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The New World Prayer

The new world prayer was given by Maitreya in July 1988 is really an affirmation with an invocative effect, and will be a powerful tool in the recognition by us that man and God are one, that there is no separation. By affirming that I am the creator of the universe I can come into consciousness (eventually) that I am God, the true reality.

I am the creator of the universe.

I am the father and mother of the universe.

Everything came from me.

Everything shall return to me.

Mind, spirit and body are my temples

For the Self to realize in them

My supreme Being and Becoming

The Lord Maitreya

Take your brother's need as the measure for your action, and solve the problems of the world. There is no other course.

Share and save the world.

Fear not!

All in time will be renewed.

All in time will be returned to light.

Lord Maitreya

"Before the throne of God, the angel, with all the other angels, stood and cried: 'Lord of my life, grant me the strength to tread the path of revelation; to cross the sea of dark illusion, and face the lighted way of earth.' God said: 'Go forth and far away.'

"Before the gate which opens on the lighted way to peace, the angel stood alone and said: 'Lord of my life, the way of revelation is the way of manifested life; the path of dark illusion leads to the light which scatters every shadow. I seek to tread the lighted way which lead back to thy Presence. As yet that way is dark. What shall I do?' God said, 'Draw near and enter into thine own light, and in that light, see Light.'

"Before the gateway of each newborn day, which holds within its sealed hours ordered responsibility, each morn I stand. I cry aloud: 'Lord of my life, how can I do the duty of this day and seek detachment? Meet every need and yet free myself from ties and bonds?' God said: 'The sun draws near and vivifies the earth. Naught can it take from out the earth. Live likewise. Give and ask naught!'"

Alice A Bailey

Sai Baba
Golden Age
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Swami Premananda: Avatar behind bars

by Adam Parsons

Despite severe maltreatment at the hands of India's corrupt criminal justice system, Swami Premananda continues his spiritual teaching and extraordinary service activities as he waits to begin his God-given mission. (2,915 words) July/August 2006

In a remote village on the edge of southern India, far off the tourist offmaps, a cheery holy man continues his fixed routine. Between six in the morning and six in the evening, Swami Premananda gives a daily spiritual discourse to an audience of hundreds, writes personal replies giving advice and support to an unending stream of letters, holds open interviews every day for the poor people around him, while constantly overseeing the management of a fruit plantation, a flower nursery, an orphanage, a school, and an ashram more than 250km away. It may sound like the life of a particularly conscientious sage, except that Swami Premananda has languished behind bars for more than 11 years, and the people who seek his daily counsel are fellow prisoners in Cuddalore jail.

With his hair tied on top of his head and a warm bearded smile for every visitor, it is hard to imagine this gentle Swami as capable of the heinous crimes alleged. But on 5 April 2005, the highest court in India deemed that Premananda’s ‘double-life’ sentence for murder, rape and conspiracy will run consecutively without further appeal. According to Indian newspapers and tabloid magazines he is the most despicable criminal in the history of Tamil Nadu state, but according to Premananda’s innumerable supporters, including the most famous legal mind in India, the case is a scandalous miscarriage of justice that is bound to shake the conscience of the world. It is a case, some say, of the deepest extremes: of good against evil, of sinners against saints, and of a symbol for man’s eternal struggle for righteousness and truth.

The Supreme Court judges in Delhi branded Premananda a “devil” and a “monster”, even going beyond their powers to forbid any remission of his sentence or amnesty. His international followers, however, continue to fight for justice and maintain that Swami Premananda is an incarnation of divinity, an Avatar on a par with the greatest saints, and a being of the highest purity who embodies powers beyond the knowledge of science. “I am also being tested by God,” he said after his arrest. “As a result I am sure that I will be made known to all humanity.”

Apart from the media storm in India surrounding the Swami’s spiritual status, his life story is nothing short of extraordinary. A brief biography published by the ashram gives accounts of miracles and abilities that confound the laws of physics, and many more such are attested to by devotees and members of his family. Born in 1951 in the village of Matale, Sri Lanka, under the name Prem Kumar, holy ash or vibhuti would often manifest around him as a baby, and as a toddler he soon exhibited an unusual interest in spirituality. While his brothers and sisters played outside, Prem could be found performing puja (rituals) with his grandmother, or facing a wall in a corner absorbed in deep meditation, even at the age of four. It is said that if he thought too much about the divine or the lives of saints, he would fall into an unconscious state of rapture.

His biography reveals that as a young schoolboy Prem could manifest sweets or fruits out of nowhere for his friends, and he became renowned in his school for multiplying his lunch food, for holding erudite discussions on philosophical subjects, and even for performing miraculous healings. Knowing that he could immediately see anyone’s problems and infallibly predict their future, the parents of his friends became the boy’s first devotees before he reached adolescence. As news of his powers spread, hundreds of people in Sri Lanka began to seek his blessings and healings, until Prem made the conscious decision to dedicate the rest of his life to serving humanity by becoming a renunciate monk, a sannyasin. Since that day, even his family refer to him respectfully as Swami Premananda, from the Sanskrit words meaning that through Prema (pure love) one arrives at Anandam (everlasting happiness).

At the age of 16, after Premananda had conducted ceremonies and interviews in his grandmother’s house for several years, a small ashram was donated to welcome the crowds of people who flocked to see him. Named the ‘Centre of Peace for All Religions’, with symbols of every major faith painted on inside walls, it was a prime target for the mass religious and racial riots that erupted throughout Sri Lanka in 1983. The ashram was completely burned to the ground and everything in it destroyed. By this time, Premananda was taking care of many orphans and unwanted children, several of whom joined him in fleeing the country to begin a new life in southern India.

Setting up a temporary home for some years in the city of Trichy in Tamil Nadu, the Swami surprised everyone with his choice of land to build another ashram: a remote and desert-like area covered in thorns and brambles. A small group of volunteers gradually transformed its vast acres into an oasis of long bright walkways and manicured flowerbeds. Officially inaugurated as Premananda Ashram in 1989 in the presence of many spiritual leaders, the Swami’s popularity rapidly flourished across the world. He toured through various countries in Europe and Asia, and, during several visits to London, teeming crowds would often queue in the streets for an interview.

Long-term residents in the ashram still speak of the ceaseless activity of those days: at weekends, thousands of visitors would flock for darshan (a blessing), and each person was always given a personal interview with Premananda. Even today it is hard to picture the ashram as less than a thriving community; nearly 800 deprived or orphaned children are cared for and educated in the school, and each day food is provided for up to a thousand people. There is a printing press, a computer room, a specially-built bus route and a fleet of waiting taxis, and scores of chattering schoolchildren walk along in crocodile file to lessons, smiling at any foreigner and praying their hands with an unvarying greeting – “Jai Prema Shanti!” (meaning “May divine love and peace be victorious!”).

This genial ambience was shattered on 19 November 1994 when a battalion of police officers with machine guns raided the ashram in armoured vans. Two weeks earlier a 19-year-old girl and two adults had approached different national newspapers in Madras with vague but damning accusations of sexual abuse by Premananda. No tangible proof was offered before the Swami and six other residents, including his elderly uncle and brother, were quickly arrested and placed in custody.

A mass of sensationalist articles with dozens of further accusations quickly flooded the entire state of Tamil Nadu, all of which were based on undisclosed ‘intelligence’, anonymous sources, or simply the libellous hearsay of tabloid magazines. ‘Prems’, as they began calling the Swami, was deemed guilty before trial of gun smuggling, murder, conspiracy and fraud, of exporting marijuana, and even of fighting for the notorious Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger terrorists. While magazine sales rocketed, the initial charge of rape was added to by the dozen. Eventually 33 accusations were filed by the police, based entirely on the salacious media reports. Despite prolonged investigations and wild media speculation not a single shred of evidence was discovered.

According to Ram Jethmalani, one of the most revered and brilliant senior advocates in India who defended the Swami’s case, the supposed ‘rape victims’ were illegally kept captive inside a single room, forbidden from seeing any family or friends until the end of the trial, and repeatedly stripped naked, tortured and beaten until they made false statements against Premananda. He later argued that a murder charge, added two months after the case began, was entirely “bogus”, a “legal joke”, and “a gigantic fraud on the law”.

In August 1997, almost three years after the arrests, the verdict of the judges echoed across India. To the dismay of devotees and the disbelief of his legal team, Swami Premananda was declared guilty as charged of serial rape and murder. He was given two life sentences to run consecutively, effectively a ‘double-life’ sentence which in itself was questionable. Both verdicts were also linked together under a conspiracy charge instead of being dealt with separately, which was another violation of Indian law. Of the six other accused, nearly all faced life imprisonment.

The jail where Premananda has lived since 1998 is a five-hour train ride from the ashram in a dusty coastal town called Cuddalore that was ravaged by the December 2004 tsunami. No tourist would have a reason to come here, especially not at the muddy end of the rainy season, but I had been warned not to let slip the purpose of my visit. It added to a slight sense of being on a furtive assignment – reporters were strictly forbidden in the prison, and Premananda had never met with a foreign journalist since his arrest, so my visit was in the role of devotee.

A small gathering of us assembled at a nearby village in the early morning before herding into a couple of 1950s-style Ambassador taxis. The prison stood two km away in a silent and gloomy woodland, enclosed by a barren forecourt and a towering wall guarded by sentries with old-fashioned rifles. Everyone shuffled past a khaki-uniformed guard who randomly checked bags and pockets, although the jailor inside paid little attention and sat reading a newspaper. The Swami’s bare, windowless cell was about ten paces long and barely three across, and caged in by a vast metal grille.

It became more surreal as our entourage gathered around Premananda, who was quietly eating breakfast on a stool in the corner. As we crowded into the narrow corridor in a hustle of activity and excitement, an Italian lady dressed in white began to poke roses, incense and a necklace of jasmine flowers through the lattices.

Many people who first meet Swamiji, as he is normally referred to, say how differently he comes across from the usual notions of the sombre holy man, but with a full round beard, ever-smiling white teeth, and wearing a wrap-around cloth called a lungi, he almost seems the stereotypical wise and jubilant guru. He speaks to foreigners in a charismatic, self-taught English that requires some translation from those more experienced in his enjoyable style of jumbling up clauses and missing out verbs, and it can be difficult not to laugh along with his animated explanations.

The PR officer who translated explained that Premananda is going blind from untreated eye cataracts and diabetes, as well as suffering from high blood pressure, ear problems and chronic asthma. In the summer monsoons, I was told, rains could flood each prison cell to knee height. “There are barely any facilities – no roof, no fan, no light, no bed!” Premananda explained, squinting and chuckling through the grille. “I have to sleep on the floor. And the food is not safe to eat. Sometimes my children (devotees) come here with food for me, but that is actually against the law. Secretly I eat, without anybody knowing!”He described these conditions with such jollity and mirth that it was easy to overlook how terrible it must be. Asked how things were for the other prisoners, the Swami began to describe the injustices rife inside Indian jails. Of the 3,000 prisoners in Cuddalore prison at least half were innocent, he said, as it was common practice for a rich person to commit a murder or serious crime and then bribe the police so that an ‘ordinary’ man is blamed. “But how can we help these people? The only way is by appointing a lawyer,” he said. “The government appoints each prisoner a free lawyer, but he does nothing. Now I have freed roughly 200 people by paying for a lawyer and overseeing the case. If somebody gives pocket money to me, that money goes directly to their lawyer! I don’t want money for myself.”

Other prisoners who live alongside Premananda spoke of the quiet good works that he continuously undertakes inside the prison. Mr Parvallal, who spends hours in Premananda’s cell each day handwriting replies to letters that the Swami endlessly dictates owing to his loss of sight, gave information that was not even known to residents in the ashram. Every morning at around eight o’clock, said Parvallel, several hundred people gather in the courtyard, with special permission from the guards, to listen to Premananda discuss an aspect of Sanathana Dharma (the philosophy of India’s ancient sages). “I have attended these talks every day for four years, and they have definitely changed me,” he said. “When we listen to Swami’s satsangs (discourses), for that hour we forget that we are in prison.”

Mr Kumaran, a quiet and sincere young man who helps Premananda with chores in his cell, spoke with such praise for the Swami that his eyes widened and his face seemed to glow. Describing the material and spiritual help that Premananda gives to the hundreds of prisoners who visit him, including money to help their families and even small shops to help poor people re-establish themselves after prison, he said: “Although Swamiji is in human form, I feel that he is really a living god.”

One ex-inmate of Cuddalore jail, Mr Shankara, spoke of becoming so attached to Premananda that he refused to leave prison upon his release, and even considered committing a ‘true’ crime in an attempt to get readmitted.

The question of miracles and ‘Gods in human form’ may go to the heart of Occidental doubts and suspicions, but during the prison interview Premananda twice referred to his powers in a tone that was close to a lament. “Here in the prison, normally, I am not a great man. I am an ordinary man,” he said. “God gives me so much power, what I do (sic)? When I was a younger age I would do miracles and everything. This was so that everybody slowly came to understand (that a greater consciousness exists).”

Shortly after saying this, Premananda asked to take my arm through a small opening in the metal door. Explaining again that he never performs miracles inside the jail, with a swish of the hand he produced a handful of sweet smelling sandalwood powder, and then materialized from nowhere a small metal statue of the elephant God, Ganesha, which was accompanied by unusual sensations of warmth and tingling in the palm. It was, according to those present, the first miracle Premananda had performed for five or six years.

He later went on to elucidate his position: “I tell the truth, I never lie. So, now Swami has come to this Earth, I don’t want the name or fame. I’m not bothered about that. My only aim is to make people go in the correct direction. That is the main aim.”

As Swami Premananda faces the prospect of 18 more years in prison without further appeal, the counter-allegations in his lawsuit are so serious that many supporters believe the details warrant scrutiny in an international court. Ram Jethmalani, despite being retired from practising law at the age of 83, has vowed to personally champion the case until a presidential pardon or reprieve is issued. “One has to hang one’s head in shame,” he said after the Supreme Court judgement, claiming that the verdict has caused international embarrassment in the Law Schools of India by effectively sanctioning the beating up of witnesses to “extract what the police regard as truth”. The implications are so forbidding, he warned, that legislation should be urgently introduced to reverse the law as currently laid down in India.

A more mystical interpretation of the case surprisingly comes from a Supreme Court Judge in Sri Lanka, C.V. Wigneshwaran, who is a long-time devotee of Premananda and one of many defence witnesses rejected by the courts as a “wishful thinker”. The most important thing to recognise, says Judge Wigneshwaran, is not only the deplorable infringements of human rights, or even the manifest injustices taking place in the Indian legal system, but simply the prisoners who have transformed their lives after meeting Premananda in jail.

On 20 November 2005, Premananda Ashram celebrated the Swami’s 54th birthday while he lay guarded 300km away on a hospital bed in Madras. Two days later, there was little to celebrate: it was the anniversary of Premananda’s 11th year in prison.

To most Westerners the merest mention of the word guru or divinity sounds too implausible to be given a moment’s thought, but if Premananda’s case is given any credence at all, then his life story could literally challenge the core of present-day atheism. He has already said that he knows exactly why he came to prison, exactly when he will be released, and the definite consequence that he will be made known to “all of humanity”. But perhaps the most mysterious of his assertions was spoken from a jail cell in 2002. “I have come to this world to do some work,” he said. “God gave me a job and I have yet to start it … but after I have started, you will understand.”

OUTQUOTE: “I tell the truth, I never lie. So, now Swami has come to this Earth, I don’t want the name or fame. I’m not bothered about that. My only aim is to make people go in the correct direction. That is the main aim.” Swami Premananda

(Share International magazine -July/August 2006)

Avatar in Jail

Official Premananda Web Site