WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT
MA PREM HOMA (Offering of Love)
Born in 1951 in Cologne, Germany. Homa took sannyas in 1978 and left her body in December 2022 in Nordhorn, Germany.
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 from university, I went on a vacation 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 travelled back in time and 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 ferryboat to Sri Lanka (Ceylon at the time). Everything felt very magical to me, full of miracles.
After Sri Lanka, we travelled up the coast from Kerala to Goa, where hippies still lived like they were 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 overland, using local buses. We flew to Istanbul and took a bus to Teheran, and from there, a bus to Herat, 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 travelled to Kabul and then to Bamyan, where the tall Buddha statues were still standing. They were carved in rock, and one could get to the top of the head through an intricate cave system; I enjoyed an incredible view from there.
After travelling through Pakistan for 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 to 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 travelling 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 travelling. 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. That 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 sermon. 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 day course was very easy after the Tibetan meditation course! I had very blissful moments and even could talk personally to Goenka about them.
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 Dharamshala at the Tushita Retreat Centre 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 Dharamshala, when I suddenly heard a knock at the door. When I opened I saw to my surprise that it was Bernard, my younger sister’s boyfriend from Germany, dressed in vivid orange-coloured clothes. And immediately I said, “So you too….”
He had just come 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 Centre Tushita was in McLeod Ganj, a little further up from Dharamshala 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 any ingredients. 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 fulfil 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 (although 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 you 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 your 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.”
Osho, The Sun Behind the Sun Behind the Sun, Ch 12
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.
“Seven hundred years is a very long period. But for the one who is taking birth after seven hundred years it is not very long, because when one is not in the body there is no difference between one moment and seven hundred years. Time measurement begins only with the body. Outside the body, it makes no difference whether you have been for seven hundred years or seven thousand years. Only upon acquiring a body does the difference begin.
It is also very interesting to note the method for knowing the time interval between the last death and the current birth. Speaking about myself, how did I come to know that I was not here for seven hundred years? It is very difficult to just figure it out directly. I can only judge or calculate the time by observing those people who took several births during this time interval.
Suppose, for example, that a particular person was known to me during my lifetime seven hundred years ago. In between for me there was a gap, but he may have taken birth ten times. However, there are memories of his past ten births. From his memories only can I calculate how long I must have remained without a body. Otherwise it is difficult to calculate and determine this, because our time scale and methods of measurement do not belong to the time that prevails beyond body or in the bodiless state. Our measurements of time are in the world of bodily existence.
This gap of seven hundred years was a period of several difficulties for me. The difficulties were these: Firstly, it was becoming more and more difficult to take birth. For any person who reaches a certain stage of development, it is difficult to find suitable parents for another birth. During the time of Mahavira and Buddha there was no such difficulty. Daily, wombs were available through which such advanced souls could take birth.
In the time of Mahavira, there were eight fully realized persons in Bihar – all of the same level as Mahavira. They were working from eight different ways. The near about condition was reached by thousands. There were not a few, but thousands to whom the work could be entrusted for proper care and further transmission.
Nowadays, if someone of that high level wants to take birth, he may have to wait for a few thousand years. Another difficulty is that during the interval the work he may have done could get lost. In between, the individuals on whom he may have done some work would have taken ten more births, and it would be difficult to cut through the layers upon layers of those ten births. Nowadays, any master will have to pass through a much longer period before finally lifting the curtain and going beyond. He will have to hold himself back. Once he goes beyond the curtain, he will not be ready or willing to take another birth. He will still have a choice of whether or not to take one more birth, but he will think it to be futile. There is a reason for this. He can take one more birth, but for whom? In one birth, it is not possible to achieve much.
If I know that by coming into this room I can complete my work within an hour, then it is worth coming. If the work cannot be done, it is not useful to come. In this respect, compassion has a twofold purpose. First, it wants to give something to you; second, it knows also that if it only takes something away from you and is not able to give as well, then you will be in great danger. Your difficulties will not decrease but will increase. If I am able to show you something, it is well and good. But if I am not able to show you and you become blind to whatever you were previously able to see, then the situation is worse. In connection with these seven hundred years, a few other things may also be noted. First, I did not have any idea that such a talk would ever arise. Some time back, suddenly in Poona this matter came up. My mother had come. She was asked by Ramlal Pungalia whether she remembered some very early peculiar incident about me and if she would kindly relate it to him.
I was under the impression that there was no possibility of such a matter ever coming up. I also did not know when they talked with each other. Recently, he declared this in a meeting, that my mother had told him that I did not weep for three days after birth, and I did not take any milk for three days. This was her first remembrance about me.
This is true. Seven hundred years ago, in my previous life, there was a spiritual practice of twenty-one days, to be done before death. I was to give up my body after a total fast of twenty-one days. There were reasons for this, but I could not complete those twenty-one days. Three days remained. Those three days I had to complete in this life. This life is a continuation from there. The intervening period does not have any meaning in this respect. When only three days remained in that life, I was killed. Twenty-one days could not be completed because I was killed just three days before, and those three days were omitted.
In this life, those three days were completed. If those twenty-one days could have been completed in that life, then perhaps it would not have been possible to take more than one birth. Now in this context, many things are worth noting.
Standing in front of that curtain and not crossing over is very difficult. Seeing that curtain and still not to lift it is very difficult. It is difficult constantly to remain aware of the matter of when the curtain will be lifted. It is very nearly an impossible task to stand in front of that curtain and still not lift it. But this could happen only because three days before the completion of the fast, I was killed. Therefore, I have told many times in various discussions that just as Judas tried for a long time to kill Jesus, though Judas had no enmity with Jesus, the person who killed me had no enmity with me, though he was taken to be, and was treated as, an enemy.
That killing became valuable. At the time of death, those three days were left. After all my strenuous effort for enlightenment during that life, I was able to achieve in this life, after a period of twenty-one years, that which had been possible to achieve during those three days. For each of those three days in that life, I had to spend seven years in this life. That is why I say that from my last life alone I have not come with full realization. I say instead that I have come with near about complete realization. The curtain could have been lifted, but then there could be only one birth more.
Now I can take still another birth. There is now a possibility of one more birth. But that will depend on whether I feel that it will be useful. During this whole life I shall go on striving to see whether one more birth will be of some use. Then it is worthwhile taking birth; otherwise the matter is over and it is no use making any more effort. So that killing was valuable and useful.”
Osho Dimensions Beyond the Known Ch 2, Q 2
From the book, Past the Point of No Return by Ma Anand Bhagawati