Tantra Incarnate

“Don’t build shrines for me,” Rudi said on a walk we took through Greenwich Village. “Don’t mourn or grieve or try to drag me back to the earth. Learn what I teach. It’s the greatest service you can do for me. Learn what I teach and help others find a path to God.”

He shared wisdom that came from his heart and cut through the daily drone of my mental activity. It transcended the intellect’s power to rationalize situations with wisdom drawn from beyond the ordinary realms of human understanding. To my astonishment, he had transformed Manhattan, an intense and pressured-filled island created from concrete and steel, into a sacred temple.

I had lived a secluded life amid Manhattan’s abundance, with a day-by-day fear of social interaction, of being trapped in an economic pressure-cooker and in desperate need of a spiritual life, with no idea how to find it. My interactions with the city were dreamlike, frightened, and without any self-esteem. I lived in a world of books, movies, poetry, long walks, and conflicted thoughts that never shut up. The moment I figured out something was the exact moment depression would set in and take over. Logical presumptions were thrown to the wind. I’d go to temples. I’d chant, bow, pray and get high on mantras I’d sing for hours. The smell of incense sweetened the time I spent in the temple, but the moment I left, an overactive mind resumed its chit-chat and consumed me whole. The sweetness of incense turned into a fire-pit of mental activity. Headaches and neckaches returned. I lacked focus and discipline and my overactive mind had exhausted me. I’d return to my cave-like apartment to get some sleep.

Rudi’s interaction with Manhattan’s life was a revelation to me and reminded me of long-held thoughts: life itself is the temple; even concrete and steel, huge egos, and economic pressure can be transformed into gold.

Rudi’s interaction with Manhattan’s life was a revelation to me and reminded me of long-held thoughts: life itself is the temple; even concrete and steel, huge egos, and economic pressure can be transformed into gold. But I couldn’t, as yet, see life’s sacred nature. I had to fix my chakra system and open to the ‘now.’ I’d lived a monk like existence for too long and it had to change.

Rudi rejoiced in the taste of an apple, in a Chinese restaurant, in a pizza joint or a hot dog with the works at the 2nd Avenue Deli, in live theater, movies, a cup of coffee or tea, in walks through Greenwich Village, in tiny things, almost unrecognizable in their insignificance, yet part of a life filled with sacred moments. He was a servant of God and a servant of his students and committed to a lifetime of spiritual growth. He was Tantra incarnate, totally alive in the moment, yet detached and free of whatever he experienced, focused on his inner work that got him closer to God.

“How am I different than other people?” he once asked me. I smiled and shrugged my shoulders. I saw golden light around him, a Buddha-like image that transmitted intense shakti and forced me to work on myself. He was like no other person I’d ever met in my life. “I like movies, restaurants, television, people and good food,” he said. I just smiled and didn’t answer. He had saved my life. What more did I need to know?

I sat cross legged in the meditation hall and listened to Swamiji’s lecture. Rudi sat on a chair behind me. “The guru is God,” the Swami said. “If you worship the guru, you will attain enlightenment.” Rudi bent over and whispered in my ear, “God is God. The best a guru can be is the servant of God and the servant of his students,” a teaching so profound it transformed my consciousness. Humility is a fast path to spiritual enlightenment, I thought. There’s no higher position on earth than to serve God and the people one loves. If I promote my self-importance as a teacher, the wisdom transmitted will have less to do with God and more to do with my ego. A holy man must surrender his holiness to attain enlightenment, a sinner must surrender their sins, and every human being must surrender their position in the world. The goal is to become a child of God, to become nothing, and in all humility, a servant of the Divine and of people…

(To be continued…)

Shiva Nataraj

Shiva Nataraj, Chola Dynasty, 10th century