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Posts Tagged ‘Saint Francis of Assisi’

How St. Francis of Assisi Inspires Pope Francis


“[W]hen our hearts are authentically open to universal
communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one.”

“Francis helps us to see . . .the heart of what it is to be human ”

“Saint Francis shows us just how inseparable the bond is . . . .
between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” 

“The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical:
a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.” 

~  Pope Francis (from Laudato Si* climate encyclical message)


Saint Francis of Assisi


Ron’s Introduction.

Like millions of others worldwide I was deeply moved and inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to the USA.  On conclusion of that visit I wondered why the Pope – a Jesuit from Latin America – had been inspired to become first in history to take the papal name Francis.  

I soon discovered a probable answer to this question in introductory paragraphs of the Pope’s recent profound climate encyclical message, Laudato Si, or “Praised Be” [*see footnote] specifically referring to the exemplary and inspiring life of the Pope’s namesake Saint Francis of Assisi. Those paragraphs explain why the Saint is revered not only by the Pope and countless Christians, but by numerous others world-wide for his simple life of heartfelt universal love and oneness with Nature.

To honor Saint Francis and the Pope I am sharing with you below those inspiring words of Pope Francis expressing reverence for his namesake. 

Encyclical message.

The encyclical message opens with these words:

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured 
flowers and herbs”.[1] 

2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.


Then, after briefly summarizing apt teachings of his papal predecessors, the Pope explicitly explains his inspiration from St. Francis of Assisi as follows:

10. I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, 
and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is 
between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace. 

11. Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with 
all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”.[19] His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure 
tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”.[20] Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour. If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if 
we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled. 

12. What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of 
the world” (Rom 1:20). For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty.[21] Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

 


Later the Pope cites the Saint as inspiring us to commune with Nature in open hearted compassion for for all beings and all Life:

91. A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. This compromises the 
very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment. It is no coincidence that, in the canticle in which Saint Francis praises God for his creatures, he goes on to say: “Praised be you my Lord, through those who give pardon for your love”. Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment 
to resolving the problems of society. 

92. Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one.

221. May the power and the light of the grace we have received also be evident in our relationship to other creatures and to the world around us. In this way,  we will help nurture that sublime fraternity with all creation which Saint Francis of Assisi so radiantly embodied.


Footnote.

*“Laudato Si”, or “Praised Be.” is a refrain from “The Canticle of the Creatures,” a hymn composed by St. Francis of Assisi.

 
Conclusion.

While remembering and honoring Saint Francis, let us deeply consider and heed the Pope’s wise and profound words addressed to all Humankind, not just to Catholic hierarchy and laity. 
 
Thereby may every one of us – each from our unique perspective and in our unique way – help Humankind urgently address and peacefully resolve immense ecological, political, and economic crises and conflicts confronting us internationally and interpersonally.

And so may it be!

Remembering An Attitude Of Gratitude – A Holy Encounter ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet;
how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.
There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

~ Fred Rogers
“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
~ St. Francis Of Assisi
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
~ Maya Angelou


praying


Introduction.

In my last memoirs chapter – “Another ‘Near Death’ Experience?” – I told of my miraculous survival and healing from critical taxicab rundown injuries, which I have attributed to the prayers, care, and good wishes of saints and many others who wanted me to get well. And I explained how the shock and trauma of my sudden injuries left me with continuing retrograde amnesia, without memory of what happened immediately before and after the taxicab incident.

In this chapter I will recount how a spontaneous act of loving-kindness by an ICU nurse – who synchronistically shared my reverence for Saint Francis of Assisi – proved an unforgettable healing blessing. I cannot remember the nurse’s name (so I’ll call her Mary), but my memory of our meeting was rekindled by an unforgettable document she left while I slept the next day; and I will never forget how I’ve felt because of her kindness.

A Holy Encounter.

For many years I have had frequent synchronistic meetings with strangers with whom I have experienced deeply harmonious connections. I have called them “holy encounters”. This is the story of an especially memorable encounter with a compassionate nurse which happened at the San Francisco General Hospital Intensive Care Unit [ICU], shortly after I had been run down and critically injured by a taxicab.

I have no memory of my admission to the ICU or of any prior conversations, diagnostic procedures or medical examinations there, and I was unaware of details of my injuries until after this encounter.

I later learned from medical records and from those who had examined or visited me that I had sustained a serious bleeding brain concussion and multiple fractures, including multiple facial fractures, bruises and lacerations, and a fractured right leg tibial plateau, and various traumatic internal injuries, including a lacerated and bleeding liver. I was told that my head and face were completely bruised, discolored  and swollen.

On the morning of this encounter I remember awakening supine on my hospital bed unable to rotate my body because of an IV tube and a full leg brace on my right leg. Presumably I was under influence of narcotic pain suppressant drugs which had been administered while I was unconscious, and until I was later able to decline them with informed consent.

Soon after I awakened that morning, I was greeted by a lovely slender, blond haired ICU nurse, who said:

“Good morning Mr. Rattner, I’m Mary your nurse for today”. “How are you feeling?”

Amazingly, I simply responded:

“I’m grateful to be alive!”


Surprised, Mary commented appreciatively about my positive attitude. Whereupon I promptly recited for her my Silly Sutra saying that: 

“An attitude of gratitude brings beatitude.”


And I explained to Mary that my attitude of gratitude came from abiding faith in Divine Providence, and conviction that I was blessed by Saint Francis of Assisi and other saints [*See Footnote]. Mary then told me that she had been raised to revere Saint Francis by her mother who regularly prayed to him at a home shrine.

Inspired by this wonderful synchronicity, I gladly recited for Mary the “make me an instrument of Thy peace” prayer associated with Saint Francis, which I readily remembered and which apparently she deeply appreciated. We talked briefly and she then proceeded on her rounds.

An unforgettable “get well” message.

The day after our ‘holy encounter’, I awakened to discover that while I slept Mary had placed this “get well” message, with the peace prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, next to my bed.

sf-general-get-well-message


Conclusion.

I have heretofore told how my mid-life spiritual epiphany opened an emotional flood-gate which had been closed since childhood and unleashed for the first time in my adult life an intense and unprecedented torrent of tears; how for many years I cried so often and so profusely that I came to realize that I was experiencing a great transformative blessing recognized in various devotional spiritual traditions, and which in the Catholic tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis of Assisi was known as “the gift of tears”.

Though never a frequent flyer, I became – and for over forty years have remained – a very frequent crier. Tears have helped purify my psyche, body and nervous system permitting ‘peek experiences’ of higher states of consciousness, as well as many experiences of extreme ecstasy. They have become for me a divine sign of an opened heart.

Mary’s ‘get well’ message has consistently and often sparked a flood of heartfelt emotions and tears as it reminds me of our holy encounter and of my attitude of gratitude for this precious human lifetime. Thus, many times while writing this story I have cried with heartfelt gratitude.

Moral of the story.

Every spontaneous and heartfelt act of loving-kindness bestowed in ordinary life – even in seemingly insignificant incidents – can prove a lasting blessing for its recipient and everyone everywhere.




Footnote

* Saint Francis of Assisi.
Shortly after a profound spiritual opening in 1976, I began having synchronistic inner and outer experiences concerning Saint Francis of Assisi, of whom I was previously ignorant. Because of those experiences I developed deep affinity with this legendary saint, and regarded him an archetype to be emulated. Soon I began multiple daily recitations of the “make me an instrument of Thy peace” prayer associated with him, which have continued until now.

On retirement from legal practice in 1992, I made a pilgrimage to Italy to honor Saint Francis. In spring 1992, I journeyed to the Umbrian town of Assisi, Italy, where Saint Francis (‘Francesco’) was born and resided for most of his inspiring life, and where I experienced an extraordinary feeling of déjà vu, and some of the most memorable spiritual experiences of this lifetime. Also I made a magically memorable excursion to Mount La Verna in Tuscany – where Francis became the first Christian saint to receive the crucifixion stigmata of Christ.


Should We Be Seekers?

“Seek first the kingdom of heaven,
which is within.”
~ Matthew 6:33; Luke 17:20-21
“Seek and ye shall find.”
Matthew 7:7; Luke 11.9-13
“What you seek is seeking you.”
~ Rumi
“What we are looking for is what is looking.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
“He is born in vain, who having attained the human birth, so difficult to get, does not attempt to realize God in this very life.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna
“Remember God; forget the rest.
Forget who you think you are,
to remember what you really are.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings




Q. Should we be seekers?

A. Knowingly or unknowingly everyone’s a seeker.
Knowingly or unknowingly everyone seeks Self.

But seeking is then,
while Self is NOW.

So, to find Self,
be Self –

NOW!



Ron’s audio recitation of Should We Be Seekers?

Listen to


A Day of Grace: Rediscovering the Porziuncola ~ a Synchronicity Story


“Every feature of the Porziuncola lifts the heart and mind to God”
~ St. Padre Pio
“The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna
Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.
~ Francis of Assisi
“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
~ Francis Of Assisi
Remember with gratitude,
Life is beatitude –
Even its sorrows and pain;
For we’re all in God’s Grace,
Every time, every place, and
Forever (S)HE will reign!
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings

Saint Francis of Assisi by Lea Bradovich



When I moved from Chicago to San Francisco in 1960, I was largely uninformed about religions other than Judaism, and knew virtually nothing about saints. Even though Saint Francis of Assisi was patron saint of my new home, I remained ignorant of his life story until after my profound spiritual opening in 1976.

Then, through a series of synchronistic inner visions and outer events I developed a deep inner rapport with Saint Francis. And his prayer became – and remained – an important part of my daily spiritual practice.

On retirement from law practice in 1992, I made pilgrimages to India and Italy to pay my respects both to my spiritual master Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas and to Saint Francis.

On arriving in Italy in Springtime 1992, I rented a car at the Rome airport and drove northward to the Umbrian town of Assisi, where Francis was born and resided for most of his extraordinary life. As I arrived at the outskirts of Assisi, I immediately experienced a remarkable feeling of déjà vu, and was so overcome with emotion that I had to pull over to the side of the road as I began crying deeply and intensely for a long time.

My subsequent stay in Assisi and excursion to Mount La Verna in Tuscany – where Francis became the first saint to receive the crucifixion stigmata of Christ – proved magical, with unforgettable spiritual experiences.

One of the most profound of those experiences happened as I visited a tiny frescoed chapel called Porziuncola [“the little portion”]. It had been restored from a ruined condition by Francis and his early followers to become first home of the Franciscan order. Here, Francesco lived, wrote his rule, created his order of friars minor and consecrated his friend Clara (Chiara), who became Santa Clara, founder of a female order dedicated to Franciscan ideals of holiness and poverty. Francis so loved this little place that he chose to die there.

As I entered the Porziuncola at Assisi, I experienced a palpable aura of love and was overcome with emotion, cried deeply and intensely and lost track of time. Ever since then, a memory of that exquisitely simple little chapel and its aura of supernal Love has remained enshrined in my heart. Although I have never since returned that holy Assisi place, which Saint Francis named and loved, my cherished memory of the Porziuncola was revived following a surprising and synchronistic ‘holy encounter’ in San Francisco, almost twenty years later. Here’s what happened.

After retirement many years ago, it became my practice to walk almost daily along San Francisco Bay. Most often I walked to the Bay following pedestrian paths beside the Fort Mason Great Meadow, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), our nation’s newest National Park.

As I arrived at Fort Mason on a beautiful and sunny June morning, I was obliged to detour from my usual path to the Bay. The National Park Service had closed the pedestrian paths around the Great Meadow for repaving. So to reach the Bay I had to walk across the grassy meadow. There I saw a very unusual sight. Perhaps hundreds of children, attended by mostly senior adults, many dressed in white, were gathered in the meadow. Many tents were set up for children’s activities, such as face painting and fortune telling. Sweet music was playing on loud speakers.

I was quite impressed by this charming scene, of sweet children and caring adults, and I sensed an especially loving atmosphere pervading the meadow. Curious, I asked the first chaperone I encountered, “what’s happening?”. A lovely senior lady told me that this was a children’s fair sponsored by the Meher School of Lafayette (a San Francisco suburb) for its students and for children from less affluent San Francisco neighborhoods, who had also been invited. [*see footnote]

Francis in the Park

Inspired by the love I perceived and felt there, I continued walking through the meadow and toward the Bay. After hiking out to the end of San Francisco Municipal Pier, I began returning home. Soon, I noticed an unopened bottle of spring water apparently dropped by a cyclist. I picked up the water bottle, determined to give it to someone at the children’s festival in the Great Meadow.

As I arrived again at the meadow, I was met by a tall friendly (and thirsty) man named Peter, who seemed to be watching out at the perimeter of the children’s gathering. Though we’d never met, he somehow seemed familiar. In greeting me Peter asked, “would you like to know what’s happening?” After I recounted what I already knew about the festival and gladly gave Peter the bottle of spring water, he told me more details of this event.

Peter explained that this gathering was like a mini-Umbrian children’s festival inspired by universal values of Saint Francis of Assisi which are similar to those of the Meher School; and, that periodically the school sponsors a play about the life of Francis performed at various venues, including at The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, located in San Francisco’s oldest church in the North Beach district.

I was very surprised when Peter mentioned a national shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi located in San Francisco. Though I’d then lived in San Francisco more than fifty years, I don’t remember ever before hearing about such a national shrine. Moreover as Peter described the shrine, I was amazed to learn that it included an almost exact replica of the Porziuncola at Assisi, recently constructed at the instance of former San Francisco supervisor Angela Alioto.

Peter and I then exchanged stories about our respective springtime visits to Assisi and our heartfelt affinity with Saint Francis. On parting we shared contact information.

A few days later, I received an email invitation from Peter’s friend and colleague, Terry, to tour the San Francisco Porziuncola shrine, which I quickly accepted. Terry, was both music director of the Meher School’s sponsoring non-profit organization, Sufism Reoriented, and a member of the Knights of St. Francis, a volunteer organization which helps safeguard the national shrine.

The tour proved magical for me. With Terry and Peter as guides, I beheld for the first time the San Francisco “Porziuncola Nuova”. Before entering, I noticed carved in Italian on the second marble step a quote from Francesco: “Vi voglio tutti in Paradiso” [“I want you ALL in Paradise”]. On learning what those words meant, I experienced instant heart-felt emotion and tears.

As I entered the sanctuary that emotion deepened, and soon overcome by it I was obliged to sit silently in a pew, just as I did in Assisi. And, as in Assisi, profuse tears flowed. Unable to talk, I sat and cried for a while as Peter compassionately attempted to comfort me. In the San Francisco Porziuncola I didn’t lose track of time as I did in Assisi, and after crying for a while resumed conversation with Terry and Peter.

But I continued feeling so emotional in that sacred space that I was unable to focus on details of the beautiful pictorial art and artifacts around me, which I later observed on other visits.

I did however notice a prominently displayed letter Tau, the last letter of the Hebrew Alphabet which in biblical times closely resembled the letter T. [See below.] The Tau was adopted by Francesco as his own symbol or logo which he painted on the walls and doors of places where he stayed, and used in his writings as his only signature. (Synchronistically, I had a few days earlier been discussing with a friend possible use of a Tau as a logo for The Perennial Wisdom Foundation, the new non-profit corporation which I was then forming.)

Before exiting the “Porziuncola Nuova” I gazed upon and gently touched one of the holiest Franciscan relics in the world, a beautifully displayed rock believed to have been used by Francis as a crude tool in his reconstruction of the Porziuncola.

After departing the shrine, Terry and Peter and I adjourned for lunch in a nearby restaurant, where we shared stories of how Divine Grace has continuously blessed our lives, as it did on that magical day.

And in now reflecting on that wonderful day of rediscovery, I realize that it couldn’t have happened but for my synchronistic detours through the grassy Great Meadow and desire to share a bottle of spring water which I happened to find while walking by the Bay.

It seems that Divine Grace often works through synchronicity, and that the more alert we become to such synchronicity the more it happens.

What do you think?

Franciscan Tau


* I later learned that this children’s fair was part of an ongoing national program called Francis in the Schools founded in 2010 by Dr. Carol Weyland Conner, spiritual director of Sufism Reoriented.

Vision Quest: From Eyesight to Insight ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
~ William Blake
“True vision is insight, not eyesight.
‘[N]ow we see through a glass darkly’,
but with ever expanding human consciousness and ever deepening insight,
we can and shall ‘see’ more and more –
we can and shall see what we couldn’t see before.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint Exupery
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.
Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.”
~ Carl Jung
“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight,
but has no vision.”
~ Helen Keller
“As selfishness and complaint pervert the mind,
so love with its joy clears and sharpens the vision.”
~ Helen Keller
“Perception is a mirror not a fact.
And what I look on is my state of mind, reflected outward.”
~ A Course In Miracles
“Time, space and causation are like the glass through which the Absolute is seen.
In the Absolute there is neither time, space nor causation.”
~ Swami Vivekananda

Vision Quest

Introduction.

This is the story of how I learned from inner and outer experiences that true vision comes from imagination and insight beyond mere eyesight; that even people with no eyesight, like Helen Keller, can be visionaries.

Ron’s Vision Quest.

Since childhood I needed corrective lenses for normal eyesight. At about age three my parents brought me to an ophthalmologist for a misaligned eye. I was diagnosed with astigmatism and far-sightedness and prescribed thick eyeglasses – which I always needed, but never liked. Gradually, I needed ever stronger prescriptions.

I became so dependent on eyeglasses that I would grope for them upon awakening every morning, and wore them constantly. Once when I was a pre-teen at a YMCA summer camp, one of my cabin mates, with a distorted sense of humor, hid my glasses for several days. I still remember how lost and miserable I felt without them.

When I was eighteen years old and a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a college friend, Sorrel Rosin – who later became a prominent Chicago optometrist, told me about corneal contact lenses, which were then newly developed. And he recommended a Chicago expert who could usually fit them comfortably. Excitedly, I became an early corneal contact lens user. I continued wearing hard contact lenses for about twenty five years, even though they sometimes irritated my eyes. But eventually I became presbyopic, needed reading glasses and couldn’t get bifocal contact lenses. So, reluctantly I resumed using eyeglasses.

Until my midlife spiritual awakening, I had self-identified only with my physical body and believed my defective vision was due to an incurably misshaped cornea, and to unavoidable physical degeneration associated with aging. Never did I consider defective eyesight to be improvable or curable. Nor did I believe vision to be a brain function, or as possibly arising from consciousness beyond the brain. But those beliefs changed after extraordinary inner and outer mid-life experiences.

 

Ron - age 3 1/2

Ron – age 3 1/2

 

At a 1974-5 San Francisco New Year’s Eve party, I had an unprecedented and unforgettable out of body experience (OOB). While lying face down on a bed in a small dark room, “I” floated out of my body and up to the ceiling. And from the ceiling, with my glasses on a bedside table, I beheld my body lying face down on the pillow. For the first time in my life I had 20/20 vision without eyeglasses, and without even using my eyes – or maybe my brain.

The New Year’s OOB experience soon led to a pivotal rebirth experience at age forty three, which, opened an emotional/intuitive flood-gate closed since childhood – unleashing for the first time in my adult life numerous synchronistic inner and outer experiences which gradually but radically changed my beliefs about “reality”.

After the rebirth experience I had other OOB experiences with apparent out of body vision, as well as innumerable inner visions and insights. Ultimately, I associated inner visions with a mysterious “third eye” associated with the pineal gland – providing apparent perception beyond ordinary eyesight. For example, I took shaktipat initiation from my Hindu master Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas only after perceiving his extraordinary silver aura and seeing him in inner visions, one of which was as clear as a color TV picture. And I learned from Guruji that auric perceptions and inner visions were associated with the kundalini purification process.

Shortly before meeting Guruji I attended a San Francisco ‘new age’ exposition where various ‘green’ products were being displayed and sold. One of the vendors was selling pin-hole glasses and a book she had written about natural vision improvement, as originally taught in the early 20th century by unconventional opthamologist William H. Bates, MD. Synchronistically she told me that possibly I might improve and perhaps even cure my defective eyesight with natural vision improvement techniques; that pin-hole glasses did not improve vision but afforded an opportunity break the ‘addiction’ to glasses via obligatory squint focus through its small apertures. Intrigued, I bought the book and the pin-hole glasses and assiduously began learning and experimenting with natural vision relaxation techniques, such as blinking, sunning, swaying, acupressure massage and palming. Experientially, I became persuaded that just as the so-called “placebo effect” could promote healing of physical ailments through optimistic attitude, that a relaxed and positive psychological attitude could also help improve eyesight.

I was encouraged in this belief by reading many eye improvement books, including “The Art of Seeing” by famed author Aldous Huxley, gratefully attesting to his improved his vision via Bates techniques. For several years I received vision improvement lessons from Anna Kaye, a former Polish attorney who had emigrated to the United States after World War II unable to see a door, and had been diagnosed as suffering from atrophy of the optic nerve. Four ophthalmologists recommended she learn Braille. But, unable to accept near blindness, she studied natural vision improvement with a Bates protegee in New York City and regained 20/30 vision in both eyes. Also, I later met and was inspired by Meir Schneider PhD, a San Francisco healer from Israel who improved from legal blindness and Braille to near normal sight with the Bates Method, supplemented by his own intense regimen of self-massage and movement.

Despite years of effort, I never succeeded in normalizing my vision with Bates relaxation techniques. Apparently, relaxation could not normalize a misshapen cornea and resulting astigmatism. But I am convinced that relaxation and other Bates methods improved and stabilized my vision, deterred cataract formation, and taught me much about my body’s energy system; that thereby they have contributed to good health. At age eighty one, I still get a binocular 20/20 correction with progressive bifocal glasses which are not as strong as glasses prescribed for me over twenty years ago, which I keep as souvenirs.

From Eyesight to Insight.

On meeting Guruji, I was amazed not only by his miraculous spiritual powers but also by his extraordinary physical prowess at age one hundred, including his ability to see normally without glasses. Initially, I surmised that Guruji’s miraculous physical condition had resulted from his enlightened state of mind, and his mastery of yogic meditation, mantra, movement, and breathing techniques. So naively I began believing that “enlightenment” required not only a mind free from ego defilements, but also a healthy physical body with normal eyesight. And this belief motivated me more than ever to attempt normalizing my eyesight via Bates relaxation techniques.

But, gradually Guruji became physically exhausted and debilitated from his tireless schedule of selflessly helping others in the US. Yet he retained his enlightened state of mind. And soon I learned of other spiritual masters and saints with unhealthy bodies and/or impaired eyesight. So, I learned it was possible to be spiritually elevated, notwithstanding visual and other physical impairments.

For example, I noted that HH The Dalai Lama of Tibet, needed eyeglasses for near-sightedness. And after Guruji returned to India, I met and took kriya empowerments from Paramahamsa Hariharananda Giri, an Indian meditation master who also needed eyeglasses. Also I learned that beloved Saint Francis of Assisi was almost blind at the time of his death, legendarily because he “cried his eyes out” but actually because of chronic trachoma apparently contracted in Africa during the Crusades.

Thus, though ultimately I accepted my inability to normalize eyesight without glasses, I have never lost faith in our evolutionary potential of ever elevating inner vision through mindful identification and diligent purification of mental defilements.

Conclusion.

In the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:11-12), Paul observes that “now we see through a glass darkly”, 
but that some day we shall fully know, as we are fully Known now by the Divine.  
Now, we view our “reality” through the ‘mirror of the mind’, which imperfectly refracts and reflects the unseen light of Eternal Awareness onto the screen of our human consciousness.  

But, with meditation and other mind-stilling methods, we can evolve and transform our mind mirror from opacity to translucency to transparency.  And thereby, with ever expanding 
human consciousness and ever deepening insight, we can and shall ‘see’ more and more –
we can and shall see what we couldn’t see before.

And so it shall be!

Pilgrimage to Assisi : Communing With Saint Francis ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light from a single candle.”
~ St. 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.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
~ St. Francis Of Assisi


Introduction

On moving from Chicago to San Francisco in 1960, I knew virtually nothing about saints and was largely uninformed about religions other than Judaism. Even though Saint Francis of Assisi was patron saint of my new home town, I remained ignorant of his life story until after my profound spiritual opening in 1976.

Then, about two years before meeting my Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, I began having synchronistic inner and outer experiences concerning Saint Francis of Assisi, of whom I was previously ignorant. Because of those experiences I developed deep affinity with and great curiosity about this legendary saint, and regarded Saint Francis as an archetype to be emulated.

Soon I began and have ever since continued daily recitations of the “make me an instrument of Thy peace” prayer associated with him. But I was unable to satisfy my curiosity about Saint Francis until ten years after to my 1982 pilgrimage to India. Then on retirement from legal practice in 1992, I made pilgrimages to India and later to Italy to honor my beloved Guruji and ‘Francesco’.

In spring 1992, I journeyed to the Umbrian town of Assisi, Italy, where Saint Francis was born and resided for most of his inspiring life, and where I experienced an extraordinary feeling of déjà vu, like that experienced in India at the temple home of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa in 1982. My pilgrimage stay in Assisi and an excursion to Mount La Verna in Tuscany – where Francis became the first saint to receive the crucifixion stigmata of Christ – proved magical, There, with intense and tear-laden emotion of devotion, I was blessed with a few of the most memorable spiritual experiences of this lifetime, which I will hereafter recount.

Arrival at Assisi and Worshiping at Tomb of St. Francis.

I arrived at the Rome airport on a Spring evening in 1992. After sleeping that night at an airport hotel, the next morning I rented an auto and drove north toward Assisi. Instead of taking the fastest autostrada route, I elected a slower scenic route. After a few hours I came to a sign announcing that I was entering Assisi. Immediately after the sign there was a rightward road bend whereupon I beheld a vista of my intended destination – the beautiful Umbrian town of Assisi, where St. Francis was born and resided for most of his extraordinary life.

Almost immediately thereafter I was obliged to pull off the road, in a turnoff place.

Assisi, Italy

Assisi, Italy


I couldn’t drive further because I began crying spontaneously and intensely, with deep emotion sparked by a mysterious feeling of déjà vu that I had returned to a beloved and familiar place. Only after shedding many tears was I able to resume driving to my destination – the Ananda Spiritual Retreat Center in the Umbrian hills outside Assisi – where I stayed during my pilgrimage there.

The Ananda center had been founded by Swami Kriyananda, a prominent direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, who in Autobiography of a Yogi referred to St. Francis as an “apostle of humility”. So, it seemed an ideal place for me stay as a “born-again Hindu” devotee of St. Francis.

According to Swami Kriyananda:

”St. Francis of Assisi was Paramhansa Yogananda’s “patron saint.” Yogananda had at least two visions of St. Francis that he spoke of — one during a visit to Assisi, Italy in 1936, and another at Mt. Washington that inspired his beautiful poem, “God, God, God.” Yogananda admired the renunciation and simplicity of St. Francis.”


After sleeping my first night at the Ananda center, the next day I drove into Assisi. With continuing déjà vu I walked through medieval streets of that lovely town experiencing a sweet and mysteriously familiar ambience. Then I visited the giant Basilica of Saint Francis, under which the great saint is entombed. Near the crypt containing his remains there were continuing Masses being celebrated consecutively in various languages for pilgrims from places worldwide.

st-francis-of-assisi

St. Francis of Assisi


As a secular Jew transformed to “born-again Hindu”, who spoke only English, I had never before participated in a Catholic mass. However, irresistibly I attended several consecutive masses in various languages which I didn’t understand. But my heart knew the pervasive sweet and familiar ambience which I had experienced outside the Basilica, and which had become intense for me near Franceso’s tomb beneath the Basilica. And I was compellingly drawn to it.

Eight hundred years after Saint Francis had walked in that lovely Umbrian town it seemed for me that it was everywhere still pervaded by his sweet life-force shakti; with its emanation being especially intense at the site of his entombed remains. Afterwards I unforgettably experienced that same familiar life-force emanation at other Assisi shrine places.

Hereafter I will tell you about three more memorable experiences of communing with the spirit of St. Francis in Italy.

Discovering the Porziuncola

Basilica_Santa-Maria-degli-Angeli_interior

Porziuncola within Basilica


One of the most profound of those experiences happened as I visited a tiny frescoed chapel outside Assisi called by Francesco Porziuncola [“the little portion”]. He and his early followers had restored it from a ruined condition to become first home of the Franciscan order. And it was Francesco’s favorite place on earth.

Here, he lived, fervently prayed, wrote his rule, created his order of friars minor and consecrated his friend Clara (Chiara), who became Santa Clara, founder of a female order dedicated to Franciscan ideals of holiness and poverty. Francis so loved this little place that he chose to die there.

In 1216, Francis had a legendary vision in the little chapel. After fervent and tearful prayers, a light filled the chapel and he saw above the altar Christ, the Virgin Mary and a company of angels. They asked him what he wanted for the salvation of souls. In response Francis requested that all those who might enter the chapel and contritely repent their sins be granted a pardon and remission of all such sins. Whereupon Francis was told by the heavenly host that his request was granted.

Thus, the Porziuncola was thereafter Papally blessed with “The Pardon of Assisi” so that those who enter and repentantly pray there are pardoned of their sins, and it has been proclaimed a ‘world holy place’.

Having paid respects to Saint Francis at the basilica where he is entombed, my next pilgrimage destination was the Porziuncola. But I went there unprepared for what I saw. In reading biographies of the saint I had focussed on his simplicity and humility and somehow missed description of the giant basilica which had enveloped his beloved tiny headquarters chapel.

I didn’t realize until then that by Papal order, three hundred fifty years after Francis’ death, the great Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels) was erected over the simple Porziuncola chapel – Franceso’s “little portion” – and that all its original outbuildings were demolished, except the simple cell where Francis died. So I felt a bit bewildered on approaching and entering the grandiose basilica – so inconsistent with Francis simple life and message – and wondered what he might say about it.

But I found my way to the tiny chapel which was situated directly beneath the basilica cupola. And after waiting in line with others, I was able to enter and sit in the tiny and simple Porziuncola. With renewed déjà vu, I immediately experienced an almost palpable aura of the saint’s supernal love, and spontaneously cried deeply and intensely. I was so overcome with emotion that I lost track of time.

On regaining my senses, I realized with a guilty conscience that I had overstayed my time there, while other pilgrims waited in line for a chance to enter, and perhaps to repent and be absolved of their sins. So in a highly “enshakticated” [love intoxicated] condition I slowly got up and walked out. With continuing déjà vu I strolled to the place there where Francis died on October 3, 1226. Then, still in an altered state of awareness, I returned to the Ananda center after one of the most memorable experiences of this lifetime.

Memory of that exquisitely simple little chapel and its aura of supernal Love has remained enshrined in my heart ever since my one visit there. Although I have never since returned to that holy Assisi place, which Saint Francis named and loved, my cherished memory of the Porziuncola was revived following a surprising and synchronistic ‘holy encounter’ and discovery – almost thirty years later – of a San Francisco Porziuncola Nuova. Never have I thereafter entered that San Francisco holy place without experiencing supernal love and tear laden emotion of devotion as in my pilgrimage to the Assisi Porziuncola.

An Unforgettable Experience at the Church of San Damiano

Church of San Damiano

Church of San Damiano


Biographers of Saint Francis all agree that he had a transformative experience in an old and semi-abandoned church just below Assisi – the Church of San Damiano. 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, including the Porziuncola.

While repairing San Damiano, Francis often sang songs which spontaneously came to him. And he thereby attracted neighboring farmers and other visitors, presciently telling them that this ruined church would some day become a holy place attracting servants of God. And it did. As Francis predicted it was here that his friend Clara (Chiara), who became Santa Clara, founded Poor Ladies of San Damiano a female order and lived a cloistered life dedicated to Franciscan ideals of holiness and poverty.

Though Saint Francis took literally Jesus’ mystical message from the San Damiano crucifix, its true meaning proved metaphoric and profound. And by the end of his short lifespan, Saint Francis and his order had by their example inspired a renaissance of the Catholic Church from its then apparent corruption by worldly wealth.

Thus, as a pilgrim honoring Saint Francis, one of my most important planned destinations was the Church at San Damiano. At the Ananda Center I was urged to visit San Damiano for early morning mass then being celebrated by Franciscan Friars with beautiful ecclesiastic chanting. In following that advice, I was blessed with one of the most memorable and beautiful experiences of this lifetime.

Here is what happened.

My drive from the Ananda Center to San Damiano proved extraordinary. It was a sunny and beautiful spring morning, with azure blue sky and small white cumulous clouds. On turning off onto the quiet country road leading to my destination, the verdant landscape was ethereally beautiful – abounding with gorgeous blooming wild flowers. As I beheld this beauty it seemed as if I was enjoying a waking dream of being in heaven on earth. And again it invoked that sweet feeling of déjà vu which followed my first vista of the Assisi environs.

Thus, I arrived at the San Damiano chapel already in a somewhat ‘altered’ state of awareness, just as mass was about to begin. At the chapel portal I was surprised to see that the entire small sanctuary was already filled with people, and that I could not observe any remaining place to sit. So, as the chanting began, I stood at the chapel entry and began weeping with deep emotion of devotion. On observing me crying there, some compassionate worshippers squeezed together to make space for me to sit down.

Thereupon I sat down and continued crying with even greater emotional intensity. That is all I can remember of the mass.

Spontaneously, I went into a very deep state of meditation and lost all consciousness of what was happening. I don’t recall how long I was in that state. But when I awakened from it, there was not a soul in sight. I was seated all alone in the San Damiano chapel still in an ‘altered state of awareness’ and gazing at its painted wooden crucifix. * [see footnote].

Thereupon, a ‘silent voice’ from the crucifix telepathically said to me: “Ritorna a me!” – a message in Italian which I did not immediately understand.

For a while, my mind remained silent and my body remained still. When I finally reawakened to ‘normal’ body consciousness, I urgently needed to use a toilet. So I got up and left the chapel to find one.

But still there was not a soul in sight from whom I could get directions. So I wandered the empty corridors until soon seeing what appeared to be public rest rooms. But there were no signs with international gender symbols identifying them. Instead there were different Italian words on each door. But I couldn’t translate either of them. So, after momentary reflection, impelled by an urgent ‘call of Nature’ I entered what I guessed to be the men’s room. But I guessed wrong. Embarrassed, I made a quick exit, and used the other bathroom.

I left San Damiano wondering why God had addressed me in Italian, when I was so ignorant of that language that I couldn’t even find the men’s room.

Of course I soon learned – and will never forget – that “Ritorna a me!” meant “Return to me!” And I took it as a Divine message. Since then I have come to realize that, knowingly or unknowingly, every embodied human soul longs to return to its Divine Source. But that virtually all of us, including Ron, need frequent reminders of that eternal Truth.

Thus, I recall my extraordinary experience at San Damiano as such a reminder.

* This crucifix was an exact replica of the original crucifix worshipped by Saint Francis and Santa Clara, which for preservation had been previously removed to the Basilica of Santa Chiara in Assisi.


Excursion to Mount La Verna in Tuscany

Mount La Verna Sanctuary

Mount La Verna Sanctuary


Notwithstanding my marvelous experiences of Saint Francis in and around Assisi, there remained on my pilgrimage itinerary an important place outside Assisi, Mount La Verna in Tuscany – where Francis became the first saint to receive the crucifixion stigmata of Christ. And also there remained for me great curiosity and a desire to solve the mystery of why – as a secular Jewish lawyer ignorant of Christian saints – I had developed a deep inner rapport with and love for Saint Francis, even before I had met my beloved Hindu Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas.

Before my midlife spiritual awakening, I had no inner visions and rarely remembered dreams. And even if I remembered them they were colorless and commonplace. But soon after my rebirth experience I had two repetitive extraordinary and mysterious visions or vivid dreams unlike any prior inner experience.

Twice, in semi-somnambulant states, I clearly perceived – like a slow motion ‘inner technicolor movie’ – a scene which I was viewing from a high aperture or window in a medieval building. * [see footnote]
I could not see any person at the aperture, but only experienced my consciousness being there and looking out. Below me were monks or friars clothed in simple robes or habits in a verdant open space midst trees surrounding the medieval structure from which ‘I’ was viewing them. Especially noteworthy was the extraordinary etherial light around that scene, which I immediately associated with Tuscany, the Italian state just North of Umbria, where I had visited in 1955.

So in 1992 I was anxious to visit Mount La Verna in Tuscany not only because Francis had his ultimate spiritual experience there, but also because of curiosity about those mysterious visions. However, because of my ignorance of the Italian language I was reluctant to journey alone from Umbria to La Verna. Then, synchronistically, a friendly multi-lingual Ananda center staff member familiar with La Verna and intermediate sites visited by Saint Francis compassionately offered to be my driver and tour guide for a full day’s excursion to those places.

The entire excursion proved a memorable experience in my already wonderful visit to Italy. With great interest, I saw various places known to Saint Francis. For example, we stopped at the town of Gubbio, where the saint is still venerated for legendarily confronting and taming a fierce wolf which was attacking townspeople and their livestock.

But for me our visit to the Mount Laverna sanctuary in the Tuscan Appenines proved the highpoint of our journey. Upon our arrival at La Verna, I immediately intuited – as we observed the grounds and structures there – that La Verna was the place in Tuscany which had appeared in my mysterious inner movie visions eighteen years earlier. Then, I meditated in a wooded area where, with renewed déjà vu, I again felt the supernally sweet presence of Saint Francis. As we departed from that lovely place, I felt great gratitude for our visit there, yet with continuing curiosity about the visions which had long preceded the visit.

Though I have ever since strongly felt that La Verna was the place which appeared in those early visions, their meaning remains an unsolved mystery. Perhaps in another lifetime I was at that place, when or after it was visited by Saint Francis. But I don’t know. And it’s probably not important that I know.

The Buddha taught that we should avert speculation which will not lead to edification. And speculation about imagined other life times can perhaps detract from fulfillment in this lifetime.

*I am describing these visions from memory, because I have not yet found any contemporaneous notes from over thirty years ago. After experiencing these visions I began regarding similar ‘inner movies’ as glimpses of other lifetimes.


Conclusion

My experiences of communion with Saint Francis of Assisi in places where he lovingly lived eight hundred years ago were memorably inspiring reminders of our human potential for humbly living a life of eternal love, even under difficult external circumstances. They strongly reinforced my continuing view of that great saint as an archetype to be emulated.

For an experience of the inspiring ambience bequeathed to us by Franceso’s life of love and humility, I highly recommend your viewing “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, a 1972 film, masterfully directed by Franco Zeffirelli.  Based on the life and legend of Saint Francis of Assisi, this two hour film is exceptionally beautiful and inspiring.  You might be able to view and/or download it at this link:

http://veehd.com/video/4502272_Brother-Sun-Sister-Moon-1972

Experiencing Unforgettable Divine “Shakti” ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“Kundalini is the cosmic power in individual bodies.
It is not a material force like electricity, magnetism, centripetal or centrifugal force.
It is a spiritual potential, Shakti, or cosmic power.
In reality it has no form.”
~ Sri Swami Sivananda

 

i Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas

Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas


Introduction

After my mid-life awakening I began having previously unknown subtle energy perceptions from which I learned that my experiences of “reality” varied with varying states of physical vitality and subtle consciousness. [See eg https://sillysutras.com/extraordinary-energy-experiences-rons-memoirs/]

Following shaktipat initiation from my beloved Guruji – Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas – I learned that many of my new subtle energy perceptions were experiences of what Hindus call “shakti”. Since those memorable subtle energy experiences have often related to people from or places in India, in describing them here I use the Sanskrit word “shakti””. But first I’ll tell you what I mean by “shakti”, regardless of other possible definitions, since other cultures have other words to define such subtle energy.

Here “shakti” means universal consciousness manifesting as primordial life force – or subtlest vital energy. In the human body it is often called “Kundalini” or “Kundalini-Shakti”. However, as used here “shakti” life force is not confined to the human body – but is omnipresent in this ever impermanent space/time reality.

Guruji’s Shakti 

On meeting Guruji, I was immediately impressed with his extraordinarily powerful emanation of cosmic life-force “shakti”. And I learned that it was independent of his physical vitality, and even his physical presence. Moreover, I learned that Guruji not only emanated intense shakti but that he was one of those rare yogis who could intentionally transfer it to others not only by touch, gaze, or mantra sound, but also by thought. Thus on occasion I experienced Guruji’s shakti when not in his physical proximity. And I have experienced intense shakti emanating from Guruji’s body even when it was very weak.

While Guruji stayed at my apartment in 1980 just before returning to India, his body was exceptionally weak and his physical vitality exhausted. He was so weak that he had to be carried out of my apartment to the vehicle bringing him to the SFO International airport. But his cosmic shakti energy was as strong as ever. Afterwards, I soon discovered it was so intense that even non-animate objects touched by Guruji had become imbued with it.

While at my apartment Guruji slept at night on a large mattress brought here from the Soquel ashram. During days he often sat on a living room sofa looking out at the panoramic view of San Francisco Bay. A day or two after his departure I helped carry Guruji’s mattress out of my twelfth floor apartment, via elevator to a devotee’s van parked in the basement garage to be returned to the ashram. After only a few minutes of clutching Guruji’s mattress, I became tremendously “enshakticated” – intoxicated merely by proximity to Guruji’s cosmic life-force which had amazingly permeated the mattress, rather than by ingesting some inebriating or hallucinogenic substance.

After that amazing experience with the mattress, I realized that my living room sofa where Guruji had sat had been transformed to be a holy relic imbued with his shakti. So I made it an altar. Afterwards for over thirty years I worshiped, prayed, cried and meditated at that altar, and no one sat on it. But sensitive guests and I felt Guruji’s holy energy still radiating from it.

Ron Near Sofa Altar

Ron Near Sofa Altar


In 1978 I attended Guruji’s San Francisco lectures on “Death, Dying and Beyond”, in which he told of a 1971 death experience, which foreshadowed his later coming to the United States to help people here.* [See footnote]

From those talks, I learned that even when Guruji’s physical body was apparently lifeless it continued to emit such extraordinarily intense shakti that several people had been rendered unconscious by it on trying to revive Guruji. So on returning to his body, Guruji had to revive them.


More Shakti Stories

Elsewhere I’ll tell you about memorable encounters with Guruji in India and after his 1994 “mahasamadhi” further showing that Guruji’s extraordinary emanation of cosmic life-force “shakti”, was independent of his physical vitality, and even his physical survival.

Especially during and since my 1982 “trip of a lifetime” spiritual pilgrimage to India, I have been blessed with many more “enshakticating” experiences, not only with Guruji but with other holy people and places, which have confirmed the transcendent power of cosmic life-force shakti. I don’t recall all of those numerous experiences. But I will recount a few which were most memorable.

Darshan of Anandamayi Ma

sri-anandamayi-ma_dNmJX_1359374288

Sri Anandamayi Ma


On arriving in India in 1982 (four years after receiving shaktipat) I still knew very little about Indian spiritual culture and its many saintly beings, other than my beloved Guruji. But during the marvelous guided pilgrimage tour with Sant Keshavadas I had numerous unforgettable experiences from which which I learned much.

One of the most amazing of such experiences happened near Sri Anandamayi Ma (“Blissful Mother”) – perhaps the best known Indian woman saint of the 20th century. Despite her prominence I hadn’t heard about this saint before this experience. But since then I can’t forget her.

Though in February 1982 Anandamayi Ma was very feeble and ill, and just a few months from her August 27, 1982 mahasamadhi, she agreed to give darshan to our group of spiritual pilgrims at her home in the Indian holy City of Haridwar by the Ganges. As our tour van approached her residence in the Kanikhal district of Haridwar I began to experience intense shakti life-force energy even before we reached her house. It seemed as if her shakti had permeated the whole neighborhood. When we arrived at the saint’s residence we were obliged as a large group to remain outdoors, awaiting her appearance.

Finally we were granted her darshan – viz. reverent sight of the divine mother of bliss. Like Guruji on his departure from my apartment, Anandamayi Ma’s physical body was so weak and infirm that she had to be carried out and held by a devotee while she bestowed her eternal blessings upon us. Yet her emanation of indescribably intense shakti was totally independent of her lack of physical vitality in a sick and painful body.

As a Divine Being who was temporarily inhabiting a then decrepit physical form, Anandamayi Ma was in no way self-identifying with that form, but only with her true nature – SatChitAnanda – Eternal Truth Existence and Bliss. From birth she had not identified with her physical body – but only with her eternal spirit.

A description of her extraordinary state of being can be found in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Autobiography of a Yogi”, chapter 45. There Yogananda recounts his visit with this extraordinary woman saint.

Reluctantly responding to Yogananda’s persistent questioning about her life story, she replied:

“Father, there is little to tell.”… “My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth, Father, ‘I was the same.’ As a little girl, ‘I was the same.’ I grew into womanhood, but still ‘I was the same.’ ….And, Father, in front of you now, ‘I am the same.’ Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change around me in the hall of eternity, ‘I shall be the same.’”


Thus, notwithstanding her sick and painful temporary earth body, this saintly being continued to identify as, and to experience and emanate Divine bliss. And those of us blessed to be near her were unforgettably enveloped and blessed by that transcendent shakti life-force energy which she radiated. Never in this realm do I recall being enveloped by more intense Divine shakti than that which I then experienced.

Déjà vu at Dakshineshwar

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa


Another unforgettable Indian pilgrimage shakti experience happened at Dakshineshwar, the long-time residence outside Calcutta (now Kolkata) of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, famed 19th century Indian holy man and priest of the Kali temple there. From this experience I was reminded that Divine shakti is not dependent on physical presence of its source.

Before visiting Dakshineshwar I knew nothing about Shri Ramakrishna, nor of his spiritual consort ‘Holy Mother’ Sarada Devi. As we entered the Kali temple enclave our spiritual tour leader and guide, Sant Keshadavadas, briefly told the tour group about how Ramakrishna had become “enlightened” by unrelentingly propitiating the Divine Mother as Kali, the temple deity, and ultimately threatening suicide if She did not grant him her darshan. This was the first time I’d heard that story.

Nor was I yet aware that Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna’s chief disciple, had often visited him at Dakshineshwar; or that, touched and blessed by Ramakrishna, Vivekananda attained highest spiritual states, became an Indian national hero and first brought Vedantic wisdom to widespread Western audiences. Nor had I yet learned that Vivekananda was very important to my beloved Guruji. ** [see footnote]

The Kali temple was closed to visitors when our group arrived. And we had limited time scheduled there. But for a while we were able to walk around the vast temple enclave and its buildings. In one of those buildings I entered a room where for many years Ramakrishna had slept and given darshan to numerous visiting devotees, including Vivekananda.

Though until then I’d known nothing about Ramakrishna, on entering Ramakrishna’s room I experienced his shakti energy with an inexpressibly intense and unprecedented feeling of déjà vu. Though almost one hundred years had passed since Ramakrishna’s August 1886 mahasamadhi, his marvelous life-force shakti still pervaded that holy place.

Mysteriously, that room felt so comfortably familiar to me that it seemed I could happily remain there forever. Other tour companions walked in and out of that room. But I didn’t want to leave. Only with great reluctance as our tour was about to depart Dakshineshwar did I exit that place, and its unforgettably familiar shakti.

Because of that mysterious harmony and familiarity I became intensely curious about Shri Ramakrishna, and soon began reading about his life and his wisdom. Ultimately, of all the saints whose stories I have reflected on, I came to feel most intuitive affinity with Ramakrishna and with Saint Francis of Assisi, both of whom were extraordinary exemplars of Divine devotion. Though Francis had lived seven hundred years before Ramakrishna in a vastly different age and culture they had similar traits with which I have felt great rapport.

Pilgrimage to Assisi – More Shakti Déjà vu

st-francis-of-assisi

St. Francis of Assisi


Even before meeting Guruji, I began having synchronistic inner and outer experiences concerning Saint Francis of Assisi, of whom I was previously ignorant. Because of those experiences I developed deep affinity with and great curiosity about this legendary saint. And I began and have ever since continued daily recitations of the “make me an instrument of Thy peace” prayer associated with him.

Prior to my pilgrimage to India, I was already so inspired by Saint Francis that I regarded him as an archetype to be emulated. But I was unable to satisfy deep intuitive curiosity about ‘Francesco’ until ten years after that Indian pilgrimage.

Then on 1992 retirement from legal practice, I traveled to India and later to Italy to pay respects to Sri Dhyanyogi and to Saint Francis of Assisi. In Assisi I experienced unforgettable déjà vu, like that experienced at Dakshineshwar. But unlike my brief visit to Dakshineshwar, I spent over a week in and around Assisi, with intense and tear-laden emotion of devotion. During that visit I had a few of the most memorable spiritual experiences of this lifetime, which I have recounted at https://sillysutras.com/2013/10/pilgrimage-to-assisi-communing-with-saint-francis-rons-memoirs/.

I arrived at the Rome airport on a Spring evening in 1992. After sleeping that night at an airport hotel, the next morning I rented an auto and drove north toward Assisi. Instead of taking the fastest autostrada route, I elected a slower scenic route. After a few hours I came to a sign announcing that I was entering Assisi. Immediately after the sign there was a rightward road bend whereupon I beheld a vista of my intended destination – the beautiful Umbrian town of Assisi, where St. Francis was born and resided for most of his extraordinary life.

Almost immediately thereafter I was obliged to pull off the road, in a turnoff place.

Assisi, Italy

Assisi, Italy


I couldn’t drive further because I began crying spontaneously and intensely, with deep emotion sparked by a mysterious feeling of déjà vu that I had returned to a beloved and familiar place. Only after shedding many tears was I able to resume driving to my destination – the Ananda Spiritual Retreat Center in the Umbrian hills outside Assisi – where I stayed during my pilgrimage there.

The Ananda center had been founded by Swami Kriyananda, a prominent direct disciple of Yogananda, who in Autobiography of a Yogi referred to St. Francis as an “apostle of humility”. So, it seemed an ideal place for me stay as a “born-again Hindu” devotee of St. Francis.

According to Swami Kriyananda:

”St. Francis of Assisi was Paramhansa Yogananda’s “patron saint.” Yogananda had at least two visions of St. Francis that he spoke of — one during a visit to Assisi, Italy in 1936, and another at Mt. Washington that inspired his beautiful poem, “God, God, God.” Yogananda admired the renunciation and simplicity of St. Francis.”


After sleeping my first night at the Ananda center, the next day I drove into Assisi. With continuing déjà vu I walked through medieval streets of that lovely town experiencing a sweet and mysteriously familiar ambience. Then I visited the giant Basilica of Saint Francis, under which the great saint is entombed. Near the crypt containing his remains there were continuing Masses being celebrated consecutively in various languages for pilgrims from places worldwide.

As a secular Jew transformed to “born-again Hindu”, who spoke only English, I had never before participated in a Catholic mass. However, irresistibly I attended several consecutive masses in various languages which I didn’t understand. But my heart knew the pervasive sweet and familiar ambience which I had experienced outside the Basilica, and which had become intense for me near Franceso’s tomb beneath the Basilica. And I was compellingly drawn to it.

Eight hundred years after Saint Francis had walked in that lovely Umbrian town it seemed for me that it was everywhere still pervaded by his sweet life-force shakti; with its emanation being especially intense at the site of his entombed remains. I will recount in another chapter how afterwards I unforgettably experienced that same familiar life-force emanation at other Assisi shrine places.

Conclusion

My experience with these great saints attests to their timeless Divine life force shakti persisting beyond death; that birth and death are virtual while Life is perpetual.


Footnotes

*In a series of San Francisco talks in November, 1978, entitled: “Death, Dying and Beyond” Guruji recounted this experience:

In 1971, during a terrible Gujarati draught and famine, Guruji became extremely sick and exhausted from selflessly helping people and animals. Guruji’s physical body died, and his soul traveled to the heavenly domain of his “Ishta-Devata” Lord Rama – the principal Divine form of his devotional practices. Though Guruji wished to remain forever in Rama’s indescribably loving Presence, he was told that he would have to return to his Earthly body because of his unfulfilled desires to help people, whose images were then shown to Guruji. Rama told him: “So long as there are any desires in your mind, … you must return to fulfill those desires.”

**Referring to his Guru Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda had said in a New York lecture entitled “The Real and the Apparent Man”:
“My whole life has been changed by the touch of one of these divine men.” . . .

Later, after his 1902 mahasamadhi, Vivekananda appeared in subtle vision to Guruji at a pivotal time in Guruji’s sadhana – before his self realization. Vivekananda blessed him, and assured him of spiritual success. Soon thereafter Guruji discovered Vivekananda’s book on Raja Yoga which became of great importance to Guruji’s sadhana.


Extraordinary Energy Experiences ~ Ron’s Memoirs

As we lose our fear of leaving life,
we gain the art of living life.
~ Ron Rattner – Sutra Sayings
“The entire physical creation, so awe inspiring to human mentality…provides only tantalizing hints to the underlying wonders of being.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
“The miracle is not to walk on water, but to walk with love on earth, as if your feet are kissing the ground.
 We must remember that our presence alone is a miracle. 
We must learn to say ‘Yes’ to the miracles of life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Directly experiencing the multi-dimensionality of manifest reality helps free the mind and open the heart, inspiring and encouraging ever new insights, while raising ever new mysteries.
~ Ron Rattner – Sutra Sayings

 

Ron as Franciscan, Halloween 1981

Ron as Franciscan, Halloween 1981


Extraordinary Energy Experiences

Einstein revolutionized our understanding of physical reality by showing that everything everywhere is endless energy, viz. E=mc2. But rare are those who identify with this pivotal revelation.

Since realizing that my true essence and identity is eternal spirit, beyond form – beyond birth and death, I have been experientially blessed with unforgettable reminders of the ephemerally impermanent and energetic nature of our apparent physical reality, and of its eternal context in cosmic consciousness beyond time and space.

From these experiences I gradually have lost fear of death and have been opened to innumerable new revelatory insights about this magical and mysterious world of form. These experiences have helped me live an ever happier life, as predicted by my beloved Guruji, and have inspired ever new insights and questions concerning our infinite evolutionary potentialities.

Amongst my most noteworthy new experiences have been unprecedented subtle energy perceptions.

Immediately after my spiritual rebirth experience I had very briefly experienced myself as mere lines of energy – like those associated with Chinese acupuncture.

Then my experience of bodily consciousness returned, but never again was it the same as before. Previously perceived bodily boundaries expanded well beyond my skin, and in rare instances even melted or merged into mystery. And I became aware that my bodily self-perceptions constantly varied with varying states of vitality and subtle awareness.

Examples of new subtle energy sensitivities

Here are some examples of these new subtle energy sensitivities.

Starting soon after the rebirth experience, at times I have felt the energies of people, creatures and objects visually perceived to be far away. And beyond visual perception I became consciously sensitive to the energies of people and places both in and remote from my physical proximity – their ‘vibes’.

For example, I remember sitting with my then young son Josh in the grandstand at a San Francisco Giants baseball game, almost palpably feeling the energy of each pitched baseball as it left the pitcher’s hand and sped toward the batter. The entire playing field seemed within the ambit of my perceived energy field.

After meditating in my high-rise view apartment, I remember at rare times looking out and feeling the energies of birds flying in the distance. And while walking on a beach by the Bay I sometimes palpably felt the energy fields of people i saw moving at a distance from me.

Once when meditating alone in my apartment and concerned about a grove of Northwest Pacific coast old growth trees then being clear-cut for lumber, I empathetically experienced with endless tears the suffering of those ancient beings.

The foregoing unusual energy experiences seemed to involve supposed subject-object perceptions, viz. Ron aware of various supposedly separate distant forms. But other new energy experiences apparently transcended such supposed subject-object separation.

For example when I was talking in person or by phone with certain people with whom I felt special rapport – like my ‘high energy’ friend Betty Bethards, a spiritual teacher and psychic – I often experienced elevated energy, as if our subtle energy fields had synergistically expanded. And after I met Guruji I was consistently transformed and energetically uplifted when in his physical proximity, irresistibly resonating with his amazingly powerful “shakti” cosmic life-force.

Perhaps my most extraordinary new energy events were subtle energy ‘mergers’ that happened during out of body [OOB] experiences. The first ‘merger’ happened quite synchronistically, soon after my divorce. Just before awakening one work-day morning, I beheld an extremely vivid and large inner image of a blue-eyed blond woman who I’d never before seen.  Quite puzzled I wondered who she was and why she had appeared in my inner vision.   Those questions were soon answered.

A few days later, alone and lonely on a Saturday evening, I searched the SF Chronicle’s weekend event calendar for something to do.   There I learned that a Tibetan bell concert was about to happen in an auditorium not far from my apartment.   Though I then knew nothing about Tibetans, and never before heard Tibetan bells, this concert seemed interesting.  So I made a last-minute decision to attend.

There were no reserved seats, and by the time I arrived the only remaining seats were on a small back balcony far from the stage.
So I sat there waiting for the concert to begin.  After a few moments, I noticed the person already seated immediately to my left.   It was undoubtedly the woman who had appeared in my vision a few days earlier.  She was a yoga teacher with whom I soon had a brief but very important romantic relationship.

Once during that relationship I had the unprecedented experience of leaving my body during physical coition with merger of our subtle bodies above the intertwined physical bodies, which I viewed from above. Apart from that OOB experience, it seemed that our subtle bodies had remained conjoined even when we were physically apart. One week I had a mysterious leg pain not traceable to physical trauma. That weekend I learned that my friend had injured a leg, and that we were simultaneously experiencing the same leg pain.

After we were together physically, I initially experienced amazingly enhanced vital energies. But later because of very stressful life circumstances she became quite devitalized and enervated. Thereupon, she unknowingly began “vamping” my vital energies whenever we were together. When we parted, instead of having amazingly enhanced energies, I became so debilitated that I couldn’t jog or even walk to work as usual. Finally, without vital energy it became impossible for me to continue to be with her. Our relationship ended. It was virtually my last romance before becoming abstinent for the remainder of my adult life – so far.

A few years later I had another memorable OOB merger experience, but this time without any physical intimacy. Here’s what happened.

In October 1981 I was invited to attend an archetypal Halloween costume party in Sausalito, California. Attendees were asked to dress as a personality or image important to them in this lifetime. Never before had I attended an adult costume party. Nor had I ever before thought about any “archetype” important to me.

But on learning that I could borrow a Franciscan monk’s habit from my friend Michael Toms, I decided to attend as Saint Francis of Assisi, with whom I had discovered a deep inner rapport. Dressed as St. Francis, I went to the party alone. It was held in a large old warehouse space where there was live music and an extensive dance floor area. The warehouse was hot, noisy and crowded – not an atmosphere apparently conducive to spiritual experience or elevated awareness. But that’s what happened to me.

I was standing alone on the dance floor when a woman stranger costumed as an angel invited me to dance with her. I gladly accepted. Then she told me that as a spiritual practice she was “toning”, and asked if I would like to “tone” with her as we danced, explaining that while dancing together we could make harmonious tonal sounds.  I hadn’t before heard about toning, and was curious.

So, at her suggestion, we danced and twirled and toned together like Sufis. Soon, while we were thus twirling and toning, I had a memorable OOB experience.

Fleetingly I ‘left my physical body’ and from above the two twirling dancers perceived our subtle bodies merged. This was a revelatory experience for me, because I learned from it the possibility of “tantric” merger without physical union.

After dancing and toning for a short time, we shared contact information. I learned that her name was Mary Saint-Marie, and that she was a visionary artist from Mount Shasta, California. But I did not speak to her about my merger experience. We parted without dancing again. Thereafter, we briefly exchanged correspondence when Mary was considering enrolling in graduate studies at CIIS where I then was Board Chairman. But we never met again for almost thirty years.

In the meanwhile, I wondered why I had such an extraordinary experience with an ‘angelic’ stranger in a crowded, hot and noisy place. Ultimately, I decided it happened because my dancing partner was indeed an extraordinarily elevated being who (then unknown to me) had recently experienced a prolonged period of out of body cosmic Oneness.

As I write, Mary Saint-Marie is still a visionary artist and spiritual guide who shares her rare transcendent perspectives and experiences via inspiring art and spiritual writings, and in work shops and consultations. [See:http://www.marysaintmarie.com/].

Several years following my subtle merger experience with Mary Saint-Marie I had another unforgettable revelatory merger experience even more extraordinary than the first ones.

One night I was awakened from a deep sleep to behold within the face image of an Indian yogi, who looked familiar but who I could not then identify. Thereupon, the yogi merged our subtle fields, and we became ONE. Words cannot describe the orgasmic thrill of that merger. It was for me thrilling beyond any other experience of this lifetime – so far.

For many years after that thrilling glimpse of evolutionary potentiality I wondered about the identity of the benevolent yogi who had bestowed the experience, and why it happened. Finally, through synchronicity, I intuited his identity.

One evening while on-line at my computer I was wondering about the yogi when a familiar portrait appeared in a file I was searching. It was Mahavatar Babaji the legendary timeless saint and root guru of Paramahansa Yogananda’s kriya yoga lineage, who was pictured and described in “Autobiography of a Yogi”. Instantly I intuitively recognized him as the compassionate yogi with whom Ron had been merged.* [See footnote.]

mahavatar-babaji-special-photo

Mahavatar Babaji


Conclusion

I can’t yet say why I was granted these “peek experiences”. Like other blessed experiences, they have helped free my mind from illusory limitations and to open my heart to ever new Divine insights, with ever growing gratitude and faith in our infinite potentiality – in the Mystery of Divinity.

Perhaps they were portents showing that – after eons of endless evolution – we can ultimately experience and realize descent of the supernal on our precious planet, as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo.

And so may it be!

*In February 1982 at the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, India, I beheld an ethereal being who was soon identified to me as “Mahavatar Babaji”. I shall recount that story in another memoirs chapter. I believe the Oneness experience with him happened several years after our encounter in India.