by Daniel Bouwmeester
LEELAS FROM HERMITAGE
Last year one of Dan’s functions in Hermitage was to provide the communication link between the worldwide culture and Da Avadhoota. Recently Dan was part of the group of “messengers” from Hermitage, traveling to various Regions to speak about the “Indoor Yajna”. (1987)
I have been one of the communicators this past year, so I have a lot of second-hand knowledge about the difficulties of this time for students and practitioners outside Hermitage. I went to Hermitage in December, 1986, a time when many practitioners were feeling dissociated from Da Avadhoota. We were neglecting our relationship to the Guru. The months of January, February, and March were even worse. Da Avadhoota, reflecting to us our dissociation, was isolating Himself more and more. Many of us felt the situation had become intolerable, and we wanted to re-establish human contact with Him. That was when a fellow devotee and I and some of the other men in Hermitage expressed our frustration with the situation and asked to speak to Him.
Love-Ananda immediately gave us this opportunity – so readily, in fact, that it seemed He had been expecting us to take this course of action even much earlier. Right off the bat He started talking about our weaknesses as practitioners of “Ishta-Guru-Bhakti Yoga”, the practice of loving, honoring, and relating rightly to the Divine Person in human form. If we were practicing as devotees, He reminded us, then the Guru would not be neglected or isolated. We would be involved in a living relationship in which access to the Guru is guaranteed and the link between Guru and devotees is ensured. All the Treasures [Heart-Master Da, the Empowered Sanctuaries, and the Wisdom-Teaching] would be honored, preserved, and rightly related to.
The conversation led back to the media incidents of three years ago and how we failed to stand firm as advocates of the Way of the Heart. He mentioned many times – it was a very passionate part of His communication – that we did not stand for what we had received and what we knew to be true.
“He wanted to extend this gesture to the rest of the Hermitage staff and ultimately to all practitioners“
Not long into the conversation Love-Ananda moved from a fierce, penetrating mode of relating to us to a more intimate and embracing mood. Thus, He drew us through our sense of being disconnected. He wanted to extend this gesture to the rest of the Hermitage staff and ultimately to all practitioners. This was the beginning of what we now know as the Indoor Yajna.
When we first considered whether we were truly practicing as devotees, I found it very difficult to deny and thus abandon the devotional relationship to Him that had been awakened in me over the many years of Love-Ananda’s Teaching Work. He would bring out the manuscript of the revised edition of The Dawn Horse Testament, which He was currently working on, and read chapters 19 and 20 to us, emphasizing each aspect of the process of listening and hearing, and even adding words to further clarify the signs of each transition.
“Love-Ananda describing the understanding that is hearing as “most profound” or “fundamental” or “summary””
Even though I could acknowledge reception of Love- Ananda’s Transmission of Love-Bliss in my heart and throughout my body-mind, I was not always responsible for this heart- Communion. I therefore began to doubt that I had truly “heard”. After a time of Love-Ananda describing the understanding that is hearing as “most profound” or “fundamental” or “summary”, I began to think, “Maybe I haven’t heard. Maybe there is still more to inspect.” I felt that the very fact that I had doubt meant hearing was not true and therefore my devotional practice must be false.
“We seemed to be going backward“
Some in Hermitage had already returned to practicing stage one, but some of us held out for a while longer. Love-Ananda gathered with this smaller group of people and spoke with each of us individually, and it wasn’t very difficult for Him to bring up things in each one of us that sent us reeling back to level one.
I was getting more and more concerned. The point of our gathering with Him in the first place had been to provide Him with a circumstance in which He could be free of His Teaching Work but could continue His Blessing Work with devotees. Now we seemed to be going backward.
All of this was registering in my body. My subjectivity and my nervous system were going crazy. I kept thinking, “How will Love-Ananda feel about having no devotional culture?” We had been without a devotional culture in Hermitage in the past at different times, and it was not good, and if we understand Love-Ananda’s Function and Who He Is, it is inappropriate. I was feeling the weight of all this as the last of us returned to practicing stage one.
The great Master of argumentation then launched into a recapitulation of the foundation stages. Love-Ananda considered our false devotee practice compared with Ishta-Guru-Bhakti Yoga, the roots of cultism, the Western approach to religion, idealism, our orientation to the Way of the Heart as a reaction to the failed religion of our childhood, fear of death, scientism, the mortal vision, and much more, all in the context of the foundation stage of the Way of the Heart.
I listened to His arguments and was inspired. He exposed the point of view I was maintaining that was falsifying my practice of the Way. I began to think, “Now I’m really going to do it. I’m going to study and measure myself with the Testament until I can make the profound confession of a student, and I will not move into 1.2 until I’m really ready to accept the criticism of others without reacting, hiding, or defending myself”, and so on. I became adamant and thus rigid, a “realist” in reaction to my former idealism.
Naturally Love-Ananda played devil’s advocate to both our idealistic views and our realism. At times He would vividly and dramatically illustrate the appropriateness of our return to student practice and practicing stage one, thus satisfying the realists. At other times He would express, equally dramatically, His disbelief that nobody had heard the Wisdom-Teaching. Then the idealists would leap forward. He usually brought up this side later in the evening when we had mellowed. He would turn to us and say, “Are you trying to tell me that nobody, after all these years, has heard?”
Some of us would begin to think, “Right! How could it possibly be? We’re crazy! Why are we doing this?” Then He would elaborate why it seemed impossible that no one had heard and we would be convinced, “Yeah, it was a mistake. We failed the test again. We were just not being strong.” We always dramatized these two sides, the realism and the idealism, and we flipped from one to the other.
” I was deep into reality and maintaining a stance, the “official” point of view”
The first time Love-Ananda questioned us, many began to respond, “Yes, yes, I’ve heard. I’m 1.3. I’m ready to move on.” That evening I was sitting toward the back, not participating in what I thought was a “rah-rah-rah” attitude. I was deep into reality and maintaining a stance, the “official” point of view, if you like.
Love-Ananda asked, “And what about you, Dan?”
I said, “Love-Ananda, this is crazy. After all the Work You’ve done to bring us to this reality consideration about where we’re at, are we now going to abandon all that and just go leaping forward for this transition?”
He looked at me, and as sometimes happens, instantly I was drawn into a state where, even though the activity in the room did not change, I felt a direct communication channel between Love-Ananda and me. It was as if nobody else was in the room. In a mock sneering fashion He said that “they” are real glad to hear everyone has finally acknowledged that they are just students and level one practitioners, as “they” always suspected. “They” always knew that after all these years no one had learned anything, no one had received anything, no one was advanced beyond the first three stages of life, and that we were all just like “them”. He said this was exactly what people wanted us to acknowledge, thus justifying their reluctance to practice.
I was stunned. I had not expected this response. I suddenly felt I had denied and betrayed the gifts and lessons I had received in Da Avadhoota’s Company over the years, and in doing so I had degraded myself and my relationship to Him.
Over time it became more clear to me what had happened. He was trying to point out to me that I had succumbed to the popular point of view, in other words, Gurus aren’t true, Spiritual life does not work, and you have to accept the hard realities of ordinary life and give up thinking that Spiritual life has any value. In a moment, He had reflected my weakness and my refusal to champion what I had received. I had been standing rigidly for the conventional point of view.
I became confused. I could feel that Love-Ananda was trying to strengthen us by considering with us the foundation stages of practice, and I felt it was appropriate. I was also getting another message, that I had abandoned my true level of practice. On the one hand, therefore, I was insisting on looking at the yet uninspected limitations in my life, but on the other hand my heart was full of pain because I was not acknowledging what I had been given.
We had many calls to more advanced practice between that time and the end of the Indoor Yajna. By December, after all those months, the most mature practitioners in Hermitage had settled at levels 1.2 and 1.3. By this time I was becoming complicated with the communication function. I was overwhelmed, out of relationship, and beginning to self-destruct. I began to feel that our situation was hopeless and we had come to a dead end. I thought maybe I would never make it beyond 1.2. In my last few weeks as communicator, Da Love-Ananda’s urgency and the incongruity between His Vision and our response, which was going backward even more, was so great that I became full of self-pity. My nervous system couldn’t take the fire. I didn’t want to be responsible anymore. Love-Ananda humorously asked me if I was taking a vacation. As much as I did not like to admit it, I was. I wanted a vacation from practice. I had had enough and was withdrawing. I was becoming hysterical, and anything I said to Him backfired. It always sounded as if 1 was talking out of both sides of my mouth. I had been fine until about October, but when the testing became more intense, I became reluctant. I had become a “purveyor of horseshit”!
“You’ve become an organization man,”
Finally, one evening in mid-December, Da Avadhoota addressed me directly about my dilemma. “You’ve become an organization man,” He said, “at the expense of your movement to God-Realization.”
“I had become dry and serious”
How right He was. I had become an organization man, and it had become more and more difficult to feel my heart. I had become dry and serious, no longer emotionally free to participate in Love-Ananda’s liberating play with us, whether apparently endearing or apparently critical. I was just feeling the weight of all our presumed responsibilities, both personally and institutionally. In the earlier months I didn’t mind the reality that was being revealed because I always had the sense that at a certain point it would change. We would eventually all accept the practice of the devotee, and the Communion would become stable again.
But October came, and then November came, and everything seemed to be going even further downhill. We were not moving on in practice, nor was the Communion growing as we had hoped it would. I began to feel that everything was completely out of control and that we were failing. I lost my humor and any functional, “solid” control I had left. I despaired.
The question for each of us is whether or not we will be responsible for what we have been given. I have been given much, and I have learned that the gifts bear fruit only if I am responsible. At last, I had no choice. I could not indulge reluctance for one moment longer, no matter how my life would turn out.
“I was ready to re-assume my devotional relationship to Heart-Master Da based on real understanding“
The Indoor Yajna culminated on the day Love-Ananda again called us to assume responsibility for the gifts and lessons we had received. This time I was ready to re-assume my devotional relationship to Heart-Master Da based on real understanding. On January 17 the devotional culture was reestablished in Hermitage. I felt free to feel again. The heart-pain I had been experiencing became a hurt and then quickly it became Bliss.
“The Way of the Heart is turned into a religion business, and we become men and women of the “organization””
Since I have been reestablished in the process of Satsang, I see that we cannot be responsible for our life of practice without being heart-connected to the Source. When we are dissociated, what should be a living process becomes mechanical, the Way of the Heart is turned into a religion business, and we become men and women of the “organization”. When we are in love, feeling our Beloved in and as the Heart, then the Divine Accomplishing Power moves in, as, and through us, removing obstructions.
I am profoundly grateful to The Naitauba Avadhoota, Paramahansa Swami Da Love-Ananda Hridayam, for His incomprehensible Love, boundless Compassion, and guiding Wisdom. He has granted me self-understanding and drawn me into His Brightness, Where self and other dissolve.