“The Orient Express.”

To my brother and spiritual teacher, Scott (1948-2017).

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Related imagectober, 1972. I was nineteen and studying painting in Philadelphia. Eastern mysticism had come from the oriental to the occidental world, and was beginning to attract wide attention among my generation of baby-boomers, born after the end of WWII. We were called “Children of the Bomb.” The art college scene was a fertile place for seekers, and like many others I was searching too. Something was missing from my life, my art was mediocre and I wasn’t satisfied.

I had no interest in Zen or Hinduism. I was raised in Quakerism and my father was Jewish. On a bright autumn morning I was invited by my older brother and a close friend of his to see a famous guru from India making his third and final tour of the west:  Sant Kirpal Singh was appearing at the Warwick Hotel in downtown Philly.Related imageThat morning I was given a book to read: “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass. The gathering was called a satsang. As we entered the ballroom the atmosphere was electric, crowded with hundreds of his devoted followers. We were able to find three seats. Holding my new book, I thought to myself What is a master anyway?  I had absolutely no idea.

He was already seated onstage. There was a microphone too, but I couldn’t make out the words he spoke. I didn’t get any of it. Why all the fuss? He was just an old man with a beard wearing a turban. The strange affair was uneventful, except at one point I thought he was staring at me. When it was over we left the hotel pushing our way through the mob. I thought nothing of it. Gurus and their groupies! Not for me.    

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The book by Ram Dass was a gift, I couldn’t lay it down. The following afternoon I finished my classes and walked to Penn Center Terminal to catch the train home. Speeding along, I was quietly reading- when I was suddenly jolted with terrific power!  Waves of  light and energy flooded every atom of my being, along with a genuine happiness I never knew existed. I was incredibly glad just to be alive! In an instant my entire attitude about life shifted away from myself to the family of God. I felt great compassion for all beings. I wanted to shake everyone’s hand!

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Was this happening to everyone or just me? I looked at the other passengers sitting in the coach, calmly reading the newspaper, chatting, staring out the window at leaves changing color- all seemingly unaffected by the sudden bolt of Power. So where had it come from?  It came from within!  Like a lightning strike, it was the Master.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted. Bryn Mawr! Shouted the conductor. I jumped up from my seat, gathered my books and raced down the aisle barely getting off in time. In a daze, I watched as the train departed, disappearing into the distance leaving me behind. This was my stop. I was here now.

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What just happened? I wasn’t quite sure. Was this enlightenment? Not even close! The long journey to consciousness had only just begun. I had been shown a little bit of what that’s like,  just a crumb from the master’s table. Oh, what a crumb that was!  For seven days I enjoyed total peace, thoughtful insight and delightful euphoria, during which time I did not sleep at all, but was never tired.

When the bliss subsided I returned to whoever I was before the event, just a bored college student with a weird story nobody was interested in hearing. I knew I had experienced something very powerful, it was burned forever into my mind! But what was I supposed to do with it? My older brother, the one who had taken me to the Warwick that day was waiting in the wings. He had known about this for years and began explaining it to me. The first thing he taught me was this: We are dreaming! Everything, our lives, is created out of thought, our own thoughts. Just like when we sleep at night: We wake up we realize it was all just a vivid dream.

This brief lifetime is only one of many thought forms we inhabit over cosmic time. There is a plan, and it is ultimately about each soul finding its way home. Each experience is only another train stop, lessons to be learned, some of it very difficult. We suffer because we think our pain is real. But when it passes we are always still here. That’s because we are conscious spirit, without form, eternal, infinite and indestructible. No matter how bad, nothing can ever change or harm us permanently!

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Everything we say, think or do has an effect on the universe, like dropping a pebble into a pond. These actions and reactions accumulate, forming the pattern which becomes our life story. Over much time these must play out, and by the time they do we have no recollection of the words, thoughts or actions which initially set them in motion. Once this is understood, we begin to live consciously with more awareness, in harmony with the rest of the universe. Learning to treat others with respect and reacting less out of  attachment and selfishness. If I hurt you I hurt me, we are all evolving together as a single being.

“The Masters are not the monopoly of anyone, they come for everyone, not for one group of humanity or another. They give a knowledge which is beyond the senses, which is an ocean of intoxication – a mighty effulgence of bliss. This bliss is within each human being, but has been suppressed by the mind and the senses, and is therefore not enjoyed.”  – Sant Kirpal Singh




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