I’ve been greatly blessed in my life by being with with many great teachers. I was close for many years to H.W.L. Poonja (people called him Papaji), and it was he who initially asked me to be a teacher of awakening. I had some fantastic visits with Urgyen Tulku Rimpoche who was at that time the lineage holder for the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. But my greatest teacher, my greatest guru by far, has been my marriage with my wife Chameli. It has rooted out habit patterns which no other teacher has managed to do. This marriage has been a portal to a depth of love and spaciousness that nothing else has come close to.
It has not always been this way. After Poonja first asked me to teach I returned to the west and conducted “Satsang” for many years. It’s easy in a context like that, when people gather together to meditate and to receive teaching, to experience a kind of “Big Love”, a love for everyone and everything. Your heart is open, and you know things to be perfect just as they are. The challenge I found at that time, which turned out to be true for many other teachers as well, was not at the Satsang meetings, but at home in ordinary human relationships. The Big Love, the love you feel for everyone, is easy. It’s the small love, the love you feel for people close to you where we experience our habits of control, closing down, criticism and judgment. And so it was that I found myself in my early forties traveling the world as a spiritual teacher, but not being able to hold my own marriage together.
There came a specific turning point when I was forty-four where the whole thing came into focus all at once. I realized, as though suddenly waking up from a dream, that if I was to die one day and arrive at the pearly gates and Saint Peter was to say to me, “Well, Arjuna, you lead a decent life, but I’m afraid that you never really reached the ultimate peaks of enlightenment,” — that would really be okay with me. I could forgive myself. On the other hand, if I arrived at the same pearly gates and Saint Peter said, “Welcome Arjuna, we’ve been waiting for you. You led an okay life, but you never really gave the love that was in your heart,” — that would most certainly not be okay. It was at that decisive moment that I realized that love —ordinary, human, personal love — was actually a more important value for me than “spirituality” in a more pervasive sense.
Three weeks later I met a woman who, by some strange coincidence, had come to the exact same realization. She had just come back from a retreat in India. While sitting by the banks of the Ganges, she realized that love is not something that she sometimes feels, but who she actually is. Then she came to the same rude awakening as had happened for me: that this realization of being love was not being lived in her intimate relationships. We became friends and exchanged e-mails over a few months.
Now Chameli and I have been married for almost eight years. Our marriage is dedicated to the embodiment of that “big love” in the most ordinary, human, honest way. We find that our condition is somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, in meditation, moments of stillness, there is the recognition of being vast, infinite, at peace. On the other hand, if we are really honest and have a little humor about ourselves, we realize that this human being has been trained in a myriad of habits, all of which support separation: judgment, criticism, cutting off. These are all genetically inherited along with the color of our hair and the shape of our nose.
The way to bridge this schism between the hearts deepest realization and the conditional nature of the human personality is practice. Our marriage is a form of spiritual practice. We are constantly antidoting the habits of the human monkey, consciously bringing humor and art to the places where we shut down and take ourselves seriously. We probably can’t do much to change the nature of the personality, these habits run very deep, but we can bring awareness and humor so that the luminous nature of “the Deeper love” can shine through the cracks in the mask of the persona.
I would love to share with you some of the deepest and most powerful tools which have worked for us to bring presence into our intimate relationships. Please join me for a free tele-seminar tomorrow, Tuesday evening September 15th.