It’s no longer Spring and this is a post I put together, last spring, after returning from my first visit to Sant Bani Ashram, Ribolla, Italy to meet Sant Mat Master, Sirio Carrapa and attend one of His meditation retreats. But since the time is drawing ever nearer for Sirio’s August, 2012 visit to the US–Pittsburgh, Pa and Moundsville, West Virginia, specifically–it seems quite pertinent to repost it.
For those who have not yet heard of this charming and deeply inspirational disciple of Kirpal and Ajaib, my hope is that you will be happy to learn of Him now. And for those who may have missed this post, last year, and are hoping to learn more of Sirio Ji, I hope you will find something of value here.
Please feel free to comment, with your concerns or questions, should you be so inclined. Thank you for reading, jesse
Come join us in August for Sirio’s visit, which will include public programs in both Pittsburgh, PA and Wheeling, WV, along with a week long meditation retreat in Moundsville, WV.
For more info: contact Jesse S. Hanson:
or cell-phone: 724-231-9603
with Master Sirio Ji in Sienna-town square
Spring Has Come Again
~12 April days with Sirio Carrapa in Italy~
Let’s All Go in Springtime
Jesse S. Hanson
Exposed to the elements, one is always subject to change
the summer is a fine time of warmth and play
unencumbered by all the trappings of a colder day
and the sweet grass grown tall is making hay
but time goes by and the rains don’t fall
love runs dry and our spirits fall
we run too hot, then sputter and stall
Each season creates its own blend of beauty and illusion
autumn is known to bring our energy back
the harvest comes in and the wheel’s on track
the cool night stars shine bright against the black
yet at the counting, somehow we’ve come up short
hard times a’ coming is the gloomy report
so love braces—tentative, wary—with worries of that sort
In the storms of relativity the intellect becomes lost
when the kind white face of winter lies
under crisp and light and cold pure skies
the cheery sparrow flits and flies
but when the wind blows strong hearts crack like frozen bones
then tough love strains with creaks and groans
some warm blood is spilt upon the stones
In despair, at last, one becomes a seeker
let’s all go in springtime to seek renewal
our last innocence kept in secret as is a rare and precious jewel
let’s go when we can bear no more of the world’s love so cruel
perhaps the kind Master will tell us good things
He will sing songs of His love, play divine music on our heartstrings
reveal Himself, where eternal love springs
My relationship with Master Sirio Ji began late last summer. In my despair, my pain of separation, I had been seeking someone to fill the great void of my life.
Like so many others, I was devastated when Ajaib left the body. In my foolishness, in my childishness, I had taken only the most minimal advantage of His offer of a close personal relationship. “I will be happy to have you come and visit me at my home in India,” He had written to me, shortly after my initiation. I wrote back some nonsense about not knowing how I would ever afford it. So I never did afford it. The great regret of my life.
But then, Sant Ji had taken me on as a rescue mission. I was not at all a sincere seeker who had prepared himself for the gift of initiation when He found me. I was, rather, a wretched derelict at the end of his rope. I was like a fish floundering on the beach, gasping for breath, or perhaps like the dog that He found that had been shot and had dragged itself, or more likely been dragged by Him, into His presence. What to say about background, I hadn’t even led a good present life, to that point.
Nevertheless, I’d had a personal relationship with Him. With an infinite workload concerning the care of us all, with the predisposition of a rather solitary ascetic, with the constraints of primitive communication services (by today’s standards), and even with the self-centered and sometimes manipulative questions that I usually put to Him—with all of that—He never failed to answer my letters, and He never failed to answer my prayers.
Well, then He left us, physically… and where could I get that again? No one could tell me. Most people (satsangis) were really hesitant to talk about it. At first—for quite some time—there were no choices whatsoever, it seemed. It was a very bleak time. Was it not bleak? Then, in the course of time, some possibilities came forward and people made choices, perhaps tentatively at first, many made longingly, lovingly. I did the same. And some folks were not, and as of this time, have not yet been moved or pulled in any direction. Some never felt the need, content to follow the Path along their internal relationship with their Master. Among those who did choose to follow someone, in the course of time, some choices were disappointing, some were good, and some were deeply fulfilling—the Friend in His New Coat.
I have to say that I was bothered by a deep, deep longing for an up-close, personal relationship with the Master. Although I was following someone—someone that I’m convinced has something—I wasn’t happy. In my very small local satsang, we had all come to the same conclusion fairly early on and all were enlivened and satisfied, but, as time went on, I became more and more restless. I began to have trouble with this thing or that, regarding the teachings—I could never decide whether they were small things or big things, in the scheme of Sant Mat with my feeble intellect and my lack of inner progress—and these troubled feelings grew steadily worse until I was really quite tormented. But the torment, primarily, ultimately, came from that longing, that completely un-intellectual crying in my soul for a personal relationship with someone in possession of that great love that is the Master. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really been able to “take home” on this Path—the notion, no, the experience of being loved unconditionally by that Someone Who is so much more than me: by the true parent, the true protector, the true lover.
Really, I think that until we become God-realized ourselves, we can’t truly know who is the representative of God, who is the Guru, who is the successor of the Guru. We have to make our choices based on certain things we’ve been told by the previous Masters, of course. But frankly, I always find a way to become confused, even by the Master’s words on many subjects, including this subject of who is the Guru. So I think it comes down to the impressions made upon us by someone—what we know of their personal life, their way of presenting the teachings, their way of giving the Darshan, and then, at least in my case, the experience of love and protection. God forbid, it should be because we follow the choices of our friends or family. Or because we listen to hearsay or to the proclamations of damnation that many are fond of spreading, regarding this person or that person. Sirio Ji speaks of the importance of affinity between the Master and the disciple in His written collection of satsangs, letters, etc., entitled, One Word-One Melody-One Glance:
“When I went, the first time, to see Sant Ajaib Singh, I had not the least doubt that in Him I would have found my Master Kirpal in His new physical dress. Before meeting with Him I had met with some other of Master Kirpal’s disciples who had become Masters and were carrying on His work, but they were not fit for me, they were not appropriate for me, there was not the right love and affinity. Consequently, I did not recognize in them my Master. On the other hand, with Ajaib Singh Ji there was a sudden reconnection, an immediate great love. It is clear; He was the right one for me. I was very convinced I still needed a Master who would guide me farther on the spiritual Path and show me the way to become a ‘real man’.”
and again, as He quotes Maulana Rumi:
“As dawn came, the king was sitting up in the belvedere on his roof.
He saw someone coming, a person like the dawn. He ran to meet this guest.
Like two swimmers who love the water their soul knit together
Without being sewn, no seam.” —Rumi
“Here the great Sufi Master wants to make us understand that up until we have the good luck to meet our Master, towards whom we feel a spontaneous attraction and an innate soul affinity, in no way anything really meaningful may happen in our spiritual life. There can’t happen that opening of the heart, that falling in love that is a sine qua non conditioning for a real spiritual awakening.”
He also speaks of having the right loving attitude toward others:
“Do not be afraid of changes, do not be afraid of making mistakes, we are all His children, and He will take care of us all. We should never be afraid to associate with any of those who have been initiated by our Master, and those who are going to carry on the Master’s work. We should never listen to those who want to divide the Master’s children by saying, about any of their brothers, that they are misled by Kal or whatever. We should always keep far from those who see Kal in everybody, and we should always associate with those who see God in everybody. Remember, Master Kirpal did His very best to bring together people from all countries, all communities, all religions; can’t we children of the same Father love and respect each other, whichever the direction we may choose to take? If not, is very disappointing; we have learned very little.”
So, I’d like to relate some of the details of my trip—a trip, which was, for me, so very much a second chance. Of course, I still deeply regret never going to Rajasthan to be with Sant Ji at His home, but I feel that I have now been given the most wonderful consolation, in having been with Sirio Ji at His home in Tuscany:
My flight had a nine-hour layover in Boston, so I had contacted my friend, Steve Rose; he picked me up and we spent the day together. Among other things, he showed me the beautiful Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge where we climbed a marvelous old cut stone tower for a view of the city. At the top I read out loud, Sirio’s bhajan, Gloria al Satguru, in which He speaks of the difficulty in loving the past Masters or the Incarnations, or even God “who threw me into the cruel arena of creation”, how for Him, Kirpal and Ajaib are the incarnations that He loves. Sirio was initiated by Master Kirpal in 1973, so His time with Him was relatively short. He then spent twenty years under the guidance and protection of Ajaib Singh (Sant Ji) and He consistently refers to them both as His Masters.
Steve and I also visited the site of Thoreau’s house at Walden Pond. This is something I’d wanted to do for a long time, having passed right by many times during visits to see the Master in New England. The Pond (a small glacial lake, really) and the house site were altogether more attractive than I expected for some reason and of course, there was also sweet remembrance of Kirpal, who had spoken occasionally of Thoreau.
Lastly, we had a short meditation at Kirpal Satsang Ghar in Acton, which was a very nice sendoff for my flight to Italy.
The flight to the Rome airport (Aeroporto di Roma-Fiumicino) was also nine hours… and it was about forty-five minutes late. The plan was to go to Ostiense in Rome by city train where I would meet my friends, Andrea and Dafne. Andrea is working nights and didn’t get off until nine a.m., and since my arrival at Ostiense was scheduled at eight, I was concerned about the rendezvous with Dafne. But, as in all the rest of my trip, coming and going, Master took my care and a young man—unfortunately, I just can’t bring his name to mind—began speaking to me on the train. He scarcely knew any English and I was completely at a loss in Italiano, but it gradually became clear to him that I was not a tourist but someone on a spiritual path—not quite religious, not Catholic, not quite Buddhist. He didn’t know about Ribolla (the address of Sant Bani Ashram, Italy) or Sirio Ji, but he took it upon himself to help me, since he was also getting off at Ostiense. My new friend helped me find my way through the station, bought me a café and then called Andrea’s cell for me. Andrea was by now off work so he walked over from his apartment, “only about a hundred meters” from the station.
Another satsangi, Kriszti ji, from Budapest, had arrived earlier. We spent about three hours at the apartment; Andrea and I meditated in their tiny but lovely living room, where Master Sirio Ji had meditated with them and given satsang many times, while Dafne made a nice lunch. Then we were off on the train to Grosseto, a small city, which is the closest stop to Ribolla. The train ride was extremely pleasant with the small mountains to one side and the Mediteranean Sea on the other for the majority of the trip. I spent much of the ride practicing my complete lack of video skills with the very nice HTC Aria phone that my son, Jesse Allen had thoughtfully loaned to me for the trip.
In Grosseto, Dori ji, picked us up and we had just barely enough, but enough, room to squeeze ourselves and our luggage—I have a bad habit of traveling heavy—into the car. A fairly short ride to Ribolla, then a fairly rugged road up into the ashram. The ashram is set in the quiet pastoral beauty of Tuscany: lovely hills and valleys, peacefully agrarian, with tracts of olive trees and grapes broken by pastures inhabited by sheep or cattle. Then, through the ashram gate and we were there.
The first building happened to be the men’s dorm. Actually, I soon learned that the other end of the same building was the new satsang room. But at the men’s dorm we stopped, and since it was determined that the Master was not home just then, Andrea and I unloaded and moved in. In a couple of minutes we went out to where the ladies were in front of the satsang room and a car drove up. It was Sirio. He got out of the car, greeted everyone, I think He spoke something to Andrea and Dafne in Italian, and then came over to me smilingly, lovingly, and gave me a hug, while I found myself in tears and unable to communicate much of anything at all. He asked, in English, about my trip and I managed to get out that it had been perfectly “smooth”, as that was the word He had used to wish me well on my journey in an email before I left Pennsylvania. Then he went to the back of the station wagon and opened the hatch, began taking out bags of fresh fruit and vegetables and cheese, etc., asking Andrea that we take the rest of the food down to the langar and then park the car.
It was the day before the retreat was to officially begin, but after about an hour, we had our first meditation sitting. Sirio Ji sang Bhajans with us and put us into meditation (He meditated with us) and then sang more Bhajans with us. That turned out to be the routine for twelve days (the spring retreat is officially eleven days). The daily schedule was as follows:
Darshan, Bhajans, directed meditation, bhajans, darshan at 4 a.m.
Darshan, Bhajans, directed meditation, bhajans, darshan at 7 a.m.
Breakfast (self serve) at about 9 a.m.
Darshan, Bhajans, directed meditation, bhajans, darshan at 11 a.m.
Lunch prepared by two different people each day at about 1 a.m.
Darshan, Bhajans, directed meditation, satsang, darshan at 4:30 p.m.
Bhajans and other events at 8:30 p.m.
Sirio Ji loves the Bhajans. He knows about 300 of the Punjabi bhajans from “Songs of the Masters” some of them by heart and has written scores of Bhajans in Italian. The devotees are quite familiar with both and we would go from singing in Pujabi to Italian without a hitch.
After the morning meditation, one day, He tells us He has to go into a city to do something for his work (Sirio Ji makes His living giving Ayurvedic massage and treatments plus teaching them as well); we can go along if we wish. We can have satsang there also.
A group of us decides to go and within about half an hour, we are on our way to Siena with three cars. I am most fortunate to ride in the car with the Master. Annabella ji is the driver and I sit in the back driver’s side, where I am able to communicate with Him, to an extent, where He is in the front passenger seat. On the way, He sings some Bhajans, including a part of Kabir’s beautiful Guru Dev. It turns out that, after a conversation I’d had with Anna ji, regarding this bhajan, she’d asked Him about it and he knew some of it. I asked Him if He knew why it had never been included in the book, and He replied that He was also curious about it. I believe it was shortly after that, that He comments about some flowers that He sees just off the road. I wasn’t sure but I think that He decided to pick some later.
Later, He asks me if I have any knowledge of Siena. I don’t. He tells me that it is an old city with a history of Christian Saints, the most well known of which is St. Catherine. I ask if they were real Saints, having the idea that the Catholic Saints, were largely by name only, but also having the knowledge that Sirio Ji considers St. Francis of Assisi to have been a perfect Saint. He says that they were true Saints and gives certain details to explain, of which I would probably misquote, should I try to repeat His words from memory.
When we arrive in Siena, we climb an extremely picturesque street, on the edge of a small mountain, to a great height and park the cars. We walk briskly through the narrow winding streets, which more closely resemble my notion of alleys, with tall buildings, mostly apartments, on either side. We come to a wooden door in the wall and Sirio Ji unlocks it. We go in, shuffling around in the two medium sized rooms, while Anna Ji transforms one of them, with beautiful pieces of cloth that she manifests from, I don’t know where, into a satsang room. We proceed to sing bhajans and have a short satsang, in which the Master thanks us very emotionally for coming and effectively blessing His workplace, where He spends so much time, with satsang. He tells us that we are His best friends and how important it is to Him that we have come there.
After the satsang, He shows us some steps going down and that there is an underground cave-like place below His workplace. I try to snap a picture as He is coming out of the cave’s opening, but I’m too slow with the camera and when I take the picture, it’s mostly a blur.
Then we go back out onto the streets and we follow Him as He walks through the streets. He is so full of energy and He walks so fast that it is difficult for one of the Hungarian ladies to keep up. A Hungarian fellow called Feffa and a young lady, Vicky, were staying back with her, so I did that also and we tried our best to follow the group with the Master. At one point, we actually miss the turn that the Master and the others have taken, but we soon realize our mistake, go back and turn into a large open court or square, where the Master explains about the annual “Il Palio Festival” and horse race that is held there. The square is bordered by some very impressive cathedral type buildings, among the other very old and interesting structures. I jokingly say to Him that Sant Ji said we should not go sightseeing, but that I imagine it’s alright if the Master takes us sightseeing.
A little later, on another street, we stop in front of a frozen yogurt shop, where Francesco treats us all and Master makes it parshad. On the way back to the cars, I am nearly run over a few times (once by a bus) as I am taking pictures. The truth is, I really have lived my life in a rather careless way in some ways and I think, that without Master’s protection, I would been the victim of my own lack of attention to the dangers of the world long ago. So, having lived through it, and having been so fortunate as be on this magnificent, intoxicating excursion, we go back to Sant Bani, It, where we will continue with the scheduled program. On the way back, we stop to pick some of the flowers, from the side of the road, that I had mentioned previously. I believe it is the same night, after satsang, that He has a gift of special prashad for us in the form of a kind of pakora that He has made for us, Himself, from the flowers.
Oh, one more thing, regarding the trip. At home, I had learned guitar chords to Gloria al Satguru, and I was hoping that Sirio Ji would let me play them for Him to sing. So I asked Him about His guitar. He said, that He was thinking that one evening, I could play a small concert for the group. So two nights later, I did play four songs at the evening bhajan session. Master listened with full attention and eyes closed and was very appreciative. The next day, I asked when I could return His guitar and He told me to just keep it and play on it when I felt like it. A couple of nights later, He did sing Gloria al Satguru at the evening session and then, again, asked me to play a bit more. Along with that, I also had some fun times playing out on the grounds and jamming a bit with my new friend, Ernő from Budapest.
I don’t know what the meaning of it all is, that I struggled with repressing my music and writing for so many years, and now I was actually being encouraged in that area of my life. All I can really imagine is that, that’s what I needed then, and this is what’s happened now. So I’m grateful to Sant Ji and I’m grateful to Sirio Ji. And although they’re so very different, quite often, I have the most powerful feeling of being in Sant Ji’s presence, when I’m in Sirio’s presence.
So we continued with the program. We had a day of personal interviews in Sant Ji’s house, which is kept locked except for the interviews, initiations, and for Sirio to meditate in. We had a question and answer session that took four or five days (I don’t remember if there were four or five questions). He spent a whole satsang on each question. Some men came and pruned the olive trees and we gathered the pruned branches for burning.
And on the day I had to leave, the Master, with Dori ji driving and her sweet baby boy, Jancsi, along for the ride took me personally to the train station in Grosseto. On the way we stopped at a wonderful, peaceful, clear water lake where He goes swimming. It’s a near perfectly serene place and as we came out onto the dock, He told me that they’ve had a number of satsangs at that very spot. I wanted to take a video of Him there so He kindly turned His back to the lake so that I could have it in the video as well. It was yet another very intimate and sweet loving occasion that I’ll never forget.
At the train station, He ran to help me with the train ticket, when the lady spoke no English and there was some confusion with the train schedule. Then we had some time, so we went into the little station diner. He talked about some of His visits to see various, current Sant Mat Masters. I bought a bag of crackers after He read the Italiano ingredients (just to be sure about lard, etc.) at my request, and then He made it into parshad for my trip, at my request.
As a last gesture of concern, out at the tracks, when the train arrived, He told me to get on board and then He lifted my bag up to me. He and Dori and Jancsi ji stood on the platform waving as the train pulled away.
The people were so loving, such sweet sevadars. A very small group by some standards, but the love and respect, the adoration for the Guru: no less than that of satsangis anywhere in the world. I’m thinking, how wonderful for a Master to manifest in Italy, a land famous for the love of Christian Saints, as well as for the worldly love (many have tried to pervert that fame into the fame of sexuality, but a much more pure love—Romeo and Juliet, for instance—is very profound there). A land famous for the expression of emotion in song, and Sirio is a veritable incarnation of emotion in song.
I’ve also thought a lot about the human qualities of the Master—of any Master. I’ve always been so enamored by the concept, by the fulfillment of the concept of a Godman. Just consider the famous John Donne couplet, quoted by Master Kirpal: “God cloth’d himself in vile man’s flesh, that so, He might be weak enough to suffer woe” The Master is God and man at the same time. I think we get so caught up in the God part of the Master that we forget about the human reality. I mention it because I witnessed some emotion in Him that, at first, I thought was too human. He’s very hurt by the fact that certain of His long time friends have rejected Him and that they now consider Him doomed by Kal. It’s a deep pain for Him: I think both their opinions as well as the lack of association with them.
Some of it cleared up for me the last night of the retreat, when quite a few of the satgangis had already left. I could be wrong, I know, but it seemed as if He was deeply saddened by their departure; like we really are His friends, His best friends; that it’s a two way street.
Well, the reality is that the few who are receiving what He has to give are uniquely fortunate in all the world. At some risk to that reality of smallness is another reality: that I believe there are those souls out in the world who are desperately in need of, are perhaps crying out for this kind of love, this kind of connection with the God into expression power. I hope that if they are out there they can somehow lay down their pre-conceived notions about what is or isn’t possible. It’s possible that a Master doesn’t have to come from India—that a Master doesn’t have to have a huge following to be genuine—that a satsangi could possibly be a representative of the Master and then become the Master—that a Master can present the teachings in a unique way (I don’t know if there ever was one Who didn’t). These are just to mention a few. What have we really got to lose? Einstein said that the question is, “Is the Universe friendly or not?” If we don’t ultimately believe, or at least hope, that the Universe—God—is friendly, then we’ve given up before we’ve started. Yes, Sant Ji wrote a lot about the false Masters. But how many of us are there who can tell the difference from an intellectual point of view. Well, there are some things that would look pretty bad, alright. And likely we’d eliminate someone if we knew about some secret failing of theirs. Yet even Swami Ji smoked a hooka. Masters sometimes do things to keep the flies away. And also there are some things that look pretty good, like high inner experiences for instance, and yet people have become disillusioned with Masters even after such experiences. So the definitions get kind of blurred. It’s certainly a personal decision in my mind. But if we don’t seek, we shan’t find. If we don’t knock, no door will open up to us.
Maybe you could take a look. I’m just saying’…
For You I’m Lost
Jesse S. Hanson
The affection you convey to me in your kindness
buoys me up from my drowning condition
and holds me above the waves, as it were.
I cast my gaze out upon the waters, hoping for a glimpse of you
to see you walking over the crest—as if it were even significant as a miracle.
The miracle is in your very existence
it is in you seeking your scattered, orphaned, homeless waifs
who wander directionless upon deserted isles
bewildered and bewitched by each new ghostly mirage
until you come, your glance of complete solace and all comprehension.
Oh creator of this longing so deep in my breast
see how I thrash about, losing my strength in my ignorance
I haven’t learned swimming and now I’m old
and there is no time.
Oh take me aboard—my waterlogged soul, my terrified mind
Some boats have come by
but either they didn’t notice me, or I ignored them, hid from them
knowing that rescue by them would only leave me stranded
on some other strange and evil foreign shore
wordless and without hope
I dream of winds that fill your sails, of your strong heart that never fails
I live only for you to rescue me
where upon these rocks I’m dashed and broken
where for all these years this thing I’ve spoken
For you alone I’m lost at sea.