Ken Wasil

A Celebration

I met Tahu in Dorchester, Massachusetts while he was managing a small bookstore.  He told me the following true story:

Dawn was just commencing as we sped north on highway Twenty-Five towards Sante Fe, New Mexico.  The light was beginning to illuminate the peaks in the distance and transform the black desert into pale yellows, greens, violets, and browns complemented with sitar music on the CD player. 

Swami said, "Tahu, let's pull over and take a break at the cafe up ahead."

It was a recently built diner with charcoal grey tiles framed with chrome trim.  When we walked inside, "Redneck Side of Me" by Jamey Johnson was playing on the jukebox.  Eight local Latino, Apache, and white ranchers were sitting on a row of chrome nagahide stools.  When Swami walked in, all eight heads turned in his direction and followed him towards the men's room. 

The waitress popped out from the kitchen between a pair of double hung doors carrying a tray full of coffee cups, "You dudes can sit anywhere you like; there's a booth for six in the far corner."

One by one we used the facilities and returned to our table.  We watched the dawn paint in forests, canyons, and trails on the mountain slopes.  The desert exploded with color: barrel, saguaro and chollo cacti sprang from undulating rock and dune surfaces across the plain.

We adhere to a strict Hindu vegetarian diet of rice with a pinch of saffron and curry, roti bread, and fresh steamed vegetables whenever possible— except, of course, when we are traveling.

Swami said, "Let's have our tea and then we'll eat what we've got in the car."

Pachai said, "We ate the last of the rice and bread yesterday and there's only one dried out samosa left.  We'll have to wait until we find an Indian food store or a supermarket."

"How many hours to Santa Fe?"

"Two.  Then we'll need to find our rooms and do our shopping."

"Well, perhaps we'll discover something on the menu that's not too offense to our way of life.  Pachai, you read English, what looks good?"

Interpreting into Hindu he said, "Today's Special: Two eggs with pork sausages, hash browns, toast with jelly and coffee."

"Anything else:"

"Here's one, "Curried omelet with vegetables and ham or chicken (your choice), toast and coffee"."

"That one has possibilities.  Let's order four of those.  Substitute the "ham or chicken" with mushrooms.  And ask for tea instead of coffee."

The waitress came over to the tune of "Redneck Woman" by Gretchen Wilson.  "Hi fellas, are you in a carnival or somethin'?"

Pachai said, "No mam.  This is Swami Ramakhanda Merdi and we are his Hindu followers.  We've been traveling America for two years holding lectures and meditations for people interested in our philosophy.  Now we're on our way to Santa Fe to convene events and build a new temple."

"Fancy that."  I'm from San Antonio, Texas . . . a lot of "born agains" live down that way."

The Swami gave talks in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.  We have a loyal following in your hometown."

"What'da ya know.  Well, Swaami, what'll ya hav'."

*  *  *

After several minutes of light conversation, the Swami said, "I have an announcement to make:  I have chosen Santa Fe as the place for my transition to nirvana and eternal bliss.  I feel a robust spiritual energy emanating from the city.  In addition, it accommodates one of our largest followings.  Tahu, you will make arrangement?"

Yes, Swami, it will be a pleasure."

There was chatter around the table—laughing, smiling, and congratulating—for a "transition" was a happy and joyous event made only by a master after many lifetimes of study and meditation. 

*  *  *

We continued our journey; springtime in the desert elicited lupin, daisies, poppies that scattered across the plain and coalesced on sunny slopes.  White, yellow, and red blooms dotted the cacti and a sparse green cloaked the entire scene. 

An ascended Hindu master can decide when he will die.  There is an advantage to this form of ending— one can avoid living through a painful illness, debilitating old age, or move on when one's work is done on earth.  And passing away is painless and natural—one simply expires during sleep. 

As we traveled north, I considered my assignment; I would need to contact funeral homes or carpenters to find a casket and somehow arrange for the funeral service.  A Hindu master is traditionally burned on a pyre along a river, not a custom or a legal undertaking in America.

I wonder what day the master plans to make his transition?

"Tahu, I will be making my transition two weeks from today on the 30th of the month.  It's a new moon and the earth cycle corresponds to the New Year of the ancient Apache Indians.  They traditionally burn their dead, so they may be able to help us with the legalities of the event."

It's uncanny, just when I'm thinking about something, the Swami starts talking about it.  More than enough proof that along with his other supernatural talents, he can read minds.  It is said that when a master attains a spiritual consciousness, these mystical qualities emerge.  They are dormant in all of us, just waiting to blossom forth and show themselves to the world when our spirituality emerges.

In downtown Santa Fe, Pachai went into a souvenir shop to ask directions while Gafin and I wonder among Navajo Indians selling turquoise and silver jewelry and sand paintings on woven blankets in a Spanish cloister.  Gafin picked up a wampum necklace.  We admired the white, black, red, and blue miniature carved figurines strung between the beads along its length.

Pachai returned to the car, "The motels we are looking for are on the other side of town about fifteen minutes drive away."

It was mid-morning in the city and the bright sun in the clear blue sky illuminated the curved pale brown Southwestern style homes and businesses with the iconic log joists visible through the walls. 

"Swami Merdi said, "Let's stop at this one."

Pachai read the sign, "The Inner Light Stopover."

The next day I began making arrangement for Swami's passage.  I called the Wheeler Funeral Home,"Hello, I'd like some help making arrangements for a funeral."

"Certainly Sir, we assist families every day with the passing of their loved ones.  When do you wish to hold your services, would Friday morning be best for your family, or would you prefer Sunday, the day of rest?" The Swami said he'd make his transition on the thirtieth.  It is traditional to hold the services three days after that, "How about the second of the month."

"Sir, that's much too long to wait.  Is this a practical joke?"

"No, he's still alive and plans on making his passage in two weeks."

She hung up.

I'd better use a different approach.

"Chariot Funeral Home, how may I help you?"

"I need help with a funeral."

"Why of course, we handle everything from caskets, flowers, and limousines to church and grave side services."

I'm going to need help with the casket.  The Swami is Hindu and must be buried in a sitting position."

"We have a wide assortment of caskets from simple wooden vessels to stylish ones, but I'm afraid nothing that would render the deceased in a sitting position.  All of our caskets are manufactured in Chicago.  You might try a carpenter."

"Thank you." 

"Hello, Shepherd's Carpentry Shop, what can I do for you today."

"I need help with a casket.  The deceased is Hindu and must be interred in a sitting position.  They don't seem to manufacturer that kind of casket in the United States."

"Sure, I don't think that will be a problem; it's just a matter of measuring the deceased and then building the container to his specifications.  It's been a while since I made a one—the last time was for my own father during the recession because I couldn't afford to buy the casket.  Where do you have the body on display?"

"He's here in a room at the Inner Light Stopover.  We just arrived in Santa Fe."

"That's a bit unusually, but I guess I could make the call.  They'll be an extra charge to come out and have a look."

"That's not a problem.  How about this afternoon?"

"Fine.  See you around 2:00 pm."

"Just go to the check-in desk at the motel and the clerk will show you to our rooms."

At 2:05 there was a knock on the door, "I'm Rodriguez, the one you spoke with about building the casket." 

"Come in."  The Swami was sitting at in the kitchen Alcove researching sites for a new temple in Santa Fe that would be built by his followers. 

"I'm Tahu which means holy in Hindu, this is Pachai (youthful and resourceful) and Gafin (invincible).  Swami Merdi, the person you are going to build the coffin for, is sitting at the table over there."

The man's eyes bulged and he said, "What, are you guys the Delhi Mafia?  Is this a murder?  You must be crazy," as he dashed out the door."

Sorry, Swami. They don't seem to understand that you are still alive and can make your transition when you choose.  I'll try to break the news to the next artisan more gently.” 

Americans— they won't believe something unless they have scientific evidence.  It's been shown that people often bring about their own demise either through subconscious decisions or scripting from their parents.  For example, the great writer Mark Twain was born on November 30, 1835, a few days after the arrival of Halley's Comet.  During his life he said, "I'll probably go out when the Halley's Comet returns."  He died seventy-five years later the day after it returned on April 21, 1910.  That is more than a coincidence.

"Yea, Creative Construction."

"I wonder if you can help me.  I need a coffin built for our venerable master.  He's Hindu and it's traditional to put those of our faith to rest in a sitting position.  Would it be possible to build one for us?"

"I don't see why not.  Just a minute, I'll check the schedule—looks like we can start work on it tomorrow."

That would be great.  You'll need to take a look at the Swami; we've just arrived in town and are at the Inner Light Stopover."

"Know the place.  Our office is in the area."

"One more thing—this is the difficult part.  An ascended master, in our religious tradition brings about his own passage.  There's nothing illegal about it, he just decides to die and passes on in his sleep.  So when you come out to measure him for the coffin, he'll still be alive."

"Don't worry.  The guy I'm sending is an Iraq War Vet, he won't give a hoot about what state the client is in.  I'll brief him anyway."

"Thank you." 

Later that day I searched for an Indian tribe that could help us with the pyre.  "Hello operator, can you give me the number for Apache Tribal Offices?"

"I don't have any listings for Apache Tribal Offices?"

"What do you have?"

I've got Pachi Faith Healing Center, Path Cathedral, Apache, Joseph P., Apache Commission."

"I'll try that last one. Thank you for your help." 

"Hello, I wonder if you can help me?  I'm trying to make funeral arrangements.  The deceased is Hindu and must be place on a pyre near a river in a sitting position."

"Sounds gruesome.  I'm sorry, sir, we don't do funerals.   We're the federal government office that oversees the Apache Reservation in Northwest New Mexico.  You might try Apache Tribal Relations.  And sir, you won't find any rivers in Santa Fe; it's in the middle of a desert." 

I got the number for the Apache Tribal Offices from a telephone book I borrowed from the motel front desk.

"Yes, the Apache have been known to burn their dead, but our organization doesn't handle that.  Try Paul Hatu's Burial Celebrations.”

"I like the sound of that name."

"Paul Hatu speaking."

"Yes Mr. Hatu, I'm traveling with Swami Merdi.  We're Hindu and need help with a funeral. Our dead must be placed in a coffin in a sitting position and then burned on a pyre by a river."

"I can help with the pyre, but not the river.  You'd have to go to the Grand Canyon in Arizona for that.  All we've got is the Santa Fe river bed that has water in it one or two days a year when there's a flash flood in the mountains."

"I understand.  Would it be possible to stop into your office to make the arrangements?"

"Yea, I'll be here all afternoon."

When I returned to the motel, the Swami was meditating, so I sat in the darkened room with my eyes closed.  You might not want to believe this, but along with his other talents, the swami could levitate.  He would sit cross legged on a chair and then raise himself about a meter above it.  He said that floating above the ground put him in touch with the infinite mind. 

When the Swami settled down onto his seat and his eyes fluttered open, I said, "I've got the coffin and the pyre arranged, but there's only a river bed with no water in it in Santa Fe." 

"Don't worry, I'll take care of the river.  Remember to do this: set up a plastic tarp on poles three meters above the pyre.  Oh, and please answer the door."

There he goes again, using those preternatural talents—knowing what's going to happen before it actually takes place.  I think he's getting careless because he's only got a few days left on this planet.  .And I wonder what that tarp is for?  I often followed the Swami's instructions without knowing the why's and wherefore's of what he said.

Thirty seconds later, there was a loud knock and I opened the door.  A huge 6'6" Apache man with a week's stubble on his face framed the doorway, "I'm Calvin from Creative Construction Company."

"I'm glad you're here, come on in.  Pachai was meditating near the window and Gafin was talking to his wife in Bombay on his cell.  This is Swami Merdi, the one you'll be measuring for the coffin.  Please understand, that religious leaders in our faith often have the ability to decide when they will die.  He's chosen the 30th of this month for his passing."

"Not a problem.  the "Sup" told me all about it.  Actually, I know a lot about the Hindu spiritual masters.  After my third tour of duty in Iraq, I lived in an ashram near Delhi, India for three months.  Free room and board, too." 

"Excellent.  We're glad to be working with you."

"I'll get started with the measurements, just need to get my cell from the truck to record the data."

Swami said, "You can use mine."  He looked at his cell which was sitting on a desk across the room; It rose into the air of its own accord and floated into the hands of the carpenter (there he goes again).  "Keep it, I won't be needing it."

"Hey, that was a cool trick, do you think you can stick around for a while and teach it to me?"

"It took me years of study and meditation to learn that.  Tahu will put you in contact with a master who can lead you on the spiritual path."

*  *  *

The day of celebration had arrived.  Over five hundred followers and admirers, dressed in colorful attire from nearly every country of the world gathered on the banks of the dry river bed.  The pyre and up right coffin were draped with thousands of flowers: roses, jasmine, marigolds and a blue tarp fluttered lightly in the wind three meters above it. 

Ah, what a day for a celebration!  Swami Bharat Thakur conducted the services.  The guests beamed smiles, held hands, and gently rocked back and forth to the music. 

Although the day began clear and sunny, the clouds that had coalesced above the mountains, began marching across the sky.  While Swami Thakur neared the end of the ceremony, Pachai prepared to light the funeral pyre.  At last, the time had arrived. When the wood burst into flames, a cheer went up from the crowd.  Sitar music played and the people sang. 

All rights belong to its author. It was published on by demand of Ken Wasil.
Published on on 10/20/2017.


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