THE RAMALA CENTRE
by David Jevons
I am writing this article on the anniversary of September 11th, the day of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a day that changed many people's perceptions of the world in which they live. Many stories abound of the actions of everyday normal people on that fateful day, but I would like to begin this article by talking about Todd Beamer, the passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. It is now an established fact that the hijackers who took over that flight had intended to crash it into the White House and so those brave souls, who tried to regain control of the plane and who died in the attempt, thwarted a terrible disaster for the USA. Most people know of the last words Todd Beamer spoke before leading the charge to the cockpit "Let's roll", but only recently have the transcripts of the phone calls that he made from the doomed plane to his firm been released. Todd Beamer was a committed Christian and together, over the phone, he and his supervisor at work in Oakbrook, Illinois said the Lord's Prayer and recited the Twenty Third Psalm "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…" As was to be expected, he was very much afraid and he prayed to the Lord for help. Beamer said, "I don't think we're going to get out of this thing. I'm going to have to go out on faith." Presumably he found that faith and the rest is history.
This little story speaks volumes to me. His faith inspired a great act of sacrifice, which not only saved the lives of many people but also saved the psyche of the American nation. He prayed to the Lord for help and received the strength to do what he had to do. He doubtless prayed to the Lord to be saved but that was not to be his destiny on that day. Nevertheless he went to his death with faith in his heart. He trusted that what he was doing was for the highest good of all concerned. We, with the privilege of hindsight, now know that his sacrifice was not in vain. If the purpose or lesson of this planet is indeed 'sacrificial service in love', then we can only guess at the rewards that await Todd Beamer in his next life! How many of us would have found that faith in a similar situation? How many of us embody that faith in our everyday lives? How many of us actually trust God, even if what He wants us to do may result in our own deaths?
Trust, in my opinion, is built on personal experience, both perceived and felt. Every time you get on a plane you trust that it will get you safely to your destination. Your trust is based on the regulations that control the building of the plane, its maintenance and operation, and the training and skills of the pilots who will fly it. Nevertheless, you also know that on one in one hundred thousand flights or so something does go seriously wrong. The same can be said for every car journey that you make, for every step that you take walking along a street, in fact for every aspect of your life. So your trust can be misplaced. Accidents do happen. Mistakes are made. You trust that you are going to live to a ripe old age, but how do you really know that you are going to wake up from your sleep tomorrow morning? Why do you believe that death is something that happens to other people, and not to you? Perhaps you are beginning to see that your trust has limitations, especially when it is built on a false premise. I was reading in the newspapers the other day of a husband who died in a plane crash and, as they began to tidy up his estate, they suddenly discovered that he had two wives, two families, two separate lives, which neither of the wives knew about. Yet they both trusted and loved him! So whom can you really trust? The hard fact is that you can only trust one being in your life, that being who will always be there for you, who will always reflect the truth back to you, who will never let you down, namely God.
But who is God? We have the descriptions of the various religions, but they all talk of God in terms of a perfect human being, as "Our Father Who lives in Heaven." We ascribe human qualities to God as if He was like us, but the reality is that just as we are not our human bodies so neither is God. We are all aspects of God, of Infinite Spirit; an actual part of us is an actual part of God, but it is not a part to which we can relate with our human senses. For we are beings of spirit, temporarily encased in a dense physical body of matter, separated from our true home. To us God remains indescribable, indefinable, unseen, unheard; we can only know Him through our inner relationship with Him and, of course, through our relationship with His creations. There are those, of course, who deny the reality of God but, as Sai Baba says, "Denying the reality of God does not make Him go away." If He is indeed our Father, the Divine Being Who created us, then we must be in relationship with Him and a father, a creator, has responsibilities towards his children, his creations. If we have faith in this reality, then this is the first step in establishing a bond of trust. Sai Baba says "Ultimately, trust depends on faith in God, as expressed in your actions and in the actions of others."
Everything is God. There is no aspect of creation where God is not to be found. God's energy motivates and moves every aspect of matter, so we are in constant communication with God, even as we inhale and exhale the very air that we breathe. God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. He knows our every thought, word and deed. He knows our wants and our desires. He knows our needs even before we do. As Sai Baba often reminds us, God provided our first meal for us, at our mother's breast, before we were even born, and that process continues for the rest of our physical lives. He protects and guides us so that we may fulfil the destiny that we chose before we incarnated into our physical bodies. However, like our own physical fathers, he gives us the freedom to be individuals, to follow our own paths, to discover the reality of life and death in our own ways. He will help us, but only if we ask for it. If we think that we can do better without Him, then he will allow us to do that, until we recognise the error of our ways. Life is a great teacher, and if we look at life with an aware eye we will learn much about the nature of God and, of course, about ourselves.
Sai Baba says that we should offer our lives to God each day as we awake, dedicate our actions throughout the day to Him, and before we go to sleep at night we should give thanks to God for what He has given us. We should always be expressing our gratitude to our Creator for the many blessings He showers down upon us. Sai Baba says that "Devotion should be regarded as an expression of gratitude for all that that one receives from God - the air we breath, the light and the heat we get from the sun, the water we drink and the food we consume. All the essential necessities of life are got by the grace of God. The expression of gratitude through devotion is a primary obligation." So life is really one long continuous dialogue with God. As our trusted and best friend we should be talking to Him throughout the day, asking for guidance and assistance as we face the problems of life. Once we have opened that link you will be amazed at how smoothly your lives will run. Let me give you a little example.
My daughter Diana had been staying with some friends in Vancouver and they had planned to drive her back to our farm here in Langley. Unfortunately, at the very last minute, they had to change their plans and Diana had to get back home by public transport. Now there is no direct bus service to Langley, so I suggested that she catch a bus to White Rock, a little seaside town, some twenty minutes drive from our home. She caught a bus that was due to arrive at White Rock bus station at 10.30pm that night. I drove to White Rock in the dark to the bus stop where I had picked up someone else travelling from Vancouver over a year ago. I arrived there in good time, but the place looked deserted and I felt that something was wrong. I mentally offered a little prayer to the Lord and asked for help. Hardly anyone was around, but I noticed a lady cleaning a Starbucks Café across the road. I went over to her and asked her if this was the White Rock bus station. "No", she said, "They've opened a new one some ten minutes away by the Park and Ride." I hastily got in my car and set about finding it. It was dark and I was driving in an area I rarely visit. In the meantime Diana on the bus saw a sign by the side of the road saying 'Welcome to White Rock' and so she asked the man sitting beside her if the next stop was the last stop of the bus, where she knew I would meet her. He wrongly said, "Yes", and so she got off at that stop. The bus drove away and she found herself in a totally deserted car park, miles from anywhere, with no idea of where she was or how she was going to contact me in order to let me know where she was. After only a short wait she was amazed to see me drive into the car park to pick her up. Now you might say that that was co-incidence, providence, good luck, call it what you may, but what force in this world could arrange for two people to receive guidance to meet in a place that neither of them even knew existed. That is how God takes care of you if you will but trust Him and enlist His help. In the same way that Sai Baba says that he guides and protects his devotees, so God protects all of us if we will but become His devotees. Herein, of course, lies the big catch.
How many of us are prepared to surrender our selves to God, to say "Not my will, but Your Will be done, O Lord." How many of us are caught up in our egos, thinking that we are the doers, that we are the creators, that we own our possessions, that we are in control of our lives, as well as the lives of other people. How many of us continually use the expression of my family, my house, my possessions and my work. How many of us behave as if we were God! As Sai Baba says "Hold all your property and wealth in trust for the Lord Who gave them to you; even your family you must treat as a sacred trust, as persons given to you by the Lord to love, foster and guide. Thus you must elevate your attachments into worship and make them instruments for spiritual progress." That is the way to regard all aspects of matter. We are simply the guardians, not the owners. In order to do this however, we have to trust God. We have to trust that He will always do what is best for us, that He will always supply our needs rather than our desires, even if it is not what we, our little egos, want. I am sure that Todd Beamer would have wanted to survive the hijacking, but it was not what God willed. Whenever we suffer, our natural reaction is to try to remove it or to avoid it, but suffering is a gift from God, to turn us towards God. It is God's grace, because only through suffering will we be persuaded to turn inwards and to make inquiry into the nature of the soul. Suffering is not a reason for turning against God, for saying that He doesn't exist. As Sai Baba says "Why worry when God, in order to make a lovely jewel out of you, heats and melts, cuts and carves, and resolves your dross in the crucible of suffering." Do not think when you are suffering that God has deserted you. On the contrary, God is very close to you. God will never desert you. It is only you who desert God. Is that not a firm basis for trust?
One of the results of handing you life over to God, apart from the fact that your life runs more smoothly, is that it removes all fear; it frees you from hope and expectation, for you know that God never makes mistakes. You know that whatever happens to you will always be for your highest good, to transmute some karmic debt, to teach you some soul lesson, always to bring you closer to God. A realised being, a person who is one with God, never suffers because he or she has absolute faith. So why, if the great spiritual teachers are one with God, are their lives not perfect? Why are the books of the various religions full of suffering? Sai Baba says "Various sages had endless troubles in their lives with family, harsh treatment from others, and so on. But their faith in God remained untouched. They themselves did not suffer. Jesus did not suffer. But it was necessary that they go though what is generally regarded as suffering so that the world could have noble examples of worldly detachment and unshakable faith in God."
When you have established this bond of trust with God, this unshakable faith, then, you will literally be able to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil. What begins as an occasional dialogue soon becomes a conversation. Conversation leads to communication. Communication leads to knowledge. Knowledge leads to oneness, a state when there is no separation between you and God. The history of the Human Race is full of stories of men and women who have become realised beings. Their understanding of the world differs markedly from ours. Knowing the physical world to be an illusion, they attach little importance to it. Knowing that physical life is short and finite they have focussed on the eternal and the infinite, namely, divine spirit. We only have to trust because we do not know the reality of God and His creations, because we feel that we are separate from them. But once we know that all is one, that everything is God, that not even a leaf falls but that God wills it, then we know that God's Will will always be done. Rather like Paul, before his transformation on the road to Damascus, we may fight against it, we may rant and rave and strive to oppose it, but it is a waste of energy because we cannot win. It is rather like swimming against the current of a fast flowing river. Yes, we can do it, but we don't get very far and we have to expend a lot of energy in order to do it. How much easier it is to flow with the current, to use less energy and to travel twice as fast. Everything that manifests on the Earth is the will of God. For even the most insignificant of acts God's command is the cause. Good and bad are our projections, but in the eyes of God all is one. Let us remember this when considering the events of September 11th 2001.
We live in a time of crisis, not just for Humanity but also for the planet. Many people believe that we are on the eve of Armageddon. Psychics all around the world are making predictions of hard times to come. It is therefore essential that we establish this relationship of trust with our Creator, if we are to handle these events correctly. The karmic drama of the Age will be played out. Of that there is no doubt. Whilst Humanity could avert much of the forthcoming disasters by changing its ways, it shows little will to do it. We might like to blame our governments for this, but we are the people who elected those governments. In elections, politicians offer the voters what they think we want, if they didn't they wouldn't get elected, so they can be influenced. Individuals do count. One man can change history, for better or for worse. If we are God-centred beings seeing a God-centred world, seeing all as our soul brothers and sisters, seeing everything as One, we can and will change this world for a better place. No matter what transpires, no matter how frightening the drama may become, know that it is all God's Will and trust that God. As Sai Baba says, "It is not in the nature of an avatar to fail" so how much more so can it be said that our Creator will not fail us. God loves us. We are his children. He will protect and guide us. If we meet adversity then know that it is of our own choosing and face it with the courage and conviction of our soul being. Above all trust God, for who else can we trust?