Father Charles Ogada is a Catholic Priest from Nigeria, whose deep understanding of Christ’s message is a testimony to his life of steadfast quest of the Ultimate. He first came to Bhagawan Baba in 2001, a visit that would deepen his commitment to his search and rejuvenate him in his path to self-discovery. He is head of a Children’s Home in Nigeria, which Swami visited in July 2015.
Stopped! Yes, everything stopped. My world finally collapsed. Like the pause between two breaths, I was lost in an emptiness which left me breathless. I was not living, yet I knew I was not dead. Although my body was cold and my mind numb, I could still feel an expanding sensation, as if I were floating outside the body. Then I realised that it was a futility, a darkness that had engulfed my being. Like a body severed from its life breath, my soul had been pining in vain for the source of its being.
It was during the ninth year of my studies in a Catholic theological seminary that I ran to my professors and inquired whether they had found the remedy for my soul’s malady, but none had the ‘soul solution’. Instead, they told me to pray – but I could not! Stripped of every concept, I was made to stand without anything to stand upon! Finally, I reached the end of my strength and decided to leave the seminary, as I could no longer withstand the test. I knew this decision was not going to solve my problem, but I also knew I could no longer endure the burden of darkness.
It was during this critical time that Sai Baba came into my life, like a lamp that lit my steps to Self-awareness. It happened like this…
It was 1998 and I had a professor who taught a course in comparative religion. He was an elderly priest who seemed to be out of the ordinary. During a lecture, he mentioned the name ‘Sai Baba’ as an example of a living Avatar. I felt without doubt that I knew that name. Even as I heard the sound, something very strange happened within me. It was as if the scales covering my inner ‘I’ suddenly fell away and I could see dim flickers of my Self-radiance. For the first time, I was able to breathe – it was a soul breath!
Then Swami came to me in an extraordinary dream. He was pure Light, robed in radiant red. With a wide circular wave of His hand, he created a vortex of energy which drew me to Himself like a divine magnet. He hugged me and, like a river merging in the ocean, ‘I’ dissolved in His love! Beyond words and concepts, He revealed to me the Truth of myself – “I AM HE. HE IS ME. ALL ARE ONE.”
When I awoke from that dream, I knew I had known this ‘Hugging Energy’ right from my childhood. It was the same Presence that had visited me so often when I was a little boy of six. In those days, I would withdraw to the loneliness of the African jungle, waiting for my unseen Friend who would invariably come. Although I could not see Him physically, I knew someone was there. This Presence would envelop my whole being with such joy and overpowering bliss that I would often faint and enter into altered consciousness. As a result, my parents were worried. They took me to different native doctors who subjected me to excruciating forms of exorcisms, because they thought I was possessed by a spirit. This happened until I was twelve years old, when I begged the Presence to leave me. I had just been admitted into a boarding high school, and I did not want my fellow students to tease me because of this Presence, which would make me faint.
At the age of seventeen, the Presence reappeared. I had just finished high school and was studying to become a medical doctor. On that particular day, in 1988, I was alone in the forest, as was my childhood habit. Suddenly, my Friend came. His energy was a thousand times multiplied. It filled me with such explosive joy that I lost every sense of separateness. My body – the sense of ‘me’ – disappeared and I was one with everything, like a vortex of whirling energy; the sky, the trees, birds and beasts, everything was part of me.
For the very first time, the Presence spoke to me, “What do you want to do with this life?” I replied, “What else, but to give it to You?” I use the words ‘spoke’ and ‘replied’ because there is no other way I can describe the sound stream which was dimensionless and holistic – within, as well as without; above, as well as below. At that moment, everything was just sound and the questioner and questioned were One.
Consequently, instead of becoming a medical doctor, I then decided to join the Catholic Holy Ghost Order of the Brotherhood, as I was seeking an environment which would enable me to dedicate every moment of my life to love and service.
After eleven years of training, and eventual ordination into the Catholic priesthood, I travelled to India to see my Friend. This was in 2001. There, in His abode of Peace, I was caught in the net of His engulfing form, magnetically drawn into the blazing energy of His material Presence. He showered upon me the love of a thousand mothers, and like a child, I became attached to the physical experience of the Omnipresent Energy.
I left India that year only in body, as my soul was with Him. Paradoxically, I could not bear the separation from Him, from whom I knew was inseparable. The following year, I ran back to India like a musk deer seeking the source of its own fragrance. Prior to this time, He used to come to me – now I had to go to Him, but the meeting place was different. I started looking for Him outside of myself, and I could not find Him. So, during my second and subsequent trips, He ignored me completely and my world stopped again.
I wept and shed every drop of tear in my body, just for a glimpse of His look – if only tears could change His heart, mine would have made Him come running towards me. Hiding in the hills, under the meditation tree, I would sit in tears with a blanket over my head, so that devotees would not notice I was crying; but, like a mother who knows best for her child, He did not yield to my tantrums.
For the next nine years, He put me through a crucible of ordeals, which detached my soul of all identification and left me standing, once more, with nothing to stand upon. Accused of participating in a ‘dangerous society’, the church stripped me of all responsibilities and left me with no means of income or sustenance. Abandoned by friends, there was no one to console or counsel me. Stripped of my priestly name and prestige, my ego was burnt in the fire of its own fuel. Alone and homeless, I wandered like a madman with no purpose or destination. Swami broke my heart into pieces until there were no walls to obstruct His Light. In His blazing fire I was burnt – but I did not know it was His Love. He destroyed me so I that could know I am indestructible. I passed through death to realise that I am deathless. Yes, I lost everything to become aware that I am everything.
At first, Swami wanted me to feel His Presence; then He made me see His Presence; now, He wanted me to be His Presence. Being God is the purpose for every Divine Incarnation, and everything that happens on the path happens just for this single motive – to make us realise that we are God. What is God? God is unconditional love; God is undisturbed peace; God is unchanging truth. To know this love that makes us one with everything, to experience this Peace that remains the same in the midst of worldly ups and downs – this is the truth of our unchanging reality.
Back in the seminary, no one taught us that the Christ was within each and every one of us and that we could rise to this Christhood, as Jesus did. We were led to believe that ‘Christ’ was a personal prerogative of Jesus, even when Jesus Himself preached the contrary. Jesus once said to His followers, “The things I have done, you too can do, and greater things than these you can do.” (John 14:12) On another occasion, when the religious authorities accused Jesus of making Himself equal to God, He said to them, in accordance with the scriptures, “Yes, I am God, but you, too, are Gods.” (John 10:34; Jesus was quoting Psalms 82:6 – “I said, ‘Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High.’”)
Sai Baba made me know that Jesus’s command: “Be ye perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” (Matt 5:48) is attainable. He taught me how to awaken the ‘Christ within’ and how to manifest this power as a transforming energy in the world. Through my work in the villages, I discovered that Love in the form of service is the most powerful tool in awakening humanity to its inherent Divinity.
In the year 2011, when Sai Baba left His physical body, I discovered that I was not disturbed at all. Over the years, He had trained me to experience Him as a Living Presence. However, I was certain of one thing; His mission was incomplete and, just as Jesus ‘returned’ in the form of the Holy Ghost to continue His work through His disciples, I was certain that Sai Baba’s Living Presence would surely ‘return’ to continue His work through His devotees. In whatever manner this would happen, it would be the Avatar’s choice.
When I was told, in 2014, that Sai Baba was manifesting in the Subtle Body in the hallowed hills of Muddenahalli, I went to experience for myself the truth. During an interview, I knew spontaneously that He was the same Living Presence that had always been with me since my early childhood. Just as I did not need to see air in order to feel its life-giving force, I did not need to see Sai Baba, but I felt His Presence as my ‘soul essence’ and, as we stayed in the silence, ‘I’ (this sense of separateness) naturally dissolved into His energy, which made me One with all that is. During this interview, He talked about this Oneness and told me to write another book with the title ‘All Are One’, emphasising that the primary purpose of my birth was to bring about this Oneness.
Baba inquired about the health and welfare of our children in the children’s home in Nigeria, calling them by their native names and telling me how He was with us while we ate, prayed and played.
In mid-July 2015, Swami graciously visited our children’s home in His Subtle Body and upgraded our centre to an Ashram, which He named ‘Joy Ashram’. He explained the acronym as: ‘J = Jesus first; O = Others next; Y = Yourself last’. In our Joy Village, He is providing free Human Values-based education to hundreds of poor village children, potable drinking water to drought- stricken villages, and welfare care to homeless, orphaned and disadvantaged village children. During His visit, He instructed that, within a year, a childcare hospital should be built in the Ashram, which would expand to a super speciality hospital within a few years.
Sai Baba is a Living Presence. Through His triple incarnations, He is transforming humanity and raising our consciousness from seeing, to feeling, to being His Living Presence. Now we must be the Heart through which He loves, the hands through which He serves, the mouth through which He speaks, and the eyes through which He sees. We must be ‘Another Sai’ – ‘Alter Christus’.
Father Charles Ogada