It is my last night in Delhi. All the train reservations
and the itinerary have been booked and confirmed, but I am suddenly filled with
inadequacy and fear not normal to my nature. The thought of constant upheaval
for so many weeks appals me: two days here, three days there, four days somewhere
else. And I haven’t photographed even one of the nine persons I’ve
Interviewed so far. I beg Jamie to come with me to at least take the photographs.
Instead, he gives me a much needed lesson on my old camera.
A little later SantDarshan Singh, who is a shining example
of humility, patience and kindness, comes to see me in my room. I tell him:
I feel like an orphan suddenly thrown out into the cold world. Yes, he says,
full of love and compassion — But wherever you go, never for one moment
forget that your guru is watching over you… that
Power must guide and help you!
I know that is true, and I know I am suffering from
It is now very late at night, but Martha is waiting
for me; she is keeping her promise. HER life is one long upheaval — my
life of upheaval is, after all, only for a few months: Martha's life of upheaval,
ironically, is taking place on a static Ashram stage, a refuge of stillness
and tranquility for everyone else…
Jamie spoke much about seva,
and I can see you are very much into that as I have been waiting five days to
snatch one hour of your time. Can you describe your day to day life in the Ashram?
It has been our good fortune to serve the Master in a personal capacity for
the past five years or so. I have learned that to live and serve in an Ashram
means one has to completely forget about one’s own self. One’s personal
needs become secondary. It is an experience in living for others. Part of the
day is your own, but — there can never be fixed times — most of
it is taken up in helping the many Western devotees who come here for short
visits. Physically it is sometimes difficult; inwardly there’s joy and
gratitude for being allowed to serve others. Sant
Kirpal Singh used to say: Do you lose anything when you give? — No! —
On the contrary, the heart becomes larger as the self expands to embrace all.
The important part is to lose oneself in the Master and see that he is the doer:
it’s he who is serving, not oneself.
But how do you cope with
the individual problems of the people constantly coming from the West that obviously
form part of your dayly life?
As I am from the West I know a little of what they are going through. Many devotees
coming to India for the first time are rather stunned by the great culture shock.
This may be why Master Darshan has someone from the West looking
after them — it needs somebody who can relate to their needs. As you’ve
seen, there’s a constant flow of people: some ask for the Ashram’s
printed literature, others renew subscriptions to Sat Sandesh, the monthly magazine,
some may be sick in need of medical care. The main request is…Can I see
the Master, I need to speak to him?
Does that mean you are
in charge of arranging private Interviews?
Yes. Everyone arriving from abroad meets the Master, and anyone with a personal
problem can request a private Interview. I list everybody’s arrival and
departure information – each person is taken care of.
What sort of problems
come up? How do you actually spend your day?
Apart from giving personal attention to visitors, there is quite a lot of secretarial
work. The main difficulty with that is that one can never sit quietly for long
and concentrate and complete the work. There are constant interruptions: people
knocking at the door requiring something, asking advice or just wanting a friendly
Kirpal Singh often said: Life is one long interruption!
Can you explain how anyone
arriving from abroad finds the way to the Ashram?
Only initiates or those accepted by the Master for initiation are generally
allowed to stay. We’ve set up a system where those expected to arrive
at Delhi airport are met and brought to the Ashram where they are shown their
rooms. The daily schedule is explained: everyone, along with putting in seven
hours for meditation each day, is encouraged to do seva.
For instance, there’s kitchen duty, welfare officer’s duty, and
But there’s a schedule
laid out for Ashram visitors?
The bell rings at 3 a.m. for meditation, at 8.30 we have breakfast, then more
time for meditation or seva
until lunch. At 4 we have satsang
consisting of a recorded talk by Sant
Kirpal Singh or a Video-tape of SantDarshan Singh. This is followed by an
hour of meditation. At 6 is the highlight of the day: Master Darshan usually gives a question and
answer session in English for the Western devotees. It is usually recorded on
video-tape. This is followed by a light meal. Everyone is expected to fill out
the daily self-introspection diary which was started by Master Kirpal. That
is the general schedule. My schedule is a bit different and I often feel there’s
no day or night.
Now the time I start in the morning depends very
much on the time I finish the night before. Sometimes the work takes me through
into the morning. Well, the night before last, Jamie and I went to the airport
to meet a close friend who was coming with her three children. But after that,
there happened to be twelve private Interviews, and the Master himself stayed
up till 4 a.m. At midnight, he saw that I looked tired so he said I should take
rest. I find I need five to six hours sleep. Sometimes I don’t get to
bed until 3 a.m… that’s when the bell rings for everyone to get
up! Master himself is usually up all night — he sleeps very little. Generally
I am able to put in a little time for meditation before the round of calls and
interruptions starts again.
So you can understand why it has been so hard for me to give you this hour.
Now you are making me
feel awkward…but could you say more about your close personal contact
with Master Darshan?
He has his own way of working. Usually as something comes up that needs to be
done he will call the appropriate person to come and take care of it. I am called
to make phone calls, work on correspondence, work on transcripts, and locate
books. If a religious or community leader is coming to visit the Ashram, I help
prepare a set of books for presentation. The Master likes to know who is coming
and on which date they are leaving. I also help prepare the interview lists
and go get people when he calls for them.
Would you explain how
the Master presents his teachings?
He teaches by example. The Masters in this line encourage us to fulfill our
worldly obligations but at the same time to develop the spiritual life. The
Masters themselves have earned their own living and often married and had children.
One of the most important teachings is the weeding
out of our short-comings by filling in the introspection diary. There are sections
for failures in chastity, truthfulness, non-violence and humility; not only
the failures in deed, but also in thought and word are to be examined and eradicated.
Master Darshan emphasizes the importance of
a pure and ethical life as the only way back to God.
You ask how the Master teaches. Well, a rather intriguing
incident comes to my mind which will give you a good example. A brother from
Canada, rather intellectual, asked many questions on how to keep the introspection
diary properly. The Master told him to come up front and bring his diary with
him. The Master then asked him to go back through the day and remember all his
failures as he recorded them on the diary sheet. The total came to 32. The Master
then asked another brother to place 32 marks on this boy’s face with a
pen. As there was a mirror in the room, the Master requested him to look at
himself, and then asked him if he had a date with his beloved, would he like
to meet her like that? Then the Master gave a discourse on how we all are hoping
to meet our Beloved — God — but this introspection diary is the
mirror which shows us every day what is standing between us and Him.
Has your married life
been a help on the path? Sant
Kirpal Singh used to say that married life is no bar to spirituality if lived
according to the scriptures: it is a companionship on the way to God, and as
such is sacred. Most of the Masters in the Sant
Mat tradition were married. They earned their own livelihood, had children,
perfected their sadhanas
and taught. Jamie and I have both found marriage to be a helping factor on the
path — in a way, we are each other’s mirror.
Of course, I know no
fees are charged in this Ashram, but donations are accepted, aren’t they?
Donations towards the mission’s work are all right, but Master Darshan is very strict: he will not personally
touch a single penny. Even if a cheque is sent in his name, it is returned —
I know this as I have to deal with this sort of thing. He maintains himself
on his Government pension. I should also explain that the policy is not to accept
donations from non-initiates. He is also strict about not allowing anyone to
touch his feet — an Indian form of reverence. He is very simple and his
needs are simple. He never wears flowing gowns or special colours. He touches
people by his example, and his simplicity draws them to the path so that our
own God qualities also begin to flower.
In contrast to some other
Ashrams I have been visiting, here the Western devotees appear to be given more
attention than the Indian devotees.
They are all given much attention. The Master comes out every day to sit with
the Indian sangat in addition to giving two satsangs
in Hindi each week and meditation sittings. There are no caste differences here, for the Masters
Mat teach that we are all brothers and sisters in God, and as such must relate
to the divine in each other. Any barriers there are between people are man-made
and wrong. I would say that the Master is aware that the Western devotees have
come thousands of miles to see him and sometimes for very short periods. But
I would like to emphasize that he is not concerned with outer circumstances
or forms or even past actions. He will embrace a poor man as warmly as a rich
man: he takes everyone into his fold. And I can tell you this is true even with
sinners. He says: Every saint has a past, every sinner a future.
I have noticed many times especially with young people
who may have lived rather immoral lives, that when they turn to the spiritual
path they become obsessed with guilt. Here the Master consoles and encourages
with patience – well, the patience of a saint.
Martha, I can see on
the calendar printed for the Ashram that Sant
Kirpal Singh is quoted as saying: “Man is what he thinks about all day
long.” Would you like to explain what that means?
He often used to say: As you think, so you become. If our thoughts are towards
God, then we become part of Him; but if we spend most of the day with thoughts
of lust or mental criticism against others or in thinking angry thoughts or
how to acquire this or that thing, these thoughts react and drive happiness
away. Moreover, thoughts are powerful; the next step is action caused by these
thoughts which usually means we do things often detrimental to ourselves let
I can also see a quotation
by SantDarshan Singhji: “Through the unbounded compassion
of the Master we can attain communion with God.”
I think it was Master Kirpal who said that when he met his great guru,
Baba Sawan Singh, it was through his unbounded compassion that he was given
initiation. If the saints themselves say this, how can we poor souls covered
in darkness and illusion know what compassion is showered on us when a perfect
being draws us into the Light. A perfect Master promises never to forsake his
children even to the end of the world. He goes further: he says when we leave
this physical body at the time of its death, he will be there in his astral
form to help and guide us into the beyond. This is a tremendous, and I might
say, unique part of these teachings.
When did you get drawn
to the teachings?
I became interested in yoga when I was 17 -- I met someone who
had just returned from India. I was loaned Dr. Julian Johnson’s Path of
the Masters – I just read it through during the night and finished it
by the morning. It was as if the secrets of the universe were being explained
and the purpose for which we are on this earth plane was made clear. I didn’t
know what a master was at that time, but soon I was led to the feet of Sant
Kirpal Singh and was initiated in 1971 when I was 18. I spent my days putting
in five to six hours of meditation and going to satsang
as well as to college.
Now I am going to plunge
deep and ask you whether all this intensive meditation and service you are now
doing has in fact fulfilled your deepest desires and you are a better person?
If anyone who knew me ten years ago came to see me now, I can hardly think they
would recognize me. They would probably walk past me. I am a totally new person
— I fit your book well, Malcolm. When I first came on the path I didn’t
fully understand the teachings; I went overboard with intense desire to leave
off old habits, friends; I even detached myself from my family in my zeal to
progress. It wasn’t until I came to India and saw how the Master lives
that I realized this is not necessary. We should grow within the setting in
which we have been placed and have fellow feeling and love for all with whom
we come in contact. I feel this path has made me a better — certainly
a happier — person and a more integrated human being. I know I have a
long way to go, but at least I’ve been put on the right way.
Did you find it difficult
to change from your devotion to Master Kirpal Singh to his successor, Master
The new Master from the beginning emphasized over and over again that those
coming to him must look on him as a brother if they had already received initiation
– he could never become our guru. He explained he is here only to
help the old initiates to come closer to Master Kirpal. I can tell you that
through my association with Master Darshan I have indeed grown closer to
my own guru. As I explained, my initial idea
of the path and what a Master is was all wrong. I had learned everything through
books, and you just can’t get the essence, the fire – call it what
you like – out of any spiritual book. Books give us a glimpse, a taste,
a pull…there’s nothing wrong with them – it’s like a
photograph gives us a good impression of a person, but it rarely does the person
justice – how can it?
In those early days did
you ever see yourself living and serving the guru so closely? During my own Master’s life (Sant Kirpal Singh Ji) it was my most
cherished wish to live at his feet. I actually had asked permission to study
nursing at the University of Delhi in 1972 but my father would not allow me
to go. I met the Master in 1972 when he came to the United States on his Third
World Tour. I was unable to come to India until after he had passed away. Jamie
had visited Master Kirpal in India in 1973 and the last thing he said to him
was “This is your home.” We could see the same spiritual power that
had been flowing in the Beloved Master Kirpal was now working through a new
human pole. I have always felt India to be my home.
Jamie and Martha Smith returned to the USA where they set up house in
Florida, had a daughter, and where they continue their service at their
local Florida Satsang.