“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
“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
“When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter.
As you see him, you will see yourself. As you treat him, you will treat yourself.
As you think of him, you will think of yourself.
Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose sight of yourself.”
~ A Course in Miracles (ACIM)
“We are born and reborn countless number of times,
and it is possible that each being has been our parent at one time or another.
Therefore, it is likely that all beings in this universe have familial connections.”
~ H. H. Dalai Lama, from ‘The Path to Tranquility: Daily Wisdom”.
In this world of relativity, we are all relatives.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
In the prior 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, and while I was comatose.
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 holy 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 traumatic bleeding brain contusion and concussion, with extended loss of consciousness; large 2” chronic subdural hematoma pushing brain out of normal alignment; multiple fractures, including multiple facial fractures, bruises and lacerations; 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 holy encounter I can now 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 Sutras 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 amazingly 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.
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.
And so may it be!
* 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. (See https://sillysutras.com/pilgrimage-to-assisi-communing-with-saint-francis-rons-memoirs/)
“There is no liquid like a tear from a lover’s eye.”
“When the tears course down my cheeks,
they are a proof of the beauty and grace of my beloved.”
“There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness, but of the Power.
They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.”
“Do you want deliverance from the bonds of the world?
Then weeping profusely, you will have to cry out from the bottom of your heart:
Deliver me, Great Mother of the World, deliver me!….
When by the flood of your tears the inner and outer have fused into one, you will find her whom you sought with such anguish, nearer than the nearest, the very breath of life, the very core of every heart….”
~ Anandamayi Ma
Tears are the solution
of other into Mother –
Mother of All,
Mother of Mystery.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
The Emotion Of Devotion – Crying For God
I cried for twenty four hours upon my profound mid-life Self identity realization. It was first time in my entire adult life that I remember crying. But ever since that unforgettably transformational event, I have often shed profuse tears.
While wondering why I was crying so much, I soon realized that with intense longing I was crying for God. (See Beholding The Eternal Light Of Consciousness.)
Then after meeting my beloved Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, I gradually learned that I had been immensely blessed with a pronounced predisposition for the spiritual path of Divine devotion – the path of Love. And that my continual longing and crying for God was an extraordinary blessing recognized in all enduring devotional paths; known in Hinduism as Bhakti, and in Christianity as the “gift of tears”.
Though never a frequent flyer, for many years I became – and remain – a frequent crier. Tears have helped purify my body and nervous system permitting ‘peek experiences’ of higher states of consciousness. And I have regularly experienced numerous other spontaneous and unpremeditated actions, feelings and sensations which have helped advance my spiritual evolution.
For example, when not crying I often had what I now call ‘alternative LSD experiences’ of spontaneous – and sometimes ecstatic – Laughing, Singing, and Dancing. Though with advanced age singing and dancing have been curtailed, I still often privately experience spontaneous outbursts of laughing, crying, and calling to God.
Because crying spells and other spontaneous devotional behaviors have happened so often for over forty years, they are mentioned many times in my Memoirs; for example, in an introductory chapter about crying for god and in chapters about déjà vu experiences during pilgrimages to India and Assisi.
May the following succinct teachings and quotations from spiritual texts and masters help all of us of understand the importance of longing for God with the emotion of devotion and “gift of tears”.
And may these writings also help remind, encourage and inspire us to open our hearts with deep respect, empathy and compassion for all people and all Life everywhere – as Divinity manifest.
Quotations on Crying For God.
“He who loves me is made pure; his heart melts in joy. He rises to transcendental consciousness by the rousing of his higher emotional nature. Tears of joy flow from his eyes, his hair stands on end, his heart melts in love. The bliss in that state is so intense that, forgetful of himself and his surroundings, he sometimes weeps profusely, or laughs, or sings, or dances; such a devotee is a purifying influence upon the whole universe.”
~ Srimad Bhagavatam 11.8 (Lord Krishna to His disciple Uddhave)
“The fruits of the inner man begin only with the shedding of tears. When you reach the place of tears, then know that your spirit has come out from the prison of this world and has set its foot upon the path that leads towards the new age.”
~ Isaac of Nineveh, 7th C. Orthodox Saint and Persian Mystic
“There comes a holy and transparent time
when every touch of beauty opens the heart to tears.
This is the time the Beloved of heaven is brought tenderly on earth.
This is the time of the opening of the Rose.”
~ John 11:35
“The soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears.”
~ Native American proverb
What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.
“There is a palace that opens only to tears.”
~ Zohar (source of Kabbalah)
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”
~ Psalms 126:5
“Weeping may endure for the night,
but joy cometh in the morning”
~ Psalms 30:5
“Man is like an onion.
When you peel away the layers,
all that is left is tears.”
~ Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, Hasidic master
Q. “Under what conditions does one see God?”
A. “Cry to the Lord with an intensely yearning heart and you will certainly see Him. People shed a whole jug of tears for wife and children. They swim in tears for money. But who weeps for God? Cry to Him with a real cry.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa
“When the child refuses to be comforted by anything except the mother’s presence, she comes. If you want to know God, you must be like the naughty baby who cries till the mother comes.”
~ Paramahansa Yogananda
“Crying to God for five minutes is equal to one hour of meditation.”
“The state that we attain by calling and crying to God is equal to the bliss that the yogi experiences in samadhi.”
~ Mata Amritanandamayi (Ammachi)
“As a [thirsty] stag longs for flowing streams,
so longs my soul for thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
My tears have been my food
day and night.
~ Psalm 42.1-3
“You know, if you weep before the Lord, your tears wipe out the mind’s impurities of many births, and his grace immediately descends upon you. It is good to weep before the Lord.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna (to Sivananda)
“When, hearing the name of Hari or Rama once,
you shed tears and your hair stands on end,
then you may know for certain that you do not
have to perform such devotions as the sandhya any more.
Then only will you have a right to renounce rituals;
or rather, rituals will drop away of themselves.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna
‘Where does the strength of an aspirant lie? It is in his tears. As a mother gives her consent to fulfill the desire of her importunately weeping child, so God vouchsafes to His weeping son whatever he is crying for”
~ Sri Ramakrishna
“Devotional practices are necessary only so long as tears of ecstasy do not flow at hearing the name of Hari. He needs no devotional practices whose heart is moved to tears at the mere mention of the name of Hari.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna
“The waves belong to the Ganges, not the Ganges to the waves. A man cannot realize God unless he gets rid of all such egotistic ideas as ‘I am such an important man’ or ‘I am so and so’. Level the mound of ‘I’ to the ground by dissolving it with tears of devotion.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna
“Even avatars have to desire to be in God in every moment. And when avatars die, they desire with all their being to be united with God. ….. Look at Ramakrishna. How much he wept and prayed for the Divine Mother.”
~ Mother Meera to Andrew Harvey, “Hidden Journey”, Page 236
“Investigation into the Self is nothing other than devotion.”
~ Shri Ramana Maharshi — Vivekachudamani, verse 32
“On scrutiny, supreme devotion and jnana are in nature one and the same. To say that one of these two is a means to the other is due to not knowing the nature of either of them. Know that the path of jnana and the path of devotion are interrelated. Follow these inseparable two paths without dividing one from the other.”
~ Shri Ramana Maharshi
“Only if one knows the truth of Love, which is the real nature of Self, will the strong entangled [ego] knot of life be untied. Only if one attains the height of Love will liberation be attained. Such is the heart of all religions. The experience of Self is only Love, which is seeing only Love, hearing only Love, feeling only Love, tasting only Love and smelling only Love, which is bliss.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“The end of all wisdom is love, love, love.”
“Love is verily the heart of all religions.”
~ Sri Ramana Maharshi
“Pure knowledge and pure love are one and the same thing.
Both lead the aspirants to the same goal. The path of love is much easier.”
~ Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
“Love is seeing the unity under the imaginary diversity. …..
“Love says ‘I am everything’. Wisdom says ‘I am nothing’. Between the two, my life flows. Since at any point of time and space I can be both the subject and the object of experience, I express it by saying that I am both, and neither, and beyond both.”
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
“He who loves me is made pure; his heart melts in joy.
He rises to transcendental consciousness by the rousing of his
higher emotional nature. Tears of joy flow from his eyes; his
hair stands on end; his heart melts in love. The bliss in that
state is so intense that forgetful of himself and his surroundings he sometimes weeps profusely, or laughs or sings, or dances; such a devotee is a purifying influence upon the whole universe.”
~Srimad Bhagavatam 11.8 – supreme devotion (para-bhakti) as described by Sri Krishna to His disciple Uddhave.
“[I]f you weep before the Lord, your tears wipe out the mind’s impurities of many births, and his grace immediately descends upon you. It is good to weep before the Lord.” … “Devotional practices are necessary only so long as tears of ecstasy do not flow at hearing the name of Hari. He needs no devotional practices whose heart is moved to tears at the mere mention of the name of Hari.”
~ Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
During my early days as a “born-again Hindu”, I discovered wisdom teachings of legendary twentieth century sage Shri Ramana Maharshi about the Vedic path of Advaita, the oldest extant school of Indian Philosophy. Advaita means non-dualism and its teachings are aimed at experiencing non-dual Reality via relentless self-inquiry – incessantly asking “Who am I?”.
Intellectually I soon became convinced of the ultimate Truth of Shri Ramana’s non-dualistic teachings. Non-dualism even seemed quite consistent with my early Jewish acculturation with the fundamental prayer: “Hear O Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE” ~ Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29
Yet, seemingly paradoxically, I displayed preponderantly devotional propensities of calling and crying to the Divine. And I identified with Shri Ramakrishna, as a bhakta – a devotional practitioner – more than with Ramana Maharshi, who was an exemplar of the wisdom path – a jnani. (* see footnote)
Until retirement, while maintaining my busy law practice I found only limited time to read and reflect on non-duality and other spiritual wisdom teachings, mostly on weekends. So I used to jokingly tell spiritual friends that I prayed and cried as a bhakta on weekdays but on weekends I became a “Seventh Day Advaitist”
On retirement from law practice in January 1992, I journeyed to India, intending to further explore the Advaita path of non-duality. After planned visits to see my Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, in Ahmedabad and my daughter Jessica at Ammachi’s Kerala ashram, the India trip itinerary concluded with a spiritual sojourn in the Tamil Nadu town of Tiruvannamalai, near sacred Mount Arunachala, where Shri Ramana Maharshi had resided for most of his adult life. This would be an opportunity to me to become an every day – not just a seventh day – advaitist.
Pilgrimage to Tiruvannamalai
So, in February 1992, together with my daughter Jessica I traveled by train from Ammachi’s ashram in sultry Kerala to the Ramana ashram at the much more arid Tamil Nadu town of Tiruvannamalai. While I stayed at Ammachi’s ashram, Jessica had been so busy doing her assigned daily tasks (seva) that we had very few opportunities to visit together alone. So, I was hoping to spend ‘quality time’ with her and to have her as my Tiruvannamalai guide, since she had previously visited the Ramana ashram. That didn’t happen.
But I had a wonderful stay in Tiruvannamalai with memorable experiences on and near Mount Arunachala. And at the Ramana ashram I largely resolved my confusion about the imagined conflict between non-dualism and devotion. Here’s what happened:
On our arrival at the Ramana ashram Jessica and I were assigned a pleasant cottage room with private toilet which, though quite basic, was much more comfortable than my small noisy cell at Ammachi’s ashram. Moreover, I immediately had much more vitality at the Ramana ashram than at the Kerala ashram, where I had experienced diminished energy.
But to my surprise, Jessica informed me that instead of being my guide and companion she wished to dedicate her stay in Tiruvannamalai to solitary spiritual practices. She told me that as a spiritual austerity she had decided to daily circumambulate barefooted sacred Mount Arunachala and its adjoining holy sites – an ancient practice known as giri pradakshina encouraged by Ramana Maharshi and practiced for centuries by him and many other saints and pilgrims.
Ambivalently, I was pleased that Jessica was prioritizing such spiritual practices, but disappointed at not having anticipated ‘quality time’ with her. So every morning well before sunrise, while I still slept, Jessica left our cottage and each day I was on my own, except in evenings before we retired in our shared cottage.
Most days while Jessica was walking barefooted around Mount Arunachala I walked in sandals up the mountain – from the ashram to Virupaksha cave, a shrine place where Shri Ramana had lived for sixteen years. Though the cave was a public shrine, I was always there in solitude with no other visitors present. As I meditated there, I gratefully experienced and communed with Shri Ramana’s subtle peaceful presence.
One day I departed the cave in a dream-like ‘altered state of awareness’ and began slowly walking down the mountain with a stilled mind. Dressed in white I was so descending the narrow rocky path to the ashram, when – as if in a dream – I beheld coming up the path toward me three very elderly men, with long gray hair and long beards each wearing a white robe or dhoti. Each appeared as an archetypical ‘holy man’.
When we met on the mountain path, as if in a waking dream, each of the old men silently kneeled and kissed my sandaled feet. No word was uttered. After this silent ritual they continued walking up the Arunachala path and I continued descending to the ashram with a perfectly stilled mind.
Though unforgettable, I don’t know the significance of that experience. But I felt I had received inexpressible blessings from those holy men; that only in such a spiritually elevated environment could such a boon occur. However, presumably, from Shri Ramana’s non-dual perspective, attachment to any such outer illusionary experience impedes ultimate inner experience of Oneness with All.
Shri Ramana’s samadhi shrine
When not on Arunachala, most of my time spent at the ashram was at the large samadhi shrine hall, where Shri Ramana is entombed. There I continued to often experience the subtle peaceful presence of Shri Ramana, though not as powerfully as at Virupaksha cave.
It is a memorable place which, since Ramana’s mahasamadhi in 1950, has continued to magnetically attract devotees from all over the world. Sometimes I meditated sitting there, sometimes I meditatively walked around the hall, and sometimes on the porch I read books about Sri Ramana which I obtained at the ashram office.
Reconciling Ron’s Devotion with Ramana’s Non-duality
Another blessing of my stay at the Ramana ashram was that while there I largely resolved the seeming dichotomy between my deep devotional tendencies and non-dual self-identity. I learned that Ramana had taught that “supreme devotion and jnana are in nature one and the same”. And I realized that perception of paradox depends on an illusory perspective; that from an elevated perspective ultimate devotion (Divine love, bhakti) and ultimate Self awareness (wisdom, jnana) are obverse sides of the same coin.
Though not permanently abiding in a state of elevated awareness, like Ramana or Guruji, I had previously been blessed with unforgettable ‘peek’ experiences of Self-identification as pure Awareness and of seeing everyone and everything as Divine. And at the ashram I read a Ramana biography that sparked the bhakti/jnana insight which helped me reconcile the seeming conflict between my distinct devotional tendencies and my irreversible acceptance of advaita non-duality philosophy.
As I read about Ramana’s “enlightenment” experience I discovered that, contrary to popular belief, which usually associates Ramana only with advaita wisdom, the great Sage also displayed and acknowledged bhakti emotion of devotion.
At the time of his absorption in the Self, Ramana was in his seventeenth year and living in the Indian city of Madurai. Thereafter he experienced dramatic daily life changes. With the emotion of devotion, Ramana began to regularly visit the renowned Meenakshi temple in Madurai. As much later he recalled for his biographer:
“One of the new features related to the temple of
Meenakshi sundaresvrar. Formerly I would go there rarely with
friends, see the images, put on sacred ashes and sacred
vermillion on the forehead and return home without any
perceptible emotion. After the awakening into the new life, I
would go almost every evening to the temple. I would go alone and stand before Siva or Meenakshi or Nataraja or the sixty-three saints for long periods. I would feel waves of emotion
overcoming me. The former hold (Alambana) on my body had been given up by my spirit, since it ceased to cherish the idea I-am-the-body (Dehatma-buddhi). The spirit therefore longed to have a fresh hold and hence the frequent visits to the temple and the overflow of the soul in profuse tears. This was God’s (Isvara’s) play with the individual spirit. I would stand before Isvara, the Controller of the universe and the destinies of all, the omniscient and omnipresent, and occasionally pray for the
descent of His grace upon me so that my devotion might increase and become perpetual like that of the sixty-three saints. Mostly I would not pray at all, but let, the deep within flow on and into the deep without. Tears would mark this overflow of the soul and not betoken any particular feeling of pleasure or pain.”
~ Self Realization, The Life and Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, by B.V. Narasimha Swami pp. 23-24.1
Thus, even after his Realization, Sri Ramana had prayed for devotion. And his prayers were often accompanied by, and answered with, copious tears. Ramana’s experience shows that highest knowledge is the same as the highest devotion; that jnana and Para bhakti are the same.
On reading Ramana’s dramatic experience I was reminded that devotional tears are the ‘language of the heart’; that tears can express our ineffable joy in ephemerally becoming one with THAT, while also they may betoken our ceaseless longing to be merged forever as THAT.
As Mother Meera has observed:
“Even avatars have to desire to be in God in every moment. And when avatars die, they desire with all their being to be united with God. …..Look at Ramakrishna. How much he wept and prayed for the Divine Mother.”
~ Mother Meera to Andrew Harvey, “Hidden Journey”, Page 236
Thus, intense feelings of the heart, which are otherwise inexpressible, are communicated by tears; and, as we soulfully pray to the Beloved with love and longing, our tears may say what words can not say; and our Heart of Hearts may answer us with tears more eloquent than any other language.
When I visited Tiruvannamalai I was already aware that – like each snowflake – every human is absolutely unique; that thus each supposedly self-realized spiritual teacher, seer, saint, guru, yogi, or even avatar uniquely manifests and expresses different aspects of our common Cosmic consciousness. While in Tiruvannamalai I was unforgettably reminded of the uniqueness of each supposedly enlightened teacher on meeting a reputed local living saint, Yogi Ramsuratkumar.
People at the ashram urged me to visit him, saying that this Yogi was an avadhuta, a mystic living simply beyond worldly social standards. I was told that he was giving morning darshans at his small house near the great Annamalaiyar temple in the center of town.
So one morning, instead of communing with Shri Ramana, I walked into town, bought fruit to offer as prasad [a divine gift] to Ramsuratkumar, and came to his house where already there was a line of devotees standing outside awaiting admittance, each also holding food or flowers to offer him. Especially noteworthy was a richly attired middle aged Indian woman, who was holding a large round silver tray laden with an elaborate array of beautiful fruits and flowers.
I took my place at the end of the line and waited with curiosity in the hot sun. Ultimately, when there were about twenty or more people standing in line, the door opened and Yogi Ramsuratkumar appeared with an attendant to greet each devotee, one by one. With most people he exchanged a few words, accepted their offering and sent them on. Only occasionally did he invite a devotee to enter his house for darshan.
Amazingly, when the woman with the silver tray proffered her elaborate offering, he not only rejected it but seemed to sternly chastise her in Telegu and peremptorily sent her away. (Whereupon I surmised that Ramsuratkumar had determined from her subtle field that the woman was an unworthy aspirant with defiled motives.)
When I reached the head of the line, the Yogi kindly accepted my modest offering and invited me to enter his house parlor with only a few others – an Indian family of mother and father with two young children and a young western woman. Each of us was invited to sit in the parlor on a plain folding chair facing the swami who was standing in front of us.
To my surprise, the house appeared to be very dusty and dirty, and the Yogi looked as if he hadn’t bathed or washed his clothes for a while. Notwithstanding his unkempt appearance and environment my subtle ‘radar’ detected this yogi’s inner purity and I began softly weeping. Later, I concluded that while an attitude of “cleanliness is next to Godliness” might be appropriate for most people, Ramsuratkumar demonstrated that in spirituality it is inner purity rather than outer appearance that is crucial.
After we were seated in his parlor, and offered tea, the yogi enquired of each guest our origins and reasons for visiting him. Thus, he asked me in English from whence and why I had come to India. With tears still seeping I explained that I had come as a spiritual pilgrim to honor my beloved Guruji in Gujurat; and that I was in Tiruvannamalai to honor Shri Ramana Maharshi.
Thereupon, while standing before me the Yogi raised his right hand in blessing pose and in English said “my Father blesses you”, an utterance he intermittently thereafter repeated. While blessing me with his raised right hand the yogi held between the fingers of his left hand and puffed alternately on three lighted bidis (Indian hand-rolled cigarettes, like those sold and smoked by Nisargadatta Maharaj).
Though it didn’t surprise me to see a smoking saint, never before had I imagined a holy man smoking three cigarettes concurrently. So it was apparent – as I had been informed – that Ramsuratkumar was an avadhuta, who lived simply and unconventionally without concern for social standards. In all events, I was and remain ever grateful for his blessings.
Since my pilgrimage to Tiruvannamalai more than ever before have I been grateful for my “gift of tears” as a supreme devotional blessing ultimately consistent with highest wisdom of non-duality Self-identity. (See e.g. https://sillysutras.com/crying-for-god-and-other-kundalini-kriyas-rons-memoirs/ ) And since darshan with Yogi Ramsuratkumar more than ever before have I gratefully appreciated the infinite potentiality of non-duality Reality.
* The seeming dichotomy between my deep devotional tendencies and non-dual self-identity remains today: Often I still spontaneously call and cry to the Divine, yet always remembering “I am THAT” to which I call and cry; that, as Swami Vivekananda eloquently observed – “…this separation between man and man, between nation and nation, between earth and moon, between moon and sun . . does not exist, it is not real” ; and that “Your own will is all that answers prayer, only it appears under the guise of different religious conceptions to each mind. We may call it Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, but it is only the Self, the ‘I’.”
“Crying to God for five minutes is equal to one hour of meditation.”
“The state that we attain by calling and crying to God is equal to the bliss that the yogi experiences in samadhi.”
~ Mata Amritanandamayi (Ammachi)
“The fruits of the inner man begin only with the shedding of tears.
When you reach the place of tears,
then know that your spirit has come out from the prison of this world
and has set its foot upon the path that leads towards the new age.”
~ Saint Isaac of Nineveh
After receiving shaktipat from my venerable Hindu Guru, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas (Guruji), I entered a new life phase as a devotional “born-again Hindu”, and for many years thereafter I faithfully followed Guruji’s kundalini maha yoga practices. But, especially after Guruji returned to India in 1980, I synchronistically met and spent memorable time with 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.
So in writing these memoirs, as requested by Guruji, it is appropriate that I tell you about some of these other teachers.
Elsewhere I have described my 1982 India pilgrimage experiences, including my darshan with Sathya Sai Baba. I told how Sai Baba hit my head three times uttering ”Enough!” ”Enough!” ”Enough!” while I was crying uncontrollably; that I was left in a state of confusion about my pronounced devotional crying tendencies. (see https://sillysutras.com/darshan-of-sathya-sai-baba-rons-memoirs/)
My confusion about crying for God lingered until it was memorably dispelled years later during darshan of another well known spiritual personality – Mata Amritanandamayi or Ammachi – now known for hugging millions of people worldwide.
Here’s what happened.
Crying Darshan With Mata Amritanandamayi [Ammachi].
After returning from the 1982 India pilgrimage I occasionally meditated at the San Francisco Sai Baba Center. Early in 1987 Timothy Conway, a friend and former president of that center, called asking if I would host at my apartment a program about an Indian woman spiritual teacher, Amritanandamayi or Ammachi, who was then largely unknown in the US. He explained that Ammachi would soon be making her first US visit, and that a small group of her devotees from India were seeking a San Francisco venue for an advance promotional program about her; that as a favor to them he was calling me since Sai Baba Center rules precluded holding the program there.
At that time I was living in semi-seclusion and had hosted no large gatherings in the seven year period since Guruji left my apartment. Guruji was eternally enshrined in my heart, but I remained open to learning from other spiritual teachers. So I hosted at my high-rise hermitage the first San Francisco public program about Amritanandamayi, at which some of her earliest devotees shared films and stories about Ammachi’s unusual history and devotional path. One of them, Neal Rosner (Nealu), Ammachi’s first Western male disciple, had just published a memoir which I acquired and read.
I learned then that Ammachi had been an abused child of an Indian fisherman’s large family in a remote and primitive village in Kerala; that after constantly calling and crying for the Divine, she had manifested many extraordinary spiritual tendencies and that, ultimately she had become a noteworthy trance channel displaying Krishna and Kali energies or moods (bhavas) to the enthrallment of villagers and visitors, some of whom – with her encouragement – had begun considering her a saint or avatar.
Thereafter, on Ammachi’s arrival in the Bay area, I attended one of her first public darshans at which I unforgettably learned about her devotional path of crying for God. Unknowingly I had been following that path since my spiritual awakening. (see https://sillysutras.com/kundalini-crying-for-god-and-other-kriyas-rons-memoirs/ )
By that time I’d become a spiritual friend of pundit Pravin Jani, father of Guruji’s successor Shri Anandi Ma. Pravinji had moved with his family from Bombay to Berkeley, and together we attended an Ammachi darshan at a small house in Oakland. On our arrival, the darshan room was filled with others and there was little remaining seating room. So we sat in a far corner of the room behind the elevated throne-like chair where Amma was receiving visitors with hugs and compassionately answering their spiritual questions.
As I sat in that warm spiritual ambience I experienced a heartfelt meditative state, and tears began trickling – not ‘torrentially’ but steadily. On observing Amma hugging each person who approached her, I felt content to sit and savor that devotional environment, with tears constantly seeping from my often closed eyes. But I was not inspired to go up up for a hug.
After so sitting for some time without intending to approach Amma, one of her attending swamis came and aroused me from my meditative state, quietly saying “Mother asks that you come up for darshan.” Respectfully, I complied with that request, anticipating a quick hug and, perhaps, some blessed fruit (“prasad”). But that is not what happened.
Instead, while lovingly embracing me in her arms and then in her lap, with my tears still seeping, Ammachi gave an extended discourse on the evolutionary importance of crying for God. (Her words spoken in Malayalam were translated by a swami.) After perhaps twenty minutes she concluded her talk referring to me still in her embrace, saying: “If you can cry like him, you’ve won the spiritual sweepstakes.”
The Path of Tears.
Dramatically encouraged by Ammachi, I never again doubted the immense blessing of my spontaneous devotional longing and crying for the Divine. And with curiosity sparked by Ammachi’s discourse, I later found similar teachings from other spiritual teachers in various traditions. (see https://sillysutras.com/the-emotion-devotion-crying-for-god/ ) Especially resonant were teachings of nineteenth century Indian holy man Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, with whom I had developed inner rapport after my unforgettable 1982 deja vu experience at his Dakshineswar residence place.
Ramakrisha, who had cried torrential tears for the Divine Mother, taught:
“[I]f you weep before the Lord, your tears wipe out the mind’s impurities of many births, and his grace immediately descends upon you. It is good to weep before the Lord.” – “Devotional practices are necessary only so long as tears of ecstasy do not flow at hearing the name of Hari. He needs no devotional practices whose heart is moved to tears at the mere mention of the name of Hari.”
After receiving shaktipat initiation from Guruji and the spiritual name “Rasik” – “One engrossed in devotion”, I had continuously kept yearning and often spontaneously calling and intensely weeping for the Divine. So, encouraged by Ammachi, Ramakrishna and others I was much attracted to Ammachi’s path of heartfelt singing and calling to the Divine, and was strongly motivated to see her again. And I did.
Years of tears with Ammachi.
For the next seven years after that first darshan I saw Ammachi during her bi-annual visits to the US and, in her absence, I often attended meditation programs at her nearby San Ramon ashram. Also, on my retirement, in February 1992 for several weeks I visited Ammachi’s Kerala, India ashram, since my daughter Jessica was then an ashram resident known as “Yogini”.
Though often I cried intensely for the Divine at Ammachi’s darshans, unlike most others there I usually was not motivated to receive her hugs. But in her presence I enjoyed marvelous devotional meditations, with tears, laughter, singing, and occasional spontaneous dancing to Amma’s bhajans. Thus through Ammachi I received bountiful blessings for which I am eternally grateful.
Prelude to a new life era.
At first I experienced an exceptionally powerful devotional ambience around Ammachi. And I was much moved by her soulful singing of bhajans calling to the Divine. However, my experience of devotional blessings around Ammachi and my enthusiasm for her darshans gradually diminished and eventually ended in distressing disillusionment.
After a while there seemed to be less and less pure heartfelt energy coming to me from her music and her presence. Ultimately it seemed that the music degenerated from being powerfully authentic to almost banal.
And as Ammachi attracted more and more followers, I perceived a growing cult of personality and materialistic atmosphere around her which greatly agitated and offended my pronounced egalitarian inclinations and aversions to spiritual organizations emphasizing “adulation of the incarnate” over “adoration of the Infinite”.
Also, though initially I always had felt energized by Ammachi’s darshan environment, after a while subtle energies there were more and more flowing from me, rather than to me. So, unlike my experience with Guruji, I was sometimes enervated rather than elevated after Ammachi darshans. This was especially noteworthy when I visited Ammachi’s Kerala ashram in 1992.
Moreover, I ultimately learned of private behaviors associated with or sanctioned by Ammachi which contradicted and belied her outer image and public pronouncements, and which so greatly disturbed me that I began regarding her as a flawed or false guru and not as a purported divine incarnation or avatar. (see Epilogue)
But like my traumatic marriage dissolution, the traumatic dissolution of my faith in Ammachi has proven to be a great disguised blessing which sparked an important new transformative life phase of reliance on inner rather than outer authority. (see e.g. my essay “I’ve Found A Faith-Based Life”)
Because I spent seven important years at Ammachi darshans I feel obliged to write about those years in fulfillment of my obligation to Shri Dhyanyogi, my beloved guru, who requested that I write and publish my spiritual memoirs.
Until now I have been reluctant to publicly share my distressing disaffection with Ammachi and her organization. I did not wish to discourage other devotees with different perspectives, some of whom are friends. But I now feel morally impelled to tell my truth, with the intention of helping others who might learn from my experience.
Moreover, I feel morally impelled to share elsewhere my observations which support credibility of a recently published critical book about Ammachi.
Gail Tredwell (aka “Gayatri” or “Swamini Amritaprana”), who for twenty years was Ammachi’s revered first and closest Western female devotee, has just published a memoir entitled “Holy Hell, A Memoir of Faith, Devotion and Pure Madness” containing many shocking but credible revelations.
Some of Gail’s revelations are consistent with my observations and corroborate an incident which was my “last straw” with Ammachi, to be explained in another memoirs chapter. Moreover, some of her credible revelations are so shocking that I feel they should be seriously considered by those who may be contemplating relationships with Ammachi and her organization, or with other hierarchical religious or spiritual organizations.
As a long-time former litigation attorney deeply dedicated to social justice and with skills in evaluating credibility of witnesses, I read Gail’s book, initiated extended phone conversations with her, and discussed her allegations with other yet anonymous witnesses. I have found Gail to be a sincere, honest and accurate percipient witness.
Nonetheless, the MA Centers organization has attacked Gail’s character by asserting that she is “a troubled individual” whose writings are “completely untrue and without a basis in fact or reality”. Since I am quite convinced that Gail’s memoirs are absolutely true, I find deeply offensive an ad hominem attack on her by those to whom she selflessly dedicated much of her adult life, and I feel dharmically impelled to support Gail’s credibility.
“Birth and death are virtual, but Life is perpetual.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“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.” “The soul is eternal, all-pervading, unmodifiable, immovable and primordial.”
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Krishna to Arjuna
At Mid-life, a Rebirth to a New Life
Soon after my life-changing out of body experience (OOB) at a 1974-5 New Year’s ‘pot luck’ party, I learned that the experience had been triggered by my unwitting (and only) ingestion of cannabis; that the home-made desert cake which I had so enjoyed then was laced with marijuana. Though this initially raised doubts about the “reality” of the experience, it did not end my irresistible determination to find out what really had happened.
The New Year’s Eve experience was too vivid and too authentic to dismiss it peremptorily as a mere psychedelic hallucination. Yet it was so challenging to my egoic sense of self identity, that I was afraid to then share the experience with others. And as an upright, uptight officer of courts, I didn’t want to admit to anyone my ingestion – even unwittingly – of an illegal substance. So, I didn’t promptly tell Naomi or anyone else about my out of body experience.
Instead, sparked by the momentous question: “Who or what am I?”,
I began covertly exploring what happened.
Though busy with my law practice, I sporadically read articles and books about parapsychology and psychic phenomena, but not about sacred mysticism or spirituality, of which I remained ignorant. As I read and reflected, I intuited the validity of various reported metaphysical phenomena, but still hadn’t encountered information about out of body experiences, which I didn’t yet know were common.
However, irresistibly I kept thinking about my New Year’s Eve experience and its meaning. Though convinced of the authenticity of that experience, I suppressed conscious confirmation of it’s true significance until April, 1976 – fifteen months later – when it burst into consciousness from the subconscious, shattering the ego’s psychic shell, which until then had censored and suppressed such awareness.
By that time my marriage was ending and I was confused and troubled, trying to cope with the shock and trauma of divorce and its consequences. Naomi and I were then living separate and apart, but still in the same house, pending legal agreement on sale of the house, our only major economic asset. I had temporarily moved into a third floor attic room, anxiously awaiting my lawyer’s permission to move out. It was the unhappiest time of my life.
My heart was broken at the prospect of being permanently separated from our young children, Jessica and Joshua. But, I hadn’t yet experienced the depth of my emotional sadness, and – as an uptight man – hadn’t shed any tears during my entire adult life.
Then it began happening. I awakened one Monday in April, 1976, feeling an unprecedented slight pressure inside my head. It lasted all day, and was still present the next day – only slightly more intense. For the entire week, the feeling of pressure inside the head intensified each day.
With growing apprehension I began wondering whether I was developing a serious neurological disorder. But, ambivalently, I continued with my busy schedule without consulting a doctor. By the time the weekend arrived, I was experiencing, with considerable concern, great pressure inside my head – as if it was about to ‘explode’ from the inside out.
That weekend Naomi went away with the children, and I was alone in the attic room, when the ‘explosion’ finally happened. I was again wondering about the meaning of my New Year’s Eve out of body experience and the question “Who or what am I?”, when, at long last, I had a profound but simple insight that:
“I am not my body or its thoughts, but pure awareness; I am not my role in life – lawyer, husband, father – with which I’ve identified, but pure awareness.”.
Thereupon the pressure in my head immediately ended, and I burst into unending flood of tears. [Synchronistically, I later realized that the head pressure was a symptom of ascending “kundalini” energy spontaneously purifying my nervous system, by opening subtle body energy channels (nadis).]
As I intensely and uncontrollably cried as never before, my body went into fetal position and spontaneously and convulsively I began gasping and hyperventilating with spasmodic movements. It was as if I was replicating a newborn baby’s emergence from the womb into this world via the mother’s birth canal. The crying, sobbing and ‘rebirthing’ process continued intermittently and spasmodically for twenty four hours, until finally I fell asleep.
Upon awakening, I felt extraordinarily different than ever before. Initially, instead of experiencing myself as a physical body, I experienced only consciousness of flowing lines of vital subtle energy channels , which I later associated with the ‘chi’ meridians described by Chinese acupuncture medicine and with nadis described by kundalini yoga.
Thereafter for almost three months, I needed very little sleep. I would habitually get into bed every night but slept very little, finding that customary restorative sleep wasn’t necessary. Though this extraordinary energy gradually waned and my former physical body experience returned, never again have I experienced life as I did before that self-identity insight and ‘rebirthing’ process.
Paradoxically, my prolonged mid-life birth canal emergence process may have been the first time in this life that I had an experience like a normal newborn’s journey through the birth canal. Prior to this ‘rebirth’ event, my highest spiritual energy experiences had happened when I was present in the delivery room at the births of Jessica and Joshua, our two beautiful children. But these were births of other beings. My own birth was a different story.
Early on November 8, 1932, the day of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first election, I was traumatically extracted with forceps from my mother’s body – a breech birth – after an exceptionally protracted but incomplete labor period.
Because of the psychological significance of perinatal trauma, I have wondered whether that breech birth extraction affected my personality, and whether it in any way triggered or contributed to my mid-life rebirth experience.
Some Western astrologers say that because I emerged at a very propitious time, when the Moon was in Pisces, I came into this world with an open Hearted tendency, not so characteristic of other Moon signs. So, despite the breech birth trauma, that birth time may have been a great blessing.
What do you think?