The following, in sequence, is about the last few months of life for Tushti Conti, a long-time Ananda member.
In August, 2015, Tushti was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. At that time she was living in India with her husband Surendra, serving in the Ananda Pune center there.
She was a most unlikely candidate to receive such a diagnosis. Tushti was physically strong — a yoga teacher and formerly a runner. As her husband put it, “If anyone was expected to live to be 100, it was Tushti!”
However, God has His own plans. By November, as you’ll see from the first e-mail in this series, they were moving back to America, both for the medical care, and, as it turned out, to say good-bye also to her American friends.
I visited Tushti and Surendra in India in October 2015. She was hospitalized at that time and I spent most of my five day stay with her in the hospital.
By mid-February, when I saw them again, they were living at Ananda Laurelwood, outside Portland, Oregon. My visit coincided with a shift in direction for Tushti. Up to that point she felt God wanted her to try to get well. Mid-February, she entered hospice, and turned her attention from this world to the next.
I ended up spending most of a month with Tushti and Surendra at Laurelwood. Friends around the world wanted to know — day-by-day — how she and Surendra were faring. At that time we thought she would transition in a matter of days, so I started sending daily e-mails. Days stretched into weeks and the e-mails became a chronicle of a devotee’s last days of dying consciously.
Many felt the letters have value beyond the individuals involved. In that spirit, we are sharing them with you.
This includes some photographs and also links at the end to her Memorial Service in Portland, and an informal, briefer ceremony we also held in Palo Alto.
The gaps in the dates of my letters are when I returned to Palo Alto from time to time.
As it happened, I had to leave Laurelwood before Tushti left her body, so that part of the story is told by Surendra and our friend Daiva.
For two days before she passed, Tushti was silent and unmoving. At the last, her eyes were half open, half closed. Clearly, she was not seeing this world, but the one where she was going. Her passing was as light as a feather. One moment she was breathing. The next moment, she stopped.
Subject: In India
Date: October 5, 2015
Dear friends were facing a challenging time.
Tushti and Surendra lived in Palo Alto for about ten years, managing East West Bookshop, teaching classes at the Sangha, and endearing themselves to all of us.
In July, Tushti became mysteriously ill. At first she dismissed it as the usual tummy troubles of India, but it soon proved itself far more serious.
Eventually she was diagnosed with cancer in the abdomen. Today she begins her first chemo treatment. It hasn’t been, and won’t be for awhile, a pleasant journey.
Tushti has spent almost 50 nights in the hospital since it began. Indian hospitals are more informal than American ones. Smaller, less techno, more heart-full. The family is encouraged to spend the night with the patient. Sheets and towels are provided and a surprisingly comfortable couch bed to sleep on.
Except for a few times when others have come to visit, Surendra has spent almost all of those 50 nights in the hospital with Tushti.
Looking at my week before the pilgrimage [to Israel in October 2015], I saw that I could easily add a flight and come to India. So here I am.
As soon as I met Surendra and went with him to the nearby hospital — Ruby Hall Clinic — and into the large, private room which is home for Tushti right now — I felt a the living presence of Master and Swamiji surrounding us.
Surendra is kind and lovingly attentive as always. Tushti is like a child in the arms of her Mother.
On the wall in front of her bed there is a large picture of Master and also one of Swamiji. The doctors and nurses come in and out, but it is clear Who is really in charge.
The situation is so unusual — day and night together in the hospital, with no pressing responsibilities. It is rare at Ananda to have so much uninterrupted time just to be with friends — heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul with gurubhais.
The three of us have always been good friends, but this circumstance has drawn us even closer.
The road in front of Tushti in her treatments and recovery, and Surendra in support of her, is not going to be easy. But they are living the truth that Master so often asserted: “It doesn’t matter what happens to us. All that matters is what we become through what happens to us.”
Let us become saints together. This is the motto of Ananda.
From: Surendra Conti
Subject: Indialog - November 18
Date: November 18, 2015 at 6:40:44 AM PST
We’ve been writing these occasional “Indialogs” for nearly four years, but this one will probably be the last, at least for a long while. It has been great fun to live them and to write them. If you have been among those who receive them, thanks for giving them a place to land. In a few weeks we will send a “highlights” edition to all who are getting this one today.
Tonight, just after midnight, we will start our journey to Oregon to deal with an imperative that will likely keep us there for much of the coming year. Unaccustomed as we are to urgent health concerns, we find ourselves suddenly faced with one that cannot be ignored. In a sense it’s a pointed reminder that we are not the ones who call the tune. But today is for giving thanks for the time, the place, and the people that we have been so blessed to know these past few years.
Nowhere else in our experience has ever been quite like India. To call it a country of contrasts and contradictions only scratches the surface. Its ingrained acceptance of side-by-side extremes – profound spirituality and routine corruption, astounding displays of wealth and abject poverty, natural beauty and widespread pollution, democratic ideals and caste discrimination – defies any adequate explanation. Many Indians will tell you without a hint of apology, “That’s just the way we are.” One must spend years in India to understand how it thinks, and even then the “how” of it remains largely mysterious.
Our life here has never been dull. Nor has it been easy. Every day delivers assorted surprises, from fascinating and inspiring to frustrating and inscrutable, but far more often in favor of the former. Like many of life’s chapters as they draw to a close, this one will be remembered for the love, gratitude, friendships and joy that tell the real story.
The years we have spent in India have taught us to expect the unexpected. Especially unexpected since July has been the assault on Tushti’s health. As a lesson in non-attachment, it has been unrelenting, reminding us that growth does not come without challenge, and that all is given of God for us to grow from. It reminds us, too, to cherish each moment of our lives and to cherish each other, even as we contend with the need to accept what was not wanted.
We came to India in response to a request, another one of those unexpected, 180-degree U-turns. Many folks have spoken kindly of what our tenure has meant to them, but we doubt that it compares with the learning, support and goodwill that we have received in return. Indians may at times err on the side of emotion. Many tend to react to situations that would be better served by calm reflection and reasoning. But Indians are of the heart. Raised as we were in the West, with its more materialistic ways and wishes, we've been lovingly nurtured and nourished by the accent here on heart over mind.
In the last week we’ve had satsangs in Pune and Gurgaon that stand out among the sweetest and most meaningful of our lives. Attached are a few photos, and many more are being posted on Facebook by friends who came with a camera or mobile phone (i.e., almost eveyone).
“Will you be coming back, and when will that be?” we have often been asked. It’s hard to say. We weren’t intending to leave in the first place, and our flat in Pune is still ours to return to, furnished with what we have left behind for now. The best answer we can give puts us in mind of a common Indian expression, having to do with how long a person must wait for what he wants or needs to know. For example…
“When will my document be ready?”
“After some time.”
“When will the shop reopen again?”
“After some time.”
“When will it be safe to reenter that unsafe area?”
“After some time.”
Ask again, and the same will be said, as if you were not listening: “After some time.”
Maybe there’s a hidden specific in much of what Indians often vaguely explain, but we have yet to fully grasp what that is. And now we find that we must give essentially the same reply. But let us put it this way: We will only be away “until we meet again.” Here, or somewhere, those who are dear are certain to be reunited. India will be with us always, and you as well, wherever you and we may be.
In divine friendship…
Surendra and Tushti
Subject: In Portland with Tushti
Date: February 18, 2016 9:28 AM PST
As some of you know, I came to Portland on Tuesday to spend a few days with Tushti and Surendra.
Since January, Tushti has been receiving palliative care at home. She stopped the chemo in December.
She has been sustained with IV hydration and nourishment.
In the last few days, her body stopped absorbing what she was taking in. A few hours after I arrived, the accumulation of fluid required a trip to the ER and then two nights in the hospital.
Until now, Tushti has been trying to stay in her body. Now she feels God is giving her a different instruction. Time to let the body go.
She has shifted from palliative care to full hospice. Which means no more IVs, and more access to drugs that will make her remaining time as comfortable as possible.
A hospice nurse — wonderfully named Rose — is coming this afternoon to evaluate what is needed at home.
Daiva and Gangamata are sharing their apartment with Tushti and Surendra. They’ve been in the room that was set up for Swamiji, but now with a hospital bed, etc. Probably she’ll stay in the living room, in front of the huge picture window looking out over beautiful Laurelwood. Expansive, uplifting, perfect.
Tushti and Surendra are beautifully surrendered to God’s will. Peaceful, courageous, joyous. Feeling God’s loving hand in every little gesture of the universe. Tushti goes to tears of gratitude often, and usually takes us with her.
She has said, "No one should be sad. Pray only for my soul’s freedom."
What a gift to be disciples of Master with Swamiji as our ever-present friend and guide. We’ve been playing Swamiji’s music much of the time in the hospital. He comes into the room with the melodies. So present with us.
I’ll be back on Friday for the weekend, probably returning to Portland next week.
Much love and gratitude in God and Gurus,
From: Surendra Conti
Date: February 18, 2016 at 5:51:50 PM PST
Over the past few months, hoping that Tushti’s condition would improve, we’ve been sending updates that have focused largely on her brave spirit. Although we have shared some details of her diagnosis, much has been left unsaid, lest it appear discouraging to you or her. More than any medical procedure or treatment, your prayers and her positive attitude have been the most helpful in sustaining her healing efforts.
Tushti’s health, as you may have surmised, has not been improving. Despite the sparkle in her eyes, she remains very weak, and today she is entering hospice care. Her comfort and soul’s freedom are now our singular focus.
In many ways, this has been the most precious time of our lives together, and our gratitude for your supporting role, whether from near or far, cannot be adequately expressed.
What follows is a letter directly from Tushti.
Dear, dear family and friends…
Acceptance is like a pill that is sometimes difficult to swallow. But once it goes down, it brings relief. I should know, because I have been taking a lot of pills in the last several months.
Although hoping for a miracle, I have known for a long time that my cancer was likely to win the battle between us. Now the days I have left of this life are not so many.
While I am still with you here, whether near or halfway around the world, I want you to know how grateful I am for what my life has been. It has been a wonderful run, and you have been a memorable, loving part of it. Admittedly, at age 68, it seems to be ending sooner than I would have expected or preferred, but the blessings of it fill my heart today to overflowing.
To you, my dears, there is more to say than I can properly convey. What we have shared can have no ending truly, for we shall meet again in this magnificent eternity of soul connection, and the joy of being together shall be renewed. I cherish the thought. We are one.
It is time for me now to go more deeply inward. I want to devote my final days to what many of us affectionately remember as Maria Warner’s mantra. When Maria passed a few years back, it was with this indelible advice to us all: Control the reactive process, let go of desires that do not serve the soul’s desire for freedom, and live the Guru’s teachings.
Please pray for me, and I will pray for you. We are one.
With all the love I have ever known…
Subject: The next world
Date: March 1, 2016 at 2:14:48 PM PST
Tushti turned this morning — actually last evening when she went to sleep — from looking toward this world to looking away from it.
She is mostly sleeping…. Woke long enough to speak of her deep joy, complete peace. She is just waiting, as she said, pointing upward, for Him to decide.
House is very quiet now. Only Swamiji’s voice chanting AUM. Tushti is resting in the bed in the living room.
Surendra right with her. So sweet. So very very sweet.
And a few others….Willow is also here.
Deep peace. Deep, tear-filled, heart opening joy.
Hours? Days? We are all waiting for Him to decide.
Subject: Still here
Date: March 2, 2016 9:41 AM PST
Tushti has been sleeping much of the time. But when she is awake she is fully awake and with us. Chatty. Funny. Loving. Joyful.
The body continues to decline. Tushti is finding it more and more difficult to relate to her body, even to move her legs or feet.
All happening in God’s own good time.
Daiva said Tushti is having repeated “dress rehearsals” for leaving her body. Exploring the other world without yet going into it to stay.
That is how it feels when she is sleeping. Deep peace. Deep quiet which draws all of us with her into the inner world.
Love in Master,
Subject: Transitions with Grace
Date: March 3, 2016 at 2:31 PM PST
The journey continues.
I have been privileged to be with several people as the soul separated from the body, including my earthly father. Always before, though, I was called in for the last hours, or for a day or two. By that point, the soul was more settled into the transition.
With Tushti, I have been with her for several weeks, including the day she turned from trying to get well to signing up for the "Final Exam," as Swamiji called it.
Because of her deep devotion, and the profound willingness of both Tushti and Surendra to share the journey with me, Daiva, Gangamata, and other dear friends here, we are all learning more about the “Kriya Yoga Way of Dying” than I knew before.
Even for the devotee, with faith in God and a deep willingness to cooperate with God’s will, still, there are so many levels to be passed through. So many threads to unwind, habits to be released.
In the Autobiography there is the story of Lahiri receiving Babaji’s message that his incarnation was almost done. Master describes how Lahiri went deep into silence for a time as he severed the last cords of attachment.
If even an avatar has to focus his awareness to release himself, how much more intensely the devotee has to concentrate and strive for freedom.
It is all very subtle. Only a little is put into words. Mostly one feels it here as deep devotion and soul concentration.
Yesterday and today were further turning points. There are very few visitors now — by choice. Rather than pulling Tushti continually back into being “Tushti,” it was felt that solitude and quiet better serve her soul.
Until yesterday she was also getting out of bed from time to time, but now difficulty in walking, and increasing vulnerability to pain makes that kind of movement impractical.
Overall, the medication is keeping the pain manageable, but so much of her body is tender, and moving inevitably causes pain.
She is full-time now in the bed in the living room. Surendra is sleeping next to her on the couch which allowed me also to move into the house to the room where they were staying.
This is a journey we will all make, and these early travelers are mapping the way for all their brothers and sisters to follow.
I had planned to come back to Palo Alto this weekend, but feel my responsibility to my soul-sister is to stay with her until she leaves for the astral world. So my return now is dependent on hers.
Perhaps I’ll be home by Saturday or Sunday, but it is in God’s hands.
This experience has made even-deeper my profound gratitude to God and Gurus, not only for their Divine Presence in our lives, but also for bringing us together as brothers and sisters in God.
We are deeply blessed.
In divine love and friendship,
Subject: Still here… but perhaps not much longer
Date: March 4, 2016 at 7:53 AM PST
Early this morning Tushti slipped into a different breathing pattern. Until now, her breath has been mostly inaudible. A little irregular, but not notably.
Now she has a long inhalation and short exhalation with pauses between each breath, which we can easily hear when we sit around her.
In the times I have been privileged to be with those who are passing from this world, I have seen that this breathing pattern — which can go on for hours or even days — will shift into the opposite: long exhalation, short inhalation.
Soon after, soul and body separate.
One of the reasons I am writing to all of you is to help us help ourselves and each other through this inevitable, beautiful, God-given moment of transition.
Swamiji and Master have left us a wealth of teaching on this all-important part of life. Still, so many questions arise.…
Yesterday, Tushti started to say, “I want to die,” but found herself unable to say those words with conviction. It goes so much against all her understanding and training both as a devotee and a healer.
So we tried, “I am willing to die, if that be God’s will.” Even that didn’t have the power she needed at that moment. For the corollary has to be, “I am willing to live as long as it be God’s will.” Given the state of her body, and the increasing difficulty and discomfort of being in it, it was hard to sincerely say she was willing to stay in it.
“I am ready to die,” was better.
The answer, though, we found in Swamiji’s music: “I want only Thee, Lord, Thee, only Thee.” That transcends all other considerations.
I remember at the very end of Paula’s life, when she had been silent for some time, she broke the silence saying, “This is very hard. You have to help me.” We started chanting AUM together and soon after she left.
So I am also writing to you because this is not easy, and as Tushti said some days ago, “I don’t remember how to do this.”
We have to help each other.
In my conversation with Tushti about “wanting to die” we came to the image of a child raising its arms and crying for its mother when it wants to be lifted into her arms.
Like a little child, we stand at the gateway to Eternity, heart raised waiting for Master to lift us.
From Swamiji’s music, again, the answer comes: “Lord, I am Thine, I am Thine, I am Thine.”
In the middle of the night last night Tushti was awake for a time. Before I left her to go back to bed, I whispered those very words to her and she whispered them back to me. “Lord, I am Thine.”
We don’t know if she will awake from where she is now. How deeply grateful I will be if those turn out to be the last words we exchanged.
All in God’s hands.
Tushti’s bed faces the big picture window, looking out over the Laurelwood campus and then to the hills beyond. Yesterday afternoon we were watching the sun set, partially obscured by clouds. The soft sun was shining directly on Tushti’s face. She was profoundly moved by the light and the beauty out the window.
She began to exclaim about the colors — first Nayaswami blue, then orange, yellow, purple. All colors neither Surendra nor I could see.
Part of the beauty of this moment is also that it is happening here, in this beautiful valley, where Master’s work is being born. One soul is dying here. Many souls are awakening here.
How beautiful, how mysterious, how loving are God’s ways.
In divine friendship,
Subject: “Waiting for Him to decide….”
Date: March 5, 2016 at 6:03 AM PST
Tushti is still breathing quietly. She woke up several times in the last 24 hours. Fully conscious of this world, herself, the people around her. Interacted especially with Surendra.
The soul has its own wisdom….
Subject: Not yet
Date: March 5, 2016 at 12:08 PM PST
Someone whose life has been greatly uplifted by Tushti posted a beautiful photo of her on Facebook, a loving tribute, and the erroneous message that Tushti had already left her body.
She is still very much with us.
Surprisingly so! Last night about 1a.m. she was chatting and laughing with Surendra and another friend who was keeping watch through the night with her.
This morning, also, she was talking with enough strength in her voice to call to Daiva across the room. Complimenting him on the Breve he had made for her — and that she was greatly enjoying. A “Breve” is coffee with half and half, for those who don’t know.
Tushti is as surprised as we are that she is still so much with us!
We simply decided: The party isn’t over yet. Who would go home before the party was over?
She is joyful. At peace. Ready and willing to go whenever Master calls her.
God’s mysterious ways.
love in God and Gurus,
Subject: Deep, profound…still in the body
Date: March 7, 2016 at 6:30 AM PST
Yesterday Tushti went to the edge of eternity … took all of us with her in deep and profound meditation.
Her heartbeat and breath came almost stillness.
She and Master and Swamiji are engaged in a mysterious dance of freedom from this body that is not yet complete.
Yesterday we learned from her friend Rose Neal a beautiful affirmation Tushti has been saying.
Divine Mother, my Beloved,
I offer myself completely,
body, mind, and soul,
into Your healing light,
and Your unconditional loving embrace.
I am your very own child of Light.
In Master’s love,
Subject: One more day
Date: March 8, 2016 at 6:26 AM PST
So much for “Tushti is waiting till Master’s Mahasamadhi and Mahashivaratri.” :-) Better to be in the Now. Take life one breath at a time.
The hospice nurse and her aid — Angel Shannon and Angel Kami respectively — came yesterday and through their ministrations helped make Tushti much more comfortable.
Her bed does resemble a child’s pillow fort as we balance all the factors to keep her in the best possible position.
Because her body has become so delicate, their professional attention is especially important and we are deeply grateful to God for sending such lovely, capable souls to help her.
About 3 a.m. last night Tushti was thirsty and we were giving her water. To the amazement of Angel Shannon she still has enough strength to pull water through a straw. Her physical vitality is one reason she has been able to stay in her body so long.
In photos Surendra has of their 35 years together, Tushti looks as glamorous as a movie star.
Now, she is even more beautiful.
When I leaned over to say good night, she looked into my eyes, smiled, and said, “I love you.” Then added, “I love God.”
I’ve never seen a more beautiful woman than Tushti at that moment.
We now call her “Tushti Angelica.”
Subject: “I want to die consciously.”
Date: March 9, 2016 at 6:46 AM PST
Tushti continues to rest in complete peace.
Life force is gradually withdrawing from her extremities. When we have to move or lift her to adjust the bedding or for other reasons she is concerned because, “my body is so heavy.”
She is about as thin as a person can be and still have all their bones and organs, so obviously it is how it feels to her from inside.
Much of the time she is silent, but when she does talk, she is completely aware of her surroundings and her circumstances.
I was rearranging some things on her altar and bumped into the table, knocked some things off, and then dropped something again as I tried to put it back. A big clatter!
She remarked to Surendra, “Asha is throwing a lot of stuff around.”
She wanted a taste of chocolate ice cream — seems her last desire! — but was engaged with the hospice aide and would have to wait till the “spa treatment” as they call it was done. The living room and kitchen are one open room and someone clanked a bowl in the kitchen. Tushti asked the aide, “Is someone in the kitchen having ice cream?”
I put some fresh-picked camellias on the blanket in front of her, next to the photos of Swamiji and Master we keep here. When she opened her eyes and saw the perfect blossoms, she asked, “Are these real flowers?” She wasn’t asking if they were astral flowers. The question was, are they silk or natural flowers?
A few times we’ve been teasing and telling jokes — all of which seem very funny to us; but I think if I repeated them you wouldn’t be as amused as we have been! The point is not the punchlines but that Tushti follows, and even participates.
None of these remarks (or jokes) are meaningful in themselves, but they all show a continued level of awareness that is truly remarkable, given how close she is to leaving this world.
Tushti is absolutely determined to die consciously. At 3:30 a.m. this morning she was talking with Surendra about it. “I don’t want to go to sleep. I want to die consciously.”
Her difficulty, as she sees it, is that she isn’t quite sure how to do that. She isn’t afraid, just not certain about how it is all going to happen. She said, “The dying process is odd.”
We offer her everything that comes to us to say that we know from Master and from Swamiji, but alas, none of us remember either how it happens! She is our pioneer.
One can’t imagine a purer, more surrendered heart. Nor a more fearless and determined spirit!
Our part is to care for her body and love her spirit with all our hearts. And to pray to Master that his grace carry her fully awake from this world to the next.
Effortless to do. She is a shining light. It is a blessing to be with her.
She said to Rose Neal last night, “It won’t be long now.” What that means compared to eternity we don’t know. But physically we see her body closing down. And her spirit is completely at peace.
We received a note early this morning that Brindey at Ananda Village is also very close to passing. Perhaps the two sisters in God want to be “born” as twins in the astral world.
Pray for Tushti. Pray for Brindey. Pray for all of us caring for both of these dear souls — us here at Laurelwood, Brindey at Ananda Village — that we all move in God’s Light and act always in attunement with His will.
Subject: God’s wisdom
Date: March 10, 2016 at 6:25 AM PST
When I started sending these e-mails I didn’t know there would be so many.
When I told Tushti yesterday morning that Brindey was also transitioning, I said, “You’ll finish the marathon together.”
Tushti ran a marathon in Hawaii, and Surendra has reminded her from time to time of that final hill and the effort needed to make it up Diamond Head to the finish line. It is an apt image.
Tushti raised her hands in a gesture of victory and said about Brindey, “We’ll cross the finish line together.”
Later, when I told her Brindey was already in the astral world, and Swamiji and Master took her there, she wept for joy.
Soon after, Tushti went into a deep sleep — unmoving, unresponsive to voice or noises for about eight hours. This is a natural progression in the soul separating from the body, but we hadn’t seen it before.
Then she came back to full awareness, but stayed awake a shorter time, before sleeping again, although not so deeply as before.
She continues to progress through the natural stages, just very slowly.
Neither she nor we nor the hospice nurse has any explanation for why the journey for her has gone on so many days longer than we might have expected.
There is nothing we can see to change or resolve.
It is a matter of prayer and surrender for all of us.
A great learning and deep blessing.
Subject: “So much joy.”
Date: March 11, 2016 at 11:48 AM PST
Sorry to be late with the email. For no particular reason the morning routine was all shifted around, and I’m only just getting to this. This letter is longer than usual. Have had lots of time recently to muse about events, and I’m sharin some of those thoughts at the end here.
Tushti is still with us. Sleeping much of the time; but when she wakes up, she is fully here. She often sleeps with a blissful smile on her face.
Every day her body shows signs of gradually shutting down, but very slowly.
She still has the capacity to swallow. She can still pull water through a straw. Every time the hospice nurse measures the oxygen concentration of Tushti's blood she is astonished by how vital she still is.
Tushti is surprised that she keeps waking up here, but undismayed. “So much joy. So much joy. I can’t hold them all in my heart,” was her comment to Willow just now. She specifically said “them”…. One so wishes for the ability to be in her consciousness now!
Yesterday when Surendra asked about where she had been spending her time, she said, “A happy place. A happy place.”
We’ve had to up the pain medication a little bit, but doing that has been enough to keep her very comfortable and still fully alert. Thank you God.
For some time we’ve had to reassure her about the medication because of her determination to “die consciously.”
Recently I asked her what that meant to her, “to die consciously.”
After careful thought she said, “To feel the presence of God.”
Then I said, “Why is it so important to you that you die consciously?"
“Because it is such an important part of our teachings,” she said.
I answered, “I think the ‘teachings’ are behind you now. The teachings are to help us feel the presence of God in our hearts, which you have all the time now. I still need the teachings. But you have gone past them.”
She thought about that very carefully for a time then said, “I try too hard.”
After that she entered an even deeper state of relaxation and acceptance. She still doesn’t like the medicine, because it tastes “nasty.” She swallows some of the pills, but others we have to dissolve in water. But she no longer seems concerned about how the medicine might interfere with her “dying consciously.” We are delighted to see this last concern dissolve.
This morning when it was time for her to take the medicine, she misunderstood and thought we were coaxing her by saying it was the last time she would have to take it.
“No, that’s up to you, Tushti. We won’t make a promise we can’t keep. It is up to you and to God."
In this experience I’ve learned how little of communication is actually verbal. So much energy, information, and joy is exchanged in these tiny discussions. The receptivity is so open on both sides that with very little form much consciousness is shared. Little phrases feel so significant. Small, ridiculous jokes seem hilarious and clever!
I have often pondered that Master ended his poem “Samadhi” with the words, “A tiny bubble of laughter, I have become the sea of mirth itself.” In some ways a rather surprising conclusion to a poem about cosmic consciousness.
In a small way, being here with Tushti when she is as much now on the other side as here, laughter and mirth keep bubbling over and the poem makes perfect sense. Everything resolves into joy…. so why not laughter? why not mirth?
This morning Tushti said to me, “Asha, you are soooo funny!” The merriment was way out of proportion to the apparent cause. It was the “tiny bubble” becoming the “sea itself.”
The other extraordinary feature of these last few days has been the power of love. I’ve always been fond of Tushti. What is there not to love? She has always been a beautiful soul, filled with a kindness and affection for everyone that magnetizes the same from us.
Now, not only does she radiate love, she is also a powerful magnetic force drawing love from all of us. I’ve never given birth to a child, but the only thing in this world I could imagine comparing it to is the way a mother would feel about her newborn baby.
Tushti is rather baby-like — bald, tiny, helpless, utterly reliant on us for all bodily care. One offers it, not only willingly, but eagerly, joyously, with a heart overflowing with affection for her. Or, more truly, to the presence of God for which she has become a clear window.
We’ve had lots of time (when Tushti is sleeping) to talk about this experience, trying to understand on the deepest possible level. The four of us in the house — Surendra, me, Daiva, Gangamata – and also Willow.
When Tushti became ill in India, from the beginning the prognosis was dire. Pancreatic cancer is not easy to overcome. Tushti, however, would hear none of it. “I feel Master has more for me to do,” she said. It was her duty to stay in her body so she could continue to serve.
For those of you who don’t know, Tushti and Surendra moved from Palo Alto to Laurelwood in January 2012. They were eager to be part of the work just beginning here. It seemed an ideal place for them to live and serve, after their ten years running East West Bookshop.
They were at Laurelwood for six days when the call came from India: Swamiji wanted them to come there instead. Like the great devotees they are, soon they were on the plane to India where they lived for three and a half years. When she became ill, though, for medical reasons, and also from the heart, they wanted to come back to Laurelwood.
For Tushti at that time, it was not coming back to die. It was coming back to serve.
On February 17, as I wrote to many of you at the time, Tushti saw that body and soul were trying to separate, rather than stay together.
Looking back, though, on these last months, it is true: Master had more for Tushti to do. If she had accepted at the beginning that she would not recover from the cancer, the great learning and the great service of these last months would not have happened.
So many people have been touched by Tushti’s courage, sweetness, and love. First in India, as she said “till we meet again” to her many friends there. Then at Laurelwood during the weeks of treatment before going into hospice on February 18.
And now, in these weeks, as inch by inch she exits from this world and enters “the happy place” Master and Swamiji have prepared for her, she is serving so many souls around the world.
Recently — in the last few months — I have read a dozen or more small biographies of Catholic saints by a writer named Mary Fabian Windeatt. I got these books from Helen. Some she read as a child, others she acquired for the school. I saw some in her office and eventually read all she had. It gave me a simple overview of the life of each saint in a sweet and devotional way.
Also a very Catholic way. Not at all familiar to me. Among other things, the saints often did “penance for souls in purgatory.” Quite apart from the whole concept of purgatory, and souls being trapped there, I have been meditating on the idea of making sacrifices for the sake of others or for the sake of accomplishing something you believe in.
In the early years of Ananda, a Swami visited from India. Seeing what had already been accomplished at Ananda, he turned to Swami Kriyananda and said, “Someone has done a lot of tapasya to make this happen.” Of course, both swamis knew it was Swami Kriyananda’s tapasya that had done it. His arthritic hips that he endured for 20 years before having them replaced surgically, were part of that tapasya. Literally, carrying Ananda on his own shoulders. Only after it was well established did he allow himself to give up that tapasya.
Just after Swamiji moved to India in 2003, he was often in the hospital there with a variety of serious, often life-threatening illnesses. I was visiting in April 2004 when he was again hospitalized. Sitting in his room, a swami from Rishikesh I had never met before, whose name I don’t remember, came to visit Swami Kriyananda.
“I am so sorry to see you here,” the swami said.
“Don’t be concerned,” Swami Kriyananda said quite cheerfully, “I’m just doing tapasya for the work in India.”
Later I asked Swamiji to explain that to me. He said simply, “Whenever the hero in a story wants to accomplish something, he always does penance first. The energy has to come from somewhere.”
When Ananda was in the last throes of the Bertolucci side of the lawsuits, several people at Ananda were facing terminal illnesses. It was notable that their deaths mostly came as that lawsuit was ending, as if they were holding on as a tapasya to help Ananda through that event.
If Tushti were a Catholic saint going through this dying process in the way she has, all would say that she is doing penance for souls in purgatory.
That isn’t how we would phrase it, but one can’t help but think that this, too, is the service she felt Master wanted her to do, and why she couldn’t just give up the body months ago in India. She had to get back to Laurelwood and do this tapasya, for Master, for Ananda, perhaps for Laurelwood.
All of this is happening in the house where Daiva and Gangamata live. They, of course, carry the lion’s share of responsibility for making Laurelwood a success. Like all Ananda projects at this time in our history, so much is a matter of money. Since Laurelwood is a huge project, the dollar amounts are also large. And right now certain investments have to be restructured, payments made, future possibilities secured.
At the table, just feet away from where Tushti is lying in her hospital bed, spending more and more time in “a happy place” they are also doing their tapasya, of determined effort and prayer to bring Laurelwood into manifestation.
One result of Tushti’s slow transition has been the opportunity for me to spend these weeks here, to feel and see Laurelwood from the inside, to meet and spend time with the great souls — Daiva, Gangamata, and others — who are doing the tapasya necessary to make it happen.
From the first I heard of it, Laurelwood has thrilled me. Such beautiful land. Such enormous potential. So much already in place. So many possibilities to serve generations to come.
But first the tapasya!
We tend to think of tapasya as somehow difficult. The common definition is “austerity” – or “penance,” as Swamiji called it.
Another, not quite accurate translation, but close enough for consideration, is that tapasya means “devotion.” Devotion to a cause one believes in neutralizes all sense of suffering that might otherwise be attached to the word.
At a satsang here last week someone said, “You were part of the hard times at the beginning of Ananda…..”
I’m not sure what he was going to say after that, because I interrupted to correct him, “Those weren’t hard times! It was total joy!” I recounted once talking to Swamiji about reincarnation. He said, “What draws us back time after time is longing and regret.”
I responded, “I would repeat those first ten years at Ananda in a heartbeat. It was heaven on earth!”
Swamiji samiled so sweetly. “That’s different.”
The desire to serve God is a “desireless desire” — liberating, not binding.
Sri Yukteswar defined “tapasya” as “patience.” That is my favorite. I once did a major household repair job, even though I had no skill or experience for what I was doing. I discovered a principle that has served me well. All accomplishment is the result of the “patient application of will power.”
When I read Sri Yukteswar’s definition years later, I understood.
That is what Swamiji did for all his years. Patiently, unrelentingly, he applied his will power to the task at hand – and accomplished miracles.
Each of us in our own way is doing the same.
That’s what Tushti is doing. “So much joy….” is what she describes now. But it is tapasya in the sense of patience. Day by day accepting what God is giving — in this case, one more day of life in that body. One more day for us of caring for that body.
One more day of looking at the task at hand and patiently applying will power in God-guided action to serve Master in whatever way he asks of us.
Every conversation with Tushti now is about joy. Her smile is so blissful. Her eyes windows to Infinity. So much joy.
From: Daiva & Gangamata
Date: March 12, 2016
We awake to another morning in what starts to feel like one long, eternal moment (which, of course, it really is). As Asha notes below, all here are in the practice of Hong Sau with someone else’s breath. It is over a week now since the nurse suggested that she would be surprised if Tushti were still with us, and yet she is - quietly, deeply, gently as in tune with her nature.
Desultory conversation around the breakfast table drifts through years of being a devotee on this path - stories of Swamiji, times of spiritual courage, quiet exploration of subtle understanding of how the philosophy of our teachings plays out in “real” life…Gentle humor and appreciation of how remarkably, humorously incongruous the events of life actually are punctuate the conversations.
Sacred times. The prayers and kindly, supportive thoughts of so many of you buoy this time, where this great soul lets go of increasingly subtle layers of attachment and karmic commitment.
I’ll let Asha’s letter carry the rest of the story…
daiva and gangamata
Subject: Lord, May I Serve Thee
Date: March 12 2016 at 8:43 AM PST
After being very active — “chatty” is the right word — for several hours yesterday morning, Tushti then went into a deep sleep in the early afternoon which lasted through the night and is still happening.
We now give supplemental pain medication on a regular schedule, rather than on an “as-needed” basis. To “stay ahead of the pain” as the nurse put it. It relaxes her body, but there is no evidence that it clouds her mind. When she is awake, she is as sharp as ever.
Even when she is sound asleep (seemingly) and Surendra needs to give her medication — pills dissolved in water and placed into her mouth with a syringe (thank you, Rose Neal, for showing us how to do that!) — he just leans over her sleeping form and says softly, “Tushti, open your mouth,” and she does. Conscious, unconscious — who can say?
The sores on the skin seem to be irritating the nerves. For the first time yesterday morning, Tushti and I had to talk about pain.
When I wrote about tapasya yesterday, it was an extension of the idea of our deep commitment to service.
Swamiji has often said, “Nothing happens when you die.” Well, self-evidently, something happens, but what he meant was nothing happens to the essential “you.”
We use the physical body to express our inner consciousness. When that body dies, our inner consciousness has a new vehicle — whether an astral body or a semi-conscious astral sojourn until we reincarnate in a physical body, it is the vrittis in the chakras that determine everything. Or, eventually, the lack of vrittis.
Physical death doesn’t in itself change those vrittis. How we conduct ourself in the “final exam” could affect our state of consciousness, but it is not automatic. Like everything else, it is about devotion, will power, and the grace of God.
Tushti has given her life to serving God. Now her body won’t allow her to serve in the same way, but the impulse to serve is not diminished by bodily weakness.
In the last days of Paula’s life, she talked to Swamiji on the phone. And in her charming, child-like way, said to him, “I hope they have a job for me in the astral world. You know I like to be busy!” Swamiji assured her that it was all ready and waiting.
When Tushti and I talked about pain, I raised the thought, without having a clear answer myself, that she has spent her life helping others awaken to the love of God. Even though we might not understand how it could help, she could offer this pain to God as a way to help others awaken to His love. She smiled so sweetly at that idea and visibly relaxed even though the pain was still there.
Soon after, the nurse came, and we understood what was happening medically, and how better to deal with it.
In that same conversation, Tushti suddenly asked about someone at Ananda that I thought she barely knew. The name had never come up before. She was deeply interested in that person’s well-being. We talked for a few minutes about certain tests that person was facing and how sincerely they were trying.
She said, “I pray for them. Secret prayers are the best.”
Then we talked a little about her mother. She’s been worried about her. Tushti is the second of her four children to die before the mother dies. I assured her (which is true) that her mother is at peace with her passing.
“Your prayers have changed your mother. She is very strong now.”
Again, Tushti smiled so sweetly and said, “Secret prayers are the best.”
Even after all these days, we find it difficult to comprehend that at some point this dear person we love so much will not be with us anymore.
Eventually the form in the hospital bed will cease to breathe, everything will shift, and we’ll all go on to another way of living than just being here and, as we call it, practicing Hong-Sau by watching someone else’s breath.
Somewhere in my subconscious, though, I thought it meant that when the hospital bed is empty and taken away, Tushti will be back to being herself! She’ll be rummaging in the closet choosing an outfit for the day, and sitting at the table laughing with us and drinking coffee.
Very hard to get heart and mind around the reality of death.
Considering how many times we’ve all been through it…. well, Maya is impressive.
One more day. Moving toward Eternity. Maria McSweeney said when she got the e-mail yesterday she was reading Whispers from Eternity, and #199 seemed to describe Tushti perfectly.
Endless Thrills of Delight
I attuned my life with Thine. Now my life has become a long, unbroken inspiration. Thy foundation of bliss refreshes and delights me night and day, whether I be wakeful, fast asleep, or dreaming fondly of Thee. Oh, what has become of me? Delight on overwhelming delight! Endless, indescribably thrills of divine delight spray unceasingly over me!
O aged nectar! Wine of centuries! I found Thee at last, and will taste of Thy sweetness forever, forever, forever!
Subject: Life goes on
Date: March 13, 2016 at 8:15 AM PST
The shortness of this letter will balance the length of the recent ones.
Everything has become very quiet. Tushti is mostly sleeping, waking occasionally and then usually only briefly. Often it seems she wakes because of physical discomfort, which we try to anticipate by changing the arrangement of pillows or adding medication, but there are too many variables, and perfect ease is not easily found.
We speak softly, move quietly. Reading, doing a little work on the computer, talking together. Most of our attention, though, is on Tushti. The flicker of an eye, a whisper of speech, the smallest movement, and in a heartbeat one of us is at her bedside to attend to her.
When she does awake, her eyes shine with love and it is a joy to be in her presence. Even when she isn’t awake, her presence, which has become the divine Presence through her, permeates everything.
Humor persists. I exclaimed just now, “How do you stay so beautiful? No gorgeous clothes. You don’t even have hair!”
She looked at me with mock indignation. She had often asked if her hair was growing back, and would run a hand over the peach fuzz on her head (when she still could) and declare with certainty that it was coming back. I assured her that she would soon be like Rapunzel and rescue the prince with her long braided hair. “Rapunzel” has become a source of amusement.
This time she answered that her hairdo was the “hair-that-is-not-there-do.”
Master says that every atom is “dowered with individuality.” We see Tushti fading on so many levels that formerly seemed to define her. Still, the essence of her nature is intact.
She said this morning, “I don’t know how I am able to stay so long sitting here. I have always been such a moving person!”
“In these last days of an incarnation,” I suggested, “perhaps we get to learn many things about ourselves we didn’t know before.”
For many days, Surendra has slept on the couch next to Tushti’s bed. Now, I’ve taken to sleeping most of the night on a mat in the living room near her bed. It’s quieter and easier than coming in from the bedroom countless times during the night.
She is no longer much in this world, but nor is she fully in the other.
Love in God and Gurus,
Subject: Further thoughts
Date: March 13, 2016 at 10:05 AM PST
At breakfast, we were talking about (what else?) the unique experience of caring for Tushti in these last days.
Again we were commenting on how very distinctly Tushti is still Tushti, even though virtually everything that defined her before is no longer there.
What we understood is that everything we think of as ourselves and others is an expression of the individual's inner consciousness. Whatever form it takes, it is the consciousness itself that we experience in …. as … one another.
When Maria Warner’s sister Bella died a number of years ago, Swamiji said at her astral ascension ceremony that most of Bella was not expressed on this plane of consciousness. What we saw was just a small portion of who she is.
It was more than a metaphysical statement. He was talking specifically about Bella and the way she chose to express — or in this case, not express — her consciousness.
Maria, as the younger sister, knew Bella better than anyone. She confirmed exactly what Swamiji had said, and asked in wonder, “How did he know?”
Tushti can’t put her consciousness into form anymore. At least not very much. But her consciousness is fully present, the same as always. That is why even the little statements and brief exchanges have so much magnetism.
Even the joy and love of God that comes through her is “Tushti-esque.”
Sister Gyanamata told in one of her letters how Rajarshi sent her a blessing, and how he had tried to make it seem like Master’s blessing. But she could tell it was from Rajarshi. Even on that level, with disciples so unified in consciousness with their Guru, individuality remains.
I read a novel some decades ago called House of Fulfillment, by Lily Adams Beck. It was an interesting book with a spiritual theme. It was about some English people who become dedicated to spiritual practice, go to India, etc. One of the characters becomes a world-renowned sculptor. The sculptor's name is known, but that is all that is known about her. In the story, she remains hidden from the public.
The sculptor explains how she went to Tibet and did deep spiritual practice with a Master teacher until she came to a state of profound realization. She knew she had to give expression to the consciousness she had attained, but at first she didn’t know if it would be expressed as poetry, music, painting, or some other form. It turned out to be sculpture, but the form that it took didn’t matter, because the consciousness was the same.
I understood this to be the secret of Swamiji’s prodigious creativity. He stood at the center of his consciousness and gave it whatever form was needed.
When Swamijii wrote the Oratorio, he said that he had no need to write it. "The inspiration was complete within me. It didn’t require any further expression.” He wrote the music in order to serve Master’s work.
It was a distinction that Swamiji always made. He was not a “creative artist.” He was a disciple. His creativity lay entirely in the thought, “How can I serve Master more and better?”
Swamiji said, “Creativity is essential on the spiritual path.” Not necessarily artistic creativity, but creativity in this sense: the devotee must constantly ask the question, “How can I serve God better?” The form doesn’t matter. God uses the talents at hand. The creativity is in asking the question and acting to express the answer.
Master having lived as a great warrior when he came as William the Conqueror, and Swamiji as his son, Henry I — it is the same principle. Consciousness takes whatever form is needed in answer to the question, “How can I serve?”
So Tushti has withdrawn — not quite completely, her because body and mind are still here — but very far into her essential reality as consciousness. And still she remains, delightfully, lovably Tushti.
Even when the bubble merges into the sea, the bubble is still the bubble.
Much to ponder.
From: Daiva & Gangamata
Date: March 14, 2016
Tushti is using every available moment, ounce of energy and life force in this process of becoming free. She is still with us this morning, as noted below. Asha has changed the flowers - gathering local daffodils, camellias, and other touches of God’s color and light. The nurse has been here and helped adjust the support we are offering at a physical level - a constantly moving target of need to help manage pain so she can be less distracted as she moves through this process. The ongoing level of prayer, stillness, kindness, joy and sweetness moves us all - recalling just how powerful are the blessings of a life offered to God.
Surendra is present for her 24/7, helping her in whatever ways help. Willow sits quietly bedside much of the time. Asha brings the depth of her decades on the path, folded into her natural friendship for Tushti and Surendra. Gangamata holds life together for us all, wrapping everything in one constant prayer of kindness and support.
I was helping Tushti during a few moments where she was present with us. She can no longer swallow, but bathing her mouth with clean, cool water is soothing and refreshing. At the end of this, I asked it it was helpful and she nodded very gently. Then, I asked her if she could feel Master, and she again nodded, and a quiet smile lit up her face. I recited a few lines from “Samadhi,” culminating with “I, a tiny bubble of laughter, am become the sea of mirth Itself.” The smile turned into a glow…
In His love,
daiva and gangamata
for Tushti, Surendra, Asha, Willow and all who are sending prayers and love
Date: March 14, 2016 at 6:50 AM PST
Tushti has been still and quiet for many hours. We were able to find a new way of arranging the pillows that has made her more comfortable. She has been sound asleep without moving for many hours. Breath is steady, but very quiet.
One more day.
The thought I was reaching for yesterday, but never quite expressed is simply this: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Subject: Pray for Tushti’s freedom
Date: March 15, 2016 at 7:52 AM PST
There is no reason to feel that Tushti’s slow departure is anything other than ideal for her soul progress. But it is not easy to watch.
She mostly sleeps, and only comes to awareness when pain brings her back. Or, more recently, the need to cough.
She is often disoriented when she does awake, and not much interested in relating to what is going on.
In the last years of my parents’ life, my mother struggled physically with Parkinson’s and my father with mental decline. I often asked God why He was keeping them in those disintegrating bodies. It seemed to me that they were overdue for an astral vacation!
“Anything you want, God,” was not sincere. I had feelings that I couldn’t deny.
So I prayed, with great fervor, “Whatever it is You want them to learn, you must give them the devotion, wisdom, and receptivity to learn it.”
I offered it not as a gentle request, but as a prayer demand, and I added, “And please do it now!”
Thy will, not mine be done, but if Thy will could coincide with mine I would be most grateful!
And if they are not going to coincide — at least not on my timetable – then, “Whatever it is you are trying to teach me, you must give me the devotion, wisdom, and receptivity to learn it!"
Tushti has surrendered herself completely to Master. She is in His hands.
But whatever it is Master wants from her now, pray that he give her the devotion, wisdom, and receptivity to learn it. And that the grace of understanding come soon so that she can take her spirit away from that broken body and soar in Light with God.
From: Daiva & Gangamata
Date: March 16, 2016
We move from the unlikely through the improbably, toward the unimaginable…and yet, all things are governed by the hand of the Divine. Tushti continues to inhabit a body that shouldn’t, by any outward measure, be able to sustain her. I often have wondered, as we move through this process with her, with Surendra, whether this is an opportunity for her soul to burn up the last vestiges of karma, perhaps freeing her soul forever. Whatever the reality, she continues to carry this with more grace than seems possible.
Each person involved is having their own experience, whether it is Tushti as she leaves this life, Surendra as he shares this last part of their shared journey together (for this time) and faces a dramatically different reality, Asha and Willow who can barely recall their previous daily patterns, or us, who have grown comfortable with this divine event happening in the midst of all the things that go with our outer roles.
Consistent sleep patterns have become a dim memory, as each moment is filled with sensitivity to what might be needed - by Tushti or by anyone else here in support of her transition. It is, truly, an ongoing, moment-by-moment involvement in the pulse of life.
Below is another sharing from Asha…we were discussing how none of us will go back to our other lives…you can never step into the same stream twice, and each of us is in some way changed and uplifted, more awake and surrendered through this time.
With love,daiva and gangamata
Date: March 16, 2016 at 9:46 AM PST
In the last couple of days, there was more tension in the house than there had been before. Tushti had slipped mostly beyond verbal communication, and at the same time, seemed to be in more pain than before. Naturally we felt an urgency to make her comfortable. Adjusting medication is not instantaneous. Finding exactly the right position, given the developing tender spots on her skin, was also a challenge, made more difficult by diminished communication.
From the nurse we’ve learned that skin is the biggest organ we have. And like all organs, as death approaches it, too, ceases to function. What people call bedsores is organ failure of the skin. Heartrending.
Even though we have been doing all we could according to our best intuition, naturally we have been searching our hearts to be sure we are assisting her outward journey, while not holding her back.
All of this now seems to be resolved. Comfortable resolution for Tushti of physical issues. More profound acceptance of God’s will. Deeper peace in every way.
Tushti remains mostly asleep, but not in a coma. She remains for hours without moving at all, except for her breath and heartbeat. The effort required to come back to this world is almost more than she can do, but she still does it when needed.
Because she is so unmoving, every day the hospice nurse or aide needs to reposition her to keep her comfortable. Shifting her body is often painful, and Willow sits close to her, pressing on the spiritual eye, urging her to move away from body consciousness. She AUMS quietly and Tushti AUMS very quietly with her. On other occasions, too, as Willow was meditating with her, Tushti’s lips were moving as she inwardly repeated AUM.
Tushti is transitioning out of her body as we are transitioning to a deeper understanding of what it means to help someone on this final journey. Spiritual friendship takes on a whole new level of meaning.
Many of you have written good suggestions, often from extensive experience in hospice work. We are grateful for all of them and have incorporated as many as we can. The soul has its own wisdom. From this plane we do our best to serve that higher cause.
For me, the opportunity has been the obvious one: deeper faith in God. He knows.
I had a little bit of experience before this with the transition from life to death, but this time has humbled me completely. In this, and in all things, I am but a child, relying entirely on my Divine Mother to guide me.
Swamiji was always humble and childlike. I believe that is because he saw himself only in relation to Master. We saw him in relation to ourselves and to the ordinary men and women around him. From that perspective he seemed almost infinite in stature.
From his perspective, the only self-definition that mattered was, “I am the disciple of a great Master.” He always saw himself as Master’s chela — Master’s child. His humility required no effort. It was simple self-honesty. Before God and Guru, we are all children.
Another deep blessing of this experience is the bond that has formed among the members of Tushti’s team. A few days ago, when she was relating more to this world, I was helping her in some way, but had to step away while Surendra took my place.
I explained, as we always try to do, what was happening. When a person has so little control over their own life they appreciate being informed rather than surprised by what happens to them.
“I have to step away now,” I said, “but Surendra will continue what I was doing.”
In a soft but audible whisper, Tushti said, “Yay team!”
Being together day and night, sharing such an intensely moving experience has united us on both a personal and a soul level. As it always is when Ananda devotees are together, harmony is effortless. We switch places from dishwashing to tending to Tushti, from sweeping the floor to listening or speaking to Tushti in the most profound ways.
One could imagine groups of friends or family concerned for themselves at such a moment. But not Ananda devotees. It is God serving God in whatever ways He asks of us.
I realize it could have been an entirely different group of devotees, and the unity of spirit would be the same. It is not us individually, but our devotion to Master and Swamiji that unites us. We are here to serve.
Many years ago, in the early ‘70s, about twenty-five of us went with Swamiji for a weekend of programs in Reno, Nevada. Satya (one of Ananda’s founding members) had a married son who lived in Reno, and they were kind enough to host us.
It was a small house, two, maybe three bedrooms, and one bathroom. For three days we all lived together in effortless harmony.
Swamiji often referred to that weekend as a perfect example of the spirit of Ananda. Cooperation with joy.
Another day now with Tushti. There can’t be many still to come, but whatever there may be, we welcome with joy.
Love in Master,
From: Daiva & Gangamata
Date: March 17, 2016
Not much to add to Asha’s note today. It is evening now, Ishwari is here, as she frequently has been over the weeks, offering solace, support and insight. Asha and Willow prepare for their morning departure back to their other lives, Tushti breathes ever so shallowly, the sun sets again and time which has seemed to hold its breath over these last weeks will slip each of us into very different realities very shortly. “Time flows on like a river that homes to the sea: One hour bounding through mountain vales, one hour winding through a lea. None may linger on the way. None may coax time to stay. Fleeting scenes flow by us like a stream. Cling not, none will be your home. Lest you grieve to be alone, look within you - There’s your home.”
In His love,daiva and gangamata
Date: March 17, 2016 at 1:20 PM PST
In the last 24 hours, Tushti has been more often awaken than asleep. Eyes open, sometimes tracking this world, sometimes seemingly in another.
She can still speak, and does so occasionally. Sometimes she is disoriented. At other times, fully aware.
The hospice nurse came and leaned over to greet Tushti. Tushti said softly, “How are you?” Exactly the right greeting for the nurse. She knew who it was and how to respond.
The nurse asked in return, “How are you?”
Tushti said, “I want to die.” Again, showing full awareness of what was happening to her.
She is doing exactly what she set out to do. Die consciously.
It is one month since Tushti made the decision to go into hospice, to give up trying to live and accept that she would die.
Given how strongly determined she was to heal herself of the cancer and continue to serve Master, it is no surprise that it is taking her some time to detach from that commitment.
The body continues to decline, and every day we feel that she is progressing in her detachment.
Whether it is her spirit gradually letting go, or the simple strength of her body which also takes time to let go, it is a process that can’t be hurried.
Both Willow and I have to leave tomorrow morning. She has pressing engagements that can’t be put off, and so do I.
I’ve been here most of a month, and my promise to Tushti has now come up against other promises I also have to keep. I explained it to her as carefully as I could, hoping that soul-to-soul she will understand.
Other commitments coincide with an inner feeling that it is the right time to leave, even if she is still in the body. Even if I am not here for the final moment of transition, I have kept the essence of my promise which was to help her through this journey.
It is divine timing that Willow also has to leave on the same day.
Tushti’s care is simpler now because she is so unmoving. Daiva and Gangamata are here to help Surendra, and others from the community can come in as needed.
In God’s plan I feel everything is happening as it should.
From: Daiva & Gangamata
Date: March 18, 2016
Stillness follows in the wake of Asha and Willow leaving for the airport. A timeless hush. Inwardness grows, and the blazing warmth of shared outer friendship quiets into the lasting glow of coals. Swami Kriyananda poetically reminds us of the truth behind these moments when he writes in the Astral Ascension Ceremony:
Dear Friend, Tushti.
You, who have gone before us, have entered a realm which our souls remember: A place of freedom, light, and laughter.
Take with you on your journey our blessings, and our love.
We shall miss you!
Our desire is not to hold you back, but only to tell you: Friend, we are yours; our love and support are ever yours, and our prayers for your highest happiness. We shall meet again! Once more we shall laugh together, rejoice together, and share in the joy of seeking Him!
Claim your soul’s freedom!
Bless all who ever harmed you, or ever wished you harm. Give them your love, and your prayer for their freedom in God.
Friend, cast from your heart all outward attachments! Realize that earthly goals, however shining, are but dreams:
God is the only Reality.
Burn your earthly desires in the fire of wisdom!
Burn earthly limitations in the blaze of inner freedom!
Burn earthly disappointments in the flames of spreading peace!
Burn earthly joys in the bonfire of divine bliss!
See your physical form as a discarded garment:
Clothed you now are in garments of radiant light!
O Free Soul!
See your past actions as scenes in a vast, unfolding tapestry. Feast not your gaze wistfully on episodes already finished, but look ahead!
New adventures await you—fresh, joyous victories as you advance toward perfect freedom!
And what of us, Friend, who love you and would be remembered by you? Behold us as threads of light in the tapestry of your life—threads which, through the magnet of soul-friendship, will appear ever and again, woven with increasing beauty as our hearts expand together in God’s love.
Divine Mother! receive this, Thy child.
Purify him/her in Thy perfect light and love.
Grant him/her eternal freedom in Thee!
Shannon, the hospice nurse who has been supporting this part of the journey for the last month, stopped by this morning briefly, noted some of the changes that are happening for Tushti’s body, and said that it cannot be more than hours now (though Tushti has walked to the door quite a few times over the last weeks only to return, at some point the body simply quits regardless of any other process going on). The quiet is entrancing, filled with richness…
Surendra hovers lovingly, supportively, quietly, prayerfully…offering tender touches and supportive gestures when appropriate.
To hitchhike on Asha’s caption, a friend of ours was want to depart with a joyful “TTFN," which we discovered meant “Ta-ta for now.”
In His love,daiva and gangamata
Date: March 18, 2016 at 6:24 AM PST
In India Tushti learned the Bengali way of saying “good-bye” — “Ta-ta.” For much of this month it was our exit line from the house. Many times I’ve said “Ta-ta” to Tushti, knowing there would soon be another, “Hello, Sunshine” to follow (Daiva’s favorite morning greeting).
This time, it seems, it is good-bye. Not to our soul friendship. For, as Swamiji writes so beautifully, “We shall meet again! Once more we shall laugh together, rejoice together, and share in the joy of seeking Him!”
Still, this particular lila is coming to an end. In an hour Willow and I will leave and return to our life as it was before we were swept up into this beautiful chapter. So this will be the last email from here.
Tushti closed her eyes in sleep yesterday afternoon and has been silent and unmoving since.
Many times during this month she has gone to the edge of Eternity and returned, sometimes fully and vibrantly to this world. So only God knows what will come next, and when. But the body is closing down more every day, and soon her soul will separate from it.
When that happens, Surendra will let me know and I will pass that news to all of you.
Master wept at the funeral of Sister Gyanamata. He had seen her merge into the Infinite Light forever, and still he was moved to tears as he contemplated the ending of their life together in that form.
And so do I. I will miss her.
And I will miss this household of friends, united in our one-pointed devotion to serving our soul-sister in these last weeks of her life.
She has been heroic in her steadfast determination to die with full-awareness of God, to face down every fear, every limitation, every attachment.
That work seems done. Her body is so small, still, and frail. She has become nothing but breath. Hong-Sau. “I am He.”
When she asked me to be with her when she left this world, I said, “I will if I can.” Meaning, “This is not a promise I can make. Only God can decide."
He has given me the privilege of walking with her though much of the journey and for that I am eternally grateful — to Tushti for inviting me, and to God for gracing me in this way.
“Go with Love, may joyful blessings, speed you safely on your way. May God’s Light expand within you. May we be one in that Light someday.”
Love in God and Gurus, always,
From: Daiva & Gangamata
Date: March 19, 2016
Greetings. It is near 9pm on Saturday, and Rose is here with us. There is so little to say. The last day and a half have been quiet, music playing, breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out…
There is so little of her body left, it is easy to forget that she is still fully Tushti, just having a different experience. She was more alert today than she has been over the last 48 hours, but it is now completely impossible for her to move her body - even opening her mouth a couple of millimeters is virtually beyond her. Just her eyelids and eyes - and they are expressive.
It is medically beyond imagining that this body could still host a soul, but each of us has our own story to live out, and everyone leaves in their own fashion, according to their own karma (or for those who have given their lives to God, according to His grace setting us free).
All here are grateful for your ongoing prayers. Please do be sure to include Surendra, as well as Tushti, as he bears the main freight of this process (beyond Tushti, of course).
In love and blessings,daiva and gangamata
From: Nayaswami Daiva Glazzard
Date: March 19, 2016 at 8:59:25 PM PDT
Greetings. It is near 9 p.m. on Saturday, and Rose is here with us. There is so little to say. The last day and a half have been quiet, music playing, breath in, breath out, breath in, breath out…
There is so little of her body left, it is easy to forget that she is still fully Tushti, just having a different experience. She was more alert today than she has been over the last forty-eight hours, but it is now completely impossible for her to move her body – even opening her mouth a couple of millimeters is virtually beyond her. Just her eyelids and eyes – and they are expressive.
It is medically beyond imagining that this body could still host a soul, but each of us has our own story to live out, and everyone leaves in their own fashion, according to their own karma (or for those who have given their lives to God, according to His grace setting us free).
All here are grateful for your ongoing prayers. Please do be sure to include Surendra, as well as Tushti, as he bears the main weight of this process (beyond Tushti, of course).
In love and blessings,
daiva and gangamata
From: Surendra Conti
Subject: Blessings abound
Date: March 20, 2016 at 12:59:12 PM PDT
Is it stranger that Tushti is still alive, or that we would imagine otherwise? The staying power of her life force is absolutely stunning. She is a shell with a heartbeat and barely discernible breath. But the beat goes on.
I am alone with her today, and every moment is dear. This is Sunday, and most of Laurelwood is at the Ananda temple for weekly services. Our living room is temple aplenty for us, imbued with a reverence that permeates every space within and around us.
I have ceased wondering when Tushti will leave this world. She is hardly a part of it now, and yet something of importance is holding her to a facet of it. We cannot know what that is, but we must honor its divine significance for as long as it prevails upon her consciousness.
With love and deepest gratitude...
From: Surendra Conti
Subject: Tushti has taken flight
Date: March 21, 2016 at 1:26:40 PM PDT
Softly, sweetly and serenely today, Tushti took leave of body and earth at 1:05 in the afternoon. She is soaring unfettered now, bound for glory, a being of light. Let us celebrate her passing as an inspiration, just as her life was ever that, for death is but a door to a higher incarnation. And let our tribute be that we strive to live as she: simply and purely from the heart.
"Go with love,
May joyful blessings,
Speed you safely on your way.
May God's light expand within you,
May we be one in that light someday."
Image by Lilly of Ananda Portland.
Song and lyrics by Swami Kriyananda.
From: Daiva Glazzard
Subject: Last melody
Date: March 21, 2016 at 1:40:35 PM PDT
Tushti was listening to the album “Song of the Nightingale” and the song playing as she took her last breaths was “When Thy Shining Foot Shall Pass.”
This music is by Swamiji, on the 75th quatrain by Omar in the Rubaiyat:
And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass
Among the Guests Star-scatter’d on the Grass,
And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot
Where I made one – turn down an empty Glass!
O devotee, the time will come when you, too, will lose your earthliness, to become the Infinite Light. Your soul will then soar through luminous astral regions. Beholding the material worlds, with their myriads of temporary guests, you will shower blessings on them all, and seek lovingly to awaken them through the silent whispers of their conscience.
When your soul’s limited joy becomes transformed into the limitless bliss of Spirit, its liberating chant will resound through countless responsive, truth-seeking hearts.
Ultimately, you will attain the vastness of omnipresence, where I myself, Omar, achieved Oneness with the Infinite. You, too, when you merge into pure Spirit, will turn down your glass of separate existence, emptied of ego-consciousness. Lo! your ego, then, will have vanished in the Infinite.
From: Surendra Conti
Subject: Photos of Tushti
Date: March 23, 2016 at 11:34:33 AM PDT
Most of you knew Tushti in just the last few years of her life. I thought you might like to see some photos of her that span the thirty-five years we were together. You will not find it hard to see how instantly it was to be in love with her.
I cannot say why Tushti was called away, except that she must have been very needed elsewhere. But in looking back on the last seven months, following her diagnosis and throughout her prolonged illness, I think I’ve begun to understand what this difficult ordeal was all about. Sitting at her bedside in the waning hours of her life, I could see the faces of the hundreds or more people she touched: nurses, doctors, aides and orderlies who would come to her hospital room un-summoned just to be in her warm, welcoming presence; devotees too numerous to number – some who had barely crossed her path – who remembered Tushti as one of the kindest, most loving friends in their lives; strangers whose day was brightened by a passing smile, and who would not forget it.
Tushti was on a divine assignment, which she performed perfectly simply by being herself. God was whispering in her ear to leave a peaceful and reassuring impression with everyone she met that “This is how you do it.” This is how you come to the end of your life, beautifully and bravely, your heart brimming with love no matter the pain and discomfort, no matter the silent wishing to have stayed on into healthy old age.
Tushti was at her finest in those seven months, a saint in the making. From her we learned how to die with grace. I have never known a time that I will cherish as much.
What a life it was. Thank you for being a part of it. May you know such love as I have known with her.
Here is the link to the astral ascension we held for Tushti in Portland. It's a treasure I will keep for as long as I live. Thank you for the beautiful services and remembrances you all held as well.
Blessings and joy to you...