Saturday, October 11, 2008


A couple of nights ago, I watched Rob Reiner's great film The Princess Bride on TV with my 15 year old son.

We'd, of course, seen it before. But it's one of those rare films that's just as fun to watch a second (and third) time. It also brings back fond memories for me. The first time that I saw The Princess Bride was at Guru's house, perhaps 20 years ago.

When I think of my fondest memories of Guru, I don't think of my own best meditations or times when Guru showed me special attention. Instead, I remember the more intimate and human interactions that I had with my master.

I remember, for example, going for a run one Saturday morning in New York. No sooner had I begun when Databir pulled up alongside me in his car. Guru was sitting in the front seat, and he motioned for me to get in.

Soon, we were heading over the 59th Street Bridge into Manhattan. I don't remember who we were waiting for (or for what reason), but Databir parked near the United Nations and we all waited in the car for 20 or 30 minutes.

At one point, Guru said that he was thirsty. I noticed a hot dog vendor on a nearby corner, and with the emergency cash stashed in my running shorts, I bought two sodas: one regular, one diet. Once back in Databir's car, I asked Guru which he'd prefer (diet), opened the can, and inserted a straw, leaving just a bit of the straw wrapper on the end of the straw that Guru would put his mouth onto (to keep it sanitary, as I had seen the Annam Brahma girls do so often).

The transaction was matter-of-fact, but beautiful in its simplicity. And that's what I loved about it. No false piety or reverential awe. Just a simple act of service -- the kind of unconditional favor one would do for any friend.

Once our mission in Manhattan was over, Databir drove us all back to Queens. I spent the rest of that Saturday hanging out at Guru's house, leaving in the early evening with just enough time to rush home, shower, and head to Progress-Promise for that night's function.

Those are the things about Guru that I remember most fondly. Not his trances, not his many and varied achievements, nor even the things he said (to me or others). In this, I'm reminded of what Swami Vivekananda said to Sri Ramakrishna once.

Thakur asked Naren why he kept coming to Dakshineswar if he didn't agree with the things that Thakur said.

"I come here to see you," Naren replied, "not to listen to you."

That's why the memory of sitting with Guru in his living room watching TV is so sweet for me. It wasn't about what was on, whether The Princess Bride, endless rounds of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, or re-runs of The Honeymooners. It was about seeing Guru in an informal setting.

As my son and I watched Inigo Montoya defeat the six-fingered man the other night, I realized that I can watch The Princess Bride anytime, but I'll never again have those carefree days of my youth at the feet of my master.

I'll always remember and cherish them.

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