Journeys: Arthur

Date: July 11, 1998
Email: None

During the months before I encountered Guru Maharaj Ji, shortly after my 24th birthday, three books helped set the stage for my gravitation toward him. The first was Be Here Now, about a westerner with his guru in India. Next came Autobiography of a Yogi, a remarkable story illuminating India's spiritual life. Then Ramakrishna and His Disciples, Christopher Isherwood's beautiful biography of a God-intoxicated man and his equally great love for his devotees. The emotional and spiritual atmosphere that I absorbed from these books was intensified by the experience of my young Siberian husky dying in my arms of distemper. Well-emptied, I was ripe for fulfillment.

Shortly thereafter, I saw a poster of Guru Maharaj Ji and on the following day heard him speak. There I became immersed in the aggregate of spiritual love and safety generated by his devotees. I accepted him as a kind of divine incarnation, like I had read about. The third day I received Knowledge.

At that time, the only thing that really troubled me was that Maharaj Ji would not personally initiate his devotees ­ even though he was in the next room. My limited understanding, and innate sense, told me that the good fortune of finding a living master is in large part due to the fact that there are no intermediaries. In hindsight, this unwillingness of Maharaj Ji to engage in real, personal contact ­ especially at the crucial time of initiation ­ is fundamental to my entire relation with him and epitomizes the distance he maintains from those who still call him master.

We human beings can attribute to anything ­ dead or alive, tangible or ethereal ­ whatever characteristics we choose. We can imbue a wall or a mountain, a statue or a fountain, with the higher side of our own imagining. We can superimpose divinity on a priest, child, lover, or friend. We create gods in our own imagination. Our reality is subjective. We need something to bounce off of in order to see ourselves. The value of this mirror depends on our ability to wholeheartedly accept it. Unfortunately, we tend to mistake the mirror for our face.

That summer of '71, Maharaj Ji was very attractive and I was very receptive. Our reality can be beautiful to experience, but we must continually sustain this creation of ours. Often though, it degenerates into an echo of the original ­ goes from a verb to a noun ­ and we delude ourselves. We mistake the mirage for the master.

I feel that my relationship with Maharaj Ji was like one with an Imaginary Friend. Today, this kind of lopsided liaison is magnified by the culture that surrounds him. (How does the saying go? "You shall know him by his fruits.")

At some point in the early '80s, I simply stopped sustaining my Imaginary Friend. He was promising for awhile ­ and I have fond memories of those years ­ but it was time to realign myself with my actual experience, as opposed to the inspiring theories that we all so passionately propagated.

There was a price to pay for the joy ride, though. I still remember the loss of potential mates: seeds of love and family that were weeded out by well-intentioned allegiance to an Imaginary Friend. I remember strangers of wonderful possibility who remained strangers because they could not see who I saw. Sometimes I still wonder how it might have been. What if there really was someone like my Imaginary Friend?

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