Swami Brahmanandaji

Swami Brahmanandaji telephoned for us to do the arti on stage for his yajna last week. To be asked by him is an honor, so we went. I cannot be religious in public: one has to lose inhibition, close eyes, look inward, do body signs, and pray—not easy for the self-conscious. There before a large picture of Krishna, Sujaya held the deepa, I cupped the bottom of her palm and we struggled to be in sync: I tried fast turns and she forced a slow pace. Then I realized that if the deepa went off it would be a terrible omen. Fear and discomfort shook my hand and the flame fluttered. It was a long arti, our hands went round and round, accompanied by song. When done, we offered the deepa first to swamiji, then to the devotees. They stretched their their arms in our direction, hundreds of arms, reaching for the flame, hands cupping the vision of it from far, absorbing its power and its blessing. They chanted, eyes half-closed, some eyes imploring, some rapturous. We held the object of their devotion, standing behind it, standing over them, seeing a sight only for God to see. I glanced away.

As he preached, swamiji often withdrew from talking, closed his eyes and took deep breaths. A profound peace came upon his face when he did that and compounded his radiance. Now we were down in the audience, in communion, and his peace descended on us. He said the things we’ve heard in other sermons but they came home with fresh power. His eyes shone. When he smiled, which he did when he spoke in jest, lines appeared and settled easy on his face—a picture of peace. Two hours went like two minutes.

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