Christmas 1999note: the story I am about to tell is true, and
sensitive. if you read a book called The Gifts of Shirdi Sai Baba (available at www.kaleshwar.org), you will find several other accounts
of it there, from other students of Sri Kaleshwar. if you are
upset by this story, or its details (I can't imagine anyone would be,
but still) -- please write me and let me know about it.
course in 1999. in India, for the first time, getting used to wearing
saris and many layers of clothes. sleeping in a room with 8 other
people. (30 people sharing one bathroom. you don't even want to know
about that.) we traveled about 8 hours by car to another location, an
ancient temple city (now in ruins) called Hampi, and spent several days
there, cooling out and learning various high-level healing techniques
and mantras. it was superb.
there were about 150 people, I think, at that course -- many Germans, Americans, Japanese, and other nationalities.
when we came back to Penukonda, there was an excitement in the air. something was coming, with the Jesus energy.
was surprised that Kaleshwar talked so much about Jesus. at first I
thought it was a sop for Western people; a way to make the exotic
spirituality of India more palatable for people from predominantly
Christian countries. (I'm not a Christian, myself, although I have a
great respect for Jesus.) but I began to get the point that what
Kaleshwar was saying about Jesus was that he was the number one healer
this planet had ever had; that his talking about Jesus and his abilities
was like INVOKING Jesus and his energies; that Kaleshwar was talking
intimately, almost casually, about Jesus like I would tell strangers
about my older brother.
by the time Christmas rolled around, he
told us he was opening the Jesus channel of energy (?) and that he and
Jesus together were planning a big miracle for Christmas Day. it became
immediately apparent to us that the Jesus channel was fraught with
suffering (as it has been clear to every Christian saint, especially the
stigmatists, who traditionally focus on the suffering that Christ
experienced) -- bizarre disasters happened around the ashram, including a
worker who fell off the roof of the temple, splitting his head open on
the concrete below. (Kaleshwar healed him, and he was fine a day
[in many ways the scene in the movie Stigmata, where
Gabriel Byrne is chasing Patricia Arquette's character, after she's run
away from the nightclub; they're in a back alley and pipes are
starting to burst, spewing steam all over, and windows are breaking,
etc., reminded me of the sheer force of reaction created in Nature as a
response to opening the Jesus channel -- what I saw directly in India.]
on Christmas Day, Kaleshwar had four men (my then-partner Jonathan was one of them)
construct a wooden cross out of two large, thick tree branches. it was
about five feet by five feet, a squarish, clunky-looking cross, by the
time it was finished. they had to plane the branches, and so on, using
primitive tools (this IS India, after all) and even Swiss Army knife
they labored all day, and had to start over a few times,
because one of the specs for completing the cross properly included the
direction that no one OTHER than those four men should touch the thing.
and of course people, in a daze, and attracted by the process, kept
walking up and touching the wood.
by midnight, it was finished. I
must say that it was eerie, spending Christmas day knowing that a cross
was being constructed, hearing nails pounded into wood... Kaleshwar is
an unpredictable saint, and he likes gory miracles -- it was in the
forefront of more minds than mine that day that perhaps he would chose
to crucify himself... at one point I even ran outside, to see what size
this cross actually was. it was an enormous relief to see that it was
too small for a grown man to hang on!
anyway, to repeat, by
midnight, it was finished. all of us students had gathered in the main
temple of the ashram. the women were decked out in formal red saris with
fragrant flowers in our hair, everyone had lit a candle and placed it
on the white marble altar in the temple, near a statue of Shirdi Sai
Baba, the other Big Boss, Kaleshwar's guru. the men were mostly wearing
traditional white Indian pajama outfits. Kaleshwar talked for a while
about Jesus, how he was the Big Boss of this planet, and the greatest
healer mankind had even known. the cross was propped up with stones (it
wasn't even free-standing) near the front of the temple, backlit by
dozens of candles. it was all so beautiful I had tears in my eyes.
Kaleshwar had us all meditate on Jesus, and he took the four men who'd
constructed the cross, had them carry the cross, and they left the
the unbelievably blissful, peaceful, heart-filling
energy that descended on the temple during the next half-hour or so is
almost indescribable. it was completely still, and quiet, and yet there
was an activity, like a palpable ecstasy, in that stillness, in that
then, all of a sudden, I felt people stirring
and I turned around to see that Kaleshwar had entered the temple, that
his pristinely white pajama legs were heavily stained with.... red.
blood. 'oh, my god,' I thought -- 'he's showing the stigmata' (someone
had explained to him the day before what that was. his response, a
I heard people in the back of the
temple gasping as they saw the blood all over his ankles and pyjama
bottoms. he walked purposefully into the temple, his eyes
super-over-bright -- and sat down in his chair, wiped his hands in a
kind of matter of fact way, and crossed his (bloody) legs. & he
didn't say a word. the tension....
oooh, the suspense was killing me! what had happened? okay, it wasn't stigmata, but where did all that blood come from?
as if on cue, the four men who'd built the cross came into the temple,
and they were even MORE dramatically blood-stained than Kaleshwar.
Jonathan came in last, and I nearly fell over in shock -- his whole
kurta (the white pj top) was drenched in blood, from his waist all the
way down to his mid thighs, as though he'd been sitting in a puddle of
blood. (which, in fact, it turned out that he had.) the red blood stains
on the white clothing were sensational enough, but looking at the faces
of those four men was even more dramatic and amazing. they were
completely shining, illuminated as if from within, clear, light, radiant
beings, streaked with blood -- with pure calm faces like the Buddha.
they walked up on the altar, and knelt down, and began to meditate.
looking at Jonathan, at that streaming light pouring off of him, made
me start crying in joy. even though my rational mind had no idea what
had happened, a deeper part of me, call it the soul, knew that some
mystical event had just taken place, and that I was witnessing, we all
were witnessing, the high cosmic divine energy radiating off of these
then, softly, Kaleshwar asked the men to recount what had happened.
together, they told the story:
Kaleshwar's instruction, they had carried the cross down into his
subterranean meditation 'cave,' a kind of small square cellar that is
about 16 feet underground, in the middle of the rose garden. (it has a
slate floor, and the central feature in the cave is a foot-high Shiva
lingam, in black stone, that is more than 1000 years old, mounted into
cement. otherwise, the decor is Bare Lightbulb, complemented by
white-washed cement walls, and a rickety staircase.)
held the cross up -- two on the cross-beams, and Jonathan, sitting
cross-legged on the floor, straddling the base of it with his arms and
legs. another man was touching the Shiva lingam.
after a few
minutes, Kaleshwar began reciting some mantras, softly, and clapping
his hands... and drops of blood, welling up from the center of the
cross, began to drip, one by one. Jonathan felt them on his forehead, on
the top of his head... just a few drops at first, then a trickle.
went from a trickle to a stream in a few seconds, and then it was like a
valve had burst and a whole river of blood poured all over the room,
all over the men, straight from the cross' center.
that while the physical river was spewing, the real firehose was in his
heart. he said it took about two seconds to feel the intensity of pure,
relentless love fill his heart up, and then it started overflowing in
all directions -- like a fire-hose.
all he could do was think of
all the people he loved, in organizations he'd worked with, his family
members, people he'd done healing for or meditated with in the past,
just everyone -- and instantly, all that love in his heart was bursting
out in all those directions, touching all of those individual souls.
knew it was Jesus' love, that pure, relentless love that would brook no
resistance but could simply mow down any opposition with the sheer
force of itself. when Jonathan recounted his part of the story, in the
large group, Kaleshwar looked at him quizzically and asked, -- "did you
ever feel that you weren't holding the wood of the cross, but a man's
body, in that moment?"
Jonathan thought for a moment, and said, "no. it always felt like wood. but I felt that Jesus was there."
Kaleshwar nodded, with a grin, but his words were serious: "He WAS there, in person, for a couple minutes."
asked, "but Swami, I'm a JEW from Brooklyn. what connection would I
possibly have with Jesus? why me?" and Kaleshwar's grin just got wider,
and he replied, "wait. wait and see."
(Jonathan is still waiting to see ... note from 2013: but the ensuing years have definitely made this relationship a great deal more clear indeed.
we ALL (like, 150 people or so!) were invited to form into small
groups, to go down into the subterranean cave, to see the bleeding cross
and to TOUCH the blood, with the palms of both of our hands. the whole
process of groups coming and going took about 25 minutes.
in the very last group to go down. as my group was leaving the temple, I
heard Kaleshwar call out to one of the men who was helping us, "tell
the people to hurry. I can only keep this channel open a few more
minutes, before I start to bleed in my own body.....!"
we hurried out to the garden, to the door of the cave, and down the rickety stairs.
was about halfway down the stairs when the full impact of the scene
below burst into my awareness, and burned its way into my mind forever.
the whole floor was flooded -- in blood. it was a stream of blood about 9
feet long, about a foot and a half wide, maybe two feet. I
saw/perceived lights, like a hoard of fireflies, hovering and dancing in
the air above the stream, coming about two feet or so up from the
ground. I blinked, and thought, no, that can't possibly BE
-- and the
little lights disappeared.
I got down the stairs, and saw the
source of the blood, the cross, leaning against the wall to my right. it
was spattered all over with blood, as was the wall behind it and the
floor at the base of it. some of the blood was even clotting! movement
from the center of the cross was still visible -- infinitesimally
slowly, drops were still forming and slowly rolling down the front of
it was stunning. I've never seen so much blood in one place at one time, in my life.
to instructions, I got down on my knees, like kneeling in front of a
mountain stream except this was red and thick! and hoping that I was
worthy of such an act, I put my palms face down in the blood on the
floor of the cave. I don't know what I expected, heavens opening to
reveal choirs of angels singing, or something. nothing earth-shattering
happened, except that I registered that the liquid on the floor was
kind of lukewarm....
and as I took my hands away, and examined
the sticky blood on them, starting to dry, I knew it was really blood,
that it was drying on my palms, and furthermore I knew -- without
consciously knowing -- that it was Jesus' blood.
and that I was
linked, bonded with that blood, with that healing channel, forever --
and so were the hundred and fifty-odd other students of Kaleshwar who
were present that night.
there was no other response to it than
simple, pure happiness. as Wordsworth wrote in his Prelude, "my dear
friend, need I say that to the brim my heart was full."
no need to say it.
no way to explain it, or analyze it, or apply mental
processes to a supernatural occurrence so extraordinary as to defy --
well, just about everything conventional, ranging from traditional
Christianity to the workings of a rational mind.
and that was Christmas 1999.
my first time in an ashram, and my introduction to Southern India.
was a brilliant spiritual prelude to the changes that 2000 would bring,
a gift to the whole planet from this humble little ashram, in a humble
little town, in the middle of nowhere (but in the middle of everywhere,
because it touches the hearts of millions of people who haven't even
heard of it, yet).