Peter Malakoff – Narcissus the Magician

Originally published in ‘Crazy Wisdom’ Journal, Vol 3, NO. 8 & 9, August/September 1984

The Monthly Journal of the Johannine Daist Communion

Peter Malakoff, Craftsman

“Narcissus is a magician who can turn the Pacific Ocean or a sea of galaxies into a backyard pond or another middle-class vacation spot.”

In my first Darshan occasion with the Spiritual Master, the practice of heartfelt surrender to the Living God was made spontaneously evident through Grace. Suddenly I was participating in what I had previously only read about: the yielding of everything frorp the heart—emotions, thoughts, doubt, belief. Even though this was the first time I was drawn into or initiated in this process, it seemed like I had always known it; it was the wisdom of all life.

Master Da was absolutely intimate with me, even though there were four hundred people in the tent. It was the Divine Paradox. I remember his mudras, his gesturing, themselves the Great Teaching. At one point I felt I was swooning in devotional surrender. The Master was gesturing with his hands, asking for all of it, everything, curling his fingers again and again into his palm. Then suddenly he assumed a fierce, awesome mudra, with only his forefinger and thumb extended. In that instant I became aware that I was holding on to the position of the emotional being and that my emotion itself was uninspected and therefore not surrendered. Looking back I feel this to be a so-called fourth-stage error. After I saw and surrendered this, I felt mad and mindless. The Master was the “Hole in the Universe,” the Divine, through Which and in Which everything is Revealed as Divine. It did not make any sense at all, but I knew it to be Truth.

As I left the Darshan events, I became aware that the only true response to this literal Gift of Grace was practice. Only practice, the absolute commitment of my life to what I had been shown, the submission to That and magnification of That in my life, would allow my heart to open still more, would connect me with that felt Grace, that tangible Blessing somehow embodied in the wonderful form of the Spiritual Master. It was clear that practice is fierce, immediate, and full of Grace in relation to my sorrowful, machine-like, deluding body-mind and binding relations. All of that must be turned around!

Soon after the Sunday afternoon Darshan, I was approached by another devotee in charge of making sacred objects. He told me of the projects needing immediate attention during the week in order to be done by the end of the Master’s stay. I decided to go back to Marin to serve on these projects, and I knew this would test my physical endurance and, more importantly, the quality of my relationship to the Adept. After a quick discussion of plans, I decided to leave for Marin on Sunday night. I took a deep breath, bought some food, and began the drive back. I was eating as I drove, anxious, feeling terrible, my mind racing to work out my schedule, when all of a sudden I recalled the afternoon Darshan, when we were all singing to the Master, his hands raised to his face, sublimed by the love of his devotees, the Living Form of Love—and here I was, completely nervous and eating haphazardly while on a so-called “service” project. I saw clearly that I was throwing off the Transmission so recently received. I turned around, greatly humbled by this revelation and determined to go back and stay the evening with other devotees. The Master has said, “Narcissus is a magician who can turn the Pacific Ocean or a sea of galaxies into a backyard pond or another middle-class vacation spot.”1 I had done better than that: Transmission and service both had been turned to the intention of the ego. The rest of the night was uneventful but somehow absolutely graceful. Practice was already something totally other than what I expected.

1. The Lesson, vol 1, p. xxvi.

The next few days in Marin, I completed the service project for the Master and promptly collapsed. Moreover, as the weekend approached I realized that I might not be well enough to go to the Sanctuary to have Darshan of the Master. We had heard during all the months Master Da was at Tumomama and in Fiji that the demand for physical proximity to the Spiritual Master was part of a childish reaction to life. I had intellectually understood this, but now I had to face it bodily and actually. I had to practice with it.

Pained by my inability to be close to the Master, yet mindful of Master Da’s confession that he is always with us, I was graced while reading the Shrimad Bhagavata to find a lila of Lord Krishna that directly related to my state.

Lord Krishna had been away from Vrindavana for many years. He had left behind him the many gopis, the cowherd girls of his youth who had an all-consuming love for him. Then Uddhava, the close friend and disciple of Lord Krishna, brought them a message from him:

I have never been separated from you, for I am your Self and I am the Self in all beings. You must realize that I am always with you.

As the ocean is the end and goal of all rivers and streams, so am 1 the end, the supreme goal and purpose, of all the Vedas; of the eight-fold practices of yoga; of discrimination, renunciation, performance of duties and self-control.

O ye who are so beautiful, my object in staying away from you is that ye may meditate on me and find me within your own hearts. So do I ask of you that ye control the restlessness of your minds and. meditate on me, surrendering yourselves to me. Soon shall ye find me within yourselves and attain to my being. Even those who have not seen me and yet meditate on me, they also find me and attain to my being.2

2. The Wisdom of God (Srimad Bhagavatam), tr. Swami Prabhavananda (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1968), bk. 10, ch. 7, pp. 206-207.

Again and again as I lay sick in bed, the import of this story would serve to remind me of my true relationship to Master Da.

It is now weeks later and the effects of the Darshan occasions with the Adept Master (if one may call them effects) are still being felt. I am noticing changes in every aspect of my life—in relationships, in work, in psychic sensitivity, in the observation of suffering in myself and others, in the impulse to practice, in my appreciation of the Teaching, in my appreciation for the Communion, in my hunger for Agency—all based on a more heartfelt response to life initiated by the Grace of the Presence of the Master. This whole Teaching is about Love, even in human terms.

May all beings be blessed with such Good Company. May the heartfelt connection with the Master always be the foundation of our practice!