A Blanket of Love
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas is Neem Karoli Baba’s ashram in Rishikesh. I was visiting the annual Bhandara (Feeding festival) with Krishna Das and friends and we started every day with a beautiful morning aarti. If we were fortunate enough, we had the darshan of Siddhi Ma, a great saint and devotee of Maharajji.
The atmosphere at the Maharajji’s ashram was blissful and beyond homely. The devotees were some of the kindest I have ever met and the ashram is like a physical heart-space with a vibration of love which permeates the air.
After Sheena and I had spent two weeks immersed at the Ashram we wanted to give a gift to Maa to express our gratitude, but what do you give somebody who has everything?
As we walked through the bustling Rishikesh marketplace I spotted a store specialising in blankets just like the the ones Maharajji used to wear. This felt like the ideal gift so we decided to purchase one and offer it to Maa. After my experiences in Vrindavan, I had tried to be mindful of accumulating spiritual stuff, but deep inside I had a longing to have one of Maharajji’s blankets to place on my Puja table at home in England. I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to worship it as Siddhi Ma and other devotees do. This thought kept coming into my mind, no matter how much I reminded myself that ‘collecting things’ is not the right mindset for the spiritual path and to try not to cling for anything.
On our final day in Rishikesh, we were fortunate to spend some intimate time with Siddhi Ma. Peacefully sitting on a large balcony alone with the great saint,
We bowed down and thanked her for everything, she played with our son Arjun and accepted our gift. Receiving her blessings made the world stand still and everything was in perfect harmony. after some time had passed, she requested us to go and have darshan of Maharajji’s blanket and tukket inside the room. This was just like I had imagined, the perfect way to remember Maharajji.
We thanked everybody and said our goodbyes. As we walked out of the ashram doors, and out onto the manic of the high street, the thought once again crossed my mind. We are leaving without Maharajji’s blanket, I couldn’t have asked for something so holy, so I picked up Arjun and began to place him into the taxi. Then one of the Ma’s ran out to us saying, “Siddhi Ma sent Maharajji’s blanket for Arjun! Please take it, Ram Ram!”. I couldn’t believe what had just happened, my sceptical mind was being broken down.
Did Siddhi Ma know what I was thinking? I don’t know for sure, what I do know is that there was something beyond what my thinking mind could conceive. This was something very special for us as a family. Initially my thoughts were on austerely placing the blanket on my puja table, but Ma said this was for Arjun who was one years old so it had to be relevant for him too. Nowadays Maharajji’s blanket is close to us all, it brings his presence into our lives. Arjun snuggles under it and watches TV on the sofa.
When my grandmother was critically ill, I sat by her side reading the Bhagavad Gita and it was Maharajji’s blanket of love that kept her warm as she recovered after all the doctors had given up. I never would have thought that I would have developed such incredible reverence for an item such as a blanket.
As householders, it is very important that we cultivate and fan this prema, this unconditional love throughout all aspects of our lives, It is not just something only for the temple or during worship. It is my constant prayer for this feeling of warmth, compassion and grace which comes from the real blanket of unconditional love to reach us all.
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