by Admin Aiyanna
posted in Book Excerpts
The air was humid and heavy; the sun was blisteringly hot. A patchwork of smoky shadows and pulsing hues created a motley background behind the sweltering horde of shoppers. Beyond a spread of green lentils, red chili peppers, and open-ended rice burlaps, past a long curtain of pink, saffron, and blue saris hanging wilted in the windless heat, where the air dulled to a muted haze, a pair of super-sized buses was unloading an energetic mob of Japanese tourists. The square’s main exit was now gridlocked with sightseers. I chose to follow the overflow streaming into the less congested parts of the square. Less than a block ahead, beyond a lengthy row of canopied stalls, a narrow alleyway crowned with a muddle of tattered electrical lines promised the nearest escape. Having spent my entire morning combing through an endless mix of beaded malas, music cassettes, and tourist junk, a relaxed lunch in the shade of my hotel piazza seemed idyllic. That is, until one last temptation caught my eye—a finely crafted Tibetan jacket. An unlikely find in a music stall stocked with drums and sitars.
Masked in a barter-readied indifference, I mulled over a possible strategy. But just as I was about to engage in the bargaining, a vague sense of being watched pulled my attention back to the crowd. It didn’t take long to spot him. Standing on the opposite side of the square a tall, slender man wrapped in a single piece of purple linen had his eyes locked on me. On cue, the instant our eyes met he started walking toward me.
Here in Delhi, dressed in an American-made white shirt and blue jeans, I no doubt came off as an obvious tourist mark. I had already been approached a number of times this morning and was in no mood for another scammer working his con. I looked around—the crowd was thick—a possible cover for me to slip away into.
I hesitated. —There was something intriguingly different about this man. His approach was almost supernatural, how the shoulder-tight crowd unwittingly agreed to part, seemingly choreographed under the invisible hands of a mysterious puppeteer. —Was I the only one seeing this?
A plainly carved, shoulder-high staff swung like a pendulum in perfect stride with his lanky brown legs. His pace narrowed the gap between us in a blink, eliciting an annoyed feeling of being deliberately cornered. Towering above me, his head inked out the sun. Thin glimmers of light fanned through the feathery outer wisps of his dove-white hair.
Blue eyes, I thought, not a native Indian!
A subtle appraisal passed between us. And then, as if to confide a secret, he leaned in bringing his face a bit too close, and said in a half whisper, “If you’re ready and if you’re willing, I’ve come to guide you home!”
“Do I know you?” I asked. “Have we met?”
A telltale smile spread across his face—but he said nothing.
I stepped back reactively—the booth’s edge resisted with a sharp jab to my hip. I envisioned slipping by him, but the intrigue was holding. There was something curiously alluring about this man: his confidence, his steady focus, and a subtle trace of something mysterious glinting in his eyes. I couldn’t recall having ever met him before—but he seemed oddly familiar. And then something strange started happening; the air around us began to change, becoming faintly electric.
The intrigue was building—this wasn’t just a chance encounter. He definitely knew me! But how—and why couldn’t I remember him?
There are times in life when the hand of fate shows up unpredictably. I’ve come to relish those moments—their sudden and unanticipated entrance—too elusive or quick for me to just brush aside or react habitually. More often than not, I’ve discovered in them a heavenly genius at work. I was beginning to suspect that this might be one of those times.
I soon found myself caught up in a perplexing sensation that time was somehow slowing to a crawl. The spaces between my thoughts were longer than usual. I was now too fascinated to resist. I chose to let go to it, which immediately stirred up an almost paranormal sense of yearning, both painful and puzzlingly hopeful. —Similar to a feeling I once had as a child when returning home after a long trip away.
The stranger’s face started to change, becoming mystifyingly surreal—dreamlike. This is happening too quickly, I thought. —So quickly that I nearly lost my balance. Peering up into the black centers of his eyes made it even more surreal, producing a peculiar sense of falling into another realm.
In a snap, the environment around us fell completely silent—as if someone had just flipped a switch on the world. And then something else happened: I could see him in a new way—in a way I couldn’t earlier. There was an extraordinary depth of goodness reflected in his face—so pure I couldn’t imagine having ever doubted him!
My thoughts were fewer and fewer; my usual mental clutter had fallen to a complete hush. Oddly, the residual silence swallowed all sense of separation that had previously demarcated us as two. Though with it arose a feeling of being strangely exposed. And yet, I felt somehow secure—I was exactly where I should be.
It was apparent now; there weren’t any tricks or riddles to his offer. His question wasn’t merely a request, it was a cue: a kind of prompt that was intended to evoke something in me, something I must have forgotten. An echo of his question kept resurfacing in my mind: If you are ready… if you are ready… if you are ready… There was sincerity there. And an undeniable sense that my answer would be somehow life changing.
His eyes were amazingly radiant. This was no ordinary man—this was a person of extraordinary spiritual development. It was all so obvious now—he was a true Master, a mystic.
A gentle touch of something evocative and unexplainable washed over me—a whisper of light—calling me, asking me to close my eyes and listen. The moment I did, a window opened. Through it came a streaming mosaic of partial images—broken fragments of a vague and distant memory. Not from my childhood, or anything else from this life, but something older, from a prior time. I started to recall pieces of a long forgotten era—moments of another life beyond my normal reach. What stood out most was a growing sense that at that time, so very long ago, I had made a promise—a yet-to-be fulfilled promise. I wasn’t entirely sure what that promise was, but I knew it had to be the key reason why this Master had come: to call it back into my awareness! Except now—the resulting allure around this promise had caused everything else I thought important in my life to fall pale.
The yearning I had felt, and the call of that unrequited promise, were one and the same. Only one other desire remained—the desire to go with him to the home he promised to guide me to. I wanted to drop everything, to let everything I had been doing in my life fall away. I so very much wanted to go, but I knew I couldn’t. Not yet! I was barely a young man, and I hadn’t yet accomplished what I had promised to do.
New thoughts sprang to life, spinning wildly, filling the silence with a mounting sense of pressured anguish, but at the same time I was deeply grateful for what I’d just discovered.
The world around me seemed more distant now, like a passing dream. A moment of dizziness nearly tipped me off my feet—I grabbed the edge of the booth. I focused on my breath and used it to calm my mind. Out of the blue, this had all happened so very fast.
“One day…” I whispered. I said it again out loud—“one day.”
I knew he already knew my answer; he knew it before he’d asked. He knew I needed to hear myself say it, to feel my conviction—to feel this promise come back to life.
I edged out my final answer, “No… I’m not ready… not yet!”
He straightened his body, passed his staff to his free hand, and then reassuringly placed his right hand on my shoulder. An otherworldly look of compassion blossomed through his eyes, touching my heart in a way that could only be described as timeless.
“Thank you,” I said softly. “I won’t forget this.”
He nodded. “Very well—we will wait.”
It was over! Without another word, he turned and walked off as easily as he’d come. The clamor of the market rushed back with a roar.
I watched him disappear though the crowd. This gentle Master had given me a glimpse of something far more significant than I had imagined my life would be. He had broken my world open; I was standing directly in life’s pulse, ready to follow whatever demands it would bring.
I promised myself, I’d keep this secret—share it with no one, at least not yet.