More than anything, Swami Z is a scent. Smelling like vanilla must be a sure sign of gurudom because Swami attracted me by his scent. Often I experience the guru’s oneness as an aroma, nothing more. When I try to pin the scent down, it floats away. Yet when I seek nothing for myself, the scent comes to me unbidden and lingers in my hair. His teachings are like that, too.
He is obsessed with home to the point of idiocy. He says that he moved in with me because my little house attracted him and my suffering opened the door. He sits in the kitchen most of the time, blending wisdom with whatever he happens to be doing in there. He also likes to sit by the fire in the fall and winter, occasionally sharing an insight that he knows I am unready to hear. Then he sits back and enjoys my consternation.
“You know, don’t you, that I came to live with you because I needed a roof over my head,” he reminded me one late fall afternoon. “I had run out of places to stay. Everyone had kicked me out. No one is as gracious as you.” He was clearly playing me for a fool.
“Now, Swami, that is just so not the truth,” I hmmphed. “You told me that you moved in with me because you liked that my sheets were of such high quality—that they made wonderful outfits for you.” The little man with the dough just sat there, giving me plenty of rope with which to hang myself. It is said that when the pupil is ready, the master appears. That is definitely true. And mine appears to be crazy. But no mind, I belong to him now and he belongs to me. I guess that makes us two of a kind, but what kind I don’t know. Swami Z looked at me and suggested a game of poker.
“I think your content has settled,” I remarked.
“Not to worry, every ounce is still there,” he shot back, offering me a handful of Cocoa Puffs. We often ate them on the side. For example, for dinner we might have pasta with Puffs, or pepperoni pizza with a side of cereal. My teeth were being cut on the daily dharma that went crunch, which reminded me, I had a dental appointment. When Swami first told me that dental karma was the worst, I bit.
“Why is that, Swami?” I said, running my tongue over my lower teeth.
“Because your teeth are hard on the outside and soft on the inside, just like you. You don’t know how bad the pain is until something goes wrong. Then you drill and drill until—voilà—rot.” I hate to tell you that he enjoyed telling me this, but he did. I can’t figure out if his teeth are false or real. He never lets me get that close to him. He is like vanilla in that if you get an actual taste of him, pure and undiluted, you will find him unsavory. He must be mixed throughout before he becomes the most useful. I bow to him and his scintilla of truth—maybe he doesn’t even have that. I am the most deluded disciple that he has. Just ask him.
Excerpted from A Guru in the Guest Room, by Vicki Woodyard.