THE RAMALA CENTRE
After a very busy year in which David and I travelled extensively both in Canada and the USA giving talks about our relationship with Sai Baba and our understanding of his teachings, I felt a desperate need to have some quiet time for myself, to digest all of my experiences of the past year. 1999 turned out to be a frenetic year for me and, with a stream of guests coming to stay in our home and the program of setting up our little farm in Langley as a facility for breeding and boarding horses continuing at a fast pace, there had been little time for me to stop and smell the roses. To add to all of this, in late September last year, we had a l70’ x 70’ indoor riding arena erected. For two months we had builders and a stream of trucks coming and going on our property and we were caught in a race against time, to complete the structure before the winter rains came. This beautiful new building will not only be used for riding but it will also make a fantastic venue for our Ramala open days. The next one, by the way, is scheduled for July 9th 2000 and we expect to have over 400 people attending. If that was not enough, David and I had to make several trips to England to settle Diana into Oxford University, to check up on the Ramala Centre in Glastonbury and to publish the Ramala newsletters.
My last talk was in Calgary, Alberta, in late November, to celebrate Sai Baba’s birthday. Certain incidents which occurred at this event forced me to question the way in which the Sai Organisation works in the West. Although our hosts were charm itself and the whole program was done with great love and enthusiasm by all those involved, as a Westerner I was very aware that, firstly, there was only a handful of Westerners present at the celebration and, secondly, that the whole program was designed for and produced by the East Indian community. Here in Canada we use the term East Indians to define people of the Indian culture as opposed to the native Indians, the people who were here before the white man came and who are referred to as the First Nations. The devotional singing was virtually all in Sanskrit, so that for anyone not familiar with bhajans the singing would have no meaning whatsoever. Moreover the singing went on for far too long, and when I asked afterwards why this was the case I was told that it was good discipline for the devotees! If people went to the ashram in India they would have to sit for hours, so why shouldn’t they do it now. Needless to say I did not feel that this was a good enough reason, especially for the people who were there for the first time.. All the dancing was Indian and was very attractive and well performed but again held little meaning for the Westerners. I felt that here we were in Canada and there was little in the programme that would appeal to Westerners. Is Sai Baba only for the Indians? Of course not. I was even asked why I was not wearing a sari when I gave my talk. I came home with a sense of frustration. How are we going to attract Westerners to the teachings of Sathya Sai Baba if they are always being presented in an Indian format. No wonder so many people are put off after their first visit to a Sai Baba centre, when their introduction makes them feel that they are getting involved in some Hindu cult. What happens, I find, is that they go away, read and enjoy Sai Baba’s teachings but refuse to go to any of the Sai Baba centres or join the Sai Organisation. This, I feel, is a great pity as many of them have a lot of talent to offer.
As many of you who have read previous newsletters will know, I have been going through a time when I have been moving away from being attached to the physical form of Sai Baba to having a much stronger relationship with the omnipresent aspect of God. This process started on Sai Baba’s 70th birthday in 1995 when Swami started weaning off his form a whole group of his devotees who, prior to that time, had been very close to him. Since then the process for me has been accelerating. Over the past year I have been consciously trying to become more aware of the omnipresent God. I have been seeking a totally inclusive experience - what is known as advaita or non-dualism. Of course duality keeps on rearing its ugly head and I often find myself retreating into the ‘them and me’ approach to life, but gradually the oneness of all life is becoming a part of my daily living. On our last visit to Sai Baba’s ashram at Puttaparthi, which was a very special and deeply moving experience for me, during one of our interviews Sai Baba made a special point of reminding me of this weaning process.
Sai Baba had given me a beautiful peacock brooch in our first interview and so it came as a surprise to me when, in our second interview, he asked me “Who gave you that brooch?”. As quick as a flash I replied “God did”. Sai Baba then asked me “Where is God?” and, knowing the answer to this question, I very confidently answered “God is everywhere”. To this response Sai Baba then said “If God is everywhere, then, he must be in England?” to which I replied “Yes, he is.” Sai Baba then said “So if God is in England, what are you doing here?”. He is always reminding us that we should be students of his teachings and not of his form. He has also told us not to have masses of photographs of him and statues of ancient Indian gods on our altars. One small picture is enough, he says, or, better still, none at all. Sai Baba also told the president of the Sai Organisation of America that the ceremony of Arati, the lighting of the sacred flame and the devotional chant performed with circular movements of the flame to honour a deity, which is performed at the end of most Sai Baba meetings, should not be done in the West as it is basically an Indian custom. Nevertheless I find that most Sai centres still perform Arati. Al Drucker recently told me that he went to a Sai Baba centre in Germany where there was nothing but a candle and some flowers on the altar and that it was one of the best and most universal spiritual meetings that he had ever attended. Perhaps there is a message here for all the Sai centres in the West.
I know that each of us is at different stages of spiritual development and that what is right for one may not be right for another. To use the analogy of a flower, some of us are buds, some of us have just begun to open our petals and some of us are in full bloom. Nevertheless I feel that the time has come for all of us to go beyond the level of the form, of ritual, of following one particular identity of God. I seek an inclusive not an exclusive form of divinity, a form that does not separate or divide people. I want to be able to introduce my Western friends to Sai Baba’s teaching without them having to become token Indians in order to understand and to appreciate who he is and what he represents in the world today. I have great love for the form of Sri Sathya Sai Baba and feel immense gratitude to him for the advice, the help and the loving care he has given to me and to my family over the years, but at the same time I know that his form will pass away. I also appreciate that Sai Baba will not always be available to me as, with an ever growing numbers of devotees, there will be more and more demands on his time from new devotees who need the personal contact with him. I know that Sai Baba wants me to grow beyond the attachment to his form, to be aware of the omnipresent God within me and to be able to tune in to that God every minute of my waking day. Sai Baba has said that we should become part of the CIA which stands for Constant Integrated Awareness (of God). I believe that true meditation is just that; being at one with the Universe at all times.
This pursuit of Constant Integrated Awareness has become my quest for the Holy Grail. While winter has been upon me I have entered a time of spiritual hibernation. I have tried to stop analysing everything and to live as close to Nature as I can and, believe me, with ten horses to look after, five of my own plus five boarders, this process has been a very necessary one. It has also been a source of much joy for me, as I watch the wild deer in the fields by our lake or stand in the snow feeding our four muscovite ducks. One of my morning tasks, as I turn the horses out in the paddocks after a night of rain, is to pick up and return the worms, which have floated onto our tarmac drive in the flow of rain water and got trapped there, to the welcoming earth of our fields. Spring is approaching and the dormant seed inside me is beginning to wake up and is starting to grow again. I am feeling a strong need to experience a closer link with the God within me and with the divinity that is inherent in all life. I feel that I want to invite the Divine to flow through me, to use my body as a funnel. This feeling is now becoming my primary focus. To become sensitive to the Earth and to all the creatures and plants that go to make up her being, is true education.
I have recently been rereading my books about Jiddu Krishnamurti, that wonderful philosopher, who I used to go and listen to in the l970s at Brockwood Park in England. Krishnamurti said “Life is like a vast river, with a great volume of water, without a beginning or an ending. We take out of that fast running current a bucket of water and that confined water becomes our life. This is our conditioning and our everlasting sorrow.” It is so difficult to be aware of our own conditioning, of our prejudices, of our petty likes and dislikes, of our attachments to things and people, of how much we live in the past and are caught up in the memory of past relationships. That is why I am making a conscious effort to live in the moment, to go beyond that little bucket of water that I think is me and to be aware of the river from which it came. It is because of this process that I am constantly observing myself both forming and voicing judgements and opinions about everything. I recall that David’s guide, Zen Tao, who he channelled for almost twenty years, once said to a very strongly opinionated lady “Madam, your opinion is of value to no-one but yourself, since it simply represents your point of consciousness.” I try to remember that comment when I’m sounding off about something or other! The thinker is the thought, the observer is the observed, Krishnamurti used to say, and I am now beginning to understand what he meant. We create the nature of our own world by what we think, say and do.
I have also been working on the various fears that have had a disproportional influence on my life so far: my fear of abandonment, my fear of not having enough money, my fear of losing control over any given situation and the list goes on and on. All these fears form a brick wall between me, the me which thought has created, which is just a collection of memories and experiences, and the I AM consciousness that I really am. I have learned to accept the aspects of my physical self which I cannot change, my genetic inheritance, and to be happy with the physical vehicle which my soul has built for this life. I firmly believe that at birth we are all wired for happiness and it is only when we block the contact with the eternal part of our beings, our atmas, that we become unhappy. As I grow older and become one of the ‘wise women of the tribe’, I find that I have begun to look at myself differently. I am now allowing myself to be empowered by my own inner wisdom, to follow paths which before I would never have thought possible and to explore fields of creativity of which I have never dreamed. Let me give you a recent example of this.
I had a mounting block of two small steps made to allow me to get on to my horses without straining them, me or the saddle, and as I looked at the wooden frame I thought that it looked awfully plain. So I took it inside my living room and painted a horse on either side of the mounting block and then sprayed clear varnish over it, to protect it. I made such a good job of it that suddenly all my friends wanted one just like mine and before I could turn around I had an order for a dozen hand painted mounting blocks! As some of you may know, I started painting at 50 and now, ten years later, I am not only enjoying this creative side of my being but I have also boosted my self esteem and could even be in danger of making some money! I watched a program on television recently where a woman doctor was explaining that our consciousness, which creates the cells in our body, is firmly locked in the past and therefore keeps recreating the same old patterns. If, however, we can elevate the consciousness then we will automatically improve both our health and the quality of our lives. The divine spirit, our atma, is present in each and every one of us and if we will only attune to it rather than to all our past thought-forms and memories then we will transform our beings. Most of us, knowingly or unknowingly, are blocking our divine spirits.
of the great transformative tools in my life has been to start thinking
positively and to replace old negative patterns and thought-forms, fixed deep
in my sub-conscious mind, with new and positive ones. As we think, so we are. We create our own reality and so if we hold
strong positive thoughts about something important to us then that is what we
will manifest in our physical world. Try
it and see how it works. Everyone says
how blessed my life is, that I seem to get whatever I need! I believe that there is abundance in the
universe and that it is mine for the asking.
As long as I dedicate everything that I have to the God within me, as
long as I ensure that whatever is entrusted to me is used for the highest good
of all concerned, as
long as I use these gifts positively and creatively, then, more will flow to
me. It is the God in me that attracts
these blessings and to whom all thanks must be given. I end this article with the wise words of my
mother, who was a truly spiritual being.
She was always saying to me “Motive and moderation. As long as your motive is right and you do
everything in moderation then you won’t go far wrong in life.” I now know that she was simply reflecting the
teaching of The Buddha, to always walk the middle path. Her advice has helped me to lead a balanced
life and has set my soul free to be happy.
May it be the same for you.