Saturday, September 6, 2008

Preparing to Leave for Good

By the fall of 1989, it was quite clear to me that the time to leave the Center had come.

I could barely control myself and I was beginning to worry that if I didn't have sex soon, then I might do something rash. I had already begun engaging in risky behavior, but my real concern was avoiding an entanglement with a female disciple. There was nobody in particular that I was worried about, but since I had become sexually conscious I was aware that there were at least a few girls on the prowl. I desperately did not want to be responsible for anyone other than myself leaving the Center.

Despite the worries, though, I was grateful for the extra year that I had in the Center. Had Guru just let me go the first time around, it would have been more difficult for me to have assimilated my Center experience with my new life outside the Center. Psychologically, it would have created a kind of duality in me: my disciple years versus my ex-disciple years, with untreated psychological scar tissue separating the two.

Instead, my last year in the Center served as a healing balm to the wound which I then saw as my failure to remain a disciple. Though I did my best to keep a low profile and attend only the required events, I probably had as much direct contact with Guru that last fall as I had had at any other time.

For example, I recall Guru giving numerous concerts that fall, which required me -- as Vinaya's assistant -- to help Guru with his instruments. I remember feeling strangely reassured as I handed Guru instrument after instrument to practice backstage before such events. I made no pretense of being "spiritual" or being "in a good consciousness." I was simply attentive, respectful, and humble. And Guru seemed fine with it.

The thought had occurred to me that perhaps I could come to some kind of compromise. Perhaps I could live on the outskirts of Center-life and still manage to carve out a private social life for myself. There seemed to have been other disciples who had done so.

In the end, though, I couldn't carry off such a balancing act myself. From the beginning of my spiritual life, my ideal had been the ochre-clad swami, the life of renunciation. To wear the white clothes of discipleship -- our ochre robes -- while leading a separate and secret life in the world would be hypocrisy and, therefore, impossible for me.

With that, I began planning my departure from the Center. Just before going away on the Christmas trip, Guru gave his usual speech to those of us local disciples who were staying behind. "I hope nobody disappears while I'm gone" was the punchline. Guru had no reason to worry about me running away this time though.

Over the Christmas holiday, I flew back to California to visit and once again asked for my dad's and stepmom's help. I told them that I would be leaving the Center for good in the new year (1990) and asked if they would be willing to let me live with them when I did so. They graciously agreed.

After the holidays, I got back to New York before Guru returned. As I had done a year earlier, I wrote a short, sincere note to Guru explaining that I'd done my best, but that it was now time for me to go. I had a firm date to leave (in the first week of February 1990) and I put that in the note, too.

As I recall, Guru and the disciples who had accompanied him on the trip returned to New York in late January. Determined to give Guru ample notice of my departure, I decided to pass my note to Lavanya after the next Wednesday night public mediation.

Although Ashrita was supposed to be the official channel of communication to Guru, on Wednesday nights Lavanya would accept notes from a few disciples as she left P.S. 86 after mediation. So, with my flight just a week away, I discreetly passed my note to her.

Ashrita called me later that same night with a message from Guru.

The photo above is me in better disciple days -- during a break at the 200 mile race.

No comments: