I wish to tell you about my journey to meet you—and how your journey to meet me was effective.
In my youth I aspired to attain perfect happiness, and soon I realized that such happiness could not be achieved materially but only spiritually. And, through reading spiritual books, I came to understand that to achieve spiritual perfection, I needed a guru. In fact, I read that I didn’t even have to choose the guru. He was already there; all I had to do was find him. So whenever I heard about a guru anywhere, even a thousand miles away, I would go to meet him.
One teacher I met was a Zen master, supposedly enlightened and certified by another enlightened master in Japan. I had read a book he had written, and when I heard he was holding a three-day retreat at his ashram in Rochester, New York, I went. Upon my arrival I found that his students were not very happy. But I thought, “Anyway, they’re just students. Let me meet the master.”
During the retreat he held meditation sessions in which everyone had to sit up straight and look at the wall, concentrating on some object he would give us. The master walked around with a stick, and if he thought any of us was falling asleep or that someone’s mind was wandering, he would hit the offender. After one such session, some of his students asked him about his recently having become angry. “Yes, it’s true,” he said. “I lost my temper; I shouldn’t have.” I started to doubt whether he was my guru. Still, I had read that a Zen master might appear ordinary and that one might not recognize him, so I thought, “Maybe this is part of it.” But my doubt remained. Later, he came to Boston, near Brandeis University, where I was studying. After his talk and demonstration, someone in the audience asked about Vedanta. “I have enough trouble keeping up with Zen,” he answered. “How do you expect me to know about Vedanta?” My previous doubt was confirmed: “He is not my perfect master.”
Then a hatha-yogi came to Brandeis to give a lecture. He had long hair and a beard and flowing robes. He said that by yoga you could attain complete mastery over your bodily functions, including the movements of the bowels. You could actually command your intestines: “Ascending colon, advance! Transverse colon, advance! Descending colon, advance!” and finally, “Rectum, pass!” I was really looking for a guru, so I thought, “Anyway, maybe.”
After the lecture, I tried to meet the swami, but he was leaving for the airport. I wanted to ride with him in his car, but there was no room, so I rode with some of his students. On the way, they discussed the various foods they missed since they had joined the ashram. So I started to have some doubts. But then I thought, “Anyway, they are just the students; the master may be on a much higher level.”
When we arrived at the airport, I beheld the swami. There he was—long flowing hair, beard, draping orange robes, a flower in his hair, a twinkle in his eyes—the very picture of Indian spirituality. But then I saw him tightly embracing his women disciples. And I knew: “He is not my perfect master. I have to keep looking.”
Next I heard of an “enlightened” psychology professor who was teaching at Antioch College, in Ohio, which was known as a progressive university, and I wanted to meet him immediately. Ready to do anything to find my guru, I got in my car and drove the seven hundred miles. When I arrived, with great anticipation and eagerness I searched out the professor’s office and inquired about him from his secretary. “He’s playing golf,” she informed me. “Playing golf?” I asked incredulously. “I thought he was supposed to be enlightened.” “That is his Zen,” she replied. “Oh, no!” I thought. “Playing golf? He is not my perfect master.”
Although I was disappointed about the professor, the Antioch campus was full of people interested in spiritual life, and while I was there I spoke with some of them. Some students in the Student Union told me about a guru who had recently visited the campus. “The guru is in the heart,” he had said, “where he sits on a lotus flower. You can actually see him and speak with him.” “Wow!” I thought; “that sounds attractive.” That night I tried to really focus on my heart. And indeed, I got a definite impression that there was a divine personality there, with whom I could have a sublime, personal relationship. And he seemed just about to speak. I was very excited, and I became eager to meet him.