Amazing grace, how sweet thou art

By Michael Draper, UK

I often remind students of one of the many aphorisms from the film ‘Kung Fu Panda’: the past is history, the future is a mystery, but the Now is a gift (grace), which is why we call it the Present. Are we always aware of the grace that flows at the moment: the Now with its gift and opportunity?

The web of neural pathways in the brain processes information in fractions of time, and our mental interference through emotional reaction or otherwise makes the experience of Now a challenge. When we remind ourselves to focus on being present – the Now – we try to be one with what has already passed into memory. Divine irony.

Is it possible then to become aware of Now by watching or meditating on the rhythm of our breathing? Becoming implies time. Time and Now are mutually inconsistent. 

However, there is one meditation given by Mohanji in which we are directed to the space between our ‘in and out’ breaths to experience an expansive space that is the place of pure awareness of the Self. The promise of possibility can be replaced by the experience of presence.

When we have a peak experience, we are said to catch our breath – that is, for a moment, we forget about the breath or breathing or thinking, and we fall naturally into that space, which is presence and time appears to stand still in a concentrated moment, and grace flows.

One such experience occurred on 9th June, 2023. I saw Mohanji physically for the first time at the holy ashram of Skanda Vale, the Community of the many names of God. This was during the Shirdi Sai Baba temple inauguration and  Prana Pratishtha of Shirdi Sai Baba idol. Skanda Vale and the welcoming and inclusive Swamis, monks and nuns of the ashram have been a divine refuge, an ark in the sea of Samsara, for many years. 

The gravitational power of Mohanji’s presence is to be experienced. Stillness is one of its manifestations, and silence is another. How, then, to describe the impact of seeing Mohanji for the first time? Visually, there is a vibrancy in which Mohanji seems to stand out from his immediate environment. Mohanji is outstanding, so to speak. He is magnetic.

My feeling was one of wanting to be physically close and yet respectful of his space amid my mind’s uncertainty over what was ‘allowed’ or possible. So I watched and observed from a distance, hoping that I might catch his gaze which would invite an approach, in other words, longing for recognition but mentally reasoning in advance against the possibility to avoid and manage disappointment. 

Mohanji responded. I met Dirk.

Dirk is a divine force of love, generous and ever concerned for the welfare of others. I felt an immediate connection with Dirk and was very happy to talk openly with him. We spoke of Sathya Sai Baba and our experiences with Swami – when two or more gather in my name says the Master Jesus there I am, and Baba was with us as we reminisced. Sai Dirk encouraged me to approach Mohanji and Devi to seek their blessings and to request that I touch their feet. 

I had shared with Dirk that this had been a longed-for experience with Sai Baba, but I needed more courage to approach Baba. Self-doubt had led to inertia and a lost opportunity. I explained to Dirk that on one visit to Prashanti Nilayam at Puttaparthi (India), Sai Baba had unexpectedly walked about the ashram outside of the formal darshan setting and timings to pour out his love and grace on devotees that ‘happened’ to be in the right place at the right time.

Naturally, a small crowd had gathered and, like a wave, moved with Sai Baba to the vicinity of the coconut stall in the ashram grounds where I was standing. My heart wanted to move towards Sai Baba and fall at his feet as others did. But would my mind allow that? No. 

Subsequently, I realised that the coconut is the symbol of the ego, and I was at the coconut stall. Stalled – yet another divine irony. That sense that I was separate from Baba and not deserving of him or his love and a doubting mind – ego – meant that I didn’t move and I missed the opportunity.

Deep regret followed. 

With hindsight, the ‘missed’ opportunity resulted in a period of intense sadhana and deeper longing. Baba’s Will, often inscrutable, is perfect in its timing and impact, and with Baba’s loving grace, other experiences followed. Even so, I had not physically touched his divine feet.

With Dirk’s encouragement and reassuring presence, I approached Mohanji and Devi. With some haste resulting from hesitancy, I conveyed to Mohanji my longing and missed opportunity with Baba and requested that I touch his feet. 

I wasn’t eloquent, probably garbled, but Mohanji read my heart. Now was the time, and grace flowed. Mohanji nodded his head with approval, and with Sai Ram chants, I knelt before Mohanji and took padanamaskar. Devi gracefully gave her permission, and now, with more confident ‘Sai Rams’ being uttered, I took padanamaskar from Shakti. With a sense of completion and gratitude but having not yet emotionally assimilated what had happened, I watched Mohanji move along the path.

Are you coming to Scotland? Dirk explained about MCB in Scotland and the Prana Pratishtha of Shirdi Sai Baba idol and temple inauguration at MCB in a few days’ time. This would mean reorganising my work diary and booking leave at very short notice and a very long drive from South Wales. But with the experience granted by Mohanji still reverberating in my system, where there is a will, then there is a way.

Trusting but uncertain of the physical location of MCB Scotland, I approached Peter, another loving and generous soul. I was aware that Peter was somehow connected with Mohanji through his seva activity in addition to that at Skanda Vale. It transpired that Peter was part of the team that had located the property, which was now MCB Scotland. Therefore, Peter was able to write the address and postcode on an empty paper cup that I was holding. I don’t carry a mobile phone.

An empty cup that was about to be filled – Masters emphasise the importance of being your genuine (authentic) self: simply be, accepting yourself as you are ‘warts and all’ and open to receiving grace without any pre-conditions. Be honest but without judgement. The divine knows all anyway. The divine is directing the action through you watching the drama. A cup or conditioned mind already filled and closed to the divine play will simply overflow, and available energy and grace will go unappreciated and unused.

I felt the energy of purpose stir within – Adventure and the Will to venture forth. I began planning the trip in short measure. The inauguration was due to happen on Thursday and Friday, just days following the completion of the inauguration at Skanda Vale.

Almost everything fell into place; I had a work event on Thursday that I could not move but decided that was not going to prevent travel, and I would leave South Wales by car that evening to drive to Scotland and arrive in time for the inauguration event at MCB Scotland on the next day. This would mean driving through the night.

You might expect to feel tired with 12 hours of driving following a workday. Not when Mohanji’s will and energy are with you. At around 2:00 am in the morning, my sensible mind said to pull into a lay-by to rest for a while. I couldn’t sleep, so I eventually drove on, reaching MCB at around 6:30 am in the morning. Almost immediately, I saw Peter and then Vijay, who, in welcoming me, made sure that I had a cup of tea and refreshment. Blessings.

For the sake of brevity, I will leave the June experiences at MCB aside. However, I would like to mention two events in that divinely beautiful location. When walking to his seat in the Datta garden next to the Dattatreya temple for satsang, Mohanji gently but with intention touched my right arm at the level of my chest. To an observer, Mohanji’s hand had casually brushed my arm. 

However, this triggered a reaction in my heart centre. It took some effort to prevent public tears from flowing. I was aware that Mohanji had removed an energetic imprint in my heart chakra that no longer served a useful purpose with the lightest of touches.

When talking with Devi in front of the Shirdi Sai Baba temple, again, a casual observer might have noticed Devi moving her hand in front of my solar plexus as a natural part of the conversation. I felt another energetic imprint being removed from that area.

Grace in abundance was being given naturally without asking or without the need for any acknowledgement. I returned to South Wales with a renewed sense of purpose. I set about the task of discovering Mohanji.

Vlogs, blogs and any information I could find in the time available outside of work and Skanda Vales’ livestream pujas were eagerly assimilated. In meditation, my focus was Sathya Sai Baba and the Gayatri mantra, but Mohanji’s face repeatedly appeared, and I could feel Mohanji’s presence and energy. When simply sitting quietly with my eyes closed, Mohanji would appear before my mind’s eye. I recognised the reassurance. I am in the presence of divine consciousness, a living Master. 

The picture of myself and Mohanji taken with Mohanji’s kindness and blessings at MCB was printed, framed and installed at home, and his picture calling card was installed in front of a picture of Shirdi Sai Baba and Hanuman on my work desk alongside that of Sathya Sai Baba. The forms and pictures may be many, but the Supreme Consciousness is one.

Masters always advise enquiry of the Self or otherwise. Don’t take things at face value – but when knowledge, faith and experience have become established, then commit, be patient and don’t let go. Constant remembrance of the divine or a Master through any means possible is one method of not letting go. Sri Aurobindo has said that faith is never blind – faith is an intuition that inevitably leads to experience. 

I was eager to be in Mohanji’s physical presence again. Sathya Sai Baba once explained to a group of devotees that meditation, japa and the like were useful tools when they were not in Baba’s physical presence, but when the source of all consciousness is with them, then simply be in that presence. To whom in any event are you chanting? 

There is a story of an ancient king who had wasted his life and caused suffering to his subjects through neglect, with the exception of one act of kindness. As a consequence, on death, he was condemned by the greatest teacher, the God of death, Yama, to experience the consequences of his actions before rebirth. 

The King, however, was permitted one day in heaven due to his one good action and was given a choice as to what would come first – the suffering or that day.

For all his faults, the King exercised the discriminating faculty that he had failed to use during his life and chose to experience the day in heaven. On arrival in heaven, the King enquired about the location of the great saints and sages in permanent residence and rushed to sit in their company. 

At the end of the appointed day, Yama came to collect the King only to find that the fire and power of purity of the presence of the great saints and sages had burnt the karma of the King to ashes through simple proximity. The King avoided his fate.

This isn’t a story about getting out of jail free; there are many others in which cleverness has backfired, but a reminder about the value and supreme blessings of being in the presence of a realised Master at one with and expressing supreme consciousness.

Grace once more flowed with the Vel installation at Skanda Vale, and then MCB Scotland announced a retreat with Mohanji in September 2023 – ‘Rise and Revive’ – I signed up immediately. The many grace-filled experiences of that retreat are perhaps for another story.

Offered at the lotus feet of Mohanji and the Masters of the Tradition with gratitude, love and blessings.

Samastha Lokah Sukinho Bhavantu: May all worlds and all beings in those worlds be happy and free.

Sai Ram. Jai Mohanji.

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Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 2nd November 2023


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1 thought on “Amazing grace, how sweet thou art”

  1. Dirk Van de Wijngaard

    Dear professor Michael, dear brother, You are and Sincere Pure Soul. It was wonderful to meet you in Skanda Vale. We both felt that Mohanji brought us together! We were So happy, just within a few minutes!!
    I felt that you had to touch
    Guru’s feet and you did!. So the uneducated boy from Holland met his professor brother who lives in the UK! When you Stopped thinking “analyzing/ thinking/ considering ( you are a professor!) the Guru Mohanji appeard and Sai and Mohanji gave me the honor( I feel) to help you to listen to the call , cry of your soul and to follow ( without analyzing) Your childlike heart and you got your long awaited moments of Truth! Your wish to touch Sathya Sai Baba’s Lotusfeet became now in Reality even more!, you were permitted to touch Mohanji’s and Devi’s Lotus Feet!. Both Shiva and Shakti! So when your finally opened your heart ( without deep thinking etc.) You found as I, Sathya Sai Baba oneness in our beloved Mohanji.Keep on writing your experiences! Ps: Never you need to ask my permission to use my name, it’s an honor form me to have a pure sincere as brother. Love to your Mrs. Jenny. Om Sai Ram -Jai Mohanji- Jai Devi 🐿️

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