by Russell Perkins

It has been a remarkable and moving experience, reading this book of Kent's and reliving those marvelous days when the Master was young and the world was new; for that is what it seemed like to all of us who were privileged to be alive in those glorious days. In the days and months following our beloved Master Kirpal's passing, the sangat (or brotherood of disciples) hit bottom; a great many of us, myself included, succumbed to partisanship and polarization, during which we forgot entirely who we were and what we really wanted. Then our Master gave us Sant Ajaib, and suddenly we were flying: priorities righted, destination reaffirmed, the overwhelming reality and joy of darshan experienced once again. Kent has captured it all, and the intense personal focus he maintains throughout reflects accurately the intense personal focus with which all of us approach the Master: there is no other way to approach Him, really. Kent was privileged to do enormous amounts of seva and was given an immense personal blessing by Sant Ajaib Singh Ji, and his book comes as close to doing justice to the reality of that as any book can.

The esoteric teaching which in India is known as Sant Mat or "The Way of the Saints" is often summarized by the Masters of that teaching in three words, and Sant Ji often used them to anchor His satsangs. The three words are: Satnaam, Satguru, and Satsang. If we understand them and their significance, the assumptions and world-view that underlie Kent's account will be much clearer to us, and we will be able to appreciate his adventures more fully.

Satnaam: This is the word the Masters use for the fundamental fact of the universe, the power which brought it into being and sustains it even now: the expression of God through which His Love comes to us. It is in actuality the True Name of God (Satnaam literally translates as "true" or "original" name), the Word (as it is called in the Gospel of John) by which He names Himself. Other traditions and scriptures have other names for it, but they all know about it: the Chinese call it Tao, the Sufis Kalma or Saute Sarmad, the Hindu scriptures refer to it as Nad or Udgit, etc. It is referred to in the very beginning of the Bible: "And God said, Let there be light." The "speaking" of God is His Word or Name, but that "speaking" is not an abstraction; it is an actual Sound which can be heard. And the Light which the Word produced can be seen. The Word is not something which only happened way back when; as the Gospel of John makes clear, it is the basic essential reality of every human being; indeed, of all life:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5)

The light shines in the darkness even now, and the darkness still is not overcoming it; and this is an eternal drama that every human being can experience within him/herself. And the Masters say that to experience it is in fact to solve the mystery of life.

Satguru : But how to begin to approach this? If this is the ultimate Reality of our own selves, as the Masters say, why do we not know it? Why do we not live in the light of it? Bikha, an Indian saint of the sixteenth century, explains it this way:

None is poor, O Bikha;
Everyone has rubies in his bundle;
But how to untie the knot he does not know,
And therefore is he a pauper.

Still, as Master Kirpal used to say, "It is our birthright to become God." As human beings we are His children, made in His image, and He cannot help but love us, regardless of what we deserve or how bad we are. In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories to illustrate the never-ending, never-taking-no-for-an-answer love of God: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son. Because God loves us by virtue of our existence, and because He wants to bring us into His presence and show us what our heritage is so that we can see it for ourselves, He will do it; no matter how long it takes, how many repetitions of the Wheel, how much resistance we put up, He will eventually bring each one of us into His presence, because that is what is meant by "God is love." Rabia, the great Sufi mystic, said, "Love is the core of the universe." She meant exactly this: that love which is the heart of the universe will bring us to itself, and we will happily come. And the Master (Satguru) is the means that God uses to reach us.

Satsang : But in order for the Master to reach us, there has to be something there to reach; as C. S. Lewis put it, "we cannot expect the gods to meet us face to face until we have faces." And this interaction between the Master and the disciple, the reaching out of the Master to the disciple and the disciple's response, is the esoteric meaning of "Satsang," or association with Truth. The real Master is Truth personified, and association with Him, no matter what the terms of that association may seem to be, will result in growth, deepening, and learning on the part of the disciple. The Master's methods here may be highly unorthodox; many stories which illustrate this point exist, for example the following from Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav:

A prince becomes mentally ill and feels that he has become a rooster. He insists on sitting "naked beneath the table to eat pieces of bread and bone." The king and his physicians despair of curing him, but a wise man comes along and offers to heal him. The latter takes off his own clothes and sits under the table with the prince. When the prince asks him what he is doing, the wise man says that he, too, is a rooster. "And they both sat together until they became used to each other." Finally, the wise man asks for a shirt, telling the prince, "You think that a rooster cannot wear a shirt? Even though he is a rooster, he can wear a shirt." And both of them put on shirts. After a while, he asks for pants and soon both of them are wearing pants. The same process is used to get the prince to eat regular food and, finally, to sit at the table. Nachman concludes his story by saying that every man who wishes to come closer to the worship of God is a "rooster, that is, enveloped in grossness. By the above technique, however, the tzaddik [holy man or Master] can gradually lift up the man, and bring him to the right way of serving God. (Herbert Weiner, 91/2 Mystics: The Kabba1a Today, p. 219)

If we keep this story in mind while reading this book, many of the events Kent describes will resonate more clearly.

I did live through many of these adventures with Kent and his family, although of course I experienced them from my particular intense personal focus, which was not necessarily the same as Kent's. Nevertheless, I can attest to the truth of the narrative, as well as its spiritual value. I would like to comment especially on Chapter Seven, "Spiritual Vanity," and Chapter Nine, on the Anurag Sagar.

Kent's experiences during his bout with spiritual vanity took us all, including him, by surprise at the time, and that was indeed a difficult time for my late wife Judith and me, and for Sant Bani Ashram as a whole. It is a mistake to assume that Kent was wholly responsible for that. It was my job to monitor whatever was going on at the Ashram and deal with it, if necessary, by communicating directly with the Master, as He made very clear to me when I saw Him in September 1978. I did not do that, or anything like it; I basically gave up and retreated into a kind of ongoing fury combined with a complete giving up, a ceding of the ground. It was a very childish and unhelpful reaction, which made everything worse. Since then, I have had a good deal of experience with this kind of thing; it is actually a very easy thing to fall prey to. When you begin to experience the ftuit of prolonged regular meditation for the first time, it can be very heady. The temptation to compare oneself with others is very hard to avoid. And although, as Kent points out, Sant Ji gave us very specific warning (in the talk, "The Enemy Within," given to the Sant Bani sevadars in May 1977), we were all very naive when it came to facing up to this and recognizing it. Sant Ji has described the process exactly in the first chapter of The Jewel of Happiness, in the story of the swan and the crane; and Master Kirpal often referred to the fact that ego was the last thing to go, so that whatever power or adeptness we acquired in the course of our meditations was apt to be appropriated by the ego, and would strengthen it rather than be used to rise above it. (A very important reason why "man-making," or spiritual growth, has to accompany or even precede spectacular meditation experiences.) So, although failure was there, it was not the failure of one individual. Kent's honest and non-self-sparing account should benefit many others who might otherwise have fallen into the same trap.

Regarding the Anurag Sagar, my experience with that great book started when Pappu and Kent left off, but Kent's point, that it seemed like the seva was doing them, was certainly experienced by me also. Sant Ji handed me the translated manuscript, the fruit of the labor that Kent describes so vividly in Chapter Nine, on the first day of our stay in Quito, Ecuador (the first day in the South American part of the 1980 Tour), and told me I would have plenty of time to work on it, as I didn't speak Spanish and so would have little to do in South America. He said I should edit the manuscript carefully from the point of view of the English language, notice every point that a Westerner might find hard to understand, and write an explanatory note at that point. He added that I could consult Him about points that were hard for me.

Over the next few weeks, I had many questions, and I went to Him two or three times a week with them; the darshan that I got while doing this made me very happy. He gave me complete answers, which are all incorporated into the Notes of that book (published as The Ocean of Love: The Anurag Sagar of Kabir). But one day He said, "No. You cannot keep asking me these questions. Be receptive. You will know the answers; you won't need to ask me. Don't ask me any more questions about it." I was sad at this, but I quickly found that He was right: problem after problem came up, and each time, on reflection, I found that I did know the answer.

The entire job took many months, extending long after the 1980 Tour was over; I finished it finally in August 1981. At the very end, there was one question I did not know the answer to, and no matter how much I meditated on it, how receptive I could get, it would not come. I wanted to write the Master and ask Him, but he had told me not to! Finally, in desperation, I picked up the pen and began writing, something, anything: but the second the pen touched the paper I knew what the answer was. I realized then what I should have learned long before, and have experienced many times since, and to which Kent gives such eloquent testimony in the course of this book: the Master does not give orders without giving the Grace to obey them. It is what makes the Path a Reality.