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Excerpted from A Woman's Journey to God by Joan Borysenko. Copyright 1999 by Joan Borysenko. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"I wished I had the faith these people did, but jadedness was still the order of the day."

Joan BorysenkoA Woman's Journey to God, Part 5

But in this ancient church my heart was heavy. On the plane to India, I had read about the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa on India's west coast. The inquisitors forced perfectly happy, God-centered Hindus to renounce their religion and become Christian. If the converted "Christians" were caught worshipping their own gods, they were tortured and killed. One image in particular was seared onto my brain. The inquisitors cut off the eyelids of parents so that they could not shut out the sight of their children being slowly dismembered in front of them. The Inquisition in India lasted into the late 1800s. It was too close for comfort.

I couldn't shake the feeling that the church in which we stood contained more bones than those of the apostle Thomas. I am sensitized to such images of religious evil because, when editing Kurt's book, American Indian Prophecies, I encountered similar scenarios played over and over again as one hundred thousand indigenous peoples were killed in the Americas in the name of Christianity. The spirituality of these people was considered pagan, and the people themselves less than human. Perhaps as a Jew I feel some special kinship with those persecuted for their religious beliefs.

I was in no mood for communion. My friend and colleague Beth, the priest, smiled and beckoned me to join her in line. I shook my head and sneaked out the back door where I wept with long, wracking sobs.

Modern Miracles

Our flight out of Chennai to the town of Puttaparthi, where Sai Baba's ashram is located, was delayed. One of the women in our group struck up a conversation with a young Indian woman sitting next to her in the departure lounge, who turned out to be a niece of Sai Baba. We were desperate to pick her brain but managed to restrain ourselves. We did get the message that even his relatives get no special treatment in the ashram, and that if we were expecting a private audience, it would be best to let go of the thought.

The Puttaparthi airport was like a Sai Baba Disneyworld. "Sai Ram, Sai Ram," we were greeted. Ram is the name of a previous male divine avatar, one of the many faces of God worshipped by Hindus. Sa means "Divine." Ai or ayi means "mother." So Sai Ram means Divine Mother and Father. This Baba-referential phrase is a vocabulary unto itself. It is not only praise to God, it also means "good-bye," "hello," "I recognize the God in you," "excuse me," "I'm grateful," and, in summation, "ain't life grand." 

I wished I had the faith these people did, but jadedness was still the order of the day. I had followed a Hindu guru for several years and ended that part of the journey disillusioned and hurt by the bad behavior of the guru and the organization. My ashram days were long gone. Despite all the valuable things I had learned, I still had festering wounds. I had no idea how deep they ran, or how they had undermined my faith, until I faced the prospect of entering another ashram.

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