Even though I was brought up in a strict Jewish Orthodox household, there has always been an attraction to India. I can well remember perusing books about Varanasi as a child, and something seemed to pull me spiritually in that direction. I much preferred Ramakrishna to Moses. Having joined the school of meditation in London in 1975, I felt that I really needed to visit India as many questions had arisen which I thought could only be answered by an enlightened soul (hard to come by in the UK). So in 1991, I set off to meet the Shankaracharya in Allahabad, but decided to go to Varanasi first for no particular reason.
I found myself in an ashram on the banks of Varanasi, face to face with another great saint of India: Aghoreshwar Bhagwan Ram. Having stayed there for a couple of days, my attitude was completely transformed. I came to that place wondering how I could help myself. Upon departing, my question was now 'how can I help other people'. Quite a turn around for me I must say. Later on the trip, I did not meet the Shankaracharya... there was no need! Alas, Aghoreshwar passed away the following year and I had no further contact with the Aghor Foundation until 2007.
My wife Sue and I went on holiday to India in 2006. We went to Varanasi, as I thought she might feel some spiritual attraction to the city. She hated it! On that trip, out of the blue she suggested that I ought to come out and do some voluntary work. Dong!!! The bells started to ring.
On my return to the UK, I got in touch with the Aghor Foundation in Sonoma County, California, the leader of whom was a disciple of Aghoreshwar. His name is Harihar Ram and we met in Varanasi in the winter of 2007. It seemed like a good idea to work out of the ashram in Lanka Varanasi which is called Bal Ashram (see link). Orphaned children are taken in and cared for in the most compassionate way. I was hooked! The mix of service to society and spirituality was right up my street. The big question was now how to put it into practice?
Last Modified : 6th March 2011