More letters from India 8
by Premananda

arrows2.jpg (6463 bytes)

February 8, 1974

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank you for your letters. As time goes by, America seems farther and farther away. The weather here is getting warmer and warmer, though the nights are quite chilly, still requiring the sweater you gave me. When I take my bath at about 7 a.m. (out of a bucket), it is very cold and shivering. By now, 2 p.m., the sun is beating down intensely, and it is getting hot enough to make people seek the shade. Strange isn’t it?

The seven day festival came to a close yesterday, and I can’t hope to describe it or tell the way Baba showered his love on me throughout. It began on the 28th January, which is Saraswati Puja Day in West Bengal—worship of the Goddess of Learning. On the 30th, was Annokoot, midway between new and full moon and celebrating the day Baba first had the vision of God, over ten thousand people were fed with a rice and vegetable mixture, which is Baba prasad or food offered by him to God. It was an unbelievable day. I never thought so many people would even fit in the area. They came in waves and waves to take Baba’s prasad, considered to be a special blessing, and ate from leaf plates in batches of about 1,500. Others personally known to Baba, that is devotees, came in a constant stream to take sweets and flowers from his own hand and to have a word or two with him. There was "Hare Krishna" being sung night and day for three days non-stop. Several times Baba himself, though 72, would join them, singing and dancing with a fiery intensity. So many things happened. Baba gave me the name Premananda which means the bliss of divine love and dressed me up like Chaitanya—Nityananda, two monks who were the original start of the Hare Krishna Movement in the 1400s, and we went singing through the village. He is a madman in a way. I had been trying to contribute some money to the festival, but Baba would not accept it. I saw him in the crowd at one point holding his cloth out collecting money from the people to pay for the festival. So I ran over and threw in ten rupees. He grabbed it, looked at it, and threw it in with the rest. Then I threw in ten more. He grabbed that and sat down with me on the ground and started rolling up the money. Then he asked me for a match. I started laughing and gave him a match, and he was about to smoke my money. We were both laughing—he was saying by signs, "I don’t want your money. Americans are too proud. Money makes them too proud. Money is nothing. It is dirt. It is what is in the heart that counts. That is real wealth. Give me the love in your heart. I don’t want money." They told me later that when Mrs. Hart, his first American devotee, gave him 100 rupees in 10 rupee notes, he actually sat with her and smoked all ten of them. Knowing I was basically poor, he stuffed mine back in my pocket and embraced me. What a lesson! This beggar who has actually seen God smokes money if it is given with any trace of pride or ego!!

Well, another rare event happened the other night when, in the midst of a great crowd, Baba asked me to sing a few lines for him. I was singing the name of Hari, the Universal being, and Baba passed into samadhi, that is the state of unitary consciousness. You can find out all about it by reading about Ramakrishna. It was electrifying. What a beautiful sight! Like a psychic sonic boom. They told me to keep singing or else he would stay in that state for a half hour or more. The next day a wonderful fat man came, who Baba loves very much, and he translated for me so I could talk more directly to Baba. It is very clear that he is my guru. I was wise in waiting and waiting and not accepting anyone until now. He will give a mantra soon, and I will be off on a new leg of my quest. There are tentative plans for Baba to travel to Madras, and I shall go with him. That will be a very special blessing. Well, again I hope this does not all sound like utter madness. Trust in my word that you have no idea how fortunate your son is on this trip—well cared for and being in the companionship of a realized man.