Impulse and Its Fine Reward
One day, in 1970, at the tender age of 21, I woke up and decided that not knowing was no longer an option, and that I would forthwith leave the comfort of my home to go in search of knowing. Exactly what I needed to know, however, I didn't have a clue. I simply had been living with "The Questions" for too long already and nothing else mattered much to me. At the time, I was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Arnhem, Holland, where my complete lack of discipline and focus wasn't exactly generating As or even Bs, so I might as well call it a day.
Within a couple of weeks I hit the road with a minimal supply of anything, including money, the sum total of which came to $800. I hitchhiked from Amsterdam to Istanbul, and on to Tehran where I spent a few weeks roaming the streets. From there on to Herat, Afghanistan, a place I remember as being mystical and beautiful, populated by a proud people and the first place since Istanbul where I wasn't constantly being hassled. My next stop was Kabul, then over the Khyber Pass into Lahore, Pakistan, a town that represented my worst nightmares of living in the Dark Ages. I crossed into India as quickly as possible. Did I forget to mention that I didn't exactly travel the tourist route? Wherever I went I tried to blend in with the local population, mostly because I could not afford any forms of transportation other than crowded buses, 3rd class train tickets and hitchhiking. I roamed India for months, running out of money in Bombay where I lived on the streets. I spent many days begging for food in front of the Taj Mahal hotel and sleeping under the Indian Gate, an Arc de Triomphe-like monument, where I survived a bout of dysentery only because an old Indian beggar fed me rice water for a week, while I lay there leaking mucus and blood. The old man's kindness no doubt saved my life. From there, I hitchhiked on top of an old truck all the way to Benaris, where a few weeks of being surrounded by holy men, saddhus and gurus finally helped me realize that "The Answer(s)" I was seeking were not any closer in India than anywhere else.
I decided to more or less make my way back to Amsterdam. I took a train from Benaris to Allahabad, but was thrown off the train by some thugs in the middle of the night and in the middle of nowhere -- right, so I didn't have a ticket. I walked the railroad for miles, imagining tigers and other wildlife lurking in the bush, until I reached a small railway station. More trains, more hitchhiking, and eventually I found myself in New Delhi, where the one and only reason for my misguided travel adventures was revealed, even if I did not realize that until months, if not years, had gone by.
Here is what happened. I remember walking into a hotel room that day in the early summer of 1971 in search of someone or something -- 40 years later, the details have slipped my memory -- and seeing three beds, each with a hippie sitting in semi-lotus position, and listening to one of them who made a statement that I will not forget for the rest of my life. He said, "This boy can show you the light." Now, keep in mind, that by that time I had my belly full of hippies, gurus, saddhus, holy men, enlightenment and so forth. I left Amsterdam in search of knowing, not looking for some belief -- no matter how colorful or romantic or dreamy or hip that belief might be, I was not interested. I never lost sight of the difference between knowing and believing, and believing was not what I was looking for. I can create my own make-believe world if I want one, thank you very much.
Although I don't remember why I went to that hotel or who I was hoping to find, I remember clearly the statement I overheard, the room and the occupants and a small picture on the wall. The picture showed a chubby boy of perhaps 10 or 12 years old sitting on a chair with a blue halo painted around his head. It was one of those strangely retouched photos Indians love. All of this happened in seconds. As soon as I heard that silly statement I turned and left.
My trip back home is a blur of hitchhiking, train rides without the required tickets (on the roof, in the bathroom, sleeping in the luggage racks, etc.), and finally a ride from Munich to Amsterdam, where I walked into my parents home and straight to the refrigerator.
A few weeks after I came home, I went with two friends to a basement where an American girl lived who had sold her stereo equipment to my friends. I went along to help with the transportation which, in good Dutch fashion, was to be done by splitting the components three ways and each of us carrying our share on the handle bars and luggage racks of our bicycles. When I stepped into the girl's apartment, the first thing I saw was a picture of a chubby Indian boy on a chair with a blue halo painted behind his head. You guessed it; the exact same picture I saw in that hotel room in Delhi two months earlier. So I said something like, "Isn't that the boy who can show you the light?" The next thing I know, we are all sitting and listening to the girl telling her account of her trip to India and how she had met this amazing young boy who...
In my selective memory, we probably listened to her story for a couple of hours. I remember leaving her apartment with all that stereo equipment loaded on my bicycle and a smile on my face that split it clear in half. Don't ask me why, I couldn't tell you.
I soon forgot about the encounter. A few weeks later I ran into my two friends. They had their backpacks ready and were leaving for London because "that boy who can show you the light" had been invited by some English people to give a speech or something. I told them to give me a few minutes, went home, grabbed a few things and joined them and the American girl for the trip to London. The four of us arrived at a house in Alba Gardens, London, where some of the people who had invited the boy were staying. They allowed us to stay there as well, and over the next two days I learned more about the boy and subsequently lost my interest. Another make-believe religion, another cult. But there I was, so I would stick it out and see what would happen. The third day I was there we all piled into cars and vans to go to Heathrow Airport to meet the boy. There were probably about 50 or 60 people to welcome the kid. True to my introverted and socially inept nature, I was standing somewhat apart from the small welcoming crowd when the glass doors of the arrival area opened and I saw the boy come towards me. In the strange ways of our memory, I can roll that piece of film to this day just as clearly as when my memory stored it, as I write this, exactly 39 years, 4 months and 17 days ago. It was the day my life changed forever. And I knew it. I knew with every fiber of my being that my life would never be the same again.
Ten days later I sat down in a quiet room in a house in Chelsea, London, and was shown a simple technique. Nothing to it. No special clothes required. No money, no oath of allegiance, no promise to give up this or that, no commitment to eating vegetables or dedicate your life to helping others, no surrender to some idealistic new world order, absolutely nothing. Not even a need to sit in some painful lotus position, read books or memorize anything. Just a simple, beautiful method of going inside and being introduced to your self. No more questions. No more doubts. I was shown my true Self, the part of me that always was and always will be. Not a belief but a knowing. Not a dream but a reality.
For almost 40 years now I sit down every morning and go inside. There is nothing I focus on like a mantra or an imagined light source or anything. I simply allow my mind and all the thoughts that jump around like corn in a popcorn machine, thoughts about everything and nothing, to go one way, while I go another. To a place where a feeling of contentment, of peace, of unimaginable beauty is the only reality. A feeling as timeless as the energy that created this universe and everything in it. The technique I was given by this 13-year old boy almost four decades ago is the greatest gift I could have received. Greater than life itself. It didn't save my life. It gave me life. Every day, for an hour or more, I sit there in my favorite chair, in a quiet, darkened room, flooded with gratitude, drowning in light, and feeling that timeless presence inside of me. Every day the experience is fresh and exciting. When I go to bed in the evening, my quiet time in the morning is what I look forward to most, no matter what else is planned for that day, I enjoy nothing more than connecting with that reality, that timeless energy that is the essence of my being.
This is the story of my life. The only thing that truly mattered in my life. Everything else is window dressing. My heart, as does yours, beats in perfect harmony with that of its maker. All we need to do is find the connection.
The boy's name was Prem Rawat.