|Off to India!
And so I rode the comet around the sun, spending the fiery hours of
its perihelion rounding half the earth to arrive in India on the 28th of December. There
was bad weather in Delhi and so we were forced to land Bombay instead. The airline was
gracious enough to put us up in a hotel overnight, and then fly us to Delhi in the
While going through the hassle at customs, suddenly an
Indian sanyasi, who had preceded me through the line, struck up a conversation. He had a
warm joyful face and seemed full of love. He inquired about my journey and I told him
something of my interests. To my astonishment it turned out that he was acquainted with
Vimala. It seemed an auspicious omen for this arrival, to be standing there in the airport
chaos speaking of higher things.
Like a child might bring forth his teddy bear for a
stranger to meet I eagerly brought out my picture of Ramakrishna from its brown plastic
case and held it up for him to see, as if therein the whole purpose and reason for my
journey should be plain for anyone to see. When the sanyasi saw the Master's portrait he
lit up with joy saying, "Oh, that sweet boy, I feel as if I could just kiss
him!" Whereupon he touched the picture to his head and then kissed it. I was
delighted! It seemed an auspicious sign to me.
The sanyasin told me: "Religion should be a thing of
joy, singing, dancing! Our Indian yogis have a tendency to be too somber and stern. They
scare people away from the path to God rather than attracting them!"
The earmark of a true man of God, he said, is that he is
happy and joyous. Then he embraced and kissed me when he left, and wished me well on my
journey. The whole incident was a Godsend. It lifted my mind above the anxiety I had been
feeling over the mere material difficulties of customs, and it made me feel as if, by
chance or fate, India Herself had sent a holy man to welcome me to her ancient soil. For
some reason I have always felt my heart quicken and my spirits lift whenever I see the
ochre robes of a sanyasi, and this timely coincidence made me happy.
I managed to get to the hotel that the airline had
designated and took a much needed shower and put on clean clothes. It was a simple room
and I was exhausted. I carefully set up the picture of Ramakrishna on the desk and sat
down before it with my guitar and sang my prayers to it, to my heart's content. Did I
succeed in bringing my sweet friend to India? Or did he bring me? I wept with gladness.
How my heart had been aching to return to India! And now I was here! The picture seemed to
shine. I was thankful. I lapsed into a coma of deep sleep, exhausted from the plane flight
and from these weeks of anticipation.
Later I would write to Glenn:
Masters picture just seems to glow
lately. India suits Him just fine. I am glad He let me accompany Him on this homecoming!
Thats how it really is! The picture brought me! Am I crazy? Beautiful madness! What
a funny universe. God sure knows how to play neat games! Makes his devotees follow a
cardboard picture around the dream globe in pursuit of what is already inside their own
hearts; what a silly boy! I just dont care anymore. I love his beautiful glowing
face. He wins every time! I always wind up at his feet saying, "I give up, Uncle,
Uncle!" And he says lets play again. I love him. He is my own. The more I can
love Him, through His good grace, the more I cast myself to the winds. How terrible to get
all stern and rough with willful austerity. How beautiful just to follow the hearts
ache and call to its loves source. Do you know what is happening? Just what Marvin
said - Im starting to tune into this great wide open nuthouse for lovers called
India did not strike me as I thought it would. This was to
be a journey quite different from my previous one. There was not the sense of exotic
adventure there had been the first time and I felt more at home. All the strange sights of
Indian culture which had so enthralled me and captivated my senses in 1971 now seemed much
more ordinary and familiar. I felt more at home this time. This time my mind was fixed
like a radar beacon toward the unknown object of my quest, the old man in Calcutta to
which Athena had directed me. Somehow I trusted completely that a benevolent destiny was
guiding me, and my obsession to follow that destiny made the sights and sounds around me
fade into a dreamlike chimera, in the midst of which my portrait of Ramakrishna seemed the
one single real and shining factor.
I left the next day for Delhi and arrived to be caught up
in a typical Indian hassle over baggage that was incredible. There were several hundred
people pushing and shoving each other for well over an hour in a room hardly large enough
to hold them all. I thought, what beasts we become when the security of our trifling
possessions is even imagined to be threatened! I bore this agonizing madness until my own
things turned up and left for the city of Delhi. Since it was Saturday evening there was
no chance of getting my ticket to Calcutta. So I looked for a place to stay.
First I went to a place called the Kali Temple Guest
House, but there was no room. I finally wound up at a place called the Nataraj Hotel, in a
clean but windowless room, and in which, during the next two days, a curious suffering was
to overtake me. It was a period of waiting.
I had no desire to go sightseeing Delhi. It is not my
favorite Indian city and I had seen more of it than I wanted to in 1971. A strange kind of
weariness began to creep over me that night and the following day. It was an exhaustion
which seemed to reach into the depths of my being.
Also, an infection in my tonsils started up and worsened
steadily. It was no doubt a reaction to a severe canker sore which had taken root in the
left lower side of my mouth. This was a very bad mouth sore, worse than any I had ever
had, and it gradually became a gaping, open wound, quite painful, and a source of worry to
my mind. Maybe it's cancer, I started to think, lonely and forlorn. The beginning of the
Was my health to break down altogether so close to my
destination? My mood became very low. Even so, in my quest I was undaunted, despite this
increasing depression. Most definitely I would pursue my madness to its inevitable
conclusion, whether it be victory or failure or even death, yet I was starting to feel a
little forlorn and lost. Actually it was a kind of death that I experienced during those
seemingly endless two days in Delhi. It slowly dawned on me that everything had been
sacrificed this time. I had burned my bridges and come away completely. I had risked all
this time on a compulsive whim derived from the words of a sage. Was I amiss? How bitterly
I wept and wept! I suddenly saw that I had given so much of myself to this one desire, to
find the Son of God, that I no longer cared in the least whether I lived or died, so long
as I might behold His sweet living face just once.
"If it is your will that that I die, O Lord, I don't
care any more. Only let me see you first." My physical state was such that death was
not an unlikely consideration to my mind. There, in the little chamber of my room at the
Nataraj Hotel, my past seemed to get discarded. My eyes got glued to the photo of my
Master. Oh! how I wept, like a child, filled with a love's ache that knows no cure save
the beloved Himself. All thought of going anywhere else than Calcutta faded completely. To
get to that Baba was my only thought. Was he my Ramakrishna? Athena's few and cryptic
words went through my brain again and again.
"For me he is just like a Ramakrishna," she had
"He is not an ordinary man."
"Ever since I was little I had wanted to see this
kind of being."
Somehow I held out. A deep faith burned in my heart that I
was being led by the hand of a higher intelligence, and that if I had actually managed,
whether by madness of longing, or by any other means, in surrendering my life at God's
feet, then all would be well. Gazing at the beauty in my Master's eyes gave me solace to
I finally was able to purchase my ticket to Calcutta on
December 31st, to depart that very night, on the threshold of a new year, and, as I later
learned, on the slowest and worst possible train, a mail train which stopped at
practically every station. I did not much care, for I have always loved being on trains.
January 1, 1974
I awoke on the train and a fellow traveler in my
compartment greeted me with the words: "Happy New Year!" I suddenly remembered
that it was New Year's Day. I am alone and traveling to Calcutta on the first day of a new
year. Or was it the first day of a new life?
The mouth pain is worse. When the train comes to Varanasi
(Benares), the ancient city so sacred to Lord Shiva, we have to detrain briefly because of
some trouble with the car. For me this delay is a boon since I get a chance to stand on
holy ground, even if it is just the train station.
Once we are moving again we pass over the river Ganges and
I sing quietly to myself. I feel a sweet homecoming feeling. I look at Ramakrishna
occasionally, and am reading a book called Spiritual Talks by one of his disciples. I feel
an utter abandonment to fate and destiny. Everything is just happening and I am doing
nothing at all.
At night the car fills up with adolescent boys, local
travelers sneaking into the first class cars for a short ride. They are crowded into our
compartment, and seeing my guitar, they want me to sing. I startle them and silence the
car by pulling out the guitar and singing in a couple of songs in Hindi! They are
astonished and cheer me on. Night comes again and the train rolls on.
On the train to Calcutta I feel a sense of coming home as
we come into the more tropical area of Bengal. The air is moist and there are more palm
trees and other greenery. I stand in the doorway of the train wondering if it is true that
I was here before. Am I coming "back home," I wonder?
I reach Calcutta on January 2nd at 5pm in Sealdeah
station. I try to ring up the number for Jiten which Athena had given me, but it is too
late. He has gone home. I pick a rickshaw driver from the many which confront me and I
tell him I want a cheap hotel. He takes me to the "Hippie" district near the New
Market and I stay at the Paragon Hotel. It is another simple windowless room.
The next day I go to meet Jiten at his place of work:
Howrah Station. I have to wait for him for some time in the upper booking office. Jiten
immediately takes off work for the day and takes me to his home. It is now January 3rd.
On the rickshaw ride to Jiten's from the Chandernagore
train station I finally can relax, feeling myself to be in good hands. I get all
surrounded by a beautiful golden light.
Jiten startles me somewhat by telling me a story. He tells
me how Baba had told him many years ago that a young man would come from America one day,
and that Baba had requested Jiten to take him into his house as one of his own family. I
am amazed. Did this Baba know so many years back that I would come?
At Jiten's house I meet my new family, Jiten's wife, three
sons and a daughter. Also staying there was Jiten's father in law "Dadu," and
his sister in law Miru. My three new little "brothers" are enthralled to have a
new American "brother." That very first night I learn my first word of Bengali:
"prajapati," meaning "butterfly." I was wearing a tee shirt with a
butterfly design on the front.
I spend the day of the 4th with my new "family"
and begin to learn the customs. They have all set up a table for me to eat at, with chair
and silverware. After one or two times of this I feel uncomfortable and from then on sit
on the floor with everyone else. I feel I do not want any special status and I want to be
among them all. It makes them laugh and they seem to understand in a happy way.
I would write to Glenn:
I have been taken in for the last two weeks
by a family of devotees of Babe and have been surrounded by very much love and care. It
seems that Baba has been expecting me for two years now and even mentioned to one devotee
several days before I came " He is coming now - He has started." I guess I will
not really be able to explain until I come back - if even then. When we really cry and
weep unto God, as Master said, the Lord cannot help but hear our prayers. And He is so
kind when he feels those tears that He speeds us along as best you can. And as Baba
advised me most correctly, "Dont show those tears to anyone. That is for God,
not anyone else. That is the water God drinks."
I Meet Baba for the First Time
On January 5, 1974 we take the train to the ashram. Two
trains actually, for we have to switch rail lines. At the ashram they show me how to wash
my feet and hands at the pump. This is the normal custom when going anywhere. The ashram
is small and unpretentious. We go into the main building, the Kali temple, and I see a
short man with long white hair sitting in worship before the image of the goddess. I can
but see the back of his head as he worships there.
After some time, the worship is finished and this small
man turns and smiles at me. His face is beautiful and radiant. Beaming with light he says,
in broken English: "Thank you! One God, very much!" He repeats it again,
pointing upward on the word "God" and putting his hands together in pranam on
the words "very much!"
We all go into a room to the side of the temple which is
Baba's own room. We sit in a circle and have tea and cookies, or "biscuits" as
they call them. I am facing Baba and I notice that he is in a very happy mood, abstracted,
After tea is taken I give Baba the cassette tape recorder
which Athena had sent with me. I reach over and push the record button. I am amazed that
he just seems to fall into a kind of automatic speech, the words just start to flow. I am
watching entranced as he goes into an exalted state, eyes half closed, mind concentrated.
He starts calling me by the name "Premananda" at this point, although it later
becomes clear that he has been calling me Premananda for a long time from afar. I hear him
saying my name on the tape recording and I long to know what he is saying about me. He is
talking about Premamayi as well. I believe this to be the first occasion of his speech
I cannot understand the Bengali of course, but I later
find out his first words translate to something like this: "I am a beggar. A beggar
and a sadhu. So it is not correct for me to keep such an expensive gift in my ashram. I
will ask a disciple to keep it and when it is needed I can call for it."
As it turned out, he kept it anyway, under my supervision.
Also on that first tape was the story of how Premamayi
went through many hardships and difficulties to be with Baba on one of her visits. She had
arrived in Ramanathpur only to find that Baba had gone to his birthplace for his yearly
worship there in honor of his father. It is a very remote place and the weather was very
bad, torrential rain, mud everywhere. Baba told how her faith was so great she insisted on
going there at once and would not turn back. This was great devotion and faith in guru, he
said. "Guru-God, God-Guru."
One of the disciples excitedly tells me that Baba had said
some few days before "Premananda has left America now." It was odd because I had
sent no telegram or letter indicating I was coming.
After our tea there is some banter. Baba is jokingly
telling the devotees that now that I am here he will go off with me to South India. The
worries about the festival are bothering him he says. I do not fully realize he is joking.
He is asking me, through the others, if I would accompany him to South India. I say yes,
of course, and he is pleased, like a child.
He goes outside and shows me around the ashram. He is in
some kind of deepening ecstatic state. Something happens as I am walking with him across
the front of the temple. I look at him and see he is swimming deeply into himself. He
seems to be imploding in some way, in some kind of ecstasy. His eyes are squinted almost
closed in a kind of inward smile.
When the time comes to leave Baba insists on seeing us
part of the way. Jiten and the others keep telling him that is enough, he should go back
now, but he keeps insisting on seeing us a bit further along the path. When we come to a
turn where we will head off across the rice fields he still wants to come, but the
disciples get firm and insist that he go back to the ashram now. I am very deeply touched
to see his attachment to me after our first and only meeting so far. Why does he seem to
love me so much at first sight?
First Dream of Baba
Jan 6 early AM.
That night I went to sleep at Jiten's in the room that
Jiten had built for Baba. I was pleased that I could stay in this room where Baba had
stayed. I had set up a little altar in the corner with my picture of Ramakrishna and
Vivekananda and Sarada Devi. I sat before it and looked about in wonder.
Where was I? I had crazily risked all, wandered off to
Calcutta, and now I was amazed that I was suddenly so well looked-after here in a loving
home with strangers who called themselves my "family." Was it true, the old
saying, that if the disciple can just take one genuine step toward God, God takes a
thousand steps toward him?
That night I had an intense and visionary dream. In it, I
found myself running in a vague kind of misty place. There was a very fine light all
around, and some sort of white fog, and the place had no other features, really, except
that it sloped gently up and up, as if it were a kind of hill. I had the feeling of being
a young child, and in my hand I was carrying my precious picture of Ramakrishna.
I was eagerly running toward what I sensed was my mother,
that she was up this hill, that I would run to her and show her this wonderful picture I
had gotten. It was not exactly my earthly mother, however, to which I ran, but some
general motherly presence. I did not, in the dream, think "Divine Mother," yet
it was that kind of great, all-pervading entity. And like any child runs to its mother to
show some treasure it has stumbled across, I wanted to show this picture I had gotten,
this portrait of a wonderful being.
As I came kind of breathlessly, excited, to the top of
this hill, I felt the presence of my "Mother" very intimately there. I could
almost see her face. I showed the picture, overflowing with childish enthusiasm.
"Look!" I exclaimed. "Look, how beautiful! It's a picture of God! Look, he
is my very own friend! " No one could fully appreciate my love of this picture, or
how it had so changed and influenced my life, but this Mother being, who seemed somehow
all-pervading in that white hill-top place, could, I knew it, and I so wanted to share
this treasure. I communicated in a sort of telepathic way with her.
She looked on me kindly and lovingly, silently smiling.
The love I had was what she saw. As I showed her this picture, and communicated my belief
that it was really a picture of God, she paused a moment, as if to gather my attention to
herself, and then she kind of made a gesture with her being, a kind of sweep of the arm,
without an actual arm, and she took my full awareness and turned it, and aimed it, and her
mental "voice" simply seemed to say, "Yes my child, I know. But now
behold!" And she revealed before my mind's eyes a vision that played out like a film
in front of me.
My hand with the picture fell to my side, nearly
forgotten, as I was suddenly watching this scene playing, in perfect crisp detail, before
me. And it was a film, simply, of a tiny portion of what had happened that day. The scene
was of Baba walking across the Ashram grounds as he was showing me around. From this vague
white fog-like place I was suddenly there again, back at the ashram, just beholding Baba
as he walked around with me in his ecstasy. And I was able to see into this picture, to
see it more carefully and slowly than I had when it had actually happened. It was
literally as if the Mother were replaying my own event to me, giving me a second chance to
see it again, to see it deeply.
I saw that Baba was walking in this outer world, but he
was completely inner somehow. He was flowing inward in a kind of constant stream. He was
kind of leading me around the front "yard" of the temple. He was looking around
for things to show me. He was bubbling over, like he wanted to show me everything at once,
excited, like a child. But what was there to show?
He seemed to be looking around almost desperately for
something to share with me. He wanted to make it all mine. But what was there? He saw some
flowers that were growing near the temple. Just some simple flowers. He showed them to me
as if saying, well, here are these flowers! You see, we have all this, we have these
flowers here! And then, all of a sudden embarrassed, he was laughing sheepishly, like a
drunken man who begins to realize how drunk he is, he was saying, what am I talking about!
You are from a great, rich country, you have been all over the world, and I am showing you
these flowers! (What must you think of me?)
And he was intoxicated! He was so much in bliss he seemed
not to quite know what he was doing. He stumbled on, laughing, with me in tow, looking
further than the flowers, as if there must be something here! Over in the side yard he
showed me where they had dug these pits. He made me to understand that they would do the
cooking for the festival over these pits, He gestured to the whole place and looked at me
lovingly. He kind of gave up at that point. In his look he communicated what he wanted to
say. His eyes said, well, I guess there isn't really much to actually show you at all,
this is really just a run-down place with nothing much here at all!
The whole place seemed to turn and revolve around his
bliss. I was awestruck. He seemed to have scooped me up in those moments and gathered me
into his heart.
The movie kind of flickered and was rerunning from the
point of Baba walking across the front of the ashram, flowing inward, absorbed in the
intoxication of love. I saw him again, eyes twinkling, nearly closed.
Watching him, a huge and intense wave of feeling swelled
and threw me forcibly and abruptly into a waking state. I had been on the verge of weeping
in the "dream" and I instantly awoke, weeping. I did not have the usual feeling
of having been dreaming. I wept uncontrollably, sobbing. I do not know what I was crying
about. I had gone running to the Mother to show her my picture of Ramakrishna and she had
smiled and swept her arm and said "behold!" And I had beheld as she played back
to me her picture.
I woke from the dream in a flash and the vision had seemed
more real than the waking state, and I knew for certain that it had not been an ordinary
dream, but rather a dream vision inspired by forces beyond my ken. I cried and cried for a
very long time with all the feelings in me which the dream had inspired.
From the moment of that dream I knew it was a sign not to
go anywhere else, but to stay with Baba. It was so powerful in this way. I was searching
for the reincarnation of Sri Ramakrishna after all, but the dream said very clearly to
stay with Baba.
I could see he was overwhelmed with love for me, himself
like a little child without the slightest trace of pretension.
That night I wrote a poem about Baba:
Eyes twinkling with sweet madness of love,
Madness divine, eyes wet with love's
pure tears, eyes on fire with the Mother's light,
Tears sparkling in the brilliant sun,
Son of love, Mother of All, All-in-One!
Precious Hari! My own sweet one!
My own! Source of my love
to whom my love returns,
My Hari sweet one, come to me!
Later Jiten would return from the ashram and tell be that
Baba had been sleepless that night at the time of my dream. He had been yearning to see me
again and calling for me. This stupified me. Was this not exactly how Ramakrishna himself
responded to his disciples?
Some time with my new family
I spend the next day getting used to Bengal. The bustle of
family life is comforting, and I get to know these wonderful people in whose care I have
Immediately I start to learn the language. Nine year old
Titu brings me his simplest school books which show how to make the letters of the Bengali
alphabet. Titu is all encouragement and a patient teacher, praising me when I am correct,
correcting me gently when I am not.
At other times I have wonderful conversations with Dadu,
Jiten's wife's father who is staying some months with them. He has very good English and
is always wanting to discuss spiritual things. He says, for example: "Man cannot see
God directly, but he can see Son of God." And in other statements he indicates that
Baba is just such a "Son of God." I love talking to him. His humility is
complete and he is kind and gentle in all things.
Later at night I go to sleep and have another dream of
Baba. This one is disturbing and I awake crying and weeping like a baby.
Second dream of Baba
The very night after my first ecstatic dream of Baba I had
another one, this time frightening and sad. In my dream I am aware that it is Calcutta in
the future. The city is at war or at least some kind of emergency since there are soldiers
all around. With the help of some soldiers I am taken to a guarded hotel and given a room.
It is far enough in the future that I am aware that Baba has passed away by now. I feel
forlorn and uncertain. I go out on the balcony of my room and gaze down at the chaotic
flow of people in the street below.
Suddenly I notice one old man who reminds me of Dadu. Of
all the people in the street he turns and looks up at me directly. He points his finger at
me on the balcony above and clearly says the following words: "Now it is only God
himself who can help you"
I write to Glenn:
When I realized that Baba knew I was coming
long before I knew about Baba I realized how small our ideas are about our
"will". I had full realization that the important things are already set,
written, and we puppets only go about acting our parts with the silly notion that we are
in control. If we had full faith in the Author we would have much less trouble with our
lines. Mother, in response to my tears, has brought me to the feet of my guru, and all I
can do is wait to see what she wants me to do, for she knows now what I really want.
Second Darshan with Baba
On the 8th or 9th I had my second darshan.
On the 11th I went with Jiten and Miru to Dakshineswar for
the first time. We wandered about visiting the many temples at this famous site. I was
thrilled and impressed to see for myself this place which I had read so much about in
books. At last it became time to visit Ramakrishna's own room. It was in this room that so
much occurred that is written about in M.'s book The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
I saw the bed where he used to sit, the pictures along the
walls that he used to look at and pray to. There were the shoes that he wore. Everything
had been kept as nearly as possible in the way it was when he was alive. Worship of his
picture was done every day.
After a few minutes in his room I suddenly became
overwhelmed. It struck that he had been here and that he was still here. I began to
hyperventilate as the whole power of it hit my heart. My body began to feel numb. My mind
was rushing to the feet in the picture of him that sat atop the bed where he used to sit.
I felt faint, as if I would fall over. The feeling of his presence there was total. I
loved him so much I was lost to anyting else.
Suddenly, only half aware of the outer world, I felt
Jiten's arm around me pulling me out out of the room to the inner courtyard of the temple.
I latched on to a pillar to support myself. I was taking deep breaths to calm down and
tears of love were streaming down my cheeks. It took some several minutes to return to a
more normal state.
Baba knew we were to visit Dakshineswar that day. Later on
Jiten told me that Baba had given him explicit instructions to watch over me when I went
into the Master's room. He had told Jiten I would experience bhav samadhi in the room and
that he should get me out of there at that point lest I lose consciousness altogether. I
might fall and hurt myself. From my point of view I was utterly astonished at the high
spiritual power that resides in that room to this very day.
I write to Glenn:
I went to Dakshineswar and shall go back
again. I glimpsed the Kali image briefly in a mad insane rush of people and went to
Thakurs room. I never experienced anything like that room. Lots of people about - I
looked at the pictures et al and bowed before his bed etc. About 3-4 minutes. Then it hit
me. Bhava Samadhi coming on like an explosion in my heart. The man who brought me there
pulled me out before I would lose consciousness as he had been watching carefully. I could
only stumble coming out and could hardly breath. It was a kind of "love-attack"
of infinitely tender and sweet feelings. Of course it was Master touching me somehow and
letting me know he was real and was taking me along the right path. Oh! Who can ever say
how sweet He is? Is anything impossible between the Lord and His lovers? All the rest of
it, Belur Math etc. was nothing compared to that wonderful room where beloved Thakur dwelt
for 30 years.
Baba at Chandernagore
We expected Baba to come to Chandernagore on the 13th, but
he came a day later on the 14th. He stayed the 15th and on the 16th took me with him to
While in Chandernagore Baba gave me several
"tests," which would be the first of many. He was sitting on the upstairs
veranda outside the room Jiten had built for him. He was combing his hair and then smoking
a bidi. He then told Jiten to tell me that I would marry an Indian girl.
This took me so aback I was nearly crying. It was my only
wish to be a disciple of such a one as Ramakrishna. Marriage was out of the question.
Ramakrishna used to weep and lament when any of his disciples had to get married. Why was
he saying this to me now? I was devastated. I protested bitterly, even angrily. I was
close to tears about this. I said I would in no way marry an Indian girl or any girl!
But had I known him better, as I would later, I might have
discerned the twinkle in his eye which came when he was putting someone to the test. Nor
did I know then that he would one day call me his "husband" and himself my
"wife." He himself was the Indian girl I would "marry!"
Again he tested me about money. He claimed he was short
and needed a loan. Would I give him some money? Loan him some money? One hundred thousand
rupees? I honestly told him I would give him all I had. He seemed pleased. It would be a
long time before I learned the pun he was using in this test. The word for "hundred
thousand" is lakh, very close to the word for "single aim" which is lokkya.
It was like two tests in one: would I give him money? And would I give him my single aim
at all times?
It was wonderful having him as guest at Jiten's house. All
his usual worship activities were performed at the proper hours, and in the evening we
sang bhajans and kirtan with me playing the guitar and the boys filling in with drums.
At another later time he looked at the diary note I had
been making and he indicated that the writing of these stories about him was the real
money, the "god-money" which I would give him.
We go to Rishra
On the 16th Baba took me to a disciples house in Rishra.
It was a train ride from Jiten's house, but not a long one. There was to be kirtan there
and all type of refreshments. The general purpose of the kirtan was to help raise money
for the coming festival of Annokoot at the ashram. And not just money but commodities such
as bags of potatoes, vegetables, spices and such. Money was needed and food was especially
Baba sang and danced and I was incredulous to see his
strength and stamina. Afterward there was a seemingly small incident which impressed me
deeply. We were about to partake of the sweets and other offering of the host of the house
when Baba asked me if I had washed my hands. I was still not accustomed to the endless
washing of hands that goes on in India, arriving somewhere, before food, after food,
before handling food, and so on. So I said no, I hadn't washed my hands.
Suddenly, like a caring mother, he get off the bed and
grabs me by the hands. He leads me out back to where the water taps are. He washes his own
hands and then takes my two hands in his and washes them carefully and thoroughly. The
incident has a strange effect on me, making me feel so close to him, closer than kin. He
them makes me to understand that this is the work of the guru, to cleanse the disciple, to
directly make the disciple clean and pure.
We return and partake of the many good things to eat, but
I am awed by the fact that this Baba has just washed my hands with his own clean hands. It
is so deeply impressed that I have never forgotten it. It was the highlight for me of our
trip to Rishra.
I return later that night to Jiten's with Biswa, and Baba
returns to the ashram.
Telling Baba my story with Babananda
On one of my visits to the ashram I met Kashishwar
Mukherji, to whom Baba had given the name "Babananda." He was a great rotund man
of deep devotion and humor who sang the sanskrit hymns with fervor and emotion, tears
streaming down his face.
Baba made me sit on a bench in front of the Kali temple
and sing for Babananda some of the bhajans I had learned. Babananda was impressed deeply.
After that we went into the Kali temple, just the three of us sitting in a circle, and
asked me to tell the story of how I got there. I would speak in English and Babananada
would translate for Baba.
I did the best I could, recounting about how I had fallen
in love with Ramakrishna, then how I had heard about the Baul incarnation of Ramakrishna
and determined to come to India to seek him out. I told how Athena had suggested I visit
Baba first on my quest. It was a story considerably more detailed that I am putting here.
As I talked, and Babananda translated, I was just looking
at Baba. His face and eyes began to shine more and more. I began to lose sight of the room
in light that seemed to emanate from Baba. Babananda also became filled with emotion
hearing my simple tale of bhakti and devotion.
By the time I finished my story, all the while staring at
Baba, I could see little except a mass of golden light and his two eyes in the midst of
it. Baba touched my legs and shook me and with eyes gleaming said to Babananda:
"Look, bhav samadhi." Indeed, telling the tale had put me in a high state of
love and devotion. I had finally poured out my tale to Baba. I was even vaguely aware that
the translator was not really required. Baba seemed to know what I was saying by his own
powers beyond human language.
I felt a great relief. Baba brought me back down to a
normal state again by turning attention to more mundane things.
From time to time I wrote in my diary, as if to just make
sense out of things, to try to put the events in perspective. If it is the "God
money" he spoke of, then I am glad.
Entry in exercise book "II"
January 20, 1974
The train whistle moans in the quiet Bengal night. I sit
within my mosquito net at Jiten's house, in the room that he so devotedly had built for
Why must I write my story? It is as if no one will really
listen to it, and so I must tell it to myself, to clear my mind somehow, to find out if it
these things which are happening are truly real.
Like a lover in love I must give expression to the
torrents of feeling in my heart or else be shattered by their gale. The beloved ones in
whose kind and tender care I have been placed, this wonderful family, cannot understand
more than a slow and broken English, and so the strangeness, the "secret" of my
journey has remained within.
They also seem to hesitate to speak of the crux of my
coming, my relationship to Baba. Do they even guess the depth of the wave which brought me
here, the mystery of its magnitude to me? So often I hear them speaking about me, and
about Baba, but never in English, and never to me. I am continually left like a child to
muse and wonder and to try to piece the puzzle together for myself. Do I write out of
sheer despair of isolation? Or to try to give some shape to what has boggled my mind by
being beyond mind's grasp? To bear witness?
It seems to me that I threw my whole life at the feet of
God, the Life Universal, the Intelligence Supreme, and, having done so, is it really so
mysterious that He has snatched me from my wandering ways, grabbed firm hold of life's
events and unfolded in life's dream this destiny which was buried in my heart's inner
Is really so incredible? It is miraculous! But should His
miracles seem so strange considering He is eternally the only Real behind this fantastic
web of maya? It is the maya which is strange, not His power to bend it! It is the illusion
we have that we can "do" that is odd, not the fact that He is controlling all.
In the midst of my journey I perceived time and again that
a higher force had been working all along to help me toward my goal, through events in
which, at the time, I had thought that I was the doer.
This discovery, this retrospective revelation of the
vanity of our intentions in the face of our hidden destiny produced a shock which struck
the mind into dumb silence! How to act, how to will an event anymore, even the course of
the rest of one's life, when one is perceiving that it has been the Great Lord all along
It is as if a puppet, perhaps just for fun, had been given
the power to imagine that it alone was master of its own movement. As if it were
hypnotized to a forgetfulness of the strings which move it. What would happen if it woke
up for a moment. Would it try, uselessly to struggle against the only power behind its
every action? Or would it experience a relief, a relaxation, a deep ease and joy and
freedom in its own, that is, its Master's dance?
Just so in reaching the one I had traveled half the earth
to see, struggling, longing, pushing through whatever seemed to block my way, I found it
was His will that had moved me, His strength that had triumphed, and His call that had
powered my heart to want to come.
Then who was I? And who had come? It was He all along,
through and through, and my dumbfounded wonder is like the fading of a dream, a confused
passing out of an identity which was never real.
It was He who pulled the strings and made me dance. Even
the prayer which I dreamed he answered by bringing me to his ecstatic embrace was in fact
His prayer through me for me to come! Longing in deep anguish the lover seeks his beloved,
only to find, in the longed for meeting, that they were never two, but ever one!
Hail to the Great Mother Maya, through which the Great
Lord sports, though he is ever one with her. Can any but He himself, in the silent
eloquence of His Great Aloneness, ever understand it?
Days in Chandernagore
Source: Exercise book "II":
January 21, 1974
Is it not to the simple heart that love finds its easiest
access? To be sensitive is to be open to the sweet breeze of love, from whichever corner
it may come, and the response to that breeze is love again. To the heart which loves, love
comes in great abundance, and its fullness silences the mind which can never grasp or
encompass love's miracle.
I spent time with my new family. We had a small
"picnic" at a nearby pond during which I taught the boys the techniques of
throwing and catching the Frisbees I had brought as gifts. They learned quickly and were
soon more adept than I.
On January 28th the Saraswati Puja was celebrated. With my
new family I toured the town of Chandenagore to see the festivities. Each family group had
made their own image of the goddess Saraswati, some of clay, some of paper mache, some of
cardboard and paper. Some of these included temple pillars and roofs and all were painted
brightly and adorned with candles or Christmas type lights blinking on and off.
Taken altogether it was a huge effort and a magnificent
outcome. It was touching to behold. And everyone toured the streets to see each other's
efforts. Because Saraswati is the goddess of learning, many of the displays had school
books and notebooks at her feet. Offerings to be blessed by the goddess so that the
children might excel in school.
We stopped and sang bhajans and kirtan in front of the
Thakur my little "brothers" had made. It was very touching.
The next day I returned to the Ashram.
The Festival at Ramanathpur
Source: Entry, exercise book "III":
On the 29th of January I traveled from Chandenagore to
Ramanathpur to witness the festival of Annokoot for which Baba and his devotees had been
preparing for some time. Annokoot is really an ancient festival dedicated to the rice
I had myself traveled with Baba to Rishra on the 16th to
visit the houses of several devotees and collect from them some money, rice and other
commodities with which to feed the thousands of people who would come, to take prasad on
the 30th. People would come from miles around to eat the consecrated rice and vegetables
to be cooked up in massive black pots which looked like giant woks.
Jiten had been preoccupied with the arrangements for the
festival for weeks on end, so much so that even his daily office period had been devoted
to preparations for the long awaited event.
Traveling to Ramanathpur I was accompanied by Biswa,
Jiten's nephew. We were late by several minutes and missed our connecting train, so what
was already a long journey turned out to be more so.
We arrived in Kholachora in the late afternoon and went by
foot the remaining distance of several miles. Once again, out of the scramble of the bus,
walking on the road that stretches through the fields of paddy, the peaceful beauty of
that remote countryside settled upon me, making the heart feel light and free, loosened
slightly from the bonds of the world, our so-called "civilization."
This was my fifth visit to the ashram of Baba, and, as on
each previous visit, my mind seemed to empty out during the lovely walk, becoming simple
again, like a child, empty of expectation, and pulled by the sweet power of love alone.
Before arriving at the Ashram I changed into my newly made
Punjabi pajamas and kurta and walked the remaining way in the delightful flowing garments
of the Indian people. I was feeling very happy to be coming once again to the feet of my
guru and happy that I would have a chance to stay with him at his ashram overnight.
As we walked into the ashram area I could see that many
people had already gathered and were milling about, or engaged in various activities of
work. In the central area in front of the Kali temple the kirtan party of seven or eight
men was chanting the mahamantra to the accompaniment of the Khole drums and cymbals and
surrounded by a small crowd of people, sometimes more, sometimes fewer. This mahamantra,
also called Harinam, would flow continuously for three days, a veritable current of
God-thought ever present in the background, sometimes reduced to a sweet calm flow,
sometimes roaring like the torrent of a waterfall, exciting the devotees to rise and
dance, inebriated with the delight of God's name.
Baba was sitting on the southern side of the temple porch
when I arrived with Biswa. I went in first to salute the Goddess Kali and then came out to
give my pranam to Baba, but he withdrew his feet and gave me a sign not to touch them.
Jiten, who was sitting nearby with the account books and collection box (a seat he would
occupy for three days) explained that Baba would take no pranams during the festival
period. Very wise, I thought to myself, for there were already hundreds of people about
and thousands to come.
Baba was receiving various people, coming and going, and
seemed in quite a natural mood. My attitude was that I should be primarily a spectator at
this event, helping if at all possible by taking photos, as Baba had requested, but that I
should not expect any special attention from Baba. This was the biggest annual event in
the life of the ashram, an immense effort of love and devotion, a spiritual feast and
celebration of God.
I, the sole American, the sole foreigner present, felt
that I should stay in the background, since I was utterly unacquainted with what was to
take place, and since I already felt conspicuous by the whiteness of my skin. Little did I
realize at first how Baba's love would draw me in these three long days. His light was to
blaze for me so brightly that no shadow would be found. In the midst of this overwhelming
crowd of thousands I was to grow into an intimacy with him which would astonish my heart
and make me weep and weep unto the Mother, "Thank you! Thank you very much!"
We are, in the world, generally accustomed only to that
form of love called attachment, a desire, a beam of our selfishness focused on a
particular object, without which we feel unhappy, and gaining which the restless ego only
shifts its focus to some new object, fulfillment of its demand being the only guiding
light. We are not familiar with that love which comes with the attainment of
God-consciousness or liberation. It is too rare in this world.
Who can imagine someone loving all beings in a steady
blaze of heart melting warmth, shining as the sun shines evenly on all? Who can imagine a
heart so wide that it is ever ready to pour itself into any and every empty cup that
should pass by? And pour and pour without ceasing, as from some hidden and invisible
eternal fountain? Such was my inability at first to understand how Baba would be able to
withstand this constant flow of hands outstretched for sweets or flowers, some with eyes
wide open to catch a tender smile, some with aching hearts in need of comfort, and still
have energy and love to give, and give, and give some more. Did I realize even then,
before this festival, how deep was his connection to the source of ALL, how complete was
his absorption in the Universal Ma? Even now I sometimes find it hard to stretch my
thought to imagine again what I actually saw.
After depositing my shoes in a safe place away from the
crowd, a gentleman took me on a "tour" of the area to see the "mela"
or carnival, shops and booths set up in the village area selling tea, pictures, souvenirs
and what not. I felt blessed to be there, and wide-eyed as a child with wonder. Some
stalls were selling holy pictures of gods and godesses, others were selling things to eat.
I was intrigued by a small "ferris wheel" type machine which was totally hand
powered. There were even some games of chance, although these were, I was told, not
officially sanctioned and sometime closed down by the local authorities.
It was a revelation to me of something about the essential
characteristic of the Indian nation. Where else, in what other country are there so many
festivities carried on in the name of God? These people, generally rather inactive and
apathetic toward the kinds of activities which the rest of the world finds so exciting and
enticing, are suddenly stirred to great energy and enthusiasm on their holy days, working
day and night if the activity has but some element of devotion to, or celebration of God.
If only the western countries could shed their
matter-madness just a bit and see beyond the superficial weaknesses of this ancient, tired
India, and behold the sweet and innocent virtue shining, preserved (even if somewhat
tarnished with age) since the dawn of man. Oh God! Oh, Bhagavan! Oh Ishwar! In this manner
beats the heart of India!
And even as the great beasts of the machine-age nations
rush blindly toward their mutual destruction, ten-thousand gather in Ramanathpur to pay
homage to a holy man and partake of food offered by him to the Divine. To sing the praises
of Rama and Krishna and Saraswati. Where else in the world is so much human energy forever
pouring toward its own eternal source?
Those three days passed in a kind of magic flow, sometimes
with a subtle but powerful inner subjective significance which left me standing speechless
and thoughtless. The singing of the harinam would continue three days without stopping:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
But the real experience for me was a continual flow of my
mind and soul towards the guru's feet. From hour to hour wherever I would wander in the
ashram area, through the crowd to take pictures, to watch the kirtan, to witness the
cooking, I was forever being drawn back to Baba, to go back and sit beside him, to just
watch him be. Toward the end I just was this entire happening and gave in to it, until at
the height of the greatest rush of people and energy, all I wanted to do, and did do, was
sit looking at Baba as he sat at his place at the tiny temple of Ramchandra.
The cooking was done in giant metal woks over huge fires,
about eight of them. Women and men sat peeling endless huge mounds of potatoes and cutting
up other vegetables including hot chilis. These were mixed with rice to make a dish called
"kitchuri," translated to me as "hodge podge." The fires would burn
the whole day long. It was expected that some 10,000 people would be fed. They would be
fed in waves since there was space for only about 1000 people to sit down at once.
I was fascinated by it all, and I took photographs, but my
mind and attention kept returning to Baba. The roar and rush of the crowd kept fading like
an oceanic dream, in the midst of which, in the focus of my gaze, sat Baba, always giving,
always new and always shining.
To me Baba was the festival, the creator and sustainer of
this divine play, and at once its chief witness. To speak of the festival I must speak of
Baba. My experience of the festival was an experience of Baba, during which, by the divine
grace of the Universal Mother, it was revealed that this was He whom I had been seeking my
My memories are clustered in fragments. Each one is like a
gem, a shining diamond on a necklace that garlands my heart. I remember the opening speech
Baba made to the people who had gathered in the ashram grounds. A crude horn type
amplifier powered by a battery had been brought in and set up, apparently for this one
speech alone. The kirtan continued in the background, as always, and so even using the
amplifier Baba had to speak loudly. This was, more or less, the "official"
opening of the week long celebration, and particularly of the activity of feeding the
people with prasad. Baba. was keyed up for the speech, and delivered it in a smooth
spontaneous continuous flow of inspiration.
I was standing several feet away, near his feet, looking
up at him, and, as always, feeling a slight sense of anguish at being unable to understand
his words. I had been hearing Bengali spoken for nearly a month so I could tell even
without knowing the meaning of the words that what Baba was speaking was a kind of poetry.
It flowed with a beauty detectable even to my non-understanding ears. But what was he
He stood with hands folded across his stomach, and I
noticed throughout that his legs, and at times his whole body was shaking with the
intensity of his feeling. How much anxiety he had suffered over this affair for weeks and
weeks! Now it was happening and he was giving his all to all who were there. As he spoke I
heard several time the word "America" and he glanced at me several times and I
became anxious to know what he was saying.
Baba feels my Anguish
When Baba finished his speech and had wandered off nearby
and the people had begun milling about again I looked to a devotee seated on the verandah
and asked him to tell me what Baba had said, eagerly hoping to get at least a crumb of the
prasad of Baba's words. The man said something to the effect that it was a beautiful
speech, but he would or could not explain. Perhaps it was too much trouble. He tapped
Jiten on the shoulder and asked him to tell me. "Jiten will tell".
But Jiten, as anyone could see, was very busy at the time,
collecting money and keeping the books. Suddenly my anguish turned to despair. I realized
that no one would bother to take the trouble to try to translate. It was a despair I had
been feeling for some time, since I had met Baba. Baba would speak at length and then, at
the most, someone would sum it up in one or two words for me, usually stating something I
could guess as much by myself, knowing nothing.
In that moment I felt helpless, like a child. I had thrown
aside the very substance of my life in the world to come all the way around the earth to
sit at the feet of this wise man and even so no one would ever tell me what he was saying!
Didn't anyone see how much I wanted to know? Were they all just being lazy? Would no one
do the service of bridging this language gap between guru and chela?
I felt my heart break in sadness within me, and also a
kind of childish anger, and felt as if I would start weeping. Tears filled my eyes and a
painful longing swept over me to be able to communicate more closely with Baba. Oh! Baba!
No one will tell me what you say! I thought to myself, nearly weeping.
Suddenly there was a commotion nearby. The devotees were
fussing. I looked over to see what it was and saw Baba standing nearby clutching the post
of the verandah to steady himself, his hand over his heart and his face wincing with pain.
I jumped up, forgetting my earlier misery in an instant
and rushed to Baba's side, holding onto him as we lowered him to a sitting position. His
breathing was labored. The devotees were trying to help him, asking him if he wanted
water, etc. I stroked his back and wished against hope that the very love I felt in my
heart for him would somehow make him better.
After a minute or two he seemed a bit better and looked
over his right shoulder at me, to see, I thought, who was stroking him. In his glance, he
spoke. What he said, I cannot say, but I knew then that he was suffering for me. He had
had this attack at the very instant I had felt my inner despair rush up and start to break
into tears. And he was feeling better because my tears had vanished in my love and concern
Who is this being whose heart is one with his children?
Who feels their pain and whose love is so great that its power to communicate transcends
words and language into the very heights of union itself? At the height of my sadness of
feeling separated from him due to language he showed me that he was one with me, that he
could feel my anguish, and felt it even more acutely than I, and that this kind of
communion made language itself seem like a silly, petty thing.
Oh! What love! What a lesson transmitted in an instant
from eye to eye. Before I knew it he was recovered and off into the crowd toward his seat
at Ramchandra temple. My heart bows at his feet. This teacher who teaches with the very
substance of his life, while all around the crowd rushes and roars, not noticing, unaware.
I followed Baba to the front of the Ramchandra temple. He
sat down, still feeling some discomfort. I felt my heart again overflowing with love and a
strange kind of compassion, a sympathy for his suffering, even though my mind knew that
the real nature of that suffering was beyond my comprehension.
It reminds me of certain night, when, as a child, I sat in
bed saying my prayers. In that solitude preceding sleep which I used to love very much. I
would run through the list in my mind of my near and dear ones, "God bless Mommy, God
bless Daddy, God bless my brothers," etc. . down to the family cat and distant
relatives, and occasionally I would get overwhelmed thinking: "If God is blessing all
these people, who is to bless God?" This thought would bring tears. Poor God! All
alone, with no one to bless Him! Then I would somehow concentrate the flow of feeling in
my heart and pray, "God bless God!" I knew intuitively that this loving thought
itself was the blessing God wanted and that there was really no inconsistency or absurdity
in my feelings. Even a child's love, simple as it is, has that power to bless, even to
bless God. Strangely, as I think about it, I recall that these occasional blessings toward
God took all my energy, my whole being. That was how I felt as I crawled up next to Baba
to try to comfort him somehow after his mild "attack." How to comfort a God-man?
By what power? I was already beginning to understand that his body was not operating
exactly according to the laws we are accustomed to.
Baba had lain down and I stroked his back gently, confused
by this confrontation with those higher laws. It was like the dream I had had of Baba, a
dream resplendent with celestial light which I later found out had coincided to the exact
hour with another of these "attacks", though we were miles apart. It was like
his taking away my mouth-sore into his own body, relieving my suffering by suffering it
As I stroked him I became overwhelmed at these
manifestations of a higher power of love and again I started to cry, quietly, within
myself. No sooner had these new tears begun to fill my eyes than Baba moaned and indicated
that he was feeling some heart trouble again. How could it be? My up and down moods seemed
to be getting expressed in his very body somehow.
Then and only then a devotee told me, "You are
crying, and so Baba is feeling it in his heart."
What to do? My pained response to his suffering was
causing my tears, yet they were causing his suffering. It flashed through me that there
are many kinds of tears, and many ways of weeping. Baba looked up at me and somehow I
swallowed my feelings, probably I was just a bit shocked into silence, and I just smiled.
I realized that Baba's love was in fact such that if I was unhappy, he was unhappy. I saw
that the medicine for his heart pain was a smile on my face. Who can fathom the Lord's
love? Who can describe its power to teach without words, or its mighty attraction which
can call the soul to leave its ego boundaries and expand unto the Father, its source and
Who can describe the sweet madness of the Lord's love? Is
the Lord's love just flowing through Baba, like an eternal fountain, or is this Baba the
Lord himself, somehow compressed into living human form, the impossible made actual for
the delight of this long-suffering world?
How these thoughts haunted me from day to day, and haunt
me still. The heart and mind, though given an abundance of signs and indications through
the intricate language of life, require something more to be convinced of this staggering
proposition: they require transformation itself. Can the consciousness of the humble dog
fathom its human master's ways? Can a mere man, caught and held within the ego boundary,
measure the Son of God? Although Baba's lila gave me one event after another to show that
this was no ordinary human being, still I wanted a whole new sight by which to see him, a
greater wider consciousness in which to view his actions.
If he had the power to change me, to raise me out of my
ignorance unto the Father, then I would know for sure that He was the One I had been
seeking. And still I wait though the staggering visions I have had would convince any
number of less exacting minds. It is no question of acceptance. I am his. Mother has made
that much clear.
Baba Dresses me Up
On the morning of the 30th Baba did a strange thing for me
when I think of it. He had a whim, which he had mentioned two weeks before, to take a
picture of me dressed as Sri Chaitanya, in gerua cloth with a garland of flowers, and
hands upraised in praise of Hari. On this sacred morning he carried out his whim in such
grand style that I just didn't know what to do or think. I felt then, as I continue to
feel whenever I an in his presence, like a boy of 6 or 7, unknowing, fun-loving, and
utterly entrusted to his father. Biswa, who was to take the pictures, dressed me in the
bright orange cloth, and Baba himself put a garland round my neck, gave me a (rudraksha)
mala (which he later said was mine to keep "forever") and painted my forehead
--carefully, so lovingly carefully-- with sandalwood paste. When he did, this, again I had
great trouble to control my feelings. I wanted to fall into his lap sobbing and weeping.
Why should he be loving me so much? What had I ever done to receive such good fortune? The
very sight of the love and care he took, like a sweet, oh sweet blissful mother, painting
my forehead, just made my heart melt with dumbfounded affection.
Some one or two tears of that affection escaped my eyes
and he held up his hard in mock anger as if to give me a slap. Somehow it passed by. I
felt strange in this garb, purified somehow. The whole event had a sweet taste. It was a
loving mixture of whimsical fun and profound seriousness.
We walked with the kirtan group and a crowd of onlookers
to another Kali temple in Ramanathpur village, near to where all the souvenir stands were
set up. Had I not felt somewhat self-conscious of the staring curiosity of the crowd, no
doubt what followed would have pushed me to the edge of a swoon, Babaji and Premananda
dressed as Chaitanya and Nityananda led the kirtan party from the Kali Temple back to the
ashram chanting the Mahamantra, walking slowly, sometimes stopping, hands upraised. It was
a blissful blessing so complete that my heart could not encompass the totality of it. What
The Unbearable Tenderness of Love
Where was I? Who was I? Who this madman who seems to know
no end of ways to win the unfailing flow of my love? No child on Christmas morning was
ever so happy as I in the midst of this amazing cosmic drama. Periodically Baba would stop
and face me, chanting with all his heart and soul, and seeing me would melt and melt with
love. Oh, what a divine madman!
In those moments his grace of love seemed to shine on me
like bright rays of sun, warm, almost blinding in their sweetness. It is only by the grace
of the love for him with which, the Mother had been filling my heart since the first day,
that I did not turn away from that blinding light of his. And by the mother's grace that
light shall not fade, nor the memory of Baba's ecstasy of love pass away, but grow in my
We walked in this way back to the ashram, and I kept the
garland of flowers about my neck for the rest of the day.
The lila seems endless. There's is no sequence. There are
only certain impressions which have been stamped onto my soul. What question is there of
surrender? Pure love alone has the power to win the seeking soul.
The guru's love is the net cast forth upon the waters of
the life, and blessed is he who is caught in that net, for the fisherman is no man at all,
but the Great Lord himself. Sweet, oh sweet is Premananda's good fortune, for he finds
himself caught forever in the net of God's love.
The Radio Artist
On the night of the 30th Baba's love took a new turn. I
had recorded the singing of a certain Baul singer the night before, much to my gladness,
for it stirred the memory that Ramakrishna had said he would come again in the trappings
of a Baul. Was there any connection here? Was Baba in league with Bauls? On this night
another Baul came up and Jiten introduced him as Din Bandhu Das, "friend of the
poor," and "radio artist." Would I like to record his songs too?
Of course I said yes, greedy as I have always been to
increase my store of Bhajans. But Jiten had ordered some tea for me, so I thought it
better to wait, since Baba himself had said to give me tea.
The Baul went off to the library with my assurance that I
would follow later. I waited for about ten minutes and then Jiten finally told me to go
ahead, he would bring the tea over himself. I went over and the Baul was sitting in the
midst of a group of Baba's devotees, already singing and playing a kind of banjo with four
or five strings. I sat down and turned on my tape machine. The song was sweet indeed, and
I got caught in the beauty of it at once.
The song was a plea to the Divine Mother, begging her to
come to the bhakta's heart with the refrain: "Ekbar biraj go ma, hridoya kamal
ashune." When it was finished he started another. I was in a trance listening to
these songs, amazed at the unending sweetness of my stay in India, determining to learn
these songs myself, feeling the ancient warmth of this ancient song and the people crowded
round to hear when all of a sudden, like a storm, Baba entered the room. To my startled
amazement he rushed over to me and grabbed me by the ear, pulled me up and yanked me
toward the door. I was like jelly in his hands.
Although I had been having a good time and could see no
wrong in my actions, my priorities were already established. I trusted Baba utterly, even
in his madness, or perhaps especially in his madness. He escorted me, or rather chased me
back to Kali's room, leaving the Baul still singing and my tape machine still running.
Though he had pulled me very firmly by the ear there was
only a warm wonderful feeling from it, and though I had been startled by this abrupt
action, yet the feeling of love pervading his behaviour was so strong that by the time we
entered Kali's room I again felt like falling at his feet in childlike tears.
There in the Kali Temple room his bed was laid out for
sleeping, and beside it was a plate of sweets for me and my tea which I had all but
forgotten. I sat down and he sat on his mat to watch me eat. Oh! I nearly weep to think of
his love. As sweet as Baba's smile is, it seemed that night that his reprimand was even
sweeter, saturated with love and care.
He said in his very limited English "No tape record
Baul. Baul (wants) go America. Baul (wants) money, money." He told me to eat and
watched lovingly. I looked at the plate and cup of tea, all laid out nicely. I felt warmth
beyond expression in this situation which by any other's hand would have caused
What had I done wrong? I said (in Bengali) "One man
says, 'Premananda, go there!' and another says, 'No, Premananda, go over there,'"
Baba replied, "No, no, One Baba, One guru."
This made me glad. He was relieving a strain I had felt on
some occasions from different people giving me contradictory directions. He was saying
"check with me first, I am you guru." "One Baba, One Guru, One
sadhana," he said, looking up at Kali in a prayerful pose. I leaned over and put my
head on his knee. Oh who is this sweet being who has claimed my wandering soul? I had been
weeping for months to be led to Ramakrishna, I had begged the Mother with tears of despair
and longing to be placed in the lap of the Son of God. And now all this was happening.
Baba patted my head. "Pagol Prem Das" he said,
"Crazy Prem Das!" I finished my food and he directed me to go to sleep, which I
As I later found out this particular Baul did indeed
cherish the desire to go to America to "sell his songs," and he had gotten it
into his head that I would be the instrument for fulfilling this desire. Who knows from
what karmic entanglement Baba rescued me? That night Premananda learned the difference
between a real Baul and a "radio artist."
Feeding the People
Before the feeding of the crowd began Baba had by ceremony
and prayer offered the cooked rice to the goddess Kali. Then he carried a huge basket of
the rice three times around the temple. The devotees had to join hands to hold back the
crowd so that this ritual could be accomplished. The rice from this basket was then thrown
by handfuls out into the crowd.
I guess this particular rice was considered deeply holy,
and I was amazed to see hundreds of people scrambling for it. They would pick up each and
every grain of it from the ground. I don't think a single grain was wasted. Some ate it,
but most wanted to take it home and offer it to their own images of the goddess.
The the feeding of the crowds began in earnest. The people
were lined up in rows throughout the ashram area in batches of about a thousand at a time.
The plates were the equivalent of our disposable paper plates, but made of leaves stitched
together with small thorns. The disciples and devotees went up and down the rows
dispensing the kitchuri. Everyone was free to eat their fill. When they were finished
another wave would take their places. It went on for hours even unto dusk. I even tried my
own hand at serving the kitchuri from the buckets. On the 1st of February I returned to
I Witness Baba's Nirvikalpa Samadhi
I came again to the ashram on February 6, accompanied by
Tubulu, arriving at 10:30 A.M. On that night Baba addressed the crowd in a rousing flow of
spontaneous Bengali. After his speech he asked me to sing a song for the assembled crowd.
I was terrified of course, but my guitar was brought out and I sang one of the few Bengali
songs I knew: "Keshava Kuru," with its repeated chorus "Hari bol, Hari bol,
Hari bol mon amar."
On the last chorus Baba went into a divine state called
nirvikalpa samadhi where the mind and senses lose all outer consciousness and only a high
state of unity is experienced. His body became stiff and would have fallen over except the
disciple saw it coming and swooped him up in their arms and laid him gently down on the
porch of the temple. Mantras were shouted in his ears and honey put on his tongue to bring
On the 13th I came to the ashram alone for the first time.
Diary entries begin again on the 17th, and due to my difficulty in jotting down events,
and my weariness at night, when I wrote, begin to assume a shorthand style. I have here
expanded them somewhat to make complete sentences.]
A Minor Misunderstanding
February 16, 1974
At night there was an incident which completely reduced me
to despair. Baba went into the Kali temple to pranam Mother Kali. I tried to follow him in
but he seemed to shut the door before I could enter. I did not understand and since I do
not know the customs I thought perhaps he wanted to be alone in there. Perhaps this was
his private time with the Mother. I waited by the door. When he finally came out he seemed
to be annnoyed and told me to go in and pranam.
"You're not going to pranam?" he said. The force
in his few words made me utterly humiliated and ashamed. At the same time I felt somewhat
angry at the injustice, since I had tried to enter.
I went into the temple and made full pranam, my full body
lain down in front of the altar. I started weeping and watching my feelings. The rebuke
from Baba had shattered me and at the same time made me angry. I determined to swallow my
anger. Lying there in front of the mother I even felt angry at her. I told her to tell
Baba what had happened. But as I lay there, the ego weakened, and I began to see that no
matter how he spoke to me I loved him. I just waited, lying prostrate on the floor before
the image of the Mother.
Soon after Baba came in and dried my tears with his own
A Day at the Ashram
February 17, 1974
It is Ekadoshi. Oh Mother! What will you do with this
child? I awoke this morning with the agony of the previous night healed, yet there still
lingered a certain sense of both a disgust with this incomprhensible flow of maya, and a
kind of impotent childish rage to overcome it. What could I do? Before I took my bath I
proceeded to the Hanuman temple. At least I could do one of the few things Baba had
instructed. So great has been his love that I delight in following his instructions, I
saluted Hanuman and started circuiting the temple chanting "Hari Narayana"
clapping my hands gently.
How sweet the morning is in Ramanathpur, quiet, cool and
peaceful. The beautiful morning light touching the trees and reaching out across the dry
earth, the birds twittering their music in the fresh air. As I walked around the temple
Baba approached after finishing his bath. He was accompanied by Jiten and said,
"Right!" and fell into step just ahead of me, leading both Jiten and I around
The effect was very reassuring to my mind. Baba repeatedly
seems to arrive at just the point when some energy is required. After we finished this
salutation I gave Baba my pranam. As I stood up he blessed me by touching my forehead. I
went to take my bath.
I take my morning tea. Jiten and Joya Ma give me 'Pao
Ruti' (yeast bread), too much of it. I am feeling somehow more and more independent and I
think of refusing it, but I eat it anyway. Even so, it is still too much for me. I go into
the Kali temple where Baba is doing his morning worship. He is washing the images, putting
new leaves and flowers on them. I do japa on my beads, repeating silently, "Hari
Narayana, Hari Om." I am feeling that I only want to do worship today, to give myself
to the Mother, to keep working.
Later on, Baba is having tea with Jiten and a lady comes
in with some money. Baba talks with her. He is worried about the money and the pipes for
the new well that is to be sunk. The water for the ashram comes from a well which is near
the road in front of Baba's room under a big old tree. There is a hand pump there and a
kind of surrounding cement place to wash one's feet and hands. It seems that there is
something wrong with the well, it does not go deep enough I think, and a new well must be
dug. It will be put to the north side of the ashram, near the cooking room, and Baba is
fretting about the cost to whomever will listen.
I get bored and go into temple. I do japa. Tears come to
my eyes. This ego! "Oh, Mother take away my ego, burn it in your fire" I pray,
and so on. This goes on for an hour or more. After a while Baba does his Hom fire with Mr.
Chandran helping. It is a big and elaborate ceremony today. It is Sunday, and a number of
devotees have come to visit Baba. I have pain in my legs from sitting so long. Jiten calls
me for tea but I decline. It seems important to witness the fire today. I think to myself
that pain is just an offering of the self to Ma, give it to God, and so on.
After the fire it was time for noon meal and people were
calling me to come and eat. There were a number of guests taking rice and dal in the
hallway behind the temple, but for several days I had been thinking I did not want to eat
so much rice as it was too heavy. I refuse and there is a kind of tug of war. Finally
Jiten and Joya Ma arrange a plate of fruit. It is prasad from Kali. Baba comes and sees it
and says "Right!" I feel like a little child. Thank you Ma! Just what I wanted!
There is an ever amazing grace at work here.
All today I am remembering this place from subconscious
images, as if I had seen it before in dreams or something. In particular, the building
across from the temple, called the "Library." The veranda, the way the roof is,
the view of it from the ashram porch, it is so familiar to me somehow. I am certain I
dreamed of it.
In the afternoon Jiten leaves to return to Chandernagor
and I am struck by his great love for me. What do I need? he keeps asking me. He even
tries to offer me pocket money. He is so kind.
Before Jiten goes we are sitting on the ashram porch and
Baba looks through the notecase I have with me. When he looks at my Bengali notebook he
tells me that I will write his "jiboni," his life story. (Did he know I was
trying to keep these notes? Does he really have the abilitiy to see the future, as
everyone here seems to believe? What's happening?) My Bengali language notebook pleases
him, and he tells me to keep studying. He looks at the picture of Ramakrishna I have in my
case and he imitates it, going into complete stillness.
As Jiten prepares to leave I feel suddenly that the ashram
is my home now. I got what I wanted by Mother's will.
"Where's your money?" Baba suddenly says to me.
I point to my bag and he says "No! This money", pointing to the japa beads.
"I want 10,000 of this money a day."
I am incredulous. Ten-thousand malas a day? No matter how
you count it that is alot of Japa! I imitate a fast machine, a super-japa machine. All
laugh. Jiten leaves and then Chandan and the others leave.
Suddenly all is quiet. Baba says everyday there is a
"function" here. He uses the English word "function" in place of the
Bengali word "Utsab" or festival. It is so charming somehow when he uses one of
his few English words. I write letters and evening comes.
I go to do japa at the Hanuman temple. As soon as I begin
to feel chilly, without saying a word, Joya Ma appears like magic, bringing me the gerua
cloth Baba had given me. Soon Baba comes and we circle around the Hanuman temple again,
chanting. I am feeling very happy. It is deeply quiet again. I experience feelings about
Hanuman, the true servant, the true devotee. In my mind I imagine the angels are nearby
singing "Ram, Ram." Baba sits down for worship at the front of the Hanuman
temple, facing Hanuman, and I feel the beauty of God. Ram, Ram -- is this Ram? Himself?
Later we circle the Mother's temple singing Hari Krishna.
Then we go into Baba's room to have some light refreshments, some puffed rice and peas.
Baba tells me not to eat food late at night. As we have our snacks he goes on into giving
me further instruction. I sit and look at him, spellbound.
He says the word "Maya!" and then pantomimes
vomiting loudly. As long as the ego is there, he says, the various forms of God will be
there. When the ego is dissolved, the forms of God are also dissolved.
"What remains?" I asked him.
"No", he said, "God is there, but without
form." He tells me about the milk-curd-butter-ghee. "Do you see Ghee (butter) in
the milk? No, but it is there."
Then he tells me I will write his "Kathamrita."
I show him the diary notebook I have been trying to keep. I say that the festival was a
very big thing, and the notebook, the writing about it is very small. How can I write
about it? Who will write? I can't do it, I tell him. Ma will do it.
He tells me that the writing is my "God money,"
the money I will give him. He has differentiated these kinds of money. There is the usual
money, and then there is what he calls "God-Money," something the disciple gives
to the guru, some sacrifice, some token of love or devotion. Often Baba will try to trick
someone by telling them that he will take them on as a disciple, but only if they can give
him some extraordinary amount of "money." If they mistakenly assume he means
this world's money they may become quite despondent, but Baba will soon let on he is
talking about something of a different order. Often he says he wants "one lakh,"
that is "one hundred thousand." The devotee thinks this mean rupees, and is
taken aback. But Baba is making a pun on the Bengali word "lokka" or aim. He is
saying he wants "one aim."
Although I feel glad for some encouragement about trying
to write about my experiences here, I am somewhat surprised and intimidated about the idea
of writing his "Kathamrita." It is a troubling assignment. I am by no means of
the order of a Sri M. I cannot deal with the idea and I put it out of my mind for the time
Some Lessons in "Yoga"
Baba goes on to show me about the chakras. These are the
famous seven centers along the nervous system. He describes them, how they look like
flowers, how they open up like flowers when the serpant-like power of the kundalini moves
up and down the channel of the spine. Whenever he goes into this kind of description he
seems to begin to become intoxicated, as if the mere thinking of these things causes his
consciousness to rise toward a transcendental dimension. It is unlike any teaching I have
ever received, for the descriptions are so clearly from his own direct experience.
I sing the song from the Kathamrita, "Dub, Dub, Dub,
Amar Mon" ("Dive Deep, Oh my Mind") and he is pleased. He sings his own
version of it with the sweet spontaneity of a child. He sings without pretension and
without any touch of ego. In fact, it is sometimes sort of out of tune in a way. All that
matters to him is the feeling behind it.
Next he shows me how the cross-legged yoga asana or
"lotus position," is like a triangle indicating the three gunas, rajas, sattwa,
and tamas. As he is showing this, he becomes withdrawn and goes into a trance and I am
left just staring at his motionless form before me. He seems to be shining. It is as if a
kind of background light becomes more and more manifest in the room as he goes into this
other, higher state of consciousness.
All of a sudden I behold -- WHAT?? It is something
indescribable, like a dimension beyond this world. I see Baba's body, in fact the whole
room, shimmering like a dream in a fabulous light. Is this his real nature?
He seems to know what I have seen, and makes a sign toward
his feet, that I should pranam, touch his feet. I fall at his feet weeping, my heart
region feeling pressured, wrung out like a towel. Still in an ecstatic mood he starts
waving his arms around in front of him as if he were embracing an invisible being. He is
trembling with love and intoxicated. Like a child, amazed, he shows me that one of his
feet is hot and the other one is cold. And the top of his head has become hot. He makes me
feel it with my hand to see for myself. I embrace him again. He looks around with a
wide-eyed expression saying "God! God! God!" and waves his arms in ecstasy. As
he tries to stand up he is unsteady on his feet and I jump up to hold him. Still
intoxicated with bliss, he goes out to sing on the veranda. He is like God, I think to
myself. This trance of his, who can describe it?
What started out as a lesson in yoga has ended up as a
demonstration of the higher states in Baba's own body. Not talking about yoga, but the
very thing itself.
Later, after the singing, I take my food. He says his
heart is not right. I feel bad about it and massage him. Still somewhat in ecstasy, he is
going over a poem he had been saying before. How sweet. Always, night and day, he is
turning his attention toward the divine, toward God or some Godly topic. My mind is
February 18, 1974
The morning went routinely. I felt very happy taking my
bath. I had awakened twice in the night once at about two with a feeling of fear, and
again at about four on the verge of a wet dream, which because I wakened, did not occur. I
felt grateful as I took my bath chanting "this is not my body, this is God's
body". Puja. Two devotees come. In the midst of my silent mental puja I suddenly
switch to repeating Gayatri mantra and Baba who has been uttering various other mantras
out loud suddenly starts doing the Gayatri mantra also. It seems to happen like this a lot
around Baba. As if there is a subtle communion going on unconsciously.
We have moori and tea. Baba taped a short message to add
to the one he had given on the 30th. He repeated all the names of the villages which had
helped with the festival. I learn that he has a book he has made. Later, however, they
tell me that no, Baba has never written anything.
These tapes of Baba speaking, I think, this will make a
new book. I go into the Kali temple for japa. I start to weep. The Mother looks so
beautiful there on her throne. I feel like I am nothing. The world seems far away. Sadhana
is attracting me in a new way. I witness the flower ceremony. Later, at food, Baba tells
me to eat more slowly.
[expand story more]
In the afternoon we go to visit Baba's doctor, Siddheshwar
Mukherji, and his brother, Kashishwar, whom Baba calls "Bhavananda". This is my
first meeting with the doctor. He is a wonderful man, a combination of western science and
eastern mysticism. Tirelessly seeing patients day and night, still he rises before dawn to
practice his yoga and meditation. He is a rarity in another way. Having received his
medical education in Canada, he did not stay in the west to practice, as so many do, but
returned to India to serve his own people. In the doctor's presence Baba became utterly
humble and loving, and completely like a child, putting himself into the doctor's hands
and care with utter trust and surrender. The doctor gives Baba a quick examination.
Later we go upstairs from the doctor's office to the
living quarters of his brother, Bhavananda. Baba's goes into a mood at Bhavananda's house
which is utterly sparkling with delight, and humble in a way that touches me deeply.
Bhavananda is a huge man, rotund and jolly, and utterly emphatic in his words and
opinions. His great size has earned him the ironic nickname "Choto Babu,"
roughly translated, "Mr. Little." He is not a disciple of Baba's, having had his
own guru, a saint named Purnananda. I take it that Purnananda and Baba had been close
friends. Choto Baba thus has a relationship with Baba that is quite different than those I
have been observing. It is more on the level of an intimate friend rather than that of a
devotee. He is very frank and outspoken with Baba, thinking nothing, even, of yelling at
him and scolding him. Yet the respect and love he had for Baba were always clear and
evident. He tells Baba that he must send me back the next day for a proper meal. He scolds
Baba, saying that I will not be able to have a proper diet at the ashram. A young man
needs foods like butter, he says, even meat. I take it that they are not vegetarians. Baba
accepts all this while beaming sheepishly, enjoying the play. It seems, too, that he
enjoys, for once, someone who does not relate to him with utter deference.
Later, riding home to the ashram under the wide Bengal
sky, seated by Baba on the Rickshaw, I look up at the immensity of the stars. I am amazed.
Not long ago I was in America, yearning and praying to God to be with a genuine God-Man.
Now I am riding under all this vast beside this incredible being I now call
"Baba." The whole beauty of it brings a rush of feeling. As soon as this feeling
reaches the heart and is about to break into tears, Baba just says, "OM," as if
to stop it. It is as if he can always read my inner feelings.
He starts talking happily about our visit. He says that
today we had "kom japa" (not much japa), "beshi maya" (too much maya).
For having eaten a few delicacies at Bhavananda's housel he says "beshi maya!"
Dinner at Choto Babu's
February 19, 1974
In the morning, sitting with Baba, he tells me that this
whole world is just like a "cinema." He uses the English word for
"cinema." He says that the "world" is like the piece of film, and that
the light which shows the film is God.
Today I go alone back to Babananda's house to have a full
noon meal. He is called "Choto Babu" more familiarly, which means "little
man," humorous because he is such a huge man.
Choto Babu had a relationship with Baba that was on the
most familiar of terms. He had another guru name Purnananda who had passed on. So
yesterday Choto Babu had chided Baba that it was not good for a young man to be so serious
all the time and that I should have some relaxation sometimes, a "day off" as it
were. And he berated Baba further saying the ashram food was too poor, that a young man
needed butter and meat and eggs and such. So I returned there to have my noon meal.
Choto Babu brother was a local doctor of great local fame.
He worked 12 hours a day seeing patients, even making house calls. He seemed half doctor
and half saint. Choto Baba functioned as his brother's "compounder," or
pharmacist. Many of the medications were made on the premises.
Before mealtime Choto Babu speaks to me at length. He
speaks very well, but sadly nothing new really. He is expounding the dharma and will not
for a minute listen to me.
He tells me to do the "OM-MA" mantra. I should
repeat it with faith. He says that I should lie on right side when sleeping. Think of
Ramakrishna and he will come.
"Mother is dancing in manipura chakra! Father is
sleeping in state of turiya! Father must be wakened! Ah! When Father wakens
He tells me how Baba used to go from door to door doing
Harinam kirtan, a beggar sadhu.
"You must say to Baba: 'Show me Ma! Show me
Ramakrishna! Don't be shy, be bold! Insist upon it!"
He adds his belief that Ramakrishna will come three more
times, and maybe he is finished with the first time. I am too shy at the moment to ask
Choto if he believes Baba is one of those incarnations. He presents me with the gift of a
very nice diary book. Then I am treated to a sumptuous meal, a little of everything. They
are a wealthy family and the food is first class.
Later in the afternoon, after I have returned from Choto
Babu's it is still on my mind how he told me to say to Baba, "Show me!" but I
feel shy to do this directly.
I say to him "I want to see Mother! I want to see my
Baba then says "Ami Ramakrishna na?" ("Am I
not Ramakrishna?"). Then he goes into his Ramakrishna pose: one hand held to his
heart, one arm upraised. It is so beautiful and childlike the way he suddenly does this. A
thrill goes through me. Is he acknowledging that he is Ramakrishna?
Taken aback I say "I don't know," I say,
"Mother must tell me."
He says "Right!"
At the evening worship at the ashram I am overcome by deep
feelings again and tears. Later in discussion with Baba he tells me "Whole bishwa
cinema maya!" (The whole universe is like a cinema, an illusion).
He is laughing sweetly and talking with great bhav. He
tells me to write this down in my diary, about the cinema. About the whole world being an
illusion like a movie. Only the light is real, everything else is just shadows in the
light from the film.
Then he points out how all the different members of the
family, brother, sister, mother, father are all calling themselves by the same name,
"human," and all the parts of the body, the arms, legs, hands etc. are also
calling themselves as "human."
He laughs and laughs at this. These are all such different
things, and yet they are all the same thing! He imitates a ganga smoker which cracks me up
with laughter, so intense and perfect is his pantomime.
Later at night, sitting in his room by the soft yellow
glow of the lantern he says something to me about diksha (initiation). ?" It is
another test. He points to his ear. He says "Who is your guru?"
I say something clever like "God is the guru.
Ramakrishna is my guru."
He says, "Yes, but when you go to America, if people
ask you who your guru is, what will you say. I say his name: Prahlad Chandra Brahmachari.
The following entry in exercise book "II" was
also marked February 19th, although it may have been another day.
A Young Man's Search for the Avatar: part1, part 2 part 3