Sabbatical in India - 1992

In 1992 I was on sabbatical, so I went to India to visit a friend.
What happened to me there is still puzzling me.

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Sai Baba's Ashram at Puttaparthi.

Deirdre West

My friend Deirdre was living in Sai Baba's ashram in Puttaparthi. I joined her and hundreds of others sleeping on the floor, in the heat and dust of the "foreign ladies" shed.


Tina Schneider from Berlin


I had long talks with the women I met there, like Tina Schneider from Berlin who had been there five weeks. She would get sick when she left the ashram.

The shed was like a refugee camp. Why are you all living like this, I asked. "Sai is God; can't you feel the love?" they answered.

To understand what on earth they were thinking, I began reading everything I could about Indian spirituality. I knew I definitely didn't need a guru

Meanwhile I lined up with the others before 4 in the morning to get a good spot in the mandir for darshan. Sai Baba would walk among us and we could look at him. People were being cured by touching him. He distributed vibhuti, sacred ash and lollies. People vied for his attention.

Lining up for Shivaratri   Sathya Sai Baba

The feast of Shivaratri was approaching. The crowds were growing--Indians love to go to famous ashrams of holy men for the great feasts. Sai Baba had millions of devotees. Conditions were getting unbearable. I bolted to Bangalore.

The Bangalore Tennis Club Bangalore


In Bangalore I soaked up the pleasures of India--touring the five star hotels with devotees of Sai Baba, hanging out at the Bangalore Club with some elderly English ladies, photographing the beautiful residences built by the British, and all the while reading whatever books my friends gave me or recommended--Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, Shankaracharya.

When Sai Baba moved up to Whitefield, I went to his ashram there and offered him a painting I had made and some flowers. He looked at me. Something happened to me that day. I realized that I could take that life anywhere. But after a week I was afraid that if I didn't leave, I would become like the other ladies who felt they couldn't leave.

Goa--Candolim Beach


With Espy Roderick

I could worship anywhere; I didn't have to stay there. I mentally asked Sai Baba for permission to leave, and I booked a flight to Goa, that bastion of Catholicism. I stayed in Doriasukh, a house on the beach in Candolim, belonging to the Rodericks, a Catholic family, who befriended me, fed me, said the rosary every night, and made Indian clothes for me while I "made a retreat," reading books about India's secret.



View from my balcony


On the Candolim beach on Holi

For 10 days I relaxed in Doriasukh, visited with people I met on the beach, and thought about what I was reading and what was happening to me. What I had learned was that Indian spirituality definitely believes that God is within--really and truly present, and that every person is therefore divine. On Holi, the day that they throw colored dies on everyone's clothes, I left for New Delhi. It was also the feast of St. Joseph, always an auspicious day for me.

New Delhi

Mrs. Pukar runs the Lord's Guest House in Delhi


In New Delhi I stayed at the Lord's Guest House, where Mrs. Pukar was the proprietor. She told me "You have been sent to me. Do you meditate? You must meditate." I took her words as coming from St. Joseph himself. That evening she took me across the M.G. Marg to the Muktananda Ashram for the Holi celebration. She made me dance in the saptah. She got me a tape of "Om Namah Shivayah" the mantra of Siddha Yoga, and some books to read.

The next morning, she insisted that I come to her and her husband's bedroom to meditate with them. She was teaching me what I must do. That evening she had me come to chant with her in her puja. But the next day I escaped to go see the Taj Mahal. On the way back, our bus broke down, my shoulder froze up, and I barely made it back alive. I was convinced I hadn't come to India to be a tourist.

Taj Mahal--my one tourist visit

During the week of enforced leisure at the Guest House, with hot water bottles on my shoulder, I read a number of Muktananda's books and found them clearer than any of the others I had been reading. It was like the static was gone and the channel was open and clear.
When I returned to Chicago, someone told me of the Siddha Yoga group in Chicago, and I have been chanting and meditating with them ever since.

Bade Baba Nityananda

Baba Muktananda

Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

Sabbatical in India