In the autumn of 1970, a friend invited me to offer seva as the cook for Swami Muktananda's upcoming first world tour when the tour visited California. I was running a small juice bar and restaurant in Carmel, and I told my friend that I couldn't take time off. One day, he called me again and began to tell me about Baba and what the tour was about. This time I said, “Okay, I’ll come, but only for a week.”
On October 10, Baba arrived in California and, the very next afternoon, held a satsang in the living room of a home in Pacific Palisades, where he would be staying. About twenty people were at the satsang. I listened intently to every word Baba said.
Just the day before, I had told someone, “I don't want any more lectures, or techniques, or books. I'm tired of those. I want to have the direct experience of God. There must be somebody around who can teach that.”
When Baba finished speaking, he asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand and said, “I was in India last year, and I studied with another Guru. Would it be all right if I meditated on your mantra?” Baba asked me, “Why does one go to a Guru, tell me?” It was a rhetorical question, and Baba continued with the answer. “You don't go for worship, and you don't go for adoration. You go for attainment. You go to attain the knowledge taught by the Guru. You shouldn't be in a hurry to choose a Guru. You should spend time with him for a while. See if he really lives by his teachings. After all,” Baba said, “anyone can give you lectures, and techniques, and books.” Now I was stunned. Baba slowly reached over to the table next to his chair, picked up a large mantra card with the mantra Om Namah Shivaya printed on it, and handed it to me, saying, “You can meditate on this mantra, if you like.”
I took the card and went to the kitchen to start preparing the evening meal. One of my fellow cooks said, “Do you know what Baba just gave you?” She could tell by the quizzical expression on my face that I didn't, so she said to me, “Tomorrow morning, you get up before anybody, and go sit in meditation next to Baba's chair, and repeat the mantra he gave you.”
At 3 a.m. the next morning, I went and sat next to Baba‘s chair to meditate. I offered a pranam and then sat up straight and began repeating the mantra quietly to myself, once on the in-breath and once on the out-breath. Within five minutes, I found myself in a place that felt as if I were sitting right inside my very own heart. There was this total awareness; my mind was still, free from thought. This silence was so beautifully serene, full of bliss. It was so absorbing that I just sank into it. The next thing I knew, someone was tapping on my shoulder. I opened my eyes, looked up, and there stood my fellow cook. She asked, “You're not going to cook breakfast for everybody?” I looked at my watch. It was 7 a.m. I had been absorbed in that inner stillness for nearly four hours. I could not believe it.
After that, I stayed on the tour and continued to offer seva in the kitchen. When the tour was leaving California for the next stop, several of us went to the airport to see Baba off. We waited until Baba's plane lifted and watched it disappear in the distance. I turned and looked at the people around me. We all had tears in our eyes. We were in amazement. “Who was that?” we wondered. “And how did he affect us so deeply in so short a time?”