She wore orange. Not a little orange. She’s all orange, from her sari to her socks. Orange socks! It was the kind of color that radiates, lively and happy, yet not overwhelming. Was it the color she wore that immediately had me transfixed? Or was it something else?
Ma Bhaskarananda walked through the doors of Miami Life Center and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was tiny. Smaller than I had imagined her to be. Older, but somehow radiating youth. She quietly set up her things at the front of the room. An easel with the sanskrit alphabet. A small harmonium. Her earmarked copy of the Bhagavad Gita. I sat quietly in the back and watched her, unable to grasp what was about to happen. I could have sat closer, but to be honest, I was a little nervous. This tiny old woman dressed in orange felt a bit like magic.
It was clear from the beginning that Ma Bha walked the walk. A Swami, meditation teacher, sanskrit and yoga philosophy scholar, she lived and taught at the Ananda Ashram in New York and many other places around the world. As great as those accomplishments were, that wasn’t what made her feel special to me. So what did?
She helped us to learn the Sanskrit alphabet and it’s pronunciations. She did so with childlike wonder and amazement, often laughing hysterically at the different sounds we’d make. When Ma Bha laughed, we laughed. Her laugh was truly the best… Big, loud, and full of joy. Sometimes I’d laugh until my stomach hurt, not even knowing what was funny.
She dove to the depths of the Bhagavad Gita and worked diligently to help shed light on its deep mystery. We sat on the floor for hours on end, repeating sounds and chanting ancient texts. Yet in my eyes, all of this was just the cover story for why Ma Bha was there in Miami.
I believe she was really there to bring love, under the guise of bringing yogic philosophy. Many of us were far away from family and friends, in a foreign city, embarking on a profound journey. It was hard. It was scary. It was definitely lonely at times. Yet with the arrival of Ma Bha, came the arrival of love.
She was always calm, comfortable, and alert. She was funny and brought lightness to philosophy. Her real life stories that coincided with her teachings were relatable, filled with wisdom and honesty. She brought tears to my eyes, laughter to my lungs, and love to my heart. Even though I was missing my family, Ma Bha made me feel as though I was exactly where I needed to be. All was going to be fine.
Ma Bha changed my life. Not because she did anything extravagant. Simply because she gave love to those she knew needed it. It’s an important lesson that I now take with me everywhere… Give love to those in need, give love to everyone. And I’ll admit, I was the one that fell asleep and snored through her daily meditations. What can I say? I was exhausted! Yet I’m pretty sure Ma Bha loved me anyway, snores and all.
Sadly, Ma Bha passed away in February of this year. For my birthday, a lovely student gave me a small harmonium. When I opened the gift and realized what it was, I cried. I cried because of my students thoughtfulness, and I cried in remembrance of Ma and the love she gave to me when it was so very needed.
Magic comes in small packages, dressed in orange socks.