From the book Hand to Hand
John’s Road to Healing – Sai Baba’s Ashram
We drove 100 miles northwest of Bangalore to Puttaparthi, through small Indian villages which, in my mind, were quite squalid, and dry country with desert-like vegetation even in places being farmed. When we reached the entrance to the ashram, suddenly everything changed. We passed several well-built schools with statues of Indian deities beautiful in blue and pink.
When we checked in, people made certain we were visitors, not Indian, and separated us. Kathleen went to a large shed with other women and I went to a men’s shed with about 100 beds. There I rented a mattress from a person outside the ashram. He brought it in for me, but I made my own bed. Across the aisle I recognized a man who lived in a town about five miles away from Woodside, California who had worked at Stanford Research Institute during the same nine years I did. We chatted and traded information.
There were quite a few foreigners besides me, meaning, people who were not Indian. We ate in the foreigners’ dining room where the food seemed quite spicy to me but, I was told, was much less spicy than the food in the main dining room where the Indians ate.
Bedtime and lights out was at 9:00 p.m. We were awakened at 3:30 a.m. for a walking meditation. When breakfast was over, there was darshan, a time set aside to see an ashram’s leader or guru. Darshan was held in the temple yard.
Everyone stood in one of the 20 to 25 lines in the courtyard. The person at the head of each line reached into a worker’s pouch and pulled out a number. Number One was lucky because line one moved first. I got into line one three times out of the twenty I went to darshan, quite an extraordinary number.
At the appointed time, Sai Baba walked out of the temple where he lived on the second floor, first to the women’s area and then to the men’s area. Sai Baba is a little man, about five feet tall with high bushy hair that elevates him about four inches. As he walked along the front of the line, people held out a letter or letters for him to take. I was holding three or four letters I brought from home and one I wrote while I was there, telling him that I wanted to be a better channel for Reiki. As he walked by, he looked into my eyes. His were fathomless. It is said that he knows everything about you from birth until death and I felt that. He didn’t take the letters. What he said to me without speaking was “Ha, here you’re trying to give me a letter and you’ve forgotten what was in the letter.” I accepted that explanation and went back and memorized my letter. A few days later, I was again in the first row of line one and held out my letters. This time, he took them without looking at me. He normally invites five to ten people into the temple for an interview. I never got an interview, which was all right.