A remarkable meeting Maharaji in his St Joseph's Academy school uniform

Julian West

He looks so young now - the boy on the video screen. A schoolboy, with a fresh, child's face. Walking through endless airport corridors, wreathed in garlands; gesticulating passionately in living rooms or from immense stages; flanked by attentive faces, who though young, seem always to be twice his age. While not intimidated, he seems physically dwarfed by his surroundings. A 13-year-old Indian boy in the West.

Yet this is not how I remember him. Then and now, he seemed ageless - and incomprehensible. An immense powerful presence, eclipsing everything around him. If anything, a father, not a child.

I first met Maharaji in the winter of 1970 on the verandah of his home in Dehradun. It was a shock. I had been warned by the few people gathered in the small koti, or house, in Old Delhi where Maharaji sometimes stayed not to be surprised if my first encounter with the young guru was not what I expected. But nothing could have prepared me for the actual event.

As I waited on the verandah, filled with turbulent emotions, a door at the far end opened. An apparently immense presence, clad in a winter overcoat, whom I felt more than saw, stood in the shadows of the doorway, vibrating like a dark mountain. It was Maharaji. Here was not a sweet little boy, but the most powerful person I had ever encountered. I was devastated.

My journey to this extraordinary person began in small terraced house in Archway, north London. Some days before, I had met a remarkable man. As I sat with some friends in a small room in Beaufort Street, Chelsea. I was entranced. Here was the most beautiful person I had ever met. His English was basic, but what he said was very clear. He told us that through Knowledge we could experience God inside ourselves.

This was the information I had been waiting for. We talked a little more, walking through the streets of London. Then, on 3 December 1969, I received Knowledge. While comprehending almost nothing, I knew everything. I had clearly just been introduced to myself: a person I knew very well but had never seen before. And through myself, to everybody else. I understood the meaning of all sorts of phrases, like "gnosis," or Knowledge. unit "First I saw through a glass darkly, but now I see face to face."

The obviousness of the truth I had just experienced truck me strongly on the bus back home. All those people walking around with the secret of life right under their noses. I was amazed by the simplicity of it all, which seemed so right. How could the truth of life be accessible to human beings and not be simple?

Three weeks later we received a letter from Maharaji telling us to practice Knowledge for at least an hour each day. Each morning, therefore, I tried to develop a relationship with the absorbing experience I was having. But something was slowly dawning on me. Something to do with love. I decided to visit Maharaji. A person I didn't know and about whom 1 had very mixed feelings.

A year later I was in Delhi. From here I set off, with innumerable doubts and questions, on a 35 seater "Luxury" bus - distinguished from an ordinary bus, it transpired by its iron, leatherette covered "headrests" - for Dehrudun.

Eight excruciating hours later I disgorged myself from the 150 other passengers, their bedrolls and belongings, on to the streets of the north Indian hill station where Maharaji lived. Only to realize I didn't have his address. To my dismay, the taxi drivers around me seemed also to be called Maharaji: obviously. a common term of respect. What a problem. Suddenly I remembered Maharajri's Indian title: Balyogeshwar. The name was magic. I was swiftly directed towards his house, a bungalow in a residential road, set in a garden with a white gate. A solemn, but kind young girl of about 12 opened the gate. I was led to the verandah where Maharaji first appeared. He began asking me questions. Where had I come from? Did I have Knowledge?

With what was left of my mind somersaulting around metaphysical concepts - Wasn't he supposed to be perfect? Didn't he know? - I answered. Very kindly but firmly he then directed me back to the ashram in Hardwar, about an hour away, where I would be "taken care of." I was mortified. I didn't want to leave. Maharaji was firm, "Go, I will come and see you soon."

I boarded the train for Hardwar in a delirium. Where my tired mind packed up. Convinced that to go on thinking would kill me I relaxed. And for the rest of the journey a column of pure gold seemed to hold me upright. Under the velvety north Indian night I rode a rickshaw from the station to the ashram, through seven arches of fragrant flowers to a fountain. "You must be Julian, we've been waiting for you," said someone in the garden. Maharaji was as good as his word. I had arrived home. I got to know and like - and then love Maharaji there in Hardwar. He seemed to be two people. Or rather, an eternal, ageless person in the body of a 13-year-old boy. His sense of humour first appealed to me. And his brilliance. For even in his boyish, Charlie Chaplinesque games - jumping into the water tank in his St Joseph, Academy school uniform with an umbrella; or burying an American girl he had nicknamed "Rampiri," or lover of Ram, up to her neck in sand - there seemed to be a deeper message. In my tems at the time, he was zen.

His first talk to us, on the roof outside his room, passed largely over my head. The analogy was automatic and manual transmission in motor cars. I didn't drive. Or even like cars.

But I was deeply struck by one thing: here was the first person I had ever met who clearly did not judge me on the basis of who I was or how I looked. In other words, he loved me. This was remarkable. And from this, I think, grew the seed of my own love, reinforced in endless looks and moments, for the person who has become a guiding influence in my life.

Looking back now, through videos and pictures, I am struck not just by Maharaji's youth but by his courage. And with gratitude for the young boy who came from India to a strange world to transform all our lives.

Thank you
John Coletta

In October of 1971, I had the great good fortune to receive Knowledge. My brother, who had received Knowledge a month earlier, asked if I would like to listen to an instructor of Maharaji. I innocently said yes never realizing what I was saying yes to. This was to become the greatest day of my life, because this was the day that I received Knowledge.

For me, there was a time when I was very dissatisfied with my life. At the age of sixteen, I couldn't understand why I was unhappy. Eventually I realized that my dissatisfaction was a result of not being connected consciously to my inner self. By having Knowledge revealed, I now had the tools to begin to experience my inner consciousness. I began to realize that Knowledge was a bridge and Maharaji was a guide.

Maharaji, from my heart to your heart I could never express the love I feel and the love I wish to feel as a result of meeting you. Devotion is the only true way to sincerely say, "Thank you, Maharaji." In doing so it allows me the opportunity to be truly happy.

Maharaji, through the years you have always shown me how to be successful in this life. This I believe is what the Master does for the student. Through the Master's love and patience, he teaches the student how to achieve success in this life through the experience of Knowledge. Maharaji, unfortunately I am a slow learner and I humbly ask your continued love and support. Please be patient with me.

Maharaji, when I take the last breath of this life, I hope it is with the comfort of knowing that I was sincere in making the Master and Knowledge the focus of my life.

Maharaji arrives with Ron in Munich

How I met Maharaji
Ron Coletta

It was a time in my life when my primary desire was to broaden my knowledge and conscious experience. Reading more than ever before, I realized someone could teach me better than books if only, I could find him. I kept reading, feeling the opportunity would come.

A visit home to New York was when it happened. One midnight, listening to a favorite radio show, the subject was 13-year-old Maharaji. The host's voice was unusually tranquil.

I thought, "He's stoned!" Unable to explain his guests' message he said. "I'll just let them tell you" The guests said they had found Maharaji who revealed Knowledge and he was coming, on his first visit to New York.

Anxious to hear more about the Knowledge, I was disappointed as the host opened the phones for "call-ins." The questions were so stupid, "How could he be such an authority at 13?"

For six-and-a-half hours the only subject was Maharaji. I was charged! I spent the next four days telling friends. They all came!

That Thursday evening from the back of the auditorium I listened fixed on Maharaji's message. He announced Knowledge would be revealed to those interested.

Three days of listening about Knowledge concluded with Maharaji answering questions. Wanting desperately to talk with Him, but not having questions, one finally came. I asked for Knowledge! He looked me in the eyes and said "Yes, you may have this Knowledge." The next day I received Knowledge.

I practiced Knowledge. Overwhelmed, I thought, "This is so simple. I would have never figured this out." One desire remained. I wanted to be close to Maharaji personally, so he could teach me all he knew.

Following the Knowledge session someone came from his room and announced "Maharaji is inviting all his western premies to celebrate in India." I couldn't believe it - it was all happening!

By his grace, and the little personal effort, 25 years later, it is still unfolding!