After more than two years of renovation, the moment had come – Sri Durgamayi Ma arrived with the murti of Lord Hanuman in Her arms – which Vishnu Digambar had brought from India in 1974 and which has accompanied MA ever since. The horns were sounding, all bells ringing, cheers of joy – it was overwhelming!
With an aarti to Lord Hanuman, Sri Neem Karoli Baba Mandir was inaugurated and everyone received the blessings of the aarti light from Mataji’s hands.
Saturday, Durga Puja – the festival in honor of the Divine Mother:
Mataji arrived in the morning and stayed at Baba Mandir all day. Immediately after MA’s arrival, MA invited everyone to come with her and showed us that part of the ashram, which many didn’t know yet – the “Waiting Room”, the Darshan room, Mataji’s “Office” and small kitchenette – all behind the blue door with a golden OM. The rooms are connected in a circle and the hallway is quite narrow, so we kept walking through in one long line – MA among us, she went round and round several times.
When we were all back in the kirtan hall, chanting in praise of the divine mother resounded – the acoustics are wonderful! And soon it was time for a festive bhandara: Everyone spread out to the seats in the lounge and bhandara room, Mataji right in the middle of it all, taking care, that everyone was being served prasad.
And so the day continued and we all were bathing in the presence of this sacred place that Mataji has brought into being in honor of her Guru – our Satguru – Sri Neem Karoli Baba. In MA’s being with us, His essence could be felt like a substance.
Everything was happening side by side: some having prasad, the children serving at the chai bar with great enthusiasm, some stretched out for a moment in the kirtan hall, someone sang kirtan all by himself – and sometimes Mataji’s blue door was open and some chela received Her darshan for a while.
As dusk was falling, the second part of the festival began and we were several more in numbers. We gathered around the large altar to Devi Durga and after the pujari had presented the aarti light to Mataji, MA opened the festive aarti celebration.
In darshan after the aarti, Mataji spoke to us about the tale of Goddess Durga: The story describes how all the gods face the seemingly unconquerable demon Mahisha, who is about to devastate the entire earth, and no god alone has the power to stop him. In a gesture of universal self-renunciation, each of the gods sacrifices their divine power and all the individual forces merge into one gigantic fireball, from which goddess Durga emerges – manifestation of maternal omnipotence, who turns all individual, fragmented powers back to the primordial Shakti, from which all life originates.
Immediately Durga enters into battle and it is Her who defeats the demon Mahisha, despite his skills in transforming – whenever he seems defeated, he changes his form – cheerfully and laughing. MA says: This story is an allegory of the process that each of us can go through on our spiritual path at the end of which there is victory over one’s own human nature!
After Mataji’s darshan on Devi Durga, we all gathered around the new dhuni (sacred fireplace) in the ashram garden to honor the Divine Mother in the form of the holy flame, which destroys all impurities. Pujaris called out the 108 names of the Divine Mother and we all responded with “Swaha!” – following ancient Vedic tradition. Although this was the first time we were at this fire with MA, it felt as if it had been 108 years already.
On a little card each of us had written down which obstacle she or he wanted to hand over to the flame of the Divine Mother – and this year it wasn’t us coming to MA with our little cards, instead MA came to each one of us, right through the crowd, collecting all the cards. What a celebration!
Sunday – Film about Baba:
On Sunday morning, to conclude the days of inauguration, Mataji had brought the film “Windfall of Grace” by Japna Tulsi to watch it with us – a documentary about Baba’s life, released in late 2020. This film is very special, as it was made by a devotee of Baba who herself is from India and it features many of old devotees from India, in addition to the well-known Western devotees of Maharajji, who tell of their experiences with Baba – including children and other members of Baba’s birth family.
After the film had ended, MA spoke to us:
The only thing that matters on the spiritual path is your own experience with your guru – it cannot be compared to anyone else’s experience and will stay with you forever.
Maharajji is alive! He lives in this Mandir, he lives in the eyes of his devotees in the film we saw, he lives in the presence of our GuruMata and he lives in our hearts! Jai Hanuman!
Mataji had asked us to livestream parts of the celebration – for the many devotees from India, the US and around the world who contributed to this moment with their donations.
You can watch them again here:
Friday: Livestream – Opening of Sri Neem Karoli Baba Mandir
Saturday: Livestream – Durga Puja and Opening of Sri Neem Karoli Baba Mandir