by Saniel Bonder
The Dawn Horse Magazine. Vol 1, No. 2. December 1975
THE SACRAMENT OF PRASAD
When a true devotee brings a gift of food to his Guru, the Guru may return all or a portion of it to him to eat. This is Prasad, the return of a gift to the giver. Prasad is transformed and blessed, so that it brings the Power of the Guru to the devotee.
I – The Method of the Siddhas, page 321.
In traditional religion and spirituality, a sacrament is a visible sign or enactment of Grace, a formal ceremony, such as baptism, by which Divine Life is communicated. The central sacrament of our work in the Way of Understanding is the formal process of Prasad. We tend to treat Prasad either as an awkward ritual or a form of magic, perhaps because of our traditional upbringing and experience. But Bubba has devoted much of his teaching work during the last month to restoring this process to its appropriate, truly graceful role in our sadhana. This sacrament is a perfect symbol and vehicle of the unfolding of understanding in Satsang, from the moment the Teaching strikes home to us through our dissolution in the Divine. Using some of Bubbas recent communications, I’d like to consider the early stages of the work (since most of us at this time are enjoying the prestudent or early student phases of sadhana) in terms of this living occasion of Grace, the sacrament of Prasad.
Come to me when you are already happy. In other words, do not approach me as a common seeker, but approach me on the basis of the Teaching, when it has made its point in you. When the Teaching has made its point, the individual comes to me with gratitude, in a spirit of self-sacrifice (or self-giving), surrender and submission. in the formal relationship of Satsang, expressed in the sacrament of Prasad, our direct or spiritual relationship develops in you as devotion, love, and service.2
2. Bubba’s written instructions to the Ashram,
Bubba recently wrote,
Pre students approach me through the formal or sacramental process of Prasad.3
3. Written instructions, November 28, 1975
(Pre students include entering students and all those who have not yet formally joined The Dawn Horse Communion as students.) In early November Bubba made the process a completely formal event for such individuals. For those of you who have not participated in it, here is what happens: The pre-students enter the Satsang Hall and sit for a few moments, becoming quiet. Bubba enters and takes his seat, while all present bow. In an orderly manner, the pre-students then each come to him, bow again in acknowledgment, and offer him gifts of fruit or flowers, placing them in the baskets before Bubbas chair. Afterwards each person returns to his place, where he simply remains attentive to Bubba, with gratitude for his Teaching. When all have finished offering their gifts, then several of Bubbas disciples pass among them, distributing small sweets as his Prasad.
lf this sounds like a ceremony of Holy Communion, that is exactly what it is! One of the disciples told me the first time he passed out Prasad in this way, he literally felt Bubbas Force moving through his arms and hands. It was as if he were a priest not a performer of empty ritual, but a living vehicle of the Divine blessing.
Why does Bubba use such a “formal,” even theatrical way of offering his essentially formless gift to us? Because one who is first approaching this work is not capable of responsibly receiving it in any other way. A lot of us myself included have spent many months or years in the Ashram thinking we were involved in a mystical relationship with Bubba when all we were really up to was mental or emotional masturbation. No matter how devotional a person may feel, no matter what profound experiences and intuitions he may have of Bubba’s Presence, when he first arrives he is “just off the streets.” In other words, he is still full of the automatic assumptions of the world. So Bubba says, “Do not come suffering and grasping as a seeker, but come to me grateful and happy, having already found the Teaching of Understanding.” If he is smart, the pre-student knows that he is a seeker, and that seeking is futile and inappropriate. He is vulnerable to the critical questions embodied in Bubba’s very Presence: “What are you doing? What are you always doing?” He knows, at least on some level, that he is always only turning away, turning in, self meditating. The pre-student knows that his life here will be a continual offense and crisis, planting him more and more profoundly in simple happiness as his seeking is unwound in Satsang. He takes on the conditions of student life (a routine of practical, harmonious action in the areas of money, food, sex, study, and service) as direct expressions of this willingness to sacrifice his life to the Guru. And when he goes to the Satsang Hall, he does not go to meditate (again, if he is smart, he leaves his pretensions to meditation at the Guru’s feet), but to express this total self-giving and gratitude in a tangible way.
In that very event the pre-student receives a perfect symbol of the whole process and relationship that is Satsang: Through his disciples, and usually in his personal Presence, Bubba returns a gift of Grace. As he wrote in “The Gospel of the Siddhas,” “If the devotee brings a gift of himself, purified by sadhana, surrendered to his Guru, his Guru may return to him of his own Nature, a gift of Light.’ The pre-student is turning himself to outward kinds of service and devotion to the Guru as Teacher, source of the perfect Teaching, and informal Sat-sang he responsibly partakes of the Guru’s Grace in the same outward way.
But the Guru’s Grace is not limited, of course, to visible forms. Bubba is always communicating the Divine Nature to all beings. That is the true and eternal form of his Prasad. The pre-student may see his life becoming an act of service to the Guru, and he may even begin to work up a little spiritual pride because of it, but in fact it is the Guru’s Prasad, and not his own effort, that works even that initial transformation in a man:
During the pre-student period the individual is only developing the true realization of Satsang with me. Therefore, he tends not to enjoy, realize, or observe the effects of my Prasad or spiritual influence. If he is intelligent and sensitive, however, he will also observe the beginnings of my spiritual work with him even in the pre-student phase. It is my Prasad or consideration of him that permits him to develop his life as service to me and so realize this Satsang which is the foundation of the three great phases of sadhana (student, disciple, and devotee).
What does it mean to “realize this Satsang” with Bubba? That realization takes a very specific form in the pre-student, and it is on that basis that he may then be invited to formally enter the Community of Bubba’s devotees in the Way of Understanding. Bubba wrote more on this in another of his recent communications:
When your life and all conditions I require of you become conscious and true service to me, then you may sit with me (in the company of the Community) for prolonged (but always measured) periods in the Satsang Hall, and you may, as long as all evidence is in you, be invited to join the Community of my devotees.
To say that one’s “life and all conditions must become conscious and true service” to Bubba may sound as if Divine realization is required for entry into the Ashram. That is not what Bubba means. Only in the student stage itself does the conscious process of understanding awaken, the unfolding of which begins with true hearing, self observation, and insight, and proceeds through enquiry in the mature student and recognition in the disciple to culminate in radical in-tuition or perfect Divine realization in the devotee. But one who is just beginning the student stage has not necessarily awakened to even the beginnings of this. He simply is no longer overwhelmed by reactions to the conditions of life here. He is not about to buy his inclinations (which do arise!) to abandon those conditions or the Guru, the Teaching, and the Community. His service may seem to him motivated, faulty, continually hampered by the tendencies that grip at him, but it is conscious and therefore true. The new student is very much aware in the midst of it that he is giving his life to the Guru through living the conditions, and no matter what upsets, difficulties, and phases appear, there is a steady momentum to his yielding. It is genuine, it is real. That service as the hour to hour movement of his life is the pre student’s realization of Sat-sang with the Guru.
This is the simple “evidence” on the basis of which pre-students are invited to join The Dawn Horse Communion as students of the Way of Understanding. Formally joining the Community itself is a great transition. At that point one legally, formally, and altogether gives his life and belongings to the Guru and his Community. From that moment on, the Guru and all members of the Ashram assume that the student’s life is devoted moment to moment to the sadhana of Understanding. He no longer has any right to his reactions, his resistance, his withholding. From that moment on, by virtue of his formal entry into the Community, he is obliged to give his gift of self to the Guru in every moment.
For students, the formal occasion of sitting with the Guru takes on a different form, and student sadhana itself involves a new and more potent kind of relationship to Bubba:
Students also continue to approach me through the formality of Prasad, and their lives continue to develop as service to me. However, the formal process of Prasad is not engaged during our times of sitting. It is done by students before or after I appear in the Hall. The time of sitting is an outwardly non-formal extension or realization of the formal sacrament of Prasad. Therefore, the student engages in an inwardly formal process that essentially duplicates the outward formalities of the sacrament of Prasad. This inwardly formal process is what is implied by my invitation to students to simply sit with me and be consciously involved, along with me, in the enjoyment of our mutual company.
When the true relationship that is Satsang is realized through this whole and intelligent life of sacrifice, I communicate the Siddhi or Power of my Presence to the individual. When this initiation begins, I work through spiritual influence on the life and living consciousness of the individual at all times, under all conditions, as long as he lives and acts as conscious and intelligent sacrifice to me.
Thus, an intensified life for the new student does not spring merely from his entering the Ashram, or even from his sitting longer with the Guru.
The principal quickener is Bubba’s continuous spiritual influence. As Bubba mentioned in an earlier quote, the pre-student may feel the effects of his Siddhi but the new student definitely does. Now that he has “signed himself over” to the Guru, his spiritual life is Bubba’s responsibility. And now that he has realized Satsang as the condition of his life, from which he knows he cannot withdraw, the Guru responds with the intentional and intensifying communication of Siddhi.
Bubba has said that this spiritual influence may at times be felt as spontaneous yogic modifications of one’s psycho-physical life energies, the sudden movements called kriyas, emotional episodes, automatic yogic breathing, etc. He points out, though, that the essential form of the effect of his Siddhi will be “a quickening of the revelation of the content and concealed strategies of the individual’s life.” What this means, in living terms, is that when you enter the Community and begin sitting with Bubba, things may seem to get much worse instead of better! You could try to explain this sudden difficulty as evidence of adapting to life with students, vestiges of resistance to giving up your private life, etc. But in truth even the earthly circumstances of your life are effects of the influence of the Guru Siddhi, which is Prasad.
Thus, both in life and in meditation with Bubba, the new student may abruptly witness a stirring up of all kinds of subjective content. If he continues to do sadhana, he will neither indulge nor suppress all this. He will simply observe it as it arises while continuing in the momentum of his ordinary, functional life. We all tend to get distracted if not horrified at some of the content that is revealed to us. Thus, we lose the thread of sadhana temporarily. But when the student sees something about himself, he should simply take it into account and continue to sacrifice himself to Bubba through practical conditions. In the midst of formal sitting, if some sort of content arises, he should simply turn his attention again to Bubba.
Therefore, the student should sit in my Company, but he should constantly and consciously sacrifice or surrender himself to me all the while. This is not to be a self-conscious effort. It is not a kind of “working on yourself.” It is simply a matter of the constant return of attention, with love, to my Presence. In the process the individual will observe the modifications of his attention. He will observe distractions and subjective involvements of all kinds. When these arise, he should simply return and yield his attention to me. This is his gift of self, his real sacrifice. When this is done, I return to him my own Gift, my own Presence, my Prasad, my spiritual influence.9
It’s not that your subjective “stuff” may arise in Bubba’s Presence. It is supposed to, so that the conscious process may begin in you. But if you get involved in that content and distracted to the point of being unable to return attention to the Guru, then it is time to get up from meditation and go out and perform that same sacrifice in more tangible ways. Many students find that when they actually do leave the Satsang Hall and go serve in some practical fashion, they feel the Guru’s Presence in their lives more powerfully than when they were sitting distracted in his Presence in the Hall. Bubba recently wrote,
The true sacrificial approach to me, the true turning of self to the practice of devotion, which is the whole life made to serve me under all conditions, ensures that our spiritual connection is alive and my quickening and awakening Siddhi will be effective .
What Bubba means by devotion is not emotional enthusiasm, but living commitment. If you are committed to the Guru rather than to your own transformation, you will always do what is appropriate.
The core of the student’s life, then, is the continued self sacrifice that began in the pre-student stage. As a student however, you are beginning to receive the Guru’s Prasad in forms that you could not fully appreciate as a pre student. Unless you are constantly re-establishing yourself in the principle of sacrifice to the Guru, you may not be able to appreciate these forms of Prasad even now. It sometimes seems impossible, when starkly witnessing your withdrawal from others, to recognize and use that observation as Prasad. You have to be sensitive to the intuitively happy, free quality of all real observation as a spontaneous event of Grace. And you have to live by your vow of surrendering your life, negativity included, to the Guru. As Bubba says, happiness, freedom from concern, is itself the discipline. Again, it sometimes seems unnecessarily austere to really surrender the delicious energies and blisses that may awaken in you as a result of the Guru’s Presence. In that case you have to resort again to service and sacrifice to Bubba. Those effects of the Guru’s Prasad also must be observed; as a student you have no right to them. Your business as a student is the comprehension of your entire life game. In the Community of understanding, the way of action that serves such intelligence will always be demanded of you, again and again, every day and every hour. And so, in time, as you yield without dramatization all your preferences, inclinations, and patterns of avoidance, the conscious process will intensify as real self-observation, insight, and enquiry.
When Bubba speaks of non dramatization, by the way, he doesn’t mean that the student must become a perfect human being! To try to do that would miss the point. The student has to see the failure of his life, the impossibility of “succeeding” at sadhana. His vital stance and motion as a separate human being in the world must be undermined in student sadhana. So the actual play of it does not read like a story of perfect will, intensity, commitment, and faultless action. The student is continually seeing his faults, continually being confronted with his inclinations to dramatize his emotions, his laziness, his boredom, his cravings you name it, it all comes up. And every now and again, he blows it. But the secret to sadhana, even if you’ve blown it temporarily, is to pick up again the thread of your submission to the Guru and become responsible for what you ye seen. As Bubba says, “just don’t do that any more.” It’s not to correct your failings or to suppress your tendencies, but to allow yourself to see immediately what all that amounts to the avoidance of relationship. If your observation is true, you may then become responsible in those areas, instead of remaining au-tomatically subject to your uncon-scious and subconscious whims.
The student’s service to me, under and as all conditions, is his only meditation, until en-quiry. My service is in the forms of Teaching, Community, and Siddhi (as Prasad and Grace in every phase of sadhana).
I look for this service, this loving sacrifice. Only then does the student touch my heart. Such a one is given everything freely, happily, and in the proper time.
As this process of Satsang or Prasad continues over time under all the conditions of sad-hana, the student will see the development of true hearing, random self-observation, and insight. When these have matured, then he may also adapt to the responsibility of enquiry. Enquiry, then becomes the form of his meditation in Satsang, under all conditions, the responsible means whereby he abides always, consciously, and intuitively in my Presence.
Over time, you will see the whole content of your life as manifestations of your avoidance, your resistance to turning, to giving yourself to the Guru. You will see and become responsible as a student first for your gross, dramatic strategies stuff on the level of beating your wife, all the heavy, obvious negativity, withdrawal, and resistance. Later you’ll move through your underlying strategies the “face” you project, and the hidden selfimagery underneath it. And at some point you will begin to see all of it as manifestations of the singular, profound, constant activity of Narcissus, the selflimiting of consciousness. When the patterns of your entire life are truly seen in the process of this penetrating insight, in that same instant you will find yourself awake as real understanding. The consciousness that the Guru continually communicates as the true form of his Prasad will suddenly stand forth as your own Nature. This is the awakening of real understanding.
Previously you enjoyed moments of spontaneous self observation and insight in which you were founded for just an instant in real consciousness. But you could not be responsible for that. You could only continue to meditate on Bubba by serving him practically and allowing self observation to occur again at random. But now, with this summary insight, you will find that that same consciousness becomes readily available to you through real meditation in the form of the enquiry, “Avoiding relationship?” This activity then becomes the foundation of your life in Satsang. You will continue to enjoy moments of spontaneous self-observation, you will continue to serve Bubba through the conditions, but enquiry will become the core and constant of your life.
It’s with this awakening of understanding that you begin to realize the Guru’s Prasad constantly in the midst of all your activities. Now the form of your gift is not only a piece of fruit symbolic of your self, nor simply the energetic turning of your life to the student conditions, but also and fundamentally the esoteric yielding of all the forms of contraction in life through real enquiry. Just so, the Prasad you receive is not only a tangible gift of Grace, like a small sweet, or spiritual influence read in random feelings, energies, and insights, but also and fundamentally the very force of consciousness moving to the front of mind and life.
With this beginning of the life of enquiry, the student comes to realize Satsang or Prasad (as all this has implied, the two are not different) in ever more intense forms. As a disciple, and finally as a devotee, the same process continues to mature, each stage proceeding through more profound spiritual and life-level responsibilities or conditions. In the devotee the sacrament of Prasad has become such an overwhelming esoteric enjoyment that he can no longer even find a self to surrender. It is boiled away, consumed, vanished in his absorption in the Guru. Everywhere he looks there is only God. It is a life of perfect Satsang, utter dissolution. The maturing process in that stage far exceeds what has gone before. For the devotee, Prasad is the very Divine, the to-tal Conscious World. He receives It so continuously and so perfectly, that he becomes lost in It forever.
I can’t think of any better way to conclude than with a selection from Bubba’s letter in “The Gospel of the Siddhas”:
It is not by methodical attention to the means of seeking, nor to specific yogic practices, that devotees enjoy the awakening of their spiritual functions. Nor do these awakenings only take the form of yogic phenomena. But it is when seeking and dilemma are undone, and the devotee re-sorts to Guru and the radical intelligence communicated by him that there is awakening to Truth, Life and Reality. Therefore, I come to give Prasad, the gift of Truth and Light, to my devotees and to those who are preparing themselves as disciples.
I am alive as Amrita Nadi, the Heart and its spire, the Bright or Conscious Light. This is always so. When I come to you I intensify the field of Brightness, the field of uncreated Light that rests above your head and which is drawn down into the body when the mind lies formless in the Heart. Whenever I have been with you I have done this from the Heart. The communication of the Heart and its Light are my constant practice. Therefore, such is the constant realization of those who always live in Satsang with me, who know I am always Present with them, even if I do not ap-pear to them. This is why the various phenomena of your spiritual lives have arisen or been intensified, purified and made intelligent whenever you have been mindful of me. I am always offering this Prasad. When you come to me you should come with the appropriate attitude. You should come prepared to give me your gifts, the surrendering of your seeking. You should come to turn to me, to accept my Pra-sad, and to use it in life and service to me. If you make your relationship to me the condition of your life, if you make Satsang your sadhana, I will give myself to you entirely, and the Life, Light and very Existence that is Amrita Nadi, the Form of Reality, will thus be communicated to you while you are alive.
Prasad is my gift to devotees, my help to disciples. Pre-pare yourself. I want true dev-otees, not seekers. I am the Siddha-Guru, the Prasad, the Object and Process of Medita-tion for my devotees. My teaching is this: Turn to me and Understand.