I'm standing in a line of Rama's students, in the center aisle of a large hotel meeting room in Westchester county. This room has probably been used for everything from sales conferences to Bar Mitzvahs, but I'll bet it's never seen anything like tonight! The hall is decorated with Tibetan thangkas, multi-colored balloons, and more flowers than you could shake a prayer wheel at. The line advances slowly, as each student steps up to Rama and stands face-to-face with him.
The ceremony is an initiation — we are becoming monks. As each student approaches, Rama places his hand on the student's forehead, holds it there for a few seconds, and then gives the student a flower. The student walks off, and the next steps up. Simple. Elegant. Efficient. But the straightforward actions don't explain the glow on the face of each student as he or she walks off. Each person looks changed in some way, transformed as a result of the interaction. You can see it in their faces.
On the previous two nights of the Seminar, Rama has spoken about this initiation and its significance, and has offered each of us the opportunity to bail out if we don't want to go through with it. He is completely serious — we are leaving our previous lives behind, becoming monks in no less a sense than if we were shaving our heads and donning ochre robes. With this initiation, we are being placed on the short path to enlightenment, and he wants to make sure we know that it is an irrevocable act.
Rama completes the ceremony for the student in front of me in line. It's my turn. I consider once more the term 'irrevocable act,' then step up to him and smile. Rama reaches out and gently places his palm on my forehead. I notice that his hand is warm, but then remember that I am supposed to be stilling my mind, so I push the thought away. The lights in the room seem too bright, so I close my eyes and suddenly find myself in an even brighter world.
This world seems to be a parallel dimension to the one in which I am being initiated. In the outer world, Rama is lightly touching my forehead; in the inner world, it is as if he has plugged some enormous cable into a socket in my third eye. The instant I am 'jacked in' to this inner network, light begins to flow through the 'cable.' It is really quite awesome — I feel as if I am standing in the center of some enormous tunnel, feeling a river of light wash over me, wave after wave, like the visual effects from 2001, flooding my being with energy, dissolving my self in light.
After a while — who can tell how long? — Rama removes his hand from my forehead. I open my eyes and look at him. He smiles, then turns to a vase of flowers on his left. I look at the flowers, too dazed to do anything but revel in their beauty, and one particular pink rose captures my attention. Rama reaches for it, pulls it from the vase, and hands it to me. I bow briefly, then walk off to the left. Now I understand the glow on the faces of the other people. We are no longer people; we are monks, and the glow comes from an inner connection to an eternal river of light.