I grew up very Catholic so you know my life was pretty certain about good girl-bad girl. I was going to go to hell if I didn’t do the right things. Then I met my husband, Brian and he was a big thinker. He was a breath of fresh air for me. Listening to Brian’s ideas is when things started to shift in me. I started to realize that there was so much more than growing up in suburbia, trying to be a good girl, getting a job, buying a house and all those other things that you are taught.
I started a meditation practice in 1978 under Babuji and for two years a lot began happening spiritually. I was kind of like a child in a candy store. I was like how can this be? I remember my very first spiritual experience while in meditation and my first thought was, “This must be God.” I went to Brian and I said, “How can I be experiencing so much because of this little enlightened man in India?” “How can he be on the other side of the world and I am experiencing it here?”
Brian said to me, “I am telling you this is the real deal. You don’t come across too many enlightened beings in your life.” I said, “I want to go see Babuji.” So, in 1980 we traveled to Germany, where Babuji was staying, for what was probably the culminating moment of my spiritual journey. We knew he was staying there through other practioners and that this would be a good opportunity to see him. You only knew about Babuji through word of mouth, there was no internet then, no advertising. People would write letters to each other saying I have met a real guru in India. So, if you were meant to meet him, you met him. It was that way.
Brian and I arrived in Germany and went on the first day to meet him. We were walking through a forest and I said to my husband, Brian, “Do you feel that?” We were pretty far from the residence. You could feel the whole atmosphere changing as we got closer and closer to where Babuji was staying. It was so light and so palpable. It was very clear. You almost felt that you could hardly feel yourself. The closer you got to the house the more profound the atmosphere felt and by the time we entered the house it was like everything was pure space. There was no weight to anything. You could feel it in your own body, you own heart and your own mind. I entered the room and there he was, Babuji, sitting on the sofa. My very first thought was, “O my God! Why didn’t anyone tell me to look for a saint today?”
Calling him a saint was my only point of reference at the time because I had learned that sacred, holy people were called saints and that they had lived in the past. We were never taught that you could reach a state of holiness today. Either you were good and you became holy when you died or you did not.
So here I am a Catholic girl, leaping into something that was a whole new world. I remember thinking,
“I am definitely going to hell for meeting this man.” But something inside kept telling me to be brave even though my Catholic teaching was saying, “No this is not a good thing.” But when I look back, I think I was so courageous for doing something that felt so right even when I thought I could possibly go to hell for exploring this path.
My second thought was, “I have to have what you have. Teach me.”
Brian and I went to see Babuji again in 1982 before he passed away in 1983. That was another moment for me. I knew he wasn’t well and he was going to leave the earthly plane soon. I was very distraught. I had just found my teacher only two years ago, what was I going to do now? That was part of finding an enlightened teacher, realizing I had to let go of him. I got to go into Babuji's room one night and he was just sort of looking out into space and all of a sudden, I heard these words inside of me, “I will be leaving soon.” I started to cry. I said, “Why would you go now, I just found you?” He said, “I will be with you for all eternity.”
Babuji left his successor, Chari, and I began a twenty-five-year relationship with someone just as enlightened. But this relationship eventually had to come to an end also. Right before Chari was about to pass I went to see him in India. There was a moment when he went to introduce me to his successor and he said, “This is one of my oldest friends in the United States.”
I fell on my knees and I started crying. It was the first time I understood why people touch the feet of a living guide. I knew it as an Indian tradition but I could never do it myself. But suddenly I saw the pure essence inside him, what this lineage of masters had discovered. That it wasn’t the person that houses the essence, the essence existed everywhere and this particular lineage of masters was teaching us how to do that too.
When I saw the essence inside him I fell on my knees and I put my hands on his feet and it was another culminating moment. I saw it wasn’t the person that I loved. It was the people who were showing me the way to find love within myself. I understood the lineage of Jesus, his apostles, his disciples. I understood Buddha. I understood these masters were living a full existence because they had both worlds integrated. The world of being human and the inner world of being able to connect to the Source that animates all of existence. And I realized that what they had I also had. What they had everyone had. And I understood it for all paths.
That to me is what it is all about. That is why we come here. That is what the purpose of human existence is. To be able to break down all those walls and all those prejudices of my way verses your way and instead seeing it as the Way of human experience.
Debra Wuliger, figurative artist working with color, texture and pattern to celebrate life.
Image silhouetted with story. Ready for hanging.