Westbury, Long Island: Cold wind from the open windows—for Maharaj loves fresh air—blew through the room as Harjit Singh and I sat next to Maharaj’s chair. He was watching a split-screen television portrayal of Christmas. On one side of the screen was the simple manger scene of Jesus’ birth. On the other side, the Roman Catholic Pope celebrated High Mass at the Vatican. In the most ornate of religious edifices, with great ceremony, the pope held up the thin wafer and diamond-encursted golden chalice of wine, that the Holy Spirit might infuse them with the Divine Presence. Bells were shaken, indicating that this was happening. The words of the prayers which His Holiness the pope read from a book on a gold lectern lauded Jesus’s birth as the coming of the Light into a world of darkness. But Maharaj observed,
Christmas is all business in the name of Jesus. They put up so many lights outside the stores, but inside there is only darkness. At this time of year, instead of making more money by raising prices, merchants should lower prices so the poor can afford to buy.
When the pope held up his silver staff with Christ on the cross, Maharaj asked me, “Christians do believe that Jesus will come again?” “Yes,” I answered, “but I don’t think they will recognize Him when He comes.”
I did not say, “They may not recognize You now that You are among us again.” But after the extraordinary events of recent months, I was more convinced than ever that Baba Virsa Singh was the one for whom the world had been waiting, the newest embodiment of the Light, of the Voice which has spoken to us again and again through the mouths of the prophets and messiahs, when we most need to return to belief in God.
In 2009, after Maharaj had left his physical body, I was questioning him inwardly about the seeming differences between his personality and that of Jesus. He quietly said to me, “Didn’t you recognize Me?”
On that Christmas Eve in Long Island, Harjit and his in-laws, the Chadhas (the great family of devotees in whose home I had first met Maharaj in 1990) were lovingly hosting Maharaj before we returned to India. They had given up their own rooms for us and were sleeping on the floor in the basement. They were also doing havan in the basement fireplace. Maharaj had his own beautiful room which they always kept made up for him and where they daily experienced his presence as they did puja there, no matter where his physical body might be at the time.
Harjit told me that Maharaj had recently said that the great beings always do something to shake the faith of their followers when they see them getting too close. They always do something that tempts people to doubt, “I must have been mistaken—he’s only an ordinary human being after all.”
Maharaj’s physical weakness—which was diagnosed and treated by doctors in the States as a set of very serious medical conditions—was that jolt for many of his followers. They did not know how to accept it. Even though everyone knows that Jesus was crucified, Guru Arjun Dev was tortured, Guru Teg Bahadur was beheaded, and Ramakrishna died of cancer, they cannot accept a God who would allow the prophet to be mortal. Such events tempt people to feel that either God is not all-powerful, or the prophet is not genuine.
By the grace of God, Maharaj’s physical condition never shook my faith in him or in God. As Baba Siri Chand (elder son of Guru Nanak, and Maharaj’s Guru) indicated to me months ago when I tried unsuccessfully to pray for Maharaj’s health, this long period of withdrawal—months of strict seclusion—has been a necessary preparation for his mission to the world. I could see than what is true now—that Maharaj would emerge from this seemingly difficult time more radiant and powerful than ever, and would spread light wherever he goes.
As Maharaj and Churchill Chadha and I sat in the sheet-covered living room of the suburban house where fourteen of us—including babies—were staying, Maharaj spoke of Jesus’s question to God as he was being crucified: “My Lord, have You forsaken me?” Although the Bible records only this question, Maharaj filled in God’s answer for us:
“No—it is I who am doing everything. This is all under My control—your executioner is also acting according to My will.”
“Then if You are doing this, I gladly accept it,” said Jesus. “And since my executioner is acting according to Your instructions, You please pardon him and let him into heaven before me.”
“Nothing can stop God’s Truth,” Maharaj affirms. Hassan Saab, a Muslim from Lebanon living with his family in New York, came for his darshan yesterday. Maharaj recounted to him the story of the death of Al Hallaj (Mansoor), the tenth-century Sufi dervish. He was killed for saying in ecstatic communion with God, “An al-Haqq”—“I am the Truth.” Nothing could stop him from affirming God. Maharaj explained:
As they cut off his hands and his arms, the parts could be heard saying “An al-Haqq.” They burned his body, yet from his ashes the voice arose, “An al-Haqq.” When the ashes were thrown into the sea, the voice came from the very bubbles—“An al-Haqq.”
Big-hearted Hassan, who personally supports many people by donations from his own income, told Maharaj a story about his son. The boy was suffering terribly from some eye problem and nothing could be done to relieve his pain. His anguished father held the Holy Qur’an to his heart and then gave it to his son to put under his head as a pillow, telling him that the Qur’an would heal him. The boy immediately fell asleep and slept for 24 hours. “Only when we have full faith in Qur’an can this happen,” Hassan said fervently.
As Maharaj nodded his assent, Churchill told Hassan a similar story with interfaith twists. Several years ago a Jewish girl came to Maharaj in the United States to ask his help for her Christian sister-in-law, who was dying in the hospital of a brain tumor. After closing his eyes and taking hukam, Maharaj told the Jewish girl to place a copy of the Holy Qur’an on her Christian sister-in-law’s forehead, and to give her holy water that Maharaj had blessed. The Jewish girl protested strongly: “How can I do such a thing? What will my relatives think?”
At last she gave in, but did the deed secretly at 2 o’clock at night, so that no one would see. For seven nights, she, a Jewess, pressed the holy book of the Muslims to the forehead of her dying sister-in-law, a Christian, and put a few drops of holy water blessed by a Sikh teacher on her lips. After seven days, the tubes were removed, for the woman was greatly improved. She was still alive at that time, though not totally recovered. “If she would come to take Maharaj’s blessings, she would be totally healed,“asserted Churchill firmly, “but instead the family has wanted to keep this thing quiet.”
I had not been writing about Maharaj for the previous five months, for there was no inner guidance to do so. Through all sorts of trying conditions, Maharaj had been unfailingly sweet and uncomplaining. Those few of us who had the extraordinary blessing of being with him very intimately, with very few other people around him, sitting in havan with him daily in the houses of his devotees, considered this the most precious of times with him. Now that he was seeing people again, his impact on them was stunning. People were being transformed before our eyes.