Sir’s Interview surely will make any guru’s secretary triply proud to
read. Sir is doing fine. But he still refuses to allow his name to appear, and
as for the photograph I have just taken:
No, no, absolutely no!
However, he does have a young Italian lined up for the
next round. But with all its lyrical sweetness and sincerity the Interview is
flat, muddled and one of those misfires. As an alternative, Sir has two Germans
lined-up — but not until tomorrow.
I ask: Can’t we have one Interview from a woman?
A woman? No, certainly not, we would have to get special
permission for that.
Dr. Bhagavanantum still hasn’t returned. Sir is
beginning to have second thoughts about his boldness. Why should it get him
into any disfavour?
I say: Look, I am prepared to sign a paper saying I
have taken these Interviews on the condition that before publication I will
submit them to you for approval.
Sir is happy with this and says the transcripts will
be returned within a few days.
I have had plenty of experience with Ashram paper-checking,
so I suggest that if they are returned within two or three weeks that will be
fine with me.
So yet another deal is struck.
In the morning —
Baba for some reason hasn’t appeared for the usual darshan — so I am introduced to
Joachim, mellow, polite, polished; and Uli, much younger, much jokier and less
polished. We laugh a lot about our unofficial Interviewing permissiveness —
I presume they usually live quiet, unexcitable lives. As far as they are concerned,
they couldn’t care less about checking their Interviews: they know, I
suppose, they are going to tell me nothing but positive printable stuff.
I must say, some aspects of The Guru Protection Syndrome one sometimes
meets in Ashrams can be tiresome. I had, however, to come all the way here to
Puttaparthi though to hear about a scandalous book recently published about
Baba, so I do see that poor Sir is right to be cautious. (And little did
I imagine that this was but the start of much controvertial speculation as to
Baba’s sexual activities). In spite of this, couldn’t someone
in an official position take responsibility in Dr. Bhagavantum’s absence
and come up with a decision and deal with my Interview requests?I need only
to be told Yes or No.
In the afternoon darshan,
Baba floats past me again — he is very loving with old people in wheel
chairs. Occasionally, he stops and allows someone to say a few words to him.
At the end of
Baba’s perambulation, I see coming towards me Lynn, the intrepid Australian
interior designer I first met at the Aurobindo Ashram several days ago, or was
it at the Theosophical Society? – she has
finally made it to see her guru at his own Ashram, but not by the
shortest route having called at many other Ashrams on the way here.
She waves when she catches sight of me, but here in
these Ashram grounds we cannot speak to each other let alone go to each other’s
rooms. I need to talk to someone, to get another perspective on what might be
going on – but Lynn is a woman!
She whispers as we pass: Meet me in the X Café
in half an hour.
What? – I think to myself – go out of the
Ashram precincts? Such temptations! Of course I do understand the whole idea
of such restrictions...if you go to any Ashram to see your guru why even think about going outside?
But in this case nothing else can be done.
We meet. We see others unlawfully talking, smoking,
tea-drinking — I can’t see any other vices; they too have sneaked
Lynn’s first question: Aren’t you by this
time sick of all these Holy Ashrams? She doesn’t wait for a reply —
I can’t bear them -- I love
Baba -- but this Ashram! She says no more.
We have tea. She tells me that she is taking a taxi
in two days back to Bangalore. That fits my plans as I have a berth booked on
the night train so I must also get back to Bangalore.
So yet another deal is struck…we will share the
taxi no matter what happens, permissions or no permissions!
Like conspirators a bit too pleased with ourselves,
we sneak back into the Ashram, carefully staggering our arrival.
Dr. Bhagavantum has still not returned... But it’s
now time for the German Interview.
As you both wish to give the Interview together,
let’s start with Joachim as you are older, right?
JOACHIM: Uli is like my son. We are both from Germany. I am 52 years old, but
when I was 24 I had a strange spiritual experience — it suddenly happened
although I didn’t know about these things. I fell down unconscious one
afternoon and was in an ocean of light. In this light slowly a figure appeared
and I knew it as a divine being; first I saw it from the backside, turning;
the face was brown and the eyes made me afraid. I thought it was Jesus but couldn’t
understand why he had a dark complexion. From then I knew there were other levels
of consciousness, and I started reading much about spiritual things. That went
for some years together with my professional life.
Can you say what it was?
I was an actor. In 1972 I decided to stop the reading and go to India for a
guru, a divine incarnation. I came to
Baba almost immediately and I had the feeling: I have found my guru. So quick! After a few nights I
had a dream — I didn’t know then that when one dreams about
Baba really appears; he says nobody can dream about him if he doesn’t
want it. In this dream I sat on a prayer mat,
Baba stood beside me and gave me something to drink — it was tasteless
— then we both went up to the sky like two flames merging in a cloud of
bliss and love and incredible joy. In the morning I was told that the day before
was a special day, and in former years
Baba distributed amrit
but this year he didn’t. I didn’t grasp the dream properly nor the
meaning of the drink although I was told it was the nectar of immortality.
A week later I had my first Interview with Sai
Baba — it was with a group. He materialized things and was all love;
he asked if I had any questions, so I said: Yes, one. He said: You want to talk?
Come. And he took me behind a curtain, and there he turned completely into the
Divine Mother full of sweetness. I didn’t have to narrate my dream, he
knew — he said: No birth again! I couldn’t grasp it still. He repeated:
No birth again — moksha, liberation. I was so happy I
started weeping. I felt
Baba had taken loads of karma off my shoulders. I was a changed
Did you have to go back
I went after a few weeks. But
Baba was with me. I wasn’t able to get work but was in a blissful
state. Then every year for eight years he brought me back, coming, changing,
changing my character. Sometimes he gave me some “treatments” —
he never looked at me for half a year, but the very moment I was back in Germany
I was brimful of bliss so that I would know the
Baba in the body was part of the
Baba in the heart; and he filled me completely. Now this last year
Baba has told me not to go back, to stay permanently. I hope I will become
less and less and merge in him like those two flames in the dream.
When you said your character
changed what did you mean?
I was a chain smoker, drinking alcohol, with many love stories, and I was eating
Can you now give an account
He says in the end there is nothing but God. He puts stress on thinking good,
seeing good, speaking good, doing good. He says we should do sadhana
but I have the feeling it is
Baba who does the sadhana
for us — he is working from day to night on us. He changes and shapes
us inside by dreams and so on.
He pays your karmic debts?
He destroys them. Once we were all singing bhajans on Maha Shivaratri; at sunrise
he came into the hall, delivered his discourse, but this single sentence remains
in my mind: “This night I have taken sins from you.” He washes away
much dirt. Many people here get diseases and we are never bothered about it
as we see it as a form of purification. Should he wish it he can take it all
away. I used to think I knew
Baba — now I know nothing — yes, I know he is love incarnate.
He is always caring for us. When I had to look for a place to stay here last
year I was walking in a street and a man on a motorcycle asked me: Do you want
a flat? I saw it was a newly built house so I rented it immediately. Just like
How do you spend your
time? Do you do any seva?
No. I used to read like a rat; this habit has stopped.
Baba makes one think of him 24 hours a day — I am always busy with
Baba, busy being quiet, listening to the heart, to the peace, to the bliss.
That’s the occupation one can see from the outside. Oh, I should tell
you that the vision I had when I was 24 - when I lost consciousness - was
Baba: he himself told me so.
Now should we hear what
Uli has to tell us?
ULI: I am 27 now. After school I didn’t know what to do so I ended up
in the police force in Germany. After two years I was sick of the discipline
and having read Herman Hesse, I said: Enough! Let me go to India — just
like that. I was 18 and didn’t know about saints but after five days in
India I ended up with a saint — the teacher of Ram Dass, Neem Karoli
Baba. I stayed with him for two months; I didn’t do any sadhana
but he changed my whole life. I didn’t even have any devotion for him.
I just went because I had met someone who said: Let’s go there, he is
nice and we can eat free. I had an incredible experience there. I never spoke
to him — rather he never spoke to me except after six weeks.
He said: What’s your name?
I said: Uli.
He said: Cooli? Ah, work!
That was the only conversation I had with him. But
he was working on me on subtle levels. He understood what was in my mind, what
I wanted — there was some communication there. But at that time I didn’t
know who he was. Through my cultural background I was very narrowed in. He just
opened me up. I then spent time in America, sort of free life, but I met some
Baba devotees whom I liked.
When I came back to Germany I met more
Baba devotees, and as Neem Karoli
Baba had died, I decided I should come to India again. But first I saw other
saints, then came to see
Baba. At the first meeting he just looked into my eyes and I knew he was
the highest being I had met. (I had been with about ten saints.) But he never
talked to me, like Neem Karoli
Baba. He manifested lockets for others but ignored me.
Eventually, he asked my name, and when I told him,
he said: Cooli? Ah, work!
I stayed with him four months and that was the only
conversation I had with him. No, I remember I did have one other — the
summer course was going on and everybody had to have a badge to get in. There
were a few without badges — I was one — so we couldn’t get
in; we were sitting outside waiting for
Baba to arrive and help us.
He came, looked at us, told someone: Give him a badge,
him, him, and so on— but again he ignored me. He was so godlike, I was
so shy, I could never approach him, but he lingered as if to let me know that
if I wanted to speak, speak! All I could say was: Summer course! He said: Achha?
As if to say — oh, you can talk, but also at the same time it was like
You mean he never gave
you a badge?
No! I had to stay outside. You just can’t get in without one. Anyway,
I had to go back to Germany, but after three months I was back again. Again
he completely ignored me. Then I started thinking: I need another guru, I need a guru who talks to me, I need a guru I can relate to — this is
nothing! I even remember once he was driving by in his car; to the person left
of me, to the person right of me he smiled and waved, and he didn’t even
see me. What’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with me?
Then I was very sick, stomach trouble and depressed,
and about to leave and look for another saint. I was sitting at darshan really down physically and mentally:
Baba came out but I thought: Well, you are God — I can’t go
to a doctor because you can cure me if you want to in an instant.
He looked at me — in the area of my stomach
— and said: Go in! and he gave me an Interview.
From then on for a year he gave me so much attention,
talked to me, made me feel I was close to him. He made me this locket I wear
— even the chain, at that first Interview, and said:
You have pain — I’ll take it away —
you want to talk to me this evening?
I was so happy, but all day long I was also confused
by this sudden love. In the evening he said: How are you now?
I said: A little confused. Confused?
He said, if you are confused I won’t talk to
He started to walk away.
I yelled out: It’s much better now, so he came
Don’t be confused, be happy!
From then on he has given me many Interviews and made
me this special ring.
JOACHIM: You should tell how he wanted to get you
Baba was marrying an American couple, blessed them, made them rings and
showered them with rice — brown rice — coming out of his fingers.
After he had given them a talk on what marriage means, he turned to me saying:
Now you are going to get married. I cried:
Baba, no, no! I don’t want to get married — I really don’t
want to. He said: I am going to marry you to God!
You must have many other
Baba’s sense of humour.
JOACHIM: There was a thread ceremony; on the platform
three or four pandits
were reciting mantras, but
Baba was walking up and down spraying from his finger tips flower petals
and such things. The pandits
became excited and called out: Shiva,
Baba turned round and asked: Yes?
Baba has been wearing his special curly hair-style, and some people get
a shock when they see it for the first time. Two Westerners were talking about
it saying you have to be careful with such a style not to get lice. Some days
later they had an Interview with
Baba, who said as he bent his head: You have to be careful with such hair
— it’s so easy to get lice. And there they could see innumerable
ULI: Oh, do you remember when two brothers were talking
Baba actually wearing a wig? That evening at darshan, as he passed them he tugged
at his hair and then went on. And when on another occasion he took out a white
handkerchief as he passed someone, rubbed it very hard against his lips and
showed it to the person without any mark on it. That man told me later that
he had actually been telling his friend that
Baba uses lipstick. He does these funny things but they always have significance.
Baba said that Krishna wore his hair like he does, but
with a cloth round it. He put a towel on his head like a turban to show us,
then he waved his hand and produced a huge emerald — about the size of
a small egg — saying: This stone belonged to Krishna’s grandmother. He placed
it on the turban and then handed it around so that we could all see it. Then
taking it back he said: I have to send it back, it is part of the crown Jewels
and the guard will get in trouble if someone notices that it is missing. It
disappeared from his hand, just like that.
Have any of these objects
JOACHIM: There is a good example in Howard Murphet’s book about
Baba. A New York gentleman was over here and
Baba materialized an expensive piece of jewelry which had a shop label and
price tag on it. He gave it to the man who on his return to New York immediately
went to the shop on Fifth Avenue. He showed the piece of jewelry and asked if
the record of sale could be shown to him. Surely enough it could be traced,
and the assistant said: I can never forget the man who bought it — he
had his hair sticking out in all directions and was wearing a red robe and he
paid cash. The date of sale was the same as the day
Baba had given the piece to him.
Baba manifests objects to teach you something.
ULI: Ach, all the time.
Baba made a ring appear. He showed it to someone and asked: What kind of
ring is this?
He said: It is gold with an emerald. This was confirmed
by other people there.
Baba took it back, blew on it — phuur! Showed it to everyone, and
they all said:
Oh, it’s now silver with a diamond!
He did this several times — blowing and showing
— and the ring had changed every time.
Baba said: See,
Baba can change any material in the universe into another, but to change
one of you Westerners is very hard.
Before I go to my barren room for the night, Sir takes
me to meet the English woman who was a music teacher in London but who now lives
at the Ashram teaching bhajans to the many Westerners who come
here. She agrees to an Interview but, again, not until there has been official
permission. Dr. Bhagavantum is still not back. I go to sleep.
This is now my last day. Nothing more to do but wait.
There are hundreds of Westerners staying here, some have been here for years,
some own apartments, but what is the use even trying to talk to them without
permission? Sir is still sure all will work out, and even if the respected doctor
does not arrive this evening something will make me stay on. I keep telling
him I have to take tomorrow night’s train for the Ashram of Swami
Ramdas in Kerala.
Baba has been away all day, so no morning darshan. When he comes back in the late
afternoon, I decide it’s my turn to be bold: I walk right into
Baba’s private house. Of course, I don’t get far: an elderly
stops me. I explain I have been here three days, must leave tomorrow and all
I want to know is Yes or No about the Interviews — and if I can take one
from a woman disciple?
He says Dr. Bhagavantum is the only person who can
go in and ask such a question.
Yes, yes, I do know that, but can no one else help
me? When you pour out your heart to an Indian he always responds.
He says: Dr. Bhagavantum will surely come back tonight!
I reply: It will be too late.
The learned pandit
then says: There is only one thing left — you go across the road, over
there, to the post office, and send
Baba a personal telegramme stating the case: he must open that himself!
With a wave of his hand he points the direction.
This at least is better than just sitting about waiting;
Baba said he would see me later — it is getting very late. I find
the tiny P.O. hardly a minute’s walk away, take a telegramme form from
the postmaster, and ask:
Is it possible to have it delivered to
Baba before the evening darshan?
Lovely smile from the postmaster: It will be delivered
by me -- me personally!
I write, pay, bow, and leave, now totally enchanted
with the situation.
Baba will surely say something to me when he comes out
for his evening darshan walk. It’s time to get
in line. We all sit waiting in neat, long lines. The discipline is extraordinary,
as is the silence and patience of this huge congregation. There is an air of
Baba is one hour late — he must have received
the telegramme! But I am now in such a euphoric state I can’t understand
if it’s because of the comic-opera situation with the possibility of the
baritone rushing up to the tenor-hero in the last act with a telegramme proving
that the much abused rival who is about to be banished is his long-lost brother…
Or could it be some supernatural resignation and bliss
that has descended?
Baba is here, there’s a ripple of loving anticipation as he moves
slowly towards where I am standing. The devotees are pranaming,
ecstatic. I have the note in my hand, but I can’t hand it to him: I am
filled with a tremendous happiness — I am laughing inside -- I only hope
it doesn’t show outside. During these solemn moments it is not only important
to observe propriety, but to be seen observing it.
Baba glides past.
All is as it should be. The note is still in my hand.
The comic-opera won’t have a hammy ending: the rejected one, of his own
accord, will retreat without causing more trouble, resigned to his wandering
fate, but happy to find the faithful Australian soprano waiting ready to mount
the taxi with him.
And so Lynn and I bid farewell to this colourful Wonderland
of bitter-sweet conundrums. We drive away into the morning sunrise.
Several hundred books have been
written about Sathya Sai
Baba since, at the age of 14, he declared himself the
Avatar of the age – a living god. His powerful mystic projection
and ability to perform countless miracles has dazzled and attracted an
estimated 30 million devotees from 165 countries whose devotion and donations
are responsible for the building of schools, universities, temples, and
a modern 500-room hospital, the finest in the whole of India.
He has undoubtedly the largest following of any
modern-day Indian saint, but he is also the most controvertial. Allegations
over many years of “miracle trickery” and more seriously,
of sexual abuse and harrassment, allegations not only made in print (the
first book appeared back in 1976 by Tal Brooke called
Avatar of Night) but during a one hour BBC TV documentary called,
The Secret Swami,
in 2004. In no way does this seem to have lessened his magnetic spell-binding
hold on the vast majority of the faithful who see him as “An ocean
of love only capable of doing good.”
Baba concentrates on delivering his spiritual teachings which follow
the timeless, classic Hindu tradition. Storms pass. By his own estimate,
he still has many years to go. One can’t help remembering the power
and reverence the ancient Greek gods commanded in spite of their well-known
nefarious activities! Who can claim to even begin to understand the Leela - the divine play - of such Beings?