Woe is Me, Babaji Triggered My Painful Memory
A few months after meeting Babaji, I began teaching with him. It happened fast. Although I still lived in Florida and worked at the psychiatric hospital, Babaji invited me to teach Vedic Psychology with him in France. So I took my vacation days from work to embark on this big adventure to teach with my guru. I felt excited, but also nervous about teaching with such a great person. He has thousands of followers around the world, and I was a nobody. Who was I to teach with him? I was worried that I will say the wrong thing, or misrepresent his teachings in some way.
One day on a break after teaching our morning class, we were working together. As we were preparing our Powerpoint for the afternoon class, Babaji casually asked me, “So why did you become so worried when I did not respond to your email a few months back when you were working on The Hitopadesh worksheets?”
His question was so out of the blue that I was caught off guard.
“What?” I stammered.
“What made you so worried when I did not respond to your email for a few days?” he calmly repeated his question.
He put me on the spot so quickly and unexpectedly. I felt nervous, and like I was suffocating. I started sweating. I wished that I could just disappear into the thin, fresh mountain air. I had never thought about why I became so worried in that instance a few months back. And quite frankly, why did it matter? What was he getting at? In any case, I had no response. The silence felt so painful, as he waited for me to come up with some answer. My mind was blank. No answer coming. The only thoughts going on in my head were along the lines of what a stupid idiot I was because I could not answer his simple question.
Exasperated, I finally, blurted out, “I don’t know,” hoping that would suffice and we could get back to our work.
But he was on to something and he would not let it go. He quipped, “What do you mean, you don’t know? What kind of answer is that?”
I felt my face turn crimson. My cheeks were burning hot. “I really don’t know.”
He relentlessly pressed on, “And why were you so worried in our morning presentation? You rushed through the material and you spoke so fast I don’t think anyone could understand you.”
My throat went dry. My hands were shaking. I felt so intensely nervous and like a fool. “Sorry,” I meekly squeaked.
“No sorry. Just tell me what are you so worried about?” he innocently inquired.
My eyes welled up with tears. I was surprised at how quickly the words just rolled off of my tongue. In some way, as the flood gates of my emotions opened, my tongue also became untied. I cried, “I am worried you don’t think I am good enough. I am worried you will one day realize how stupid I really am. And I am most worried about you becoming angry with me. What if I mess up when we are teaching together? What if I say the wrong thing?”
Babaji calmly stated, “That is a samskara. You are not seeing the situation clearly. Introspect.”
He did not smile at me, nor did he say any kind words to make me feel better about my insecurities. Was he angry at me? Was he dismissing me, asking me to not continue teaching this course with him? Should I just leave? I felt crushed.
My mind was spinning. I could not think straight. I excused myself and went to my room and tried to think about what was going on in my crazy mind. Maybe this was just too much for me to handle? Maybe I should just go home? What was I thinking that I could offer something valuable to support my guru’s teachings? He seemed angry at me. He was being so cold, colder than the ice cold stone walls of this old castle we were staying in. What should I do? We have class again in one hour and I have to be on. I have to get it together and show up to do my part. But I feel so weak inside, yet I can’t run away. I can't get out of this place. I’m stuck in this old castle in the French countryside with no escape. We drove for miles up a treacherous switchback road with no sign of life to arrive at this place. I couldn't run away even if I tried. My heart sunk as I realized that I was doomed.
Somehow, I arrived in class one hour later. Feeling like a zombie, I took my seat. As usual, Babaji’s smile made his whole face glow, and actually the whole room was basking in his light. It was truly a sight to see. The light radiating from his face was reflecting onto the students faces, and they all were exuding sheer happiness.
I thought to myself, “How can he be so happy, when he just punched me in the stomach?” He carried on like normal with his teachings. Even though I was reeling, I followed suit. When it was my turn to teach, I did my part as planned. I talked too fast in my usual manner, and I explained things at warp speed. Nevertheless, I got through the material without showing my mind, which was in so much torment and turmoil. My translator was gracious to me and did not give me a hard time, bless her soul. At the end of class, Babaji promptly got up and walked out the door, leaving me in the dust. I wanted him to explain to me what he saw in me that he wanted me to introspect on. Isn't that what the guru is supposed to do? If he can see my problem, why doesn't he just tell me what it is? Maybe he is giving me the cold shoulder because he is mad at me?
That night I felt restless. I could not catch a wink of sleep. My mind was going in loops, questioning over and over again. What did he mean that I was not seeing the reality? Was my samskara really that big of an issue that he had to point it out like that right in the middle of us working so harmoniously together? What's the big deal about me being worried from time to time? Finally, I remembered Babaji's advice that I should introspect. I recalled one time when he told me that it is very difficult to introspect because our mind is conditioned to analyze the other person, and not our own self. This characteristic of the mind enables us to rationalize why we don't have to change. As his words rang in my head, I vowed to myself that I didn't want to be like that. I wanted to change, and for the better. So I tried to focus my attention away from analyzing him, and onto myself. I meditated on the question, “Why did I get so worried when Babaji didn’t respond to my email for a few days? What could have caused that extreme anxiety in me?”
After awhile, I remembered a time when I had this similar feeling of worry when I was a child with my father. You see, my father was a very passionate person. And with every passionate person comes a streak of anger. Some big, some not as big. But still, all passionate people have got a good dose of anger. And adult anger is very, very scary for small children. My dad’s goal in life was to change the way the world thinks. He wanted people to be able to see and understand the unintended consequences of their actions and subsequently change their behavior, in order to make this world a more self-aware, mindful place. He created software to teach people how to think in this systems point of view. In my childhood, he taught about this concept for nearly two decades as an Engineering professor at Dartmouth college in New Hampshire. I mention these things to remind myself of how his passion also fueled his good qualities. His passion enabled him to be a professor, create software, start and run his own software company, be a husband, and raise a family. Nevertheless, despite how impressive he was, that did not take away from how scary his anger was to me as a kid. When my father became angry he would either throw something, kick the nearest thing around, or lash out and say something hurtful to me, too hurtful for me to repeat. Or he would simply say nothing at all. The silent treatment was the worst and most painful form of emotional abuse I have ever experienced. He treated me like I did not exist. In those times he would just look past me, like I was worse than a pile of dog shit. At least he had to look at the dog shit so he didn’t step on it when he passed by. But when he was angry at me, it was like he looked through me, like a ghost that he could not see. I felt like I was dead to him.
Just then I made a connection. I connected the dots from my painful childhood experience (samskara) to my current overreaction to Babaji. Now things started making sense! Of course I freaked out and felt worried when Babaji didn’t answer my email after so many days. I interpreted his lack of response as the silent treatment. My childhood experience of my father giving me the silent treatment got triggered. I mistook Babaji’s silence as the same thing as my father's silence. I thought Babaji didn't respond to my email because he was angry at me, which was not the case at all. Actually, I came to find out later that he didn’t respond to my email because he was sick in bed with malaria. My wires got crossed and I had superimposed my painful memory of my father's silence onto Babaji. I felt relieved. Now I could understand what Babaji meant about me not seeing the situation clearly. I was excited to share my insights with him the next day.
When I saw Babaji the next morning, I explained what I understood from my introspection.
He responded, “Good, now you have to get out of this old conditioning. You are smart and a good teacher. You do not have anything to worry about. Teach what you know, slow down and relax.”
“Thank you, Babaji. But how? You make it seem so easy. But I don’t know how to get out of my conditioning.”
He explained, “The first step is awareness. Now that you know that your samskara (childhood memory) of your father's anger is getting projected onto me, you have to catch it and control it before it controls you.”
“I will try, but it sounds very difficult to watch my own mind and control it like that,” I complained.
Babaji remained firm and did not mince his words when he said, “If you are sincere on this path you will introspect daily and then change your thoughts and behaviors so you are not being driven by old toxic patterns that come from your childhood.” Then he gracefully walked away.
“Wow, this guy is serious,” I thought to myself as his potent words pierced my heart.
I made it through the rest of the week, and as the days passed, I began enjoying teaching with Babaji. I began to find my voice and become more relaxed and confident with how I taught. I also began a regular introspection practice in which I would search for, identify, and then work on those troubling programs in me that caused me to see situations and people in a distorted manner.
It has been over five years since Babaji and I taught our first Vedic Psychology course together in France. We have taught hundreds of hours of class together since then. But that first time teaching together left a deep impression on my heart because he gave me such intense lessons about myself. I will be forever grateful for Babaji's tough love approach in which he directed me into the center of my own heart. In the ideal world, I would have worked through all of my samskaras before I began teaching with him. However, that’s not the way the cookie crumbled. Maybe it would have taken a lot longer for me to see my painful programming if I had not been invited to teach with Babaji? I don’t know. All I do know is that in Babaji’s great wisdom, kindness and compassion, he accepted me as I was, scared, confused, insecure, and worried. That did not deter him. He did not reject me nor become angry at me. Instead, he accepted me and helped me to understand my own self. He gracefully guided me to see the light and ever present peace within my own heart.
The day I took formal initiation from Babaji. January 2015