Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Mt. Tabor, Nazareth, Meggido, Tzfat, Jerusalem

Dear Everyone:

Pilgrimage is unpredictable. You leave home with an idea in your mind of what your heart is longing to see, where you expect to have your most meaningful moments. God laughs and gives what He knows you need.

I spoke of this trip as going to Jerusalem. Among other reasons, that was why I was so intent on joining the group on time. The trip began in Jerusalem.

As it happened, there was unpredictable violence and with a (welcome) excess of caution, our tour company changed the itinerary to avoid the Old City in those first days. I missed Ain Karim (where Mary and Elisabeth met), the Mount of Olives (which they only drove around but did not walk through), and Gethsemene. Important places for sure, but in the whole flow of the pilgrimage, I don’t feel deprived.

Also because of the random acts of violence in the country, we exchanged one night in Jerusalem for an extra day in Galilee.

Which, as it turned out, was God’s perfect plan. Jerusalem has been profound, but Galilee is my home with Jesus.

Especially Mount Tabor, the Mount of Transfiguration. It was here Jesus took a few of his disciples to witness a divine vision. Jesus was transformed into light and beside him stood Elijah and Moses. Here is Swamiji’s song:

The man that was Jesus had shown his pure form.
Upon a high mountain he stood, transfigured in light.
That his chosen might see that he was the Christ.
Ah, hope of all hope! Ah, joy of all joy!
Toward Thee we aspire, who believe in Thy word.

Also dedicated to the Transfiguration is the song, “When Human Hopes Toward Thee Aspire.”

As you would expect, all through Israel there are mobs of pilgrims from all countries and denominations. The final ascent up Mount Tabor is a switch-back road, too winding for the buses, so you stop at a taxi stand and wait till a mini-bus can take you up.

Arriving at the top of the hill we were listening to the Mass in several languages as well as the general hubbub of so many visitors. We’ve grown used to it and are getting good at tuning it out. We luckily found a quiet spot on the outside of the church, where we could sing the appropriate songs and hear our own voices.

After the singing, the group went off to have a Purification Ceremony, but it was my moment and I sat against the wall, in a deep, immoveable silence.

The site closes from noon to four, and as we approached the noon hour, the hilltop vacated till our group was virtually alone.

At every site there is at least one, often multiple churches (different denominations). The churches themselves (to me) are usually not of interest. Meditating in or outside of them is more a question of convenience or quiet than beauty or vibrations. Not so on the Mount of Transfiguration.

The architecture was guided by the spirit of Christ. It is an enormous structure, but so elegant in its design and decoration that it gave even more inspiration to the experience.

After a time I wandered into the church, empty except for a few of us meditating there, and silent in a way that gave new meaning to the word. Not merely the absence of sound. It was the living proof of the Biblical promise, “Be still and know that I am God.”

In various places there were glass panels on the floor revealing the bedrock underneath where, presumably, Jesus stood with his disciples at the moment of divine revelation.

Finally, it was going to be lunch hour for the taxi drivers and we had to take the last ride down the hill. Reluctantly, so reluctantly, we left.

From Mt. Tabor we went to Nazareth, where the angel appeared to Mary and told her she would be the mother of Jesus.

For this site, Swamiji wrote:

God is Truth; God is Love;
Father, Mother, both are one.
When our hearts cry out in pain,
Mother, bring us peace again!
Every mother brings to birth
Hints of Thy love for all the earth.

Also this:

To Mary there came an angel of light
Who announced the will of the Lord.
Her purity blessed mankind with new life:
Through Mary, the light descended.
O God of peace! O God of Joy!
May our souls find their freedom in Thee!

The church is built over a stone dwelling, a converted cave, which is believed to be the house where Mary lived and where the angel spoke to her.

The church itself is immense and entirely lacking in the inspiration we found in the architecture of the church of Mt. Tabor. To further complicate the experience, there is a huge organ and our visit coincided with the practice hour for the organist. The instrument was amazing, his skill impressive, but his taste in music wasn’t my own. His theme seemed to be the battle of light and darkness and I had the impression that darkness was winning. (To be fair, others thought the music was fabulous and could have listened to him play all day! “Every atom of creation is dowered with individuality.” Each of us follows a unique karmic thread to the same divine goal!)

Still, the site of Mary’s simple home and the realization of what a profound event took place on that site transcended all other considerations and sweet silence existed inwardly in the midst of everything.

Our last day in Galilee we again went out on the water before dawn. There was no mist and we had an unobstructed view of the brilliant orb of the sun coming over the hills surrounding the lake, its rays streaking out over the water, as if reaching out to bless us in the boat as we silently watched (and inwardly applauded) Divine Mother’s show.

We were heading back to Jerusalem with two stops along the way. First in Tzfat (also spelled Zafed, Safed), the home for centuries of mystical Judaism. Some time ago enlightened rabbis settled there and over the years it has become the center in Israel for the study of the Kabbalah. It is also an artists colony. Altogether very interesting.

Our guide, Marty — an enthusiastic, giving, highly knowledgeable man — took us to meet a particular artist/teacher. Like so many Israelis, this man was born in America and emigrated later. He gave us a fascinating introductory class on the Kabbalah, illustrated with some of the many mandala-like pieces of art he has created.

Beautiful art. Wise and loving man. Fascinating subject. It helped all of us to feel more clear about the ancient and present reality of Judaism.

A little time to wander through the shopping area — filled with lovely artistic pieces. Feast for the heart and for the eyes.

Marty is very knowledgeable about the history of Israel and how it links to the Old Testament. This country gives a whole new perspective on the word “old.” We visited an archeological site called Meggido. This is a hilltop near a key canyon on a critical road through the country.

It is mentioned in the Bible several times as well as other historical texts. Archeologists have uncovered 24 different distinct cities all built on the same strategic hill.

I’m not much for piles of old rocks, but this was truly impressive!

In the song Swamiji wrote for the crucifixion of Jesus — “You Remain Our Friend” — which we sing every week, there is this line, “Though eternally rejected, you remain our Friend.”

Seeing the grand sweep of history and how mankind has acted out over and over again essentially the same story of conquest and defeat…. well, to quote Bertie Wooster (i.e., P. G. Wodehouse), “It makes you think a bit!”

Once we reach the human level, Master tells us, we have the freedom to wander in delusion for as long as we choose. Not that all 24 of those cities were built by the same souls but one can well imagine a cycle of defeat and revenge and victory and defeat being acted out through reincarnation quite a few times before the soul is ready to move on.

By the way, some of you may not have remembered that “You Remain Our Friend” was inspired by Swamiji’s visit to the Holy Sepulcher (the place where Jesus was crucified). Swamiji says that “When praying for a melody that would express, for me, the mood of Christ’s crucifixion, I concentrated on compassion, and on unconditional love.” It makes it ideal for weekly reaffirmation of our relationship with God and God’s relationship with us.

Now, Jerusalem.

Our guide is an observant Jew. Which means from sundown on Friday till sundown on Saturday, among other things, he doesn’t use any mechanical devices. He doesn’t use a car or a bus, but only goes places that he can walk to.

We were happy to have a religious person as a guide and accommodated our schedule to his needs. Which meant that we went into the old city — within walking distance of our hotel — on our second day in the city, so that Marty could go with us.

The first day we used the bus and went to the Museum of Israel.

I am not big on museums but on pilgrimage part of the sadhana is to say an enthusiastic “yes” to whatever God brings. Fortunately, He knows better than me.

This is one of the premier museums in the world — and well-deserves its reputation. To begin with, they have “immortalized their ideals in architecture.” It is beautifully laid out and every exhibit is exquisite. Only the best is on display and everything is perfectly displayed.

They have all kinds of collections, so I’ll just mention a few.

The Dead Sea Scrolls (or copies) are on display. The building in which you view them is designed to match the clay pot in which the scrolls were found. On an immense scale, of course. But when you look up from the fascinating exhibits you are inside a clay pot, with a rising curving roof and the circular pattern of how the clay was formed. And downstairs you are inside a cave where the pots were discovered.


Here also there is a scale model of Jerusalem as it is presumed to have been at the time of Jesus. The son of a wealthy man was killed during the war of Independence in 1948 and the father built this model as a memorial to his son. Every building is made out of stone, laid out across a large hill outside, at a scale (I think) of 1:50.

So before we went into the Old City, we got a view of how it had been before.

Most impressive was the immensity of the Temple that was there at the time of Jesus. You could see why the sincere devotees of that time attracted to them one who would reform and renew their faith. The mere size of the Temple compound spoke so much about worldly power and wealth. Oh my. Quite a contrast to the simple “love God, be ye like little children” message of Jesus.

Wandering on our own in the museum I randomly found my way to the European art section where I found a Rembrandt painting, “Peter in Prison.”

There is a reason why some art is revered through the ages. This is one of those pieces. This was not the final imprisonment for Peter, but the time he was miraculously freed by angels. But before he was freed, when he didn’t know the miracle was coming.

You can look the painting up on the internet. Even there you can see what an exquisite piece of art it is.

Right near it in the museum was a carving done from ivory and ebony, plus a little metal and glass. The subject was Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac. Isaac is bound and the fire is laid. Abraham has raised his sword to strike Isaac but there is an angel above him, hand outstretched just about to stop him. That is the moment captured in this exquisite piece. It was made by an artist whose name I can’t remember sometime in the 1700s. (When I tried to find it on the internet I wasn’t able to.)

And these were just two pieces in an immense warren of galleries.

In the afternoon of that day we went out into a nearby woods and made pita bread over an open fire which we consumed with olive oil, an herbal mix of sesame seed and hyssop, and, for a total change of pace, Nutella if you preferred. Child-like fun.

Friday night we were invited to the home of a family in Jerusalem to celebrate the Sabbath. It is an American couple, Hillel and Chaya, who founded and run the Sheval Center. They are also transplanted Americans. He is an orthodox rabbi and she is a writer and artist. They are both therapists and are pioneering a style of Jewish life that is orthodox in its beliefs and practices but speaks also to the needs of the time.

Every Friday evening they have tourists groups from all over the world into their home to share the Sabbath dinner, prayers, songs.

Having grown up with some of these rituals I admit I wasn’t all that interested in this event, but saying “yes” (and meaning it with one’s whole heart) is pilgrimage, so I was happily present for what turned out to be a deeply touching evening.

They have four children. The oldest are 8-year old twins. The children had already gone to bed so we only met the baby at the end, who woke up and demanded the attention of his parents. As it happened, this baby boy, Levi, probably ranks in the top ten all time cutest babies. Our hearts were already wide open and he just marched right in!

It was the sabbath, however, and no electronic devices could be used, so no pictures.

Hillel and Chaya have chosen to bring light where light is desperately needed, living and doing their work in Jerusalem. They combine their therapy practice with the kinds of activities we also offer — groups for men and women, meditation, yoga practice.

My favorite for pure creativity goes to the event for women held at/in the Dead Sea aptly titled “Floating in Bliss.”

Pray for their work. They are kindred spirits. Part of the great ring of light-workers around the globe.

Through Marty we had come to know much about modern Israel and present-day Judaism, but this brought it all to a clearer, heartfelt focus.

Saturday we went into the Old City. We started just outside the walls, in a replica of the room where the Last Supper was held. It was filled with very loud pilgrims and I found it without inspiration. Right nearby was the tomb of David.

It is considered a synagogue, and this was the sabbath, so no electronics could be used, i.e., no pictures. The small room is partitioned into separate sections for men and women. It was delightfully cool and silent and meditation was deep and effortless.

From there we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Which was neither cool nor silent, but jammed with noisy pilgrims.

It is a huge church built over the last few stations of the cross. It includes where Jesus was crowned with thorns, crucified, taken from the cross and laid on a stone, anointed there with herbs and oils and then placed in the stone tomb where he lay for three days until the Resurrection.

Naturally, every Christian coming to Israel wants to come to this place.

The lines to touch the stone upon which the cross stood, and the tomb where his body was laid were too long, too noisy and too restless for me even to consider. I found a spot nearby. Fortunately, spirit is stronger than the restless human mind, and it was deep and still.

Later I also sat by the stone where his body was laid. Impossible to get close to the tomb, so I leave that for another time.

That whole spot, of course, was vibrant with the presence of Christ but for me where Christ lives in the Holy Land was in Galilee.

We went into the Old City for lunch in the Armenian Quarter.

The next day we went to the Western Wall, at the base of Temple Mount, where the Temple stood where Jesus preached and faced down his critics. Where he drove out the money changers and so many of the dramatic incidents of his life took place.

The Mount itself is a Moslem site and our guide suggested we not go there at all. So as close as we got was the Western Wall, where Jews come from all over the world to pray and to press into the cracks in the rock written prayers. Impossible not to be moved by so much devotion, ancient and now.

What made an even deeper impression on me was a part of the Western Wall that is an archeological site. They have excavated down to the paving stones of the Roman world, the level of ground on which Jesus walked, which is considerably lower than ground level at the prayer section.

Massive doesn’t begin to describe it! Stones, immense in themselves, piled one on top of another going many many many feet into the air.

Standing on those paving stones, looking up at that wall. Leaning up against it, feeling its immensity, my thought was simply, “No wonder Jesus left for Galilee!” And also, “The simplicity and joy of his teachings never had a chance against the weight (literally!) of this material power!”

Earlier we had walked through a district where our guide explained lavish mansions had been uncovered — which were inhabited by the temple priests! Power and money. Those delusions have tempted man forever.

The conflict between the message of Jesus and the establishment of the religion of his day was so obvious.

Jerusalem was where Jesus fought to bring light into darkness. I could understand why he wept as he looked over the city. Wept because of the unwillingness of so many to see what he had to bring them.

The drama of Jerusalem, the sheer power of Jesus’ triumph is thrilling.

For me though, Galilee, with “his chosen few” where “they sang with him and worshipped the Lord,” was my heart-place in the Holy Land..

This has been a profound and joyous journey. Every minute of it.

And I am ready to come back to life as it has been given to me in this incarnation.

So grateful, for so many blessings,


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Rome, Bethlehem and Galilee

Dear Everyone:

I’ll start where we are now. Galilee.

Jerusalem is the most dramatic part of the life of Christ, but Galilee is where much of his mission took place.

It was here that he “gathered round his chosen few….in their youth, in their joy, all they asked of God was freedom to love.”

That’s the whole teaching. And we are living it.

Yesterday began early out on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, drifting in the middle of the lake in silent meditation as the sun rose over the hill.

The crew remarked afterwards that we were the most serene group of pilgrims ever. If more people were like us, they said, there would be peace in the middle East.

It is hard to explain experiences like these. “Living presence of God” comes the closest. It is Swamiji’s name for his Oratorio, “Christ Lives in the Holy Land — and in You.”

Swamiji said when liberation comes we look back at all our incarnations and the only thing we remember is those moments when we were in the presence of God. Much of yesterday will be remembered.

We went also to Capernaum and sat at the water’s edge and meditated. Then later wandered around the ruins, including the remnants of a synagogue built on the exact spot where the temple stood where Jesus taught.

On pilgrimage, one is in so many places at the same time. Where we came from and where we will soon return. The physical place we have traveled to. And the ancient reality we came to experience.

At Capernaum, we had The Festival of Light, looking out over the water, sitting on rocks under the shade of a tree.

We must be careful not to let over-familiarity blind us to what we have in The Festival and in all that Swamiji has opened to us of Master’s ray. On the banks of the Sea of Galilee I felt The Festival as Swamiji intended it to be.

Most Catholic priests can do their Mass in less than an hour, but Padre Pio would spend 3 times that long, because every aspect of it was to him, not mere ritual, but the living presence of Christ.

Before coming to Galilee, we were in the desert region, near the Dead Sea, at a hotel run by a kibbutz. The scope and desolation of the deserts here is hard to imagine until you see it. The beautiful hotel and grounds where we stayed has been scratched out of the desert over the past 60 years by the kibbutzim.

The view from my room was a bluff of barren hills. When the first kibbutzim came to the area, the bluff on which the hotel sits was equally barren. Water was a kilometer away and no one until then had even considered that the hillside could be transformed by pipes and pumps and sheer determination.

We visited Masada. Some of us walking up that massive hill in the relative coolness of pre-dawn, watching the sun rise over the Dead Sea, and the play of light on the barren, wind-carved landscape spread beneath us.

Masada is a story of courage — Jews fleeing from Roman rule to take refuge on the hilltop where they lived for about 7 years until Roman legions came and crushed their rebellion. At the end, the entire community chose death before dishonor and committed suicide rather than allow themselves to be conquered.

So many lifetimes of alternating tragedy and fulfillment. Literally, beyond our ability to comprehend. Understanding comes only in the presence of God.

We also visited Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. We hiked a brief distance up into the surrounding hills, where the monks had their caves.

Sitting on the ground meditating on a rocky hillside, it was easy to imagine a lifetime of silent communion. In Kali Yuga descending, spiritual seekers had to separate themselves from society. Truth was preserved in isolation, waiting for a more auspicious time.

Master’s mission is Dwapara rising. Kriya has come out of the hermit’s cave, brought by Lahiri to the streets of Varanasi and through him to all of us. Different times have different needs but the communion with God is always the same.

We also visited Bethlehem. It was pure joy to be there. Hot, crowded, noisy — none of it mattered to me. It was all about the baby Jesus.

My arrival in Israel was later than expected. I planned to be here last Monday evening but didn’t arrive until dawn on Thursday.

In all my travels till now, I’ve only missed one connection, and had luggage delayed only one time. Last week karma was different.

Coming from Mumbai through Abu Dabi, we were late. I just made the flight to Rome but didn’t stop to think that my luggage probably wasn’t with me. In Rome, luggage was late coming off the plane. Of course, my bag wasn’t there. It was almost two hours before it was straightened out. Too late to get the plane to Israel.

No problem; there are lots of flights. I arranged to have my bag sent to Jerusalem.

Turned out it was a Jewish holiday and everyone was going to Israel. The earliest I could go was late Wednesday night.

I checked into the airport hotel. It is a 2.5 hour direct flight. Searching the internet, I found a route through Munich that would take a mere 10 hours (most took 24 or more, taking you all around the planet before reaching Tel Aviv).

The next day went to catch that flight. Expensive, but the first day of the pilgrimage was in Jerusalem and I wanted to be there. God had other plans.

That morning at breakfast, the waiter said, “We are closing the buffet in 5 minutes, at 10:30.”
I looked at my watch and it was exactly 10:25. I left the hotel at noon, and I think my watch said 12:00.

Sometime between noon and 2:00, when I went to the gate to get on the plane, the batteries in my watch lost power and slowed it down 40 minutes.. Instead of boarding the plane, I found out it had already taken off!


As it happened, Kirtani and Anand and Dana Anderson were in Rome to catch a flight the next morning, so we had a few wonderful hours together. Great compensation.

Overall, I was not even-minded or cheerful about the delay. Some ripple in my karma that had to be lived through. Perhaps in a previous life I died on the way to Jerusalem! I felt intensely nervous inside.

The time in India touched my heart and spirit deeply. That, plus sleep deprivation, and intense eagerness to be in Jerusalem reduced me to tears on Monday when I saw I wasn’t going to make it. I went into a corner of the airport, sat on the floor and sobbed. I wasn’t sure why I was crying, but I had no choice.

I was too attached, too self-concerned, too committed to my plans and my desires. God wanted me to be on pilgrimage, not on a journey of my own choosing.

When I missed the plane on Tuesday, I was simply amazed. “God doesn’t want me to be in Jerusalem yet,” I said to the clerk when I checked back into the airport hotel. He didn’t even need my passport. All the information was still active in the computer. My 24-hours of internet hadn’t expired.

The whole time in Rome, I had no luggage, having confidently sent it on to Israel.

I expected to find it in Jerusalem, but when I got there at dawn on Thursday it hadn’t yet arrived. By then, I was having a good time and just borrowed from everyone, ready to do the whole pilgrimage in other people’s clothes.

But when we returned from Bethlehem, my bag was there. I felt the karma come to zero. Whatever that was about was over.

Forgot to mention baptism in the Jordan. The river is only about 20 feet across and meanders quietly through banks dense with reeds. At what is presumed to be the spot where John baptized Jesus, beautiful stone porticos have been erected but at the river itself there is a simple wooden platform that goes down in steps into the river — like the ghats in India.

Diksha and Gyandev stood at the deepest part — only waist deep on the platform — and we one by one went into the water and received a blessing from them. As Diksha put it quite simply, “As soon as I went into the water I went somewhere else and I didn’t return for a long time.”

It is muddy looking but feels pure and blessed. As I went underwater there was a feeling of leaving all karma behind to be carried away by God. We sat on the bank and chanted a bit and sang some from the Oratorio.

Where divine events have transpired, the imprint of the divine remains seemingly for eternity.

While in the desert (forgive the lack of sequence to this narrative, the order doesn’t matter) we hiked into a canyon to what is called David’s spring. From the most barren, brutally hot landscape we soon found ourselves walking by a stream, passing through waterfalls until we reached a large fern grotto with water falling from the rock some hundreds of feet above.

Quite apart from all the spiritual power, the land itself is stunning in its contrasts. And what the Jewish people have done with it is nothing less than a miracle. The politics of the region are overwhelming. We’ve had to tell ourselves repeatedly: Self-Realization is the answer. Therefore, the best thing we can do is what we are doing: love God, serve God, commune with God.

This morning we went to Tabgha — the place where Jesus appeared to some of his disciples after his resurrection. This was when they were out on the fishing boat and the “man on the shore” asked them: “Have you caught any fish?” When they replied in the negative, he suggested they cast the net on the other side. The net filled with fishes. In that moment, John recognized it was Jesus speaking to them. He told Peter and Peter leapt from the boat and rushed to Jesus through the water.

Jesus cooked fish and served bread to them.

At Tabgha there is small stone church which is built over a large rock which is said to be the rock from which Jesus served the disciples. It emerges from the floor and you can sit next to it and touch it and lay your to-be-blessed items upon it.

Right next to it is small opening to the Sea of Galilee. Wading out into the water, perched on the rocks time stops. I was facing the Sea when it occurred to me to face the shore. For that is where Jesus stood when he called to his disciples. Easy to see him with the eyes of spirit, and, like Peter, to drop everything and rush toward him.


Much love to all,

P.S. More photos taken by various fellow pilgrims are collected here.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pune, India

Dear Friends:

I’m away from Palo Alto for about a month on a journey of several parts.

The timing was defined by a retreat with East Coast devotees. For many years, every spring and fall, the devotees in that region have gathered for a weekend at a rural retreat center in Massachusetts. Usually in the spring it is Kriya; in the fall the subjects vary.

Jyotish and Devi did the Spring retreat; I was invited for the Fall. The theme was discipleship.

Many of the devotees have been meeting together for years and are strongly connected, not only with God and Gurus, but with one another. What joy!

It was a glorious weekend. An honor to be part of it.

When I accepted the invitation months ago, I thought I would extend my stay adding programs in New York and perhaps Boston. But when it was time to make that calendar, my heart wasn’t in it.

For months I had been looking at the Pilgrimage to Israel sponsored by the Expanding Light. I wanted to go, but kept talking myself out of it for all the usual reasons — time, money, and pressing responsibilities.

When I was a tour leader to India for those years (1986-2006) many times I advised people: When pilgrimage calls, say “Yes.” Finally, I took my own advice and signed up.

I’ve always wanted to go to Israel. First, growing up Jewish, then when I came to Ananda, out of devotion to Christ. The life of Jesus is so vivid to me, when I read or speak of it I can almost see the places where he walked. Now I will see them.

Between the retreat and the pilgrimage, there was a week to fill, which I decided to spend in Assisi. I haven’t been back since April 2013, right after Swamiji’s passing.

There would be one satsang. Otherwise the trip was to see friends, and meditate in the holy places there, including the room where Swamiji passed from this world.

Then news started coming from Pune, India. Dear friends were facing a challenging time.

Tushti and Surendra lived in Palo Alto for about ten years, managing East West Bookshop, teaching classes at the Sangha, and endearing themselves to all of us.

In July, Tushti became mysteriously ill. At first she dismissed it as the usual tummy troubles of India, but it soon proved itself far more serious.

Eventually she was diagnosed with cancer in the abdomen. Today she begins her first chemo treatment. She is in the category of “most positive outcome” but it hasn’t been, and won’t be for awhile, a pleasant journey.

Tushti has spent almost 50 nights in the hospital since it began. Indian hospitals are more informal than American ones. Smaller, less techno, more heart-full. The family is encouraged to spend the night with the patient. Sheets and towels are provided and a surprisingly comfortable couch bed to sleep on.

Except for a few times when others have come to visit, Surendra has spent almost all of those 50 nights in the hospital with Tushti.

Looking at my week before the pilgrimage, I saw that I could easily add a flight and come to India instead of staying in Italy. So here I am.

I have to admit I felt a pang at giving up my time in Assisi. But Divine Mother, as always, had me in the palm of Her hand.

As soon as I met Surendra and went with him to the nearby hospital — Ruby Hall Clinic — and into the large, private room which is home for Tushti right now — I felt the living presence of Master and Swamiji surrounding us.

Surendra is kind and lovingly attentive as always. Tushti is like a child in the arms of her Mother.

On the wall in front of her bed there is a large picture of Master and also one of Swamiji. The doctors and nurses come in and out, but it is clear Who is really in charge.

The situation are so unusual — day and night together in the hospital, with no pressing responsibilities. It is rare at Ananda to have so much uninterrupted time just to be with friends.

Exactly what I had hoped for in Assisi — heart-to-heart and soul-to-soul with gurubhais.

The three of us have always been good friends, but this circumstance has drawn us even closer.

The road in front of Tushti in her treatments and recovery, and Surendra in support of her, is not going to be easy. But they are living the truth that Master so often asserted: “It doesn’t matter what happens to us. All that matters is what we become through what happens to us.”

Let us become saints together. This is the motto of Ananda.

Because of the pilgrimages we led, and later visiting Swamiji here, I’ve been blessed to spend much time in India. The country has always held my heart in a way no other place does. “Vitamin India” seems essential to my inner wellbeing. It has been almost two years since I last visited, and my system was craving what only India can give.

Divine Mother’s perfect plans.

But that is not all.

As many of you know, for the past year or more I have been “working on a book.” This is, as I describe it, the “big book” about Swamiji I feel I was born to write.

I am a much more confident writer than I was a decade ago, but I confess to trepidation over this project. I haven’t yet reached the stage of procrastinating (out of lack of confidence) but I seemed to be getting ready to procrastinate! Oh dear.

A decade ago, when I was working on what became Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him, I spent almost a year reviewing and organizing a lifetime of notes. From the beginning I wrote down significant observations, events, and comments.

At the time I felt I should have been taking even more notes. Now I’m glad I didn’t! I have so many!

That first book turned out differently than I expected, being mostly stories I collected from others. The “files” were used, but only a little. All the years since they have been sitting — organized and ready — waiting for this project.

I am not able to think clearly about material that is only in the computer. So scanning has never been an option. I felt I couldn’t start writing until I had the whole picture. So the past year I’ve been “working on the book,” i.e. reviewing the files but haven’t started the actual writing.

Insights, understandings, relationships between events have become clear to me in ways they never were before. I am down to just 6 inches of paper, which I brought with me, and this is helping pass the time in a useful way during hours of plane flights.

Even though writing is no longer as difficult for me as it was a decade ago, I have been more anxious than I’d like to be about this project. I’ve been joking with my friends that I either need to start writing this book or stop talking about it!

So here I am in Pune, with Tushti and Surendra in the Ruby Hall Clinic. Tushti is remarkably better (according to Surendra) from the low ebb she reached earlier in this journey. She had a blockage in her stomach and wasn’t able to eat which has a rather deleterious effect on one’s energy. That was taken care of through surgery, nutrition through an IV, the insertion of a stent, and now, finally eating again. By comparison, she is absolutely peppy!

We walk several times a day through the hall of the hospital. She has a few visitors and we’ve had many lovely conversations.

I offered to read aloud to her. My choice was Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him. Short sections, interesting, inspiring. Seemed ideal.

I haven’t looked at that book in many years, but always think of it with great satisfaction. I know it came out well. Even more important though, for me personally, I know I did my best. Great satisfaction in that.

So I started reading it to Tushti.

You all know me, so you’ll understand this in the way I intend it: It is an excellent book. The author writes so movingly about Swamiji. Some times I had to stop reading until my tears subsided. It is sensitive, well written. Reading aloud, hardly a word needs changing.

I had forgotten, Divine Mother, how you work through me when you have a job to be done.

If I hadn’t come to India, I wouldn’t be reading that book aloud and I would never have known. This alone has made the entire trip worthwhile, and I haven’t even reached Jerusalem.

We live in the palm of Divine Mother’s hands. What a grace-filled, glorious place to be.

Love in God and Guru,