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Am I the Alien, or are You?

By Paul Hughes-Barlow

From a very early age I knew I was different. I spent most of my childhood on school premises, and I was particularly aware of spirits, especially when the buildings were empty. I remember one day at school when I was thirteen, looking at the other children, and realizing that I was different. Now, you may think that I was going through a typical teenage phase, but for most of my teens I felt too old to do most things! I also spent a lot of time with adults and older people, despite being nearly the oldest in my year.

I spoke to Punditt about this, and he recognized the condition. This may have been in part why I spent so much time with Punditt partying in some form. The sense of responsibility can be stifling, so balance has to be found. I was brought up vegetarian - my mother’s side of the family, who were also Theosophists - until I rebelled around 14 or 15, and I took my younger brothers with me on this one. However, when I left home, I reverted to vegetarianism again, usually in households that no conception of what a meatless diet involved. As a result, being a teenager was a pretty miserable experience. Transcendental Meditation kept me going, and I spent a lot of time at the TM center. As you may know, meditators are generally veggie, which made things easier. In fact, it was diet that turned me to Punditt. For years Maharishi had gone on about consciousness as the basis for change, but then Ayur Veda crept in, and the message was diluted (to make money no doubt) so that food could change consciousness. There is no doubt that food does have an influence, but please, keep this for medicine, and not everything we eat. The seeds of doubt were sown in my mind. Jyotish, or Indian Astrology also appeared, and this fascinated me, though there was very little information in contrast to Ayur Veda.

Very early on, I realized that Punditt had the power to transform food. In the early days he smoked, but it was evident that the smoke had a different quality. Punditt stopped smoking after a while, but he got he me drinking and eating meat. Alcohol obviously changes consciousness to the detriment, but when you are with a Master, the effect can be entirely different.

With the TM Movement food was vegetarian and bland, but Punditt changed all that. Very soon he had given me cookery lessons, and we were making the hottest, spiciest curries of chicken and lamb. We would put in a handful of hot chillies, loads of garlic and ginger. The heat or Tapas generated probably helped with kundalini experiences. The cooking sessions invariably turned into a party, with plenty to drink - I don’t think I was ever sober when cooking in those days.

Alienation was having its effect… I was becoming estranged from the TM Movement, since I was living in the TM center, turning up drunk and smelling of curry! Something had to give, and one day I was unceremoniously expelled from the center - apparently I had done something unspeakable. After living on various sofas for several weeks, the owner of the TM center contacted me to say that I could live in one of her flats (apartments) just down the road overlooking the seafront. Needless to say, Punditt was delighted, but it was a little scary for me - this would be the first time I had lived alone, rather than communally in some form.

God works in mysterious ways. Punditt had succeeded in alienating me from the spiritual community that had helped me for nearly ten years, the self-same community that had brought me to him. It took months before I found out what I had done wrong, and it wasn't the drinking! Apparently I had had an affair with one of the teachers, and had sex with her in the TM center. Except that it wasn't me, and obviously one of the parties felt guilty and exonerated me. For once, being the scapegoat was a good thing. That was a bizarre time in my life, and people around me must have thought I had gone off the rails. Alienation does that.

Now, I am sure you are well aware of what Cults do to brainwash their charges? The students are taken from their community, put together in an isolated place, and deprived of sleep, etc. I had the inverse with Punditt. He took me out of the TM community, and put me into the real world, of pubs, gambling, clubs, and the seedy side of Brighton. All this happening barely half a mile from where I was living. To live a spiritual life is to integrate the spiritual with the grossly material.

Here is the paradox. I was spending time with a man who was the antithesis of the Guru in everything he did, and yet I could see my evolution speed up incredibly. It was a roller coaster, when anything could and did happen, and I never knew what was going to happen next.

Even though attracted to Punditt to learn from him, I was also fearful of him and his powers. He had succeeded in breaking me from the TM Movement, and many of my friends, and he was creating the realization that spiritual knowledge was very different from what the books say.

There comes a point in your spiritual development when the thought appears: "Am I human and everyone else alien, or am I the alien, and everyone else human?" The separation experienced is profound, and I flip-flopped between the two statements for months. Alienation creates alienating behavior, as it is difficult to relate to the feelings of people around me. You only have to look at teenagers to see this. Eventually the question resolves itself.

So, alienation is good for you, and the alienation we see from the environment, greenhouse gases, pollution, politics, violence and sectarianism is a parody of the higher spiritual truths. If we do not experience separation and sorrow, how can we aspire to unity?

People think that spiritual progress has to be made cloistered away in an isolated place away from society. I did that path for many years, but then Punditt threw me into society, so some of my most profound experiences happened amidst the buzz and noise of the pub (it wasn't the drink). We ate and drank, and spent time in silence, as Punditt was never verbose, and I learned that asking questions did not particularly get answers. You do not have to leave your community to achieve nirvana, but you do have to realize that you are different from the common humanity. You also need someone who has been through these experiences to guide and help you.

Paul Hughes-Barlow maintains a weblog about Punditt Maharaj, a Spiritual Master who lived and worked in the community. He was born in India, but chose to live in the United Kingdom since about 1950. Since Punditt Maharaj has entered Silence, after much deliberation Paul has decided to take on his title, Punditt Maharaj, and with a small group of adepts, work towards rediscovering and bringing ancient knowledge to the world.
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