“Ji” is a honorific suffix used like the Japanese use “san”. So Ramu the gardener is really Ramuji, because he feeds us all and is the best dang hand-model-slashie-farmer ever. And Guru is really Guruji because he is The Man.
Living here at the Ashram, and in such close contact with Guruji, has been a real treat. Anything I say will be an understatement: It’s akin to living with Saint Francis etc. to the Catholics. He is a living Saint, highly revered across the world, a very educated and wise and spiritual man, and he’s like… right there… eating breakfast beside Marc. The life that we are living this month is one that few people in the world have the chance to experience (whether from East or West).
We try to balance being quiet, respectful, considerate guests with being inquisitive, boisterous, hungry ones. This mostly means limiting our questions during meal-times to about three. There is so much to learn, in so little time, and the Guru is such a busy man.
But another side effect of living here with Guruji is getting to see the human side of him. In my memory, now, it’s not just the unsmiling and meditative Guru that you see in the professional photos.
- Guruji talking on his cell phone, sitting on the low wall to the temple in the late afternoon sun
- Guruji with his pants hiked up schooling the local kids in volleyball
- Guruji blessing visitors who come to touch his feet after the evening Puja (chanting)
- Guruji consulting with sick people from the village and beyond, helping them with spiritual and physical healing
- Guruji texting-while-driving a camel through the desert
- Guruji tasting Western dishes cooked up by the volunteers
- Guruji laughing while playing the drums and singing at Puja
- Guruji carefully considering the answer to a spiritual question put to him during Satsang
- Guruji pleading with Sheila the dog to leave him alone when teaching morning yoga
- Guruji swimming with us in the pond at Rampura
- Guruji speaking passionately about water conservation while we film a video about the local pond
I choose to remember Guruji’s by his laugh, and the way he says “enjoy everybody” so melodically after our meal-time prayer, and the patient way in while he shared his beliefs and culture with us.