On Independence, Part II: A Disciple’s Impressions
by Shipp Webb
By Master’s Grace, I was in India in July and August of 1974. As the days of my stay passed, I knew that in retrospect the stay there would become very memorable to me. It was not until 21st August that the importance of these memories was forcibly thrust upon me. In the confused events of that night, my inability to take full advantage of all that Master offered was exposed. ‘Procrastination is the thief of time’ came to me again and again. If I had not been distracted by trips into Delhi, other Satsangis, and other things, I might not feel the physical separation so acutely.
Looking back on the six weeks I spent in Master’s presence, it seems abundantly clear that He was gently preparing us for what was to come. In many of the talks and Darshans Master stressed again and again the necessity of being independent. It was not until Master left the body that the full impact of these words hit me.
The first time that I clearly remember Master stressing independence was when He responded to a question I raised in a darshan. I had been sick for three days and although I felt physically sound, my mind absolutely refused to be calm for meditation.
I started my question with,
Master, I was sick last week …
The Master quickly interrupted.
You weren’t sick, your body was sick.
He said this with a beautiful mixture of firmness and good humour and we all laughed. I rephrased my question (‘My body has been sick’) and told Master of my difficulties in meditating.
God gives us grand opportunities.
He then related the story of how He had used a period of fever for constant meditation even before He was initiated. I felt very small when I compared the length of my illness to His – He had had a constant fever for six months, while I had been sick for only three days.
In my room after this darshan, I soon realised that Master had taken away whatever was impeding my meditation. My mind was comparatively docile. I also realised that He had given me a deep insight into the difference between body and soul. I felt that night very powerful in the energy He had radiated to me. I saw so clearly how much work was involved in the Path, but also saw that it was possible to succeed – His shining presence was the proof of that.
I had to rise above the changes my body went through; I must be independent of them.
Another time that Master spoke of the virtues of independence was on the day before Indian Independence Day – which is on 15th August. A Western student who was living at the Ashram asked permission to attend a speech by Indira Gandhi. Master became very animated and sat straight up in His chair.
Leaning forward and sweeping the whole group with His powerful glance, He said,
I wish everyone to be independent.
He went on to explain that this meant being less and less dependent on the outer environment and outgoing faculties.
There was a special Satsang on 15th August to celebrate this holiday. It was held in a different part of the Ashram courtyard than was usual – to the side of Master’s house under some trees. Nobody had announced the time of the Satsang except that it would be in the morning and I wandered over to find out. I realised that Master was coming out shortly and sat down where I was standing which was in the front row of people, but a good distance from the low dais. As Master came out, He motioned for the dais to be moved forward and I found myself directly in front of Him, only two feet away!
His talk was an elaboration of His comment the night before: We should all be independent. To be dependent was a heinous crime. There are, He said, three levels of independence: the physical plane, the astral plane, and the causal plane. He asked for a show of hands: how many are independent of the physical plane, the astral, the causal? I remember being particularly struck at the time by the power and insistence with which He spoke of this theme. As I sat literally at the Master’s feet, I was struggling to be independent of part of the physical plane. The trees above us were filled with birds and their droppings were raining down on my white clothes. I tried to keep my attention fixed on Master’s charged eyes and face, but would occasionally look down at my clothes. I thought to myself, this wouldn’t be happening to me in America. I looked back up at the Master to find Him looking intently at me.
My mind flashed to the story of Kabir and the king who is deemed worthy of initiation when he says,
Oh God. I am worse than this,
when a bucket of night soil is dumped on his head by Kabir's wife.
I quickly saw how firmly attached to my body I was and how far I was from even the first level of independence. Master looked at me several times after this He knew my thoughts of course. While Master stressed again and again the necessity of being able to rise above the physical environment, He at no time advocated an ascetic withdrawal.
One morning when I had meditated several hours before noon, I walked across the courtyard of the Ashram and was absolutely struck by the vibrant beauty of it all. Although I had been there many times, it seemed entirely new. I felt wonderfully peaceful and harmonious inside.
That evening at the darshan, Master spontaneously asked us all,
Is the world becoming beautiful to you? Raise your hands.
Then He looked at me and I was so overwhelmed by His absolute knowledge of us and by the Love that was pouring out of His eyes that I couldn’t raise my hand. It seemed ridiculous to tell Him something that He already knew and also to somehow profane the Inner Communication that had happened.
I was very sad and emotional when He left His body. But this was transitory. I arrived in America feeling joyful and buoyant. I had seen so clearly that Master was not His body and that, perhaps, it was a heinous crime to depend on that body. Master’s message of those last days was clear to me: We must be independent of all outward things and strive to find Him within. I often remind myself that the last words I heard Master say – at the last darshan – were,
Go jolly to all problems.