Punditt Maharaj is one of the greatest, and probably least known spiritual masters in the world. While there are many people who benefited from his spiritual healing, he rarely discussed his work. Learning from Pundit was never an easy thing.
I have been Punditt’s closest student for over twenty years, and it was rare for him to tell me anything about what he did spiritually, and how he did it. For my part, I spent most of that time not discussing the profound spiritual experiences that happened. English under-reaction was almost always the order of the day. I could be seeing incredible visions (which could be terrible as well as beautiful), but I had to act as though my experiences were so mundane, beneath any kind of comment. This also meant that I suffered a lot. You would not believe how long the Dark Night of the Soul can last. For me it was many years of excruciating pain permeating every part of my body, soul and being, during waking, dreaming and sleeping. There was no escape, no respite. When the pain started, Punditt said it would go quickly. This was one of the greatest spiritual understatement he ever made. The pain would move around my body at will. If the pain got too much, I would ask Punditt for help, but invariably the hurt would increase. I quickly learnt that painkillers were useless, and that I should learn stoicism. So while Punditt would not discuss anything spiritual, he also expected me to live life, go out, have girlfriends and earn money. I found myself working on Brighton seafront doing tarot readings, which could not have given me a greater contrast between the sacred and profane.
While Punditt rarely discussed spirituality to English people, he was more forthcoming in Urdu, his native language. I only learnt a few words in Urdu, but natives told me that in his own language he spoke on spirituality at levels they could barely comprehend. When I visited his family in Pakistan in 1994, he was always given great respect by everyone who met him, even though he made a point of not going to the Mosque for Friday prayers.
Spending time with Punditt
Punditt is as much an enigma to me now as he was when I first met him. He was born in India. His grandfather was chief astrologer to a number of Maharajahs, the super-rich before Partition and the modern Indian state. Punditt was no stranger to opulence as went with his grandfather to visit grand palaces around India. Punditt’s father spent many years in Cairo and Alexandria reading palms for the rich and famous during the 1920s. Punditt always dressed extremely smartly, and so it was something of a shock when I visited his flat in Hove – it was actually a tiny one room bedsit. He lived incredibly modestly, but that did not stop him being extravagant and frivolous with money. He could start the day by borrowing a fiver from me, and up with thousands of pounds, or he could start the day with thousands of pounds, and end up borrowing the taxi money from me.
It was impossible to know what mood he would be in, and whether he approved of me or not. When I first met Punditt I was vegetarian, teetotal, and meditating for six hours a day. He skilfully changed that over the next year. It started with tots of Baileys, which became half pints of lager to pints, then whisky and vodka. He insisted on having a party at my house, which involved purchasing a chicken from the supermarket to make curry. To refuse a Master is a dangerous thing to do, so with some trepidation I went along with it all. An off-licence was over the road, so there was plenty of alcohol. Punditt brought cassette tapes of the great Sufi Master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, whose Qawali songs are legendary in Pakistan. I was fortunate enough to meet Nusrat some years later when he sang in Brighton with his band. We had many evenings with Punditt, drinking, cooking curry, dancing and listening to Qawali. Those were magical days. Every day all sorts of spirits would appear in some form or another. Sometimes Punditt would be transformed by spirits – they spoke through him. Objects would move or disappear. There would be strange noises, all kinds of things. I got so used to these events that they were barely worth commenting upon. Although Punditt would tell me almost nothing, that did not stop him being more forthcoming with the few intimate friends that came to these parties. To this day, I have friends going back years who never got to meet him. Those that did will certainly have great memories. Funnily enough I would always introduce girlfriends to Punditt, which, looking back must have been pretty strange for them.
Mistakes are part of Spiritual growth
All through this I had to earn a living, so I worked as a chef in a pizza restaurant. Many extraordinary spiritual experiences happened, often while I was working hard on a Saturday evening. The spirits would engineer many strange situations that I had to deal with. For many years, I was under the impression that Punditt would sort things out for me, but it eventually dawned on me that I had to do things for myself. I told him this, and he simply said, “If you make a mistake, don’t worry, I’ll fix it.” I made an incredible amount of mistakes doing spiritual work. He was forever correcting and fixing the messes I created. To be fair, he would always disappear just before something momentous was about to happen, so I had to do the work on my own.
I was desperately trying to find out about Punditts in books. Punditt assured me there were plenty of books, but he did not specify where. Fortunately Brighton has a number of good esoteric bookshops. Kabbalism seemed a fruitful area, particularly as there were few good books on Sufism. After some years studying Kabbalism, I was sitting having a drink with Punditt in his favourite hotel. It occurred to me that I should try ‘Tikkun’, or Rectification. Without saying anything I did the Tikkun, and Punditt immediately turned to me and said “thank you”. If only I realised that I had to do more to help Punditt, but he never discussed it with me. I thought that as he is a Master, he didn’t need my help. My researches took me on to the Golden Dawn, and eventually to Aleister Crowley.
Finding hidden knowledge in books
Here is a good example of the strength and breadth of the knowledge expected of a Punditt. Punditt went to Manchester to spend time with his family. He rang me a week later, and asked me to come up as soon as possible. I took the train to London, and popped into Atlantis bookshop on the way to Euston Station. On the shelf was a battered second-hand book by Crowley’s student Kenneth Grant, whose books are notoriously Dark. The book was £50, but I knew that I would not see another copy for a long while. I read most of the book on the train journey up to Manchester. A few days passed, and Punditt got ill. This has happened before, so I was not too worried, but he got worse, and I realised I would have to do something about it spiritually. I tried everything I knew, including a few things I didn’t know, and if anything Punditt got worse. I was getting desperate, and then I remembered reading something in Kenneth Grant’s book. I found the passage, which had large disclaimers and warnings about the nature of the practice. I thought about it for several days, while Punditt deteriorated. I had no alternative. I went for a walk in the local park, and did what was suggested in the book. When I went back to the house half an hour later, Punditt was already getting better! Now, with the long passage of time there is no reason I do not tell you what it was that I did. Unfortunately, when I went to look in the book later that day, to confirm what I had done, and see if there was anything else I could do, the passage had disappeared! It was gone. Since then there have been several occasions where I have read things in books that have later disappeared. Spirits work in strange ways.