Charnanand tells of how he came to England in 1969 and the unfolding story
I am extremely thankful to Maharaji for allowing me to be so close to him for all these years. I pray in my heart to be with him for the rest of my life to the very last breath. Throughout these years, I have enjoyed myself to the fullest by practicing Knowledge, and participating in his activities. I know without his help, love and care, I would not be where I am today.
I feel so fortunate that I had an incredible opportunity to spend almost 18 years with Shri Maharaj Ji. He was so beautiful and divine. I loved and adored him very dearly, and I still do. He not only helped me understand the importance of a Master, but also prepared me for the transition when he left his body. I never felt left alone. I immediately recognized his presence in Maharaji.
I remember very clearly that Shri Maharaj Ji earnestly wanted to introduce Knowledge to people from all walks of life. And he knew that his youngest son, whom he used to call Sant Ji Maharaj, was the only one capable of doing it. So, he sent him to an English school to acquire a good command of the English language.
When the time came for Maharaji to become the living Master in 1966 at the age of eight, I witnessed how beautifully he turned people's confusion into clarity, sadness into joy, and despair into hope.
Everybody was so delighted to be with him. He said "I feel a lot of grace. If you want to be a part of my activities, you are most welcome. If not, then do whatever you want to do. But I will make Knowledge available to people throughout the world."
He immediately started travelling and speaking from his heart to large crowds in different parts of India. He never showed any sign of weakness or uncertainty. He was always very strong and inspiring.
On 16 August 1969, he sent me to England with his blessings. For many years while I was travelling with Maharaji's message in India, I had such a keen desire to come to the West to tell people about Maharaji and Knowledge. I understood in order to do that I would need to learn English. Though I had no formal training, I started learning English from a Hindi- English translation book.
One day Maharaji called me in his room and said "Before I send you to England, I want to find out how much English you know." So he spoke a few words in English and asked me to translate into Hindi. This I did correctly. He smiled and said to me, "Perfect. You know enough English… I did pranam and requested "Maharaja I need your blessings." Then be put his hand on my head, and said "My blessings are always with you, He advised me neither to criticize nor to support what individuals do in their personal lives. "Just give them Knowledge when they are ready, and inspire them to practice the techniques. That alone will bring joy and transformation to them."
Upon my arrival at Heathrow I was a little nervous because I had been warned by airline personnel that if I did not answer immigration questions properly they would send me back to India. So I was praying in my heart for help. The first question they asked me was. "How long are you going to stay?" I said "One month." "What is the purpose of your visit?"
Enjoy your stay
At that point. I couldn't help giving satsang. The Immigration officer looked at me astonished, as I smiled back, and he stamped by passport, saying. "Enjoy your stay in England.
An Indian gentleman in London, Mr Sinha, who had sponsored me, sent his son to receive me at the airport, and welcomed on to stay at his home.
At that time the Indian government did not allow anybody to travel abroad without a sponsorship letter and return ticket bought in foreign currency. Though I had a return ticket, I had only £3 in my pocket when I arrived at Heathrow. But I did not care: I was very happy to be in England.
After a few days, I started missing Maharaji deeply. In my heart, I prayed "Maharaji, you have sent me to this foreign country, now please help me find people who are interested in listening to your message. To my surprise one Indian man knocked at the door that same evening and asked, "Are you from India?" I replied, "Yes." "Would you like to come to our temple to speak?" I said "Sure." I was extremely delighted to have that opportunity! People enjoyed what I said so they began inviting me to their homes and temples.
I was so enthusiastic that I would go wherever someone invited me and did not care about my personal comforts and food. Sometimes all I ate was bread and butter and a cup of tea. Sometimes I slept on the floor. There was no sense of sacrifice or discomfort, because my head was filled with joy. That was the way propagation started. Soon after I began talking to English people individually.
One day, Mr. Sinha said to me very politely that I was welcome to stay at his home as long as I wanted but he was not comfortable to see long-haired young people coming to his house that often. "My neighbors are always watching. I am afraid they might complain to the police. It will jeopardize my business." I said "Don't worry. I was already aware of your situation. Therefore, I have made arrangements to move into my own place. I thank you so much for your kind hospitality and co-operation. You have played such a significant role in helping Maharaji's message come to the West." Soon after I moved into a small basement room in West Kensington that cost me £5 a week.
It was a very simple place. I have so many fond memories of that nine. I taught Sandy Collier how to cook Indian food. Every evening she used to prepare dinner for whoever was there And after the meal we would enjoy listening and talking about Maharaji and Knowledge. Even though my English was so poor that people used to help me complete my sentences. I would speak from my heart. Each time when I requested them to assist to improve my English, they said "We don't want to hear words, we want to enjoy the feeling."
Those young people who were around then were very encouraging and sweet to me. They were called hippies, but I used to call them "happies," because they were open to listen to the simple message of Maharaji. Julian West, David Passes, Glen Whittaker. Peter Lee, David Lovejoy, Mike Finch, Sue Ratcliffe, Venetia, Lena, Peter Potter, Charles Cameron, Belkis, Bano and many others received Knowledge in those early days. All of them, Sandy and Ron Geaves were just so supportive.
THE DIVINE TIMES 5
Late one evening I was returning from a programme by tube. It was about midnight when I reached West Kensington railway station. The whole environment was so still. While I was walking i became a little scared but I saw one young lady walking alone ahead of me, I said to myself, if she could be alone at night I don't need to be afraid.
Another evening I was coming home from an evening programme in East Ham. At the tube station there was a group of young skinhead boys. They surrounded me and started teasing me and touching my bald head (which I used to shave at that time). I smiled at them and said "I am so glad to make you happy and cheerful."
Soon after the train came, I boarded and they went their way. When people used to ask me, "How is it you seem to enjoy yourself so much?" I would tell them, "My Master has shown me the source of joy within my heart."
At one point I wrote Maharaji a letter, and told him that propagation was taking place slowly. He sent me a letter. At the top he cited the song by Surdas, "By his grace, the crippled begin to climb the high mountains. The blind begin to see everything. The deaf begin to hear, and the mute begin to speak. And a beggar is crowned king." At the end of the letter he told me, "Don't worry about the propagation. Slow and steady wins the race."
I stayed in England for over a year, and during that time some people received Knowledge in London and Leicester. There was a lot of enthusiasm among the people who came to the programmes. They all wanted to see Maharaji. They had only seen the photographs of Maharaji who at that time was only 12 years old. It was difficult for some of them to comprehend how someone that young could be such a great living Master. So they wanted to me and hear him speak in person.
In November 1970, I was invited to attend the Hans Jayanti Peace Bomb festival held at India Gate, Delhi. Some premies accompanied me on the plane, while others travelled by road all the way from England. Many of the people who went to India that time remain to this day students of Maharaji and actively participate in his activities.
Prepare for his visit
Maharaji was really happy to see the premies, and could feel their enthusiasm. He invited us to spend some time with him at his residence in Dehradun and Prem Nagar ashram in Hardwar. It was an exciting time for all of us. He told all the premies to practice Knowledge, inform others about Knowledge and prepare for his visit. Soon after, he sent me back to England.
I stayed in England from November 1970 through to March 1971. Then one day I got a message from him to come back to India and attend the Baisaki festival that takes place in April. After this, I was touring with Maharaji in different parts of India. One day I was with him in a city called Nasik near Bombay. He asked me. "How do you feel about me coming to England?" I said "Maharaji, it would be wonderful. Everyone would love to see you. All the people who received Knowledge there could not come to India in November because of their financial situation." He replied "OK. Then tell them to send me a round trip ticket and prepare for my programme".
I had only £3 in my pocket when I arrived at Heathrow.
But I did not care; I was happy to be in England
I immediately called England and arranged his ticket and programmes. When Maharaji got his ticket and passport ready, and was just about to leave for England during his summer school holiday, I remember Maharaji, Mata Ji and myself were at his residence in Delhi. Mata Ji asked Maharaji, "I heard you are going to England. Is this really true?" Maharaji answered "Yes." She said, "No, I don't feel comfortable to allow you to go abroad at this tender age (13). First you need to complete your education." Maharaji said I don't want to waste my time any more sitting in that classroom. Those teachers have nothing to teach me. I simply wanted to learn English which I can now speak. I know what my purpose on this earth is."
Mata Ji still was not ready to grant him permission to leave India. At that point, Maharaji was so determined that it affected Mata Ji. She looked at me, "Do you really think that this is the right time for Maharaji to go to England?" I humbly said "Yes, Mata Ji. Please let Maharaji come to England. So many people are waiting to see him." She said "OK, but you have to promise me that you will bring him back in three weeks' time to resume his studies." I replied, "Absolutely." (Within my heart I knew the future would take care of itself.)
From the day I had come to England, I wanted to be there when Maharaji came and to welcome him. So I returned to London three days before Maharaji arrived, and had the privilege to garland and welcome him when he first set foot in England on 17 June 1971. There was a crowd of enthusiastic premies to welcome him as well. They were singing songs and also offered him garlands.
All of us had hired a Rolls- Royce to receive Maharaji and take him to a rented residence in Lincoln Street, London. However, because of lack of funds, we kept the Rolls-Royce for only a few hours and the residence for a week. Maharaji was so kind and thoughtful. He accepted moving from one place to another gladly, and attended several events in English and Hindi in different parts of England. Within a few days of his arrival many people became aware of him because of extensive media coverage. Lots of them heard him speak, and several of the interested ones received Knowledge. I informed Mata Ji in a letter that Maharaji had accomplished more within a few weeks than all of the mahatmas put together could ever have done in hundred years.
I witnessed Maharaji having a great time in England - talking to people about Knowledge, and visiting some of England's famous places. I had the opportunity to travel with him to Paris and Heidelberg. I know it was not really that easy or comfortable as far as his physical comforts were concerned. But he accepted every situation as it was and turned it into an exciting experience.
During his stay in England Mata Ji and many premies were writing and calling him to come back to India for the festival in July. And from the States Joan Apter and other premies were imploring him to come there. Maharaji's feelings were going back and forth: he knew how much Indian premies loved and wanted to be with him on that special occasion, but he could not resist the American premies' invitation either. One day he asked me, "What do you think? Should I go back to India, or should I go to America?"
Let's go to America
I said, "Maharaji, you know best. But as far as my feelings are concerned I know if you go back to India Mata Ji will definitely send you back to school. And I heard you saying you don't want to waste your time there. So let's go to America." He said, "You are right, it feels good." So on 17 July 1971 we flew together to Los Angeles.
It was a long flight. We all were tired, yet very happy and excited to arrive in America. The premies there had generated much media attention.
So upon arrival, he had to give several interviews at the airport and at the residence and then speak at an evening programme. I have no idea what Maharaji said, because I could not help but fall asleep during his evening event.
From the beginning propagation in America was explosive. Everywhere he went people showed tremendous enthusiasm and appreciation. Within a short period of time a lot of people attended his events and received Knowledge.
Over the past 30 years, much has happened worldwide. I admire how magnificently Maharaji has fulfilled Shri Maharaji's wishes and dreams.
I also admire him for his commitment, courage and for the ability with which he has brought so many incredible changes and resolution into his activities.
Throughout it all, his simple message of the heart has remained the same. I love and adore him. He is the dearest to my heart. I thank him for everything.
Magic carpet ride
At last the day had arrived - 17 June 1971 - Maharaji was due to arrive at Heathrow that morning. For some weeks we had known he would he coming to London. So it was with great excitement that a few of us set off for the airport. The journey there was far from tedious, the feeling was unlike anything I had known before, to be going to see Maharaji for the first time. It felt so special and to this day it still does.
When we arrived at Heathrow the atmosphere was buzzing. There were perhaps 200 premies there chatting away excitedly and eventually forming a kind of avenue for Maharaji to walk along. No one seemed to know for sure if he had arrived but the feeling was so strong.
Eventually there was some commotion at the customs exit and Mahamji appeared looking so beautiful. I had thought perhaps he would look a bit tired after the long flight, but he was radiant, alert and fresh looking.
He walked very fast between the premies and was soon gone, and I was stunned by the stillness and peace that had swept by in the midst of such chaos. Lots of peo-
I was left stunned by the stillness and peace that had swept by in the midst of such chaos, others were sitting with eyes closed savoring the moment. I had to have more.
I managed to get a ride to the Chelsea house where Maharaji was staying, standing in the back of a converted ambulance with a few other while we hurtled after Mahararji's limo. Soon I found myself sitting in Maharaji's living room feeling very awkward an gross and very, very fortunate the same time.
Quite soon to my surprise Maharaji came downstairs to see us. Again I was astonished and amazed to see him close up, so golden, beautiful and loving. I had been in satsang, many times, but this was so much more. Thinking back maybe I should have asked him a question while there was an opportunity, but at the time I could not formulate a question. I think I was in shock!
All too soon Maharaji went back upstairs and I went home. The London bus was like a magic carpet ride through the busy streets. Maharaji had brought so much love, such a beautiful feeling to me and to this crazy city.