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#1662 - Tuesday, December 30, 2003 - Editor: Jerry
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Your editors, Jerry, Gloria, Christiana, Michael, Mark, Joyce
The following accounts of meetings with sages originally appeared on Sarlo's Guru Ratings site. http://www.globalserve.net/~sarlo/Ratings.htm.
If anyone would like to communicate with the author of these pieces, she is currently on the NDS list.
1916(?) to 1998
"One day you will find that you are the ultimate subject"
I met Jean Klein in the spring of 1995. A friend of mine had
his attendant and traveled with him for many years. Jean gave a talk in
our town. I went to hear him and was impressed. I telephoned my friend
and said, I know Jean doesnt have any more public programs scheduled
on this visit, but are there any private meetings I could attend?
My friend said, Why dont you just come over to the
hotel and meet
him. When I walked into the hotel garden Jean was sitting under an
umbrella. A quiet gentle man with a strong underlying presence. He
seemed to be enjoying watching some children splashing and playing in
the pool. A silence permeated the atmosphere around him.
My friend introduced us. Jean smiled and took my hand in his.
up to his room, slowly walking through the corridor and into the
elevator. Jean gracious and courtly, his arm linked in mine.
We reached his room and sat on the couch while my friend
in the little kitchen. I asked Jean What is this subject/object
relationship you were speaking of?" He tried to tell me, but I couldnt
My friend invited me to stay and eat with them. Afterwards, I
I would also like to cook something for Jean. I asked Jean if he liked
Greek food, and he said, Yes! I went home and made him some delicious
spanakopita. It took forever to make, and I was regretting the time
spent away from him.
When I walked into his hotel room with my dish Jean said,
You are an
Not really," I thought. But who was I to contradict him?
I came back the next day with some flowers. Jean was returning
he was leaving, Jean told my friend to bring the flowers, Take care of
them, he said, There is a lot of love in those flowers. That
As he got into the car, Jean paused for a moment looking at
beautiful mountain, the sky, the scenery. He took a deep breath and
said, I dont want to leave this place. Then dont," I said. He just
looked at me and smiled. He never returned.
Sometime later I received a phone call asking me if I would
come to Santa Barbara and cook for Jeans Day of Listening, a meeting
at his house attended by his old students. Of course, I replied.
Well pay you. They said. No way." I replied.
So, I cooked for Jeans "Day of Listening".
After the meeting my friend
took me into Jeans room. Jean was very pleased with the day and the
food. My friend told him, She enjoyed cooking for you, Jean. Jean
looked at me and said, Maybe we should adopt you. Yes, please, I
thought. I stayed on in Santa Barbara for about two weeks cooking lunch
and dinner for Jean, the others of the household, occasional guests and
Jean had a very refined aesthetic sense. He liked everything
lovely, just so. He wore Swiss hand-made leather shoes, cashmere
sweaters, and expensive silk cravats. He loved art and music. He
enjoyed fine food, and fine conversation. I had never met a teacher
like him. He was very gallant, and would always insist on holding a
door open for a lady, even when he himself could barely stand unaided.
In the evening when I returned to a friends house to
sleep, I was
aware of being gently surrounded by the same quiet subtle vibrations I
had experienced in Jeans presence.
Jean didnt care to be alone much. We had a fun game we
used to play
with him. He had a film script he was working on in his head. It went
something like this: A young man and woman meet in their very early
youth. They fall in love, become lovers, but somehow outward
circumstances, perhaps the war, separate them. Twenty years later they
meet again. An instant attraction is felt. They become lovers, but
neither one recognizes the other as the love of their youth. Then, Jean
would say, there would be some geste (French for gesture) the woman
would make. A geste she had always done, that was hers alone, and by
which her lover recognizes her.
What was this gesture? Jean could never find one good enough.
geste," he would say, brushing his hair back from his forehead with an
elegant sweep of his hand. We spent a lot of happy hours with Jean
trying to come up with a geste he liked, but we never could find one
that satisfied his aesthetic sense.
He once told us a nice story about watching some nuns walking
misty lawn on their way to early morning prayer. I said to him, Some
people say that all are women compared to God" "That," he said, is a
little bit suspect.
At dinner Jean would often say, Are we going to have
something nice to
drink? This was the signal to open a bottle of Chardonnay. Jean would
usually have about a thimbleful, while the rest of us had a glass or
two. Drunkenness would never have been tolerated. Just a little
loosening of some peoples reticent awe of him to get the conversation
One evening there were about six or seven of us at dinner.
began to describe their first meeting with Jean and what that meeting
meant to them. Of course, these were Jeans old students and close
people, so what they had to say was quite profound. At one point I
looked over at Jean who was sitting next to me. He was sitting still as
a statue, his eyes wide open staring at the wall opposite. Tears were
silently rolling down his face.
One day while sitting in conversation with Jean in the garden,
reconnected with an intuitive appreciation for natural beauty I had had
as a child, but which had become inaccessible to me during my
adolescence. A old contraction subtly released, and I recognized that a
part of myself, a dear and valuable friend, long-missed had returned.
One night after dinner I was sitting on the couch with Jean
parts of the O.J. Simpson trial on CNN. Jean said that of course O.J.
had done it, but he would never be convicted. I piped up some statistic
about the huge number of young black men incarcerated by our legal
system, trying to impress Jean with my liberal views and point out the
negative aspects of American culture.
Jean gave me a brief, intense, almost quizzical, look. I
it meant. Later, when I returned to my home, I realized that a piece of
conditioning I had long carried (noticed only by its absence) had
fallen away, and in its place was a great appreciation for the
beautiful diversity of human existence.
One afternoon Jean came home. He had missed lunch and was
hungry. I hadn't expect him to eat lunch with us, and hadn't saved any
food for him. I told him there was some left over penne pasta in the
fridge that I could heat up. He nodded his assent asking me to hurry. I
quickly heated up the pasta on the stove, and put a piece in my mouth
to see if it was hot enough. Just as I had the piece in my mouth, it
fell back into the pot, and I had no idea where it landed.
To many people this might not seem a big deal. But I had been
to cook many years before by a very orthodox Hindu brahman. One wasn't
even allowed to taste the food before offering it to the diety or guru
(same thing in their minds). Having a piece that had been in my mouth
fall back in the pot from the Hindu standpoint made the whole thing
"jhutta", totally impure, only fit to be given to the dogs.
Although I had relaxed my standards a lot over the years, the
of now serving this pasta dish to Jean really pushed my limits. Well,
there was nothing else ready. He was ravenously hungry, had asked me to
hurry, and this dish was what he was expecting.
I fished out a piece of pasta from the pot, hoping it was the
and threw it away. I went out feeling very uncomfortable, but served
the dish to Jean anyway. He ate it with great appreciation.
I had served Jean many delicious dishes in the past. By it's
merits, this one wasn't all that tasty. Jean looked at me when he had
finished eating, smiled, his eyes softened. "That", he said, "is the
most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my life."
Someone once remarked that the word for mind and heart in the
language were the same. "That is because the mind dissolves in the
heart," Jean explained.
Because I met Jean so late in his life, I was only able to
seminar with him. It was held in Greece. At one talk he said, One day
you will find that you are the ultimate subject. That statement stayed
with me, and gradually I've begun to understand what he meant.
While teaching a yoga class Jean told us, When you
breath in, it is a
receiving. When you breath out, it is an offering.
A student of Jean's drove him to Athens after the seminar. I
a lift to the airport on their way into town. As I got out of the car I
said to Jean, I hope to see you in California. He replied, You will
know when I am there.
A few months later Jean had a massive stroke in London. He was
able to teach again. When he returned to California I went to Santa
Barbara to cook for him, but the Jean I knew and loved, the personality
I was attached to was no longer accessible to me.
The night before I left, I cooked a beautiful dinner for Jean
of his favorite dishes. The next morning his attendant told me that
before going to sleep Jean had said, "I have just had a Moroccan
I never truly understood the full import of Jean's teachings,
didn't seem to bother him. He seemed to love me and enjoy my company
despite my ignorance. To me, he appeared as my "enlightened"
grandfather, a great master, whose company I was briefly privileged to
Now days when I go for a walk in nature and look around me
renewed sense of wonder regained in Jeans presence, I remember his
words, When you breath in, it is a receiving. When you breath out, it
is an offering. Thank you Jean.
I met Papaji in Lucknow in February of 1991. After an eleven
hiatus from spiritual seeking during which time I had built up a
business, gotten married, bought a house, and done most of the usual
worldly things that people think will make them happy, I realized that
I was completely miserable.
Having left off spiritual practice in the early 1980's as I felt it
wasn't practical, I now decided to reexamine the dharma as the place to
find true happiness. With that in mind, I went to sit a Vipassana
course with S.N. Goenka at Goenkas mediation center in Igatpuri,
outside of Bombay. Goenkaji was an old teacher of mine from the 70s in
India, and I felt that of all the living teachers I knew, he was the
I had also made plans to revisit the ashrams of my guru (Neem Karoli
Baba or Maharaji) up north after the course, and had therefore booked
my return to fly out of Delhi.
After sitting the course, which was pretty rigorous, I thought, rather
than go up north, I would prefer to go to a beach in southern India and
relax. I tried to change my ticket home to fly out of Bombay rather
than Delhi. Despite repeated trips to the airline office, and the fact
that people all around me were changing their tickets, there seemed to
be no way I could change mine.
Alright, I thought, this started as a pilgrimage, and it will end as
I flew up to Delhi and went to Maharajis ashram in Brindaban. I knew
that many of my friends were staying there at the time. I walked into
the ashram and was immediately told by the manager that I couldnt
stay. What is this? I thought.
All of my friends were in the bazaar, and when they returned, a heated
argument began between them and the ashram manager. What do you mean,
she cant stay? they shouted in Hindi. She is a very old devotee.
I dont know her, he said.
You dont know this one that one or the other, they said angrily,
naming various old western devotees. Youve only been here 10 years.
The manager would not relent, and said I could stay next door, but not
in the ashram, which meant in the evenings when the ashram was locked I
would be all alone.
I didnt want to stay under those conditions, and having just come from
a silent meditation retreat which ended by extending ones loving
kindness to all beings, the thought that I was the cause of this huge
fracas in my gurus ashram was very dismaying.
Okay," I said, Ill stay tonight and go to Allahabad in the morning
to see Dada and Didi. They were very old devotees of Maharaji whom I
had met on my first trip to India in 1973. I had eaten at their house
everyday, and it was there that I had my first taste of Maharajis
A friend of mine, Govind, was also in Brindaban. He said, Im going
to Lucknow to visit my other guru, Poonjaji." He showed me a photo of
Poonja, and he invited me to come with him to Lucknow. I looked at the
photo and thought Poonja looked totally insane. I had heard of Poonja
only vaguely from a friend in America who said that he was a teacher in
India who was telling people not to meditate.
As I had found meditation tremendously beneficial, I wasnt that keen
on meeting him. On the other hand, Lucknow was only a couple of hours
from Allahabad. It would be convenient to travel with Govind, pay my
respects to Poonja, and go on to Allahabad from there. A plan!
We arrived in Lucknow in the morning. My friend was very anxious that
we get a move on as we were late for satsang. Whats the big rush? I
thought. I want my bath, my tea, my toast.
When we arrived at Poonjajis house satsang was going on. There were
about 30 people in the room. I remember Poonjaji giving me a very
quick, very piercing look before I sat down. I saw several friends of
mine in the room. They were from IMS, the vipassana meditation center
in Massachusetts (not affiliated with Goenka). I didnt pay much
attention to what Poonjaji was saying. Everyone seemed very nice.
Poonjaji was polite. We were all given chai, and the satsang was over
for the day.
I was staying in the same hotel as my friends. This was fortunate, as
they were given a private satsang every afternoon, and I was invited to
come along as well. I was sitting next to a friend at the satsangs, and
I kept whispering questions to him. He encouraged me to speak to
Poonjaji directly, so, although I felt a bit shy, I finally did. Not
being sure how to address him, I asked if I could call him Papaji, as
many others did. I would be most honored, he politely replied.
After the satsang, I asked if I could speak to Papaji privately. I was
told that would be a good idea, as I had been asking him questions.
I walked into his room and I introduced myself. Hello!" he said to me
in a booming voice, "Where is your tiger?" I didnt know how to answer
his question. It seemed confusing to me. I wasn't even sure he wanted
So, I told him that I was a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba and had just
come from a meditation course with Goenka. Neem Karoli Baba devotees
dont need to meditate, he said.
This was also confusing. I thought, Well, what do they need to do?
because it seemed to me that they sure needed to do something.
By way of explanation, I said, I was feeling a bit lost in America.
Why dont you put America inside the Self? he asked.
Now, I was completely stumped
No, no? he said smiling and looking intently into my face. He patted
me kindly on the back, as if to say, Dont worry.
I liked Papaji. I liked him a lot, although, what he said didnt make
sense to me. It didnt sound at all like the usual spiritual teachings
I had heard, but his language and examples were very poetic and
devotional, using illustrations culled from the great Hindu epics, such
as the Ramayana, and I loved it.
I ended up staying with Papaji for the rest of my visit in India. I
never did go on to Allahabad. I loved being there with him. I felt I
could stay forever.
One day in satsang Papaji told us, "Happiness is your true nature."
Strange as it may seem, I had not known that before.
The people coming to see Papaji seemed to be from every possible
country and every possible spiritual background. Many of them had done
years and years of sadhana. They appeared to be very mature spiritual
seekers. They would speak to him briefly, ask a few questions, a shift
would happen, and he would say to them, Now, you know who you are. You
can go home.
Generally it was all so subtle and understated that it is only now, in
retrospect, I see what may have occurred. I dont know if any of these
people actually woke up in his presence. I never saw or heard of any of
them again. As far as I know, they just faded away from view.
There was a young man there named, Kishor. He was very likeable, but a
bit neurotic, and was the butt of many of Papajis good natured jokes
and illustrations. Kishor used to endlessly engage Papaji with various
neurotic ramblings about the past.
One day Papaji said to him, Listen, do you know about the graveyard?
When a person likes to visit the graveyard, they go in and pick up a
bone. Oh, this looks tasty, they say, and they gnaw on it for a
One day as I was relating some past events to him, Papaji asked me, "Do
you like to visit Kishor's graveyard?"
Another day as I was going on about something, he interrupted me to
say, Why are you playing with dolls? The Mother is calling you for
lunch. This made me very silent.
Finally, one day he asked me, Who are you?
Im me, I said, pointing to my body.
Are you sure? he asked.
I thought I was sure, but maybe I wasnt....
In satsang one day Papaji said that in order to be liberated one must
be totally free of desires. As he had repeatedly praised the "desire to
be free", I said to him, "But Papaji, the desire to be free is a
He replied, "The desire to be free is the final desire, which consumes
all other desires, and finally consumes itself."
A woman was speaking to Papaji in satsang one day. She was going on at
great length about the guru/disciple relationship. At one point, she
said, "When the Master takes you to the top of the mountain and tells
you to jump, you jump.
Papaji, who did not appear to have been paying much attention to what
she had been saying up to this point, sat straight up, and said, "What?
No! A true Master takes away the mountain."
One day as I was expressing some of my doubts to him, he said, Whats
the matter? Dont you think it can happen to you? It can happen to
The metaphor I had as a timetable for enlightenment was the time it
would take a bird flying over a mountain with a scarf in its mouth to
wear away the mountain. It had not occurred to me that my mountain had
even been touched.
I said sadly, I used to think it could happen. But its taken so long,
and I havent seen it happen to anyone I know.
It can happen to you, he said quietly, Dont you want it to happen
"What did this mean?" I silently wondered. "What would I have to give
up?" Then, as a drowning man sees his life flash before him, I saw my
lifes desires parade before my eyes.
Papaji must have seen what was going on because he said, Come on now.
This is not the bazaar. No haggling here.
Yes! I said
Good! said he, slapping his leg.
The bargain had been struck.
One day after satsang, I went to use the toilet at Papajis house. This
was a pretty dirty place, as most Indian toilets are. There was a
little water tap inside the room. It was used to fill a bucket. The
water from this bucket was then used to flush the toilet.
I was feeling kind of thirsty and I thought, Well, I could just drink
the water from this bucket. After all this is Papajis house.
Everything here is his prasad.
The next moment I was taken aback. What was I thinking? This was a very
dirty place. I could get really sick if I did something like that.
Because I was actually very worried, I spoke to Papaji privately about
what I had almost done.
Instead of sharing my concern, he was delighted. He thumped me on the
back enthusiastically. Thats wonderful, he said. Only great saints
have these thoughts, Mirabai, Ravi Dass.
Great saints and crazy people, I thought. I didnt know which
category I would fit into, but I was pretty sure it would not be the
first, so I decided that it was time to leave.
Even though I had made the decision to go, and my husband and other
pressing matters were waiting for my return, I felt reluctant to leave
In those days, Papaji did not get directly involved in the decisions
people made about their lives. His advice was used always and only as a
pointer to the truth. Even so, I decided to ask him directly what I
should do, hoping he would tell me to stay.
Instead he told me, Those who must leave early, leave early.
I expressed my concern about what would happen to me in America.
He replied, That which brought you here will also take care of you.
I paid my respects and I left.
Although I went back to Lucknow two times after that, it was never the
same as that first visit. What I had needed to hear, I heard then. I
will always be thankful to Papaji, for it was from him that I first
heard the truth of who I am, and that, in this very life, that truth
could be known.
1896-1982, a great saint of India
When once asked, "Why are you in this world?", she
replied, "In this
world? I am not anywhere. I am reposing within myself."
Here is a story about Anandamayi Ma whom I saw at her ashram in
Brindaban in September of 1974.
A little background history. In January of 1973 I took my first trip to
India to find my guru. I only had a month as I was between semesters at
college. I went to meet Neem Karoli Baba, but he eluded me as was his
wont, and by the time I arranged to return in India in 1974, he had
left his body. This led me to ponder for many years, was he really my
guru, and if so, why was I not able to meet him in person? I see now
how silly and even presumptuous it is to expect God to adhere to ones
agenda. But I was somewhat naive at the time, and I thought that a
month between semesters would certainly be enough time to find my guru,
the next logical step on what I conceived of as the road to
enlightenment. Obviously God had different plans.
In August of 1974 I was up in the Himalayas attending a vipassana
meditation retreat led by S.N. Goenka, a very wonderful teacher. At
that retreat I met many devotees of Neem Karoli Baba including a young
westerner, A.G., who had thrown away his passport and money and was
attempting to live in India as a saddhu.
After the retreat A.G. told me that something odd was happening to him,
and that once a month around the time of the full moon his neck would
swell up and hurt, and then gradually it would subside over the course
of a few days. He took this to be some type of spiritual phenomena, but
I wasnt so sure. When he left to go down to the plains I gave him some
money to consult a doctor in Delhi about what was going on.
A month later I went to Brindaban. A big celebration was going on there
at Neem Karoli Babas ashram in honor of the one year anniversary of
his death. Many devotees had gathered from India and abroad to attend.
I saw A.G. and asked him what the doctor had said.
He replied that the doctor had diagnosed him with Hodgkins disease,
which at that time was 100% fatal. He didnt believe the doctors
diagnosis at all. An American doctor devotee was visiting the ashram.
When he heard A.G.'s story he got very serious and said that A.G.
should go back to the west for medical treatment immediately.
Later that day, A.G. invited me to go with him to Anandamayi Mas
ashram. He said, She isnt there now, but they have nice bhajans.
You mean, she is still alive?, I said. I couldnt believe it. She was
a legend in my mind. I had read everything I could find about her
before coming to India, but assumed that she must have died years
before. In fact, she lived until 1982.
As A.G. and I walked over to Anandamayis ashram, he told me stories of
how Neem Karoli Baba would sometimes go and visit her. He would rush
into her ashram calling out, Ma, Ma, feed me, and she would.
The bhajans that day were nice. As in many ashrams in India, the men
and women sit separately during the programs, so I didnt see A.G. for
At the end of the bhajans an Indian man all dressed in white approached
me. Oh, no, I thought with dread, here we go, fully expecting to be
harassed in the typical fashion Indian men did to single western women.
"Armor up!", I thought, as I prepared some of my stock replies to the
But it quickly became clear that this man was not like that at all. He
was very respectful and polite and said to me, You look so nice
dressed in a sari, just like our Ma when she was young. Would you like
to come and meet her?
Although I knew I didnt resemble Ma at all when she was young, I did
very much want to meet her. It turned out that she had just arrived,
and very few people knew she was there. I asked the Indian gentleman if
I could bring my friend.
A.G. and I were led into a very small room with about 15 people inside.
There was Ma sitting on a tucket, one of those rope bed things they use
for everything in India. Her dark hair was piled on top of her head.
She was very old and wearing glasses. We couldnt understand what
anyone was saying as Ma didnt speak English. She was very much in
command of the situation and appeared to be giving various orders to
her devotees, and sometimes telling a joke or two.
There was another tucket in the room, and we went and sat on the floor
with our backs leaning against it.
Ma had a couple of very fierce Indian women bramacharinis with her all
dressed in white with short clipped hair. One of them gruffly ordered
me, Dont lean against the tucket. That is Mas bed. So of course I
immediately shifted over, feeling bad and perplexed as one often is in
India when one commits an unintentional cultural faux pas. We were
actually sitting in Ma's bedroom. Difficult to tell. A concrete room,
unadorned, holding only two rope bed cots.
I hoped despite my bad manners that Anandamayi Ma might be able to cure
A.G., so I started praying to her silently, inwardly, Please Ma, save
him. Hes so good. He doesnt deserve to die so young. Wont you help?
I was going on in this fashion for a while, when all of a sudden Ma
stopped talking and looked around the room as if she was searching for
a particularly loathsome insect that was annoying her. She seemed
really fierce and not at all like the blissful mother I had read about.
Her gaze landed on me with sort of "aha!" expression, and she shouted
out an order in Bengali. I thought I was going to be thrown out.
You, said her attendant, prodding me in the back and pointing across
the room , get up and go sit over there.
So of course, I jumped up.
Tum, nay!, said Ma, which I knew meant, not you, so I quickly sat
The attendant then ordered A.G. to get up and sit across the room. Ma
proceeded to separate all of the men and women. Men on one side of the
room. Women on the other.
I guess my incessant thinking about A.G. had been disturbing things on
some vibrational level. Although, I have to say, I thought my prayers
were pretty pure.
After a while the darshan ended, and we were ushered out of the room. I
was disappointed that Anandamayi Ma had appeared not as the blissful
Mother of compassion I had been expecting, but rather as Kali wielding
her sword. The whole event was puzzling to me, as I had gone to her
humbly seeking her help. It also felt weird that we had been singled
out in such an odd way. I didnt think that we had done anything wrong,
but somehow it seemed that we had. I didnt know what to make of any of
Later, back in Delhi, the American doctor and I managed to get A.G. a
new passport and rushed back to the west for treatment. We prayed the
plane up into the sky and out of sight with a few ram rams, seeking
Neem Karoli Babas blessings for a cure. My doctor friend then confided
in me that A.G. probably had only a few months left to live.
As my Indian visa had expired, I decided to go up to Nepal for a while,
and traveled there with a heavy heart, thinking that someone I cared
deeply for would soon die. I wrote to A.G. from Kathmandu, but received
no reply. I was very worried.
A month later I received a new visa for India, so I booked a seat on a
Danish hippie bus bound for Delhi. On the morning of our departure a
friend went to the American embassy to check for mail, and returned
with a letter for me which had just arrived. It was from A.G.
A.G. wrote that the doctors had operated on his neck and could find
nothing that should not have been there except for an odd thick bit of
skin. No tumor, nothing. They were very perplexed as he had had all of
the classic symptoms of Hodgkins disease, but in fact, it turned out
that he was perfectly healthy and had nothing wrong with him at all!
Well, I was a happy thankful person on that bus ride from Kathmandu to
Pokarah. When we arrived in Pokarah that evening a beautiful full moon
was shining on the quiet lake. It was also my birthday.
Did Ma cure him? Who can say? Anyones guess is as good as mine. But I
believe she did.
Ammachi and Shri Ranjit Maharaj
Several years ago, I was privileged to host and help organize
Ranjit Maharajs satsangs in my local area. Ranjit Maharaj was a
co-disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj. They had the same guru, Shri
Ranjit Maharaj, in the tradition of his guru, taught the way of
understanding, as the way to final reality. He once remarked, What
can embracing do for you? Perhaps he might not have approved of
Ammachis method of hugging people as a means of knowledge. I dont
Maharaj was 84 when he first traveled to America. He visited us four
years in succession. Though I originally went to see him out of
curiosity because of his connection with Nisargadatta, I quickly came
to understand that he was a true master in his own right, and to
appreciate his kindness, simplicity, complete honesty and incredible
Maharaj was totally uncompromising in his teaching. He never budged or
digressed to make things easier for us. Most of the time, I had no idea
what he was talking about. I tried very hard, but I just couldn't
understand him. Still, I was drawn to him by his kindness, and in my
heart I trusted that he was telling the truth. He had many stock
phrases which he used over and over again to try and break through our
ignorance and take us up to the door of final reality, through which
no two can enter.
One benefit of traveling with Maharaj or hosting him was taking part in
the early morning arti. This arti is performed to awaken the guru. The
words were directed to his guru, but perhaps one could as well take the
words of the arti to be directed at awakening the guru within.
At the end of the arti one of the ladies would sing a beautiful song.
The refrain is Chidananda Roopha Shivoham Shivoham. The translation
is, I am Eternal Bliss, I am Shiva. The song goes on to list all of
what one is not. For instance, I am not the mind, ego...nor
consciousness, not the five elements not envy, anger, craving,
attraction, .virtue, sin joy, sorrow death, birth, father,
mother guru, aspirant. I am beyond concept, beyond form I am neither
liberated nor in bondage. I am Eternal Bliss, I am Shiva.
We would then sit for a few quiet moments with Maharaj, the words
Shivoham Shivoham resonating in the silence. This time was very
precious to us, a rare moment to sit quietly with Maharaj before
beginning our daily chores of cooking, cleaning and setting up for
When I said goodbye to Maharaj at the airport in April of 1999, I knew
that most likely I would never see him again. Each time he had visited
us he seemed a bit weaker. When I received the news in October of 2000
that he had a stroke in India, it seemed clear that he would not remain
in his body much longer.
In November of that year Ammachi was holding her programs at a venue
very close to my house. I would go in the morning, come home in the
afternoon and return in the evening.
One afternoon, I returned home from Ammas program, checked my e-mail,
and saw a letter saying that Maharaj had left his body that day in
Mumbai. Even though I had felt I would never see him again, the news
was shocking to me. I cried when I realized that I would never again
look in his eyes or experience his kindness.
Later that day I went up to Ammas program. Many of Maharajs other
students were there, as well as those of us who had organized his
satsangs and hosted him. We were all very sad, feeling slightly bereft.
Every evening Amma sings devotional bhajans. They are very beautiful
and are usually directed to a particular deity. Although I usually
enjoyed the bhajans, that night I just wasnt in the mood.
Sitting there feeling sorrowful, my friends and I were deeply moved
when we recognized these words being sung, Chidananda Roopha Shivoham
Shivoham, and then slowly and rhythmically the whole of the advaitic
Afterwards I asked Ammas disciples if she often sang that song. No,
they replied, hardly ever.
Dattatreya, the archetypal guru is said to himself have had 24 gurus.
Some people hold that everything is the guru. Some people have one
outer guru whose guidance leads them to the truth of who they really
are. Some people say the satguru lies within. Neem Karoli Baba once
told a friend of mine, There is only one guru.
Who can say what it meant that that song was sung that night? Those of
us sitting together who had been with Maharaj were profoundly moved,
and our eyes were wet with tears. Perhaps it was the Selfs way of
reiterating what Maharaj often told us, You dont die. Only the body
dies. Nobody dies and nobody is born. What is never born and never dies
is the Reality.
To me it appeared as gurus grace, but if you asked me to point to a
particular entity or place as guru, I would not be able to do that. Nor
would I try.
A Theravadan Monk of the Thai forest Tradition
In the summer of 1979 I was living on a farm in western
owned by my friends, David and Sally. A few years previously it had
been a commune, but by the time I arrived, things had calmed down and
thinned out, and there were only eight of us living there, David and
Sally, another couple and their two children, one other person, and me.
The farm was a great place, over a hundred acres in size. The house had
been built in the late 1700s, and although it had a lot of potential,
in its present state, it was really pretty funky. I was living in the
woods in a little screened room called the summer house. This was the
best place on the property as far as I was concerned. No electricity or
water, but total privacy and quiet. Just me and nature. I loved my
peaceful days and nights in the summer house.
We had an enormous organic vegetable garden and a big raspberry patch.
We canned vegetables and made jam. There was a pottery studio, a small
bakery, and a milk cow in a big red barn.
Despite all of the activity, we seemed to spend endless hours just
hanging out in a relaxed atmosphere, going for walks, swimming in the
pond and playing with the children. Life on the farm that summer was
Every night we had wonderful dinners. Friends and neighbors would drop
by. The guests and conversations were very interesting. Our talk
usually focused on dharma. All of us had spent time in India and were
students of the vipassana teacher, S.N. Goenka. Some of us had a
background in Hinduism as well.
Around this time another property, that was to become the Insight
Meditation Center, in Barre, Massachusetts, was purchased. The
vipassana communities in those days overlapped. Western students of
Goenka, Mahasi Sayadaw, Munindra, Dipa Ma and Ajahn Chah were working
together to get the center going. The above mentioned teachers were
from different countries, and taught somewhat different techniques. The
idea was to have one umbrella center under which vipassana could be
One day we heard that Ajahn Chah was coming to America. We all knew he
was a great meditation teacher. The abbot of a big monastery in
Thailand. Very famous and respected in his country. This was exciting
news, and we invited him to come out and stay at the farm.
He arrived with one of his students, Robert, an American monk, who
lived at Ajahn Chahs monastery in Thailand, and was acting as his
I vacated the summer house, so that Ajahn Chah could stay there. We
figured he would like staying in the forest, which he did. I also think
there may have been a restriction about him staying under the same roof
as householders, but I didnt know about it at the time.
We enjoyed Ajahn Chahs company. He was very good natured, happy and
jolly. He was delighted by everything he saw on the farm, its rural
setting, and the acres of surrounding forest. It was haying season, and
Robert was having a great time, riding the tractor with his monks
robes flying in the breeze, cutting down the hay and tossing it up to
the loft in the barn. Some of our dharma friends dropped by. Halcyon
days. What could have been better than this?
However, there did seem to be a few things that we, from our cultural
perspective, were finding odd. First of all, we were told that we
ladies should scrupulously avoid touching Ajahn Chah, even
accidentally. Okay, that was no problem.
The next thing we found perplexing was how to serve him food. In India
ladies do most of the cooking. They serve the guru with great
reverence, love and devotion. We were quite puzzled that Ajahn Chah did
not want to take a plate of food from our hands. He sat on the floor of
living room to eat. Robert said we must place the plate of food on a
cloth in front of Ajahn Chah, and then back off. By no means were we to
touch the cloth or plate at the same time the Ajahn did. Okay, we tried
to get that one right.
One day we were sitting cross legged on the floor in front of Ajahn
Chah asking him questions. He kept shifting around and looking very
uncomfortable. Finally Robert told us that women should not sit like
that in front of the Ajahn. That we must sit sideways, with our legs
closed together. Okay.
I guess we should have taken the hint from all of this. As simple, good
natured spiritual seekers, children of the sixties, we often wondered
amongst ourselves how to reconcile the teachings we had been given in
Asia of right conduct, including sexual conduct, with the free and easy
ways of our early youth. If one was married or in a committed
relationship, it seemed pretty straightforward, but what if one was
We now felt we had a great opportunity to discuss our concerns with a
famous dharma teacher in a fairly private setting. So, in this context,
we respectfully asked for Ajahn Chahs clarification on the subject of
right sexual conduct. We waited for his wisdom.
Sex, he said, is gross, vile and disgusting. Then he picked his
nose with his forefinger. Its like that. Well, that put an end to
that conversation, although it provided us with a great quote for many
Ajahn Chah liked David and Sally a lot. One day as we were all sitting
together, he said, "Sally grows everything here except children. There
was an awkward silence.
We all knew that David and Sally had been trying unsuccessfully for
years to have a child. It wasnt something we openly discussed. It was
their personal concern. I think someone just changed the subject.
After Ajahn Chah left, I went up to the summer house to change the
bedding. I then had the brilliant idea that instead of changing the
sheets, I would sleep in them for one night, and thereby receive a
blessing from the contact, as they had been sanctified by the touch of
a saint. To someone of a devotional nature with a Hindu background as I
was, this made perfect sense. I should have known better.
As I climbed into bed, I noticed that the sheets felt a bit scratchy,
which I thought was odd. There was nothing unusual about the bedding. I
had made the bed up for Ajahn Chah myself, making sure he would be
comfortable. I began to feel somewhat uneasy and had doubts about what
I was doing. I blew out the candle and was attempting to drift off to
sleep when I heard an odd flapping and bumping against the ceiling and
the screened walls.
I turned on my flashlight and saw a giant bat frantically flying and
swooping around inside the room. I jumped up in terror, flew out of the
summer house, leaving the door open so that bat could get out, and ran
down the meadow to the safety of the house. I guess sleeping in the
sheets of a famous Thai monk was not such a good idea after all.
Before Ajahn Chah left the farm he asked us to make up a paste of rice
flour and water. As he walked out of the house for the last time, he
dipped his fingers in the paste and pressed them on the kitchen door.
He said it was a blessing that would always stay with the house. Three
round white finger prints on a brown wood door.
Today the house has been completely remodeled. No one would recognize
it as the funky old hippie commune of yore. Everything has been
repainted, including the kitchen door, except for one small triangle of
dark wood. Here preserved are the three finger prints of Ajahn Chah.
David and Sally still live in the house, the proud parents of two
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|Awakening to the
The Gift of Lucid Living.
"This book will be of great assistance to the seeming many." Sailor Bob Adamson
by Roy Whenary