Ocean in a Teacup ch 42 pp 395-404
Back in New York, our American Satsang in Queens was developing its own personality. Therewere regular morning and evening prayers and meetings on Friday nights grew in numbers and enthusiasm. The Satsang House provided a shelter for those who needed it, a taste of community living for those who wanted it, a home for married couples and a refuge for lonely foreign students. The structure was minimal, if non-existent, but there was an honest sould-searching and uphill striving for what has been called our existential interest.
The only rules which were insisted upon were very simple : only vegetarian food in the house ; no alcohol or drugs and no sex permitted in the house for married couples. This latter injunction often brought question … invariably from someone preoccupied with the subject ; “What does Thakur say about sex?”
The following is a transcript of Janardan Mookherjee’s reply to that question on May 28th, 1973 in Satsang House, Queens, New York.
“Thakur felt that existence -- the urge to live – is basic common to all beings. That urge is the normal master. Along with it, man was given tools to nurture and expand that existential urge. These tools were at servants to the master urge. Amonst them is the sex urge, the urge for food, for activity and so on. Sometimes the servants take over. They become the masters. We see it all around us. Sex, which can nurture life, feed on it instead and dwindless it. Food which is to nourish existence, becomes a master and existence is crippled by diabetes, obesity, indigestion. It is almost like a home with many servants running around wild, and the master of the house is cowering in a corner. Periodically a servant comes by and kicks hi. So, the game is to find a way to regain a mastery over these former servants. The capacity for mastery is latent in everyone. Thakur insists that capacity is given by the Creator. But, we need to exercise it. For that, he has given tools with which we can enhance the urge for life. The rest spontaneous. Wherever the maste is strong, the sevants adjust automatically---“
“--- sounds weird to me. After all is said and done sex is fun !”
“Not necessaritly. In 1954, Thakur was explaining some people that the judicious use of sex would tone and tune the marital relationship. One follower remarked as have ‘Aw, Thakur, forget this ‘judicious’ business. Sex is fun !’
Thakur’s response was immediate ; “Yes, and eating rashghollas (a Bengali sweet mean) is fun, too, But, if you put your head into a bucket of them, the juice run down your neck, in your nose and ears … and if you stay long enough you’ll drowned !”
There was mastery and sensitivity in the way Thakur handled sex problem. It can be glimpsed from the following account of one teacher who was brilliant, homely, almost ugly, with an intense sexual urge. He was an extraordinary teacher, married, with three sons but very very unhappy. He had gone to Thakur in the autumn of 1940 with his problem. Thakur put him to work teaching English to teen age girls in the school with instructions to come to Thakur immediately after the classes to report on the progress of his students.
His school girl made unbelievable progress and he was careful with his urges for a long time. One day, one of the girls brought him a glass of water and she seemed to respond when his finger touched hers. The sleeping tiger inside him awakened. During the following weeks his requests fro water increased. So did those finger responses. Better still, he found that each afternoon, Thakur seemed enen more sympathetic and loving : ‘Either Thakur has a blind spot in his omniscience or he doesn’t disapprove’, the teacher thought. ‘In either case, it looks like I’m going to enjoy the best of both worlds.’
His explanation of punctuation and subtle rules of syntax received a new impulse from this stimulating environment. Now and then their eyes would meet. There was not mistaking the message. He helped her with some sentence construction after the class. His arm rubbed against hers. As he walked to Thakur that afternoon, his mind was fidgety. It didn’t need to be. Thakur was overjoyed to see him. …. Even more than usual. Now, the teacher was certain : ‘Thakur understand and approves because I’m only going to help her make a healthy adjustment to sex.’
The pressure now reached a climax. The date was set: “In the nort corner of Durganath Sanyal’s mango orchard tonight! At twelve!” Though whispered quickly, there was not misunderstanding. Only a matter of a few hours. All thoughts, energy, activity were concentrated, absorbed in this one, all-consuming, carefully nurtured and cleverly hidden longing. There was not hit of disapproval from Thakur that evening. In fact, just the opposite : To the teacher’s description of the students’ response to his teaching, thakur burst out, ‘You’re really a genius!’ He left Thakur, told his unsuspecting wife he would be very late because of a conference with the headmaster and slowly made his way toward the garden. He loitered a few minutes near the Headmaster’s house and discussed some administrative problems with one of the teacher’s. His alibi was air-tight.
He slipped into the garden unnoticed, made his way the north corner and waited. He heard the bell strike twelve. He shifted his weight from one foot the other restlessly. “Would she come ?”, he kept asked himself. His lips were dry and his breathing had become rapid. The he heard a rustle and the unmistakeable tinkling of the bracelets she wore. The clouds broke for a moment and he caught a glimpse of her just as she saw him. She rushed toward him. He reached out and their hands clasped together with all the intensity of months of pent-up passion. His arm went out to embrace her. Before it touched her another hand suddenly gripped both of theirs firmly and a familiar voice said softly “So, you want to know about love. Alright, come with me. We’ll walk beside the river and I’ll tell you about love.”
Both student and teacher were in a state of shock. Their nerves were paralysed. He put his arms around their shoulders and gently, but steadily guided them out of the garden to a path that lead to the river. The numbness gradually dissolved. He did not rebuke them. In his voice there was neither criticism or censure, only compassion.
“…. Love always seeks the good of the beloved… love never hides not bluffs … love exalts …” gently, with no trace of reproach he continued. The pair began slowly relax, unfurl … to feel fresh and clean, like new laundered shirts hanging in the breeze. They reached a pathway back to the ashram. He stopped and faced both of them. “Now, do you understand about love?” They nodded. He took the girl’s hand and put it in the hand of her teacher. “Here, take your mother home to her father’s house?”
The teacher’s face had become radiant as he spoke. That incident was never know to anyone but those three people. He never had another problem with sex. That girl is long since married and has five grandchildren, and Thakur never mentioned it, never gave any indication that anything had ever happened. He handles passions and obsessions the way boils should be handled ; let them come to a head and then with delicate but firm pressure, the core comes out and it’s gone forever …”
Do you know why Thakur was able to do this --- why he had the courage and patience to wait for the right moment? Because he was a master of that sex urge. He used that to serve existence, not be little it, nor did he allow others to be abused by it.
Mookherjee inevitably concluded with the observation “Thakur never piouly insisted that we leave anything. All he did was tactfully nurture our desire to live – then the things that weren’t consistent with that existential urge ultimately left us.
Inevitably as the number of young people grew in the Amirican Satsang, marriages took place amongst them. The influence of Thakur’s concern for permanent commitment rather than temporary contracts was evident in the tendency of manyo these couples to solemnize the marriage twice. Each service was performed in the traditional ceremony of the particular couple involved --- Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or Conservative --- then a day or so later, a service to complement that ceremony was often held in the Satsang House. Stig, the Danish boy, married Lynn, a new York girl; Andre the French devotee married Susan Bassuk, another New York girl. Mark was married to Elife, an Austrian girl and then Jay and Esther were married.
The vows that Thakur had given were repeated by these couples as they stood in front of Thakur’s picture. Though there was no civil sanction and it only complemented the particular Jewish of Christian ceremony already performed, this practice began to develop its own tradition. The words had a universality that often inspired other couples who had previously been married only in a civil ceremony to repeat these vows.
“We shall love one another,
We believe the essence of love
Is the inclination to give,
We understand that love reveals itself
Through admiration, service and offer of gratitude
We shall appease one another
We believe this means to forebear, sympathise and
Understand in happiness, sorrows and sufferings.
We shall cling to one another
And it shall be unbreakable and immortal through
Our devotion to the Lord
We shall be example of nurture, hope and charity to
Each other, to our families, to our society
We shall not be shaken not detached, never divorced.
We shall forbear and suffer fro the welfare of each
Other with a link of love for the Supreme Father,
We shall bestow on them a compassionate intelligence
And a wistful understanding of the profound in their
We believe this far sighted fulfilment of existence
Will give our children a glimpse of heaven and gain
For us their gratitude.
We believe that herein lies
Te inner meaning of our marriage and the secredness
Of this ceremony.”
Jay and Esther’s marriage ceremony was another example of what has euphemistically been described as “Thakur taking over …. “ Two days before the complementary ceremony was take place in the Satsang House it was realized that far more people would be coming than could possible be accommodated in the entire downstairs. Then it happened. It was almost a physical thing. Harry Miller immediately offered to borrow equipment from his employer and set up closed circuit TV so the crowds could watch the ceremony from all the rooms downstairs and upstairs. The night before, Kari Gordon volunteered to make the garlands; Jack Mohoney to handle the parking problems; Bob O’ neill and Lewis Spencer, the coats; Lee, Jill, Vivian, Elfie, Karen and Merry, the food. The Rabbi who had married them in the Orthodox service the night before attended and at the end of the service offered a prayer in Hebrew.
After the meal, I was inundated with compliments, “How beautifully you organized this.”
“I’ll gladly take the credit,” I responded, “it might give me some importance. Actually, whether you believe it or not.” I would point to the large picture of Thakur over the mantel which has travelled around the American Satsang. “….. that old man up there has done it all. I know you probably can’t relate to this, but every time we’re in over our heads and surrender helplessly, some impulse inside or outside triggers a mechanism which gets things organized spontaneously. Interestingly enough, the arrangements are inevitably far more effective than anything we could possibly have done ourselves,”A further interesting contribution to our growing legends came late that night when we were all viewing the video tape of the day’s activities. After the vows and Jay and Esther had been seated, Joel Krantz came forward to sit beneath Thakur’s picture ad sing one song he’d composed especially for the occasion. As he began to sing, a bright light began to shine forth from the forehead in Thakur’s picture. It was uncanny. Harry ran it through again, and again, but it didn’t go away. For fifteen to twenty seconds that light remained. Explanations about flash bulbs and electronic interference didn’t wholly satisfy. Jay was willing to accept this miracle at this marriage or music that tape in an old leather box in the Gordon’s bed-room which serves as the archives of Satsang in America, remains an irritant to the sceptic and a future relic to the credulous.
The scene of several hundred relatives and friends sharing in this simple ceremony in which only garlands are exchanged often provided a vision of a future when each of us could positively stand on our own faith and feel neither threatened nor oppressed by the faith of our neighbour. However fleetingly, these occasions often seemed to touch that elusive common element inherent in every faith.
Twice a year family days were celebrated in the Satsang House. It provided an opportunity for parents to frankly comment how well or ill their offspring were fulfilling Thakur’s insistent command that to love him, one must first love and serve one’s own parents. Jewish, protestant or Catholic parent might find difficulty in relating at to Hindu called Thakur whose influence had become so prominent a part of their son’s or daughter’s lives. But they could easily understand that Thakur’s influence and inspiration, instead of isolating or alienating, practically restored and healed ruptures and misunderstandings.
“I don’t worry about my old age anymore,” the mother of one youthful follower of Thakur told her friends who were worrying about their twilight years. “My son can’t ignore or neglect me because that’s Thakur’s order. Now, don’t believe in him or follow him, that’s impossible. I don’t know how he does it, or what he’s got, but I’ll tell you one thing : he’s sure putting the generations together again!”
Even for those who were a part of this drama, it was often difficult understand how Thakur worked. There were some who attempted to imitate his techniques, but they never seemed to quite make it real. Gary Dichtenberg put it very succinctly about this type. “They try for the technique without the technician.”
It was confusing for some to find that Jay and Esther Gordon, prominent and active members of Satsang could combine their allegiance to Thakur with a very strict observance of the orthodox Jewish Sabbath. It was also disconcerting to explain about the Satsang House. Was it a therapeutic community as some claimed? It certainly was. Was it a religious community as others insisted? It was that too. Was it a home for families with children ? That was true also. Was it for Jews ? Obviously. Was it for Catholics? Certainly, it was for every shade of religious opinion. Then what was it? ? Perhaps Thakur’s definition of Satsang so popular in America remains the most apt; The Community of the Lovers of Existence.
Previous Chapters' links
Chapter 36 pp 348-360