I met Baba Muktananda in 1976 in South Fallsburg, New York. The next year, I flew to Gurudev Siddha Peeth, the Siddha Yoga Ashram in India, because I wanted a deeper experience of Baba’s teachings. I arrived in India the last week of June, just as the monsoon had begun, for a stay of two months. Soon after I arrived, this prayer arose: “Baba, I want an experience of that Self that you speak about. I want to know the specialness you say lies inside me.”
I was a medical student at the time, and I offered seva in the clinic. I was busy much of the day, but I noticed, with the practices and the rhythm of the daily schedule, my mind became quieter over time.
In late August, just before I was ready to leave, I was invited for darshan with Baba. When I entered the room, Baba was in his seat, and Gurumayi was by his side translating. I pranamed and offered a gift. Baba reached down and picked up a gold silk shawl, which had the mantra Om Namah Shivaya written across it. He opened the shawl, leaned towards me, and put it over my head and around my neck. Then he drew me closer and closer, until my eyes were inches away from his. Baba looked deep into my eyes and said, “You are the Self.”
My first reaction was to ask myself, “What? What does he mean?” Still holding me close, Baba said again, “You are the Self.” But my mind still couldn’t grasp it. Baba held the ends of the shawl strongly and repeated a third time: “You are the Self!” My mind stopped, and I knew something had happened; I could feel that Baba’s words had penetrated my being.
After I returned home, this became my constant contemplation. I began asking, “What is the Self? What did Baba mean?” I read Baba’s books and meditated every day. Even at the hospital, I would have Baba’s Mukteshwari in the pocket of my white coat, and between patients I would read a verse and try to understand, “What is the Self?”
As the years went on, I continued to walk the Siddha Yoga path. I meditated, studied, participated in satsangs and Shaktipat Intensives, and offered seva as my schedule permitted. As I continued my sadhana under Gurumayi’s guidance, I had many glimpses of the Self that Baba spoke about.
More than twenty years after that darshan with Baba, I was in Gurudev Siddha Peeth offering seva in the clinic. This was a pilgrimage I had taken many times over the years. One morning, I was meditating in the meditation cave. I was in a very peaceful and still state, and I sat in this state for more than an hour.
As I went deeper and deeper into meditation, I felt my limited sense of who I was gradually melting away. What was left was just a pure aware presence, and that presence was me. I experienced joy in the stillness; so much joy filled me that I started laughing.
Later in that day, as I contemplated the experience, I realized that this is what Baba had been telling me during that darshan years before. Baba had given me a gift of recognition that could never be taken away: “I am the Self!”