From the moment I finished reading Be Here Now, back in the early 70’s, I knew my life would never be the same. Ram Dass and his story had an immediate and profound effect on my spirit. I knew Maharaj-ji was the real deal and I remember laying on my bed and wishing he could be my Guru. I could only dream of having him guide me through Maya to enlightenment. If not Maharaj-ji at least someone like him. But as they say, ONLY when you are ready will the Guru come. Besides, in BHN Maharaj-ji gave explicit orders not to go to India and seek him out. So, obediently I stayed put. Otherwise I would have made a bee-line to be with him. I found out years later, much to my surprise, that westerners had flocked by the droves to be with him. By the time I found out he had long since left his body. I figured it was their good karma and my bad karma.
So for nearly 30 years I scrambled, lurched, grinded, crawled, meditated and prayed away at my daily life. In all of that time my spiritual journey ran the gamut. From Hindu to Buddhism to Sufism to secularism. For a time I even became a southern born-again Christian. I looked to the East. I looked to the West. I looked within. I looked without. I looked to Buddha and to Christ. But as hard as I tried, for whatever reason, nothing really stuck. It was in those deep, dark nights of the soul where I inevitably found my way back to Ram Dass’ teachings. From the beginning, they took root in me and never stopped growing. Whenever I was with RD and the others at his retreats I felt like I was HOME!! But as wonderful as that was there was still something missing. I was still without a spiritual Guru. So once again, I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen in this lifetime. I had no choice but to accept it.
Then, in the summer of 2003, there was a significant shift. Where for several years I had grown spiritually complacent and lazy, from out of the blue, I began thinking and feeling more deeply drawn to Maharaj-ji than ever before. I realized again, that though Ram Dass was my primary spiritual teacher, Neem Karoli Baba was THE MAN! Ram Dass knew which door to go through. But Maharaj-ji was what was on the other side. And I wanted to go through that door in the worst way.
Coincidentally, Fierce Grace had just been released. And after watching it my connection to Ram Dass was still very strong. But I was simply on fire to connect with Maharajji. The longing was so deep that I could taste it. Fortuitously, at this same time I came across a copy of Omega Institutes 2003 Fall class schedule. I saw where Ram Dass and Krishna Das were having a week long Bhakti/Kirtan retreat. So I immediately called Omega and made arrangements to attend. Unbeknownst to me everything was coming together like a cosmic puzzle.
The week long retreat at Omega was fantastic. It was exactly what I had needed to rejuvenate my spiritual focus. And I drank deeply. For a full week I listened to and watched Ram Dass and others speak and Krishna Das sing. I got to talk with and make friends with many spiritually like-minded people who were also Maharaj-ji devotees. I was in Hanuman heaven! But inevitably the week came to an end and it was time to part ways. As usual a long line started forming by everyone who wanted to give one last Bhakti hug to Ram Dass. I was standing back just taking everything in and wondering when I could get my 30 seconds when suddenly, without any effort on my part, I found myself at the very front of the line. The next thing I knew I was bending down to pay him my respects. Little did I know that my life was about to change forever, again.
As I gave and received my hug and as I was pulling back, with my face just inches from his, Ram Dass unexpectedly reached out, put his hand on my heart and said, “Maharaji-ji is IN you.” I stood up in slow motion in a state of disbelief. My ears were ringing. It was absolutely the LAST thing I expected. (I thought I had already received everything I needed from the retreat). With dozens of people waiting in line behind me, I quickly fell away into the crowd and floated out the door. So, with his words “Maharaj-ji is IN you” still echoing in my brain, I walked around their campus in a daze. Oddly enough, those four simple words precipitated within me nothing less than a war between my head and heart. Talk about stirring the pot! My mind was convinced he didn’t really say it and even if he did what did it really mean? It would have been so easy to follow my head and simply dismiss it. Besides, something that wonderful couldn’t possibly happen to me I wasn’t worthy. But in my heart I KNEW the truth. Without my ever uttering one word to Ram Dass about my longing for Maharaj-ji, after 30 years from my first reading of Be Here Now, essentially, incredibly, he had just informed me that Maharaj-ji was now my Guru!
After several hours of internal struggle I decided to just surrender to it. At that moment, I closed my eyes and prayed, “Maharaj-ji please NEVER leave me.” Immediately, I heard a clear and unmistakable response. “Keep me in your heart and I will be with you always.” And with hearing that I felt a great sense of peace. I was sold hook, line and sinker. After a lifetime, I finally had a Guru. I was so exhilarated I don’t think my feet touched the ground for several weeks.
Now, after more than ten years, I am still learning about and embracing what it means to have Maharaj-ji as my Guru. Everyday and night I go within and connect with him. What I’ve discovered is that no matter how badly I (ego) stumble and fall, which is to say, often, His Grace and Forgiveness are ALWAYS there. So thanks to Him, no matter where I am, I am always Home. There is immense freedom in knowing that He is always in charge. I am forever grateful to Ram Dass’ for his teachings and leading me to Maharajji.
- Written by John Heine