[These are notes of my second meeting with Vimala Thakar. She was in the Hotel Room provided by Fred Wilson. Marvin and his girlfriend were there, I believe, and Mieke, Madhu, Shushila. I can't remember who else. They are basically verbatim from my handwritten notes.]
When we entered the hotel room, Vimala was sleeping, and we quietly took off our coats and waited. We had left Albany in a hurry of complicated decisions to come, and so we had not had a long time in which to have expectations.
Madhu and Shushila were there when we arrived.
When Vimala appeared in the doorway the room changed. She says "When I left the room there were only two, and now.." and she indicated to us. She sat down and said, looking at the instruments we had brought - "So we are to have some music?"
I felt awkward for a moment - the sensation of selfishness, of presumption - imposing upon this woman's time - of not being a proper receptacle of the grace of her attention. It seems that the presence of such an evolved, conscious human always has this effect, among others, in the alteration of my thought flow. One of the things I invariably feel or become aware of is that I have built my vain image of myself, and in the presence of such light, it must be revealed. It is the whole of ourselves, good and bad, that the sunshine awareness of divine sages makes visible. It was this senses of sudden awareness of my falseness that made me feel awkward. I could not possible pretend anything for an instant and get away with it. To pretend in her presence brought immediate awareness of that pretense, and suffering. The very force of her awareness was the inspiration and gentle aid in being and staying with the movement of honesty.
Madhu suggested we sing some chants to "warm up." Vimala only waited and watched us. We began to chant, "Om Namah Shivaya,""Sri Ram," "Arunachala." It was charged with awareness, but it was difficult for me to be free and spontaneous with feeling. The thoughts kept coming about whether I was sincere, some sense of presumption again (who am I to sing before one whose own voice is one with God? My own voice sounds like only vanity listening to itself, happy with its self-absorbed feeling. It was an unexpected feeling. I would have liked to sing later, after these feelings had gone away, but as it was, they were part of the voice.
Madhu sang in lovely voice and was in tears several times. Then Vimala began to sing. Her voice was totally different -- as if from a great depth, a great fullness, with no considerations to mar its ease of movement, no thought to distort the spontaneity of its flow. She sang "Hari Om," beginning slowly, feelingly, hesitantly finding the flow. The vibration was intense and it was as if great conversations, great histories, whole stories were contained in the inflections of the notes.
And also, as she sang, there was the deep bath of stillness coming up behind the voice. In the control and in the held notes one's whole being became quiet. A long high and powerful series of notes would totally engage every nerve, every bit of attention and then the note would fall and fade in grace and with great care so that one's attention was carried with it into the depth of the silence which surrounds and interpenetrates.
The voice moved on her journey, and one could not help but follow, and be deeply grateful.
It turned out that one song she sang was from the Vedas. We asked her the meaning of the words and she paused to search them out. She seemed to take great care that the translation would be precise and carry the proper meaning. We do not have her gift of good memory, but the approximate translation was this (from the Sama Veda) :
As if in response to the unspoken question I felt, she spoke some about how she had come to sing.
"You know, every district in India has its own literature of devotional music. You don't even have to try to learn it. You absorb it, for it is everywhere around you."
"My grandfather used to sing every day. It was the way of his life, and it is from him that I learned all these songs. He used to rise at 3:30 every morning and chant and sing. He was a remarkable man. About a month before he died he announced to us, 'My leave of absence has been sanctioned by the Lord', and he announced the day he would leave. It was during a festival of nine days... and at the end of the festival he sat down before his idol of Ram (he was a devotee of the god Ram) and he sang. And then he just left. It was beautiful, to think that death can be so beautiful! I was only five years old at the time and this was the first contact I had ever had with death. I thought to myself: 'So that is death! Well, it cannot be so bad after all if it is that beautiful.' He just put down the body."
"Only three people I have heard sing who had that quality: my grandfather, Vinoba Bhave, and Krishnamurti. You know, Krishna has a wonderful voice. You should hear him sing the Vedas. He sits with six boys on one side and six girls on the other side and he in the middle with his Indian dress...."
We interrupted, surprised that Krishnaji should come up in such an ancient and traditional image. It was incredible and beautiful.
"Yes," she said. "Krishna learned Sanskrit very late in life. When he was 60 he went to a Sama Veda Maharaj to learn, because of his great love for the Vedas. You know, when you are finished with the instruction you are to bow down and take a gift of a coconut to the teacher - it was beautiful how he did it."
"The chanting of the Vedas is a kind of great ecstasy. You cannot sing them, every word must be learned just so, every word has its own modulation, its own vibration."
Marvin asked why, if Krishnaji felt this way, did he attack the traditions so strongly.
"Don't ask me, why don't you ask him?"
She spoke about Krishna's car at doing everything just so. If he cooks a meal it was done like an art work, if he had to drive a car it was like an artist. Once when he was loading the car, Vimala asked if she could help. "No, no," said Krishnaji, "I must do it myself. But come, see just how I do it."
She sang a fast tune, to which I kept beat on my foot with my hand. Her eyes sparkled with continually renewed delight, the eyes of a child's joy. The communication was immediate, a vast flow of response and life which words could never carry, as if her every action, including the listening, were speaking, giving endlessly.
It was a joy to do the simple keeping of rhythm as she sang. It was not let to be mechanical. In her glances, her smiles as she sang the rhythm, the emphasis kept changing and taking unexpected directions.
She sang a song of Kabir which was translated as meaning:
Another had the following meaning:
She told about the meeting of Vinoba and Krishnamurti, how Krishna wanted to go to meet Vinoba, and vice versa.
"There was some confusion about who would go see who. Krishna said he must go and see Vinoba first, because 'He is a leader and I am not a leader.' And Vinoba said, 'No, Krishna is my senior by two months, and according to the conditioning of my country, I must go to him.'
"And I was tossed between them like a ball. Finally, Vinoba went first to Krishnamurti on one day, and then Krishnamurti went to Vinoba. Of course the meeting was private, so no one knows what they said."
"But I know that Krishna keeps his eye on Vinoba. Once when I was at a lunch with Krishnaji, the name of Vinoba came up. The people who were there were not Indian and did not know who he was, and Krishnamurti said, 'He is the only leader in all of India who is alive. All the rest of them are dead. He is the only one who is really doing something for the poor people - the rest just talk.'"
"And every time I see Vinoba, he asks me about Krishnamurti, and whenever I see Krishna, he asks 'How is Vinoba?' So, although they only met twice, they have watched each other carefully.
Vimala spoke of the many saints and sages she had seen, all the powers. She had known a man who could put a blindfold on and drive a car eighty miles an hour, and even as he would be driving he would point out there is that person there, and tell what they were wearing.
She said this was just an untapped power of the psyche. She said the trouble is that people have not learned to see with the eye behind the whole optic nerves and eyes, we are always only seeing mechanically, simply looking with the mechanism.
"All these things are there and I have seen them," she told, "but all along they are pointed to and it is said this is not real spirituality, it is of the mind - the operation of the mind. It is there, but it is not the real spirituality."
We asked if coming to such a power could be a hindrance.
"Oh yes, if one tries to 'cash it'. If you try to use it, or demonstrate it", and she looked at us, "- of course here we are sharing, but to use it for vanity is to get stuck up in it. The occult powers are a phase of spiritual development, and if you can just come through it, it is much better."
While speaking here she stopped at one point and looked worried and asked Madhu, "You aren't taping are you?" She obviously had not meant her actual words to be public, but a sharing among friends.
"Since you are inquirers I feel I want to tell you..."
Other points that were touched on:
"Singing is my great passion. So sometime maybe you will invite me to America to sing bhajans instead of to give talks. That I would much prefer."
By the time an hour had gone by we had tea, and all sense of awkwardness had gone completely. She had put us all at ease, and blissfully, and yet it was not a sense of intoxication or numbness but a sense of great alertness, readiness to move if necessary, great health and readiness. We had tea and while eating crackers she told about her diet.
Yogurt and honey, raisons, nuts, ground seeds. Fruit juice. Salad for lunch or vegetables. Evening: juice, several glasses and some wheat cracker ("biscuits").
Vegetarianism: Capleau - "It's nice to live and know that you don't have to kill to stay alive."
We asked, "Are there any others like Krishnamurti?"
"Like Krishnamurti? No. What Krishnamurti has done is to free spiritual life as science has done in other areas. He has maintained that one can be in total freedom from the very beginning to the very end, and he has stood for that, like a rock, for forty years. I think it may well take the world fifty more years to understand that. I think he is the man of tomorrow."
I just returned from three days in the New York City and a most remarkable meeting with a most wonderful lady. Vimala Thakar is a woman who gives talks much as Krishnamurti does, and in fact was deeply affected by him. Her talks in the city were both about meditation and the imperative necessity for a radical psychological revolution in our minds. I will try to share some of this with you.
I got the impression, in her first talk, of someone who had lived deeply and had gone through a great deal of inner work and change. Her words were precise and careful and yet friendly, intimate. She spoke about the predominance of the action of habit in our lives, and the fact that the daily action of the brain is "mechanistic", that is, automatic, a combination of associations which repeats and results in ever more deeply ingrained patterns and repetitions. Obviously this leads only to the isolation of the person, to an ever increasing distance between us, an ever more impervious wall. Brain, memory, thinking -- it is always this whole structure which meets the problems, and usually makes them worse than they are. The simple truth: a radical change in our whole mind, being, is necessary to bring a new kind of life and no action of brain or thought can make this occur.
A frustrating dilemma. Only in the total cessation of mechanistic mental activity is enough space, (inner silence) created to bring about a change. The gentlest way of bringing about this change is in understanding the every action of the mind, and the movement of this understanding in the deep space of silence is the ever new movement of meditation, and the beauty of love.
Through an odd circumstance I went to see Vimala in her hotel room. I had some flowers with me and was rather nervous at not having a definite purpose to my visit or a specific question for her. I just found myself drawn there. She spoke with me for about forty-five minutes and I must say it was most joyous. I have not ever seen such a woman. She was speaking about many things including her times in the mountains and caves of the Himalayas before she met Krishnaji. She was doing these "practices" for two years there of purification, devotion, etc. Then she descended the mountain because she wanted to find a kind of peace which was operable in everyday life, not merely confined to mountain retreats. She had, by this time, seen the vanity and deceit of most all religious organization, and so, when she met Krishnamurti, she was really ready for the intensity of his inquiry.
It precipitated a process of communion in her which was total, and not the product of mind or thinking. It was the death of ego and the birth of the greatness of real life within her. She said sometimes during that period the intensity of this explosion in her was so great she trembled physically. The life within the individual was bursting it mind-created casements and going out like the opening flower to touch and join the gentle lover of the great life of the whole universe. Like the river, which is water, goes to touch the greatness of the ocean, which is also water, so she came in to the wakeful living of the truth of the wholeness of all life. She couldn't sleep much, nor eat much, and for three months had to live quintile in retreat to adjust to the shatteringly new process of living in tune with life - ATTENTION.
Humility was (is) really the point when the brain-mind-though-ego realizes its incapacity to produce anything real or original. Only it can listen, which means a dynamic state of attention which is the cessation of the "me". That energetic state of unbiased watchfulness is humility. Mind sees "I can't do it," and so is silently alert to learn, like a baby, like a child, the extraordinary quality of living beyond all cerebration beyond symbols and words.
She spoke out of this humility and you never had the feeling that she was playing a game or telling anything out of any motive other than the joy of sharing. Life itself, so immense and unknowable, was alive and flowing in her every moment's meeting of reality and one felt a blissful sense of great care and affection for living itself. I felt recharged. It no longer mattered that the way of this inquiry, this wondering, this examination of living was beset by great difficulties. To see someone who had become free from the conditioning was like fuel for many a hardship. It makes no difference what happens to you when you are, even for a moment, touched by great and motiveless love for the whole of life, the whole of being itself.
The second lecture she spoke with great energy and with an urgency, a love which made one listen with the whole body, the whole mind, every fiber of this living listened in love. Not in sentiment, which is a trap of the pleasures of feeling, but in a momentary instant in which the very living of that moment was revealed to the new attention, and you no longer recognized yourself, no longer knew who you were. You were a mystery, and the very awareness of that mystery and of that moment was, and is the eternal miracle.
I came away not caring where I was. It was a great blessing and I am now happy to live and learn. It doesn't matter where one is on this great journey, whether one is near of far -- what mattress is the quality of the going -- the affection in the looking and in the learning. When greed is gone, when fear is seen and dispelled by the light of that seeing, when the "known" realms are seen to be a prison, not a security, then life doesn't care where it is or what it "gets".
We are living at the frontiers of a new age which, like the new born child, is vulnerable to every upset. We live in times of great challenges and the quality of our living needs great care and affection. Those who have begun to see the limitations of the mind and intellect, and of any fragmentary approach to living are the pioneers of this century. They are called upon to open the centuries closed eye of wisdom and to explore the inner space which is opened in inquiry, in the stillness of the brain and being.
To a mind and body brought to spontaneous stillness by the understanding, truth can visit. And the space created by this "inaction" becomes the empty womb of a new being. To let go of all that you know is to enter the unknown, and it is only in the unknown that love can have its being, for we don't know what love is. It operates in the absence of what we have become.
This frontier is the mirror reflection of man's mind reaching out to the outer space. The inner movement is the outer movement -- like the tide. I was bathed in the wishes of Vimala for the coming young people. Her bright good wish that among them shall come many touched with this understanding -- this silent emanation of a being in constant mutation and explosion -- life itself! And like any pioneer, the most each can do to help the others is to look after himself, to know himself. When one has gone through this for oneself, one has done the most one can do in the service of humanity, for then truth itself, call it love, call it God, whatever, it is working through you, and you can do no wrong. To reach that state of real living, real watchfulness, and care, that is the meaning of a religious life. To discover that by one's own seeing.
There is something wonderful in the ancient symbol of the dawn of understanding as an opening lotus flower -- the "new" brain in the frontal lobes, activated by the silence of the old brain, is pictured as the opening of a thousand petaled lotus flower spreading its petals in the morning sun. It doesn't try to open, but rather the life of the flower, being part of life, is opened in response to the life of the sun, and life touches life, and is one. Only, I think the opening of this heart flower of understanding must be ten thousand times more glorious, more lovely, more precious and alive. It is the triumph over the eternal tragedy of dualistic consciousness. It is all that matters.
Brother, pray for all your brothers in deep love's quiet at beginning and at end of day. Send what joy god gives you on, as the flower gives its beauty just in being free. We pass the flower by in our great tragic hurry, but it is always there.
Notes from a Meeting
Saturday, Feb. 22, 1986
I leave ashram with Shukh Dev. We go to visit Choto Babu. He is very depressed, and we talk for a while. I am saddened to see his sorrow, for I had gone through this kind of illness myself.
We go on to the airport. The plane is very late. We sit in the airport and read magazines, waiting. Reach Bombay 23rd (Sunday) 1:30 AM We go to the International Airport. Shukh Dev gets ticket transferred to first plane available. He cannot wait to get out of here.
We take leave, and I get a get a taxi to some unknown destination where the buses for Mahabaleshwar are supposed to leave from. Priyam (?) Hotel. It is 3 AM by then and there is no one around. I am exhausted and there is nothing to do but lie down on the sidewalk and try to sleep.
Some people come in the early dawn. They tell me that one of their friends has not shown up for their outing so that they have an extra ticket. This is very fortunate since I begin to realize that all these buses are by reservation and completely booked well in advance.
I arrive in Mahabaleshwar at 2PM. The cooling of the air as the bus rises into the hills is wonderful after the hot dusty trip from Bombay. I arrive at the Birla House. A man comes and introduces himself to me as Monohar Thakar. It is Vimala's brother. I am very happy to meet him. I speak briefly with V. Then she excuses herself that she must be off to the talk, but that I should take some lunch, then come to the talk with Monohar.
After the talk, I speak with Vimala. About my desire to perhaps stay in India she tells me that the government is currently suspicious of Americans and is asking many to leave. She tells of some people who had been living in India for many years. They were permanently settled, all their possessions were there, their whole life was there. Then they were told they had 48 hours or some short time to pack up and leave. They had to just store all there things, lock them up and leave.
I am exhausted. A sick wave of bhav hits me. The emotions feel cracked open and at the same time I start feeling literally sick. I can tell my glands are swelling and I am having increasing sniffles. [Dinner, sleep]
Monday - Talk in the morning. I am taken to the doctor. I talk with Vimala at lunch. We talk about bhav. I guess I was complaining about something. She asks "Is there no one at the Ashram who speaks English? Is there no one who understands bhav?"
"Yes", I say, "they all do." I am thinking of the people there, how they had lived for so many years with Baba. She says "If there is love, then we are in touch with the eternal in the other."
Tuesday - 25th I awake very ill. Quiet peace during the talk. Go to the doctor again. Sleep after lunch.
I talk with Vimala. I mention that I want to write up the diaries of Baba and make a book. I say that Baba had said that one day I would write his "biography" ("jiboni").
"That is why I asked you about the diary. I am glad you brought it to the ashram. Do it out of love, as son might fulfill the wish of the father. Not so much as a "biography" with all the structure. But as you write you will relive those things and get understanding."
About outlook of extending visa she says that it seemed that India was about to plunged into a civil war. "That is why I did not encourage it. Have faith." She offers to try through Mukundu in Abu. Also gave me the address of a friend in Calcutta.
Discussed America. She said that 2 months there was her limit. This amazed me. She said that by 1990 India will begin to assume its role of Jagat Guru in the world. Now there is chaos resulting from attempts to imitate the west. In Assam the young leaders there have kept the movement alive.
In response to her question "What did your guru call you?" I told here some stories about Baba. I told about Baba's guru. About the love play with Baba, how he called me "husband".
She said I could come to Dalhousie in June/July or Abu in August. I was very touched at her saying this and at her concern for me. Reassured me by saying that this power had brought me, not only by my own wish, but for its own purposes. She had forgone a ride in the car this afternoon in order to talk with me. "Why is your face so troubled?" she asks.
She says that the cough and illness was impurities and toxins passing out of the body. I thought to myself with wonder, "it is her presence. Her great love for me is purifying my body." She said that for two days she had been observing the cough, etc., until I felt well enough to talk.
"Surrender is total love, the melting of the I". I ask if weeping is a weakness. No she says. Says Swami V. had only touched the edge of Ramakrishna. About Ramakrishna she says "I love him with all my being." She asked questions about Baba. I ask how it is possible to think that someone can know the future, as Baba used to foretell the futures of people, and seemed to actually know what would come to pass when he "looked" at someone's brow. It had boggled my mind very deeply and I wanted to know if it was possible. She said "Leave academic questions to the academicians."
She said the organizers of the camp had been asking about me and she had told them. (I was not quite clear exactly what she had told them.) She said they were overwhelmed with astonishment and said "Is it possible for an American?" She said "Maybe he was born in America, but he has an Indian mind." Many other things.
I ask about an idea I had seen in a small publication where she had written about the desirability for a kind of United People's Organization - a meeting of people from different countries rather than government representatives.
She said to read Chaitanya's life, how he stayed 12 years in small cave/room weeping over separation from God.
Do the book for your own sake, and as Baba's wish. It is simple (to do). Let him do it. Just write your own experiences. From the first meeting.
"Did he have this kind of close relation with any other disciple?" (I tell her about "husband").
1. Her concern about my extension was about the uncertainty of conditions in 2-3 months. Maybe we would stranded, or worse, locked up. But even so she would try. Concerned about the dangers.
2. Must have faith it will work out, via Gujarat or Bengal. A higher power will clear the way. Also said as long as I am here you have a place, in Dalhousie, or in Abu.
3. Reaffirmed necessity to be in ashram atmosphere to get linked to Baba. Spoke of the coldness and materialism in such places as the U.S. and Switzerland.
Wed. 26th Feb.
At breakfast I talk with Vimala about Ramakrishna. I voice my feeling, with some trepidation, that Baba was the Baul incarnation. In the last 500-800 years he is the greatest, the condensation of India's spiritual history and essence into human form. Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, Krishnamurti - these were great men, of great attainment, but Ramakrishna was different. She put Ramakrishna above Ramana, Aurobindo below them. "How lucky you are to have gone straight to him, bypassing all the others, the phony gurus, etc. And then again to have found someone who, leaving aside the question where he is Ramakrishna or not, embodied so many of the traits of Ramakrishna. Fortunate indeed."
She said Aurobindo was a great Tantrika expert. "My advice is when you return to the ashram, get yourself some big notebooks, some ball pens, and just begin writing. This will help you relive those events. And behind this there may be other reasons. Many people may get great joy etc. from it. Leave aside the question whether it will be published or not published, or who will publish it. And when you are done, please send me one Xerox copy."
Again and again she expressed her devotion and love for Ramakrishna. Tears came to my eyes to see and here her great devotion and love. She said in these past 800 years there was only one other whom she would place even ahead of Ramakrishna. That was Jnaneshwar, who wrote a commentary on the Gita at age of 12. He died at age 22. For her, he was beyond. Indicated to write memoirs at the samadhi or in Baba's room.
My heart was full, my body felt nearly healed. The practical matters of visa was settled in abeyance with two possible routes of action. Via Calcutta or via Abu. Above all, about the book, she emphasized to do it as an act of devotion, of love to Baba, to fulfill his wish. And she indicated today and last night that there might be higher purposes fulfilled, for others, or (??)
She has given me complete affirmation of everything. She said "Ordinarily I do not advise people to take gurus, etc. But in (your) case, especially since you have found someone genuine, then I advise to go whole hog." Last night she said "When you get back to the ashram you must tell your guru 'donno bad' ('thank you') for bringing you to this place, so you could get some treatment for your cough, and some rest."
In the morning lecture, (after we had been speaking of Ramakrishna at breakfast) I could understand, even though the all the talks were in Marathi language, that she was speaking about Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. I was in blissful peace and could see the kind of light I used to see around Krishnamurti. I hardly noticed the time go by. Later, going with her brother to get a ticket to Poona, I asked him what she said. He laughed saying "She was speaking in response to a question about guru. And I think the conversation with you was fresh in her mind, for she was talking about Ramakrishna and Vivekananda."
It was heart melting and revelatory to hear her speak (at breakfast) about Ramakrishna. Even putting him beyond Krishnamurti who must be especially dear. "He was immense," she had said the day before.
In the car to the morning talk after saying these things about Ramakrishna she said it was good I got the two injections (from the doctor). I joked that I had actually gotten three injections, and said "You give the best injections." Everyone laughed.
Afternoon talk, pain in wrist. A girl sings a Kabir bhajan. I get more medicine. Today is a strike.
At dinner Vimala tells me how she had met Prabhavananda in Hollywood Center in 1968. "He said 'You have come into the lion's den.'" Vimala had replied "You should say I have come into the lion's den willingly." In the Paris center they said "Come, let us go and listen to that stupid silly girl." I tell her about my meeting with Swahananda.
I am getting anxious after dinner. I am wondering "what about the addresses?" Vimala sits on the couch in the living room. She tells Kalyanbhai to write the addresses for me. Her brother is speaking. Then she turns to me and says "Is there any event, anything of your guru that you could share with us?" Then begins an exquisite satsang. I had not realized how deeply I had wanted to share these things with her. I had broken through the last few days in stating my belief that Baba was the Baul incarnation of Ramakrishna. Now the stories flow out of my mouth. For the first time I feel these things are really being listened to. I tell about the festival, how they locked him in the room, and how I witnessed that samadhi the first time. About bringing him around by saying "OM" in his ear, and putting honey on his tongue. About the burning ghat. About his love for me, husband/wife. (Kalyan, Urmila, Monohar, all listening raptly, and Vimala asking questions now and then.
I tell about going begging through the village with Baba and she is amazed, asking "You didn't feel uncomfortable or anything, begging like that?" etc. I tell her no, I felt I was going with the Son of God, it was a privilege.
A bliss came over me as at last I was able to share openly these few tales with she whose words had begun my whole long adventure. She listened with great love and expression. At one point I said something about how I felt I could never express in words this whole thing, and she provided what will be a key to my work by saying, "But you have just been telling it! Write it down as if you are telling it to me!" And I said "Yes, that is the key! Then I could do it." She repeated it later and I knew instinctively that this was the key to the memoirs - not to write as if writing to the whole world, but directly to this guardian angel, this embodied form of the divine Mother whose light has shone over all these events from the beginning to the end. OM Kali. I sang some songs, Keshava, Shokole tomar icha, Dub Dub Dub. Vimala says, "Well, for the past hour we have been in your guru's ashram!"
I try to tell her how happy it makes me telling her these things. She understands. She asks about the physical layout and so on, and asks, seemingly amazed, if I did not feel any discomfort etc. about living that way.
Notes of a Meeting with Vimala Thakar
I went to see Vimala at Essex Mass. for retreat on Thursday, Oct. 8th - Monday, Oct. 12th, 1987.
Leave Port Authority 3AM bus Thursday. to Boston. Wait for connection at Insight Meditation Center in Cambridge. Driven to Essex by Catherine Seo, along with Husseina Jafferjee of Sri Lanka, and Woods and Kathy Shoemaker from California. On the drive up we are getting acquainted. Woods asks me "What did you say you last name was?" It turns out that he is an old friend of Rick Mariot, who had called him before he left for the retreat and told him to ask Vimala of the whereabouts of Bill Morgan.
Fragments of conversation. (somewhat out of order) At the end of the first talk Vimala was sitting quietly, preparing to get up. She looked in my direction with a smile and said "It that you, Bill?" (Of course she knew it was. She had smiled at me when I first came in). I got up when she said this, unsure of what to do, but I wanted to talk to her right away. I followed her out of the room and she made me to understand that she would talk to me. We went over to her house with Kaiser.
On the way over to her cottage there was some incidental conversation I believe, but I do not recall what about, as I was suddenly very charged with energy and also nervous. I do remember that she was half singing a song fragment, "Nara, Narayana.." something..? It was only much later, after I returned home and had picked up my diary that I realize what she had been singing. It was a reference to the diary itself (stupid me!) where I told how Baba had been very tenderly singing to me "Tumi Nara Rupa, Narayana.." Now I think if only I had picked up on it then I could have asked her about it as she obviously knew the song.
She had gone over all my stuff. She had read the entire diary and the translations. She thanked me for the pictures.
I had included a note with the materials and mentioned that I had been having trouble with the writing of my own story.
"How much longer will it take you to write your experiences?" We talk about my writing down my story. She says that she had suggested it in Mahabaleshwar because I was seeming so lost. She had felt that in the writing I would be able to relive the experiences. She added that if there were some things Baba wanted to bring back to me (jog memory, make clear) that he would have a way to do that, be able.
Refers to my diary frequently in our discussion, and I become aware that she has read every word of it. When she had suggested in Mahabaleshwar that I write, she says, she did not know that Baba had asked me to do it also. I suddenly realized that we had perceived this differently, perhaps it was a cultural thing. Baba had said I WOULD do this thing, not exactly ASKED me to. I thought, maybe in Indian culture, when the guru says You will do such and such, it is taken as a request, whereas to an American it becomes a confusing infringement of freedom and mysterious prediction of future. When she refers to this I see that in fact it was what he wished of me. Later I connect with the actual words in the diary. "You will write my Kathamrita." And words not in the diary come back when Baba held my notebook and said I was writing a new Bible. (No wonder I got stuck on it! Who can live with the pressure of writing a Bible?)
It was clear that seeing Baba's "request" in the diary had made it definite in her mind that it must be done. It was no longer just her own suggestion for my sake, but something more. At the same time she said "Yet if it becomes too much, if it is just a burden (etc.) then you can just drop it." I think she meant it was useless to do it out of a sense of pressure.
At another point she said something like "How long do you think it will take to get free of the burden of your Baba?" When she said it I suddenly experienced directly just in what sense Baba HAD become a burden, how my mind images, illusory ideas etc. had become heavy, how I had missed the mark. I could not have come to this so simply and easily myself. And it was as if in merely seeing this, in her presence, no doubt with the help of her conscious force, seemed to make the burden lift there and then.
I say that if someone tells you about your future, that such and such will happen, what you will do, then that's a sort of burden, isn't it? It is a kind of lack of freedom? She says yes.
Asks about what I have been doing and what I want to do. She says, "I just want you to be happy." She says there are two ways I can go. I can find my own way in freedom, or live his way (puja, japa, etc.) She says the latter is a "modified continuity". Traditional path. I am confused about this duality and do not get it straightened out even later. In her presence, only freedom makes any sense. She indicates that this schizophrenic existence is not healthy or good. Part of the time as the devotee, pilgrimage, sadhana, other part of the time Bill Morgan in the world, job, etc. Says not good to do a thing halfway, if you are going to do, go all the way.
"Is your heart at peace?"
I become emotional. It all rushes up into my heart. I tell her how totally I had loved Baba, had wanted to stay with him and couldn't - tell her about the alcoholism in separation, stopping my feelings when he died, don't trust my feelings, bhav so much any more, because it can be there sometimes and not others. But feel dried up without it.
She says to understand that it was a phase I went through, the bhakti, the prem, etc. How fortunate I was to be able to go through all these phases and experiences (prem, bhakti) with the living guru, when most bhaktas have only the image, the imagination.
Seemed to say it was time to have my place. Call it ashram or whatever, cottage in the woods, people will come, share with them whatever I have made of all this. She wants to know I have some kind of "headquarters" (my word; Swami Chidananda had said: "Where are your headquarters now?") where she will know I am there and not have to feel anxious about me. I am deeply touched that she would be anxious about me. Some place where people can know that "Premananda is there" and can come and see me. And do whatever you do, chanting or whatever. Uses the word community.
Mentions things from the diary here and there. Calls me Bilay. (I realize later this is because of the thing with Jiten in the diary). Says that is also the name of bael leaf, leaf of Lord Shiva. Tells me full name of the plant from which Bilay got contracted.
Asks if I want to live at the Ashram (India). Asks about Sadanashram.
Says the writing is simple. (re my problems outlined in note). It was what he wished, there is no one else who can do it. It is simple. I say but my understanding is so limited, and the older I get the more I see that I don't know, don't understand, but she says you are only writing facts, not interpreting etc. Just what happened.
Then it comes to the idea of do it to be done with it. The idea of being free of it, free of the burden of this level of things. It is somewhere here where the new vista seemed to open up. The dawning understanding that all I had been through, which had seemed like such a culmination, such a coming to a finality, was just the fulfillment at a certain level. I had not been able to see beyond. I had wanted to see God and I saw God. I could not see where to go beyond where I had been. After all, my life's secret and ultimate wish had been answered. But she was showing me that this was just the ending of a stage and the real beginning of the real journey.
(It was like the story of the Indian guy (Ala Hesse's story) whose guru sends him for water. He gets distracted and a whole lifetime happens before he wakes up and remembers what he was doing and goes back with the water.
She was showing me that that journey was done, the whole saga had brought me back to this inquiry with her, nothing had changed except that I had gotten what I wanted (and a whole lot besides).
In a sense I had not been able to write my story because it was not finished. And in this meeting with her it was completed. Sitting there in communion was the end of that long saga, and a new and unexpected story whose line I could not imagine was beginning.
In this return to the source from which I had begun my quest, in this dawning of an understanding of my experience there was some kind of cosmic rounding out, some dramatic, poetic symmetry, completion.)
Says we will squeeze in talking about all this somehow. (The talks which follow seem to hit on every question in my mind.)
Seems to imply about the two ways.. one being really as his "son", live at ashram, do his puja, japa, etc., or in freedom, to be my own way. I get confused because I do not see the dichotomy. Reflecting later I see that she must have meant the traditional literal "do just what the guru did" (?)
Notes, second meeting, Oct. 11th, evening. (fragments.. out of order) My mood, totally exploding, want to talk of everything at once, practically shaking with new energy, insight. I want to ask a million things about spiritual matters. She is tending to want to face the very practical things, financial, where to live, if there is anyone who can take care of me, live together.
Oldness. Looking old. We talk about the thyroid problem. I describe it. Metabolism too fast. "I probably aged 5 years within one year."
She says that Ramakrishna's throat cancer was from always being in the tension and pressure of his bhav samadhi. Never having any relaxation from it. This is revelatory to me. I have felt those states and known about that pressure in the throat. Everyone says it was from taking on the sin of others but when she says it was from his bhav samadhi I know suddenly that it is true. Intoxication. And I see in a flash what she had been saying before, about the bhakti being a phase.
I had come to see Ramakrishna's bhav samadhi as the kind of highest thing, even though my mind knew there was much beyond it, and he himself spoke of the higher states beyond it. Whenever touched by those states I was lost in that intoxication without feeling any desire or necessity of going beyond or looking beyond. Now in this sudden realization that his dwelling at the throat chakra (by Mother's command) had really been what killed him I was shocked to see the limitation of my previous understanding.
She asked me how long totally I had been with Baba. We figure it out that it is less than two years (14-15 months really). She marvels that I went through all these things in that short amount of time of actually being with him. "What Vivekananda took 6 years to go through with Ramakrishna you have gone through in little more than a year. But then it had to be "speeded up"... this is the 1980's.
Somewhere we are talking about this amazing thing I had gone through, searching for Ramakrishna, etc. going to Baba... and I exclaim "But it was you who sent me there!" and she says "But it was what you wanted, wasn't it?" and again that eerie feeling as in "An Indian Life" [by Herman Hesse] comes over me.. that I had gone to her, that I had wanted this thing, that it had all been fulfilled, happened, and now here I was back with her, where I started, as if a dream had passed before me.
The question of money. She wants to deal with the very practical aspects. I tell how I have been supported for a year, etc. I say that "I don't cost much" by way of indicating that the money involved is not a great amount. "No, you do not strike me as a person of luxury." But I say that sometimes in this, with our American and parental conditioning of you must have a job, you must make your own money, not take from others, etc. that sometimes I am concerned about this. I ask her if it is okay to take money to be able to do a certain work, etc. I tell about Jeffrey giving, helping with expenses, etc. She says it depends on the spirit of the person who is giving, the attitude, that if it is a feeling of sharing together (from the heart) then that is just that, but if (?) that is something else. I indicate with hands that it has been from the heart. She smiles and tenderness comes over her face as if she seems to know all about it.
Prasad: Feeds me. Sits across from me. I remember Berkeley. Gives me Vitamin C. Somehow the vitamin pill she is handing me seems to have a potent meaning. Even beyond the idea of prasad. "So you are giving me back the five years that I lost." "Yes."
Parting: I pranam her in Indian fashion before leaving. She does not object or shy away as some do. Accepts my pranam, my touching of her feet with both hands.
"I will come see you in India."
"Yes, you may find yourself in India."
Misc. other things:
Learned that Vimala does not publish any books at all. Books have all been done by friends. Moves through world without making any money. The organizers wanted to give her some money to take back, which all goes into her various projects, etc. Learned that in India she travels not only by train, but on second class because the expenses are born by common people and she does not want to "waste" their money on luxuries.
It was indeed a big surprise to receive your letter dated 10th April. I left Abu on 20th April and was busy conducting camps upto 29th at three different places in Gujarat. I arrived here on 1st May along with a few friends to spend the summer.
My parents were with me from 15th Dec. upto 24th March. Then they went back to their home. My father passed away peacefully on 2nd April. Mother is also in very poor health. I met her 24th-25th April & persuaded her to accompany me to Dalhousie. But she wants to be 'at home' & meet death there. Seven months journey and three months nursing of the ailing parents has exhausted Vimala's physical body completely & she is in rather indifferent health.
You seem to be with a God-intoxicated person, your "Baba." Such state of intoxication does not yield to logic, consistency, reason or argument. But convey to your Baba that he must not think of leaving India. It is of no use to visit U.S.A at this stage.
(- page 2 --)
I request you, Bill, not to shoulder the responsibility of organizing the visit or of bringing him to U.S.A. This is not to happen. If you really feel "happy" with your "divine spouse - Baba," if you feel his "love" then do not try to understand the rationale of his behaviour. It is only when you transcend intoxication and even ecstasy, that you arrive at an inner equipoise which never gets upset in external expression.
You know very well that spirituality for me is equipoise in relationship, order on the physical level. Refrain and reason on the cerebral level. Deep love expressing itself through compassion for others & sorrow for oneself. In the last a deep joy for having the opportunity to live.
You have to choose for yourself your path. You love intoxication. Without the stimulant of excitement you feel no fun in life. For me it is enough that you are an inquirer. God never neglects his inquirers. May you be helped in your crisis by His Light.
Further postcard from Vimala to Premananda in India - 1975
My dear Premanand,
Received yours of 28th May. Whatever I had to say about Baba's visit to U.S.A. was said in my previous letter sufficiently clearly. I have nothing to add; nothing to clarify. I am glad Baba has called off the trip. Why am I glad - I do not know. I simply am.
If you would like to meet me, please visit me in Abu in the second part of August, say the last week. I hope to reach Abu by the 18th of Aug. We can meet anytime between 22nd and 31st of Aug. If you cannot wait that long, come to Dalhousie as per your convenience. But the journey is rather long. The place is cold & will be very wet due to Monsoons. A bit expensive also. Abu is easy to reach.
Please convey my deep love to your Guru Baba.
Letter to Premananda from Vimala during Baba's visit in Brooklyn - 1976
8th Sept. 1976
I have received you letter of the 13th August. So your Baba did come to U.S.A! I am glad to learn that both the Husband and the Wife are happy together! I left India in March 1976. Was in Europe till the end of August. Hope to be in Canada till the end of Sep & in California from 1st Oct to 7th December. By the end of December I should be back in India and remain there for one year!
It is your genuine & sincere enquiry that will help you to discover what you want to. You are Premananda - a seeker of Premyoga. Yoga of devotion & dedication. So you might as well follow your "wife" on that path & be happy. Mine is a yoga of Understanding - not even Ghyanayoga but Avadhan-Yoga. It is austere & sharp. You have my deep affection & blessing wherever you might live & whatever you might do!
Please convey my profound respects to your Baba & the lady who brought him to U.S.A. Hope he will have a safe journey back to his Ashram & BON VOYAGE to you for your trip to India whenever it might materialize.