In February 1972, my Sufi teacher, Moineddin, and fifteen of his students were eating dinner at the Kyber Pass Restaurant, a Middle-Eastern place either in Berkeley or Oakland. Ever since I had taken initiation the previous November, I had been dreaming of receiving a new name to replace Rita. So when Moineddin turned to me and said he’d gotten a name, I felt a shot of electricity. Finally I would be done with my birth name that never felt right!
“It’s Amrita,” he said. “It comes from Sanskrit, and means ‘Divine Nectar.’” Then he turned to the larger group and chuckling, added, “I love a pun.”
My insides felt pasted together. Amrita. I’d wanted to get rid of my name so badly, it was given right back. My expression must have reflected my disappointment, because he raised his eyebrows. “You don’t have to accept it.”
Reject the name my teacher had bestowed? Not something I could do.
It took three years for me to learn to love the name. Often I was asked what it meant. It felt awkward to say “divine nectar”—people generally had some kind of reaction–but a few years later, I heard amrita translated as “living water.” That worked.
Pir Moineddin died in 2001. In 2008, the non-dual teachings exploded into my life. I was glad that my Sufi teacher had already passed away; he was an honorable and wonderful guide for thirty years … but I would have left him in order to delve into what I knew in my bones was a deeper truth.
I asked Elias Amidon, who introduced the non-dual view to me, for some books to read. He first suggested titles by Jean Klein, which I devoured. A few months later, I asked for a more expanded reading list. He offered some Dzogchen texts translated by Keith Dowman. He knew these texts would keep me busy for a long time. Somewhere in the middle of the first text, Dowman mentioned the word amrita, and translated it as “the one taste.”
The one taste of everything.
A resonance of ease opened deep inside, and I gave quiet thanks to Moineddin.
© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2014
photo credit: Panhala Poetry