What I experienced at that time of meeting Maharaji, in fact, within those first few minutes of meeting him was the experience of surrender which was no surrender. In other words, I didn’t begrudgingly give up my ego. It was as if I came home to the place where I no longer needed it. There was never at any time, a specific contract entered into where they said, “Do you want to stay? Do you want to be trained? Do you want anything?” It just all happened because we all knew it was supposed to happen. They took over my complete life at that point. I didn’t leave the temple again except to go to Delhi once for seven months and when I left I came back here to the United States for a trial run, so to speak; for some work and sadhana here. They took over my food, my clothing, my training; everything.
As a Westerner, the concept of surrender had been very unpalatable to me because it was ego surrender and ego meant giving it up to somebody else. It was like a power struggle, and you lost and Maharaji was at the place where there was no other person you were giving up to. I can’t get too close to this yet, until I tell you more things but I can give you the feeling for it because everything I did from then on was done with absolute joy. There was nothing they could ask of me that was too hard. It was austerities that were not austere. For the first time, I understood what the concept of a guru was about. You see, a guru is your doorway to God; your doorway to the beyond. A guru is not just a groovy teacher. You know, it’s not a pundant. It’s not just a wise man who can teach you things. A guru is a spiritual vehicle; an entrance way. He’s a pure mirror. He isn’t anybody at all.
There is a paragraph that is the last thing Rene’ Daumal wrote in Mt. Analog which is very appropriate at this moment. He didn’t finish the book. He died but he had notes for the end of it that his wife had included in the book and this was the last note he had written:
By our calculations, thinking of nothing else, by our desires abandoning all other hopes, by our efforts, renouncing all bodily comforts, we manage to gain entrance into this new world so it seemed to us but we learned later that if we were able to approach Mt. Analog, it was because the invisible doors of that invisible country had been opened to us by those who guard them. The cock crowing in the milky dawn thinks that its call raises the sun; the child howling in the closed room thinks that its cry opens the door but sun and mother follow courses set by their own beings. Those who see us, even though we cannot see them, open the door in answer to our puerile calculations, our unsteady desires and our awkward efforts with a generous welcome.
And that’s much more the way the Universe really is. Part of the Western ways of thinking are almost built into the way in which one tests to know hypothesis in science, it’s a type of cynicism and it is just that type of cynicism of, “I don’t believe it, show me” that closes all these doors to us in the West. We feel we’re gonna be conned if we allow ourselves to have this irresponsible emotional faith that we can’t justify to a hard-headed scientist, and it’s really only by telling that story that I know how to convey to you that which is really unlabelable other than by implication. It’s interesting because as I was going to leave India, the Guru had said to me, “Is there something you want?” and I thought about it for a number of weeks and I came back and I said to him, “The only thing I can think that I want is to not lose faith” because no matter how bad it gets, I know of this possibility. I have that faith to keep struggling to pursue my sadhana and that’s a very ephemeral thing to convey to another human being, that faith is needed to be able to do the work. You see, all of you know everything you need to know to do a lot by yourselves but many of you doubt too much whether or not a) you can do it, b) whether it will pay off and c) whether there’s any pay off there at all or is it just some mushy-headed thinking by a pack of hallucinating romantics. We “Western Consciousness” think those things with a rational mind, because this system that we’re going to be dealing with is, in large part, netted to the rational system; superior to it, above it, beyond it, behind it, inside it and a system can not look at something outside of itself; that’s by definition and since we only know the world as we know it through our rational minds and our senses that which is available to us other ways, we tend to reject and we tend, in order to reject it, to attach a certain kind of emotional rejection to it, I mean, we do, we have a self-righteous cynicism that we apply.
William James, in his varieties of religious experience, said and I think I can quote; a very famous paragraph. He said:
Our normal waking consciousness is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens there lie other consciousness’; other forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without ever suspecting their existence but apply the requisite stimulus and in a touch, they are all there in their entirety. Types, different types of mentality which probably somewhere have their feel of application or adaptation, no account of the Universe can be total which leaves these other types of consciousness quite disregarded but how to regard them is the question, for they are so discontinuous with our normal consciousness. They may determine our attitudes though they fail to furnish formulas. They may open a region though they do not give a map. At any rate, they forbid the premature closing of our accounts with reality.
And that was as close as he would come; he was right at the cusp between science and what we call the mystical and all he said was, don’t throw it out too fast; keep the door open.
Ram Dass, 1964
Transcription by Jessie Senibaldi