God, I don’t know. I’ve probably given five hundred speeches, delivered a thousand sermons and authored 10 books. At last count, I think there have been 14 biographies about me – some pretty uncomplimentary. But I’ve never written anything about myself, not a word. I’ve never described what inspired me to build a worldwide spiritual movement. I’ve never talked of what I felt inside and of that constant grating of my soul by the sins that I have committed.
My friends and colleagues – most of whom treat me like some sort of guru—have been pushing me to write my autobiography. They think that it’s going to bring out great insights into my “Revelations.” The world and my organization will be strengthened by my autobiography’s disclosures. But, I’ve always been reluctant to speak of me. While I might be a salesman, I’m seldom a liar. To tell the story of my life truly, frankly, and openly is something that my followers probably don’t really want. And frankly, until very recently, neither did I.
But now, things have changed. Why? Because I’m old, and although I feel the divine in every bone in my body, I still feel like a hypocrite, a fool, a false prophet. Consider this autobiography to be expiation. A necessary expiation. I pray that by telling the whole truth God’s Glory will be exulted – not besmirched. But whatever happens, I don’t mind. The truth needs telling. Anyway, the chances are very small of this book actually hitting the marketplace (except maybe excerpts on the Internet) before I am gone.
So let me tell you a little bit about where I am and what’s going on. I’m in my 93rd year. Until last June, 11 months ago, I was taking daily walks of at least a mile, sometimes much more. Until I was 90, I still made it out to the tennis courts twice a week. Now, I’m in my room a blanket over my legs sitting in an overstuffed leather chair, high above the Malibu Beach.
Mine is an old Spanish-style villa. I have an interior courtyard with a fountain, which I can see from my room’s balcony, and I love to listen to the water dribbling down its sides and splashing into its pool. The stark blue skies, the adobe walls, and the intricate pattern of Spanish and Mexican tiles fill my view. I can see the ocean in the distance and I know that there are dozens of young people down there, eating, flirting and getting ready to surf the big one. In almost every way, I am supremely content. And at the same time, there’s a part of me that is deeply convinced that my supreme content is a fake, a fallacy, an outrage.
Last June I was on my daily walk in the hills . Quite suddenly, my legs started to feel heavy. I could feel the blood drain from my head and the next thing I knew I was in bed in my room with Dr. Ramesh looking over me. With his almost impenetrable Punjabi accent and a slight lisp, he said, “I am thinking that maybe you had a mild stroke.” I wiggled the toes of my left foot followed by my right foot, my right hand followed by my left hand. I even wiggled my nose back and forth. Everything seemed to work. But I felt tired, deeply tired. The idea of getting up to go on my daily walk, or even going to the toilet, seemed an insurmountable hurdle .
Fortunately, I didn’t feel dull. My mind was clicking along more or less as it has for the last 93 years. All the things that I need to accomplish, all the people I need to talk to, all the orders I need to issue, all the financial decisions I need to make. They were all there buzzing loudly at the back of my mind. The tumultuous background of daily life was comforting, I hadn’t lost it yet. But there was something slightly different. The noise was, in fact, at the back of my mind. In the foreground was something familiar but usually lacking in daily life: quiet, silence, connectedness. Peace was –halleluiah– dominant. The noisy stuff became quiet. Well, that’s not quite right. Actually, it wasn’t any less noisy. It was just distant.
This was surprisingly different than the quiet and peace I felt during a long meditation retreat. There, the silence is everywhere. There is no coexistence of silence and noise. There is just a silence. Symmetrically, in furious activity there is just noise, and very little silence. This was both. Both together. I thought to myself, “Hmm. Enlightenment at last, all I needed was a little brain damage.”
“Ramesh-ji, this stroke thing doesn’t seem to be all that bad.”
Ramesh was wearing his habitual outfit of a white hand woven cotton curta – a kind of pajama top with a deep vee embroidered with white thread revealing a pie-slice shape of an almost hairless chest – and loose fitting white cotton pants held precariously around his pudgy waist by a narrow drawstring. Ramesh wore glasses, quite a throwback to the twentieth century. As fast and painless a corrective eye procedures has become, there was something refreshingly anachronistic and defiant in his insistence in wearing plastic in front of his eyeballs.
He answered, “Baba-ji.” Normally I eschewed honorifics. Baba-ji means something like “dear father” but can equally mean “dear guru.” When I first met the pudgy fellow – a first rate western, allopathic doctor with deep knowledge of the ancient ayurvedic medical tradition and a working knowledge of acupuncture – I kept telling Ramesh not to call me that. But he persisted and looked so forlorn whenever I corrected him. So, I gave up. He never did.
“Baba-ji, you are very lucky. If we hadn’t administered anti clotting agent instantly, you probably would not be talking to us and all. Now the trick will be keeping you from talking too much. Time to rest.
I raised my left eyebrow and furrowed my brow, something I am pretty good at and use with effect. Ramesh smiled. “You must be resting now, Baba-ji.” He was right. I did.