I wrote this poem in 2002 while living at the Self-Realization Fellowship Hidden Valley Ashram. The ashram has a residency program for men, allowing them to live as monks for up to two years without taking formal monastic vows. I lived there for 18 months, and it was one of the most spiritually formative periods of my life.

After living at the ashram for at least a year, residents are allowed the opportunity to take a nine-day private retreat in the Anza-Borrego desert. On this retreat, I fasted on fresh-squeezed orange juice and almonds, did haṭha yoga twice a day, sang kirtan, and meditated for hours.

It was in the middle of this nine-day retreat — saturated with the tangible presence of the divine — that I wrote this poem. I was reflecting on the selfless compassion of the sadguru, who willingly reincarnates to this world of darkness and suffering in order to guide others toward the light. In my guru’s own words: “Crossing a million crags of suffering, with bleeding feet, I will come — if need be, a trillion times — as long as I know that one stray brother is left behind.”

I have nothing to offer you
And you have naught to gain,
Yet you have come to hell for me
Time and time again.

You say the only thing God wants
Is the Love Divine that’s deep inside
Yet oftentimes I feel it not
It is buried under greed and pride.

And for reasons I could not hope to fathom
You donned these prisoner’s clothes
To live amongst the thorny weeds
As a luminescent rose.

You came of your own free-chosen will
To the land where Suffering is sovereign lord,
To slay that tyrant, sure and true
With invincible, meditative sword.

You have brought with you the master key
To unlock the shackles round our souls,
And return us to from whence we came:
The Eternally-Undivided-Whole.

“Sit still and breathe.” Is that all it takes
To find lasting peace within?
To loose the knots that keep us bound
To this painful world we’re in?

So simple, yet difficult a task
To pay attention to the breath
Yet therein lies the power for
To make a slave of Mighty Death.

Such boundless Love you have displayed
In returning solely for my soul’s sake!
Comforting, preventing my becoming dismayed
As I struggle from deepest slumber to wake.

My tongue knows not words enough
To tell thanks of the soul you came to save
So I touch your feet ten billion times
My friend, my treasure, my beloved Gurudev