THE RAMALA CENTRE
In the last Ramala Newsletter, published in September 2002, I included the first chapter of the book that I have been writing, entitled 'Full Circle - The Story of one Man's Journey from God to God'. That chapter was called 'First Steps………...' I now publish the second chapter, '………Along The Path ', for which many of you have been asking. If you have not read the first chapter, then, I would suggest that you do so now, by reading it in the September 2002 newsletter. I am just sorry that a year has sped by between the publication of the chapters, which makes the continuity process a little difficult. Many factors have conspired to delay the completion of this book, but I hope that it will see the light of day in 2004. 2003 has proved to be a testing year for many of us and, for me personally, has brought about many changes.
This chapter embraces a time span that begins in the spring of 1970 and ends in the spring of 1993, the time of my first interview with Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and so encompasses twenty-three years of spiritual growth and enquiry. I have therefore tried to encapsulate in just a few pages almost a quarter of a century of spiritual questing and growth. So many events have taken place in my life that have been nothing short of miraculous, so many happenings have impelled me to look beyond the established boundaries of religion and science, that they would form an entire book in their own right. Perhaps I will write it one day. Of one thing I am sure, namely, that an unseen hand has been guiding and protecting me ever since I took my first step along the path to the Godhead. There has been so much divine synchronicity in my life that I have never for one moment doubted the existence of a Higher Force even if I did not know Its name or Its form. So I have selected the events to be included in this chapter solely on the basis of providing you, the reader, with sufficient information to understand where I stood spiritually when I first came to hear about Sai Baba and why I felt the need to reject him so strongly in the beginning. I was a walking example, as Sai Baba says, of too much information and not enough transformation!
….…ALONG THE PATH
Within a very short time, a matter of months not years, we both knew that we had done the right thing - in fact we wondered why we had waited for so long to get married. Our marriage was a living proof of the statement "Seek you first the things of the spirit and all else will be added unto you". We had come together for reasons of the spirit, not of the physical, and because everything was correct on the spiritual level, then all the levels below it automatically fell into place. Ann often uses the analogy of buttoning up a shirt to describe this fact. If you do up the top button of a shirt correctly then all the other buttons below it automatically fall into place, but if the top button is done up wrongly then no matter what you do all the other buttons are inevitably wrong. Now that is not to say that we did not have personality conflicts, that we did not have tests to face, but that because our commitment was there on the spiritual level, then, all of our marital problems were soon resolved. Ann gave up her career and her well paid job in New York and resigned herself to the unfamiliar role of being a wife and a mother. I became the family breadwinner through my job as an airline pilot. We settled into the familiar routine of married life which young couples follow all over the world, but with one significant exception. We actively pursued a spiritual life.
Almost from the very first days of our marriage Ann and I used to meditate together and to discuss a wide range of spiritual matters on a regular basis. We attended lectures by well-known spiritual teachers and read a wide variety of esoteric books. Ann had been to spiritual development classes with Dorothy Smith in the USA and had become quite psychic. She was even beginning to channel her own guide, Omar Khayyam, and to have visions. After the birth of our first child, in the year following our marriage, Ann's mother came to live with us for a few months, not just to help Ann with the new baby but also to provide company and baby-sitting relief for her, whilst I was away from home on airline duties, sometimes for trips of ten or more days. The three of us used to meditate together whenever I was home. Now Ann's mother, who was born and raised in the USA, not only was very psychic but was also a good psychometrist as well, that is to say she could hold an object such as a watch or a ring, and by attuning to it she would receive psychic impressions regarding the owner of the object. She was particularly accurate with me and made several startling predictions which all came true. Under her and Ann's gentle guidance I had now become quite receptive to many so-called New Age ideas, especially to the development and expression of psychic talents. Having witnessed Dorothy Smith in operation and been the recipient of the benefits of her channellings I was now a firm believer in the human ability to communicate with other levels of life. As I sat in meditation I began to feel a heightened sense of awareness and to have short out of the body experiences. I was especially aware of a tingling feeling all over my face and Ann and her mother could see that my face was being transfigured and that an oriental face was appearing in place of mine. They were aware, having been to mediums and experienced the phenomenon before on several occasions, of just what was happening to me. They told me that a spirit being was overshadowing me, who obviously wanted to talk through me, and that I should just relax and let the process take place quite naturally. I resisted this idea most strongly and blocked the process for many months. Eventually though, one day, when Ann's mother could see the face of the being overshadowing me very clearly, she quietly said "Hello, who are you?" and before my personality resistance could stop anything I was aware of my voice saying "Good evening. I am Zen Tao, the guide of this instrument, and I am happy to be in your midst." That was the start of a process that was to go on for almost twenty years.
Channelling, being a medium, call it what you may, came quite naturally to me. It was not something that I sought. It sought me. In one sense I was a reluctant medium, because I was never really completely happy with the channelling process, if only because I was always very conscious of the fact that I was still totally responsible for everything that came through me. If I misled anyone, then, the karma for that was all mine. I firmly believe that there is no greater God than Truth. I have always been a seeker of Truth and for me personally the greatest evil that any one can do is to mislead someone in the name of Truth, is to advocate spiritual teachings that are untrue. During the period of my mediumship I channelled hundreds of teachings on a wide variety of spiritual subjects and gave personal counselling sessions to the many individuals who all came to me searching for answers to the problems in their lives. At all times I was very aware of my responsibilities towards them and of the karma that would be created if I acted inappropriately. I was very conscious of the fact that what I said could influence their lives in so many ways. To this end I have never charged a fee for any lecture or channelling that I have given, believing it to be a gift from God. As a matter of interest, the beings on the higher planes of life that spoke through me insisted on this course of action right from the very beginning. I was also very conscious of the fact that the source of the channellings was not God per se. The beings that spoke through me simply identified themselves as spiritual Masters belonging to the White Brotherhood and said that they taught only from the perspective of having walked a little further along the Path of Life than most of the souls on the Earth.
The channelling process for me was quite automatic. It was not something that I had to learn. It was just like turning on a tap and the wisdom flowed. The Masters who gave the teachings said that I had been preparing for this incarnation for many lives and that I had been a channel in many past lives. Be that as it may, within a few weeks of the channelling process starting I was receiving the lectures that were to form the basis for the first book of teachings that I published - The Revelation of Ramala - in 1978. The book was published anonymously, as indeed were all of the Ramala books, firstly, because I recognised that the teachings were not mine, they only came through me, they were not of me and, secondly, because I, the channel, was not important in this process. I was just the funnel for the teachings. What was important was the teachings, which had to stand or fall on their own merits. Right from the very beginning, though, it was apparent that the Ramala teachings struck a chord in many people. I used to channel the teachings whilst sitting in meditation. I was what was called a mental medium as opposed to a trance medium and was conscious throughout the whole process. I was never in trance, as had been the case with Dorothy Smith. The overshadowing being would just use my voice box to give a talk. This talk would be recorded on a tape recorder, to be transcribed later and then published in a booklet form. The demand for them grew in leaps and bounds and Ann and I were soon forced to produce a small monthly newssheet. Eventually the demand outgrew this time-consuming form of communication and so we decided to publish the teachings in a book form, which would be both self-financing and self-distributing. Up to that time we had financed everything ourselves and had made no charge for the newssheets that we printed. We chose the name Ramala because it was the common part of the spiritual names that had been given to us on our wedding day by Master Light and so the Ramala Society came into being. It was to be, or so the Ramala Teachers said, A School on Earth teaching the Truth of the Heavens. The Ramala teachings covered almost every facet of human existence ranging from esoteric subjects like the spiritual significance of the Earth and its place in the cosmos, down through the purpose and the meaning of birth and death, reincarnation and the Law of Karma to right living, correct eating and drinking, marriage and divorce and the raising of children. Advice was given on almost every aspect of human existence and after a lecture had been given Ann and those present at the channelling would indulge in a lively question and answer session on a variety of subjects.
In 1975, following guidance from the Ramala teachers, we moved to Glastonbury, Somerset, in England, the ancient Isle of Avalon, of King Arthur fame. We bought the old manor house there, which we converted into a guesthouse and operated as a spiritual retreat centre. It was to be our home for the next twenty-two years. The Ramala Society became The Ramala Centre and our real work began. The Ramala Centre was run by a small community of mostly young people, who helped us with the day-to-day business of running the Centre and caring for the many guests that streamed through the house. We used to have around 2000 paying guests a year, staying with us on a Bed and Breakfast basis, and twice that number of day visitors. They all came to enjoy the spiritual energy of the Centre, to read and listen to the Ramala teachings, to join in our regular meditations and channellings, to borrow books from our library and to watch videos on a variety of spiritual topics. They also came to visit the sacred sites of Glastonbury. Ann used to give guided tours around the area, which included the Tor, Chalice Well and the Abbey, which, incidentally, was the site of the first above ground Christian church in the world. We built a beautiful pine sanctuary, the Sanctuary of the Holy Grail, and we embarked on a programme of courses and workshops as well as travelling all over the country and abroad to share the Ramala point of consciousness. We were busy people. I had a full time job as an airline pilot. Ann was raising a family of three active children. We both were running a bed and breakfast business and, if that was not enough, we felt duty bound to talk to almost every guest who came through our front door. We became a focus of pilgrimage for many people. We never advertised. People came to us solely on personal recommendation or through reading one of our books. We worked long gruelling days and Ann, of necessity, carried most of the burden of running the house because I was always departing on my airline duties. It was a good job that we were young, healthy and energetic people. Nevertheless, although we gave a great deal of ourselves, the people who came to stay with us gave just as much of themselves in return. A wonderful exchange of energy took place.
Many of the leading lights of the New Age movement came and stayed with us. Although we were too busy to go and hear them talk in London, at some big conference or other, they somehow managed to come down to Glastonbury to stay with us, if only because they wanted to experience the energy of this ancient power centre which is held to be amongst the most powerful on the Earth. We were exposed to almost every spiritual philosophy and esoteric understanding that is practised in the world today. This gave us a wonderful perspective on life, increased our powers of discrimination and exposed us to the wonderful variety and colour of some of the many paths to the Godhead. At the same time as all of this was going on we were continuing with the Ramala teachings. Channellings were being held regularly each week, with hundreds of thousands of words being transcribed and disseminated. Two more books were produced - The Wisdom of Ramala in 1986 and The Vision of Ramala in 1991 - and were reprinted over and over again. The Ramala teachings were translated and published in five foreign languages. Ann and I were continually travelling, giving talks and presentations, speaking at conferences both in England and abroad. We ranged from Alaska, USA, to Amsterdam, Holland and from Sydney, Australia to Antigua in the West Indies. As the work of the Ramala Centre expanded, so it took up more and more of our time. We had to employ people to run the Ramala office and shop, to answer the mail, to send out books and to run the Centre when we were away.
I was always conscious of the fact that I was forever wearing two hats, that of an airline captain flying a Boeing 747 all over the world and that of a mystic and a spiritual teacher. My two worlds never met. It gradually became apparent to me that I couldn't go on living this way. Ann had a vision one night of me standing with one foot on a boat and the other on a dock with the boat slowly drifting away and with me doing the splits trying to stay in both places. I got the message but I wasn't prepared to give up either world! Then, in 1984, the company that I worked for offered some of its senior pilots, including me, early retirement with a golden handshake. The moment of truth had come. I didn't want to give up the flying, which I enjoyed with a passion, but on the other hand Ann quite rightly pointed out to me that if I didn't, then, we would have to give up the Centre because she could no longer run it single-handedly. The workload and the responsibility were becoming just too great. I agonised over the decision. Retirement would mean a big reduction in our income. Could we survive on this income and maintain our present lifestyle and fund all our spiritual work as well? I asked the Ramala teachers for help, but all that they would say was that it was for me to choose. They suggested that I should ask myself why I was in incarnation on the Earth at this time and how I could best serve Humanity. Then my mind went back to our wedding and to the leap of faith that I had taken in agreeing to an arranged marriage, in fact, to a spiritually arranged marriage. I did not need to remind myself how blessed we had been, how everything had worked out so perfectly. I remembered the saying 'Seek you first the things of the spirit and all else will be added unto you'. I took the early retirement and decided to devote my life to running the Ramala Centre and to disseminating the teachings that came through me. I felt that when I died I would rather be remembered as a spiritual teacher than as an airline pilot!
It took me several years to adapt to the change. Whereas, before retirement, flying was the primary purpose of my life and the spiritual work was something that I did in my spare time, now the spiritual work was my primary focus. I had to refocus my vision on the new purpose of my life. After spending thirty years of my life living out of a suitcase and having breakfast in a different country practically every day of my working life, to remain fixed in one spot did not sit easily with me. My poor wife did not have a happy time of it. Although I had made the decision to leave flying, and although in my heart I felt that it was the right thing to do, I still felt cheated out of the prime of my flying career. I missed the lifestyle, I missed my pilot friends and I missed the challenge of flying. However, as the workload of running the Ramala Centre and honouring all of our many speaking engagements gradually increased, so I had less and less time for introspection and for feeling sorry for myself. I slowly began to appreciate not being tied to a demanding flying roster and I enjoyed having both the time and the space to do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I could offer a date to give a talk and know that I would be able to keep it. I could choose to go and visit anywhere in the world without having to worry about getting time off work or taking leave. There were many advantages to being retired, only in my case, of course, I hadn't retired, I had simply changed my job! Although we had heard about Sai Baba at this stage of our lives we were not in the least attracted to him. Ann, in particular, was drawing close to the Brahma Kumaris, the practitioners of Raja Yoga. We visited their headquarters in Mount Abu in Rajasthan in India and were very impressed by their leaders, who were all women, and by the purity of their lifestyle. They maintain that God is an individual soul being and is quite separate from Humanity. They believe that God never incarnates on the Earth and speaks to Humanity through prophets and seers. At the time this philosophy appealed strongly to both of us.
As the years passed by I gradually began to grow more and more uncomfortable with the whole process of channelling. Whilst I believed in and trusted the whole channelling process I recognised that the source of the teachings, albeit more evolved than I, was still not God. The Master who gave the talks was still an intermediary, offering only his version of Truth, and the longer I relied on it, the longer it would take for me to establish my own direct link with the Godhead within me. Thus it was that in 1989 the channelling process stopped, almost twenty years after it had started. For me it was like being born again. I was able to look at life from a fresh viewpoint, to try to contact the Godhead within me and to develop a new source of guidance. By this time I had been out to see Sai Baba twice and had been introduced to the spiritual understanding that great beings known as Avatars incarnate on the Earth from time to time. At his ashram devotees told me that Sai Baba was the Father who had sent the Master Jesus down to Earth and that he himself had now incarnated because the affairs of Man were in such a perilous state. Whilst I found these facts hard to believe, because of all my esoteric conditioning, I nevertheless determined that I would investigate Sai Baba fully, to see if he was indeed a Godman, if he behaved like God. Of course I didn't know what or who God was; to me He had always been a formless and a nameless being, but I expected that at the very least Sai Baba should exhibit perfect human qualities and should lead a perfect human life. The thought also occurred to me that if Sai Baba was indeed an Avatar, then, there was no need to read any more books on spiritual teachings other than his, to listen to any other gurus or teachers other than him, to go searching anywhere else for answers because the Source was here. We could get everything straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
So I began to investigate Sai Baba in thought, word and deed. The more I read his teachings the more I found not only that, for the most part, they blended perfectly into the Ramala teachings but also that they were in complete accord with my own understandings of life. On successive visits to the ashram I found his public lifestyle to be beyond reproach. He lived and demonstrated a life of total service to all who came to him. I talked to devotees both in the ashram and back in England and listened to the stories of their own experiences with Sai Baba. I read about his miracles, his healings, his manifestations and his divine qualities of omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence. Gradually my feelings of hostility and suspicion turned to feelings of openness and trust. When I saw how lovingly and how wisely he handled the other members of my family in successive interviews I sensed that I was truly in the presence of a Godman. Whether he was an Avatar or not, I did not know, I still do not know, if only because I do not know who or what an Avatar is. Nevertheless, I felt that I had met a realised being, and that he exemplified how we should all lead our lives. It was not until our fifth visit to Sai Baba, in 1993, that we were privileged to be granted our first interview with him and our relationship with him moved on to a more intimate level. Since that time Ann and I have been graced with many more interviews and we have talked to devotees who have been close to him for many years, yet still we are only just beginning to get a sense of who he is and of what is his mission.
The talks in this book reflect my inner journey. They are based on my own experiences and observations. What is true for me may not be true for you. I offer them to you in the earnest hope that they will help you along your own journey to God realisation, to the realisation of the God in you. Sai Baba has taught me that there is only one God and that that God dwells within the heart of every human being. I commend him to you as a great spiritual teacher. The test of any teacher can surely only be, "How has he or she transformed me? Has he or she helped me to become a better person, a happier, a peaceful and a more compassionate human being?" To all these questions I can answer a resounding "Yes". Sai Baba has changed my life in so many ways and in such a short time. The impact of my relationship with him will be with me not just for the rest of this life but forever.
Once you have been touched by divinity you will never be the same again. Once you have experienced real love, unconditional love, divine love, you can recognise and reject the false love born out of attachment and desire. The only way to discover the reality of Sai Baba and the relevance of his teachings for you is to take one step toward him. That is why he has come on the Earth at this time. Let us not miss this great opportunity, which, according to Sai Baba, will never happen again. Go, see and experience him. What have you to lose by taking that first step? Nothing but your ego! What will you gain? Perhaps an understanding of who you really are! I commend Sri Sathya Sai Baba to you in the certain knowledge that if you take one step towards him he will take a hundred steps towards you.