The following pages are filled with stories, accounts, reflections and statements about Rama. They were written by persons who have had personal contact with him for periods of time ranging from a few months to six or seven years. Together they create a catalogue of spiritual experiences that retells an ancient story: the search for God and Truth in human experience.
Rama is, and probably will remain, an enigma. He changes so quickly that you are never quite sure who he is or what he will do next. At times he appears to be hundreds of different persons and at other times he is no one at all. This book represents a few of his ten thousand faces.
The accounts, stories and reflections presented in The Last Incarnation are a catalogue of spiritual growth and development. They reflect the experiences of over one hundred persons who have come into contact with something that far transcends the boundaries of what most of us would refer to as human consciousness and experience. These accounts do not, in my estimation, fully reflect all of Rama's many sides; they present the aspects of Rama which are most readily accessible.
Trying to describe what it is like to be in the presence of an enlightened person is one of the most challenging assignments any author could have. Few of us have the insight or patience of an "M", who so faithfully recorded the words of the Indian saint Sri Ramakrishna in his voluminous The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
The following collection of accounts is not an attempt to provide a definitive understanding of Rama's life or teachings; it is instead a reflection of the experiences of persons who have crossed beyond the borderline of the known and the familiar.
It was late when Atmananda arrived, perhaps 2 a.m. I heard his car engine drone in the distance and watched his headlights come over the hill. I was sitting a quarter mile down the desert gorge with about a hundred others and I had been there a couple of hours. It was a starry night and warm. I had meditated most of the time, finding it easy to move into a timeless space with relatively little thought.
Atmananda strode through the group of waiting students and headed down the gorge. We arose as one and followed him. We walked fast without speaking for a mile or two. He veered off and stopped against the mountainside. We formed a semi-circle around him and I sat down after scanning the ground for scorpions with my flashlight. While waiting for the slower walkers to join us, I took off my canteen and shook the sand out of my shoes.
Atmananda meditated until all were assembled, then he called, "Robert Grant."
A young man stood up and made his way through the seated students.
"Sit down," Atmananda said.
Atmananda placed his hands over Robert's forehead and crown. They seemed frozen in the moment.
"Hanuman." Then, "You have a new name."
Hanuman returned to his seat. Atmananda spoke of him, telling us of his devotion.
"I've never asked for it; I'm not even sure I like it. But I can't ignore it." Pause. "I told him years ago that his name would be Hanuman."
Atmananda began to pace. "I have something to tell you. It's going to come as a shock." He stopped for a moment, turning to face us. "I'm not who you think I am." He continued pacing. Our group was silent, waiting. "Who am I?" No one spoke. "Well, don't all answer at once." A few chuckles.
"I thought you were a man named Atmananda who meditated very well," one student ventured.
Atmananda shook his head, "No."
"I don't care who you are, Atmananda, I'm just glad you're here," another called out.
"Please, no philosophy tonight."
Other students spoke out in the darkness, but no one seemed to have the answer to Atmananda's question.
"A few days ago I stopped drinking Tab and started eating yogurt again. It was then I knew that something was happening." We all laughed. "This morning when I woke up," Atmananda continued, "I looked at my body and there was nothing but light. I wasn't solid anymore. I was just streaming light." He stopped pacing and looked out at us. "My room is filled with golden light all the time now, even when I'm not there. Can you imagine how my friends feel when they come to my room to visit me? I'm not there, but the room is streaming with light." Atmananda laughed.
"Eternity gave me a new name this morning." He paused, then continued. "For a long time I've wondered who I am. I've been trying to remember and now I have."
The night was still. The students stopped shifting around. I grew alert. Something was about to happen.
"Who am I?" Atmananda asked again.
"You're Vishnu," a student right behind me said.
"Yes," he answered, "that's close."
"Rama," a woman next to me said.
"Eternity has named me Rama," Atmananda said. "Rama most clearly reflects that strand of luminosity of which I am a part."
There was silence while we felt the impact of his words, then I could hear the name being whispered among the group. A few people began to cry softly.
"We're at the end of the cycle," Rama told us. "You've all known it since childhood. In the Hindu division of the ages, this is the Kali Yuga, the dark age. At the end of a cycle, Vishnu takes incarnation as a person. Vishnu is that aspect of God that preserves and protects life. When Vishnu leaves, Shiva comes."
My mind was surprised but I was not. Off and on since childhood I have sensed certain things, but never before I met Atmananda had I found someone who addressed the things that I had known without words. "I'm changing the name of the book you have all been writing to The Last Incarnation. It's more appropriate, don't you think? Since this is my last incarnation in this world."
"In the past you told us that in another time we gathered and made a ring of power and tried to make a jump to a different world."
"That's right. We tried to change our field of attention and move into a different dream. There are different dreams; you don't necessarily have to die to leave this world. This is a dream. There are other dreams."
"But we didn't make it."
"That's right. We didn't make it that time."
"And now you're looking for all your old students because this is your last life here. But what if we don't achieve Realization in this life? Can we go where you're going?"
"You don't have to be enlightened to go there. I'm returning to the world where I first took incarnation. It's much more fun there. We can go on crusades and have adventures. It's not exactly a physical world. And it's much easier to know God there, to become Self Realized, because the Maya isn't as thick. The Maya is very thick here and it's going to get much thicker, much darker here soon.
"You all understand Karma? The law of cause and effect? It's a karmic law that you'll return to whatever you love the most. Through the law of attraction you'll be drawn into incarnation by whatever you love the most.
"But you have to be yourself and love what you love and be who you are. If it's the Dharma, you'll be born where I am. If not, you'll be born wherever that which you love is, and that's appropriate."
"Rama," a student called. "Does this mean that when you die all the cataclysms that have been prophesied will come to pass?"
"Oh no, I'm not that important." Rama looked up at the sky. Then he said, "At the end of a cycle certain changes occur, certain things come into manifestation. The earth has always had upheavals and will continue to. That's no big deal. Earthquakes come, earthquakes go. I have a mission. I've come to accomplish particular tasks."
There was silence again. Rama gazed at the stars and raised his hands to the sky. After a bit he turned back towards us.
"Only about a tenth of the powers have returned. More come back every day. Twice last week I walked on water." He looked at us. "Here, watch."
Rama raised his arms to shoulder height and stood with his legs apart. A mist seemed to form around his body. He disappeared. All I could see of him were his boots and the stripes on the arms of his jacket. His body was gone.
Though it was dark and the moon had set hours before, I had been able to see him fairly well as he stood talking to us. I was sitting in the front row only a few feet from him. Now he was only a voice in the darkness.
After awhile he reappeared, continuing to tell us about his experience of the spiritual process.
"The molecular structure of my body has changed and keeps changing." Rama slapped his arm several times. "I'm not solid any more." He laughed.
Rama had worn shorts. As I looked at his legs I noticed that they seemed to be rippling and the edges were hazy and undefined. A whitish light was emanating from them.
"See the star up there, the bright one off by itself?" We did. "Watch it closely." Rama pointed his hand at the star. It grew fuzzy, seemed to get bigger and then it was gone. Everyone laughed.
"Gone," he said. "I'll bring it back." As we watched the sky, the star reappeared. "I'll do it again." The star disappeared and reappeared several more times.
Rama raised his arms above his head and looked up. "Wind." The wind came, gusty and balmy, on this October night.
"Were you always Vishnu in all the other lives when you were a spiritual teacher, in Tibet and Japan?"
"Yes, but I never remembered in those lives. A few years ago the thought came that I was an incarnation of Vishnu. I treated that thought as I treat all thoughts; I pushed it away and continued to meditate ... until this morning when Eternity gave me my new name.
"I've had so many signs over the years, but I never put it together before: there was Lakshmana's name; the name of the Center, Lakshmi; and now Hanuman."
"Rama, last week at the public meditation I saw a monkey jump out of your forehead," a student added. "At the time I didn't understand what it meant."
"Then are you the Rama of the Ramayana?" another student asked.
"No, I'm not the Rama of the Old Cycle. Eternity has named me Rama because it most clearly reflects the qualities that I express in this incarnation." Rama paused and looked us over again. "I'll show you my true form now, the Universal Form. Pay attention."
For much of the night Rama had been invisible. Only the movement of the jacket stripes and boots were discernible to my eye. I watched the area where his voice was. I wanted to 'see' the form if I could. I thought of the section of the Bhagavad-Gita where Krishna reveals his true form to Arjuna.
What I did see was more of an impression and not very clear. I 'saw' Rama disappear completely, boots, stripes and all. Something came that was much bigger and rounder than Rama's form. Within the parameters of the big roundness I saw what appeared to be dim lights darting about. One student gasped, "You have four arms," but I didn't see that.
What I did experience was a feeling within my being, a certainty that he was Rama and that Rama was Vishnu incarnate; that this was our time. The cycle was ending.
Rama became visible again and sat down on his pack. After awhile he told us he had taken us into the Old Cycle, that we were no longer in the same earth cycle that we had been born into or were familiar with. He suggested that we try to feel it. I tried to catch the flavor of this other time. I noticed that the energy moved through my being much more smoothly and with almost no physical sensation. I was resonating with the energy Rama was generating.
"How are you doing out there?" Rama asked. "What are you seeing?"
"It looks like flashlights are going on and off all over the hillside behind you, Rama," Lakshmana said.
"Those are Beings who have come to join us. There's really quite a crowd here with us tonight."
I had noticed tiny lights flashing for the last hour or so, a few on the hillside, a few right among our group. These flashes of light were quite different than when someone in the group turned on a flashlight and scanned the ground for scorpions.
"I've never seen so much," a woman whispered.
I was growing uncomfortable and stiff. I shifted around in the sand. My attention was waning.
"Don't let the casualness of my manner fool you," Rama said. "I joke with you and talk about these things in a light way to make it easier for you to assimilate what's going on. I make fun of myself; it's my Columbo routine. But don't get too relaxed. Right now you are being brought through a stronger vortex of energy than ever before."
I had been looking down, leaning on one knee. Suddenly my head swung up. Rama was gazing at me. He had disappeared again. Where his head had been there was a black hole, darker than the surrounding night. I could feel the intensity of his gaze. My awareness was literally drawn into that spiral of energy. For timeless moments I was that vortex.
The students' questions and Rama's answers went on through the night.
"What is the purpose of life, if one may ask such a question?"
"Life is its own purpose. Life is Divine play ... Life is for the fun of it," Rama replied.
Suddenly I was feeling tired. I had not slept for 20 hours and my body began to feel weary. I wondered how much longer we would sit here. At that moment a student spoke up from the rear of our group.
"Rama, I've started to feel very sleepy. I'm having a hard time staying awake."
"Your body is saturated and it's closing down," Rama answered. "It's saying, 'I've had enough. No more of this tonight.' It's at this time that a leap in awareness is possible. Sit up straight. Pull your shoulders back. When you think you've gone as far as you can, that's the time to push on. That's when quantum leaps in consciousness are made."
I heard quite a bit of stirring then. There were apparently more than two of us who were starting to fade.
"I want to make an important point now. It's critical that you understand that I am not special and that what's happening to me is not special. It just is. If you don't understand this very important point, then you'll be taken out by what I've told you and exaggerate its meaning out of all proportion. I am not a special person. I am no more or less important than the sand we're sitting on.
"You may think this is a big deal, but believe me, most people could care less. At their current stage of evolution most people in this world aren't interested in their spiritual unfoldment, and that's just as it should be." Pause. "All souls don't begin taking incarnation at the same time or in the same world. Most of you have attained far more advanced levels of spiritual development in other incarnations than you are expressing now. Some of you have had as many lives on other worlds as you have here." Pause. "I'm just an older cycle soul, that's all. I'm down the street a couple of blocks. In fact, I've been around for many, many cycles."
Rama was silent for a few moments, then he continued.
"I'm telling you about each stage of my process so that you'll realize that I'm really not any different than you are. Each stage I have gone through, you'll go through. And once the final stages begin, there's nothing you can do about it. The process went beyond my control long ago.
"The people who have known me as Atmananda don't realize that he's gone. Atmananda has vanished, never to return. Erased by Eternity forever." Rama laughed. "And in his place is Rama. A very different being."
The darkness was becoming gray. The night was ending. Too soon we would leave this place and these moments.
"I want you to understand that I'm not a special person; I'm not different from you. I had a pretty normal childhood. I played baseball. When I was about twelve a sort of return began. I was attracted to the books in my father's library on Buddhism. I didn't know why. I read them and didn't understand a word of it. Then puberty set in and my mind turned to other things." We all laughed.
"Most people who are going to wake up in this life do so around age 18. They begin to ask themselves who they are, what the purpose of life is, why they are here. It can happen at any age, 30 or 60, but for many it begins around 18 or 19.
"That's when I became interested in consciousness and meditation and helping people. I sought out the Indian teacher whom I felt to be the best in this country and for 11 years I devoted my life to him and to helping others. Oh, I did other things. I went to school and received my doctorate. I taught college English. I went all over the world giving lectures on meditation for my guru.
"Once my teacher asked his assembled disciples who among them thought they would be God Realized in this lifetime. There I was, surrounded by all these saintly beings. And I used to sneak off to the movies on Friday nights, which was forbidden. I never thought I was special. In fact, I figured I was pretty low vibe." We couldn't help laughing with Rama. "There were hundreds of disciples in this auditorium and my teacher asked all who believed they would become Realized in this life to stand up." Pause. "Everyone in the room stood up except one other student and me. Then I knew I was low vibe." More laughter.
"But do you see my point? It can happen to anybody. Believe me, if it can happen to me ... it can happen to you. Who I am is really not important. More importantly, who are you?
"When you start to remember who you are, it will be very much like the stages of my own Realization. It's an ongoing process. You don't just wake up one morning and ZAP! you're Enlightened. Every day brings another change, the next step. And it can happen to you. This is what I want you to understand."
We were silent. His words were riding on a powerful energy and they entered every aspect of my being.
"Who are you?" Rama asked again. "You're starting to remember. Now, watch this."
Rama stood up and started doing something very funny. He began walking around the open area in front of us, lifting each leg very high off the ground. As I watched this high-stepping I noticed that his legs seemed very rubbery. Sometimes he'd kick one out to the side or in front and it seemed to grow long and then become short. There was much chuckling while he continued to walk around in this strange way.
Then as I watched I had the impression I was seeing his subtle body rise a few feet above the ground while his physical body pranced across the sand.
"You're levitating," someone said.
"You're several feet off the ground now," someone else added.
Then his subtle body assumed the lotus posture and floated in mid-air. His physical body seemed to be elongating and rippling in unusual ways.
"Whew," Rama sighed. "That's tiring." Finally he stopped and sat back down on his pack.
It was first light. I could see Rama again. A few birds began to chirp. I looked up. The stars were gone.
"The desert's waking up. It's time to go," Rama said.
We walked back in a long string of one's and two's and three's. No one spoke. It was light now. It seemed to take a long time to walk back to the place where we had originally gathered.
The sunrise was glorious. A crimson band stretched across the horizon. Streaks of red and gold extended through the cloud-filled sky. A pink hue spread over the mountains and the desert floor. I stopped from time to time just to watch the changing panorama of colored light as it ushered in the day. I wasn't tired any more.
When we reached the gathering spot, we formed a large circle. Rama stood at its center and slowly rotated, looking at each one of us. He made three revolutions, gradually turning faster and faster. When he stopped, he addressed us a last time.
"Try not to forget tonight. Try not to forget who I am.... If you allow yourself to forget who I am, then you'll never remember who you are."