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  • Writer's pictureRon Brent

15. Initiation

The following day is a day of rest for Baba. I’m plugging into various tour duties that need to be done, traveling back and forth between the house and Swami Satchidananda’s ashram. Much of the tour planning takes place at the ashram. At the house I see Baba now and then, but I’ve still had no opportunity to personally interact with him.

Day two at the house begins with a pre-dawn meditation in the living room. Baba is sitting in his chair meditating along with the rest of us. My meditation is deep and peaceful.

Meditation is followed by breakfast for staff and guests. I’m sitting at a small round table with three others drinking chai and eating hot cereal. The person sitting opposite me is Ravi Shankar, sitar player extrordinaire. What strikes me about this individual is his extreme humility. There’s no sense of celebrity about him whatsoever. At the table he’s just a very sweet and polite gentleman, grateful to be here with Baba.

At mid-morning there’s a question and answer session with Baba in the front room. Having brought a small cassette tape recorder, I sit directly in front of Baba’s chair in order to record the session. Sitting next to me on the left, is Laura Huxley, widow of Aldous Huxley. To my right sits Professor Jain, Baba’s translator. There are maybe 40-45 people in the room.

As the Q and A session progresses, I feel an urge to ask a question. But I’m not thinking of asking the kind of question that would help me in my spiritual practice. Rather I want to show Baba that I know a little something myself. A question forms in my mind. Sensing the session might be coming to an end soon, I gather up courage and raise my hand. Baba calls on me.

Based on something I read somewhere, I ask: “When does the Guru see fit to take on the karma of the disciple?” Baba seems amused by my question.

After a brief pause, and with a mischievous look on his face, Baba responds, “What kind of justice is it for an old man like me to have to suffer for the things that you’ve done?”

Everyone in the room immediately breaks into laughter. I too laugh, but in a self-conscious way.

Before I can answer, Baba turns his gaze toward the ceiling, as if looking for a follow-up question. Leaning forward in his chair and with an impish grin on his face he continues, “The question now arises, do you come to the Guru to give yourself, or only to give your karma?”

Once again laughter breaks out in the room and once again I join in, but I’m now feeling very uncomfortable. I hang my head and stare at the floor in front of me, while my mind drifts into a mental fog in an effort to escape the immediacy of the situation.

I’m brought back into the present moment when Professor Jain taps me on the shoulder and says, “Babaji wants you to answer his question.”

Coming out of my temporary stupor I meekly respond, “You should give yourself to the Guru.”

Baba leans back in his chair and with a big smile on his face he says, “Very good! If you give yourself to the Guru completely, he will take your karma also.”

A collective ‘ahh’ breaks out as the room seems to recognize the truth in this statement.

Baba now concludes the question and answer session by stating that the questions today were very good. Looking back, I sometimes wonder whether or not he was referring to his own questions?

As Baba retires to his room everyone rises and mingles about, joyfully discussing the morning's events. Everyone that is, but me.

I’m stunned by what just happened.

Baba’s right, I think to myself. I’m always going to different teachers in order to receive something. Never once have I thought that there was something for me to give. I’ve come to Baba, lured by the prospect of having an experience of some kind - never considering how I fit into the equation.

Giving to the Guru never crossed my mind. And, what did he mean by giving yourself to the Guru? I can understand bringing gifts and giving stuff, but give myself to the Guru? What does that even mean? I recognize that there’s truth in what he said, but I haven’t a clue as to how to do it.

Not coming up with an answer, I rise from my position on the floor and move to a spot just outside his room. This is the only thing I can think of right now - this feeble attempt of placing my body outside his doorway. As I sit here, I try to figure out what Baba meant by giving yourself to the Guru?

After some time, Baba comes out of his room and heads for the kitchen. As he passes me he slows down, makes some sort of grunting sound, then continues on his way.

I slowly get up and follow him as he makes his way to the kitchen. Standing outside the kitchen door I observe him engaging with the cooks. When he’s finished, he goes outside and stands in the garden chit-chatting with guests. Once Baba returns to his room I again position myself outside his door. After a while, I got up and returned to whatever duties I was assigned.

Early the next morning as I sit for meditation with the group, I become aware of sensations taking place within me. There’s a tingling throughout my body, as if each cell is alive with energy. Along with this, I become aware of a luminous presence within. These experiences are accompanied by a blissful feeling that lingers throughout the morning.

Still in a bit of shock from my experience the previous day, for this morning's Question and Answer session I now sit opposite Baba with my back against the far wall. I want to observe him from a safe distance.

As the session gets under way, Baba is asked a question about the effects of meditation. While answering, he suddenly points in my direction and says, “for example, that boy over there had a good meditation this morning. He saw lights and experienced energy throughout his body.”

I’m stunned by Baba’s statement! I wonder if this is really happening? How can he know this?

Before I can wrap my head around it, Baba asks me to come up and sit in front of him again. Abandoning the Q and A session he begins a dialogue with me. “What kind of car do you drive? Can you sleep in it? (I’m sure nobody told him I’m driving a VW Bus equipped with a bed, refrigerator, etc.) What is your diet?

All of Baba’s questions are answered in a straightforward manner, without any surprises. Finally he inquires what kind of spiritual practices I perform?”

When I tell him that I regularly practice bhāstrika (Yogi Bhajan’s “Breath of Fire”) every morning, he tells me that I shouldn’t be performing this practice - that it’s meant to awaken the kundalini. He then matter-of-factly tells me that my kundalini is already awakened.

When Baba utters these words, a wave of bliss spreads throughout my being. This is the first time my awakening has ever been alluded to by anyone. And Baba has brought it up unsolicited. What started out as a normal conversation just turned surrealistic. At the same time, it’s very real and very intimate.

No teacher has ever shown that they know me as intimately as Baba knows me. This one statement about my awakening acts as a bonding agent between us. He lets me know that he’s aware of the moment my life turned around, and what motivates me above all else!

I’ve never been able to give my full trust to anyone. Trust is at the very heart of every type of relationship. This is especially true between a student and spiritual teacher. A deep bond has just been established, and trust is an essential component of it.

Baba now turns to Don Harrison and says, “You make sure he comes to India”. Harrison nods and lets Baba know that he will. Then turning to his secretary Amma, Baba says, “I’m going to give him an ashram!” I take all this in quite matter of factly, but I still can’t comprehend exactly what’s happening.

What I do know is that I’m now inextricably connected to this unique individual!

The days that follow take on a whole new flavor for me. I’m experiencing a deep, personal connection with Baba, and have a wonderful sense of belonging. Baba makes me feel like I’m an integral part of his world, as he engages me in conversation or refers to me on a daily basis. In the coming days he will introduce me to some of the people who come to meet him - especially those who are teachers in their own right.

Each day is filled with excitement, laughter and bliss. There are public programs, with Ram Dass’ participation attracting large crowds. At the beginning of each program Ram Dass tells stories about his own journey, highlighting the relationship with his Guru. He always segues into our good fortune to be with someone like Baba - who he likens to Neem Karoli.

Ram Dass goes on to explain that beings like Neem Karoli and Baba Muktananda rarely venture out of India. When he met Baba he recognized an opportunity to share the experience with others.

Each day follows the same schedule: early morning meditation, breakfast, Q and A, tour related work and Baba’s outside public programs.

After four days in Los Angeles, Baba leaves for the San Francisco segment of his tour. He’s traveling up the California coast in a 27-foot Recreational Vehicle. Tour staff follow behind caravan style. I’m driving my VW Bus. All in all, there are maybe 15-20 of us traveling with Baba. We're making our way along Highway One, with Baba’s RV stopping here and there so he can do a little sightseeing.

Rudi is around for much of the West Coast portion of the tour, but with few apparent duties. However, his presence is strongly felt by all. Ram Dass on the other hand, plays a significant role as part of our staff. Others making key administrative contributions are Sridhar Silberfein, Krishna Green (co-director of Swami Satchidananda’s ashram) and Don Harrison. Ram Dass is involved with a lot of day-to-day tour planning, but his main duty is providing Baba with a warm-up act.

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