October 14, 2023

Dear Friends,

Yesterday we arrived back in Assisi for 3 nights before heading off again for about another two weeks. Most of the time we’ll be in Belgrade, with short visits to Prague, Vienna, and Slovenia as well. For most of November, we’ll be in Assisi, with a few short jaunts to other cities.

To bring you up to date: From Ananda Giri we drove to Milan for one night. We arrived in time for a late lunch with the seva crew setting up the hall for the afternoon program. We were staying in a hotel, with a lovely outdoor dining area. The weather has been unseasonably warm.

The program was in the same hotel where we were staying.

I’ve been listening to Swamiji’s music for more than 50 years. And I never grow tired of the melodies. Each time my heart opens in joy. And the audience seems to feel the same way. From the beginning, back in the late 70s, I always traveled with musicians. I could talk for an hour and perhaps bring people a little of the feeling of Master’s presence. They could take people much deeper with a 4 minute song!

After the program they presented me with a beautiful bouquet of lavender and purple flowers. I told them that when I came to Italy for the first time in 1982, with Swamiji, it wasn’t yet clear where in Europe Swamiji would start the first Ananda center. He already spoke Spanish, German, French, and Rumanian, plus Hindi and Bengali. Italian, however, was not in his repertoire—yet. As it happened, the most dedicated energy was in Italy. And, I explained, it was easy to see why Swamiji made that choice. Such open hearts, deeply attuned to God.

Afterwards, the usual book signing. On our last trip to Europe, we ran out of English language books, so this time I brought many. Way too many! Fortunately, they can be stored in Assisi and since many English speaking people come to the Retreat, gradually — say, before the end of the century! — they will be sold. Although when we go to Eastern Europe, perhaps we’ll be able to pass on a few more, since the books I’ve written haven’t been translated into any of their languages, whereas 3 of the 4 I’ve written have long been available in Italian. Oh well, too few books the first time, too many the second time, perhaps eventually we’ll get it right!

For years this family has been coming to Ananda Assisi for Family Week.

Once again, everyone has a story, often remarkable in the way God guides and blesses us. It is always so touching to hear about the soul’s long journey.

And then afterwards, an Indian dinner at a nearby restaurant. Two devotees came all the way from Assisi to be at the program and we sat together at dinner. Divine Mother uses every opportunity and we found ourselves having a deep conversation about attachment and death and how to surf the waves of life as God sends it to us. A perfect evening in every way.

From Milan, we went to Lugano, Switzerland. I’ve been carrying city boots and a down jacket but it was sandals and sunshine. To have such weather in the second week of October is very unusual. The weatherman decided the calendar was wrong. It was not, in fact, October 8th, but the 71st day of August.

We had lunch with Amrita and Monica, two of the dedicated devotees in that area. Amrita and her husband have a mountain home a little distance from Lugano, where we enjoyed an outdoor lunch.

Amrita then took us into the part of the house where she holds events for Ananda. She asked for a blessing on her work for Master.

Like so many others we have met on this journey, we are not meeting for the first time, only the first time in this life. This is the doorway of her meditation hall. God has a wonderful sense of beauty which he has lavished on Switzerland.

We then visited Monica’s house, and the attic where she hosts Ananda events. The house belonged first to her grandfather, and is now hers. We chanted and meditated there. A wonderful vibration. We could feel how pleased Master is with what the devotees are doing together there.

Outdoor breakfast at Monica’s family home. This home was built by her father. There are three flats. Her two sisters and their families have the upper flats, Monica, and guests enjoyed the downstairs. Behind us is the now closed-for-the-winter swimming pool. It was quite warm enough to swim, but no one expected the warm weather to last this long so the pool was emptied a few weeks ago. Divine Mother is changing the planet and we have no choice but to go along with what She gives. In this case, a beautiful sunny breakfast, with our sister Monica, so it was no hardship!

A little sightseeing. Swamiji often came to Lugano on holiday. Easy to see why he enjoyed being here.

Dambara captured this gorgeous portrait of our dear friends. Gitanjali helped arrange this wonderful trip for us. Yogindra was our “Krishna,” driving the “chariot” from city to city.

When Swamiji came to Lugano, he would stay at the Dante Hotel.

In May 2009, I went to India to be with Swamiji for his birthday. In the Bhrigu reading he had when he first went to India in 1958, it was predicted that 2009 would be his last birthday. In case that prediction proved true, I wanted to celebrate it with him, so went to Gurgaon, India where he was living at that time. The day after his birthday he had some kind of an “incident,” and his health — never good at that time — took a dramatic turn for the worse.

He was scheduled to leave the next day for Italy. His nurse Miriam, who always traveled with him, said it was quite common when these transitions from continent came, that there would be physical tapasya involved. So after some consideration, and consultation with Jyotish and Devi and Dr. Peter at Ananda Village, she decided we would go ahead and travel. Usually when he arrived at the next place, the tapasya would end, and his health — whatever level was usual for him at that time — would return. We were going to Lugano first for a few days of holiday before returning to his home in Assisi.

This time, however, his health did not improve. We were all staying at the Dante Hotel, as usual, and I was alone with Swamiji in the late evening. He was lying in his bed and I sat next to him for awhile before leaving him for the night. His life force was very weak. Miriam said later his condition was so serious that he could easily have died from any one of several causes. That is how it felt in the moment.

But I became even more concerned when I realized that Swamiji was reviewing in his mind, and conversation, all of the Ananda communities and those who served in leadership positions. I said, “Are you asking whether Ananda will be okay if you leave your body now?” “Yes,” he said.

Even though, of course, I hoped that was not going to happen, I had long since come to peace with the fact that he would not live forever. He had already given so much to us it would be unspeakably selfish to ask him to stay.  My one consolation was that it seemed unlikely that (1) I would be the only person present when he transitioned, and (2) his Moksha place would be a room in the Dante Hotel!

Still, I assured him that he had trained us well and that we could carry on.

In fact, it was not his time to leave, but after that, we didn’t let him stay alone, even to sleep. Kirtani and Anand took the room next door and someone was always with him. Even when we returned to Assisi, his health did not notably improve, so we took turns making sure he was never alone.

It was at this time — in the afternoon on June 6 — that he had a miracle healing. As it happened, I was with him. I had to wake him from a nap because guests were coming for tea. He was so weak, I had to button his shirt and help him into the living room. He lay down on the couch, and I went back to tidy his bedroom. When I returned he was lying so still I thought he had left his body. Then he sat up and started talking about founding the Nayaswami Renunciate Order. In the few moments I was out of the room, everything changed. Speaking of the Order, Swamiji said, “This is what Satan was trying to stop,” referring to how close he had been to leaving his body. Then he got up and starting writing a book about the new renunciate order! From being too weak to button his own shirt, to writing a book was a matter, literally of minutes. The whole story is in LIGHTBEARER, chapter 2009.

On this trip — far less dramatic than that one with Swamiji! — we had one evening program at a local hotel (not the Dante, which doesn’t have conference rooms).  When Swamiji was lecturing, it was his way to arrive early to the hall if possible, and then meditate and pray before the program began, asking Master to inspire him to speak in a way that would be helpful to those who came. After a short meditation in a nearby room, I went out onto the balcony of the conference room itself. It looked out over the city, with a small view of Lake Lugano as well. A perfect place to feel the energy of the place as the people were filling the room.

Hansa is a long-time devotee who came to Lugano from her home in French Switzerland. She is American, her husband is Swiss, so they have lived in Switzerland now for many years. Through email I’ve known her for a long time, but only met in person last year. It was lovely that she could be with us in Lugano and also in Milan.

This lovely couple came from Basel.

When Swamiji went on his Joy Tours in 1978 — twice across the country and back — he described the trip, eventually, in terms of the sincere devotees he met along the way. Many who became strong, contributing members of Ananda found Ananda because of that tour. For me, this kind of travel has always been about the individuals we meet. It doesn’t matter how many are in the room. The reason we are there can be just for one or two people.

There is a story Swamiji tells about Master giving a lecture to 5000 people in an American city. With great enthusiasm one of the disciples — perhaps it was Dr. Lewis, I’m not sure — spoke about how many would come to the class series that followed. Master predicted that out of 5000 at the lecture, 5 would take the classes. And that was exactly accurate. Out of a thousand, one seeks. But that one is sufficient reason for the Master to incarnate.

We visited two more wonderful places in Italy, before coming back to Assisi, but this letter is long enough, so I’ll write that up separately.

In divine friendship,