Intellectual people (like me) sometimes think that the apparent simplicity of Maharaji’s message makes it unsubtle and therefore unworthy of their attention. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Maharaji’s message points to something that is extremely subtle, and even the way he presents his message is, well, not obvious, multi-layered, capable of being savored. Let me give you just one, tiny, current example of multi-layered subtlety in Maharaji’s talks.
One of his current themes is the distinction between believing and knowing. Yesterday I watched a near-live video presentation of a recent talk he gave in India centered around this theme. While listening, I recognized a rich subtlety in one of his metaphors that I had almost completely missed in previous hearings of very similar content.
This was during his famous “imaginary cow” example. In many of his recent addresses, Maharaji has invited his listeners to believe that there is a cow on stage with him. As he describes the imaginary cow, one can indeed almost see it, and almost taste the sweetness of its milk. His point, of course, is that you can’t actually drink the milk of an imaginary cow. Believing vs. knowing.
In making this point, he uses analogies within the cow analogy. For example, he says that if you are drinking a real cup of tea, and you want to add some cream to remove the bitterness of the tea, you can’t use the cream from the imaginary cow. The tea will still be bitter.
I’ve heard this whole story a dozen times or so, both on video and in person, but this time I heard something in a new and delightfully subtle way. I realized that the tea analogy does much more than drive home the basic point. It is beautifully chosen to convey in itself the depth and subtlety of the message.
At one level, he evokes the sense of taste to convey the immediate reality of his subject, implying that the Knowing he refers to is something you can actually "taste," and not just in your imagination. At an even deeper level, the “bitter tea” can remind us of the bitter taste of life without love. The cream, of course, represents the love we all seek. When love is mixed into the tea of life, it permeates it, removing the bitterness and giving us something much more pleasant to experience. And that, to me, is a wonderful analogy for the experience of Knowing that Maharaji offers.
I’m talking here about one little phrase, one little moment, in one hour-long talk. What I’m trying to suggest is that his expressions are permeated with such multi-layered subtle points, waiting for us to discover them, to our delight and our edification.
I can only hope that Maharaji would not be annoyed by what I have expressed here. He doesn’t like to be interpreted, and indeed I am not trying to interpret him, but to appreciate him, and to share that appreciation. For he’s the cream in my, uh, tea.