At the age of about seven, I repeatedly had very intense dreams of a wise man with a long beard sitting silently in some mountainous area. I felt very much drawn to that man and simply knew that this man was ‘wise’, that he knew the truth and I wanted to find him.
During the next years I never forgot that dream and when I was fourteen years old I told my mother, “I want to go to India.” Naturally, my mother was astonished and answered, “You must be crazy, absolutely not.”
So I finished high school and started studying education at the university in Cologne. My interest in finding the wise man was somehow always present and during that time I came across several esoteric books translated into German: ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ translated by Evens Wentz, and ‘The Way of the White Clouds’ by Lama Govinda. And suddenly many other books followed, mostly written by Tibetan Lamas. Passionately reading those books, I was convinced I would find my master among the Tibetan Lamas.
With the first money I earned after graduating at university, I went for a holiday to India. It was the summer of 1974 and together with my friend Wilfried, who was also very interested in esoteric subjects, we flew to Bombay. Coming to India was like entering a totally new world, as if we had traveled back in time and had been thrown into an era when Buddha and other living masters were still alive. We visited temples and holy places in South India and took a very old ferry-boat to Sri Lanka (Ceylon at the time). Everything felt very magic to me, full of miracles.
After Sri Lanka we traveled up the coast from Kerala to Goa, where Hippies still lived like in paradise as tourism had not yet entered that beautiful place. These two months passed too quickly, I wished I could have stayed forever.
The next summer we headed for India again, this time over land using local buses. We flew to Istanbul and took a bus to Teheran and from there a bus to Herat in Afghanistan. These buses moved very slowly, stopped many times and it always took a few days and nights to get from one place to another. Sometimes people boarded with chickens or goats; the worst was a basket filled with fish, which someone placed right next to me!
From Herat we traveled to Kabul and then to Banyam, where the tall Buddha statues were still standing. They were carved in rock and one could get to the top of the head by an intricate cave system, and I enjoyed an incredible view from there.
After traveling through Pakistan and a total of three weeks on buses we finally reached a narrow and bumpy dirt-road when the bus driver stopped abruptly in front of a dilapidated bar. A few men in uniform entered the bus and told us to get out. Slightly bewildered we did so and then saw a sign indicating that this was the Indian border! The men checked our passports and we were then shown to a wooden shack – a branch office of The State Bank of India – so we could change money.
The first city in India we reached was Amritsar where the Golden Temple of the Sikhs is located. The sun was setting when we arrived and the temple with its pure gold layers looked incredible and magical. At that point we decided that we had enough of the bus rides and flew so Srinagar in Kashmir to have a holiday. We found a beautiful houseboat on Nagin Lake run by a bunch of eccentric Kashmiris who kept giving us water pipes to smoke. Staying there was pure relaxation; it was beautiful to watch the lotus flowers, how they opened up their petals in the morning and closed at night, always following the sun. However, I did not see the man I had been looking for.
Upon return and not having found a master, I knew I would need to stay much longer in India. For an entire year I worked as a school teacher in Cologne and saved every penny I could, living rather frugally. The moment came when I was able to buy a one-way ticket to New Delhi from where I took a train to Patna and then a bus to Nepal. I had decided about traveling to Nepal because I had heard of the Kopan Monastery near Boudhanath, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, where meditation courses were offered under the guidance of two well-known Lamas, Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The beginner’s course was scheduled for one month and that seemed just right for me, after having read so many books about Tibetan Buddhism.
Kopan Monastery was one hour’s walking distance from Boudhanath, situated on a small hill. Only a few western monks and nuns were living there and the two Lamas, when they weren’t traveling. There was an eclectic mixture of people who registered for the meditation course, such as mountaineers and hippies, as well as aspiring nuns and monks; most of them had shaved their heads already. The monastery was very small and the course was held in a large tent where most of the people also slept. I was lucky to get a room with a few other women because I had arrived early. But one thing was really a lesson in patience: the entire place was full of fleas and since Tibetans don’t kill any living beings, one had to endure hundreds of itchy bites. Some Swedish guys couldn’t stand it any longer and sprayed their room with DDT. It didn’t last for very long as it was very cold and fleas love the body temperature of human beings. We had to take showers at the well, which supplied ice cold water; toilets were just a hole in the ground.
I immersed myself in the studies and meditations. The Tibetan mythology really made sense to me as if I had some former knowledge about it stored in my memory. I received a lot of answers to the many questions I had come with, and it became clear that Enlightenment was the only goal in life that seemed worth living for. Lama Yeshe truly touched my heart. When he entered the meditation tent and sat on his ‘throne’ one could see he was so radiant, and his laugh was contagious. Lama Zopa was more intellectual, and brilliant in explaining Tibetan mythology, which is so diverse to the western way of thinking.
Weeks went by and it seemed to me that I had found what I had been looking for. After the course ended I was offered to stay another month for a retreat which sounded like a good idea, because everything I had experienced needed to settle down. So I stayed with a few other people and it became a much more intimate group. Soon my three months visa expired and I had to leave Nepal. I went to India by bus and visited the holy Buddhist places such as Bodhgaya where Buddha had achieved Enlightenment, and Sarnath near Varanasi, where Buddha had held his first sermons. When I arrived in Bodhgaya people told me that I was very lucky, because Goenka, a Burmese Vipassana master just happened to start a Vipassana course at the Burmese Vihara. To participate in this 10 days course was very easy after the Tibetan meditation course! I had very blissful moments and even could talk personally to Goenka about it.
Upon return to the monastery in Kathmandu, Lama Yeshe initiated me into Dorje Sempa, a purification practice, during which I had to recite a specific hundred-syllable mantra one hundred thousand times, combined with the visualization of a tantric figure. This silent practice allegedly cleans one from all karma accumulated in previous lifetimes. I planned to do this practice in Dharamsala at the Tushita Retreat Center together with a group of people.
It was during the time I spent with the Lamas that I heard about an Indian guru called Bhagwan. First I saw his photo in a German esoteric magazine, on which he looked stunning, wearing a straw hat. Then another student gave me a book by him, ‘Tantra: The Supreme Understanding’ which I read eagerly – his way of explaining this ancient path was intriguing yet easy for me to understand because he was able to speak simply to the heart.
I was living in a small hut at the foothills of Kopan Monastery and was about to depart for Dharamsala, when I suddenly heard a knock at the door. When I opened I saw to my surprise that is was Bernard, my younger sister’s boyfriend from Germany, dressed in vivid orange-colored clothes. And immediately I said, “So you too … “
He had just came from Poona where he had taken Sannyas, and his new name was Swami Deva Sapan. We talked all night and he said, “Drop all your commitments and go to Poona, It’s worth it. That’s exactly the right place for you.” And I knew he was right and his descriptions left a strong imprint. I could have gone straight away to Poona but also felt I had to do the retreat first.
The Retreat Center Tushita was in McLeodganj a little further up from Dharamsala and 6 people showed up for the retreat. It was during monsoon and rain was pouring down. An old Tibetan was our cook and there was only food once a day at lunch time and sometimes it was distinctively ‘alive’, because I think he never washed it. The rest of the time there were only servings of salty butter tea. And also, because it’s a Tibetan place, a lot of fleas for company, but by that time I had become an expert in catching them!
It took three months to fulfill my commitment of this purification practice, being in silence the entire time. The first weeks were easy, but it became more and more of a hell. After three months I was a wreck and had even gained a few pounds of weight (from eating once a day only, if one could eat it). There was of course a sense of being glad to have pushed myself through it. I also sensed that one-and-a-half years with the Tibetan Lamas had been enough and I also had very little money left, a few hundred Rupees only. But instead of returning to Germany I felt that this was now the right time to go see Bhagwan, and with my last Rupees I paid for a seat on a train to Poona.
The journey went by in a blur. Upon arrival I immediately went to the ashram and when I entered through the front gate I felt I was finally coming home. I went to the office and told Bhagwan’s secretary Laxmi, that I wanted to take Sannyas. She smiled and said, “Normally your must be doing a few groups before taking Sannyas!” I told her about the time I had spent in the Tibetan monasteries, and the various meditation practices, and she nodded and said, “Then you are ready.“
The very next day I sat in front of Bhagwan during evening darshan. Looking into his eyes and feeling his presence made everything else disappear; it was like time had stopped when he said to me, “Finally you came. I was waiting for you.” It was a supreme moment in my life to look into his eyes and I felt myself melting away. He spoke for a long time explaining my new name.
“Prem means love, Homa means offering -- offering of love. And that's all we can offer to god; anything else will not be worthwhile, will not be worthy. We can only offer our heart; that is our flower. In the East they say, 'Never offer a bud; always offer a flower'... because the bud is incomplete. When something is complete, only then can it be offered to god. So never offer a heart which has not loved totally, otherwise it will be a bud.
When the heart has loved totally, it opens, it blooms, it releases the fragrance that man carries within, and that is the time to offer it. Love prepares man as an offering to god. So love as intensely as possible, abandon yourself in love. Get lost in the dimension of love, because that is the only way to find yourself. Don't go on holding yourself, otherwise you will miss.
Life is very illogical. It requires risk, it requires leaps where the mind cannot help, because the mind can always help in things it knows, it can help about the past, it can supply answers for questions that you have already solved, but when a new phenomenon faces it, it is impotent. In that moment it shrinks back, it closes itself; it tries to deny the problem because it feels impotent in front of it. That's why so many people go on denying love, because it imposes great risks the mind is not capable of coping with.
So many people deny the existence of god. Not that they have searched, enquired and known that god doesn't exist. They have not searched, they have not enquired; in fact they are afraid to search. The only way to protect themselves from the search is to believe that there is no god. If there is no god then there is no question of searching and enquiring. They are afraid to take the leap. So whenever there is a moment where the mind feels inadequate, put it aside, go ahead. That is the only way to grow and open.
Love gives great challenges. It brings all that is inside you to the surface; it provokes, it goads. And it is not all joy. There is much suffering involved in it because growth is not possible without pain. So when pain comes, accept it; when pleasure comes, accept it. Whatsoever comes, accept it and go on. Go on finding more and more ways and means to pour yourself into existence. That's what prayer is for me.
And one day when your love flower has bloomed, it will be accepted. Only then can one contact god, not before that God is just around you; he is your around and he is your surround, he is within and without, but our eyes are blind.
A great poet, Paul Edward, has said that the other world exists but the other world exists in this world. The other world is, but it is hidden in this world. My own suggestion is that there is no other world. This is the only world and nothing is hidden in it. All is unhidden, but we are keeping our eyes closed, hence it looks hidden. There is no secret about god; god is not hiding in the caves, he is spread all over, but we go on keeping our eyes closed. Love opens you eyes, and only love can open them because love is unafraid, fearless. Logic is very very afraid.
Remember that, and as you go deeper into love, you will come closer to god.”
Some time later I found out that Bhagwan had been a Tibetan Lama in his last life, 700 years ago. In that moment I understood why I had been looking for him among the Tibetan Lamas for so long.
Excerpt from the book, Past the Point of No Return – PLEASE LINK UP TO:
Ma Prem Homa was born in Germany, took sannyas in 1978 and lives presently in Nordhorn, Germany.