Boy, that was a strange conversation with my mother last night.
My mother lives next door to the ashram in a community of people still loyal to the ashram and the guru that I’m writing about.
My mother goes every Sunday morning to chant the Guru Gita, a one-and-a-half-hour Sanskrit chant that I used to do every morning with a few hundred others before breakfast, before dawn.
My mother doesn’t chant in the ashram. People are not allowed to visit the ashram anymore so the local devotees have organized their own Guru Gita. It’s on Sunday morning in someone’s home or office and then they hang out for breakfast together, bringing food. My mother often cooks something and brings it. Pretty much all her friends are devotees.
My mother is not the pious sort. This is her first religion. But now and then in conversation she’ll surprise me and refer to Gurumayi as if she were a compass point, as a source of truth, as god.
On Monday morning this guy from the ashram, calling from about one mile from where my mother lives, called me to tell me to take my guru blog down or they’ll go after me legally. “Okay,” I said, hung up and went on with preparing the three chapters I was going to put up the next morning, and then, because eof the call, I added another chapter that otherwise would have waited a week, a chapter about the weird, ultra-secret rituals we did in the ashram to try and prevent the New York article form coming out.
A couple of days go by, filled with messages form the internet, offers of support – financial and otherwise – should I need legal help. And I figure I better call my mother. It had been two weeks – that’s about as long as I ever let it go, plus I thought she must have caught wind of all this. I better check in.
My mother wanted only to talk about the little girl next door, the zucchini recipe my sister was sending, the new job she was starting tomorrow. I went along with the chit chat, thinking, okay, maybe I just have to break in and say something, but it was as if my mother was building a stone wall between us and each stone was saying, “No, don’t talk to me about this.”
We spoke of the book about a month ago. She’d read at least some of it. Her main, unexplained comment back then was that I should have been more “tactful.” I could tell my book made her uncomfortable.
But last night she didn’t say a word about it. Didn’t ask how’s the book going? And I was stunned. I didn’t bring it up. I could have. I’ve done things that require much more strength than that. I could have said, “The ashram doesn’t want me to keep publishing,” but then she would have had to take sides, I guess, and she really doesn’t want to.
It’s okay. But it was very strange mouthing that conversation last night. When she asked me how I was doing I could tell by the reluctance in her tone that she didn’t really want to know. As long as I had enough to eat.
It’s good to know where I stand. To see my mother more and more clearly. She wants this much but not more.
I guess it’s funny too because I was more willing than usual to be more open with her. We’ve been friendly lately. I needed some help a few weeks ago and she helped me easily, no questions asked. In the past she has always told me I was too private, that I never told her anything. And it was true. And I was ready last night to open up something real – the call from the ashram – but the stone wall was there, mounting, one stone at a time, those gray, moss-covered, rounded stones like you see in New England.