Saturday, May 10, 2008

Personal Mythology

Thanks to some last minute financial aid from my grandparents, I began 1986 with a two week trip to Japan with Guru and many other disciples.

It would be a year of seeming paradox for me. On the one hand, I would achieve a state of exaltation in my meditation that I'd never reach again. On the other hand, Guru -- like a good mother bird -- would instinctively begin pecking me out of the nest.

All systems were go, though, as we returned to New York in the dead of winter. In early February -- just a few weeks after getting back from Japan -- I was invited to Ranjana's birthday party, which was celebrated at Guru's house each year. While I'm sure that there were disciples excluded from the event, it wasn't readily apparent to me who was missing upon my arrival at the house -- it was packed.

While the boy disciples were relegated to the "porch" (the enclosed entryway to Guru's house), Guru and the girls occupied the living room. I don't remember the specifics of this particular party, but typically dinner was served and a movie was watched. And as the night wore on, we boys on the porch would get louder and more rambunctious.

On this night, after the movie, the television on the porch provided a live video feed of Guru in the next room, but it was hard to hear with all the guys talking and cutting loose. At one point, though, I heard Guru's distinctive pronunciation of my name, in which the "y" is pronounced as a "j" (like "Jogaloy").

I scooted closer to the TV and caught other words -- "Rama's brother," "the Smile," "avatar" -- but couldn't make out what was being said or why I was a subject of conversation in the other room. Shortly thereafter, Guru gave out prasad and the party broke up. I sensed some of the girls looking at me -- as if they were aware of what Guru had said -- but no one said anything to me directly.

The next morning, Nilima -- one of Guru's shorthand stenographers and an employee at the United Nations -- came into the Smile and called me over. She handed me a single piece of typing paper. Here's what it said:

4 February 1986


Ramachandra was born so many thousands of years ago. He was the first Avatar in human form, and then came Krishna. Ramachandra's brother, Bharat, has a very strong soul's connection with our Yogaloy. So many times when I see Yogaloy, I see right behind Yogaloy, Bharat standing. Then sometimes, when Yogaloy is running or when he brings food to my house from the Smile, right behind his face I see Bharat. He has a very powerful, very sweet type of devoted connection with Bharat.

Ramachandra's exploits are chronicled in the epic Indian classic Ramayana. Lord Rama had three half-brothers: Bharat, and the twins Lakshmana and Shatrughna. While all the brothers were close, Lakshmana was particularly devoted to Rama, while Shatrughna was partial to Bharat. The image above, which I took from an Indian calendar at about the time I received Nilima's note, shows the scene where Bharat, reluctant to rule the kingdom in Rama's absence, instead takes Rama's shoes and places them on the throne.

I have described previously how Guru never struck me as an authority figure, how his presence in my life was utilitarian in purpose, as if he were a trustee over a development in me that started long ago. Reading Nilima's transcript confirmed that feeling for me.


Smith said...

Hello there.

I found this part interesting:

At one point, though, I heard Guru's distinctive pronunciation of my name, in which the "y" is pronounced as a "j" (like "Jogaloy").

So how did you pronounce your spiritual name?

May I also ask: did you ever meditate on or chant your spiritual name as part of your practice?

Finally, is that a bar over the middle letter of "Yogaloy" in the photo in your earlier post "I Get My Name"? Or is it part of something cropped out of the photo?

Y. said...

Hi Smith! Thanks for reading and commenting.

At first, I liked the idea of pronouncing it the way Guru did -- with the "j" sound. But shortly thereafter, it struck me as sounding very affected.

So, I quickly reverted back to the normal "y" sound, just as it looks. I pronounced it "yoga-loy."

I tried chanting my name, but didn't like it. Maybe because there are just too many syllables to make it ring (unlike chanting aum, for example).

Yeah, it's a bar. At first, I wasn't sure what it meant and for a time, it seemed, Guru used such bars on a fair number of names given out. Once I heard Guru say my name, I realized it was there for emphasis.

"Jo - GA - loy" is how he pronounced it.

Thanks for the questions!

Smith said...

Hello again, Jogaloy.

Thanks for the speedy response.

Do you like getting these little nosey comments?

They're probably a bit easier to deal with than some of the responses to your recent posts.

What's all this I hear about people still getting names despite Chinmoy's death? Do you know how that works?



Y. said...

Yes, Smith, I do!

For the reason you identify, a lot easier (so far). ; )

Don't know about folks still getting names. I haven't heard about that from anyone directly, but don't doubt that it's true.

Were you a disciple?

Alo Devi has long had the practice of giving names, so perhaps she continues. And, of course, it's not unheard of in other organizations to choose one's own spiritual name.

Smith said...

Was I a disciple? Hm...that would be telling.

I looked at the Inspiration Yahoo group a while ago and someone on there stated he had got his new name. There were quite a few congratulatory replies but there was nothing indicating how the name had been chosen. Perhaps Alo Devi chose it as you suggest.

Do you believe that your name is really the name of your soul?


Y. said...

See, I knew the questions would get harder!

Well, for starters, it's a damn good name. Ain't it? The abode of yoga. Hard to argue with that.

And it certainly captured in one word my own ideal -- before I ever got my name, before I became a disciple actually, my only prayer was "make me consciously one with Thee."

That's the only thing I ever asked for. So, in that sense, Yogaloy captures that fundamental yearning of mine quite nicely.

It still means a lot to me, and I've often thought about a blog post on former disciples -- even some of whom are pretty sour on Guru -- who still claim their names.

Smith said...


Quite a good reply!

So you're suggesting that the name is a kind of shorthand for special (soul) qualities one might have and that the name is an aid to reminding oneself of these qualities?

If you don't mind me asking, did Chinmoy ever explain to you why he wrote your name with a Y but pronounced it with a J-sound?

Y. said...

Yes, I think that's a fair statement -- shorthand for special qualities in the disciple, obviously as perceived by the master.

He never told me, but based on all the Bengali songs I once learned, I think I'm right in assuming that it's the Bengali pronunciation.

For instance, my brother's name was spelled Jeevan, meaning profuse life-energy. Often, however, it is spelled Jiban, because the "v" is hard, like our "b."

Here, it seems, the Bengali "y" sound is hard like a "j" (as it is also sometimes in Spanish).

Smith said...

He never told me, but based on all the Bengali songs I once learned, I think I'm right in assuming that it's the Bengali pronunciation.

So if a group of disciples were singing the words to a Bengali song, for example

Chitta dolai diye dola eso eso eso

should they sing the word spelled "diye" as "dije"?

Y. said...

Obviously, I'm no Bengali scholar. The honest answer is "I don't know."

I'll offer another guess and that is that the "y" is pronounced as a "j" sound when it's the first letter of the word. For example, I remember a song like "Ami Yuga Avatar," where Guru pronounced the word yuga as "juga."

Click on my profile below, Smith, and you'll find a link to my email address. Write me there if you'd prefer to carry this on in a less conspicuous place.