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The Heart's Adventure
- by Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari
“Spirituality is the science and the art of remembrance,” said my Master, Shri Ram Chandraji, President of the Shri Ram Chandra Mission, when I met him for the first time. This meeting took place at his home in Shahjahanpur, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where he had lived all his life. At the time of that first meeting in 1964, he was already quite an old person, being in his sixty-sixth year. Nevertheless he was very active and ever busy with his daily work which generally began at seven in the morning and often went on till one o’clock the next morning! I was fascinated by his appearance. He was a very handsome person, very fair and slim, even his ribs showing under the thin vest that he wore. He was of medium height, not exceeding 1.65 metres; his weight was around forty-four kilograms, and sometimes as low as forty-one kilograms when he was not eating well. That first meeting with him will always remain etched in my memory, for I went as somewhat of a sceptic, and three days or so later left Shahjahanpur a totally changed person.
I was intrigued by his first definition of spirituality. I had acquired some familiarity with the religious and yogic texts, though I can claim no scholarship because I lacked a knowledge of the Sanskrit language, without which scholarship is virtually impossible. Nevertheless, I had an easy, if somewhat faltering, familiarity with these subjects, having become interested in their study when I was about sixteen years old. I had never come across such a definition for the subject. Therefore, I asked him to clarify his remark, his definition. He obliged instantly, as was his wont when he wished to answer a question. When he didn’t wish to give an answer, then his eyes would assume a far-away look and there would only be silence. But if he could not answer a question, then he would instantly say that he did not have the answer, but that he would consult his own Master, Lalaji Maharaj, and give the reply later if he got one himself.
To my question, he said, “Look here! We have forgotten our original home, from where we have descended to the world in which we are living now. We have become so addicted to material life and values that we no longer remember that original home, the home of our Father whom people call God, or by any other name. Now, before we can return to that home, there must be something that will make us remember that home. How can someone go to a place of which he knows nothing? And how can he go there if he doesn’t remember it? People talk about amnesia, but I’m telling you that, here, we have a permanent amnesia. Therefore, I told you that spirituality is the science and the art of remembrance.” I could not see anything in this to argue with! This was my very first lesson in spirituality, and I believe that with it I got not merely a definition, but I was also awakened to a sense of the crippling loss that I had suffered over eons of time. It also awakened me to a sense of purpose to return to that original home. For, after that first discussion with Shri Ram Chandraji, my life was not to be the same again.
The death of my mother when I was just five years old must have touched off something in me, for it made me turn inwards. I became somewhat of a lonely and withdrawn person. This tendency strengthened as I went through school and a University course, but fortunately became oriented into some sort of search, though I knew not what I was looking for. It was a vague longing for inner peace, for inner happiness, for tranquillity.
The average Hindu child begins learning the prayers by heart by being taught them by his parents. My father personally introduced me to such prayers, since he performed puja daily in a small and sacred puja room where the gods of his choice had been earlier solemnly installed with holy chants. We were also told the stories from the famous epics of the Hindus, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, to implant in our growing minds an idea of the Hindu religion and of its gods and goddesses. This process went on for a long period spread over many years, concurrently with such other disciplines that I evolved for myself from time to time.
My formal initiation into the mysteries of a religious education and search began rather providentially with a compulsory dose of Christianity administered at school. From 1936 to the end of 1943, I studied at the Christ Church Boys’ High School in Jubbulpore, in central India. The school was what the English called a Public School—very English and thoroughly Protestant in character. The study of the Bible was compulsory, as also was attendance at the school’s church. At the end of the school curriculum, and before appearing for the Cambridge School Certificate Examination, a student had to compulsorily pass an examination on the Gospel according to St. Mark, conducted by the Diocese of Nagpur. Thus I had a thorough exposure to Christianity according to the Protestant church.
I was very impressed by the teachings of Jesus the Christ, especially the emphasis on love and compassion which he preached and practiced all his life upon this earth, and for which he eventually laid down his own life. My younger brother was so very deeply impressed that, later on, when he went to a school in Calcutta, a time came when he wanted to embrace the Christian religion! There, he had met a really dedicated and gifted teacher who honestly tried to live by these very principles. My brother was so profoundly moved by the personal example that Mr. C. Hicks, the teacher, set that he wanted to be converted to his teacher’s faith. Fortunately for him, we had an understanding father who was able to dissuade him from such a conversion, for we have never really believed that one must change one’s religion to evolve in the religious life.
The Hindus believe that one has to grow within one’s own religion, the religion into which one has been born, and to eventually evolve out of that religion into spirituality. “Where religion ends, spirituality begins,” says my Master. Changing one’s religion was neither desirable nor indeed necessary, for all religions offered the same package, using the twin instruments of fear and temptation, as my Master was to explain to me much later in my life.
I liked the services at church, and was generally happy to attend the weekly Sunday service. I did not feel oppressed by this compulsion to participate in the practice of another religion, and this perhaps gave me a catholicity of outlook, and a tolerance for the religious beliefs of others, which I might otherwise never have had. This was to serve me well in later life.
I shall always remember that wonderfully wise saying of Swami Vivekananda that, while it was good to be born in a religion, it was bad to die in a religion! When I first came across this statement, I did not really understand it, but the clarification that I later received from my Master made it transparently clear. To him, changing one’s religion was no more effective than changing one’s cell in a prison. Such a change did not bring about one’s liberation, in any case, but only superficially changed the conditions of one’s incarceration! My master used to say that it mattered not a whit whether one was in a bamboo cage or in a golden one! The bird was in the cage and could never escape.
I was enraptured by the writings of Swami Vivekananda. He was truly a lion, and could roar forth his message in direct and unambiguous language. His message was ever compelling and invigorating, and his language was exceptionally powerful. As the well-known German philosopher Schopenhauer has said, few could remain unmoved after reading Vivekananda. I have read deeply of his works, and they have affected my life profoundly. I have often been moved to tears by the profundity of this thought, the depth and beauty of his expression, and the enormous power that his language had to move one out of this world into a different world of wisdom, longing and aspiration. Swami Vivekananda laid, as it were, the foundation for my future spiritual life with my Master, Shri Ram Chandraji.
I had already commenced the practice of meditation on my own without any guidance even before I came to my Master. I had cultivated the habit of meditating upon the Gayathri mantra, mixing the meditation with concurrent practice of pranayama, using the inhalation, retention, and exhalation of breath as specified in the 1:4:2 ratio. Often, when I was troubled in mind, I would go to a centre of the Ramakrishna Mission and meditate there. They had generally a congregational approach to their public prayers and chanted mantras intermingled with the recital of the sayings of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa in a musical and hymnal form. I could go into deep meditation even while the din of their worship was going on. I had even then trained myself to meditate in all situations. I could slip into a state of meditation even when up in the air, travelling from one city to another—and this has often helped me to travel unaffected by even the worst possible weather conditions, as for instance in a thunderstorm raging outside the plane, which kept most passengers extremely anxious, and some even quite air-sick. Even when I was abroad, there were occasions when I was disturbed in my mind, and extremely lonely. I have often gone to a church to meditate, and derived much solace from it.
It was at Benares, while I was a student at the University, where I had my first and very gentle exposure to the teachings of Gautama the Buddha. In a nearby hostel, I used to meet a Buddhist monk, Bhikku Sangaratna, who, very unassumingly and gently, introduced me to that great body of teaching, and this again moved me profoundly. Bhikku Sangaratna hailed from Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was known then. He also gave me some insight into the Sinhalese language. I used to spend many a free hour with that kind and loving savant, and I have profited from his mild and profound character, as much as from his unassuming teaching of the Buddha’s message to the world, delivered almost three thousand years ago.
Thereafter I started reading books dealing with inner peace, inner harmony and similar subjects. I had always been a voracious reader, but now my pace of reading doubled and trebled until I was reading a book almost every day. I was fascinated by W.Y. Evans-Wentz’s Tibetan Book of the Dead. My Master was talking about liberation of the human being, and he said, “It is easiest to liberate a person at the moment of death. All that I have to do is to take the soul and lift it up from here to the Brighter World. Later on, it becomes more and more difficult as time passes on. And if the soul has taken another birth, then of course it has to go through that existence completely until it becomes worthy of liberation.” This is what the Tibetan Book of the Dead also says!
I came across the Sufi mystic Rumi and read not only his famous works but went on to literally consume the well known works of other great Sufis until I had a select collection of books on Sufism. I read books about the Jewish religion and was amazed about the similarity, in many respects, between its teachings and those of the Sanatana Dharma, as well as some similarity with Buddhism. I read, or rather consumed, the literature from Gurdjieff and his famous disciple Ouspensky. I liked Ouspensky’s writings very much and thought that in comparison Gurdjieff’s style was obscure and heavy—and rather difficult to understand. Further, the feeling that many have expressed that Gurdjieff was in reality a man without character and a charlatan perhaps influenced my opinion.
Many years later, when I met my Master, I was quite surprised to find that he was familiar with Ouspensky’s name and had obviously some acquaintance with his book In Search of the Miraculous. To my chagrin, I discovered that my Master did not believe in reading books. He told me that, at one time, he had felt impelled to read some books on philosophy, and had sent for a copy of Mill’s Utilitarianism. He laughed and said, “I read a few pages of that book because I wanted to know something of philosophy. But look here! The thought came to me after I had read a few pages that, if I read that book or any other book, then I would only repeat their thoughts like a parrot, and I would not be able to bring out my original thinking. So I closed the book and I kept it away from me. It is good to read some books, but one must learn to depend upon one’s own inner resources for original thinking.”
This was something of a blow to me, for, as I have said, I am a voracious reader. But I derived some satisfaction from the fact that I had not read much by way of philosophy. I had gone through the works of Plato, whose writings gave me a great joy. I had read one or two of C.E.M. Joad’s books. William James fascinated me, and I have been delighted to read his Essays again and again, for he has a sublime way of expression, and a profundity of thought, that impressed me deeply. Ralph Waldo Emerson has been one of my all-time favourite authors. I had some familiarity with Schopenhauer. But that was about all. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I had virtually no feeling for poetry. In my effort to read and to understand poetry, I have bought quite a few books and ploughed through them laboriously, but to no effect. I thought something must be lacking in me. But to my great relief and satisfaction, I found that Babuji Maharaj had no regard or love for poetry, for he felt that poets used their imagination and were therefore “away from reality”, as he put it!
There is however one genre of literature that has continuously fascinated me throughout my life, and to which I am addicted even now, and that is Fantasy. I have read widely of such books and my permanent companion is Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings which I have read with great interest year after year. The fascination that these books have for me does not seem to abate, but on the contrary seems to increase with every reading. I also read books on parapsychology, and the new class of literature which tries to bring the world of matter and the world of the mind into a synthesis.
I was also impressed by the traditions of the Mayas and the Incas. The philosophy of the Chinese was of course a major aspect of my reading, its similarity with the Indian philosophies being really striking. I was also wonderstruck with the novels of certain authors such as Marie Corelli, who revealed through their writings glimpses of their own understanding of the higher truths and values of life. I built up quite a good collection of books for, fortunately, I had an income which made it possible for me to indulge myself.
I have been a voracious reader of good science fiction, for I believed that the better writers were endowed with some intuition, and could write about things which were yet not, but which would come later. I remember reading in one of Arthur Clarke’s books, for example, about the presence of oxygen on the moon, and also of a magnetic anomaly. This was later reflected in the findings of the Apollo astronauts, which have become history. Why I refer to this here is because my Master had once, perhaps in 1944 or 1945, ‘taken’ an abhyasi on a spiritual tour, as it were, of the moon, and she gave her report of her findings. The astonishing thing was that what she found tallied exactly with what the scientists who landed on the moon discovered several decades later. She has recorded her findings in a notebook. Unfortunately, science would never accept her findings, revealed to her through my Master’s spiritual help, since such spiritual discoveries are not, in their opinion, reproducible—and therefore not scientific! In my Master’s major work, Reality at Dawn, which is to Sahaj Marg what the Bible is to the Christian religion, my Master has made several predictions about the future of the world. That too was written in 1944. It is remarkable, or perhaps not so remarkable, that many of those predictions have taken place in actual life decades later.
A fortunate meeting with the famous philosopher-statesman Dr. S. Radhakrishnan led me to a study of the Bhagavad Gita. Dr. Radhakrishnan was then at Oxford as Spalding Professor of Eastern Religions, but later came to the Benares Hindu University as the Vice-Chancellor. I was then studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Science in the Science College of that University. Dr. Radhakrishnan used to frequently deliver lectures on the Gita, once a month or so, if my memory serves me accurately. We were forced to attend those lectures and to listen to them carefully, as we were expected to write a paper on Hindu philosophy as part of our graduate course studies. It was in any case easier to listen to his enthralling lectures and to write that paper than to have to read through enormous tomes on Indian philosophy. Those lectures were widely attended, persons often coming from as far away as several hundred miles from Benares to listen to the great man. He was a great speaker, an erudite scholar and a Sanskrit pundit, but I have no doubt that it was his powerful oratory that impressed me so deeply, for, not knowing Sanskrit, it was always a problem to understand the quotations that he used. Nevertheless, he turned my attention towards the Gita.
As soon as I had completed my degree course at Benares and returned to Bombay, I bought a copy of the Gita and read it faithfully at the rate of one chapter every morning. Some chapters were extremely short, while some were quite long, but I would wade through the eighteen chapters in eighteen days, and begin the next cycle of reading all over again. That particular edition had the text in Sanskrit together with a word-by-word translation in English. By reading the Gita in that way, I managed to get a very limited acquaintance with the profound message of Lord Krishna. As something in the nature of a bonus, I also acquired a somewhat faltering familiarity with the Sanskrit language. I have always regretted not having learnt Sanskrit while at the Benares Hindu University. There were sufficient opportunities for it, but a preoccupation with body-building exercises in the gymnasium, as well as a military training programme in the University Officers’ Training Corps, took up a substantial chunk of time available to me.
From the references to other texts in the Bhagavad Gita, such as to various Upanishads, I was inspired to read them one by one, and thus I was able to lay down for myself a foundation of the fundamental teachings of the Sanatana Dharma, loosely called Hinduism. The Upanishads were utterly fascinating, and often left me breathless with their grandeur of vision and their generosity of approach to the human condition, while at the same time offering the Ultimate, and nothing less, as the prize for a proper approach to self-development. At this stage of my fumbling search, I commenced the practice of yogic exercises—both asanas and pranayama—as taught through books, which I got from the Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute in Bombay. Unable to find a proper guide, and not even knowing where to look for one, I did all this entirely by myself, and some disastrous consequences were to follow. But, nevertheless, I was fairly well established in the aspiration for a different life, somewhat removed from the merely material existence that I was compelled to lead to earn a decent living, for I was married in 1955.
Marriage, with a natural commitment to the family life, inevitably brought about a shift in the focus of my life, but I was able to preserve my longing for the higher life even as I entered the grihastha existence, and fathered a son in 1957. Since I was employed in a business organisation, and especially since I was in the sales force of the company, there inevitably followed what can only be termed as a grossening in some aspects of my life. This was of course to be deplored, but I was able to swim over those temporary temptations and deviations with the strength of the inner longing for the higher life, and so escaped a diversion from the main purpose of my life. The life of a travelling salesman is always fraught with such possibilities of deviation because of the essential loneliness of the traveller who has to be away from home and family for long periods—often as long as three to four weeks at a stretch in my case.
I continued with the practice of yoga but only in a very superficial and desultory manner, and gradually even the practice of asanas stopped. I had abandoned the pranayama exercises as soon as I was married, for I had been warned repeatedly that it could be quite dangerous to do them without the guidance of a Guru. A frightening experience confirmed this. This occurred one morning just as I was preparing to go out of Madras on a tour. I was shaving, and suddenly, for no reason at all, I was terrified of looking at myself in the mirror. It was a peak experience of terror, at four o’clock in the morning! I just wiped my face dry without looking in the mirror and went back to bed. That experience confirmed that I had to stop pranayama, and so, that was the end of that. For the practice of asanas, there was literally no time, as my daily schedule varied almost from day to day, and, in any case, it was not possible to practice them on my travels. So all that remained by the time I was twenty-nine years old was a fierce longing in my heart without the support of any practical attempt to realise whatever goal lay hidden in my heart—for, of the goal too, I had no clear concept.
After graduating from Benares Hindu University in 1948, I had to move to Bombay where my father had a job. I had to search for employment, and found a decent job which gave me some free time too. I was attracted by the teachings of the Theosophical Society, and used to attend their monthly meetings to listen to readings from their literature. I was curious to read the bulky books of Madame Blavatsky, as well as those of Olcott and Mrs. Annie Besant. There was much room for thought, but, after reading them, I was left with a feeling that they dealt more with esoteric and occult subjects, and had no real practical approach to a higher life to offer to an aspirant.
At this stage I turned to religion and to religious studies, and commenced what is called Veda Parayana—the study of the Vedas by recitation in the prescribed manner with the help of a qualified Vedic pundit in an effort to memorize them. I did this for approximately three or four years, and was able to progress to the satisfaction of my teachers. Our home in Madras frequently resounded and reverberated with the holy chant of the Vedas, rendered by a scholarly group of pundits, for we became quite addicted to their sonorous and hypnotic chant. There was then no substitute available to this, and I went on with it. I was often perturbed by the sundry deviation from the so-called religious life that my life as a company executive imposed upon me, but there was no help for it. I tried to solve this by accepting initiation from our traditional Vaishnavite Acharya, who at first refused to initiate me on the ground that my father had not yet been thus initiated. This upset me, for I rightly felt that my father had nothing to do with it, the need for initiation being a personal inner demand that could not be refused. This abrupt refusal by him was to eventually lead me away from the path of Brahminism, and religion altogether.
It was a time of agonizing inner struggle coupled with apparent external success, for I was rising fast in my company. But the inner feelings of turmoil were ever present until a chance meeting with a new friend of my father’s brought Sahaj Marg into my life in February 1964. Thus the divine presence of the person who was to become my spiritual Master—Shri Ram Chandraji Maharaj—came into my life, almost as if by the back door! The miracle that I had been awaiting for three decades had become a reality, and my journey towards that Reality commenced. The journey, I was to discover with something of a shock, was never to end, for my Master aptly called it “Towards Infinity”.
It was by this apparently fortuitous circumstance that my life acquired a definite and positive orientation towards the life of spiritual pursuit. I had assumed that this meeting had occurred by ‘accident’, but my master later clarified that what a human being thought of as an accident was really part of the Divine plan, and that there were really no such things as accidents except those that occurred due to human foolishness, greed or error. The time had come to bid good-bye to religion and to ritual practices such as parayana, puja, nithya upasana, et cetera, strictly enjoined upon the pious Hindu. I was able to do this without much regret. I was never a temple-goer, my rare visits to temples being in the company of visiting friends or officials whom I had to escort for one reason or another. It was fortunate for me that even though I had been deeply involved with the Vedas for some years, it was not a problem for me to drop the daily Veda parayana, though it saddened my teachers who had hoped to see me emerge from their hands as, perhaps, some sort of a minor teacher to follow them. I was sad for them, but that too did not trouble me in any way, for after all I had to satisfy my inner longing which was thirsting for fulfilment.
When I met my Master for the first time, there was an element of disappointment for I made the asinine mistake of looking at his physical person to evaluate and judge him whom I was seeing. I could not have done otherwise as I did not have the ability to look ‘inside’ him to perceive or experience the inner being of resplendent luminosity that was seated there in harmony, silence and eternal bliss. For a few moments I was sorely disappointed with what I saw, for I had travelled a long way from Madras to Shahjahanpur to meet him. I had imagined his home as an enormous ashram, teeming with devoted spiritual practicants, the whole place humming with activity and resounding with the chanting of the holy hymns of the Vedas. I had also fantasized and imagined him in some mysteriously divine form with divine attributes and so on.
This was not there for me to see. There was only one person present, and he led me inside the small and rather musty old house to a room where Babuji Maharaj, as he was generally called, was sleeping on a frail bamboo-and-ropes contraption which people in the north of India use as cots. What I saw lying on that charpoy, as those cots are called, was a small man, very delicately built, not tall at all, lying with his knees drawn up almost to his chin, so that he was really a tiny bundle of human presence. He had a beard which I saw as soon as he turned in his bed towards me and became awake, perhaps sensing the presence of a visitor near his bed. He sat up and looked at me with a keenness that was extremely disturbing, for he seemed to look right through me, and to see instantly all that was there to be seen. It was a moment of intense embarrassment for me, and there was an element of fear in it too, for I had just arrived from Bareilly, a town near Shahjahanpur, after a hearty company lunch there, with all the paraphernalia of such lunches.
He had such penetrating and keen eyes, deep gray in colour, with the central part, the pupil, almost totally transparent blue-grey, so that, as I looked into them, I seemed to be looking into something endless, something that was as profound as eternity, with no beginning and no end to it. I have never seen such a pair of eyes in any human being before, nor have I since then! While he was thus inspecting my inside, and all it took was but a moment of time, I could sense in him an utter gentleness and a love that surpassed all that I had ever experienced in my life till then. I understood that there was absolutely no need for fear, and the fact that I was embarrassed and mildly anxious with his inspection was due to my own feelings of guilt rather than to anything in his keen gaze.
He finished his inspection of my inner self in a brief few moments and then, with a gentle and somewhat shy smile, he asked me where I was from. I told him that I had come from Madras. He was the perfect host, going to the extent of asking for my luggage to be brought into the house from my car, and even pumping vigorously away at the handle of a primitive hand-pump to pump water into a bucket for me to wash with. I was extremely embarrassed by his attention, for in the Indian tradition a disciple is supposed to serve the Guru, and not vice-versa! I had also come with the intention of returning to Bareilly after a few hours with him, but he gave me no choice, and my stay with him eventually extended itself to a couple of days—an extremely fortunate thing for me, for it created from the very first moment an easy intimacy with him which I was to treasure and cherish for ever. Apart from that, this friendly intimacy made it possible for me to establish a relationship with him in which guilt played no part, and where consequently there was no fear of him, except on one or two later occasions.
The only way I can describe my discipleship under my Master, with the growing intimacy between us, is to call it a spiritual love affair. It might sound quite absurd to say that I had a deeply fulfilling love affair with him, and some may even think this to be puerile, a juvenile crush or some silly thing like that. But it would not be wrong to say that I fell in love with him again and again as my spiritual life progressed under his care. I wrote to him once to tell him about the sense of wonder that I was then experiencing. I asked him how it was possible for love to grow and grow, seemingly without any limit, and if the human heart would not simply burst with the pressure of such love. My Master wrote back very simply and said, “I too love you, and this I must not repeat.” He was probably giving me a silent but potent lecture on the ethics of love for, in the Indian cultural and moral tradition, one does not speak openly of one’s love for another, since love is a sacred matter, a matter for silent communication between the persons concerned.
It seemed to me that this association with him was a predetermined affair, an affair of destiny. There was such a naturalness to it from the very beginning that I felt he and I had been together several times in our past lives, and that, in the present life, we were but renewing an old and long established relationship in which, time and again, he had been the Master and I, his disciple. Some years later, after our relationship had become one of loving friendship between a Master and his disciple, he revealed that this had in fact been the case, and that I had been his disciple at least in two previous existences!
It is true that, for the first year or so, I kept a little distance between us, for he had with him a devoted older disciple who looked after him with a fierce and somewhat possessive protectiveness. This person looked with suspicion upon all who ventured to approach the Master too closely, and he also had some notions of his own about how a disciple should behave with the Master. If I had approached the Master too closely, I would have been accused of lack of respect towards him—and in India that would have been a serious accusation. But, as if to offset this attitude, my Master drew me closer and closer to himself all the time, and a time soon came when even Mr. Ishwar Sahai, for that was his name, could no longer come between my Master and myself. My closeness with Babuji Maharaj created a great deal of problem for me, human nature being what it is. It was not all smooth sailing, but his love and affection made even the most obnoxious circumstance bearable, if not acceptable. It was a training in one of his most often repeated statements, “Only he who is happy under all circumstances is the really happy person!” By his grace and with his blessings, it is possible to approximate to this state of being, as I have discovered for myself with joy and with increasing confidence in myself.
To say that my spiritual life was all smooth sailing would be to indulge in a gross understatement. But there were never any serious problems for, from the very beginning, I had not gone to my Master with any expectations, even for spiritual progress such as liberation, et cetera. There was therefore never any question of my expecting any reward from him. I think that he was delighted by this attitude, though he never publicly remarked upon it. Nevertheless, he told me quite often that it was difficult to get a disciple who left everything to the Master without making any demands upon him. In fact he has often gently admonished persons who came to him with such demands, saying that if the Master were to be given total freedom to do what he thought necessary in each case, the abhyasis, as spiritual practicants are called under the Sahaj Marg system, would marvel at what they would become in a short time.
Being a busy company executive with duties involving a great deal of travel throughout India, as well as visits to Europe and the U.K., someone had suggested to Babuji Maharaj that I would make an ideal preceptor as I had the possibility of travelling freely almost at will. Once when I was in Shahjahanpur, Master called me into his room and asked me to sit before him in meditation. I sat as ordered, and the sitting, as we call them, lasted about forty minutes. Midway through the sitting, my Master mumbled something in Hindi which I could not hear. I opened my eyes to see what he wanted but he gestured to me to continue with the sitting. Later on, I asked him what he had been saying. He laughed and said, “I was giving you permission to do the spiritual work of the Mission. I have just made you a preceptor, and I know that you will do good work, by the Master’s grace.” I was taken aback because he had not asked me whether I was willing to take up the work, but he brushed aside my unspoken objection saying, “I did it under the instruction of my Master, Lalaji Maharaj.” And to that, of course, I had no comment to offer, for who could override the wishes of the Grand Master, as Lalaji was called!
It was in memory of Lalaji Maharaj that my Master had created the organization which bears his name—Shri Ram Chandra Mission. This was in 1945. I joined the Mission in 1964. When I attended the annual celebration of Lalaji’s birth anniversary at Shahjahanpur for the first time in 1965, there were no more than forty abhyasis present for this holy and auspicious event. I was made a preceptor in 1967 and found that, by then, numbers had increased considerably. By 1970, it had become necessary to hire premises for the visiting abhyasis because, by then, the number of participants at the celebration touched seven hundred.
I was appointed as the Secretary of the Mission in January of 1970. The Mission was still operating only within India but the organization had now to be properly structured and made an effective one. The Mission had been functioning from my Master’s home ever since it had been founded in 1945, but there was then very little correspondence and visitors to his home were few and far between. In those years, even up to 1967, I have seldom found more than two or three persons in residence. After that, it became necessary to cater to ever-increasing numbers of abhyasis who all had to stay in his home. The organization had also to be strengthened to take on bigger and bigger loads of correspondence. The formidable task fell to my lot. I was quite apprehensive of my being able to perform my duties to Master’s satisfaction, but he brushed aside all my fears, saying with a sweet and loving smile on his face, “By Lalaji’s grace, you will do good work. The Mission will grow, and you will also grow with it. So don’t have any negative thoughts about it. And, of course, my help is always there!”
I now had two very demanding responsibilities to fulfill. On one side, there was my job—already in 1968 I had been given a position on the Board of Directors of one company and placed in sole charge of it. On the other side, there was the Mission with the whole organization in India as my responsibility and some one thousand five hundred abhyasis to serve. But I had no choice at all. I was being pushed by my destiny into something which was far beyond my capacity, but when the Master trusted me I could hardly refuse. Thanks to my job, I had the possibility of travelling all over India, and so could meet abhyasis almost everywhere, and spend time at the centres of the Mission, giving talks and conducting meditation sessions. All this kept me extremely busy but I found the work very satisfying and fulfilling and I began slowly to actually enjoy what I had to do. It became possible to streamline the working of the Mission, and I am happy that my work invariably found favour with my Master.
The Mission’s work brought me closer and closer to my Master in all ways, and his confidence in me grew so fast that, soon, I was handling practically all the administrative work of the Mission from my home in Madras, thus relieving him to concentrate more and more on his spiritual work of ‘overhauling nature’ as he put it. I had visited France and Germany in 1970 and brought some promising aspirants to the Mission. In 1971, my father went to Europe on a private visit and was able to establish centres of the Mission in Rome and Copenhagen. Thus the Mission’s work went beyond the shores of India. On a subsequent visit I was able to establish centres of the Mission in France and in England. Encouraged by this activity, Babuji decided to visit Egypt, Europe and the USA. during the three months of the second quarter of 1972, and chose me to accompany him. I urged him to take someone who could help him more than I could, but he calmly said that if I refused to accompany him, he would cancel his plans to travel abroad. That was the first of several overseas travels, and it was on these journeys outside India that our association became very close and intimate, since we, just the two of us, were together for twenty-four hours a day for weeks and months at a time.
I have accompanied my beloved Master on six overseas voyages of discovery during the period from 1972 to 1982. The human joy and the spiritual benefit that I derived from being His devotee and His servitor cannot be described. They were indeed voyages of discovery, discovery of myself more than of anything else. On those wonder-and-ecstasy-filled voyages, the Master too revealed Himself to me progressively in all His glory and transcendence. It was my greatest good fortune that he selected me for this work, and I shall always cherish the blissful memories of those long months spent in intimate association with him—months full of work when we could hardly rest for more than a couple of hours every day; months of profound and deep instruction; months of the most inspiring discussions; and for good measure those long months were filled to the brim with his delightful but meaningful jokes, and his sharp wit and brilliant humour, all punctuated by his blissful and charming smiles and innocent laughter, which made all the abhyasis gathered around him roar with laughter too. Often he would move us to tears, for he had the capacity to make everyone plunge into the very depths of their being, and none escaped those moments of raw emotion when the very soul of the person was bared for all to see.
I slowly imbibed the teaching that he imparted to me both through subtle discussions as well as during meditation sittings with him. He made me give sittings to other abhyasis in his presence, and thus trained me by commenting on my work, teaching me the various techniques of cleaning and transmission that were necessary for the work. Eventually a day came when he permitted me to prepare preceptors—a work exclusively his own till then. He had also made me a full-preceptor in January 1970, thus making it possible for me to do what he called “higher work on the cosmic plane” under his definite orders. Such higher work could of course be undertaken only upon orders from the Master himself. It is perhaps a feature unique to Sahaj Marg that preceptors were ‘permitted’ to work, and there was no such thing as being qualified to work. When permission to do some higher work was given to someone by the Master, the ability to perform that work was automatically bestowed upon him. Therefore, however elevated a preceptor might be, nothing could be done except under the specific orders and instructions of the Master. In course of time, I was even assigned certain specific cosmic work which I carried out to his satisfaction, as he personally confirmed to me.
In 1974, Babuji Maharaj went into a coma from which he fortunately recovered after a month’s sojourn in a hospital in Lucknow. When he became conscious again, he called Sister Kasturi, the abhyasi I have referred to earlier in regard to her experience upon the surface of the moon, and told her that the time had come for him to nominate his spiritual successor, as the future of the Mission had to be ensured and put in capable hands. He had told a few of us that he would live on the earthly plane till 2006 or 2007. When Sister Kasturi reminded him of this, and asked what the urgency to nominate his representative was, he answered gravely, “Life and death are in God’s hands, and none can say when the call to go back to Him will come. I am no longer confident of living so long. So it is imperative that I appoint my successor, and I have decided to do so immediately.” He then revealed to her that he had chosen me to be His successor, and had been preparing me for the work over a period of many years. I had been with him in Lucknow, and accompanied him back to Shahjahanpur. It was there, the next morning, that he revealed to me my future destiny, and this intention he executed some time later in the form of a nomination, after he had recovered almost fully from his grave illness.
I wanted to do, and to be, many things in life. I love music, and I had become quite a capable flutist too. As a matter of fact, I had almost decided to become a professional musician. Music continues to haunt me to this day, and whenever possible I still listen to the music of my choice—though I love all music. I had wanted to be a geologist, for geology fascinated me, and I had studied the subject for my BSc degree in Benares. I was also drawn to the discipline of the Army, and had participated in a two-year training course in the University Officers’ Training Corps while at Benares. I had even appeared for selection into the Armed Forces, but my bad eyesight prevented that. None of these desires were childish daydreams or merely juvenile desires for the future. They had been serious choices at different stages of my life. To be a spiritual guide had never featured in my scheme of things for I had strayed quite innocently into the field. Given a choice, the job of spiritual trainer would not have featured on my list at all.
In India I was considered to be above average in intelligence. I had also acquired a good education, and my wide travels in India had given me a broad outlook on life, as well as an ability to manage adequately in many of the Indian languages without embarrassment. My frequent visits to Europe, the U.K., the Middle East, and to certain of the African countries had brought many changes in my outlook, and earned me a reputation of being somewhat westernized! Therefore most of my relatives and acquaintances were puzzled when I took to the spiritual life like a duck takes to water. There was a great deal of criticism when I was made a preceptor before my father was. This was a typical manifestation of the general Indian attitude to such situations. Why I say this is to show that I had no desire whatsoever for the job which my Master eventually bestowed upon me. I do not know even now why my Master chose me to succeed him. But, when I asked him this question once, he replied with a most disarming smile, “Lalaji chose you, and of course you are my choice too. You will do good work. You will achieve all that I have not been able to do, and the Mission will shine under your leadership.” He had stated a great number of times that the ideal human being should have an Indian heart and a European mind. Perhaps in this lies the clue to my dilemma, and to that of many others.
My Master emphasized that one who wanted to achieve the highest goal open to mankind must work for it. A practical approach under a capable guide was essential for this. And the guide must be one who has traversed the path himself, and be so familiar with it that he could guide other seekers over it again and again. In a sense, the Guru, for that is how we call the spiritual guide in the Indian tradition, is the bridge from here to the hereafter; from this human life into the eternal spiritual existence; from this mundane world to the Brighter world. I also prefer to think of Him as a tunnel which leads us from here to the destination. It may be dark and even frightening at times, but the circle of light at the far end of the tunnel guides us surely and certainly to the destination, into a world illumined with the light of truth and immortality. For the adventure, the spiritual quest, the spiritual journey, is from one’s own heart to His divine heart, and this is the way that such an adventurer must travel. Such a tunnel or such a bridge is the Master.
My Master thus guided me into Himself with enormous patience, compassion and his divine love. I shall be eternally grateful to him for his timely assistance and his eternal love. And for the faith and confidence that he has reposed in me to carry on His work, I can do nothing better than to pray to Him to guide me from the Brighter World as He has been doing from the earthly plane till my work is completed, and the light is bequeathed to the destined heart awaiting to take over the responsibility from my hands, once again, and so on, in unending succession.