The Impossible Made Possible
In 1989 Swamiji was visiting the east coast of America. My friend, Mr. Will, and I had been faithfully following Swamiji around in New York and Boston to attend his mediation programs. Will had also arranged for a meditation program in Upstate New York and we offered to drive Swamiji and his interpreter, Mr. Singh to the program. It was a long drive and the next day after this event, Swamiji was scheduled to immediately go back to New York City to catch a flight back to India.
Mr. Will honored all authentic gurus and masters but he was very interested in Amachi – the hugging saint. Before offering to drive Swamiji, Mr. Will had secured us a place at an Amachi retreat in New Hampshire the next day after Swamiji’s program. After Swamiji’s meditation program that night, we went back to the house where we were staying with Swamiji and Mr. Will broke the news to me that it would be impossible to drive Swamiji back to the NYC airport the next day and still make it to the start of the retreat. So he said that in the morning we would have to say our goodbyes and go directly to the Amachi retreat in New Hampshire.
Unfortunately I had become attached to the idea of going to the airport with Swamiji, I wanted to spend as much time as possible with him before he left the country. So while Swamiji was resting upstairs, I tried to argue the point that Swamiji was expecting us to go with him to the New York City airport - so we had to go and then afterwards we could to the retreat. But true to his name, Mr. Will had a very strong will and would not budge. I was very disappointed.
However, just minutes after our conversation, Mr. Singh, came down from Swamiji’s room and announced: "Swamiji wants you and Mr. Will to go with him to the airport tomorrow, he has something he needs you to get on the plane." I looked at Mr. Will with a smile as if to say "Checkmate". Mr. Will looked back at me and smiled knowing that he had just been out maneuvered by Swamiji.
It turned out the "something" Swamiji needed us to get on the plane was a massive motorized massage table given to him by American devotees. Some devotees had brought the table to the program and it was so big that it extended several feet out of the back of their vehicle. It also turned out that the airline, British Airways, had already told them that it was not possible to check the bulky message table on the plane as baggage and that it would have to be taken to a cargo company and shipped separately.
The next day a caravan of cars set off for the airport. Our car followed immediately behind the one with the massage table precariously hanging from the backend. During the long drive I was forced to look at the monster table bobbing up and down as it speed down the highway directly in front of us. All the while, I kept remembering that the airline had already said no to this outrageous idea. I could not see how we could get them to change their decision. The closer we got to the airport the more impossible the task seemed. I did not want disappoint Swamiji, but I though I should at least mention the obvious. So, when we reached the airport I introduced the idea of failure by saying: "Swamiji, this massage table is so much bigger than is allowable as baggage that it may not be possible to take it with you."
Swamiji replied blandly: "You and Mr. Will can get it on the plane."
Still I was not so sure it was going to happen. At the airport, the devotees wrestled the table from the car. It was so big that we had to unsteadily set in on top of two luggage carts just to move it. Once inside the terminal we got in the check-in line and prepare to make our case to the airline agents. I tried to come up with a convincing argument to justify checking in a freight item as regular baggage but could not.
To help with this impossible task, one devotee who was traveling on to India with Swamiji had gotten a letter from a psychiatrist saying she needed the massage table for her health. I looked at the letter, then at the colorful group of eastern and western devotees trying to stabilize the cumbersome table on the carts and shook my head. I again thought this is going to be impossible. I looked up to see Swamiji watching and obviously amused at the drama.
After loosing control of the table and luggage carts a couple of times we finally reached the agent and we went into a group plea to let us check the table as baggage. The request was so over-the-top the British Airways check-in agent had not idea what to do and summoned a superior by phone.
Soon a door opened and a senior British Air official came marching out with a purposeful stride. In a voice that sounded strangely like a combination of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and my grade school mathematics teacher she declared with force: "We have been warned you would try to get this on the plane. You were told you that it was not possible to check an item of this size as baggage and that you would have to go to a cargo company and ship it on a separate plane."
We tried to argue but all of our attempts at persuading her to bend the rules just once had zero affect on her adamant will. So as a last resort we pulled out the letter from the psychiatrist and handed it to her. She looked at the letter and then fixed her eyes on us. It was at this point that I had the distinct impression she thought we all needed a psychiatrist. For an eternal moment she looked at us, we looked at her and from across the room a smiling Swamiji watched us all.
Finally she broke her silent stare and unexpectedly declared: "Alright we will take it this time, but don’t ever try this again." Immediately she opened a door in the ticket counter wall to reveal a luggage conveyer belt. The table was quickly tagged and in a one seamless movement, slid off the luggage carts on to the moving conveyor belt and completely disappeared deep into the building.
The emotional weight of the situation instantly transformed into uplifting joy. I glanced over to see Swamiji, beaming his infectious smile at us, looking very much like the master puppeteer pulling the strings of events from behind scenes. And I realized that what seemed impossible was easily possible for Swamiji. It was an experience that began to open my eyes to who and what Swamiji really was, and it provided a glimpse in to what was possible for him.