Today marks the 4th anniversary of the passing away of Yamuna Devi, who I have often written about on this blog. She possessed unswerving devotion, and this was evident in everything she did in life. I was unbelievably fortunate to share many intimate moments with her, which left deep impressions in my heart. Often those moments were quite ordinary – just sitting around a table talking, or doing some chores. But in the presence of someone whose consciousness is pure and focused on service to the Supreme, even the most ordinary moment is extraordinary.
This morning I am leaving for a flight to India. I was remembering this morning, one of the last times that I was with Yamuna Devi, in September 2011. I had a 6am flight to catch at the small Florida airport, so at 4am we were in the kitchen, preparing to leave. Though I had only just woken up, she insisted I must eat something before leaving, and after showering, started scooping handfuls of thick Greek yoghurt into a deep bowl. I watched with raised eyebrows as scoop after scoop rose to the top – her hand deftly arcing through the air. She added frozen berries, and honey, and placed the bowl in front of me. Serving others was her life, and I could feel that loving mood with every spoonful. Everything she did, no matter how seemingly trivial or mundane, was a vehicle for her purity and love.
The poem below speaks about this, in context of a moment shared over the chopping board in the kitchen. In this, and so many moments, she perfectly demonstrated to me the goal of bhakti yoga – to transform selfishness to selflessness; to be conscious at every moment of trying to serve God, and to serve others with that same devotion, without interruption or motivation for personal gain.
I chopped coriander on the table
and you glanced over,
– ‘no stems’, you said, so seriously.
I wondered if you meant it.
‘No stems’, you repeated.
So I dutifully picked every fragrant leaf off the bunch.
Today, and ever since, I do the same,
and with the familiar scent,
your face and voice appear.
I pick in the hope of one day living in your world.
No stems. Only the finest for your dearmost.
To some it is pedantic.
‘Just chop ‘em up and throw’em in,’ cries the world.
But I cry for this –
for no stems, for hours spent in selfless service,
for showers in ice water on winter mornings,
for ridicule endured, for perfectly drawn lines,
for soft, subtle, sweet, silent love,
No stems for your beloved, as cried the gopis,
‘The stones of Vraja will bruise his lotus feet,’
You pick leaf after leaf,
a subtle alchemy,
at the greatest depth.