A Conversation with Haricharan Das: In the Company of Saints
by Richard Whittaker, Jul 27, 2010
Haricharan Das, Berkeley CA 11/20/09
Meeting Haricharan Das was one of those happy improbabilities you could never have made up. My wife had been reminding me for months that the paint on our house was peeling off and that if I didn't get on the ball and deal with it, we'd regret it. So finally I got online and looked at the Berkeley Parents' Network, a great resource for recommendations. I called a painter with rave reviews and a few days later, my doorbell rang. A tall man with a shaved head and olive complexion stood there smiling. He was ready to take a look and give me a bid on the job. Almost immediately I felt an appealing lightness about him and invited him in. Looking around, he remarked, "Wow! You've got a lot of art! Did you know that art and religion are always connected?"
It's always interesting to me how strangers react when they enter my home. Far more often than not, no remarks at all are made about the art, which is everywhere. It always puzzles me, but I've learned not to take it askance. Still, there are few things I enjoy more than taking a close look together to talk about the various paintings and pieces with someone who shows an interest. And so we did. We spent a good half hour looking together and talking about the art. Eventually we got around to going outside so he could evaluate the painting situation.
He got the job. His work was impeccable and I was delighted. But that's not the story. Each day that Hari was at my house working, near the end of the afternoon, I'd go out and we'd talk, often for an hour or more. What I discovered made me marvel at my luck. What are the chances I'd end up with the former head of an ashram at work painting the wood trim on my home?
Hari seemed to welcome our conversations and I found that everything he said resonated in a way that felt entirely authentic. Our conversations and his presence were a surprising gift, which I gladly accepted. I recognized, also, that here was someone others should learn about. Fortunately, Hari was open to my request for an interview.
A couple of weeks after the job was completed we met at his home in North Berkeley. His living room was full of books and the evidence of his Hindu practice, and of his wife's Tibetan heritage and practice. On the mantle were many photos-some of his own spiritual teacher as well as photos of his wife's teachers. We hadn't really talked much about his wife and I was curious to learn more about her.
Haricharan Das: She grew up with monks and nuns. She was surrounded by monks and nuns. Even from childhood she had a propensity for the hermit monks and nuns.
Richard Whittaker: What would that look like? Would she visit them?
Haricharan: Oh, absolutely! One time we were visiting her meditation master, a Tibetan lama who lives up in the mountains. It's wilderness, very rough, like Dorothy's Oz-lions and tigers and bears. Oh my! ...
RW: Is this in Tibet?
Haricharan: Northern India. Her master lives in one of the hermitages up in the mountains around Dharamsala. Even as a seven, eight-year old girl, she would walk up into the mountains alone, a two or three hour hike. She'd go just to play with the rinpoche who later would become her meditation master. He became her meditation guru and then she has a root guru, Kirtitsenshap Rimpoche.
RW: They're different?
Haricharan: They work together, but your root teacher oversees everything. Sometimes your root guru will send you to this teacher and that teacher to learn particular disciplines. The root teacher is actually a master of all the methodologies, but he doesn't necessarily have the time to teach each individual. So he oversees everything.
My wife, Nyima Tsam, now does oral dharma translation work for lamas in India and some lamas who are traveling through the U.S.
RW: I see. Well, I wanted to ask you about that event we talked about earlier that was a turning point. Would you talk about that?
Haricharan: That was in New York on Long Island. I grew up there. There are so many back-stories. There were two individuals who I became attracted to. I was interested in what they were doing, and what their motivations were and how they maintained this constant good nature despite all the ups and downs of life. I would call them people of good cheer. And they became involved in mysticism. Prior to that, they were just a normal couple. One was a schoolteacher, Charlie. The other, Anita, was a former professional ballerina, who ran a ballet school. She came down with cancer, as severe as you can get. One hundred per cent terminal diagnosis from all the institutions. She went through all the therapies. You name it. This was over thirty-five years ago. One note: she's still alive today! They're both alive. I talk with them on the phone.
So having western medicine completely fail, they went deeper looking at prayer, meditation, dietetics. It's these funny karmas that happen in the crucible of a crisis. They ran into an individual who was an active, living mystic and whom they had a natural karmic bond with. They were friends in two seconds! Through their prayers, meditation , dietetics and the guidance of this mystic, Anita reacquired her health.
She had gone to the point where her skin was like an alligator damaged from the radiation. She used to have long, flowing dark hair. It all fell out. I remember that at one point, if she moved her wrist in a day, that was a big event.
RW: At this point you were about fifteen?
Haricharan: Around that age.
RW: You described a healing scene where you had asked if you could tag along.
Haricharan: Yes. After Anita went through her own healing and all the growth and knowledge they acquired in this self-healing process, they felt obliged to help others. If someone came to their attention, they would very humbly offer to see if they could help. And if the people took them upon it, they would help. If they didn't, fine.
So they became what we call healing yogis. Of course, it's rooted in prayer and meditation, but its manifestation was of bringing about healing forces. And I happened to be there through the whole adventure.
In the beginning I was just sort of curious. What are the roots of all this? The event I talked about with you, the one day that really helped me make a decision. Wow! This is really fantastic! And I have no idea of what's going on. A client was coming in who was very ill and they were going to do what's called "pranic healing." I can see that day, just as I can see you sitting here. I can see the room. I can see where I was sitting, where they were standing.
RW: Would you describe it?
Haricharan: There was a massage table set up and candles lit around the periphery of the room. I was sitting against the wall. Anita and Charlie were saying their prefatory prayers before the people came. Then the person came and they all chatted a little. Then the person lay down on the table. Then the healing session started. So I was purely curious, but as time went on I perceived something was very odd. There were prayers. Then they would do this pranic healing, and then more prayers. Here's what caught my attention. You know, when you light a candle there's usually something like a half-inch flame. So all the flames around the room are normal right up to when they start to pray. But when they started to pray, all those candles in the room-I remember it to this day!-they all went up to an inch and a half! They all became like little roman candles burning. It was really extraordinary! Then when they'd stop praying, those candles-every one of them in the room-all went back down. Then maybe five or ten minutes later, when they started their prayers again, every candle in the room rose up again an inch and a half. Can you imagine, as a kid, seeing that?
RW: I'm not sure I can imagine seeing it at any time.
Haricharan: Yeah! Because I was like a guy from Missouri. Prove it. Show me!
RW: That's a good principle.
Haricharan: I was very scientifically minded. So that absolutely astounded me. And made me realize there is a whole lot more going on than I was aware of or I thought was possible. That made such an impression on me that I was determined to understand everything I could about what they were doing and how such things could be.
RW: So how did you begin to search?
Haricharan: I started reading. I read everything Anita and Charlie had read, a lot of theosophical material and Edgar Cayce and Alice Bailey material and various authors like that. They became deeply involved in the Bailey line of knowledge and teachers of that line.
RW: So then what happened next?
Haricharan: Well, it was during that time that I first actually came across a yogic text. It was the Patanjali Sutras, an ancient Hindu meditation text. It goes all the way back. Patajali was a teacher. He codified the knowledge of meditation and put it in a sutra form. Sutra means thread. It's a book of very terse lines of understanding. But the moment I read that text, that was it for me! There was an immediate recognition. There was no questioning of the text at all.
RW: That's fascinating when something like that happens, an immediate recognition.
Haricharan: Yes. That was it. It was immediate. And that led me into, I guess you could say Hindu-Yogic studies. From that point on, Hinduism was it for me. It answered all the questions. It's not that I didn't love Christianity and the life of Jesus and the life of his disciples. I do. But that visceral resonance-for me, that came through the masters of India.
RW: So you were fifteen and you said, "Show me. I want to see the facts." And that's very much a Western, educated attitude. We want to know what's really real.
Haricharan: Right. That's exactly how I was [laughs].
RW: So were you a good student in High School?
Haricharan: Well, [sighs] I was good in English and social studies but not Mathematics. It just wasn't the language I could think in. It wasn't for me.
RW: How was it in general for you in school?
Haricharan: Basically I couldn't wait to get out. The only thing that kept me there were a few extraordinary teachers. Other than them, I could care less about it. I am very practical. Give me something I can use. But if I saw something interesting, I threw myself into it. I'd absorb it like a sponge.
RW: So you got interested in the Patanjali material. Did you start to meet any people connected with that?
Haricharan: Not in the beginning. Really the first years were sort of a relentless solitary quest. Most of my personal free time was spent either thinking about meditation and yogic philosophy or actively doing it. And with those things, you can talk very general philosophy with your friends, but if you haven't put both your feet on that road, it's still just an academic discussion. From a personal perspective, though, if you're doing (these activities), it's all consuming. I thought about it all the time. I still do. Night and day I was always thinking about these issues.
It really comes down to the idea of what is the nature of a saint's mind? What is the nature of a saint's heart? What is their insight, their vision? How do the saints experience the world? And what is the dynamic consciousness they possess and how did that happen? I consumed every biography of eastern saints that I could get my hands on. Relentless. And their lives are extraordinary!
There are many contemporary saints and many ancient saints. But their lives are a wonderful journey and a reality check. The lives of saints are very difficult. Literally every hardship a person could think of comes upon these souls. What's different about a saint is how they respond to a hardship. The example that's given is that a saint is like a rose. Even if you crush it, it will offer you its fragrance.
RW: Mother Teresa, I learned, got one powerful vision when she was young, but all the rest of her life, God never came to her again.
Haricharan: Right. One experience is enough. Mother Teresa was a flower of God.
RW: It must have been a tremendous hardship for her to carry on the way she did.
Haricharan: There are many stories like that. In spiritual literature, that's not uncommon. A vision, or some literal manifestation of God will occur in some form and it puts a person on a quest. It's a quest where they're thirsty for God all the time. It's actually a visceral thirst throughout the body. The only cessation is their complete immersion into that process, that reality. That's a blessing. It's a difficult blessing. It's a suffering quest. Mainly because you are leaving all preconceptions behind, seeking the heart and mind of God, as it is, without personal bias.
Through the blessing of one's Guru all yogis come to some type of experience like that, a direct, personal and intimate introduction to God. It's an immediate relationship. And it goes to the very core of your being. My Guru Sant Keshavadas led me into this divine relationship, this living experience. The Guru is literally your personal door to the kingdom. I see my Guruji as the kiss of God upon the earth.
RW: I have the sense that you're not speaking out of a book.
Haricharan: No way.
RW: I mean, earlier you described your experience seeing the candle flames.
Haricharan: I can say that was my earliest experience of seeing, wow, something is going on that I'm not aware of. But in the course of a yogi's life, that's sort of thing is the least of what's gone on. If I ever told people all of what's occurred they wouldn't believe it. So with that type of story you have to be very careful. My guruji Sant Keshavadas would talk about time and place. It has to be the right time, right place, and right circumstance. If a person is ready, if someone is deeply on the quest, doing their prayers, their meditation practice, they're doing service in the world, then it can be useful at times to tell someone a story an experience. It can help them to overcome something, or you can give them a heads up on the intensity of the journey and the intensity of the experiences that can come to you, once you do the sadhanas, the spiritual practices. Because if there's no guru or dharma teacher guiding you, 99% of the time you're going to turn back. The events are so large, so dramatic, so uncommon, it takes fierce courage, fierce faith in God and Guru to bear the experiences. It's like, let's say, climbing Mount Everest. There's a preparation that has to be done, physically, mentally, emotionally, you must receive a truly ethical compass. That's why a guru is necessary, absolutely necessary.
RW: Now you had been, at some point, the head of a dharma center here in Berkeley. Would you tell us a little about that?
Haricharan: Yes I ran the Ashram for 16 years, Keshavadas Ashram. The name comes from my guruji's name: Sant Keshavadas. Its American name was Institute for Yogic Studies. I really started it out of a sense of gratitude to my guruji. When you're given so much you want to give back. You want to share it. Let me take this wealth and spread it around . And you want people to have the same internal prosperity as you've had, the joy and peace and happiness. I taught a wide range of courses in yogic sciences and philosophy,
I think many people benefited.
RW: That's a wonderful phrase "internal prosperity."
Haricharan: It's like you have a cosmic birthday cake, and you want to share the cake! Who wants to sit there and eat it by yourself? You want everybody to have a slice. [big smile] I've pretty much always felt this way.
So you try to get people to go through a graduated course of understanding. I didn't want people to say, well, Haricharan said this, so it must be so. Nonsense! Prove it! I'm still like that kid. Prove it! Study the biographies of yogic saints and great scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita. I made sure to collect a large library so I could say, go check-so people could see that there's a history to these statements. Here is a course of understanding in yogic healing. That's dietetics, herbs, postures, pranayama-many things. That's the external training. For the internal training, here are prayers and contemplations. Here are mantras. Here is a course in meditation. These are all divine sciences.
RW: How did you attract people?
Haricharan: It was word of mouth. Friends told friends. That's how it started, very organic. I never charged. I just wanted people to have an opportunity for a clear, deep and honest study. I just said, look, it's been given to me. I want it to be given to you. I want you to develop the same opportunities and relationships I've enjoyed.
RW: Was your guru alive when you started this?
Haricharan: Yes. He would come here once or twice a year and give talks. One of the things I always told people, and this is going back maybe even thirty years, I'd say to friends of mine, "If you associate with me, I guarantee you, you'll meet saints. You will meet masters and you will meet mystics." Now that's a big, broad statement. But it absolutely happens to be true!
That's an unusual karma, but I've always had the opportunity to have some kind of special associations. I don't know exactly why, but maybe it's because I was relentlessly searching for truth. The question is, what is Truth? And I'm not that interested in what academics have to say. I'm interested in what a practitioner has to say. Someone who has thrown their life into it. That's the person I want to speak to.
Years ago I would visit swami Sivananda Radha. She was one of the great disciples of the master Sivananda of Rishikesh. I would go to all of her satsangs-dharma talks. That was in the East Bay in the early 1980s. Swami Amirtananda, she was another one. She came out of Bihar. Swami Satchidananda, Swami Chidananda. Sri Sunyata. There were several. Any dharma teacher who would come, I'd take a look. These were all wonderful Dharma teachers.
RW: Would you ever be interested in, say, Buddhist teachers?
Haricharan: Oh, absolutely! I'm interested in any good practitioner whether they're Buddhist or Hindu or Christian. It really doesn't make much difference to me. What made a difference to me was, were they doing genuine experiments? And how would those genuine experiments affect their lives? And what was the effect in the world?
RW: Have you friends locally, like the Reverend Heng Sure? Have you ever met him?
Haricharan: Yes. I've been to his monastery just to hear lectures. I don't know him personally, but I have a favorable impression. I hear very favorable things about him from many people.
There's a whole progression up the mountain. If you have the good fortune/karma, like my wife has to have true master, or as I have with my master-all the normal moorings people have are drasticly adjusted. There is a much deeper vision and responsibility to how you live your life and what your personal contribution is to bring healing, inner understanding and compassion more into the world.
RW: I'm guessing it's impossible to communicate that.
Haricharan: Well the truth is, when I talk about my master I only think about him with maybe a fifth of my mind. Because if I start to concentrate on him and what he is and what I've seen, I'll start crying like a baby. What they are is beyond what can be said. And if you concentrate even more, the mind flies up, and what happens is that you're seized in what's called bhava Samadhi-fused in mystic love, communion. If I think about my guruji with even half of my mind: gone. Because once that connection is made, it's like grabbing onto a high voltage line. You're gone.
RW: On a completely different tack, let me ask how you met your wife. You said that was five or six years ago.
Haricharan: Yes. I was at my guruji's ashram in Bangalore, India doing work in the ashram and general charity work and enjoying the wonders of India when some friends, Deepak, who graduated from UC Berkeley, visited me. He and his wife, Shobana, were going up to Dharamsala and asked if I wanted to go along. Hey! Home of the Dalai Lama! I'd never been there. It sounded great to me!
I remember the first day I arrived in Dharamsala. It's a bus ride all the way up this mountain. It was early in the morning, 5:30 or so. I remember getting off the bus and walking down the street. It was quiet. I'm standing in the middle of the road. I'm looking to the left, looking to the right, looking up, looking down and I said, "This is it! I'm not going anywhere."
See, we had about a week and my friends had other places in the region they wanted to visit. I stood in the middle of the street and said, I won't be going to the other villages,
I'll be staying here.
So Nyima was a friend of theirs. Nyima is always very active doing some kind of social work, always helping someone somewhere. That's her nature. So we were all going around together and eventually Deepak and Shobana, went off to see other villages. On these long walks through the mountains, Nyima and I were having conversations about what we thought was important in life, what we believed in, what was valuable and what was useless. And we found, we just had the same point of view. For us, you live for the welfare of others, full stop. There's no question about it. Neither of us can imagine living for any other purpose. The way regular people live-god bless them all-I'd rather jump off a bridge.
RW: You told me earlier that you and your wife spend part of each year going to India and doing service. Would you say a little about that? And what is the effect of doing service?
Haricharan: Well, in a place like India or where there's such impoverishment, I think people who come there usually have one or two responses. Either they rush forward and say, what can I do? Or they close their minds and hearts and say "I never saw it." If they see the plight, then they're in an ethical dilemma. What to do? If you tell yourself that lie, " I never saw it" then you never have to do anything.
For me, when someone's hungry, they're hungry. My feeling is do something and do it now. And I mean now! In India there's every kind of impoverishment. So you try to do what you can. You can't do everything, but you do what you can. We also have a special project "The Hermits Fund."
My wife has been that way for a long time. She was running up into the mountains and down into the valleys well before I met her, serving the hermit monks and nuns, the reclusive ones. They live by themselves or in very tiny communities in extremely austere circumstances. She would bring them medicines or food or help them by making all the arrangements if they might have to travel. When I saw her doing that I was very impressed because these monks and nuns, regardless of their traditions, are what keeps this world stable. It's their prayers. They heal this world on a vibrational level through their constant prayer, their constant meditation, and their constant profound altruism. They are like a broadcast tower of divine energy in the world.
There are so many people who are polluting the vibrational environment of the world by negativity and greed, and it brings society down. But you have this counter force of souls who are absolutely dedicated to the welfare of each and every soul on this planet. Not only with human beings, but the animals, the trees, the plants. They want harmony and prosperity for all life. And their lives are dedicated to the task of helping to heal the world.
RW: I have the hope that what you describe is true. Do you have any inkling from a more direct experiential level to say yes, I do believe this?
Haricharan: What I'm saying I know are the facts! Nothing I'm saying here is conjecture. Nothing I'm saying is philosophy. Nothing I'm saying here is what I read somewhere in a book! These are from souls I've known for the last thirty-five years.
RW: And you have retained that "show me" attitude?
Haricharan: Absolutely. The thing is, you have to be there. But if you dedicate yourself to the process of true self-knowledge, self-purification, not just self-purification for oneself-but self-purification so that you can be used as an instrument by the saints, by the masters-if you dedicate yourself to that process, you will come at some time to a point where you start meeting extraordinary souls. They're not just extraordinary souls like Einstein or a Mozart. They are a quantum leap beyond that. They're working on a level of divine physics and harmony. They're working on the physics of pure insight, kindness altruist, consciousness-the highest possibilities in the evolution of human consciousness.
RW: A principle I've run across in some Buddhist writings, I think it was, is that if minds could be quieted enough, other more refined processes would come into view.
Haricharan: Correct. They're just there, veiled by ego.
RW: Not being covered over, they could function, let's say.
Haricharan: That's correct.
RW: One of these things I've read of is clairvoyance, the possibility of having some access to another's mind or thoughts. It seems far-fetched, but I tend to believe there's some truth in that.
Haricharan: It's definitely possible. I've seen those events pretty much my entire life from boyhood on. I could tell you many stories about living with master and such gifts. But again, the people who have these facilities, what they're masters of is hiding their gifts. What are people going to do with that? Most of these souls live quiet lives of profound positive influence. One note, my master had this ability and what was a great relief was, there was zero judgment. He was like a mother. From time to time he'd help wash you off after you'd been playing in the yard.
RW: There's a kind of greediness. Oh, I want these powers. So there are admonitions against that. This kind of attraction of having power is not a good thing, but it's a typical thing.
Haricharan: It's human. Fortunately humanness is just one rung on the evolutionary ladder. It's a human thing. But that's why in deep yogic practices, when you're under a master or under a saint, they don't just show you, over time, the facilities of consciousness and what is possible, but there's no time when you're witnessing these things or experiencing these things that there's not active discussions about the problems that are inherent, and how you have to protect yourself against the more base instincts that are part of the human condition. So there's a lot of internal training, on being impartial, and then there's the guru who is over you like the mother eagle with her eye on you, guiding you and making sure that you behave properly. The guru is our template.
The potential for misuse is vast. That's why there's so much discussion on ethics and a training in altruism. You have to be very clear about what your life is. Your life is about service, and to serve the saints. You have to have a pure methodology to have a pure result.
The thing is when people are seeking powers, they are doing it for their own self-enlargement. And that's never the purpose of a power. You're to be an instrument, not the object. So it's very dangerous. In the course of training any advanced yogi acquires various abilities and the whole training is to become impartial to these gifts.
And these gifts, they come and they go. When a gift comes, you've got to be very careful. It's like something shiny. You only pick it up if there's a real (heaven guided) purpose for it and as soon as the purpose is over, you put it back down. So every gift you receive is not really a gift. It's a test. Can you be impartial? Can you maintain purity of heart and purity of intention, obedience? Gifts come and go, that's God's business. You have to look at it this way.
So you go through multiple births and multiple mistakes. And the key is to learn from your mistakes and not to repeat them. You just learn your purpose. Your purpose is to be an instrument of the saints, of God. The highest guru, like a sad guru, a liberated soul, they really are just a personalized version of God. Inside their psyche is pure God consciousness. See we don't want God to always be abstract. We want to have some intimacy. So that's what a real guru is. They're God masquerading and it brings you closer.
The concept of saguna and naguna: God with qualities and forms and God absolute beyond form and conception. In the beginning you need form. Then through that saguna experience the master introduces you to the naguna experience-the formless, the infinite, the boundless, the unqualified reality. But we're qualified. I think this way. I am this height, this dimension. I'm of this race, this community. Those are all things that bind us. So God comes in a form you can understand, in a qualified form. But very slowly he'll introduce you to the supreme beauty, the origin beyond the qualified, the hidden essence of form. He introduces you to the sacred, hidden in form, and then takes you beyond form.
If you have the fortune of living with a true master, at the end of the day, you only have two statements: Yes and Thank You. Yes to his instruction, guidance and mission and Thank You for the opportunity and his infinite blessings. Let's put it this way, any close disciple of a master will start to realize over time that this is no quote "human being." This is a God masquerading as a human being. A yogic master is a mystical paradox.
RW: That's sort of impossible to grasp, I guess, unless you've had the experiences.
Haricharan: Right. This is like the twilight zone. But these things are real. The extraordinary is there all the time. I can say something about my early teachers. I was like the sorcerer's apprentice. But I was a kid with a big, open mind. And I knew the extraordinary when I saw it. I saw many people who should have been dead or handicaped get up and walk away healthy from all these healings and teachings.
RW: You mean the couple you talked about?
Haricharan: Yes. And there was a third person involved. His name was Jim. Jim had an extraordinary ability. Have you ever heard of Edgar Cayce?
Haricharan: Edgar Cayce, and Jim were absolutely the same level of ability. Jim just passed away some years ago. But when you have that type of a gift, there are a lot of stresses on your life. You sort of become outside of society in a way. Jim was a tall man and had a very distinguished, deep voice with a wonderful cadence. He spoke in a slow deliberate manner. I loved listening to him and he never said one extra word. I could talk to Jim and say, "Jim, I have Richard sitting here. Who was his first girlfriend? And by the way, what is Richard's social security number?"
Now how could anybody, not having met you and him sitting in another state...? Jim would say, "He met this girl in such and such circumstances and her name is... Oh, and here is his social security number." This is just a silly, made up example, but the gift was real and fantastic.
RW: He could do that?
Haricharan: It made the hair on your arm stand up. And I'll tell you, in comparison to my guruji these dedicated mystics were like college freshmen! But that is what I used to see all the time. I'll tell you the truth, I wished I'd met you years ago. I could introduce you to these people -your vision of reality, anything you thought solid, gone. It would just fall apart and you'd see a whole other vision of what's possible. So they would talk with Jim and he would diagnose the illness and tell what therapy needed to be done. Sometimes it was very elaborate. And he'd never laid his eyes on you. And most of the time, he's not even in the same state you're in. And Charlie and Anita would implement Jim's directions.
People didn't understand all the dietetics and the different practices they had to do, so Charlie and Anita would teach the people what they had to do, with the various herbs and the dietetics and the prayers, attitude adjustments etc. And also they would do the vibrational healing.
So that was the team. Extraordinary. This was an ongoing thing. I only saw one person who didn't get well. It was an older gentleman and I had the conversation with his son who was also an adult. I said, "Gee, what's going on with your dad?" He said, "You know, I dragged my dad here, but he's tired and he wants to go. He says, 'enough is enough'." He was the only one I saw who didn't get well.
I'll tell you another story. Charlie and I were down in Virginia and it was in the middle of a heat wave. We were building a wall and we had our shirts off. He got a ruthless sunburn. I mean, his entire back was blistered. We walked into this little house that was in disrepair. We were going to rebuild it. And I remember, we walked into the first room and then into the bathroom. There was a little overhead light and I turned it on and looked his back. At that point, I said, where are the keys? Because we have to go to the hospital!
We walked back into the living room and I remember he started to chuckle. That got my attention. He started to laugh and then he stopped and closed his eyes. I was standing closer to him than I am to you. I'd say a maximum of twenty seconds passed. Every blister, every burn, gone. I watched them with my own eyes disappear. I mean this was radical. Extraordinary. I literally watched them disappear. There's so much more that's possible.
These people have attuned themselves to healing energies. The truth is anyone can do these things, but you have to pay the price. Divine guidance to acquire the proper inner attitudes and live the life. So when you live with these kinds of people, there are a million things that happen and, after awhile, you start getting used to it. You get used to a lot of crazy things that are not normal in average life.
RW: Many things have been shown to you. You had a dharma center and now that's closed. I know you and your wife are doing service part of the year. So what do you feel is ahead for you in terms of what you might be called upon to do?
Haricharan: Well, so much of this is karma. My job is to maintain-like a boy scout, in a way. Be prepared. Keep your heart, your intentions pure and be ready to work when you're called. When you're called and how you're called is entirely God and guru's business. Would I like to be actively teaching right now? Yes. Because that's what I love and have been trained to do. But you know you're on God's clock.
Sometimes I ask myself why am I climbing these ladders doing manual craftmanship? Maybe there's more humility I have to learn. There's always a reason. Maybe there's karma from the past that can be worked out just by pure physical labor. Of course I know I will teach. I'm born for that. Otherwise I couldn't have all these associations. Not possible. The question of when is entirely God's and my guru's call. My job is to be prepared so that when it's time to teach again, then I'm there to do it. And when it's time to stop, stop. There's no sense of possession. You can't say, oh, my students, my teaching, my this, my that. That's all nonsense. We're tools and conduits. That's it.
That's the beauty of living with a master. If you'll learn anything, you'll see what real purity is, in the most absolute and the most concrete sense. You will see it with your own eyes. Our life is slowly growing into their reality. But they're like macro and we're micro. We are like seeds waiting to burst into the cosmos to join that saintly fellowship. We are happily micro, blessed are the meek, the humble, for they shall inherit the earth-Gods bounty.
This sounds very grandiose, but when you live with a real master, live with him in an intimate way, walk with him, talk with him and eat with him, where you're a daily attendant, that's how it is. Can you imagine the fellowship of those souls that lived with Jesus or Saint Francis? Wonderful! Fantastic!
RW: Which you were?
Haricharan: Oh yes. And doing the work, doing the prayers and meditations. What the teacher reveals is not about himself, it's about the reality of God. His whole job is to turn your attention 100%, toward the Reality. You learn to serve him or her so that you shed or thin out the ego, then bit by bit shift 100% to the Reality. You actually get to see-for us the word "purity" is just a word and a concept-but with a guru there are mystical revelations that occur where you actually see the nature of purity. Like you can say "see the cosmic light"-that's actually a real experience. And these are indelible experiences. They're types of initiations or psychic brandings. Once that brand is on you, that's it. You can't forget it. There's a whole series of experiences you have with your root guru that explode you, and then explode you, and then explode you-to see deeper and deeper levels of what is pure love, or what is purity.
These are things that completely destroy-it's like having an atom bomb go off and looking into the light. That's really, really what happens. But who can you tell about that? For 99% of the world, that's science fiction, you know? If you read mystical literature, yogis talk about these events. And it's not just events in the past. These divine events are perennial.
One day I walked up to my guruji's room on the second floor. I was always angling to get into his room. I'd sweep the floor, anything to be in his room. So one day I walked up to his room and I tapped on the door and quietly went in. It's just guruji and myself present. He was standing across the room looking out the window. I had just come in, so I decided, hey, I'll ask a question. I said, "Guruji, where will you die?"
I'm thinking I want to be there when he passes away. So he turns a little and says, "I'll die in India, of course, Hari."
"Will I be present?"
He's still looking out the window. I'd closed the door and I said, "Guruji, will you come back?"
Now that question was of a completely different order. At that point, he turned slowly and looked at me deeply. His voice very deep, solemn, ladened with compassion and gravitas. He paused and said, "Haricharan, as long as there's human suffering in the world, I will be reborn."
He said this with tremendous gravitas. I almost fainted. He doesn't have to be reborn. He's coming back out of compassion. Even today, it gives me shivers.
And then I had an amusing thought. I said to myself, oh my God! The disciple is his shadow. If he's coming back for such a long term, I'll be right behind him! Oh my God, this world is tough enough as it is. More of this! [laughs]
It was sort of a shock. But that's why you have to learn to see things from their perspective. Their commitment to humanity is absolute. Also, another thing you learn that's really worth learning, is being non-judgmental. That's also one of the things that's really nice about being around the guru. They are privy to every thought you have, not only now, but from your past. They have your whole portfolio, and they'll remark on it from time to time.
But the thing is when they talk to you, there is not one percent of judgment. Zero. It's like a loving mother who loves you whatever you've done, but is there to correct your vision, to correct your action, but not in a harsh way. So there's an emotional relaxation you get. They're going to be direct and truthful with you, but they're not going to say "bad child." They'll tell you the consequences of all these actions. And you'll ask, how can I untie this knot? And they'll tell you. So it's really interesting. Can you imagine someone who's completely non-judgmental?
RW: Maybe not. And further, someone who could tell you specifically what to do.
Haricharan: And in detail! I'll tell you another micro-story. In the temple, which was in Oakland, there was satsang, spiritual teachings being given. And many people would show up for these talks. One night two fellows came in who were thoroughly thugs. I was very alarmed. This was trouble walking in the door. To me it was a safety issue and my first responsibility is to secure the welfare of my guru. That is the first thing. So I made him aware some people had walked in who were real trouble. He looked at me and thought for a second and then he said, "Hari, bring them up."
So I brought these two fellows up to guruji. There's no way I'm leaving the room. These guys are dangerous! So I'm there immediately ready to intervene if there's any trouble. So these two fellows come up, thugs, like just out of prison. You could viscerally feel it. My guruji looked at them with such sweetness and walked up to them. He introduced himself and he stroked one guy's cheek and held the other guy's hand. He talked to them sweetly. These thugs just melted. And he thanked them and said, please go down to the dharma hall and I'll see you when I'm down there.
I was shocked! I thought it was extraordinary, but I was still concerned, so I said, "Guruji, they're still down there. I think there's still a potential for trouble. What should I do? Then he turned to me and looked at me sharply. He said, "Haricharan, who are you to judge anyone?" And that was it. End of conversation. A Great teaching.
RW: That's a powerful story. I haven't had a guru in that sense, but I met a man who that story reminds me of. His name is Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne. He's sometimes called the Gandhi of Sri Lanka. He's helped millions of people in Sri Lanka, had his life threatened and all sorts of things. He was in the Bay Area and I got to hear him talk to a room full of people at the Kalliopeia Foundation. The way he talked, there wasn't an ounce of pretentiousness. I felt, this is really a good man. There were 50 or 60 people in the room and I had no ambition to take up any of his time. I was just happy to be there.
Okay. So the talk is over. Some people went up to talk with him and I wandered off into the kitchen. And after ten or fifteen minutes, he walks into the kitchen. There are two or three of us in there and he looks at me, walks over, reaches his hand out and asks, "What's your name? What do you do?" I answer him a little awkwardly. "I'm Richard and I publish a magazine." I say a couple of other things. And then-he's a short man-then he reaches both hands up to my head and just gently pulls my head down to his and touches my forehead with his forehead. It was just totally unexpected! But the thing is, it just pierced my heart. I can't tell you the effect it had.
Haricharan: Exactly. Yes. That's the real deal.
RW: It still brings tears to my eyes.
Haricharan: See, those are the genuine things! You understand! Because the moment you start to think about it, you're fighting back tears. It goes to the core of your heart, what happened. That's what it's like. Big and small. It touches you intimately. These souls are wonderful!
RW: It's hard to explain this to someone because, on the surface, it didn't look like much. [laughs]
Haricharan: Exactly. It's so hard to tell people. Partly, they're not interested. And even if they are interested, they're interested in the most superficial, common way. They don't realize, it's all of the sudden the beauty of Mozart exploding in your heart. And you experience the whole thing in a moment! And how do you explain that to someone? It's completely visceral. And it changes who you are. You're not the same person the next moment.
RW: It's truly amazing.
Haricharan: You're informed by that experience. That is the life of a close disciple, where over and over again, it's just brushing off the dust of the world, brushing off the dust of the world and the glimmer of the kingdom is there, the glimmer of the kingdom is there. And you are changed, that moment. Your being, your perception of what's possible, it's there in you now. Whatever the essence of that is, it's awakened in you. That's it! It becomes conscious.
It's an extraordinary life, but it's a hidden life because you can only share those things with a few souls. And telling it to a large population, it's just sort of fun science fiction for them. They don't understand what happened. Even if someone was standing next to you, "oh, nothing happened." But for you, the world just shook.
And even if you don't have the physical guru present, there is some association with some saint in the past lives, directly or indirectly. If a person-in a truly honest way and in a rigorous way-approaches meditation and prayer, all those experiences will come. They're going to come. And you will meet extraordinary souls. It's not a question of if. It's a question of when. The mind and heart must be dusted off, cleaned, then you'll
recognize the wonderful opportunities that were always present.
Once that strong desire to be really honest is there and to have a true effort, then it all happens. It all happens.