Peace Is Possible by Andrea Cagan
Invasion from the West 106
Brian Kitt, a young Englishman, began his journey to the East in the sping of 1968. "In my mind's eye," he said, "all of Europe looked dark, but as I looked eastward, a glow of light seemed to
hover over India." Brian left his job washing dishes in a luxury hotel to pursue his dream of finding the truth.
He asked his friend Glen Whittaker to join him, but Glen was not so anxious to drop everything and just take off. "In 1968," Glen says, "I was an Oxford-educated hippie in London, kind of a weekend dropout with a pretty good job, nine to five, Monday through Friday. An American cousin was staying with me to escape the Vietnam War draft, and we went to visit Brian in his flat in Ladbroke Grove. He told us that the next day he was setting off to India because he was sure the truth could be found there and asked if I wanted go with him. But I said, 'I feel if the truth is around now and if it is in India, then it will come to the West because this is where it's seriously needed.' And so I declined."
A flamboyant figure on the London psychedelic scene, Brian viewed himself as a mystical poet, a sadhu (holy man), and a seeker who was well-versed in the life of Krishna. Once he arrived in India, he studied yoga, visited a number of teachers, and began to dress in white robes. But so far, he had not found what he was looking for. He'd been staying at a pilgrim's hostel in the holy city of Rishikesh in the Himalayas, where he was getting sick, weak, and undernourished, when one day, his prayer was, "I came to find you, but it has ended in failure. If I do not receive a sign that I should continue, I will start back to England tomorrow"
Just before Brian opened his eyes, someone tapped him on the arm. He turned to see two well-dressed Indian men who wanted to know what he was doing. When he told them he was trying to meditate, they said, "But meditation is a happy thing." They recommended he join them to visit Balyogeshwar, who lived a two-hour drive away. Brian looked at a photograph they had of the eleven-year-old boy, who was beaming with happiness and good will.
"Somewhere inside," says Brian, "I felt he was the one I was looking for, but when I asked if they thought he might accept me as a student, they were doubtful. Apparently, two Westerners, one
from Germany and the other from America, had been the first to visit Maharaji, but they had left and lost touch"
The two men took Brian on a bus ride to Maharaji's residence anyway Hiring a tonga (bicycle rickshaw) at the bus station in Dehradun, they brought some fruit as an offering and set off to 13 Municipal Road. "As we entered the gate," Brian says, "I caught sight of Maharaji and his brothers riding bikes They sped off, and his mother met us and invited us to sit on the front porch and have tea."
In a few minutes, a windswept Maharaji jumped off his bike and approached to ask Brian why he had come to India. "To find God," he answered. "Then you have come to the right place,' a smiling Maharaji said.
During the next half hour or so, Maharaji and Brian conversed. In the end, Maharaji invited the Englishman to stay, sharing a room with a mahatma, and agreed to talk with him every morning. The next morning, Brian looked in a mirror and saw that the whites of his eyes were yellow. It was unmistakable–he had hepatitis.
When a radiant Maharaji arrived on the front veranda to speak with his visitor as promised, Brian warned him of his contagious disease and regretted that he would have to cancel their meetings. Maharaji sympathized and made arrangements for Brian to go to Prem Nagar to be attended by an ayurvedic doctor. He assured Brian they would fill him up on papayas and buttermilk, which were both good for his condition Mataji accompanied the sick young man while Bihari drove.
A month later, after Brian recovered, the talk that Maharaji had originally promised finally took place. "The most wonderful moments of my life," says Brian, "were probably those spent around an eleven-year-old Maharaji in his own playroom, talking about the universe, God, life, and the path to enlightenment." Brian attended a series of Maharaji's events in February 1969,
and at one festival, he was stunned to see that tens of thousands had gathered. "They came by train, oxcart, and on foot," he says.
Early one morning, in Faribadad, a large industrial city to the south of Delhi, Brian sat at Maharaji's bedside, waiting for him to wake up. "What do you want?" asked a sleepy Maharaji when he spotted Brian.
"Knowledge," said Brian.
"Not a shirt?" asked Maharaji with a smile, noticing that the Englishman's arms were covered in mosquito bites.
"I want Knowledge," he repeated.
"How about lots of fruits?" teased Maharaji.
"I want your Knowledge," Brian said.
Maharaji arranged for him to receive Knowledge from Charan Anand the very next day while he was at school. After practicing for a week, someone asked Brian how it was going. He said, "These are not simply techniques. They are the truth itself."
Soon afterward at Shakti Nagar in Delhi, Brian dreamt that he needed to seek out other Westerners who were already in India. He took the bus to Connaught Circus, in the heart of Delhi. "I saw no one I knew there," he recalls, "but a Sikh became interested in my story and offered to take me to a sort of cellar club with jimi Hendrix songs on the jukebox." The Sikh showed him to a table at which sat Sandy Collier, Ron Geaves, Michael Cole, and David Beales. Brian would soon be responsible for guiding the group to Dehradun.
In 1968, Sandy Collier, a twenty-one-year-old Englishwoman of delicate constitution, was in what she called "a sorry state" when her boyfriend, Ron Geaves, visited her in the hospital in London. Unlike so many others, they were not heading East in search of the easy, drug-fueled lifestyle so common at the time. "I had a desperate longing to discover the truth about creation and other
such things," says Sandy, "and so did Ron. He and I had been searching for a long time, which was how our friendship started in the first place"
Sandy was born into a workingclass family She had left school when she was fifteen and worked in an insurance office before embracing the hippie dropout lifestyle Ron was sixteen when he dropped out of school, and the day after he met Sandy, he had a dream in which he was climbing a ladder with a yogi standing at the top When he looked back, Sandy was on the rung just below him Now, as they made plans to embark on the long journey to India together, they had somewhat similar goals Ron envisioned himself as a renunciate, traveling far and wide to merge with the "divine," while Sandy set her sights on the vast foothills of the Himalayas, renouncing the world there and discovering the truth
And so, late in 1968, they stuck out their thumbs, carrying with them a few simple belongings as they began to hitchhike across Belgium, Austria, Romania, Istanbul, and Turkey In eastern Turkey, caught in a freezing downpour in a forest with inadequate sleeping bags, they were forced to postpone the rest of their journey until the weather eased up. They then traveled through eastern Turkey, Iran, and eventually Afghanistan, where they settled for a month before moving through the Khyber Pass into Pakistan and onward to India The entire journey took them five and a half months, and they arrived in Old Delhi in the early morning m April 1969.
Michael Cole and David Beales, two British music entrepreneurs with cheerful, cockney approaches to life, left London together in 1969 Milky (a childhood nickname for Michael that stuck), tall and handsome with boyish charm, quit school at sixteen to work in his father's business for a couple of years Soon afterward, he
began managing several bands. He also had a desire to travel to India. "I wanted to search for what I considered the secret of life," he explains.
David, born in the poor East End of London, was a teenage champion swimmer who broke the British record for the backstroke. But he quickly became disillusioned when he was overlooked for the Tokyo Olympics. It seemed that six months after his record-breaking swim, the team chose a less able but wealthier swimmer, as the sport was known for its elitism. "I was from the wrong side of the tracks," he says.
Intensely disappointed, David became a dropout, growing his hair long, taking drugs, and working as a roadie for musical groups. During his travels with various bands, he met Milky. When they exchanged stories, they realized they both wanted to go to India to find "the truth."
Milky bought a sleeping bag and a rucksack and joined the YMCA so they could find cheap places to stay along the way. "A harrowing six weeks later," said David, "we arrived in India, dirty, hungry, and broke."
In a ramshackle Delhi hotel called The Crown, they met Ron and Sandy, who were staying in an adjacent room. The next morning, the four of them walked into a café that was streaming Bob Dylan into the street. There they met Brian, who told them about Maharaji. Soon after, the five headed off together to Shakti Nagar ashram to meet the boy guru.
They were welcomed at the Delhi ashram and offered rooms in the garage, which had been converted into a dorm. They were given clean clothes and good food, something of a rarity during their travels.