The Sufi woman saint, Rabbi’a, lay on her deathbed, her body ill and in pain. Three disciples of hers came to console her.
“He is no true lover of God, after all,” said one, “who is not willing to suffer for God’s sake.”
“This smacks of egoism to me,” replied the saint. Another of the disciples attempted a correction:
“He is no true lover of God who is not happy to suffer for God’s sake.”
“More than this is needed,” she replied.
“Then you tell us, Mother,” said the third. “What should be the right attitude for a lover of God?”
“He is no true lover of God,” she said, “who does not forget his suffering in the contemplation of the Supreme Beloved.”
How well have I met this last condition? How well have I met even the first? God alone can judge. I know, for instance, that I was willing to accept whatever God gave me. But I wasn’t willing to accept that God didn’t want me. And in that thought, I suffered. I felt happiness when I thought that perhaps He had done it to help me, not to punish me. But I must say, it looked like punishment. I reached the point, after some time, where I could forget the pain at least during my prayers and meditations. Contemplation of His loving presence reduced any other consideration to non-existence. But I also had very serious questions to face in my life. Mine was not a serious physical illness, like Rabbi’a’s, about which I would have been able to do nothing. It was spiritual suffering, and a need for inner direction. This was not a suffering to be forgotten, like Rabbi’a’s, but one to be contemplated and understood.
People often counseled me, “Forget it!” Daya Mata herself said to me, “Cut the cord! You just have to create a new reality for yourself.” It was asking the impossible of me. I had embraced Master’s work as my reality. For me, there could be no other.
I even said to Master once, “It was this, or nothing.”
“That’s the right spirit,” he replied solemnly.
I had to understand what he wanted of me. “Even if you yourself have forsaken me,” I cried, “I will not-I cannot-forsake you. You may spurn me, but you cannot ever get rid of me.” I knew in my heart, of course, that he would never spurn me. Hadn’t he told me at our first meeting, “I give you my unconditional love”? But it looked like spurning, at first, and Tara did her best to convince me that that was what it was.
Out of my anguished soul-searching came the insights that made Ananda, and the books I have written, and the music, and all the things Master has inspired me to do since. It was not easy, but good things don’t ever come easily. They must be earned.
What happened, as I shall relate in Part Two of this book, was that the effort I put forth to build the work during my years in SRF molded my understanding, and gave me the necessary insight to build Ananda, and to do the other things that have been accomplished since then.
Those early years were necessary, for they gave me the experience I would need for everything I did in future. I bless the experience, now, more than I can say.
Many of the principles I learned during my early years were what made Ananda possible. For example, my reaction to the dictum, “In any situation, be guided by the simple consideration, ‘What is best for the work?’” gave birth to the two fundamental guidelines of Ananda. The first is, “Where there is adherence to truth and right action, there is victory.” And the second, “People are more important than things.” Armed with these twin principles, Ananda has steered its way through countless tests and difficulties, even when it seemed that by following them we’d be courting disaster.
There were many other principles, learned during my years in SRF, that proved invaluable to me later. Ananda is now a world-renowned community. My books and recordings have sold well over a million in number. In addition, one hundred twenty of my titles have either been published or are under contract to be published in foreign countries, in thirteen languages. Millions of people, literally, have been brought to Master’s teachings through my work and the work of Ananda. That is the story that remains to be told in Part Two.
I do not regret anything that happened in the past. During my recent seclusion, when I examined my heart’s memories I found only a great sense of sweetness and gratitude. Thank you, Tara. Thank you Daya. You have done more for me than I can ever repay.