“We mark birthdays annually,
but celebrate Life constantly.
For birth and death are virtual,
while Life is perpetual –
a perpetual blessing.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Growing up I rarely thought about the mystery of inevitable bodily death.
Not until a transformative midlife awakening to self-identity as eternal spirit, followed by inner visions of apparent other lifetimes, and meeting my Guruji, who taught about death, dying and beyond, did I begin experiencing deep reflection about the mystery of inevitable bodily death.
And eventually I even began wondering whether our lifespans might be karmically predetermined upon birth. That reflection was triggered over thirty years ago when I received a memorable Vedic astrology prediction that I would die “at age 84”, based upon my precise time and place of birth.
Here is what happened.
Story of death prediction.
After Guruji returned to India in 1980, I met and learned from many other spiritual teachers, in addition to Guruji’s successor, Shri Anandi Ma, while always maintaining my heartfelt inner relationship with Guruji – above all other teachers.
Especially after my 1982 pilgrimage to India, for many years I considered myself a “born-again Hindu” and was especially attracted to Indian spiritual teachers. Thus in August 1986 I attended programs given by Sri Hariharinanda Giri, a self-realized Kriya Yoga initiate of renowned Master and Vedic astrologer Sri Yukteswar Giri and of Swami Yogananda Paramahansa, who continued a spiritual lineage beginning with “Mahavatar Babaji” – an etherial being who apparently I beheld at the 1982 Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, India.
Inspired by Sri Yukteswar, Hariharinanda Giri [affectionately known as ‘Baba’] had become an expert Vedic astrologer, and offered optional readings to those receiving his Kriya empowerments. So on August 10, 1986, I had a private astrological reading with Baba in which he interpreted my Vedic chart – which I called a ‘karmic map’.
In Vedic astrology or Jyotish, the ascendant sign is often deemed the most defining element in the chart. Both my Vedic and Western astrology charts show Libra – which is ruled by the planet Venus – as my ascendent or rising zodiac sign.
And so in his reading Baba emphasized this significant aspect of my chart. But in his Indian English he unwittingly mispronounced the name of my ruling ascendant planet, Venus. In a tape recorded session, two or three times he approvingly told me: “Your Penus is rising”. And he lovingly offered enlightened advice for my skillful spiritual behavior under that auspicious rising sign.
On conclusion of his reading Baba showed me my written chart, and asked if I had any questions. I pointed to a notation at the top, and asked him what it meant. Whereupon Baba turned off the tape recorder and replied: “That shows when you will die.”
Until then I had never heard that Vedic astrology could determine time of death from a chart based on planetary configurations at time of birth. Nor had I begun to think about my time of death. So in response to this surprising revelation, I simply exclaimed, “Oh!”
Whereupon, without my asking him, Baba voluntarily told me: “You will die at age 84”.
Post-prediction death reflections.
After Baba’s surprisingly specific death prediction, I continued to reflect on death and gradually discovered persuasively apt writings about esoteric ancient Vedic philosophy, astrology and prophesy, as well as about Einstein’s revolutionary relativity science. And I found credible quotes from non-dualist masters suggesting that that not only one’s lifespan but our actions, and even our thoughts, are predetermined by natural laws of causality until we transcend the ‘wheels of karma’. [See Einstein’s Mystical Ideas About God, Death, Afterlife, and Reincarnation; and Indian Astrology, Free Will or Fate? ~ An Amazing Synchronicity Story ]
On my 84th birthday anniversary (on November 8, 2016) I completed a full 84 year Uranus cycle, of exactly 1008 months. So since then I’ve increasingly wondered how much time is left for Ron Rattner; whether he is imminently ‘scheduled’ to say “bye-bye” to this twenty first century.
Life is eternal, but human lifetimes are ephemeral. So as an octogenarian (not knowing when this precious lifetime will end), I have been augmenting and updating my Silly Sutras postings concerning physical death – a profoundly important spiritual subject. (See e.g. https://sillysutras.com/dealing-with-death-and-dying-rons-memoirs/)
May these writings motivate our reflections upon our inevitable physical departure from this relative “reality”, where “however we may strive, nobody leaves alive”.
And may they hasten fulfillment of our deepest aspirations for Self realization beyond “birth and death”, as Eternal NOW.
And so may it be!
“In order to know through experience what happens beyond death,
you must go deep within yourself.
In meditation, the truth will come to you.”
~ Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas
“As we lose our fear of leaving life,
we gain the art of living life.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Face death to live life.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“Death is a vacation –
Eternal Life-force vacating a transient vehicle –
“a space-time soul suit”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“It is in dying to ego life,
that we are reborn to Eternal Life.”
~ Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (edited by Ron Rattner)
Physical death is inevitable and natural. But when I grew up it was largely a taboo subject in American society. Most Americans feared death, believing it ended life. They usually died in hospitals or other institutions, and not at home surrounded by family. And mostly they used euphemistic language to describe death.
Though the mystery of inevitable bodily death has long been a central religious and philosophical issue, my childhood Jewish and public school education did not encompass that mystery – nor did my non-liberal arts college curriculum.
Both my grandmothers had died before I was born. My paternal grandfather who I hardly knew died while I was quite young and I was not brought to his funeral. Not until later adulthood did I suffer loss of any other dear person or pet, or think much about death.
Until my mid-life spiritual awakening, I self-identified only with my mortal body, its thoughts and its story, and I assumed that death of the physical body ended life. So I had no knowledge, opinion or belief concerning reincarnation or afterlife in ‘heaven’ or ‘hell’, or of an immortal “soul”.
Like most other Americans, I had an innate but largely subconscious fear of death, which I discovered during college days in Madison, Wisconsin. While imprudently and unskillfully swimming too far from shore in Lake Mendota, I nearly drowned and unforgettably experienced my usually subconscious fear of death. Fortuitously, in the nick of time, I was sighted and rescued by boaters. For many years thereafter, as a (non-swimming) relatively young and healthy person, I never again consciously confronted or philosophically explored that innate fear of death.
Then in my early forties, I had irreversibly transformative experiences of spiritual self-identity and afterlife: I realized that I was not merely my body, its thoughts and story, but eternal and universal awareness. And I began seeing visions of apparent past lives, and inner and outer appearances of deceased people, including my maternal grandfather and Mahatma Gandhi, my first perceived inner spiritual guide.
So, I began accepting Eastern ideas of reincarnation and transmigration of an eternal soul, while gradually losing fear of inevitable physical death. Then, on meeting my beloved Guru, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas (on the luckiest day of my life), I learned that from childhood he had been preoccupied with two perennial puzzles: “Who am I?” and “What is death?”; that at age thirteen, inspired by irresistible inner longing, Guruji had run away from home in search of experiential answers to those eternal questions.
Inspired by Guruji, I became religiously transformed from “secular Hebrew” to “Born-again Hindu”. And I developed a deep curiosity and philosophical interest in the spiritual significance of death and dying, reincarnation and karma.
Elsewhere, on SillySutras.com I have shared many experiences, essays and poems on these subjects. (See, for example, https://sillysutras.com/category/afterlife/; also https://sillysutras.com/death-afterlife-rebirth-easter-reflections-on-resurrections/)
Ultimately I concluded from experience, intuition and intellect that cosmically there is no death; that “birth and death are virtual, while Life is perpetual”. (See e.g. https://sillysutras.com/know-death-to-know-life-know-death-to-know-that-there-is-no-death/ )
Consequently, I became ever more detached and less fearful about my own inevitable (and perhaps imminent) bodily death. But, my detachment about my own demise did not negate my compassionate concern for loss of others – especially dear ones – and my wish for their auspicious transitions. This became evident when at age sixty-one I was, at long last, confronted with my dear father’s last illness and passing.
Here is what happened.
Dealing with my father’s last illness and death
My dear father, Harry, came into this world on December 14, 1904, with a very strong body which served him well and without serious disease or disability until age 88. Then beginning in 1993 he had a series of ailments which proved terminal.
First he suffered an extremely painful and protracted case of herpes shingles for which he was treated with Prednisone, a powerful immune system depressant, which weakened him. Soon after recovering from that affliction, while already debilitated he had an intestinal hernia injury, so painful that he was hospitalized and suffered greatly before and after emergency abdominal surgery. Then he soon developed congestive heart disease with lungs filling with liquid and mucus. And finally he was diagnosed with lung cancer – a terminal disease which he had averted despite being a three pack a day cigarette chain smoker from teen age until age sixty. Amazingly, he had will power to immediately quit smoking cigarettes on publication of the 1964 US Surgeon General’s report confirming cigarette carcinogenicity and toxicity.
My Dad had enthusiastically enjoyed his long life, especially after his retirement and move from Chicago to the California Bay Area, near his children. But he was not anxious to prolong that life while he suffered painful terminal disease. Once, when I visited him in the John Muir Hospital, sadly he confided in me: “Ron, they put dogs and cats out of misery, but make people suffer. If Doctor Kevorkian was in this area and not Michigan, he’d be my doctor.”
Though, as a law-abiding “born-again Hindu” I had mixed emotions about euthanasia, I felt great compassion for my father and wanted to do whatever would be spiritually appropriate to mitigate his suffering and assure his most auspicious possible transition. So, I consulted my Brahmin Vedic pundit-astrologer friend Pravin Jani, father of Guruji’s successor, Shri Anandi Ma.
Pravinji recommended that I recite certain Sanskrit mantras and that I make two extraordinary charitable donations dedicated to my father: first, that I give to a chosen charity a gift of actual gold – not money; and second, that I purchase and give a holy cow to an Indian ashram. So, with heartfelt compassion for my father, I began reciting the mantras and arranged the unusual donations in his honor.
First, I donated rare American eagle gold coins to New Dimensions Foundation, where I was a Board member. Then, through arrangements by my daughter Jessica who was then living on Ammachi’s Kerala ashram, I acquired and donated to the ashram a holy cow, where it was gratefully received.
“Why” you may ask “is it considered propitious to donate a cow to an Indian ashram?” Because in India cows are are revered as sacred animals by millions of Hindus. Hindus believe that their Divine Avatar Krishna incarnated 5,000 years ago as an enchanting cowherd. He is often described as Bala-Gopala, “the child who protects the cows.” and as Govinda, “one who brings satisfaction to the cows.”
I learned about holy cows during my 1982 sacred pilgrimage to India. One of my most memorable images of that trip, was of stray cows roaming free and obstructing traffic on busy Calcutta streets as our tour bus approached the downtown hotel where we were staying. Later, in the holy city of Rishikesh, I communed with and kissed one of the sacred small cows on the Sivananda, Divine Life Ashram.
Many Indian ashrams and rural Indian families have at least one dairy cow, using it for milk, curds, butter, ghee and dung as fuel for pujas (ritual ceremonies). Thus, the cow remains a protected animal in Hinduism today, revered by most Hindus, who do not eat beef.
When I stayed at Ammachi’s ashram in 1992, the ashram had one cow. It’s limited dairy products were used mostly for feeding Ammachi and some swamis, but were insufficient to supply other ashram residents. However, with special dispensation, for a few days Jessica obtained for me one morning cup of curd (yoghurt) which helped heal the severe intestinal upset with which had I arrived at the ashram, suffering food poisoning from a Brahmin wedding feast in Ahmedabad. So the following year I was especially happy to repay that ashram cow’s blessing by donating another sacred cow to be its companion.
Apparently my bovine and gold donations and prayers did not prolong my father’s life. But I have faith that they helped his transition to a heavenly afterlife. When it became evident that Dad’s days here were numbered, at his request he was released from hospital to hospice care at home in March 1994.
To help, I started sleeping at my parents’ Walnut Creek apartment. On the night of March 10, 1994, sensing that Dad’s death was imminent, I stayed awake reciting Sanskrit mantras, especially a mantra recommended by Guruji for auspicious transitions of those destined to die. As I fervently recited mantras, I felt enhanced subtle energies and entered a clairsentient state. Then, though Dad was sleeping in another room, I felt the departure of his spirit. The next morning he was gone, and I helped my mother with required post-death arrangements.
After-death Afterlife Epilogue
That night, exhausted by the stress of prior days, I returned to San Francisco where I slept soundly in my ‘high-rise hermitage’. Just before awakening, and while I was in a semi-sleep state, my father fleetingly appeared in a vivid inner vision. He looked as he did during the prime of his life, rather than as a debilitated old man. He assured me he was fine and then disappeared. When I reported that sighting to Indian friends, they informed me that Dad had died on Maha Shivaratri (the ‘Great Night of Shiva’) considered the most auspicious holy night of the year by millions of Hindus.
Soon afterwards I received another extraordinary assurance of Dad’s favorable transition as I was driving to Shri Anandi Ma’s home in Antioch for a weekend meditation program. En route, I had picked up as passengers Anandi Ma’s parents and brother Umesh at their Berkeley apartment. Like his revered sister, Umesh then spent many hours daily in deep meditation often communing with Guruji’s ishta devata, Hindu monkey-God Lord Hanuman, considered an incarnation of Shiva.
As we traveled to Antioch, Umesh said to me: “Ron, I have a message for you from Hanumanji.” With extreme curiosity, I asked about that message. Whereupon, Umesh replied: “Hanumanji says, don’t worry about your father, we’re taking care of him.”
Six months later, on August 29, 1994, Guruji took mahasamadhi at age one hundred sixteen, and joined the heavenly host caring for my father and countless others. So, heeding Hanumanji’s assurance, I’m not worrying about my father. Instead, as I too approach the end of this precious lifetime, it is my heartfelt aspiration to help through self-purification and compassion not only family dear ones but all other suffering sentient beings with whom we remain inseparably connected.
“Is all that we see or seem
but a dream within a dream?”
~ Edgar Allen Poe.
This place is a dream.
Only a sleeper considers it real.
Then death comes like dawn,
and you wake up laughing
at what you thought was your grief.
Almost every human believes that on awakening from sleep we are experiencing another day in “the real world”. But rare Buddha-like beings say that this relative “reality” isn’t really Real; that it is like a daytime dream, or a mirage, from which we are destined to awaken.
“The world, indeed, is like a dream
and the treasures of the world are an alluring mirage!”
For millennia “enlightened” mystics and sages have likened our supposedly awakened earth life to nocturnal dream life, saying we are not truly awakened if we self-identify as entities separate from Nature and from all else in our perceived world of impermanent forms and phenomena.
Nighttime dreams are mental images arising on a ‘screen’ of formless awareness. Similarly our supposedly “real world” arises from mental images perceived and projected on the same screen of formless awareness that perceives nocturnal dreams.
Such formless awareness is the identical consciousness in which all dreams arise. It is universal and beyond time and space, beyond birth and death. (In the Bible it is called “everlasting life” [Daniel 12:1-3] and “eternal life” [e.g. John 17:1-2] ) And, from a ‘Buddha’s–eye’ perspective it is our true Self and ultimate Identity.
Purpose of Earth-life Dream Life.
So mystics say we are here to awaken from our daytime dreams of separation from Nature and its forms, to our True Self identity as non-dual eternal Awareness. And like mystics, quantum scientists have discovered that our supposed “real world” of perceived forms and phenomena is merely impermanent and non-material energy in a universal quantum field. [E=mc2]
“Concerning matter, we have been all wrong.
What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses.
There is no matter.”
“There is no place in this new kind of physics for the field and matter, for the [quantum] field is the only reality.”
~ Albert Einstein
Moreover, consistent with the ancient mystics, Einstein realized that space/time relative “reality” is merely an optical illusion of consciousness arising from [ego-mind] thought:
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
“Our separation of each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.”
“Space and time are not conditions in which we live, they are modes in which we think.”
Yet, like the ancient mystics, Einstein intuited and venerated a transcendent, incomprehensible and inexplicable Omniscience or universal intelligence beyond space/time’s relative “reality”:
“That which is impenetrable to us really exists.
Behind the secrets of nature remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable.
Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.”
Awakening From Earth-life Dream Life.
Over forty years ago, I was blessed with the immensely transformative insight that I was not merely my physical body, its thoughts or its story, but the consciousness from which they arose. Since then I’ve gradually been enjoying ever growing happiness and ever less fear of death by increasingly identifying as universal Eternal spirit rather than as a merely mortal separate physical body – viz. more and more as Ram and less and less as Ron. The stories recounted in my spiritual memoirs are all about this awakening process.
But the most unforgettable experience which has best revealed to me that we are all like dreamers awakening from illusory mortality to joyous eternal Reality, was my beloved Guruji’s parting poetic gift described at “My Miraculous Experience on Shri Dhyanyogi’s Mahasamadhi”.
On August 29, 1994, Guruji intentionally left his then one hundred sixteen year old body in India. At the same time, and unaware of Guruji’s transition, I received from him in San Francisco an inspiring poem about our awakening from Earthly dream life of supposed birth and death, to true Reality as Eternal Bliss [Sat-Chit-Ananda].
That simple ‘channeled’ poem was extraordinarily powerful because it was infused with Guruji’s blessing or sankalpa for fulfillment of our deepest Awakening aspirations. So it has remained indelibly imprinted in my heart and on my ‘mental software’. And I have often spontaneously recited it for others.
Here is the original poem, as initially titled, “Dream Life”:
When we come to Earth
they call it a birth.
When we leave,
they say we die.
But we really don’t come,
and we really don’t go.
We just dream our lives.
To awaken as Bliss
from all of this,
Joyous that all is
The poem’s verses were received and written without any title. But in the above and later writings and recitations, I added different titles: mostly, “Dream Life” or “I am THAT”.
Also, occasionally I added as concluding lines “I am THAT” or “We are THAT” [and Sanskrit translations “Soham!” and plural “Sovayam”]
Audio and video explanations and recitations of Dream Life poem
For many people, actual or audio/visual recitations of Guruji’s parting gift poem are more powerful than just reading the printed words. So I am sharing with you below two audio/visual recitations, both prefaced with brief explanations of the poem.
mp3 home recording.
mp4 film clip with Ron’s recitation beginning at 1.3m.
This happened on October 29, 2013, while I was chatting with my poet friend Hippy Dave at San Francisco’s Aquatic Beach. Dave and I were greeted by Andrey Milyayev, a Ukrainian cinematography student who was doing a school documentary film project about artistic life in San Francisco. Andrey asked Dave to recite one of his original poems, and Dave obliged. Whereupon Dave unexpectedly asked me to also recite a poem. So I spontaneously recited the Guruji dream life poem, then calling it “I am THAT”.
May all those who hear or read this poem receive Guruji’s blessing or sankalpa for fulfillment of our deepest Awakening aspirations.
And so may it be!
“In order to know through experience what happens beyond death,
you must go deep within yourself.
In meditation, the truth will come to you.”
~ Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas
“Death is truly part of life … ‘what we called death is merely a concept’.”
“This happens at the gross level of the mind.
But neither death nor birth exist at the subtle level of consciousness that we call ‘clear light.’”
~ Dalai Lama
At my death do not lament our separation
… as the sun and moon but seem to set,
in reality this is a rebirth.
“Birth and death are virtual,
but Life is perpetual.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
On observing noteworthy phenomena which we can’t yet explain by known natural or scientific laws, we sometimes call them “miracles” and may attribute them to a Divine power.
Like other rare saints and mystics my beloved “Guruji”, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, occasionally demonstrated “miracles” to foster faith in the Divine. In writings and lectures, Guruji explained that yogic powers (siddhis) might be attained via control of life-force energies, but that they were seldom displayed; that such powers are only used
“sparingly and on occasion for humanitarian and other discretionary ends”,
but not “for self-aggrandizement.”
In prior memoirs, I’ve explained how Guruji has helped me from subtle planes, like a ‘guardian angel’, since before I met him when his body was approximately one hundred years old, and even after his supposed bodily death in India sixteen years later.
I believe that Guruji left his body consciously and intentionally, using his yogic powers; that Guruj’s subtle bodies survived the physical body; and, that from subtle planes he continues to help humanity.
I’d like to explain to you my reasons for this belief.
Why Guruji Survived Supposed Physical Death.
In the Hindu tradition, when a yogi who has previously experienced the highest state of samadhi intentionally leaves his body, this is not the same as death of an ordinary person who has not attained Self-realization. Such a passing is called a Mahasamādhi (great and final samādhi) and is the act of consciously and intentionally leaving one’s gross body at the time of physical death.
Before I received shaktipat initiation from Guruji in 1978, I had already witnessed his yogic power to influence this relative reality from subtle planes. He had clearly appeared in my subtle inner vision when we were physically distant. Thereafter, I had other memorable experiences of Guruji’s subtle powers, which are shared in other memoirs chapters.
In 1980, just before Guruji returned to India from four years in the USA, he stayed in my apartment. At that time Guruji’s American attendant, Lackshman, recounted to me his brief conversation with Guruji following a sparsely attended public meditation program. Driving home, Lackshman had remarked to Guruji that it was too bad so few people had attended that event. Whereupon Guruji replied,
“It’s not important. Most of my work is on other planes.”
And, once when we were alone in his room in my apartment, Guruji told me that he came and went from his physical body as he pleased. (See Human Body – A Precious “Prison”? )
Also, at Guruji’s meditation programs, I heard amazing stories from others who had experienced his extraordinary yogic powers. Perhaps the most memorable of these stories was that of Rudy, a Chicago school teacher who decided to travel on his motorcycle to be with Guruji in California. But before reaching California, and while he was in Colorado, Rudy had an unexpected and “miraculous meeting” with Guruji.
On a curvy mountain highway in Colorado, Rudy’s motorcycle skidded off the road and careened three hundred feet down a steep incline. Just before hitting bottom, Rudy called out Guruji’s name, remembering Guruji’s assurance that “I’m always with you.”
Gravely injured, Rudy became comatose. While comatose he had a miraculous “near death experience” (NDE), which he survived and later recounted in detail.
On ‘the other side’ during the NDE, Rudy was greeted and guided by Shri Dhyanyogi, to save his life. Thereafter, at a California retreat, Guruji explained to Rudy that he had saved his life because Rudy still had much more work to do in this world.
Rudy’s vividly credible description of this amazing incident was convincing testimony of Guruji’s yogic power to influence what happens in this relative “reality”, and to manifest at will on subtle planes of “reality”.
Besides my own extraordinary experiences with Guruji, and hearing of Rudy’s experience, I learned of numerous other “miraculous” experiences of Guruji’s devotees.
(See “This House is on Fire, The Life of Shri Dyanyogi”, as told by Shri Anandi Ma.)
My Experience in San Francisco on Guruji’s Mahasamadhi in India.
One of my most memorable mystical experiences of Guruji’s yogic powers happened just after he left his physical body in India and I was at home in San Francisco. In late August, 1994, I was home asleep when I was suddenly awakened in the middle of the night.
With eyes open, I beheld in amazement an extraordinary and unprecedented vision – an otherworldly, multi-colored bird, translucent with a peacock-like tail and human-like eyes. Nothing about the bird appeared like any ‘real-life’ bird I had ever before seen, or might have imagined.
As I gazed in awe at this ethereal apparition, I was enveloped and transformed by a supernal aura of supreme Peace, which emanated from the bird’s radiant dark eyes. I awakened in the morning puzzled, and wondered about that extraordinary apparition which had enveloped me with ‘peace that passeth understanding.’
The next day, still wondering about the vision, I was sitting at my dining room table when an ‘inner voice’ dictated to me a poem concerning death, a subject I hadn’t then been thinking about.
Listening to my muse, I quickly and spontaneously “channeled” this poem about death, which I later titled Dream Life:
When we come to Earth
They call it a birth
When we leave,
They say we die.
But we really don’t come,
And we really don’t go.
We just dream our lives
To awaken as Bliss
From all of this,
Joyous that all is
Thereafter, within a day or two, I received a rare call from one of Guruji’s early US disciples, Elyse (Indu) of Sacramento. She informed me of Guruji’s death – his Mahasamādhi – on August 29. Only then did I realize that I had received this poem (about life and death as a waking dream) as a ‘parting’ profound message and treasured gift from Guruji.
So I recited the poem for Elyse. Then I told her about my puzzling otherworldly bird vision. She promptly and aptly interpreted that vision as a mythical Phoenix bird, symbol of immortality, resurrection, and life after death.
Whereupon, I realized that the bird’s dark human-like eyes emanating ineffable supernal Peace were Guruji’s eyes; and, that this unforgettable vision and experience of celestial peace was another parting gift and message from Guruji, for which I am eternally grateful.
Almost twenty five years have passed since that miraculous experience of Guruji’s Mahasamādhi, but I still continue to feel his subtle presence and often shed tears of devotion and joy, when I think of him or gaze at his photographic image. And other devotees entering my high-rise hermitage have also experienced his life-force energy (shakti).
Almost twenty years after Guruji’s transition, I had a home visit from my friend Michael O’Rourke, a talented spiritual cinematographer who helped me launch SillySutras.com. I was telling Michael about Guruji, and feeling his subtle presence, while seated in a reclining chair. After a while I had to excuse myself for a bathroom visit. When I returned several minutes later Michael reported to me his extraordinary experience of Guruji’s subtle appearance.
While Michael was gazing at me as I talked about Guruji, he went into an altered state of consciousness. Michael then perceived another face morphing into mine – a face without glasses and with a longer white beard. It was Guruji!
Michael said that amazingly after I got up to go to the bathroom he still perceived the image of Guruji seated in the chair, until after I returned and sat down again.
Guruji once said:
“All those who came to me for Shaktipat …. are my spiritual heirs.
For my energy works through them.”
Not only were Michael and others blessed by Guruji’s extraordinary energy in my apartment, I believe that (like he blessed Rudy) Guruji saved my life while I was comatose and near death after a taxicab rundown in June, 2014. (See https://sillysutras.com/another-near-death-experience-rons-memoirs/) So that it is only through Guruji’s grace that I have miraculously survived to gratefully still share these memoirs.
May those reading these stories receive Guruji’s continuing blessings, notwithstanding his Mahasamādhi almost twenty five years ago.
And so may it be!
“You will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
~ John 8:32
“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space.
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.”
~ Albert Einstein ( N. Y. Times , March 29, 1972)
The Truth That Sets Us Free
Trapped in earthly domain
of fear, death and pain,
we long for liberty.
Jailed in cages we’ve wrought,
with hoary thought
that mere body/minds are we,
We’re deceived by perceptions,
and caught by conceptions,
of supposed mortality.
But prison’s illusion,
and we suffer confusion
of our true identity.
For we’re beings of light
Eternal and bright,
and so shall ever be.
We shall know this Truth,
and it shall forsooth,
release and set us Free.
Ron’s audio recitation of “The Truth That Sets Us Free”
Ron’s Commentary on “Truth That Set’s Us Free”
Today’s posting “The Truth That Sets Us Free”, is a sutra poem (with voice recitation) about Spiritual freedom as a fundamental evolutionary goal. This poem’s title and subject were inspired by Jesus’ teaching “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.
For millennia mystical teachings of all perennial wisdom paths have identified spiritual Freedom or Self realization as an ultimate evolutionary objective.
Most people associate “freedom” with personal, political, and economic liberty. But spiritual freedom is an extraordinarily rare state of mind which can be inwardly attained even by those who do not enjoy external freedoms, like felons imprisoned for life. Knowingly or unknowingly everyone/everywhere longs for Freedom as our divine birthright.
I first deeply reflected on philosophical concepts of “freedom” during the 1950’s when I read “Escape From Freedom” by then prominent author-psychotherapist Erich Fromm. But after becoming a San Francisco civil litigation lawyer I rarely thought about about inner freedom, until after a memorable exchange with my beloved Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas.
While residing in my apartment (just prior to his 1980 return to India), Guruji told me:
“Rasik, a yogi’s body is like a baby’s body.
Your body is like a prison.
I am like a jailer with the prison key.
I come and go as I please.”
Thereupon, I became extremely curious about Guruji’s revelation that my body was like a prison. And I wondered how and why ‘I’ was ‘imprisoned’, and how ‘I’ could get out of ‘jail’ – free like Guruji. (See https://sillysutras.com/human-body-a-precious-prison-rons-memoirs/)
So I began exploration of “spiritual freedom”, as distinguished from personal, political, and economic freedoms.
Whereupon, I was reminded of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, and wondered why his words
“Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last”
were so deeply powerful.
I realized that those words were rooted in the biblical Exodus Passover story; and intuited that spiritual “freedom” is the esoteric essence and mythical message of that story. And I concluded that the Passover story symbolizes escape from outer bondage to a Divinely ‘promised land’ within – viz. escape from enslavement by mistaken beliefs in false external Gods or goals to an inner ‘promised land’ of ONE eternal Divinity immanent in each of us.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is ONE!”
~ Deuteronomy 6:4
Also I believed that Jesus prophetically alluded to such spiritual freedom by teaching:
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
~ John 8:32
I intuited that Jesus was teaching we find freedom (from mentally self-imposed imprisonment) only when we transcend entity-identity to self-identify as ONE Divine spirit – the kingdom of heaven within – rather than as supposedly separate embodied personalities.
Ultimately, I concluded that our limited and limiting ego-mind ideas about self-identity and reality confine each of us within a sort of psychological prison in which suffering is inevitable, and which restricts realization of our infinite potentialities.
However, the mystic masters teach and demonstrate that we can psychologically transcend that mental “prison” and emerge “free at last” from our self-woven karmic cocoons, no matter our outer circumstances.
Thus, Rumi reminded us:
“Be empty of worrying,
Think of Who Created Thought!
Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?”
The encouraging possibility of getting out of jail FREE is explained in the foregoing verses and quotations.
May they advance our spiritual evolution toward realization of precious inner Freedom, our divine birthright.
And so may it be!
“May the Lord give you peace.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
“You are not a drop in the ocean.
You are the entire ocean in a drop.”
On December 1st, 2018 my unforgettable friend Carol Schuldt painlessly left her body at age 85, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and heart failure. Thereafter, on December 8th, her body was interred in a wild nature place overlooking the Pacific Ocean, after spontaneous rituals and stories were shared by Carol’s friends on a beautiful sunny afternoon.
Carol was a a legendary San Franciscan, sometimes known as ‘Queen of the Beach’ or ‘Mother Teresa of the Sunset’. She lived as a life-long nature lover and natural born shaman, authentically, intuitively, generously and spontaneously. (See Carol’s SF Chronicle obituary)
Carol and I had innumerable synchronistic encounters, after we first met in the 1980’s. And we repeatedly shared our many ‘miraculous’ synchronicity stories (a few of which are posted here on SillySutras.com).
Before meeting Carol, I miraculously ‘discovered’ and became a lover of St. Francis of Assisi. And soon after meeting Carol, I regarded her as a ‘female St. Francis’ who constantly communed with Nature, even with the sun, the moon, and many nonhuman lifeforms.
So in tribute to Carol’s transition, I write now about her spiritual history, and to tell how wistfully and intuitively I bid her farewell through our shared synchronistic harmony with St. Francis of Assisi.
Summary of Carol’s spiritual history.
Carol and I first met long ago while sitting at Aquatic Beach on San Francisco Bay (across from Ghirardelli Square), where I walked and where she often came to escape ocean fog and swim in the sun (without a wet suit). Afterwards we exchanged many “miracle” stories about our lives stemming from our countless experiences of synchronicities, or meaningful ‘coincidences’.
I deeply appreciated Carol as an amazingly free spirit with great instinctive wisdom and generosity. Before we met, she’d already become a ‘living legend’ throughout and beyond her San Francisco ocean front neighborhood. And many stories were written or told about her. For example, an excellent story: “A Benevolent Queen of the Beach” appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 25, 2000. And in 2005 Carol was interviewed on film by the SF Public Library, about her history and life in the ‘hippie’ 1960’s.
The Chronicle article told of Carol’s exceptional inner wisdom even from childhood, when at Catholic school she adamantly refused to worship a bloody Christ on a crucifix, and was the only child exempted therefrom by the nuns, who recognized her wisdom.
The article also told how Carol had dedicated her life to helping troubled souls – especially young people. But that paradoxically Carol experienced great family tragedy with all of her three children: her two daughters whose lives were lastingly impacted by drug addiction, and her son Pete who was permanently brain damaged in a childhood car accident. Because of her great generosity, especially toward needy young people, Carol was sometimes known as the “Mother Teresa of the Sunset District”. And as a daily swimmer/surfer she also became known as ‘Queen of the Beach’.
From childhood Carol was an extraordinarily intuitive free spirit. She never knowingly followed any prescribed Western or Eastern religious path, despite attempted childhood Catholic inculcation. Instead, she instinctively followed her own unique spiritual path of communing with Nature while surfing, swimming, sunning, hiking, biking, organic gardening, and helping troubled souls – especially young people.
Carol’s muraled house and organic garden.
Carol’s muraled house and aesthetic organic garden have symbolized her unique lifestyle as a ‘female St. Francis’. Especially noteworthy is an artistically beautiful St. Francis of Assisi “Peace & Joy” mural at her home’s entryway – a delightfully surprising tourist attraction for visitors to San Francisco’s ocean beach area. On Carol’s roof top (above the mural) is an artistic portrayal of ‘Brother sun’, her main deity, and unfurled above the roof is a red Tibetan prayer flag, symbolizing Carol’s respect for the Tibetan culture and Dalai Lama.
Thus Carol’s house has eloquently exemplified her simple inner-directed life of instinctively communing with Nature, often without concern for outer–directed societal standards.
Ron’s Synchronicity Story: “Goodbye St. Francis”= Farewell Carol
During forty years of living in the same San Francisco high-rise hermitage, my apartment has been adorned with many pictures and portrayals of St. Francis, my favorite saint, and of the peace prayer which he inspired. And until recently St. Francis in a stone statue also presided over my outside deck garden.
But in July 2018, I was obliged to remove everything from my outdoor deck so it could be renovated and repainted. Thereafter, I realized that I could no longer physically maintain my deck-top garden. So I decided to give away the plants and planters blessed by my St. Francis statue. While I’ve been looking for new homes for my plants, the St. Francis statue has been stored in an inconspicuous corner of my bedroom which is temporarily filled with many deck plants.
On December 1, 2018, my long-time neighbor and community gardener friend, Jan Monaghan, came to take pictures of my plants and planters, to help me find a new home for them. While showing Jan the St. Francis statue, I suddenly and inexplicably started crying, thinking and saying “goodbye Saint Francis”. Thereafter for several hours I remained tearful.
The next day, Sunday December 2nd, I learned (via email) that Carol’s soul had departed her body Saturday evening, and I intuited that while Ron was tearfully saying goodbye to St. Francis Carol’s soul was astrally bidding Ron ‘adieu’.
On Monday morning, realizing that my St. Francis statue needed an appropriate new place to stand, I decided to move it to my my high-rise hermitage view living room, where I spend most indoor waking hours. So I telepathically told the saint in the statue that (on returning from a brief walk) I was moving him to a perfect place on my living room wool carpet, and that I would find an appropriate indoor pedestal for him there ASAP.
Soon thereafter, I took a brief walk on nearby Vallejo street. After walking for about fifteen minutes I noticed an amazing manifestation miracle. Amongst a curbside pile of discarded objects, I saw a perfect pedestal for St. Francis, which I carried home. On returning home, I moved St. Francis to a new perfect place on my living room carpet where he now resides on that miraculously manifested pedestal. And just as Carol’s St. Francis mural appears below a red Tibetan roof-top prayer flag, my St. Francis statue stands beneath a red Tibetan Kalachakra thangka mandala, symbolizing Ron’s respect for the Tibetan culture, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Moral of the story?
“Synchronicity is choreographed by a great,
pervasive intelligence that lies at the heart of nature,
and is manifest in each of us through what we call the soul.”
~ Deepak Chopra, Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire
“Miraculous synchronicities in time,
are meaningful reminders of eternal Reality
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
After briefly blessing this world as a female St Francis,
the divine soul we’ve known as Carol Schuldt,
has returned to the Sun,
from where she’ll reappear eternally
for endless new lifetime adventures,
in endless new forms, of
And so it shall be!
The dewdrop belongs to the sea. Separated, it is vulnerable to the sun and wind and other elements of nature; but when the droplet returns its source, it becomes magnified in oneness with the sea. So it is with your life. United to God you become immortal.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
What is birth? Is it of the “I-thought” or of the body?
Is “I” separate from the body or identical? How did this “I-thought” arise?
Is the “I-thought” your nature? Or is something else your nature?
The “I” of the wise man includes the body but he does not identify himself with the body. For there cannot be anything apart from “I” for him.
If the body falls, there is no loss for the “I”. “I” remains the same.
If the body feels dead, let it raise the question. Being inert, it cannot “I”.
“I” never dies and does not ask. Who then dies? Who asks?
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“Eternal Life is gained by utter abandonment of one’s own [ego] life.
When God appears to His ardent lover the lover is absorbed in Him, and not so much as a hair of the lover remains.
True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory
the shadows vanish away.
He is a true lover to God to whom God says,
“I am thine, and thou art mine! ”
“The soul is eternal, all-pervading, unmodifiable, immovable and primordial.”
“The soul never takes birth and never dies at any time, nor does it come into being again when the body is created. The soul is birthless, eternal, imperishable and timeless, and is never destroyed when the body is destroyed. Just as a man giving up old worn out garments accepts other new apparel, in the same way the embodied soul giving up old and worn out bodies verily accepts new bodies.”
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2
How Can We Become Immortal?
Q. How can we become immortal?
A. To become immortal,
BE more than a mortal.
What lives? What dies?
What exists? What persists?
That every thing and every phenomenon
that arises and appears on the screen of our consciousness
Is but a fleeting mirage projected in space/time,
by and within the Infinite Light of Eternal Awareness;
That nothing is permanent in the ever changing universe,
where all that appears, disappears.
That only Eternal Awareness
exists and persists beyond time.
So, to be immortal,
just don’t be a mortal –
BE Eternal Awareness –
Ron’s explanation and dedication of “How Can We Become Immortal?”
Today’s post title asks a trick rhetorical question:
“How Can We Become Immortal?”
In Truth we already are immortal – we are ONE eternal spirit. But (except for rare Buddha-like beings), we have forgotten our immortality and suffer societally from universally mistaken identity.
From childhood we were taught to self-identify only with an illusory and disempowering ego-mind image: with a separate name, gender, and story about who and what we are. We were taught that we were each born into Nature as limited beings; but, not that Nature is our nature, or that we are Beings of Light sharing limitless immortal common consciousness with all life-forms.
Sages, seers and mystics have been trying to tell us for millennia that we’re not what we were taught or think we are. That our self-identification as merely mortal physical beings seemingly condemned to inevitable death in space/time is an ego-mind illusion – like a mirage; that we suffer from perception-deception; and, that our True Self-identity and Reality is not what it appears to be.
“We are not merely mortal drops
in an ocean of ephemeral forms,
but the eternally Infinite Ocean of Universal Awareness,
appearing as drops!”
So today’s writings are dedicated to helping us remember that we are not merely our mortal bodies – their names, genders, features, colors, religions, beliefs, emotions, habits or stories – or the ‘voices in our heads’. That we are non-dual immortal spirit experiencing fleeting earth lives from infinite perspectives in transitory physical vehicles. But that we’re all the same ‘under the hood’! And that we can transcend inevitable suffering of ordinary human existence through Self-realization of our common spiritual essence.
After insanely and unsustainably pillaging and plundering our precious planet, humans are now confronting possibly imminent end of earth life as we have known it. Such potentially omnicidal ecological catastrophe can be averted only from elevated human consciousness beyond that which created this dire insanity. So today’s writings are especially important in these critically crazy times.
We must at long last awaken from our delusion of separateness and powerlessness, and transcend the ignorance of our immortality which has spawned these crises.
Whatever our ethical, religious, or spiritual path, if any, let us together deeply reflect upon today’s quotes and verses about our true immortality. May they spur our inevitable awakening as the “kingdom of heaven within” – as eternal LOVE.
Thus awakened, may we harmoniously, cooperatively and compassionately resolve our common crises for the common good.
And so shall it be!
“All the darkness in the world can’t extinguish the light from a single candle.”
~ Francis Of Assisi (The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi)
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
~ Francis of Assisi
“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
~ Francis Of Assisi
“Vi volglio tutti in paradisio!” [ “I wish all in heaven!”]
~ Francis of Assisi
“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”
~ Francis of Assisi
“When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing — nothing.”
“We should seek not so much to pray, but to become prayer.”
~ Francis of Assisi
Saint Francis of Assisi
September 26, 1181 – October 3, 1226 [*See footnote]
Saint Francis of Assisi is one of history’s most beloved saints. For almost eight hundred years since his canonization by the Catholic Church (in the year 1228), he has been remembered and revered not only by Christian denominations, but by countless others world-wide, who have been inspired by his life of universal love, his teachings, and his oneness with Nature. More than three million people come every year to his tomb in Assisi.
He is patron saint of Italy and of many other places, like San Francisco, a city blessed with his name, his spirit, and a national shrine including the Porziuncola Nuova, the only papally declared holy place in the USA. Also, he is patron saint of birds, animals and ecology. Francis loved peace, communed with all living creatures, and lived a life of kindness, simplicity and poverty in contrast to the wealth and apparent corruption of the Church. He was the founder of the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church, and inspired founding of the Poor Clares order for women, and a third secular order for laity sworn to peace.
After living a worldly life of youthful revelry for the first half of his short lifespan, Francis volunteered to fight in a war between Assisi and neighboring Perugia. He was captured during a bloody battle at Collestrada, and was imprisoned and chained in solitude for a year in a dark Perugian dungeon, until ransomed by his wealthy father. Beginning during this time, and thereafter, he suffered a period of protracted physical and psychological illness, remorse and reflection. After fervent prayer, deep introspection, and profuse tears, Francis ultimately decided that money and worldly pleasures meant nothing to him, and as a traumatized battle survivor he came to abhor war. Whereupon, he devoted his life to solitude, prayer, helping the poor, caring for lepers, and promoting peace. Seeing himself as God’s troubadour or fool, he lived in absolute poverty, patterning his life after the life of Jesus and dedicating himself to God.
On returning from a pilgrimage to Rome, where he begged at Church doors for the poor, Francis received a mystical message from Jesus while praying in the ruined church at San Damiano outside of Assisi. There while he was enchantedly gazing at the painted wooden crucifix – a Byzantine image of the crucified Christ still alive on the cross – the silent voice of Jesus telepathically ‘spoke’ to Francesco, instructing him: “Francesco, Francesco, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” Thereafter, he devotedly began rebuilding San Damiano and other ruined churches.
Though Saint Francis took literally that mystical message from the crucifix, its true meaning was metaphoric and profound. And by the end of his short lifespan, Saint Francis and his orders had by their example inspired a renaissance of the Catholic Church.
Francis’ exemplary lifestyle inspired and attracted followers who joined with him in his in his Divine mission and life of poverty. Clad in ragged, gray robes with rope belts, they went out barefoot in pairs to spread the Gospel. When they needed food or shelter, they asked someone for it. It was against their rules to “own” anything. Thus, they were known as the “begging brothers”.
In 1209 Francis received permission from Pope Innocent III to form a brotherhood, a religious order of the Church called the “Friars Minor,” (littlest brothers). As “friars” they worked in communities, actively preaching and helping residents, as distinguished from “monks” who then usually lived alone in isolated places. They soon acquired the name “Franciscans”, proliferated and today remain important international symbols and instruments of Francis’ legacy.
The Franciscans’ first headquarters was a simple, tiny chapel near Assisi which Francis received from the Benedictines, and personally restored, naming it “Porziuncola” [“a small portion of land”]. The Porziuncola became Francis’ most beloved and favorite place. Because of his presence and prayers there, it was and continues to be one of the world’s rare holy places. Here, Francis lived, fervently prayed, wrote his rule, created his order of friars minor and consecrated his friend Clara (Chiara), who became Santa Clara, founder of “the poor Clares”, a female religious order dedicated to Franciscan ideals of holiness and poverty. Francis so loved this little place that he chose to die there.
In 1216, while Francis was fervently praying in the Porziuncola, a light filled the chapel and he beheld above the altar a vision of Christ, the Virgin Mary and a company of angels. They asked him what he wanted for the salvation of souls. Francis replied: “Vi volglio tutti in paradisio!” [I wish all in heaven!] And Francis then asked that all those persons who shall come to this church, may obtain a full pardon and remission of all their faults, upon confessing and repenting their sins. The request was granted based on Francis’ worthiness, and the indulgence was later officially confirmed by Pope Honorius III, and became known as “The Pardon of Assisi”.
Francis was extremely democratic and humble. He referred to himself as “little brother Francis” and called all creatures “brothers” and “sisters”. He loved Nature and pantheistically considered it to be the “mirror of God on earth.” He spoke of “Sister Water” and “Brother Tree” and in one of his writings, he referred to “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon”. There are legends about sermons he preached to trees full of “Sister Birds” in which Francis urged them to sing their prayers of thanks to God. And it is said that rabbits would come to him for protection.
In another legendary story, Francis spoke to a wolf which had been terrifying the entire village of Gubbio, scolding “Brother Wolf” for what he was doing. That wolf not only stopped his attacks but later became a village pet, and was fed willingly by the same villagers, who missed “brother wolf” after he died.
Francis was determined to live the gospels and was strongly influenced and motivated by Jesus’ teachings. “Give to others, and it shall be given to you. Forgive and you shall be forgiven” were his frequent teachings.
Also as a traumatic battle survivor and war hostage Francis cherished peace. So, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” ~ Matthew 5:9 and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” ~ Matthew 5:44 were often recited by him.
According to a recent biography, Francis was “the first person from the West to travel to another continent with the revolutionary idea of peacemaking.” On a mission of peace, Francis journeyed to Egypt in 1219 idealistically hoping to end the 5th Crusade by converting the Egyptian leader – Sultan Malik al-Kamil – to Christianity. Though his visionary peace mission did not succeed, it proved nonetheless a miraculous portent and important symbol of potential reconciliation between Christians and Muslims and others.
At a time when most Christians demonized Muslims as enemy “infidels”, Francis regarded and treated Muslims with respect, never echoing the negative comments or conduct of his contemporary Christians. Moreover, in Egypt Francis – a devout and gentle peacemaker – was appalled by the crusaders’ sacrilegious brutality.
Francis arrived in Egypt during an ongoing violent and bloody conflict at Damietta, an important city on the Nile, besieged by the Crusaders. There, in the midst of horrible bloodshed, Francis miraculously crossed battle lines totally unarmed and vulnerable, and was able to reach the Sultan’s encampment unharmed and welcomed. Moreover, Francis was admitted to the august presence of the sultan, who was nephew of the great Saladin who had defeated the forces of the ill-fated Third Crusade.
The Sultan was a wise and pragmatic devout Sunni Muslim, influenced by Sufi mystical teachings. He was ready to make peace, and reciprocated Francis’ peaceful and respectful attitude. For at least several days Kamil hosted and dialogued with Francis as an honored guest, before having him safely escorted back to the Crusader encampment. The Sultan – who was amenable to philosophical conversation, but not to conversion – probably noted and honored Francis’ sufi-like appearance and peaceful demeanor, and his regular greeting – “may the Lord give you peace” – uncommon for Christians, but similar to the Arabic “salam aleykum” greeting.
Reciprocally, Francis was deeply impressed by the religious devotion of the Muslims, especially by their fivefold daily call to prayer – call of the muezzin.
On returning to the crusader camp Francis desperately tried to convince Cardinal Pelagio, whom the pope had authorized to lead the 5th Crusade, that he should make peace with the Sultan. But the cardinal who was certain of victory would not listen. His eventual failure, amidst terrible loss of life, brought the barbaric age of the crusades to an ignominious end.
In 1224, near the end of his earthly life, according to legend, Francis became the first saint in history to miraculously receive crucifixion stigmata. It happened after he had been taken to Mount Alverna, a wild nature place in Tuscany, to be in solitude for a forty day retreat.
Though already in a very feeble state, he fasted and prayed intensely with deepest longing for God. In the midst of his fast, while he was so praying he beheld a marvelous vision: an angel carrying an image of a man nailed to a cross. When the vision disappeared, Francis felt sharp pains in various places on his body.
In locating the source of these pains, Francis found that he had five marks or “stigmata” on his hands, feet, and sides—like the wounds inflicted with nails and spears on Jesus during His crucifixion. Those marks remained and caused Francis great pain until his death two years later.
On October 3, 1226 A.D. Francis died in a humble cell next to the beloved Porziuncola, his favorite holy place where the Franciscan movement began. He was blind from trachoma, suffering from malaria and other illnesses, emaciated and racked with pain from the stigmata and other wounds. As he lay dying, the brothers came for his blessing. They sang “Song to the Sun”, a song which Francis had composed.
Sometime before he drew his last breath, he said, “Let us sing the welcome to Sister Death.” Francis welcomed ‘Sister Death’ knowing that “it is in dying that we are reborn to eternal life”, the concluding line of a beautifully inspiring and best known peace prayer mistakenly attributed to him. (**See Footnote)
In conclusion, we offer that prayer in grateful tribute to his blessed life and legacy. May he ever inspire countless beings to become instruments of Divine peace and love, in perfect harmony with Nature and the kingdom of heaven.
“Vi vogliamo tutti in Paradiso”; “We wish ALL in Heaven”.
And so it shall be!
Prayer Of St. Francis Of Assisi **
Beloved, we are instruments of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Divine Mother/Father, grant
that we may seek not so much
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving, that we receive;
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying – to ego life –
that we are reborn to Eternal Life.
* This narrative is based on Ron Rattner’s intuitive interpretation of many disparate and sometimes conflicting historical accounts of the life of Francis of Assisi. The reader is free to accept or reject any part of it.
**This inspiring peace prayer does not appear in any of Saint Francis’ known writings. According to researchers, the first appearance of this prayer was in a French language magazine, La Clochette, in 1912; it was probably then first written by a forgotten Catholic Priest, Father Bouquerel. Later, the prayer was translated into English and widely distributed on cards with a reverse side picture of Saint Francis, without any claim that he wrote the prayer. But, because of his picture and because it invokes his spirit, the prayer thereafter became commonly known as the Prayer of Saint Francis. The foregoing version of the prayer has been edited by Ron Rattner.
Ron’s audio recitation of the Prayer of Saint Francis Of Assisi
”Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it.
What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”
“The soul is eternal, all-pervading, unmodifiable, immovable and primordial.”
“The soul never takes birth and never dies at any time
nor does it come into being again when the body is created.
The soul is birthless, eternal, imperishable and timeless
and is never destroyed when the body is destroyed.
Just as a man giving up old worn out garments accepts other new apparel, in the same way the embodied soul giving up old and worn out bodies verily accepts new bodies.”
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2
Life Is Perpetual; Happiness Is Optional
Life is perpetual;
Happiness is optional.
God gives Life eternal.
Humankind makes it sublime or infernal.
or endless night:
However we choose it,
we never can lose it.
Ron’s audio recitation of “Life Is Perpetual; Happiness Is Optional”
Ron’s commentary on “Life Is Perpetual; Happiness Is Optional”
Have you ever wondered why the world seems so crazy? Why billions of people worldwide suffer unnecessarily from wars, poverty, illness, lack of basic life-sustaining necessities? Why even in the richest nation on Earth, suffering is ubiquitous? Why even materially rich people are often depressed, addicted or mentally ill?
Long before my mid-life spiritual awakening, I attributed societal suffering to societal insanity. But only afterwards, did I begin deeply reflecting on root causes of such societal insanity and unhappiness. I began asking many new questions about our true identity and reality. That continuing process of constant questioning has proved immeasurably helpful.
Thereby, I have been blessed with simple spiritual answers to seemingly complicated questions about crazy behaviors in a crazy world; answers which have brought me ever-increasing happiness. Like Dr. Seuss, I’ve discovered that: “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple”; that seemingly complicated questions about living a happy life often can be resolved with simple answers from elevated levels of inner awareness.
I have found that societal suffering arises from ignorance of our true nature and spiritual self-identity; that we inevitably suffer karmically while seeking happiness through satisfaction of ephemeral worldly desires, because lasting happiness can only be found within; and, that our experience of happiness depends upon our self-identification as eternal spirit rather than as only impermanent mortal bodies and their stories.
So inspired by my beloved Guruji, I’ve shared many SillyStutras writings about happiness, to help us discover within that eternal happiness is our true nature.
The foregoing pithy poem “Life Is Perpetual; Happiness Is Optional” and preceding quotations emphasize the crucial truth that Life is eternal, though suffering is optional. I hope you’ll reflect upon them.
May these writings help inspire us to experience ever more inner happiness in a seemingly insane world.
And so may it be!
“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end,
by forces over which we have no control.
It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star.
Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust,
we all dance to a mysterious tune,
intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”
~ Albert Einstein
“Every Cause has its Effect;
every Effect has its Cause;
everything happens according to Law;
Chance is but a name for Law not recognized;
there are many planes of causation,
but nothing escapes the Law.”
~ The Kybalion
“You are truly free when you are not a person”.
~ Deepak Chopra – The Book of Secrets
Introduction to Indian Astrology, Free Will or Fate?
I have elsewhere shared how in February, 1977, I spent a week in New York City, so filled with amazing synchronistic and precognitive experiences, that I became convinced it was possible to mystically transcend serial time perception. ( Synchronicity Story: An Amazing Experiment With Time )
Later, on learning that Sri Yukteshwar, Paramahamsa Yogananda’s guru, was an expert Vedic astrologer, and that the father of my Guru, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, was also a Vedic astrologer, I became interested in astrological predictions and (for the first time in my life) was opened to possible validity of astrology – both Eastern and Western – as an esoteric science.
Indian or Vedic astrology is called Jyotish, which is Sanskrit for “light”; it is an ancient tradition going back thousands of years. Commonly, Indian astrologers (like those from other traditions) cast and interpret a personal chart – a ‘karmic map’ – based on each person’s unique time and place of birth.
But, there is another very rare branch of Jyotish astrology called Nadi reading in which the astrologer, a Brahmin priest, doesn’t cast a personal chart, but through analysis of one’s thumb prints locates and interprets notations supposedly first written on palm bark or leaves thousands of years ago by Indian sage Bhrigu, or a similar saint.
Few people in the world have ever heard about, much less seen, an Indian Nadi reader. On first hearing of Nadi readers, I skeptically dismissed claims of their authenticity and accuracy as too “far out” and beyond my Western programmed paradigm. But gradually I heard credible reports which began changing my mind.
First, two Harvard trained married friends recounted to me their amazing experience with a Nadi reader. Later, I learned that Swami Kriyananda
(J. Donald Walters), a well known Western teacher, author, and direct disciple of Paramahamsa Yogananda, was so impressed with the extraordinary accuracy of his Nadi readings, that in 1967 he had published a book entitled India’s Ancient Book of Prophecy.
In 2011, I was discussing questions of free will and destiny with my long-time Jyotish astrologer friend Jackie Haller, when she reminded me of Kriyananda’s Nadi reading experiences. Intrigued by Jackie’s comments, I soon did an extended internet search about Kriyananda’s prophesy book. It was out of print, but I found online summaries of his amazing story.
The next day, while visiting at the Fort Mason Italian-American Museum, I was informing my friend Joy Massa about Kriyananda’s Nadi readings, when a woman near us “coincidentally” overhead the conversation and joined us. Spontaneously she recounted lucidly and in some detail her personal amazing experience with a Nadi reading in Tamil Nadu, South India. She told us that she’d become interested in such prophesies from friends and after reading about Deepak Chopra’s extraordinary experience with Nadi readers.
Chopra was then well known to me as a knowledgeable and credible spiritual author. So I soon found and read, for the first time, his following life changing prophesy experience, in his “Book of Secrets”, pp 213-216.
“The Book of Secrets” by Deepak Chopra:
YOU ARE TRULY FREE WHEN YOU ARE NOT A PERSON
Several years ago in a small village outside New Delhi, I was sitting in a small, stuffy room with a very old man and a young priest. The priest sat on the floor swaying back and forth as he recited words inked on bark sheets that looked ancient. I listened, having no idea what the priest was intoning. He was from the far south and his language, Tamil, was foreign to me. But I knew he was telling me the story of my life, past and future. I wondered how I got roped into this and began to squirm.
It had taken strong persuasion from an old friend to get me to the small room. “It’s not just Jyotish, it’s much more amazing,” he coaxed. Indian astrology is called Jyotish, and it goes back thousands of years. Visiting your family astrologer is common practice everywhere in India, where people plan weddings, births, and even routine business transactions around their astrological charts (Indira Gandhi was a famous example of someone who followed Jyotish), but modern times have led to a fading away of tradition. I had chronically avoided any brushes with Jyotish, being a child of modern India and later a working doctor in the West.
But my friend prevailed, and I had to admit that I was curious about what was going to happen. The young priest, dressed in a wrapped skirt with bare chest and hair shiny with coconut oil—both marks of a southerner—didn’t draw up my birth chart. Every chart he needed had already been drawn up hundreds of years ago. In other words, someone sitting under a palm tree many generations ago had taken a strip of bark, known as a Nadi, and inscribed my life on it.
These Nadis are scattered all over India, and it’s pure chance to run across one that applies to you. My friend had spent several years tracking down just one for himself; the priest produced a whole sheaf for me, much to my friend’s amazed delight. You have to come for the reading, he insisted.
Now the old man sitting across the table was interpreting in Hindi what the priest was chanting. Because of overlapping birth times and the vagaries of the calendar when we are speaking of centuries, Nadis can overlap, and the first few sheets didn’t apply to me. But by the third sheet or so, the young priest with the sing-song voice was reading facts that were startlingly precise: my birth date, my parents’ names, my own name and my wife’s, the number of children we have and where they live now, the day and hour of my father’s recent death, his exact name, and my mother’s.
At first there seemed to be a glitch: The Nadi gave the wrong first name for my mother, calling her Suchinta, when in fact her name is Pushpa. This mistake bothered me, so I took a break and went to a phone to ask her about it. My mother told me, with great surprise, that in fact her birth name was Suchinta, but since it rhymed with the word for “sad” in Hindi, an uncle suggested that it be changed when she was three years old. I hung up the phone, wondering what this whole experience meant, for the young priest had also read out that a relative would intervene to change my mother’s name. No one in our family had ever mentioned this incident, so the young priest wasn’t indulging in some kind of mind-reading.
For the benefit of skeptics, the young priest had passed nearly his whole life in a temple in South India and did not speak English or Hindi. Neither he nor the old man knew who I was. Anyway, in this school of Jyotish, the astrologer doesn’t take down your birth time and cast a personal chart which he then interprets. Instead, a person walks into a Nadi reader’s house, the reader takes a thumbprint, and based on that, the matching charts are located (always keeping in mind that the Nadis may be lost or scattered to the winds). The astrologer reads out only what someone else has written down perhaps a thousand years ago. Here’s another twist to the mystery: Nadis don’t have to cover everyone who will ever live, only those individuals who will one day show up at an astrologer’s door to ask for a reading!
In rapt fascination I sat through an hour of more arcane information about a past life I had spent in a South Indian temple, and how my transgressions in that lifetime led to painful problems in this one, and (after a moment’s hesitation while the reader asked if I really wanted to know) the day of my own death. The date falls reassuringly far in the future, although even more reassuring was the Nadi’s promise that my wife and children would lead long lives full of love and accomplishment.
I walked away from the old man and the young priest into the blinding hot Delhi sunshine, almost dizzy from wondering how my life would change with this new knowledge. It wasn’t the details of the reading that mattered. I have forgotten nearly all of them, and I rarely think of the incident except when my eye falls on one of the polished bark sheets, now framed and kept in a place of honor in our home. The young priest handed it to me with a shy smile before we parted. The one fact that turned out to have a deep impact was the day of my death. As soon as I heard it, I felt both a profound sense of peace and a new sobriety that has been subtly changing my priorities ever since.
Chopra’s astonishing story confirmed that it is possible to mystically transcend ordinary serial time perception. And it renewed for me these perennial questions about free will and fate, which began with my February 1977 synchronicity experiences in New York:
“Are there really any coincidences or accidents, or is everything that happens to us predestined by laws of causation or karma?”
“Do we really have free will as most people believe?
And if so, what free will?”
Perhaps you, too, will wonder about these questions after reading Deepak Chopra’s fascinating story.
The foregoing synchronicity story, mentions (without including details) Swami Kriyananda’s amazing Nadi readings.
Such details, personally written by Kriyananda, (J. Donald Walters) appear below in a summary, titled: “Astounding Predictions”. Also, (citing Sri Yukteshwar, who was an expert Vedic astrologer, and Paramahamsa Yogananda’s guru) Kriyananda’s summary addresses the perennial questions about free will and fate which conclude the foregoing story.
Accordingly, the summary is herein excerpted from a chapter titled “Experiences of Infinite Consciousness by Swami Kriyananda, (J. Donald Walters)” published in “The Akashic Experience”, by distinguished Hungarian philosopher and author Ervin László.
ASTOUNDING PREDICTIONS, by Swami Kriyananda,
(J. Donald Walters)
Many years ago (1959) in Paliala (Punjab), India, a son of the Maharaja of Patiala, a student who was taking a course I was giving in Raja Yoga came to me one day at the home of Balkishen Khosla, where I was staying, and asked, “Swamiji, have you ever heard of Bhrigu?”
When I couldn’t place the name, he helped me by adding, “Bhrigu is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna [speaking in the voice of God] says, “Among saints, I am Bhrigu.”” Of course then I recognized the name. Bhrigu lived in India in very ancient times.
Raja Mrigendra Singh, my visitor, went on to say, “Bhrigu wrote a sanhita [scriptural document) predicting the lives of innumerable individuals yet to be born, some of whom are actually living today.”
This seemed to me, of course, almost too fantastic. Yet I had already encountered examples of the bizarre and the unusual in that mystical land. To preface what came next, let me recount an ancient Indian tradition, which my “spiritual grandfather” (my guru’s guru), Swami Sri Yukteswar, clarified and, so to speak, “pruned” of inaccuracies that had crept in under the disintegrating influences of time. The tradition concerns four ages, explained by Swami Sri Yukteswar as being brought about by sidereal movements within the galaxy. That system is too complex for explanation here, but it is also related to the Akashic influences.
Sri Yukteswar stated that the earth recently entered Dwapara Yuga, the second of those ages, in which human beings will come increasingly to understand that energy is the basic reality of matter. In this Dwapara age also, humans will gain insights into the essentially illusory nature of space. Thus, in the centuries to come we will learn how to travel to other planets and to demolish the sense of spatial distance. This we have accomplished already to some extent, with the invention of the telephone, radio, television, internet, and air travel.
It is said that in the third of the ascending ages, Treta Yuga, humans will develop insight into the essentially illusory nature of time. We will understand that time and space are much more elastic than they have seemed; time itself will be increasingly perceived as a continuum, comparable to a river that, when observed from a bridge, is seen to consist not only of what flows directly under the bridge but also of the water flowing down to the bridge from upstream. In other words, the future already exists, being the result of flowing influences from the past, and will not change significantly with anything added to the water- perhaps cast into it from the bridge.
Hints of this reality are suggested already even today. They will become so obvious in the third yuga as to be universally accepted. Particularly gifted individuals will be able, beyond the denials of any cynic, to predict specific events far into the future.
Even today, predictions have been made, mostly regarding the lives of individuals but also regarding world events, that have turned out to be startlingly accurate. The knowledge of enlightened sages, moreover, has always shown itself in this respect to be quite extraordinary.
I was told a story, based on the personal experience of someone I knew who had visited a saint in Howrah, West Bengal. He had asked the saint how accurate and how specific a prediction could be. The saint responded by foretelling several completely unexpected events that would occur to him that very afternoon. What he said (and here, I am able only to paraphrase) went something like this: “When you leave here. you will be obliged to take a detour because a crowd will have gathered in the street in
front of a burning building. On that detour, you will see an accident on the right side of the street. but it will not impede you. and you will have a safe journey home.” The details were not exactly as I’ve related them here, but what actually occurred was comparable. I was assured that the prediction had come to be fulfilled in every respect.
Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi contains many predictions of a similar nature. I’d like to emphasize that I myself lived with the author of that book as his close disciple and am fully convinced of its, and of his, veracity.
Back, then, to my own experience with Raja Mrigendra and Bhrigu’s text, which was extraordinary. Raja Mrigendra told me that not many miles from where we were, “in the town of Barnala, there is a partial copy of that ancient document, in manuscript form. It contains predictions of the lives of individuals, including many who are living today. I found there a reading for myself. Would you,” he continued, “be interested in going there to see whether the sanhita contains something about you?”
“Are its predictions only general?” I asked. “Might it say about me, for instance , that I’ve come from a distance and appear to be interested in spiritual matters?”
“Nothing like that!” he replied confidently. “If it says anything at all, it will be much more specific.”
Well. naturally I was intrigued! We went by car the next day to Barnala, a town that in no way suggested mystical wonders, being an assemblage of completely ordinary, somewhat dirty streets and buildings, none of them even interesting. The structure that housed the miraculous document was quite as nondescript as anything in its surroundings. We were the first to arrive. and I was introduced to the custodian, a brahmin whose name (if memory serves) was Pundit Bhagat Ram. He welcomed us, showing my friend the deference due to his social position.
Passing lightly over the formalities, a horoscope was cast for the moment when I asked for a reading. The pundit went into an inner room where the stored document was piled on many shelves in bundles. He retrieved a small bundle numbered (I vaguely recall) 54. Opening the bundle, and dividing it into three piles, he kept one himself, gave one to Raja Mrigendra, and handed the third stack of pages to me, telling the two of us to look for a page showing a horoscope similar to the one he had drawn up. We each went carefully through them. I! was I who came upon a page that seemed to me similar to his design. It was the right one.
“The readings”, Raja Mrigendra had told me, “usually tell a person his last life, his present one, and his next one”· My reading began, as he’d predicted, with my previous life. It told me that in that life I had been born in India. My name was Pujar Das, I lived in Karachi (identified by the first letter in the name of that city, and also by its geographical location), was married, and was financially well off. We had no children. There followed a brief description of my life up to the time where my wife and I went on a
pilgrimage and came to a desert (probably in Rajasthan), there reaching the place where the ancient sage Kapila (founder of the Sankhya system of philosophy) had once had his ashram. There I met my guru, I resolved to stay there and seek God, sending my wife home. A fair amount of information followed, all of it both interesting and instructive, but too personal for inclusion here. None of it was verifiable. of course, though it’s true that in my present life I have felt strangely attracted to living in the desert.
“In the present life”, it continued, “he was born in a mlecha [unclean,’ an ancient word for Western] country, is well known as a seer of Ashtanga Yoga [the teaching of Palanjali), and is traveling and teaching in this country. His name is Kriyananda.” This piece of information brought me up sharply. I was astounded.
Kriyananda is a most unusual name, though two or three monks (sannyasis) have taken it since I did. Several more people had entered the room by now. and I passed the page around to them to see if they could verify whether this name was indeed written there. They all concurred that it was. The “reading” omitted mention of my next life but made a few predictions for this one that were interesting and hope inspiring, if a little vague.
The fact that it mentioned me by name, however, was itself simply amazing. What it said about this life, also, was more or less accurate, though general. Would I have liked more specificity? I’m not so sure.
Sometimes it’s more helpful to have a general sense of one’s direction than to be burdened with too many details, whether alarming or giving comfort.
What was I to think? The reading dosed by saying. “There will be no more readings today.” Everyone in the room, accordingly, left with us.
I was fascinated enough by all this to speak about it to friends. It seemed to offer evidence, above all. that there was much more to India’s ancient civilization –as I of course already knew to be the case –than cowherds, farmers, and primitive villages. Surely what it suggests, rather, is a legacy of extraordinary wisdom. This was ammunition that would help to substantiate any book or lecture on those ancient teachings.
A few weeks later I was giving lectures and classes in New Delhi, where this new interest led to another segment of the Bhrigu sanhita. Here I received another reading. It slated , “I have already given him a reading in my Yoga Valli. That one was according to astrology. This one will be according to the power of yoga .” Instead of once again telling me my last life. it went back to an earlier life.
“In the time of Kurukshetra [the historic war described in the ancient epic the Mahabharata], he was the ruler of a small state in Bharatavarsha [India]. Fearful of having to support the wrong side in that conflict, he handed over his kingdom to his son and went into the forest for a life of seclusion and meditation. There he took initiation from a guru· The reading went on to describe that man’s life, saying that after it, owing to his good deeds. he spent some 700 years in the astral world.
Fascinating! In many ways that subtle region has always seemed more real to me than this physical world, though what remain are strong impressions rather than clear and specific memories. Again. I purposely omit here details of that past life that are personal and not germane to these pages.
What ensued then was even more astounding than the reading in Barnala. “This life,” it continued, “is the eighth since thai one during the time of Kurukshetra. In the present life he was born in Romania. lived in America, [both statements were correct], and his father named him James. [James is in fact my first name, though I was always known by my second name, Donald.] He has two brothers. but no living sister is possible, though one will die in his mothers womb. [My mother admitted to me, after my return to America. that she had had one miscarriage.] After meeting his guru, Yogananda. his name will become Kriyananda. Within two months from the time he receives this reading he will return to his own country. where he will be lovingly received by his (spiritual) brothers and sisters, and will be given [appointed to] a high position.”
Interestingly. I was in fact summoned back to America within two months. On my return voyage, while visiting Japan, I received word that Dr. M. W. Lewis, the elderly vice president of my guru’s organization, had just left his body. Shortly after my arrival in California I was appointed to replace him.
Perennial questions about free will and fate mentioned in the foregoing synchronicity story, have continued for me since I began wondering about them over forty years ago. Accordingly numerous other SillySutras.com writings deal with these questions. The most recent and comprehensive essay with numerous quotations is titled “Free Will or Fate” and is posted at https://sillysutras.com/free-will-or-fate/.
Perhaps an epigrammatic answer to esoteric perennial questions about free will and fate is suggested by the title of Deepak Chopra’s Nadi reading story:
“You Are Truly Free When You Are Not A Person”.