Shyamdas, a great devotee and follower of Divine Love was honored in a memorial gathering a year ago. I was privileged to share this tribute with his family and friends at the Connecticut home of his mother and my friend, Gloria.
I thought of re-writing this post, one year later. but to me, it still resonates with an important message. I hope you will experience this too. We all need examples of those who lived in the world, while not pretending that any of us escape the ego, some have moved us more than others. So it is in this reflection:
On this beautiful sun-filled afternoon, the time of the summer solstice, and with a full moon rising, everything felt auspicious, almost as if the space were energized by a special brightness The sound of kirtan softly welcomed the many of us who were invited — the family and friends of various faiths, many of whom knew Stephen Schaffer as a young Jewish boy who frolicked on the lawn where we were now seated and others who knew him as Shyamdas, a bhakti yogi, who wrote and translated scores of books, who was a musician, artist, and kirtan chanter of renown, and whose unbridled love of Yoga and God made him an exceptional teacher.
He spent much of his adult life in India. He didn’t follow the pattern of many yogis (and others named “das”) of his era, who returned to live in the United States and develop a following, (though some of this happened later in his life). In most cases, seekers went to him, people like Sting and Trudy Styler, Madonna, David Life and Sharon Gannon (the founders of Jivamukti Yoga in New York), The Beastie Boys, and others. He was welcoming to all.
There is much to learn and appreciate when considering the life of a bhakti, one who ecstatically sings the praises of God, lives in that praise, and sees that all of us are part of Divine Consciousness. The times I met and spoke with Stephen, as I knew him because of my relationship with his parents, were not the simple ordinary settings — one was the memorial gathering for his father and the other was a wedding reception for him and his new bride. I don’t think I quite understood who he was and what he knew. Even as we spoke of yoga then, I was still years away from knowing myself as the bhakti I would become. So what I experienced and learned during the tributes yesterday resonated with me for many reasons.
LESSON TWENTY SIX
BEING DEVOTED TO DIVINE LOVE
How would it feel to be embraced in a feeling of love and devotion most of the time? To witness yourself through eyes of pure love? To see the world as lila, God’s play? To recognize the Divine in everything around you? To know that this Love is eternal and will accompany your soul even when you depart your body? These are some of the Truths that seemed so relevant during the memorial tribute.
How can we apply this, in our everyday life, to be lighter and happier? Here are some ideas:
- When you rise in the morning and before going to sleep at night, spend a few moments considering the wonder of life. It could be in the form of gratitude or in something special that happened that day. It might be simple like how comfortable you feel lying in bed. Anything!
- Ponder the idea that you, yourself, carry the light of Divine Love within you all the time. Think of it as a birthright, as a given.
- Imagine that everyone you meet and everything you see is part of the Light and shares this Eternal Love. You might bring to mind someone you love and see them surrounded by this Love. Or, maybe even better, see someone who has troubled you or angered you, and see them equally that way.
- Put yourself into the most perfect, dreamlike spot you can imagine. Maybe at the sea or in the mountains or wherever you feel “at home.” See that place as a vista of God’s Love, of lila.
- Try to hold on to this open-hearted Love, with complete abandon and joy. And, if sometimes you lose that sense of joy (which can happen to all of us), be kind and forgiving and know that the feeling will return. Just witness yourself without judging.
I don’t know that these would be words of advice from Shyamdas, they are interpretations of my own feelings of bhakti. I think he would like them.
Here is something he wrote in his last will and testament:
Jai Shri Krishna…What a lila!
To my entire family as well as to my circle of satsang friends and teachers: It was an honor to be part of it.
Know that the soul is eternal and plays onwards,
always reaching for the Beloved.
Thank you, Shyamdas. We know your soul is very much alive, chanting even now. And as you say, Om shalom!
With love and namaste, Deanne