One of Rudi’s important projects was the commissioning of a statue of his teacher, Bhagavan Nityananda. The arrival and installation of the Nityananda statue was of great import, not only to Rudi but to all his students at the time who could connect with Nityananda’s life force through the statue. Since Rudi’s passing in 1973 there have been numerous statues made in his likeness— from inches to larger than life-size— giving students of Rudi’s work the opportunity to connect with Rudi and, most importantly, the essence of his teachings. Therefore the news of the creation and installation of a new Rudi statue in Berkeley, CA, is cause for celebration and remembrance of his teachings. Christine Sheridan shares some of the details of the ceremony:
On December 27, 2011, Swami Khecaranatha (Nathaji) and the Sacred Space community celebrated the joyful occasion of the installation of a beautiful new Rudi murti (statue) in a PranaPratishta ceremony. (Prana means “breath” and pratishta means “establishing,” so this ceremony is a literal installing of life force within a statue or image, thus bringing it to life.)
Carved from white Egyptian marble, the 42-inch statue was commissioned by Nathaji with donations received from students as part of the celebration of Nathaji’s 60th birthday. The statue was carved in China based on photographs of Rudi, with Nathaji giving detailed instructions to the sculptors throughout the entire fabrication process.
Nathaji conducted the ceremony by first sealing off the meditation room to the outside. As participants entered one by one, they purified themselves with washing, fire, sandalwood paste, and incense, and were each individually blessed by Nathaji. The formal ceremony began with Nathaji performing abhisheka, the ritual bathing of the statue. Then followed the offering of sacred substances: yogurt, honey, milk, and spices. Traditionally, these offerings are made only by the officiate of the ceremony, but Nathaji asked that everyone present participate. Having been blessed by the spirit of the statue and endowed with its shakti, these substances were later offered back to the participants as prasad, which everyone drank.
Next, Rudi was adorned with a beautiful orange silk shawl and presented with several malas Nathaji had brought from India.Throughout the ceremony, there was sacred music and singing of several chants devoted to Rudi, such as “Rudrananda Brahmananda” and “Rudra Das.” At the same time, scenes from The Rudi Movie were projected onto a screen behind the murti, juxtaposing the highly charged presence of the statue with moving images of Rudi talking and teaching.
The highlight of this very special event was the moment Rudi’s prana, or life force, was called in. Nathaji did this with the use of some of Rudi’s ashes, while everyone present chanted, “Sadgurunath maharaj ki jai!” Nathaji then performed the final arati, which is the worshipping with fire, flowers, fruit, wine . . . and heart. Once again, everyone was able to participate, one-by-one bowing to Rudi and offering flowers or fruit. The ceremony culminated in a silent meditation in which the extraordinary energy and life force of Rudi was recognized and experienced as being powerfully and palpably present.
Ultimately, the purpose and power of the ceremony was not only to install Rudi’s life force and energy into a marble likeness, but to awaken us to the Divine gift of Rudi’s presence in our lives, the recognition that the overflowing fountain of Grace that is Rudi is really and truly with us, already installed in our hearts, which is where we can always find him. Truly an amazing likeness of Rudi, Nathaji has since commented that the statue continues to look more like Rudi every day.
The statue is available to the public, and Nathaji invites anyone who would like to sit and meditate with Rudi to come visit Sacred Space Yoga Sanctuary in Berkeley, California. Please call (510) 486-8700 to make an appointment for a time when the meditation room is free.
All photos courtesy of Scott Eaton