By Michael Graham
Excerpted from the book, “FROM GURU TO GOD—An Experience of the Ultimate Truth”
A New Mode of Travel
Amazing, I thought to myself! Suddenly, while lying on my bed one afternoon, the clear impression of my Indian guru appeared six or seven feet above my body, horizontal and looking down at me. Suddenly I went into a quiet state in which I became aware of my body doing extraordinary spontaneous physical movements all around the room. My physical body was inert on the bed, but I was conscious of some part of me doing all these things. This went on for about five minutes. Then suddenly a tunnel of energy came down from the guru upon me, and I was invited ‘out’, so to speak. The next thing I knew I was rising up out of my body in a blind swoon. The first thought that came to me was, “I’m not going to blow it this time.”
Once before, while lying on a bed, I had fallen out of my body. I had lost my cool and snapped back in immediately, and it was all over. But this time I was not going to fail. I remained quiet and still and just went with it—surrendered. Moments later I was over Sydney Harbor Bridge, six hundred miles away. It was a late winter’s afternoon and the lights in the city were starting to come on. I can remember seeing cranes by the bridge on building construction sites and all sorts of other things.
Immediately I started to experiment with this newfound ability.Books I had read about out-ofbody experiences had said that going from one point to another was done in an instant, but I found inmy owncase that it did take a little time— time to go from one side of the bridge to a mile on the other side. I was puzzled. I had an analytical approach even during this experience! I played around with all this for five or ten minutes until I spontaneously found myself in my aunt’s bedroom back in Melbourne. She was an older woman in her seventies. She had just gone to bed, and on her dressing table were her false teeth and a pair of glasses. I was surprised; it seemed as though I could actually move her glasses a little. This whole adventure was getting more and more exciting. Then unfortunately, I became aware of discomfort in my body and I was having trouble breathing. All of a sudden I snapped back into my body. The experience was over.
Years earlier, I’d been fascinated by prospects of journeys out of the body, astral travel, after reading books on the subject. I tried to do it on numerous occasions, but failed. Too hard, so I gave up the attempt. But here it was happening, with the help of this guru of mine.
Perhaps the most rapidly expanding form of spirituality today in the Western world is yoga and meditation. Actually, the two words belong together. Today, practiced in its many forms, yoga promises physical well-being and spiritual growth. But for the yogis of old, the mystics of ancient India, yoga was far more than part of a lifestyle choice; theirs was an earnest quest for enlightenment—a release from all bonds of suffering and dissatisfaction both here and beyond the grave—a reach for ‘Ultimate Truth’.
The word yoga actually means to be yoked to or united with ‘Divine Consciousness’ or ‘Ultimate Reality’. The word refers to both an end and an activity. In its active form it involves the practice of a variety of techniques, both physical and mental. There are up to fourteen classical types of yoga, most of which do not focus on physical postures and breathing. Each type has its different practices designed to lead to the desired goal.
Quest for Highest Truth
I was a person captivated by the promises and practices of yoga from a young age. The quest that I undertook threw me into a heady world leading to many remarkable personal encounters and mystical experiences.
This quest for truth began at the age of sixteen. I began wondering about the meaning and significance of life at a time when I was unclear about my interests and future direction and was restlessly unable to chart my course.
My father was a doctor, a psychoanalyst and something of a philosopher. Two books on the Eastern spiritual tradition from his huge library grabbed my attention: one on Vedanta and yoga, the other on Buddhism. They promised a life free of suffering, personal transformation and an experience of the highest truth. That was enough for me. I had found what I was looking for.
The Golden Guru
By the time I was twenty-two, after motorcycling throughout Sri Lanka and India and having high adventures in Afghanistan, I kept traveling overland to London, returning to India to the ashram1, or abode, of Swami Muktananda Paramahansa. He was a guru. He came to me on strong recommendation as one whose mere touch or presence could transform a person’s life.
Upon my arrival, he was away. Thankfully, within a few days he was due back. About twenty-five of us assembled outside the front of the ashram to greet him on his return. There was an American, an Englishman and myself, an Australian. The others were Indians.
The first sign of his arrival was the honking sound of a Klaxon horn. A blue 1962 Mercedes Benz pulled up, and out stepped a handsome sixty year-old man in silk orange robes wearing gold-rimmed sunglasses. This was not quite the image of a holy man I’d imagined. Muktananda glanced at me as he swept through the crowd of prostrating
1Ashram: a monastery or hermitage; a place for spiritual practice.
Indians, lightly kicking them with his feet, saying, “Look out, look out, this is a fast train.” (Someone translated that for me.)
The Meditation Fix
Within two days he gave me a private audience. He probably spoke no more than forty words of English. Through a translator, I told him that I had come to have my meditation fixed. All attempts to meditate successfully in Australia had failed. Instead of settling down into a quiet state, I’d become positively knotted up. He simply said, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.”
A week passed, and I was meditating all alone in the meditation room, on a real tiger skin. Suddenly I was startled. Muktananda was standing over me. He stroked both cheeks, passed his palm over my forehead, turned on his heels and left. It took all of five seconds. Well, I thought that was wonderful. The guru had touched me and I knew that was supposed to be auspicious. I expected something to happen. It didn’t. Each day thereafter, Baba, as we affectionately called him, would ask me in his few words of English, “Good meditation?” “No Baba,” I would reply. This must have gone on every day for a week, his asking me and my saying no.I got a bit frustrated.
A few more days passed and I was not to be disappointed. One afternoon, while meditating all alone, a strange phenomenon began. All of a sudden my body began to revolve in a circular motion. I thought to myself, “How interesting.” I’d stop it, and off it would go again. Up to this point whenever my body moved, it was I that moved it. With each minute that passed this movement grew stronger and stronger. I was delighted. I knew that I had received the “awakening” that Muktananda was distinguished for being able to activate—the awakening of kundalini2, or the divine power within. All the while I was in a cool state of mind, watching with fascination. No suggestion or hysteria was involved.
This was the awakening of the Kundalini Shakti3, an intelligent aspect of the life force itself, which lay asleep, or dormant, in potential until awakened
2Kundalini: Sanskrit for coiled, as in coiled serpent.
3Kundalini Shakti: coiled/sleeping spiritual power within; outwardly expressed as the Divine Mother in Hinduism.
through the guru’s grace. It was to be surrendered to or given over to, since it was the spontaneous ‘grace-driven’ means to self-realization—a most attractive concept. In the fullness of time one would be cleansed of all impurities that veiled the recognition of one’s true identity as being identical to the ‘Supreme Reality’—Brahman.
Some days later a Canadian chap turned up. We decided to go and meditate together. As we sat, he began to recite the famous Twenty-Third Psalm from the Bible: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I remembered that from a light Christian enculturation during my schoolboy days. Being deeply moved by its beauty in that moment, the ‘awakening’ that had begun a few days before exploded into ten times its power. I was flung down and started crawling my way across the floor, growling like a lion, with the strength of ten men coursing through me. It was not as any ham actor could do; it was exceedingly real. I was agog, watching it happen with amazement. I was not afraid and I didn’t resist it, since that wouldn’t have been the idea. The poor Canadian chap (as he told me later) had never seen anything like it. He commented that the nearest thing he’d seen to it was an LSD4 drug freak-out, but this was something else! He was scared out of his wits and was trying to settle down the situation by repeating the mantra5, “guru om, guru om,” over and over out loud.
Bizarre Becomes Normal
From that day on, whenever I gave over to the ‘awakening’, there was continuous spontaneous activity. There were powerful breathing rhythms (pranayama), movement into classic dance formations, vigorously executed hatha6 yoga-like postures, utterances like the authentic sounds of
4LSD: a psychedelic drug leading to hallucinations. 5Mantra: Sanskrit for thought or mental device intended ‘to free from the mind.’
different birds, speaking in an unknown language, weeping bitterly in one second then laughing loudly in the next with nothing to weep or laugh about, cross-legged hopping across the ground like a frog, juddering of the body, classical hand gestures (mudras), the seeing of inner lights, journeys out of the body and innumerable other experiences. It wasn’t as though I was tuning into some impulse to move in a certain way and then going with it, as in psychodrama. It just grabbed me in a powerful non-volitional (spontaneous) way and moved me about.
And there were moments of ‘dynamic’ stillness. The predominantly physical manifestations were calledkriyas7.They were believed to have a purifying effect. But as to why some of the more bizarre manifestations took the form they did, only theories could be given. Was I being possessed by my true inner self, or was I being possessed by something else?
All this was set into a typical Eastern framework of thinking. Muktananda would say, “God dwells
6Hatha yoga: a form of yogic practice focused on
physical postures and breathing procedures. 7Kriya: Sanskrit for‘action,’ refers here to outward physical manifestations of awakened kundalini.
within you as you.”The inner self of every person, or Brahman, or God, were identical. Spiritual practise consisted of faith in the guru as the ‘Self-Realized Master’. It required surrender to his person and to his instructions, singing chants in the Sanskrit8 language to the guru’s glory, and devotional service. Its purpose was spiritual purification leading to the experience of one’s own divinity, called self-realization or enlightenment.
This particular path was Siddha Yoga; the word Siddha meaning ‘perfected being’, and yoga meaning, ‘yoked to what the Hindus believe is God’ or the ‘Supreme Reality’. So this was the union with God that was to take place through the ‘awakening’ set moving by the perfected Master. (well, certainly not perfect by observation)
Siddha Yoga and its promise sounded like an appealing truth. It had an engine that moved things.
The Daily Regimen
So I stayed on in the ashram for five and a half months, participating in the rigorous daily routine.
8Sanskrit: the ancient language of the Vedic and other Indian scriptures.
We’d arise at four in the morning for ninety minutes of meditation. If you were fortunate enough to receive the ‘awakening’, you’d surrender to its workings as an observing witness. If it had yet to stir in you, you’d sit in formal meditation repeating the Guru’s mantra, ‘Soham’, meaning, ‘He I am’ or ‘I am God’, in the hope that it would happen soon. That was the understanding in those days. However, instructions changed over the years. Then we took a cup of chai; a spicy Indian tea. This was followed by ninety minutes of chanting the Bhagavad Gita9 in Sanskrit. Then we were off into the beautiful gardens or marble courtyard to do a couple of hours work, a form of devotional service to the Guru, followed by thirty minutes of chanting the mantra, ‘Om Namah Shivaya’, meaning, ‘I bow to Shiva10’, before lunch. I called it ‘Hindu army chow’—simple, spicy, tasty. Then there was a one-hour voluntary chant followed by another two hours of work. A time called dharshan usually followed when the guru would
9Bhagavad Gita: Sanskrit for‘Song of God;’India’s most renowned scripture featuring a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, his disciple.
10Shiva: the High God or supreme self in some schools of Indian thought.
appear to be gazed upon or greeted, followed by forty-five minutes of meditation before dinner. Finally, we sang a sixty-minute chant before we collapsing into bed at 9 p.m. Phew! Not a routine for the faint hearted. This went seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. It was like something you might find in an eleventh century Benedictine11 monastery.
This path of spirituality became my core spiritual practice for the next sixteen years. I returned to India many times, spending a total of four years in the country. Yet despite all the amazing spiritual experiences, signs and wonders, my deepest hopes for inner fulfillment were unmet. Still, the dynamism and apparent intelligence of that ‘awakening’ kept me tantalized.
At the same time, I had been casting around for supplementary means to add to this Eastern practice that may open a crack to the light I had been looking for.
So, in the seventies, eighties and nineties I did a number of the leading edge personal development
11Benedictine: an ancient order of Christian monks.
programs of the day: ‘Landmark Education’ (in my day called ‘EST’, then ‘Forum’), a sort of no-nonsense pragmatic12 spiritual boot camp; and ‘Silva Mind Control’, a get-down-into-low-brainwave process, heal people, throw open some doors of psychic perception, and reprogram yourself for success, type of program. Then there was ‘The Hoffman Quadrinity Process’, an expensive turbo-expunging of parent-induced past psychological impressions.
And then I studied and practiced ‘A Course in Miracles’, a very well developed argument for transcendence. I buried into this for a year with great discipline. I was intrigued to notice that though I understood and believed its content, I would continue to think, feel, act and perform as though I’d never heard of it. My other friends on this ‘Course’ had the same experience. I was starting to discover that the merely mental or cognitive approach to transformation was impotent to do anything much.
I saw a gain here and there. Whenever I was exposed to a new perspective, information, data
12Pragmatic: of practical worth (as opposed to idealistic); impacts something.
or technique, there would be a slight shift, just enough to lead to an increase of interest. Then there would be a plateau, a falling off and then, “What’s next?” Within days there was always a leak-back to the old familiar self. This stuff wasn’t delivering on its promise. I wasn’t a dabbler. I usually drilled down close to the bottom of these things, enough to see whether I was dealing with iron pyrite13 (fool’s gold) or something more substantial. However my basic Siddha Yoga practice kept on as the mainstay.
In 1982 Swami Muktananda died. Shortly thereafter, for one tour, I fell into the role as one of the international tour managers of one of Muktananda’s two successors, the young Swami Nityananda. Months after I left this work, a ‘coup’ took place. Gurumayi, his sister and co-successor, ousted him for behavior unbecoming for a guru. The whole affair unfolded like a palace intrigue from a Shakespearian play.
During this time I was in New York and got a call from an Australian friend who’d just landed a huge
13Iron Pyrite: a mineral found in the ground often mistaken for gold.
Corporate Cultural Change contract with Australia’s second biggest company, Telecom Australia. He asked me Down Under, and together with a team of five others we put together a broad range of personal and organizational development strategies designed to set Telecom up for success in an emerging competitive telecommunications market place. It consisted of facilitating the creation of a corporate vision statement, establishing core values, defining company objectives and delivering a range of personal and organizational development strategies, including customer service orientation, communication skills, negotiation skills, possibility thinking, goal setting, belief engineering and so on. I believe it was the biggest corporate program of its type undertaken in the Southern Hemisphere14.
By now I’d had a broad and deep experience of the Eastern ‘Old Age’ movement out of India, the pragmatic world of corporate consulting and the New Age personal development trainings.
The Promise of Self-Improvement
Further, in 1988, still a dedicated spiritual
14Southern Hemisphere: the area and countries below the equator.
practitioner, I spotted a program called ‘Avatar®’, created by a fellow named Harry Palmer. It was a belief management program, not dissimilar in theory to what we’d taught corporately. But this guy claimed that he had the techniques that could really make the difference. Up until then I had found that core beliefs were not amenable to change. This was a ‘create your preferred reality’ program: beliefs are real forces; they determine the way you think, feel, behave and perform; change your beliefs and thereby change your life!
So I jumped on a plane for Los Angeles and found myself in the home of Marilyn Ferguson, author of the million-copy best-seller book, “The Aquarian Conspiracy.” She was a participant along with nine others and me. It was an expensive course at two thousand dollars. It included tea and biscuits but no meals or accommodation. It went for four or five days. How interesting: one of the facilitators was Ingo Swann; a man I’d heard had the highest success rate among psychics tested by Stanford University under controlled conditions. He had been their research subject for sixteen years and later worked twelve years for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) experimenting with remote viewing (visual perception beyond the range of bodily senses.) I got to know Ingo well and stayed with him in his home in New York City. He was teaching this course independently of his psychic abilities. Ingo died on February 1, 2013, aged 79.
The course was impressive. I experienced a temporary expansion of awareness and peacefulness, for a time. Knots inside me that I didn’t know were there unraveled. It was looking good. I was sufficiently impressed to fly to New York, spend another three thousand dollars for nine days of training so I could deliver the program professionally under license.
I became one of the more successful teachers of ‘Avatar’ around the world, delivering the program in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, USA and Canada. In addition, I delivered my own program, the ‘Decision Principle Training®’ in France as well. It proposes decision as the first principle of existence.
Palmer’s top Avatar course was called ‘Wizards®’. At seventy-five hundred dollars it promised the dominion of the gods. It didn’t deliver.
And Yet, Still Hungry
With all this, the substance wasn’t to the level required. Nevertheless, those years 1988 through 1993 were kind to me. All the time I’d kept meditating.
Now, some of this work wasn’t silly. There were some accurate observations, coherent thought systems, ingredients of truth and some clever techniques that created effects. I was often grateful and never felt cheated, but admittedly nothing I’d discovered came close to the claims made for it. There were experiences, insights and shifts, but nothing sustainable. Further, there were some very spectacular spiritual experiences, which I have described and elaborated on in my book.
By now, I had many years of experience, thousands of hours of meditation, charismatic15 phenomena, study, and the company of spiritual luminaries16.By providence, I had arrived at these people’s doorsteps before most people in the West had heard of them. To name some: Swami Muktananda, Franklin Jones (later Adi Da),
15Charismatic: in spiritual terms, spiritual experiences and manifestations (as opposed to their absence). 16Luminaries: people who influence and inspire others.
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho), Rudi (later, Swami Rudrananda), Chogyam Trungpa, the Mahayana Tibetan Buddhist, Sathya Sai Baba, Anandamayi Ma, U.G. Krishnamurti, HWL Poonja,
J. Krishnamurti, Douglas Harding, Barry Long and Sailor Bob (with whom I ran seminars), and I was initiated into Subud. Israel Regardie, the esoteric writer, was a family friend. I was influenced by the works of Alan Watts, Wei Wu Wei, Franklin Merrell Wolffe, and then there were the Christian mystics. So, it went on. My walk was characterized by a considerable degree of discipline and application, and surprisingly, all this wasn’t too much to cover over a twenty-eight year span.
Sifting Through It All
Over the years, I observed that people had different motives for following a guru or getting involved in such groups. Some sought personal development or victory over personal limitations—I was partially motivated by this. Some sought community; for others it was a life style choice. Some wanted position and power. Others wanted to be loved. Yet others were spiritual hedonists17thirsting for the next
17Hedonist: a pleasure seeker.
experiential high. Being looked after was a priority for some. And the search for meaning may have been high among the reasons. In most people, motives were probably mixed and not thoroughly reflected upon. Very few, I believe, went looking for wheat that it might be divided from the chaff.
What was of interest to me was what actually could make the difference, and more: What was actually true or false amidst all this? The Buddha repudiated18 the Hindu Vedic19 scriptures. Shankaracharya, the eighth century Hindu Vedantic20 master, repudiated the Buddha’s teaching, putting a huge dent in Buddhism on the Indian subcontinent from which it never recovered. Ramanuja, another Hindu Vedantic master from the twelfth century repudiated Shankaracharya’s view of ‘Ultimate Truth’ and so it went on. Lord Chaitanya of the sixteenth century from the ‘Lord Krishna Tradition’, repudiated the lot of them, declaring as heresy the ‘I am God’ statements of
18Repudiate: reject, disown, or protest.
19Vedic, Veda: Sanskrit for‘knowledge;’ particular ancient Indian scriptures. 20Vedanta: Sanskrit for‘last portion of the Veda;’ claimed
to be the culmination of all knowledge. A school of Indian philosophy.
some of the others. I don’t think they were just being mean spirited—they were concerned that the objects of their critiques were teaching error.
I noticed that many contemporary seekers tended to swallow all they were told, hook, line and sinker, without muchreflective discrimination. Often superstition took over. Truth mattered when it came to balancing a checkbook, but in matters of spirituality, well, ‘anything goes.’
Actually, I didn’t go into all this stuff preoccupied, as though with a magnifying glass, like a truth sieve. I was openly interested, but with due reflection, learning where I could and tending to trial things experientially to see what was of substantive value or justephemeral21. My life has been like a laboratory experiment but lived out in a very un-clinical manner.
With all this under my belt—exposure to luminaries, the spiritual experiences, and understanding I’d developed—I still believed that breaking through the ‘Gates of Heaven’ in a sustainable way was possible. I took what I had
21Ephemeral: short-lived, fleeting.
been given in personal revelation and the best of what I had been exposed to: the Muktananda ‘awakening’ described earlier, (which, by some mystery, I was able to powerfully transmit to others) and more. I put it all together calling it ‘The Reality Training,’ fully believing that this amalgam of practices would build the momentum for breakthrough.
All this while spiritual experiences had encouraged and spurred me along. I was even privileged to touch on the highest realities in the Eastern spiritual tradition. This was one of those experiences: One day I found myself right in the middle of what is regarded in the Indian spiritual tradition as the classic fourth state of consciousness called the Turiya22 state.The yogis consider it to be one of the marks of classical enlightenment, existing beyond the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep familiar to all people.I’d read about it, but to have the experience was quite another thing.
The first sign of its appearance was a widening of my field of vision.My attention was riveted. It was as though I had entered another
22Turiya: Sanskrit for the fourth state of consciousness.
reality.Though my surroundings looked the same, every trace of the weight and sting of life had vanished.Fascinated, I walked a few paces into a room where two men were talking. One was standing; the other was seated leaning against a wall. They were fixed in earnest conversation. As I watched them they seemed no more real than puppets in a puppet show. The meaning and significance of their conversation was as nothing. Every sense in me was alive; the people and the physical environment were as I’d known them, but the sense of ‘realness’ was gone. Nothing of the human condition with its concerns remained.
The veil of ignorance had lifted and from this new perspective life wasn’t what it seemed to be. It was more like a dream—a mere apparency. Half an hour passed and this perception started to close down.
On another occasion, I realized an even higher form of Eastern classical enlightenment, with a ‘liberation’ that surpassed even this. Long before I ever met a guru, I had walked onto a veranda and been captivated by the glory of a scene: a seagull had just flown past the silhouette of a tree at dusk. Captivated by the beauty, suddenly something happened beyond the boundaries of thoughts to think and words to tell. ‘I’ disappeared; the observer vanished, and so did the entire scene, that is, the observed. Simultaneously there was an unalloyed ecstasy, with an end of all conceptions, self, thought, space and time and existence. This seemed more real than reality itself: oneness, non-duality, self or Self were non-existent, meaningless.
Alas, the moment ‘I’ returned to realized the experience, it vanished since it could not coexist with a ‘recognizer’ of it. This was ‘Laya’ (dissolution) of the yogis; ‘Fana’ (annihilation in Godhead) of the Sufis, ‘Nirvana’ (lit: blow out; extinguish) to the Buddhists, and nameless to the Christian mystics.
Was this the ‘Ultimate Truth’? I was about to encounter a Being I had not previously factored into the equation in seeking ‘Ultimate Truth’.
Now after twenty-eight years of spiritual practice, I’d become weary of trying to excite others’ interest in this or that program. So, as my professional life in personal development training, meditation teaching and corporate consulting started to wind down, so my personal spiritual practice started to increase.
I would begin my day in Melbourne Australia at
4:30 a.m. with sixty minutes of meditation followed by thirty minutes of contemplation, then forty minutes of chanting the Guru Gita23, a Sanskrit language text referring to the guru’s teaching and god-like virtues, a practice purported to bring great spiritual benefit. (The guru’s virtues were however, called into question on discovery of Swami Muktananda’s outrageously elastic ethics and those of other Indian gurus I’d known.) I would end with forty-five minutes of surrendering to the spontaneous workings of the ‘awakening’. From time to time, friends would knock on my door and join me for this early morning vigil.
An Unexpected Visitor
After all the disciplines I had applied myself to, there was yet one more that had captured my attention. Since my late teens I had thought of going into isolation as an interesting experiment. I had never had the chance to do it. Now was the time. At the back of my home was a tiny apartment. I asked an accommodating friend to fashion wooden panels to cover the windows and a trap
23Guru Gita: Sanskrit for‘song of the guru;’describes function, virtues and powers of the guru.
door through which food could be passed. Sealed up in this way, I spent ten days seeing and hearing no one. Great! I came out on a Monday and it was as though, through new eyes, the world sparkled. By Tuesday the old familiar perception had returned.
Seeing some potential here, I repeated the experiment some time later. On the second day a remarkable event took place.
I was just settling myself onto a couch. I was in a completely ordinary state of mind—no meditation, nothing like that. Suddenly the image of Jesus Christ formed up within my chest cavity. With this image came the conviction of who it was. One second later, there was an experience beyond all words can tell. And if I were to step it down into the poverty of language, there was an openness and loveof cosmic proportions, coming from Jesus to me, and an invitation and a welcome, as if to say, “Give me your life and breath and I’ll take care of you.” Well, I was staggered, amazed and delighted all at once. This love was communicated to me to an ultimate degree. It was utterly real and personal, but I didn’t know how to respond. I was so committed to and familiar with the Eastern oriented understanding and practice that I kept doing precisely that. This encounter, however, could never be forgotten.
Meaninglessness Presses In
A year passed and I went to Berkeley, California to conduct introductory programs for ‘The Reality Training’ I’d created. Here a second significant event took place. What happened was this: Over a three-day period, as if pressed into me from outside myself, came the conviction that everything I had done, the thousands of hours of meditation, the realizations and spiritual experiences, had all added up to a huge fat zero. It was as though a twenty-eight year investment had tipped over. It felt as though I’d been trying to draw water out of an empty well. Wow! I was sobered. “Well,” I thought, “I’ll just run ordinary now, and live out my span and do what I can. Simple.”
At the time I was doing a twenty-five minute drive to Marin County near San Francisco each day. I kept catching evangelical preachers on the radio teaching the historic faith from the Bible. They were good speakers. It was intriguing, and besides I was interested in the five Great Traditions (unlike the cults) that had stood the test of time: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. So, here was biblical Christianity being explained better than I’d heard it before. At first I was noticing the similarities between elements of the Eastern and Christian teaching and worldviews; then it became the differences that got my attention. Listening to the broadcasts themselves, plus sending away for the tapes advertised on the radio over the next few months, I must have put a couple of hundred hours of Christ-centric biblical information through me.
The Most Critical Decision
With still no contact with followers of Christ I was now being educated on the first principles of Christianity. I noted the claims Christ made for Himself: His claim to deity24, His purpose for coming, His teaching, what He accomplished on the cross and in His physical resurrection and the all promises He made, along with the remarkable letters of Paul and Jesus’ other disciples. All this really generated in me a growing enthusiasm to find out more. Thus, remembering my personal encounter with Him, having been reduced to
24Diety: god or God;refers to Christ’s claim to be God in the flesh; the Creator not the creature.
nothing, and therefore having nothing to lose, I resolved to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Yikes! Those words seemed uncomfortably religious to me, but no matter.
This was going to be the most important decision I’d ever made. I knew about decision—its power, place and importance. I’d taught my ‘Decision Principle® Training’ around the world. I could have made the decision in my living room, but I wanted to make a marker of this one.
I saw a billboard promoting Billy Graham coming to town. I’d heard of him—the famous evangelist of the twentieth century—but I thought he was dead! “What a perfect opportunity to make a decision for Christ in front of thousands of witnesses,” I thought.
This was September 1997. With considerable anticipation I awaited the day of his arrival. At the appointed hour I was one of the first people at the stadium. I mounted the stands. I had come to this meeting for one purpose alone. When Billy Graham invited people down to make that decision for Christ, down I went to the front, and stood close to the podium. When the moment came to decide, I made that decision, surely, definitely, no turning back.
Hunger Finally Filled
From that moment I was never the same again. The change happened silently, un-dramatically. I knew what it meant to be born again (that strange phrase). A peace—or better, a rest—came over me that lay behind my feelings and experiences. With it came new meaning and purpose and above all there came a substantive change of heart and mind that had eluded me throughout all those years of experience, meditation practice and charismatic phenomena. And this had come as a pure gift of the grace of Christ, independent of all my efforts, disciplines or practice.
What do I mean by a change of heart and mind? Well, my temperament or disposition started to soften and change, among other characteristics. I noticed it; my son noticed it. That was good enough for me. The seeker had died. I’d come to rest. Perhaps I could have used terms like that in the past, but no, this was new coin. The old Michael Graham would have said, “Yes, I know what you mean,” and I would have had to reply, politely of course, “No, you don’t.”You see, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Here I had found my sufficiency in Christ—no supplementation required, no more need for seeking. Christ plus nothing. “In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” the Bible states.
The Bible Comes Alive
My attitude toward the concept of God changed substantially, was renewed and made proper. Referring to Christ, these words from the letter Paul wrote to the Christians in Colosse struck me hard: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17)
The Bible as a text came alive to me with a quality and a texture unlike other written works of an intellectual or spiritual nature. It became to me like sweet milk and meat to the soul. This didn’t mean that I had to like everything it said. Nevertheless I believed it. The adjustment had to be mine. I was no longer on the throne as arbiter of all truth. I had submitted myself to Christ and the living Word. This was quite a leap, and as I came to observe later, becomes a mark of someone who has enjoyed a genuine turnaround, or conversion, in Christ.
I was reading the Bible with new eyes, spending time in prayer, listening to excellent expository25 preaching and enjoying church fellowship. What a change! This was a u-turn that I would have never believed possible.
It was a radical turnaround—a turnaround at the root and a most surprising one at that. Nothing else but the Holy Spirit, not the spirit of the kundalini Shakti, or the spirit of the guru, could penetrate to the core of my ruin; a ruin I believe everyone shares. What was the fruit of Christ’s Grace? Rest—existential rest—a rest pertaining to my existence, most assuredly superior to any passing interior states or dance of marvels on the periphery of my being.
The New Journey
Yes, life goes on. I don’t want to give the impression that I stepped into a Pollyanna dream. I still have good days and bad days, but now whatever is the case, Christ and the Holy Spirit dwell within me as the sure foundation, providing
25Expository: to make clear the meaning of something; explanatory.
intimations for guidance throughout my days and an assurance of being salvaged now and in eternity.
I walk on in gratitude. With a thorough basis for comparison I cannot but hold to the preeminence and supremacy of Jesus Christ, His grace and the super-abundant sense of life He imparted to me, beginning when I emphatically turned to Him that day, in lasting trust.
And yes, His promises captivated me. He said, “Come to me all those who are weary and heavily laden, and I will give you rest.”And then, “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life;””I am the light of the world,” and “I have come that they [you] may have life and have it abundantly.” And more, “…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”He also declared, “I am the Alpha26 and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Further, He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in
26Alpha and Omega: the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.
and eat with him, and he with me.”And finally, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
The invitation of Jesus beckoned to me. Perhaps it does to you too. The general ‘God’ word was big in those days, as it is today, yet Jesus Christ pointed to Himself as having a special saving relationship to the world. It became clear to me, as I had combed these notions thoroughly before, that He wasn’t speaking as the ‘Christ Consciousness’ or as the ‘Christ Michael’ or any other contemporary, fashionable or mystic phantom. Rather, He revealed Himself to me as the once historic and now ever present eternal figure of Jesus Christ, who is “the same yesterday and today and forever.”
A Free Gift
I’ve been around. I’ve seen a lot. Finally I received this marvelous free gift of grace, as others have by turning to Him. Christ, the One who consumed sin debt and ‘karmic’27 debt in
27Karma: Sanskrit for‘action;’those actions (good and bad)done with attachment, that lead to eternal entrapment.
28Ramifications: complex results of particular thinking, action or events.
one cosmic act of sacrifice by His death on the cross at Jerusalem, took every breaking thing upon Himself that separated me from God—both here and in eternity.
This journey was not a light and fluffy one. It warranted deep reflection. Its ramifications28 extended to life, the mystery of death and beyond. Those years have taken me on a ride beyond the veil and into the depths of the rest Jesus promised when He said, “…I will give you rest,” the peace “that passes all understanding,” and finally to the ‘Ultimate Truth’. For as Jesus says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”