Pointing to the altar, Hari Puri Baba told me that, in fact, he was not becoming my guru but only my shakshi guru, a “witness guru” to my becoming the disciple of the lord of yogis, Guru Dattatreya, he who shows the Path. The small bronze icon of Dattatreya on the altar had three heads, those of the gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Dattatreya is the naked one.
“It is by his grace that you enter this world of discipleship and knowledge,” Hari Puri Baba said. “It’s at his feet that you sit. He is your guru. I’m just doing my duty.
“He is there on the altar and also here in our circle, our little mandala, in the form of five sannyasis who walk the Path. These sannyasis will be your five gurus. I have many presents for you and the first are your five gurus. Each will give you his own gift. My second gift will be the guru mantra, those syllables, those sounds that will anchor you to me, and through me to the Path, and act as a foundation and ultimate refuge.”
Hari Puri Baba pulled the hairs on his chin and frowned. “Do you commit your life to the knowledge of God? To the knowledge of Self, the Brahmavidya?” he asked.
Since this was the first real vow I had taken in my life, I hesitated. What if I’m wrong, I asked myself. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this. And then I knew in my heart that either through this initiation and this guru, some other, or maybe none at all, I would always seek the Path of Knowledge. The vow I made to myself was the most important. “Yes, I do,” I replied.
“Will you return to your village and abandon this guru/disciple tradition?” Hari Puri Baba asked me sternly. No, I answered him three times as he asked me three times. I knew that I could never return to my life in California.
Mangal Bharti, another of my five gurus, flung the ochre dhoti over my head. I heard a few sanctifying drops of water hit the dhoti, as the cloth was held tight by three gurus. Hari Puri Baba entered my ochre cave with knife in his hand. “Don’t worry. This won’t hurt a bit,” he whispered, as he bent my head and sliced off the remaining hair with a rather blunt knife.
He took my shorn
shining head in his hands and turned it so that the right side of my face was now facing his mouth. His breath tickled my eardrum. “Now close your eyes, concentrate, and listen very very carefully,” he whispered even more quietly. Time stopped, there was utter silence, the world ceased to exist, the universe retreated into the void. And then the wind, a hot hurricane. My right eardrum exploded in flame as Hari Puri Baba’s loaded breath entered it. In harmony with the ringing came the syllables, one after the other, holding onto each other, tied on a string: the guru mantra. It played way too fast and I couldn’t hear it properly. I didn’t concentrate enough. The most important of mantras! How could I let my mind wander at a moment like this? Then he blew it into my left ear, and back and forth between ears, until three times it had reached each ear. As the cloth was pulled away, a chorus of
namah parvati pate
hara hara mahadev!!
Hail to Shiva,
Lady of the Mountain!!