The photos were hard to look at. There was the body of my beautiful teacher, Swami Veda Bharati, being washed and prepared for his funeral by immersion in the River Ganga. The swamis preparing the body applied the ceremonial colors to the face. Dressed the body in the ceremonial clothes.
Looking at the photos, I could see the face that I’ve known and loved for so many years, but the person, the being, wasn’t there. This was just the body. My beloved teacher had left.
It was the same some months ago when my dear father passed away. One minute he was there talking with me. A few minutes later there was the body, but the person I knew and loved was gone.
These experiences of death accentuated a crucial lesson that my mind has a hard time grasping: The body is not the being.
In the morning when getting dressed, often I see “my” reflection in the mirror, and think, “I look tired today,” or “I look well today,” or some other observation. But that face in the mirror is not my face any more than the body of my father was the being I knew as my father, or the body of my teacher was the loving and wise presence I knew as Swami Veda Bharati. That face is of the body; it is not my True Self. According to Yoga Philosophy, the body is mortal, while being is eternal and is the True Self.
So, I’ve been deluded. The gift of these experiences of death is that now the delusion is plain to see. But as psychologists know, delusions are hard to break.
My guess is that I’ll keep forgetting the lesson and will need to keep reminding myself.
Years ago, I was in the presence of another great Yoga teacher, Baba Hari Dass. He was a silent yogi. Although his practice was to not speak, he communicated with his students in writing. There was a group gathered before him and someone in the group asked Babaji “What happens, karmically, to someone who kills a Guru?” The part of Babaji’s answer that I still remember was that one cannot kill a Guru because the Guru is the mind, which in a liberated person, remains conscious after the body dies. That mind can take another body or work from the subtle realm.
When Swami Veda Bharati dropped his body, it was said by one or more of those with him at the moment, that he went into samadhi and left his body consciously. When considered with what Baba Hari Dass said, this would seem to mean that Swami Veda’s mind remains available in the silence of meditation. As one of Swami Veda’s closest disciples, Stoma, said: “Seek him on that shore now.” That’s my plan.