At the ARMA Museum

We are in Bali this month and today, February 2nd, is Subarata’s birth date. Subarata the avid shopper needed no encouragement in responding to the soul’s-day custom of offering prasad, though now the mantle of responsibility has fallen upon my less zealous shoulders. Happily, some of her friends will help me out. Birthdays and other observances were, to her, joyous events to which she brought her full attention and her generous heart, enlivening them with her enthusiasm and her wholeheartedness, and always more than compensating for my own failure to ignite.

Today, at the ARMA Museum in Ubud, we gather around Guru’s statue, a sacred space that kindles many memories. Taking turns, we kneel momentarily before the larger-than-life bronze likeness with our private thoughts or prayers or feelings. There is a solemnity here, a piety generated by the presence of 200 souls and the atmosphere of sanctity.

The loss of those we love always leaves a gap, a vacuum, and time does not bring consolation – only distractions, diversions, the additions and repetitions of days to veil the empty spaces, the trapdoors of sorrow that might lie waiting. And how we miss them as they appear, then disappear from our lives, those who brought the promise – then only the memory – of some elusive happiness.

Yet here, even in bronze, Guru makes your heart skip. He was like a father to our souls, always summoning the best from us and reminding us to be exemplary. With him we were and we are more truly ourselves, more conscious, more spiritual and evolved. Guru was also the exemplar of the eternal union and consolation of oneness with God, that hidden quest behind human relationships and of which most human relationships are only a reflection.

Statues often memorialize a person’s life, distancing him into myth and history. At Ubud, though, Guru’s statue has somehow become invested with his own livingness, as though Guru himself has charged his bronze likeness with a singular force or consciousness. And where there is faith and devotion and prayer, physical objects always become imbued with life and spirit.

My turn before the statue comes and I bend one creaky knee, look up. Guru is looking past me at another, and I find myself wondering if Subarata has joined us at the statue today. I must remember to buy prasad this day in her memory.