Rituals at the Ashram
Sometimes people wonder about the rituals at the Ashram and what purpose they serve? I can only speak for myself - because I would not be so presumptuous as to speak about another's spiritual practice. For me these rituals - puja, aarati, fire ceremony, feeding people, serving people, and loving people and the whole cosmos - were taught to me and absorbed by me from my beloved Lord Babaji.
I say this because during the many months that I was physically with Babaji, I was sometimes with Him throughout much of the day. My day consisted of getting up at 3:30 to bathe and be ready for His gentle hand giving me chandan in his room shortly after 4 am, followed by the silent, daily fire ceremony He performed outside His room.
Then there was time for meditation, personal puja or japa in my room until the bells rang for the morning sung-worship service, called aarati. As I sat, repeating in song each of the sacred mantras and texts of the aarati, I could feel on a visceral level useless thoughts and tendencies fall away, leaving me still in the silence of oneness with God. As Baba would enter and sit on His assan, I would sometimes see Him only as Golden Light pervading everywhere and in everyone.
Throughout the day, if I had the job of carrying Baba’s bag or umbrella, then I got to sit and stand with Him much of the time. It was at this time that I experienced how He served every sentient and insentient being. As we sat, the villagers, the workers, the travelers, the poor, the rich, and the famous all came to Him and He was absolutely there for each person, giving, giving, giving - love, understanding, encouraging words, a rough reprimand, a rupee, or a horse - whatever was needed. He never stopped. This ritual went on day and night and touched me to the core.
From time to time we were allowed to perform a full puja to His physical Being - wash His feet, apply oil and chandan, offer Him a mala and chuni and food and finally the aarati lamp. The waving of the aarati lamp to His physical Divine countenance felt to me to be truly the burning away of lifetimes of ignorance that clouded the awareness of the everlasting light of the Divine in the cosmos. Of course, then there was evening aarati and chanting of beautiful soul-felt bhajans that would cry out in love to Baba, to Mother, to all the Divine forms, sometimes leaving me in tears.
So I say all this because it is no different for me now. Everything I find myself doing in the day at the Ashram, I realize Baba showed me how to do it - from morning puja, aarati, havan, to serving, feeding and loving people. And my depth of experience of the Divine Silence and Presence is ever deeper as I practice on a daily basis.
Spiritual practice, when done from the heart, does not become old, repetitive, or hollow - it only becomes deeper - so deep that words are too shallow to try to convey the richness.
There is not a day that goes by at this Ashram that I do not thank Baba and Mother for the great gift to do this practice at Their home. On the mornings that I walk into Mother’s chambers to bathe and dress Her, I am aware and humbled by the enormous blessing to be able to perform such an intimate service to the Divine. People often ask if I will stay at the Ashram for the rest of my life and my answer is always: “If Mother and Baba allow me to - for it is They, who are actually One, Who call all the shots around here.”
Haidakhan Universal Ashram