extroverted. Put it this way-they’re the people you’d pick to lead a ceremony, a parade, or speak in public. They shine. I’m working on that, and do, to some extent, have the capability to wear that cloak when needed-my public face. But Bhakti to a Guru is almost the opposite, and maybe that’s the point-it’s a counter-balance.
To put it simply, Bhakti ‘means “attachment, participation, devotion to, fondness for, homage, faith or love, worship…’ (Wikipedia). To me it means staying in an “attitude of gratitude.” In Hinduism it means devotion, or love for, a “Guru”-a teacher, guide, expert or master… In my case, Neem Karoli Baba, a Hindu Saint who died in 1973. It’s like finding something that literally can be a personalized “face” of God, someone you can be comfortable with, much like I am sure some people feel with Jesus. He is sort of an intermediary between us small humans and the biggest concept of a supreme Deity.
In my case, with my distaste for organized religions and white male power figures, Neem Karoli Baba seems to be the perfect fit. And he is. Bear in mind, I did not go looking for a guru. I could not have given you a decent definition of the word in 2012. He found me. And he knew he was a good fit for me when he found me.
It’s like falling in love. Absolutely. It’s trust, and a desire to stick around…a heartfelt desire to be the best person you can be…I can’t explain it. It’s one of those cases where you just KNOW something is right. And I am sure this teacher and this path is right for me.
One way I know that something is “REALLY” right-is truly working in my life, is to give it time. I generally get bored with things fairly quickly-at least I did when I was younger. I do stick with things a bit more now, but sometimes I get into something, a hobby, a subject, etc. and fairly quickly tire of it. If I learn what I needed to know, or find that it’s not right for me, my mind is on to the next thing. But Maharaji sticks around. He comes and goes a bit, or rather I do, but he is always here. He is in every room of my house (photographs), in my car and around my neck. I’ve got all of the books that were written about him and have read most of them (which says a lot in itself!). I have musicians in my iPod who sing about him, and he’s in my Facebook news feed too (his devotees, ashram, etc.) And three years later he’s still here.
One good aspect of having a Guru who is “no longer in the body” is that he’s not intimidating. I would be intimidated by live teachers. If he were alive today he’d be in India, and I can’t afford to go there. And plus he has “cosmic” access, via dreams, etc. I think I’m more amenable to teaching when I’m asleep. And I’m not the only one.
There are dozens and dozens of stories of people dreaming about Neem Karoli Baba. Or seeing a photograph and being so drawn to him that it changes the course of their life. As it has done mine. But everything changed, and nothing changed, really.
When the words in my head during that dream said “all negativity falls away” it really kind of has…I’m so very different than I was 5 years ago. And all I can say is it’s like having a close relationship with the most wonderful grandfather and wisest teacher. I trust this man completely. He has no agenda. He has no need to make a pass at me or ask for my money, or boost his ego by being an ass. He was, and is, an enlightened being. And it’s not just a few Americans that will say this.
Thousands of Indians were and are devoted to Neem Karoli Baba, and Hanuman (the Hindu deity he was devoted to), and most know at least some of the multitude of stories about the miracles he worked while he was alive.
And, so, yeah, how does this mesh with being a Druid? Nicely. It’s like two paths that co-exist side by side. Neither cancels out the other. As a matter of fact, many people believe that the Druids were originally Brahmins in India, that India may have been the origin of the Druids, or they were one and the same, doing the same work in different parts of the world.
In my “Druid Grove” visualizations, Maharaji is always there, as a background teacher, never my primary Druid teacher…but I think he would feel right at home with a bunch of Druids. When alive, he was known as a “rascal”, someone who would be playful, or silly sometimes, and he is this way in my visualizations-he’ll wink at me when he walks by. These are not guided meditations and they have no set path or agenda, so I like to let them sort of flow freely-I never know where they will go. But he’s always there.
I can only assume that as I work my way through the entire three part, multiple year Druidry course that the two practices/faiths will mesh even further-because I’m not giving either of them up. I’ve never really had live teachers-they’ve always been in books, or on line, and now, I have my visualizations and my powerful dreams. Maharaji is my first great teacher, and he will always be with me. These are precious gifts.
In the three years since I had my dream of Maharaji, things did not go as I expected. I attempted to dive into Vedic/Hindu studies, but found it so deep and full of tons of stories from a very different culture, that I couldn’t really go deep in. I’m just skimming the top, and that’s OK. I have no need to become some sort of know-it-all Vedic Scholar. I’m OK with wherever the path takes me. So I’ve learned some, about Hanuman and Rama and Sita, and the Hanuman Chalisa, and read the wonderful stories of Krishna Das, Ram Dass and others, but I haven’t gone crazy on the Hinduism.
Nope, instead, along came OBOD, and an honest desire and commitment to being a Druid. I made it through a full year of studies, which is amazingly focused for me! And with that course also has come a great deepening of my work with the Ancestors. That seems to be a talent I have…connecting with people in my ancestral lines and working with them.
I am one of a growing number of Animist (sort of) people who believe that our ancestors (maybe not all, but some) are “out there” and accessible to us, not only the “good” ones who help us, guide us and keep us out of trouble, but also some of the unwell ones-the ones who cause us to repeat family patterns, or continually experience traumas that they too experienced. This is not fantasy any longer-this is Epigenetics. Science.
About a year ago I did learn that there was a streak of a particular trauma stretching back at least 5 generations in my family that still effects the family and myself as well. And Maharaji has been able to help me with that. He has been able to help me heal some issues at the deepest core level of who I am. He has become my confidant, my teacher, my trusted Elder, my Beloved…And things change when I work on them with him. CHANGE. Change A LOT. I change.
No matter how this is working, no matter if it’s all “talking to imaginary people in the walls” as one Atheist family member put it, or talking to myself, or to some man who was a Saint and did miracles and who died in 1973, it’s working. I love where I am. I love the path I’m on and the work I’m doing. And I find myself being put in the place of trusted Elder as well…so I know something must have shifted.
If anyone close to me was to be asked, “What’s the biggest difference” in me, I think everyone would say, “She’s definitely changed a lot. She’s happy and she’s grateful.” That would be my answer as well. I was never a happy person. No one in my family was happy. Stretching back generations no one was happy. They were crazy dysfunctional alcoholics or brutally poor.
But I am happy. And my devotion to and love for Maharaji, my focus on Bhakti, on worshiping my Beloved, G-d, in whatever form it shows up in, and my walk of gratitude every day, is what keeps me there. I used to be so arrogant and angry. I would never bow to ANY one, ever. I was stubborn and wild and so very unhappy. It seems counter-intuitive but the more I stay in humble gratitude, and devotion to my “Baba” the more my life flows, and the happier I am. I am in balance.
I no longer need to seek, I just am. I am happy to get up every morning and just live the day, without the anxiety of seeking. I have it. We all have it. We just have to get comfortable with the package it comes in. Ourselves. And I’m totally comfortable with the ‘Druid with a Guru’ thing.
As Rainer Maria Rilke wrote “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything.”
/|\ राम राम