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A Young Man's Search for the Avatar, Prelude   

Prelude to my Journey

It was on the feast day of St. Stephen in 1973 that I left my mother’s house in upstate New York and set out upon a remarkable journey around half the earth to seek a living son of god.

This journey would take me to a meeting with a most remarkable god-man, a meeting that had already been predicted by an enlightened sage of my acquaintance, preceded by personal visions and transformations of an unusual nature. In fact, this meeting would be the beginning of the greatest adventure of my life.

thmbrk01.jpg (10048 bytes)Sometime during the year 1973 a curious divine madness came over my whole being, a kind of feverish obsession with the life and person of a particular 19th century hindu saint named Sri Ramakrishna. It increased when a person I considered to be a living sage said to me : "I think one day you will find that Ramakrishna wil be your constant complanion."

And again one Easter when I came into possession of a very fine quality photograph of this great saint of India. I have tried to trace the origin of that divine time for me, but I cannot find out how or why that blissful madness came upon me. I can only say that I fell in love with a long deceased man of God, and that I became amazingly convinced I had known that man in another life and that he had loved me.  I was looking for the reappearance, the reincarnation of a certain 19th century holy man, Sri Ramakrishna, the famed god-man of Dakshineshwar. I had discovered that he had several time predicted that he would take birth again two more times, and one of those times he would come in the form of a Baul in West Bengal.

I read:

When the Master comes to us again, his retinue will follow and his Shakti, the Mother, will again incarnate, though this is by no means a happy development to contemplate. In the course of a conversation Gauri-Ma said one day (February 9, 1912) at the ‘Udbodhan,’ ‘The Master said that he would come down again twice; once in the form of a baul.’ (1) The Mother confirmed her by saying, ‘Yes, the Master said, "You will have in your hands (my) hubble-bubble." The Master will have a broken stone vessel in hand. Maybe, the cooking will be done in a broken iron pan. He walks on and on – neither looking to the right nor left...

A disciple reported the incident to the Mother at Jayrambati, in May 1913, and asked, ‘Mother, why did he see him with wooden sandals and a pair of tongs in his hand?’ The Mother replied, ‘That's the outfit of a monk. For has he not said that he will come in the trappings of a baul? In the attire of a baul -- with a long robe, matted hair on the head, and beard so long. He said, "I shall go home by way of Burdwan; somebody's son will be easing himself on the road; in my hand will be a broken stone vessel, and a bag dangling under my arm." He will be walking on and on, eating all the time -- without looking in any particular direction.’ The questioner asked, ‘Why the Burdwan road?’ The Mother replied, ‘The home is that way.’ Again the question was put, ‘Is he a Bengali then?’ The Mother said, ‘Yes, a Bengali. Hearing him I said, "How strange, my dear! What a strange fancy you have!" He smiled and said, "Yes, you will have my hubble-bubble in hand."’

The Mother told the disciples, ‘He (the Master) said that he will live for a hundred years with his children.’ According to her, the golden age began from the advent of the Master. He came with some extraordinary souls as his esoteric circle. For instance, the Master himself told her that Swami Vivekananda belonged to the group of the great seven seers of old, and that Arjuna came as Swami Yogananda. Ordinary people are born and they die; but these highly gifted and illuminated souls accompany an incarnation to advance his mission. About their extraordinary spiritual calibre, she said, ‘All those who came earlier have come again.’"

(Passage is from "Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi" by Swami Gambhirananda published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapur, Madras-4 (1st edition copy, 1955) pages 460 - 462)

And I  became even further convinced that he in fact walked the earth again even now, in 1973, in a new body, and that I should immediately leave everything and seek him out with certain faith by any means and try to stay by his side all my remaining days. I can remember a hundred moments where this strange drama seemed to begin, but I can find no start to this story. Perhaps I search in vain.

I was living at that time in Albany, New York. I had spent the five years after leaving college just searching out holy men and mystics, always trying to unravel and remember and understand the mysteries I had felt and seen on a classical 1966 pharmaceutical LSD trip at the golden coast of California.

Surely, I thought, one of these wise and holy men, who seemed to be flocking to America at that time of mass expanded consciousness could explain the wonders I had seen on that deep night of the blood, the dark night of Kali. Surely there was a way back to that fresh fountain of life of which I had drunk. And surely there was a way to keep that knowledge and vision from dissolving like mists of sad fog on return to our ordinary less conscious state. I yearned to return to the gates of Eden.

I left a promising job in the fall of 1968 and went to live in a fledgling yoga ashram in upstate New York. Was even this imprudent whim a foretaste of the divine madness to come? There I learned yoga, and nights were spent reading together aloud the great eastern and western spiritual teachings.

On my second night in that wonderful place I was handed a heavy tome called "The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna," written by someone simply called "M." and I was told to begin at the beginning. We read aloud from this book every night for a long time, all through the winter. Only years later would I understand my good fortune at having such pure gold put in my hands at the beginning of my journey. I don’t remember what I thought at the time. Everything was so new.

dazraman.jpg (16020 bytes)I learned yoga and became a kind of hatha yoga teacher. After a time our nightly readings progressed to another wonderful Indian saint, Sri Ramana Maharshi. I don’t think I understood then the immensity of what he was saying, but I became extremely entranced by the photograph of him. In my off hours I crafted a fine frame of some hardwood scraps and put his photo in it. I kept that photo of Ramana Maharshi in my room at all times. I was at that time wanting to learn meditation, but usually all I could really do was sit before the picture of that face and adore it. I used to adore it to the point of tears streaming down my face. I don’t think those tears had any particular content, other than gladness. I just loved and adored the face that I saw.

I lived in this way for three years, teaching yoga and going to see holy men. I saw Satchidananda, who was residing then in nearby Monroe. And then Swami Chidananda began coming to our place. Both these men were disciples of Sivananda of Rishikesh. It was my first contact with real monks, renunciates, sanyasis. Chidananda impressed me the most, and I even felt he offered discipleship with the name "Shankar" but it I guess it was not to be.

jkrishna.jpg (31676 bytes)In that time I also saw J. Krishnamurti for the first time. I went to a lecture in New York city. I have no idea what he talked about that day. I only remember that after a while when I held my gaze on him for a time the whole hall seemed to dissolve in yellowish white light, and yet just a hint of a face shining where he spoke on the stage. I had never seen anything like this before. It made me certain that he was true, that there was nothing false in him.

I immediately read nearly everything I could that he had written or spoken and eagerly. In 1970 while recuperating from a surgery a friend brought me a small book in the hospital called "On An Eternal Voyage" by Vimala Thakar. In it I read of her experiences with J. Krishnamurti. She seemed to have actually gone through the kind of transformation in consciousness which Krishnamurti talks about. She also told about how Krishnamurti had healed a painful ear condition she had by putting his hands on her head. This was unusual because Krishnamurti does not like to refer to such psychic phenomena as physical healing; he considered such things a distraction from the pure inquiry he advocated and practiced.

Later I would meet with Vimala Thakar herself and become a friend, and certain things she told me convinced me that I already had some kind of deep inner connection to the person of Sri Ramakrishna. She said to me: "Someday I think you will find that Ramakrishna will become your constant companion."

By the time 1974 came around I had become obsessed with Ramakrishna and convinced that he was reincarnated in Bengal and that I must go find him. My faith had become so great that I had no doubt that if I went, I would find him. I knew he was pulling me to him. I could actually feel the very movement of my destiny.

There was a comet in the sky in those days, a herald called Kohoutek, a comet from afar. It was to remain largely hidden from sight for the time of its journey through our world. It was there, in the sky, but invisible to the common sight of men, and I actually timed my journey to match its fiery sojourn around our sun. As it approached perihelion I would take off in the plane. As it rounded the sun, I would round the earth. And as it headed off into another orbit I would arrive in Calcutta, India.

That was a time of visions, and our hearts were gladdened by the promise of things to come, of hidden things to be made known, and the unfolding of a story of a man of another order, who walked among men to bless the earth and all the life upon it.

As a young man I was made into a child again, to go and seek my father. It was not an earthly father who called me on this journey, but the father of all things. So was this journey written on a living book by a pen beyond all comprehension.

The events which followed would also remain hidden, until the coming of another herald a score and three years later which would not be hidden, not even in the daytime sky, and in the light of which these things could be made known.

All was magic in those days. From the time I left my mother's house I began to feel as if some giant hand had taken me up and was carrying me where it would, altogether beyond the original impulse of my so called will A golden light increasingly surrounded me and I marveled at the descent of a palpable power that seemed to be making my deepest dreams come true.

This was my passion, my obsession, my impossible dream. And it was my destiny to see this dream come true. How it happened, the long years of inspiration and preparation, are important to my tale, for they show the deep magic of high aspiration and yearning loving earnestness which is the key to anyone's inward spiritual path.

Copyright 1999 by Bill Morgan