Even though I was brought up in a strict Jewish Orthodox household, there has always been an attraction to India. I can well remember perusing books about Varanasi as a child, and something seemed to pull me spiritually in that direction. I much preferred Ramakrishna to Moses. Having joined the school of meditation in London in 1975, I felt that I really needed to visit India as many questions had arisen which I thought could only be answered by an enlightened soul (hard to come by in the UK). So in 1991, I set off to meet the Shankaracharya in Allahabad, but decided to go to Varanasi first for no particular reason.
I found myself in an ashram on the banks of Varanasi, face to face with another great saint of India: Aghoreshwar Bhagwan Ram. Having stayed there for a couple of days, my attitude was completely transformed. I came to that place wondering how I could help myself. Upon departing, my question was now 'how can I help other people'. Quite a turn around for me I must say. Later on the trip, I did not meet the Shankaracharya... there was no need! Alas, Aghoreshwar passed away the following year and I had no further contact with the Aghor Foundation until 2007.
My wife Sue and I went on holiday to India in 2006. We went to Varanasi, as I thought she might feel some spiritual attraction to the city. She hated it! On that trip, out of the blue she suggested that I ought to come out and do some voluntary work. Dong!!! The bells started to ring.
On my return to the UK, I got in touch with the Aghor Foundation in Sonoma County, California, the leader of whom was a disciple of Aghoreshwar. His name is Harihar Ram and we met in Varanasi in the winter of 2007. It seemed like a good idea to work out of the ashram in Lanka Varanasi which is called Bal Ashram. Orphaned children are taken in and cared for in the most compassionate way. I was hooked! The mix of service to society and spirituality was right up my street. The big question was now how to put it into practice?