I wondered, 'Is this what happens when the lone self encounters the Holy?'
I was in a hotel room in South India, having spent two years pursuing various high octane forms of yoga. By natural bent I was a mystic, a non-dualist advaitin. I originally went to India to join the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society in Bengal, with a letter from the head swami in London advocating I undergo sanyas and inclusion into the order. But after a grim visit to Calcutta my journey quickly detoured and I encountered Krishnamurti (on one of his last India tours), Maharishi, Chinmayanda, Muktananda, and finally Sai Baba. High adventure -- that was now turning to dust.
On embarking to India I believed that my generation would turbocharge the process of consciousness expansion, that those of us on the mystical frontier would boost human consciousness up the elevator shaft to its upper limits --nirvana. It was a challenge that made the church on the corner seem dead, irrelevant and boring, as pastors muttered platitudes to their sleeping flocks.
Having grown up in an atheistic family, from the age of seven I had been left to my own resources in what became a long truth quest to apprehend reality.
Now I was undergoing an improbable and unwelcome conversion to a faith I had mocked for years. Christians were easy targets. Yet an unexpected encounter and the consequent changes within me proved very hard to dismiss. Something unexpected had stopped me on what had been a fast-track road to enlightenment with all the attendant bells and whistles (kriyas, out of the body experiences, etc.).
Two elderly Christian missionaries had crossed my path. They had lived in India for over thirty years. At first I was off-handedly blunt with their "narrow" vision of reality, their "meager" intellectual grasp of the big picture. But they had a depth of character, an invisible source of love that I had never seen before. They were humble, pure and reverent souls. The light within them was very different from the light that was in me. Another presence was "with" them. I wanted to look the other way, but seemed caught up in a timeless scene playing once again.
When Jesus would enter a public place, the people of his day became instantly divided. Their reaction to him was explosive and instantaneous. It seemed the sheer magnitude of his presence demanded a response. It was almost impossible for anyone to sit on the fence, looking directly at him while remaining indifferent. There was no time for diplomacy, equivocation, or compromise.
And now this was happening to me. Two intense years in India culminating in a huge choice--a cosmic decision with staggering consequences which I had never planned on.
"Who do you say that I am?" rang out in my mind.
I was kneeling in a hotel room sweating. There was a tangible presence that I can only call grace. Love of the deepest and most familiar kind was palpable. I had to respond. This could not be delayed any longer.
I had been so invested in the mystical path that I had flown to India on a one way ticket. I had a rare residence permit, almost impossible for Americans apart from the favor of someone of influence--in my case, a world class guru and a State Governor. I was in the inner circle of India's preeminent godman whom the nation believed to be an Avatar. His claims to divinity were unabashed.
Yet I had found a very dark side to him. It resurrected that old issue of the duality of good and evil that I had thought I had resolved once and for all using the purest Vedantic monism. It had made utter sense for years. But now something was telling me otherwise.
Again, the question: "Who do you say that I am?"
It was that other avatar, Jesus Christ bring up that greatest stumbling block of all, especially to those of us on the mystical path--his claim to utter exclusivity. I had watched the two missionaries closely for six months looking to expose them or see them falter. They didn't. Their love and purity of heart were real. I could twist them in knots at times in our discussions. Then in complete innocence they would utter a verse of scripture and it would stop me dead in my tracks like hurtling into a stone wall, the words entering deep within me. It was this other God talking.
I thought I had resolved the duality of good and evil. My analogy had been that the cosmos was like white light emerging from a prism in a multi-colored spectrum. Out of oneness came the multiplicity of the universe. Backing it up through the prism again, all the multiplicity resolved as one, all opposites, good and evil, merging.
Now evil had appeared again and this time it was not so easily explained away as an illusion. The wisp had a little too much substance to it. Long story.
"Who do you say that I am?"
I recalled the scene in Ben Hur. The man giving him water and staring at the Nazarene like he were looking at God, in utter awe--the human apprehending the divine. We never see his face, just the man's awe reflecting back.
Oh, sure, Jesus was an avatar, but what about the others?
You've invested years in them--from Krishna to Ramakrishna. What about that spring day when you tasted enlightenment on that Virginia farm in the wilds? And the pundits and sastris from Benares Hindu University who declared your experience utterly genuine? As did Maharishi, Sai Baba and others?
So why had it all turned to dust?
"Tal . . . , who say you that I am?"
The choice was before me. It had the weight of the universe behind it. I knew that it would require all that I had to answer that question honestly, no veering away or grabbing at some convenient distraction, just a blunt honest answer from the core of my being. I sensed it was the most costly step of my life as I responded.
"You are the Christ, Jesus Christ, and the only true Messiah in the history of the world. You are the son of God."
Then I wept as I found myself praying.
An indescribable weight was lifted from me, one that I had carried for so long. Gone in a moment. Much more detectable now that it was absent. I stood up and felt something almost alien during my years in India--relief, hope, joy, real joy.
Days later I stood on the porch of the missionaries outside the city of Bangalore. Our eyes met in a brief moment of silence. They knew. Not a word had been said. They radiated joy, smiled, then wept.
On the plane leaving India I realized that anything less in magnitude would not have worked for me and I might still be straddling the fence on a decision that was both incredibly hard and incredible easy. My life changed.
Reprinted from Noesis
The Journal of the Mega Society
Issue #181 June 2006
Written by invitation from Kevin Langdon, editor for the Mega Society, founder of the 4 Sigma Society and creator the world's highest IQ test at the time, the "Sigma 4 Test," which was published nationally in Omni magazine, April, 1979. Langdon and Brooke are good friends.
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