True Face of Wisdom

My yoga master, Gurudev, lay dying in my arms and I am overcome with emotion. Tears stream down my cheeks as I witness the life force leaving his limp body. Gurudev looks up at me with his dark penetrating eyes and simply says, “Now it is up to you.” His words trail off into the vast silence as he slips away.

I am now at the mouth of a cave where Bapuji, Gurudev’s teacher, is deep in meditation. He becomes aware of my presence and invites me into the inner chamber. He says, “This is my last day on this earth. Please pay attention.” Bapuji enters deep samadhi and begins to dissolve into light. “Always, remember it is up to you. All that is me—is you.” I am again alone but his words continue to echo. Bapuji’s teacher, Lord Lakulish, appears amidst echoes of my mind like a glowing cinder emitting light and swirls of smoke around every thought. Then everything dissolves into emptiness.

I experienced these dreams more than 35 years ago but they resound in my heart/mind as if I had them last night. I remember when my biological father passed away in 2010 followed by the death of my root teacher (49 days later) in the Vajrayana tradition, Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche. This felt like a waking dream version of Gurudev and Bapuji. I no longer had outer symbols of my inner authority. I had to grow up, to manifest what I have always known.

As we follow any spiritual path, we eventually experience the death of our teacher. This does not mean he or she actually dies. It is more like the teacher who mirrors our true nature takes rebirth in our own consciousness. We experience emptiness/awareness, the true face of the teacher and recognize it as our own. We are unmasked and compelled to live with integrity according to our natural wisdom for the benefit of all beings.

My aspiration is to live this way, although I fail miserably at times. Once we see our true face, however, it is impossible to to hide again. The awareness itches like a scar from a past wound, reminding us of our stumbles along the path and keeping us humble—connecting us to everyone. How wonderful!

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