Select a story
to read

The Freedom in Surrender

House of Prema  - Gifts from an Aged Mentor

Over the years a number of quite extraordinary people have graced our house by staying for a few days of leisurely chatting about ‘life and everything’. Perhaps the most remarkable was the late Howard Murphet who was already 93 years-old when he accepted our invitation to visit us during 2000 and 2001.

Many thousands of spiritual seekers throughout the world know Howard as the Australian freelance journalist and author who wrote six top-selling books on Sri Sathya Sai Baba, the most impressive ‘Man of Miracles’ to appear for centuries. Prior to these works he wrote biographies on the founders of the Theosophical Society, Madam H.P. Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Steel Olcott.

This wonderful man, right up to his ‘crossing of the River Jordon’ – as Howard would say – had a profound influence upon me (Ron). Suwanti loved him dearly too, but it was as if some Higher Power had arranged a mentor for me just after my sixtieth birthday, one whose living example would release something within me that I had been holding back from – out of fear, caution, shyness maybe.

    Perhaps the most powerful influence that Howard had on me during his all-too-few visits was his total life’s commitment to the Search, to ‘The Way of the Pilgrim’. We had many conversations on the topic of the unity of God and creation. He was always so passionate about it. With powerful heartfelt tones his voice would ring out, arms rising up involuntarily as if reaching to a higher place: “There is only one God, one Being! Everything that is real in the universe is God!”

    Now I’d met a few full-on preachers in my life, but it’s as if they were trying to convince me that I had to love God or Jesus or the Holy Bible in the same way that they did. This was different. Howard wasn’t out to convince me that he was right or that I should be like him; he was just being Howard, bursting forth in his love and yearning for unison with the Highest, like a bird breaking into song right after the rain just because it has to – the joy and exhilaration cannot be contained, it has to be celebrated in sound.

    And this was not just a man who had ‘found God’ and was carried away in a flood of sentimentality. No, this was a world-traveller-seeker who had studied the most advanced esoteric spiritual texts and who could simplify it all in language both thrilling and profound. Here is something he said to me when I was interviewing him as part of his final book (’The Way to Love Divine’) at the venerable age of ninety-seven.

    There is only the One without a second; there is no second God. Now we must understand that we are all Gods, all Gods having a human experience. Most of us, all of us really, have forgotten our identity. We are ‘Gods with amnesia’, as I sometimes say. Our only great purpose here on Earth is to find out our true identity and then we’ll be prepared to take the journey home.

    I can attest to the fact that this is indeed what drove Howard in all of his waking moments – to think, feel and act as if the Higher Power was in residence throughout his body, to regard and relate to others as a mirror reflection of the Divinity within himself, and to react to all events impinging upon him as acts designed and set in motion by God, by his Satguru, Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

    His living example, spontaneously and also purposefully lived, had a profound effect upon me over the four years we were close in his final years. I found myself becoming more ardent in my own spiritual journey, resolving to love everyone the same, and being more diligent in remembering that ‘I’ am not this body and mind and thence to ask “Who am I?” in deepening self-enquiry.

    I have a photo on a small table in my study of Howard and I in a joyful, loving embrace. Each time I look at it I am reminded of his free spirit. Here was a man who, although learned in so many ways – at ease with the profound esoteric texts in both Western and Eastern spirituality, able to recite from memory hundreds of poems which offered a message of transcendental hope and purpose – he never sought after security, power, status nor recognition as most of us do. His was a simple life: he lived to delve into the eternal question of ‘Why am I here?’, and in turn to write about what he was discovering.

    I am actually writing these words at a table in the guest house attached to the Norbulingka Institute, a Tibetan Buddhist centre in Dharamsala, northern India (May, 2007). My view looks out on the Himalayan Mountains and the Dalai Lama is in residence just a few kilometres away. Sitting here reminds me of the adventurer Howard Murphet. At the age of 59 he came to India ‘in search of Godmen’, those living elevated souls who had attained complete mastery over mind, body and also the material world, those who were all-knowing, all-loving, bliss-filled, and around whom miracles abounded. During the search he came here to Dharamsala and had a private audience with His Holiness.

    Howard, Suwanti and I found ourselves swept up in our beautiful friendship when I had just turned sixty, 33 years younger than he. As I grew to know and appreciate him I realised that it was around my age that he had set out on a journey which was to radically change his life and how he perceived the world. His example inspired me, gave me courage, and a new zest for the ‘Search’, the ‘Quest’, the journey to discover the ‘Higher Self’ that lies within, hidden behind the veil of concepts, fears, desires and prejudices.

    I said to Suwanti: “Howard has come into my life to reactivate my spiritual hunger.” I determined that I would follow his example, to not retire until the race was run.

    Although Howard left his physical form over four years ago I am very conscious of his guiding, loving presence, particularly when I am writing. A few weeks before he ‘crossed over’, I asked him if he would find a way to continue guiding both my mind and my pen. He replied that, although it was very difficult (from what he had read) for a departed soul to influence events in this ongoing life, he would do his very best to discover how to be of assistance. So very often – as right now – I feel that he is honouring that heartfelt commitment.

    Just three days ago I journeyed with Suwanti and our two friends, John Fitzgerald and ‘adopted’ Tibetan son Chhonge, high up in the Himalayas to Gangatri, through which the sacred Ganges River flows. There on the banks of the fast-flowing Ganga (as it is called here), we were treated to an ancient ritual in which we offered our ‘little self’ to the waters of the holy river. I laughed and sobbed in the sacredness and relief of the moment, silently yet fully. And again it is Howard to whom I am indebted for this freedom to release. So often we’d be talking about some aspect of beauty or truth, or he’d be relating a story about a truly loving being, and his voice would break as his body convulsed with sobs, ‘bliss tears’ (as he called them) streaming down his face from his sightless eyes, and then joy-filled laughter as he was ushered into a purer level of consciousness after the great ‘letting-go’. This scene, so powerful and intimate, so often repeated, always affected me deeply, as it did Suwanti also. Somehow his sobs and tears and then joy left us feeling cleansed, as if in the presence of something awesome and holy. And then he would continue with the story or conversation as if nothing had happened, and we’d all be different, changed somehow. Yes, a truly great man called Howard Murphet came to stay at ‘House of Prema’, leaving an impression on our minds and hearts which grows sweeter with every passing day.

    We trust you enjoyed the story.

    Until next time;
    With our special love,


    With love,
    Ron and Su Farmer

    click here for word doc of this article