Daya Mata used sometimes to tease me for being what she called “naive.” In one respect she was right. I trusted in friendship, and believed that ours superseded any mere organizational consideration. I often expressed myself to her without giving my words careful thought, as friends will. I couldn’t help the frustration I felt at her not giving me a chance to do certain things in which I believed, and I couldn’t help feeling let down when, faced with others' criticism, she often failed to back me in a project to which she’d given her prior consent. But we were friends, and she knew I’d stand by her always.
I wrote her on May 14, 1961, about my success with the Delhi project. That date is indelibly etched on my mind. I was completely confident that there would be joyful celebrations at Mt. Washington upon the arrival of that letter. I had, after all, just completed a major campaign for Master, and had emerged victorious. From now on, Master’s work in India, which had been for us such a heartfelt disappointment, would flourish. It would attract devotees and ashram members from all over by the hundreds. It would become one of the great spiritual lights in modern India. From today on, SRF-YSS would be known and revered as one ashram where principles were placed ahead of sectarian differences. Master’s teachings would be practiced everywhere.
I hadn’t been able to write much, previously, I explained, because there really was nothing to report except the disheartening news of a long list of adamant refusals. As a commentary on years of opposition to my ideas, I couldn’t resist adding, in effect, “See, I can get things done if I am given the opportunity.”
Daya Mata told me later, “After reading your letter, I passed it on without comment to the other directors.” Was she telling me that she’d never told anyone about the project, nor that I’d been working on it with her consent?
I mentioned in my letter that I’d be going to Darjeeling for a needed vacation, as my time in Delhi had been exhausting to me. I’d be at the vacation house of the Maharani (actually the Maharajmata, the mother of the present Maharaja) of Cooch Behar. I hoped soon, however, to get word that Pundit Nehru had given his approval to the Delhi project.
Word of his approval came while I was resting and meditating in Darjeeling. That same day, I believe it was, a telephone call came from America. It was from Tara Mata:
“We … do … not … want … that … property!”
We had a bad connection; I didn’t understand her at first. “Yes!” I shouted. “With God’s grace we have Nehru’s permission at last.”
“We … do … not … want … that … property!” came the statement again, each word this time enunciated distinctly and at maximum volume.
What was I to say? This completely unexpected refusal would mean a colossal humiliation for me, but what did that matter, after all? I hadn’t done all that work for myself. If after everything the idea was rejected, then that was that. There would be other ways of serving the work. Without pausing even to think my thoughts through, I replied, “All right. If that is your decision, I'll abide by it willingly.”
“We … do … not … want … that … property!” she shouted a third time. “You'll be getting our letter shortly.”
And that was that. I hung up, then commenced adjusting my mind to these new and very different circumstances. There was no sadness in my heart, though I was probably feeling slightly numb. Whatever God and guru willed for me was my will also.
The disastrous shock came the following day in the form of a letter, some twenty or thirty pages long, written and signed by Tara Mata but intended to be read as though coming from the entire Board.
I was accused of deceitfulness and “crafty guile” in deliberately concealing from them the work I’d been doing. “You wanted to get us so compromised with the Indian government that we’d have no choice but to go along with you. Your scheme was to split the work and set yourself up as the new guru in India. You lied to us. You connived for personal power. Your attitude reeks of personal ambition. You’re a megalomaniac, hypocritical, treacherous to the last degree. You refused to work with Binay, who is doing everything he can in Calcutta to serve Master’s work. Nothing you can ever say or do in future will permit me ever to trust you again.”
I am paraphrasing her words. The letter, as I say, went on, single-spaced, for at least twenty pages, all of it vitriolic, accusatory, and utterly damning.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I took a long walk, and, in Tara’s jeering words later on, “wept buckets.”
“You can do what you like with the Delhi proposal,” I wrote back. “I am not attached to it. But please,” I pleaded, “please don’t misjudge my motives.”
“Shame on you,” came the angry reply, “for trying to justify your actions, first, and now your motives. Master never let us try to justify ourselves. Your motives are impure, and worse than impure. They are completely self-motivated. You are a traitor to your guru. You are his Judas. You are so disobedient, so insulting, so unbelievably presumptuous that Master drew you to him only near the end of his life to spare you getting the bad karma you’d certainly have received when you left him, hurling insults as you went. You’ve lied, you’ve cheated so often that you can no longer even faintly tell the difference between right and wrong. Your delusions of grandeur have inflated your ego to the point where your head is likely to burst. There isn’t anyone living in any of our colonies who isn’t more spiritual than you. And unless you do something to improve that atrocious personality of yours, you will make nothing but enemies wherever you go.
”You told Nehru we aren’t a sect. I admit Master said we aren’t one. Well, we are a sect.
“And now you say you’re tired. No true disciple would ever admit he’s tired. Sometimes Master worked us to the limit of our strength, but he never let us say, 'I’m tired.'”
Again, this is only a paraphrase. Tara’s answer was much longer, and much more vitriolic.
I will not detail the events of the following year. They were many, and very painful, marking as they did my slow, inexorable descent into total disgrace. I tried valiantly to keep on serving Master to the best of my ability. Nothing else mattered to me. But no matter what I did, I was told I should not have done it. And no matter what I didn’t do, I was told I should have done it. I was so utterly bewildered that I wondered if I understood anything any more. Whatever I did or didn’t do was denounced categorically. Still, I kept the flag of my divine resolution high. I was determined to go down trying my best, if go down I must after all.
And so it appeared: that I must. For months I could feel Tara’s thoughts hurled at me in anger from America as she demanded that I be ousted from the work. Later I learned that she’d kept on insisting, “Unless we get rid of him, fifteen years from now he'll be strong enough to divide the work.”
In July, 1962, I received a cablegram summoning me to New York. Why New York? I wondered. Our centers were in California. Why a safe 3,000 miles from Los Angeles? Deep down, I knew the answer. Yet I was determined to play my part as a disciple, let come what would.
I landed in New York on Saturday, July 28th, 1962. Tara and Daya were at the airport to meet me. During the taxi ride to the Pennsylvania (now the Penta) Hotel, where we had reservations, not much was said. Tara looked up into the sky and said something about Jupiter’s and some other planet’s positions in the heavens. Clearly, she saw this as the astrologically appropriate time for whatever bomb she intended to explode. But I blocked the thought out of my mind. I couldn’t, I wouldn’t believe what I knew I must soon face.
The following morning a large manila envelope was shoved under my door. I opened it and found it to contain a document some thirty pages in length by Tara, and a number of letters by other people. The gist of it all was that I was through forever in SRF, and a very good riddance to me.
Later, when I asked to see them, they agreed. I spent two hours on my knees in front of them, my hands crossed on my breast in an expression of unbearable anguish, incapable of assimilating the enormity of this tragedy. I pleaded with them to reconsider their decision, in which I’d had no say at all.
“I'll do anything. Write it down and I'll sign it that I'll never do anything anymore in the work but wash dishes. I didn’t come here for position. I didn’t come here to be vice president. I came here only to serve my Guru and find God. Why can’t I just render him some small service? What I do doesn’t matter to me.”
“Never!” was Tara’s reply. “The least toehold and you’d only worm your way to the top again.”
“The only 'top' for me,” I protested, “is serving my guru and God.”
“Never!” she repeated. “From now on we want to forget that you ever lived.”
She paused, then tilted her head back and gazed at me deeply as if reading my entire life. “Can you tell me,” she demanded, “why everything you’ve ever done has ended in disaster?”
The question surprised me. I thought I’d been successful at quite a number of things, and couldn’t think of any failures, what to speak of disasters.
After a puzzled pause, I inquired, “Would you give me an example?”
For a moment she was nonplussed. Then she quickly dismissed the matter with a wave of her hand. “That’s your technique, see? Asking questions to get the other person confused. But don’t you know it takes spiritual power to attract the money you wanted for building things?” She continued: “You can never succeed.
”We don’t want you ever to lecture again in public. We don’t want people to know Master ever had such a despicable disciple.
“You are never again to set foot on any SRF property.
”You are never again to contact any SRF member.
“You are never to tell anyone you are Master’s disciple.
”Never again,“ she added with a loud sigh of relief, ”will we have to listen to the projects concocted in that fertile brain of yours.
“You think your motives are pure. Well, I assure you, they are most impure. You tried by careful scheming to get yourself made the new SRF president. Well, it didn’t work … did it?
”You’d stop at nothing short of murder to get what you want!“ she then repeated herself with careful deliberation, emphasizing each word: ”nothing … short … of murder!
“But I will see to it before I die that others see you the way I do. You shall never get back into the work. I have the power to know you better than you know yourself.”
Daya said little during this interview, though at one point she interjected a few words in support of Tara’s position.
Tara returned to the fray: “Your things will be sent to you from Mt. Washington.”
“But,” I protested, “I don’t want anything! All I own I’ve given to Master.”
“Oh!” she cried, sneeringly. “How dramatic! Well, I'll tell you what you do. If there’s anything you don’t want, just drop it in the trash can in the corridor of this hotel.”
She asked me how much money I had.
“I have about a thousand dollars left from my travel expenses.”
“You may keep that.”
She then produced a letter she’d written for me to sign, resigning my membership on the Board of Directors and my vice presidency. I signed it readily; those positions had meant nothing to me. Smugly she took the letter from my hand and gazed at it, then at me, with an expression of relief as if to say, “Well, that’s over with. We’ve got what we came for.”
After the meeting, pleased with how it had gone, they decided between them to give me another $500. Tara flew back to Los Angeles that same afternoon.
The following morning, bright and early, the phone rang in my room. It was Tara. “Were y'able to get the check cashed?” she inquired brightly. I hadn’t yet learned there was to be a check. Perhaps she thought I’d dashed to the nearest bank to cash it before they could stop payment.
Coincidentally, my parents had just landed in New York from a vacation in Europe. They were staying in Scarsdale, north of the city, and I’d been able to get in touch with them.
“Just think!” Tara exclaimed. “Isn’t it wonderful how Master has worked this whole thing out?”
I was too amazed at this example of insensitivity to reply. Tara, on finding that I didn’t share her enthusiasm, demanded, “Don’t you think it’s wonderful? Why are you silent?”
“I’d rather say nothing.”
“That’s your trouble, see? You’re secretive. You’re a schemer.” She started in on another long diatribe delineating my innumerable imperfections.
I saw Daya again briefly that day. She regretted that I’d already paid my hotel bill, but I wouldn’t let her reimburse me.
My father took the train in to New York to fetch me. We had lunch together. “Well, well,” was all he could think to say when I told him my tale of woe. Mother was more vocal in her outrage, when I saw her later in Scarsdale.
“Why,” she cried, “since the time you were a baby, you never once told a lie!”
What could I say? I knew she was right. To give voice to my agreement, however, would have been tantamount to taking sides, when it seemed to me that what was needed was for me to remain open to any possibility of truth in the disastrous accusations that had been made.
From Scarsdale, a few days later, Dad, Mother, and I drove across the country to their home in Atherton, California.
It was excruciating agony to find myself living a non-ashram life again, in an ordinary family albeit the family of my birth, serving my parents instead of serving my guru.
It seemed to me that I was being asked to bear the karmic weight of all those who had ever betrayed Master, whom he himself had forgiven, while his disciples raged at those people’s treachery.
Chapter 15: Retrospect