Lila by Krishna Das

What I experienced at that time of meeting Maharaji, in fact,
within those first few minutes of meeting him was the experience of surrender which was no surrender.
In other words, I didn’t begrudgingly give up my ego.
It was as if I came home to the place where I no longer needed it
.”~ Ram Dass

It is very difficult for people like us, who are identified with our bodies and minds, to understand the concept of lila—the divine play. It’s called “play” because there’s no selfish motive in the action. God’s lila or the lila of a great saint, his or her action in the world, is done only for the sake of helping others. There is no personal motive. The saint’s actions come out of the awareness of the oneness of all life and compassion for all beings. It’s impossible for us to understand fully.

Lila 4In a way, it’s how a really good babysitter works. He or she can play games with the kids and tell them stories and get them to bed at the right time, without the children ever realizing that they’re being cared for by an adult who has an agenda, which is to keep them all safe. But if there’s a  problem, the kids come running to the babysitter, who has the strength and wisdom to deal with it. The lilas of avatars, or enlightened beings, are like that. They accomplish all that they have to do for us by acting like one of us. In this way they protect us, inspire us, and set us on the right path. But when we’re in danger or in need, they show us a deeper aspect of themselves, or some of their miraculous siddhis (powers). They are in the world, but not of it. When they manifest their divinity, that is lila. On the path of devotion, one can focus on the lila of the Beloved. Ram Lila and Krishna Lila are collections of stories that tell all of the things that these divine beings did, all of the plays they enacted while they were incarnated.

Dada was one of Maharaj-ji’s great old devotees, who frequently translated for us Westerners. Although his real name was Sudhir Mukerjee, Maharaj-ji called him Dada, which means “elder brother” in Hindi. Once when Dada’s wife called him by his real name, Maharaj-ji said, “If he is my Dada, then he is your Dada.” From then on she, along with everyone else, called him Dada. Dada used to say that when we were with Maharaj-ji we were lost in a dream, playing our parts unconsciously in his lila, but when we were away from him, we could recall the many scenes and relive and relish them to our heart’s content.

Being with Maharaj-ji was like being an actor in a play, an actor who’s forgotten that he’s in a play. But the play was written by a realized Being–a fully awake, conscious writer–who was also pretending to be merely another actor in the play. Everything that he wrote was designed to wake us up and lead us to the same realization, freedom, and love.Lila 3

One day we were sitting with Maharaj-ji in Brindavan. A number of Westerners had recently come from meditation courses. One of them was sitting up very straight with hiseyes closed. Maharaj-ji looked at me and told me to ask him what he was doing. I did, and without opening his eyes, he answered, “I’m meditating.” I said, “Maharaj-ji, he says that he’s meditating.” “Oh? Ask him if he wants to see real meditation.” When I asked the guy if he wanted to see real meditation, he opened his eyes and said yes.

Maharaj-ji called over one of his close devotees, Gurudatt Sharma, and told him to sit down and meditate. Gurudatt, a family man, sat down and crossed his legs and closed his eyes. Maharaj-ji told me to tell the Westerner to come over and touch Gurudatt. He gently touched him, but Maharaj-ji said, ”No, no. Push him.” He did, but Gurudatt was stiff and solid as a mountain. He didn’t move at all. Then Maharaj-ji told this guy to cover Gurudatt’s mouth and hold his nose closed, which he did. It was obvious that Gurudatt wasn’t breathing. Maharaj-ji looked at the Westerner and said, “That’s meditation.”

Then he asked me and another Westerner to pick Gurudatt up and carry him to one of the nearby rooms and put him on the bed, which we did, and then we went back to sit with Maharaj-ji. After a few minutes, Maharaj-ji got up and went into the room where Gurudatt was, closing the door behind him. In about 15 minutes, the two of them came out together, arm in arm, leaning on each other like two drunkards, drunk on bliss. Maharaj-ji settled himself back down on the takhat, and Gurudatt sat below him on the ground. Maharaj-ji looked at the Westerner again and asked, “Do you understand?”

The Westerner said no. Maharaj-ji said, “You want to see it again?” Without waiting for an answer, he ordered Gurudatt to meditate again. And Gurudatt went back into meditation. Again, after a few minutes, Maharaj-ji had us carry Gurudatt into the room. I don’t know about the other Westerner, but I was very affected by this demonstration and was going to find out from Gurudatt how to meditate that way myself.

Lila 2The next day, Maharaj-ji gave me my chance. He asked me to drive Gurudatt to a nearby town on some business. While we were driving, I asked him if he’d practiced meditation before. I wanted to know how to do what he did. He didn’t reply, so I figured that he wasn’t going to answer me. After a few minutes, however, he began to speak quietly. He said, “When I first came to Maharaj-ji, he showed me so much love and affection that some of the older devotees were shocked. He was always holding my hand and caressing me and looking at me with great love. It got to the point where one day one of the devotees asked Maharaj-ji, “What is it about this guy? How come you show him so much affection? I have been with you much longer and you don’t show me that kind of love. Maharaj-ji didn’t respond, so the devotee kept badgering him.

“Finally Maharaji-ji said, ‘Okay, you want to know, I’ll tell you, but I am only going to say it once.’ The devotee said, ‘So say it.’ It was only the three of us sitting in that room. Just as Maharaj-ji began to speak, someone came to the door and called this devotee. He turned his head to see who was calling him; by the time he turned back, Maharaj-ji had finished speaking. He said, ‘Maharaj-ji, what did you say? I didn’t hear you.’ But Maharaj-ji would not repeat himself.

Gurudatt looked at me for a second and continued. “Maharajji said, ‘Not just this life, not just the life before, but life after life we have been together. That’s why this happens.’” We drove the rest of the way in silence.

As Namdev, the great 13th-century poet-saint, wrote, he had perfect knowledge of the Vedas (ancient Indian scriptures) and all of the schools of Indian philosophy; he had accomplished the goal of the yogis; he had himself experienced the joy of merging in the formless God; but he’d transcended all of these experiences through the grace of the saints, to find that “the secret is the Lord’s Love.”

Lila 5Sharing his heart through music and chanting is the basis of Krishna Das’ own spiritual work; his way of serving the Divine within himself and others. In the winter of 1968, Krishna Das met Ram Dass, who had just returned from his first trip to India. After living and traveling with Ram Dass in the U.S., and hearing Ram Dass’ many stories about Maharaj-ji, Krishna Das traveled to India, where he was blessed to meet and stay with this extraordinary guru.

(Excerpted from Chants of a Lifetime, Reprinted in the May, 2012 IYTA Newsletter)