The first birthday celebration I attended in Mysore was in 1995, which was Guruji's 80th birthday. In India, one's 80th birthday is considered especially auspicious. Thus, the celebration was especially grand with many extra preparations and events, including a marriage ceremony and renewal of vows between Guruji and Amma. Because the celebration was considered extra special, nearly all of Guruji's older students made the effort to attend, including Richard Freeman, Tim Miller, Chuck Miller, Lino Miele and others. It was my introduction to the allure of Mysore and naturally, it made an extra intense impression.
This year was the tenth celebration that I have attended (I was not present in 2000 and 2001) and was Guruji's 92nd birthday. Though the celebration was not as grand as the one in 1995 or 2005 (his 90th), this celebration seemed almost more precious and special. As most of you know, Guruji fell very ill this year from complications arising from his diabetic condition. He contracted a very serious form of pneumonia and at one point could not breathe on his own. There were moments during this illness that many of us thought that we might lose Guruji. Fortunately, he was able to recover and is steadily growing stronger. Guruji is now teaching from time to time, although it is doubtful that he may ever teach full time again. His presence is missed sorely in the Shala, especially by those of us who have known him for many years.
So, naturally, to have him still with us for this particular celebration carried with it extra weight and significance. Guruji showed up to the celebration looking particularly well and even shone forth some of that special radiance and strength that we know him so well for. I think many people felt something very special on this day, as there seemed to be an extra amount of joy and exuberance in all the proceedings.
The day began with a large homma or fire ceremony with a coterie of Vedic priests chanting loudly and continuously. I always love how the smoke from the fire, which is fueled mostly by ghee and rice fills up the room and strongly purifies the air and the energy. These devotional rituals really do work. You can feel the shift in the energy and the heightened energy that they bring.
After the fire ceremony, there was a procession of different performances from students, friends and family for Guruji's pleasure. These included traditional Indian singing and chanting accompanied by traditional Indian instruments (veena and tabla), as well as, non-traditional instruments (guitar), a special song was composed and sung by Peter and Daniela and a Balinese dance was performed by a woman named Miki from Japan.
After the wonderful performances, a beautiful cake was brought out and we all wished Guruji a very happy birthday. Again, I felt an extra special energy and feeling from everyone. It was truly palpable.
I was very happy to see that Swami Brahmadeo was in attendance again this year, as he was last year. He is a long time friend of Guruji and the family and has, for many years, hosted students up a very special retreat/ashram space in B.R. Hills, which is in the jungle not far from Mysore. Swami Brahmadeo is truly a living example of the power of Yoga practice. I have rarely met a man who embodies such joy and selfless love. For much of the proceedings, he sat up on stage next to Guruji and you could clearly see how much joy the two men brought to each other. It was very moving.
Naturally, the event was concluded by an extra tasty thali meal down in the garage area of the Shala. Somehow I think the food this day was infused with an extra amount of care and love.
Let us all take extra care to include Guruji in our thoughts and hearts. May he remain with us and continue to shower us with his blessings for many years to come. Shiva OM!
OM Namah Shivaya!