Death of a Guru:
The Personal Testimony of Rabi Maharaj
No matter how fulfilling life becomes, there are always certain regrets when one
looks back. My deepest sense of loss involves my father. So much has happened
since his death. I often wonder what it would be like to share it all with him, and
what his reaction would be.
We never shared anything in our lives. Because of vows he had taken before I was
born, not once did he ever speak to me or pay me the slightest heed. Just two
words from him would have made me unspeakably happy. How I wanted to hear
him say, "Rabi. Son." Just once. But he never did.
For eight long years he uttered not a word. The trance-like condition he had
achieved is called in the East a state of higher consciousness and can be attained
only through deep meditation.
"Why is Father that way?" I would ask my mother, still too young to understand.
"He is someone very special -- the greatest man you could have for a father," she
would reply. "He is seeking the true Self that lies within us all, the One Being, of
which there is no other. And that's what you are too, Rabi."
Father had set an example, achieved wide acclaim, and earned the worship of
many, and it was inevitable that upon his death his mantle would fall upon me. I
had never imagined, however, that I would still be so young when this fateful day
When father died I felt I had lost everything. Though I had scarcely known him as
my father, he had been my inspiration -- a god -- and now he was dead.
At his funeral, my father's stiff body was placed on a great pile of firewood. The
thought of his body being sacrificed to Agni, the god of fire, added a new dimension
of mystery to the bewilderment and deep sense of loss that already overwhelmed
As the flames engulfed him, it was impossible to suppress the anguish I felt.
"Mommy!" I screamed. "Mommy!" If she heard me above the roar of sparks and
fire, she made no indication. A true Hindu, she found strength to follow the teaching
of Krishna: she would mourn neither the living nor the dead. Not once did she cry
as the flames consumed my father.
After my father's funeral, I became a favorite subject for the palm-readers and
astrologers who frequented our house. Our family would hardly make an important
decision without consulting an astrologer, so it was vital that my future be
confirmed in the same way. It was encouraging to learn that the lines on my palms
and the planets and stars, according to those who interpreted them, all agreed I
would become a great Hindu leader. I was obviously a chosen vessel, destined for
early success in the search for union with Brahman (the One). The forces that had
guided my father were now guiding me.
I was only eleven and already many people were bowing before me, laying gifts of
money, cotton cloth, and other treasures at my feet and hanging garlands of
flowers around my neck at religious ceremonies.
How I loved religious ceremonies -- especially private ones in our own home or
those of others, where friends and relatives would crowd in. There I would be the
center of attention, admired by all. I loved to move through the audience, sprinkling
holy water on worshipers or marking foreheads with the sacred white sandalwood
paste. I also loved how the worshipers, after the ceremony, bowed low before me
to leave their offerings at my feet.
While vacationing at an Aunt's ranch, I had my first real encounter with Jesus. I was
walking along enjoying nature one day and was startled by a rustling sound in the
underbrush behind me. I turned quickly and, to my horror, saw a large snake
coming directly toward me -- its beady eyes staring intently into mine. I felt
paralyzed, wanting desperately to run but unable to move.
In that moment of frozen terror, out of the past came my mother's voice,
repeating words I had long forgotten: "Rabi, if ever you're in real danger and
nothing else seems to work, there's another god you can pray to. His name is
"Jesus! Help me!" I tried to yell, but the desperate cry was choked and hardly
To my astonishment, the snake turned around and quickly wriggled off into the
underbrush. Breathless and still trembling, I was filled with wondering gratitude to
this amazing god, Jesus. Why had my mother not taught me more about him?
During my third year in high school I experienced an increasingly deep inner conflict.
My growing awareness of God as the Creator, separate and distinct from the
universe He had made, contradicted the Hindu concept that god was everything,
that the Creator and the Creation were one and the same. If there was only One
Reality, then Brahman was evil as well as good, death as well as life, hatred as well
as love. That made everything meaningless, life an absurdity. It was not easy to
maintain both one's sanity and the view that good and evil, love and hate, life and
death were One Reality.
One day a friend of my cousin Shanti, whose name was Molli, came by to visit. She
asked me about whether I found Hinduism fulfilling. Trying to hide my emptiness, I
lied and told her I was very happy and that my religion was the Truth. She listened
patiently to my pompous and sometimes arrogant pronouncements. Without
arguing, she exposed my emptiness gently with politely phrased questions.
She told me that Jesus had brought her close to God. She also said that God is a
God of love and that He desires us to be close to Him. As appealing as this
sounded to me, I stubbornly resisted, not willing to surrender my Hindu roots.
Still, I found myself asking, "What makes you so happy? You must have been doing
a lot of meditation."
"I used to," Molli responded, "but not any more. Jesus has given me a peace and
joy that I never knew before." Then she said, "Rabi, you don't seem very happy.
I lowered my voice: "I'm not happy. I wish I had your joy." Was I saying this?
"My joy is because my sins are forgiven," said Molli. "Peace and joy come from
Christ, through really knowing Him."
We continued talking for half a day, unaware of how the time had passed. I wanted
her peace and joy, but I was absolutely resolved that I wasn't going to give up
any part of my religion.
As she was leaving, she said: "Before you go to bed tonight, Rabi, please get on
your knees and ask God to show you the Truth -- and I'll be praying for you." With
a wave of her hand she was gone.
Pride demanded that I reject everything Molli had said, but I was too desperate to
save face any longer. I fell to my knees, conscious that I was giving in to her
"God, the true God and Creator, please show me the truth!" Something inside me
snapped. For the first time in my life, I felt I had really prayed and gotten through --
not to some impersonal Force, but to the true God who loves and cares. Too tired
to think any longer, I crawled into bed and fell asleep almost instantly.
Soon after, my cousin Krishna invited me to a Christian meeting. I again surprised
myself by responding: "Why not?"
On our way there, Krishna and I were joined by Ramkair, a new acquaintance of
his. "Do you know anything about this meeting?" I asked him, anxious to get some
"A little," he replied. "I became a Christian recently."
"Tell me," I said eagerly. "Did Jesus really change your life?" Ramkair smiled
broadly. "He sure did! Everything is different."
"It's really true, Rab!" added Krishna enthusiastically. "I've become a Christian too -- just a few days ago."
The preacher's sermon was based on Psalm 23, and the words, "The Lord is my
shepherd," made my heart leap. After expounding the Psalm, the preacher said:
"Jesus wants to be your Shepherd. Have you heard His voice speaking to your
heart? Why not open your heart to Him now? Don't wait until tomorrow -- that
may be too late!" The preacher seemed to be speaking directly to me. I could
delay no longer.
I quickly knelt in front of him. He smiled and asked if anyone else wanted to receive
Jesus. No one stirred. Then he asked the Christians to come forward and pray with
me. Several did, kneeling beside me. For years Hindus had bowed before me -- and
now I was kneeling before a Christian.
Aloud I repeated after him a prayer inviting Jesus into my heart. Whe