Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Way of Grace
“Way of Grace” Book
T he seed idea for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Way of Grace came during Teacher Training in Forges-Les-Eaux, France, Christmas, 1992.
Our group had just gone to a room where we could practice speaking out our introductory talks. Someone came to the door and whispered to me, “Come, Gurudev wants to see you.” I left the group and followed.
When I entered the door, I saw Sri Sri sitting comfortably on a chair. The room felt very chilly.
“Don’t sit on the floor, it’s too cold,” he told me as I entered the room. I sat on a chair and immediately he handed me some photos, saying, “Here, these are for the book.”
We browsed through many photos, deciding which were good enough for publication. Of course I did not know what book Guruji was talking about. Later, he clarified that the photos were for the “the 10th Anniversary Book.” As a dutiful secretary, I took careful notes so that I could present them to the person in charge of this project.
I started to feel guilty about sitting on a chair (being taller, I had to look down as we talked). So I finally could not resist moving to the cold floor to sit at his feet, placing photos all over the floor into various piles as an excuse. (Next day I came down with a cold.)
Together, Guruji and I sat and searched for the very best photos. Unlike some devotees who might say that any photo of the Master is great, I found myself telling him that many of the photos were unusable or bland. I pointed out a lively one and said, “You see, it’s good when the photo has some …” — and then I stopped short.
“Character?” he asked, reading my mind and filling in the missing word that I was embarrassed to say. After all, I did not want to imply that any of the photos of him lacked character! We laughed, and this picture ended up in the photo gallery (fourth row, photo 4).
After our meeting, I asked people who was in charge of this “10th Anniversary Book.” No one seemed to know. After checking with many people who had been around Sri Sri for awhile, Shirley and I finally realized that Gurudev had wordlessly assigned this project to me. Now what to do?
A wintertime stroll with the Master, Forges-Les-Eaux, France, 1992
But we did not officially start on the book right away. We didn’t even have a clue what to write about.
We spent a lot of time travelling with Sri Sri in those days, and each time we would come home and start to feel settled, we found ourselves off again on a new adventure. Soon we realized we would have to do less jetting around — and more work!
As time marched on, we could no longer do a “10th Anniversary Book” — or even a “12th Anniversary Book” … so now what should we call it? …
The authors with Sri Sri, Lake Lucerne, Switzerland, 1997
What should we call the book?
Gary and I pondered on what the title of the book should be. We asked many people what they thought, too.
Finally, we found ourselves one summer at the Canadian Ashram, sitting with Guruji and a small group in his kutir.
“What should be the title of the book?” asked Guruji. “Come, let’s think…”
People started brainstorming. A lot of titles were called out, but none really had the right ring to it. Many were downright absurd. When some people started to vote for the title: “The Soapy Stairway to Heaven,” I knew we had entered Never-Never Land. (During a playful talk at Satsang the night before, Sri Sri had said that the stairway to heaven is soapy and slippery — sometimes you fall back, but with devotion and the Guru’s grace, you are certain to make it to the top.)
More and more titles kept coming, but together we could not agree on any of them.
Suddenly Guruji perked up and declared, “Well, then we’ll just have to call it the Hooga-Booga Book” We laughed ourselves to tears. How would Guruji know such a silly American term as “hooga-booga”? And his thick Indian accent made it even more preposterous.
Fast forward: Gary and I arrived in India in Autumn 1995 with our “almost finished” book in hand. One afternoon we went to Guruji’s kutir so we could show him the book, along with two possible covers.
With as straight a face as I could muster, I presented Guruji with both covers and asked him which one he preferred. The first cover was:
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Way of Grace
(the current title and cover that eventually went to press)
The second cover was:
The Hooga-Booga Book of Enlightenment:
Ascending the Soapy Stairway to Heaven
Guruji studied both covers a few moments.
“I think you go with the Hooga-Booga,” he said without flinching.
“Great,” I said, “I thought you’d like that one best.”
People in the room were dumbfounded. Some supported the idea. The room was all abuzz with commotion for a few moments, then suddenly everything became stone quiet. People started to squirm.
“There is no way,” Kevin finally declared. “You can’t put a book out like that!”
“Yes, you are right, maybe Lucy is copyrighted,” sighed Sri Sri.
“No problem,” I said, coming to the rescue, “We’ll get copyright permissions.”
“Very good,” said Sri Sri, with a twinkle in his eye. “Then it’s all settled.”
Now a few people looked worried. Tension was filling the air.
“No, you absolutely cannot put out a book like that,” insisted Kevin. “We would be a total laughingstock.”
Kevin is a real life best-selling author, and he knows about these things. So finally we abandoned the Hooga-Booga idea, and went with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: The Way of Grace, our “second choice.”
“Very good,” Sri Sri said to us.
“This treasure book will be around … forever.”
Gary and I worked on the book for two years during evenings, weekends, and other times as we could. Computers were a lot slower back then, and we had a lot of data to crunch. But the work was addictive, and hours, days, weeks, and months passed by while we stayed glued to our screens.
In January 1996, Sri Sri came to my home on the island of Kauai, Hawaii to give an Advanced Course. (90-some people squeezed into my living room for the course, and the house swelled to 130 for Satsang each evening.)
When Guruji arrived, the first copies of The Way of Grace were delivered to our door.
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