Published in MAI LIFE MAGAZINE December, 2010
"Mai Word with J.S. Bhagwan"
It’s eleven at night. I’m squatting over my laptop, in a frantic effort to finish this month’s column as Ric the Smaller is sending me positive affirmations of “hurry up I need to go to print!” My wife is squatting next to me, over her laptop, in a not so frantic effort to finish a presentation, pausing only to change the DVD, take fluff out of her navel and play with the children’s happy-meal toys. She leans over to have a conversation only to receive a terse response. “Stop bothering me! I’m trying to be funny!”
As someone who believes and propagates the concepts of resurrection, ascension and eternal life, it may sound strange for me to refer to a past life experience. However, considering that recently the wife of a lay-pastor mistook my wife (who often refers to me as looking as if I am older than the mountains) for my daughter, perhaps this short life has been lived in alternate or parallel universes.
So think my sisters who still remember me as the baby koala bear they adopted from the Taronga Zoo in 1974, who grew up to be a blonde TV music show host slash “pardy-harder” and have to be reminded by their colleagues to call me “Reverend James” when introducing me publically. So think the youth of my congregation when I try to rattle them out of their virtual world by regaling them with stories of my youth. So think my children who wonder if their grandfather was indeed “Papa Phantom”, which makes daddy the ghost who farts.
However in a past life as a radio slash television slash almost film producer, I encountered some who not only claim to have had past life experiences, but insist that they have seen me there as well.
On a sojourn in Santa Monica, I had the hard task of living for about six weeks in the Miramar Hotel, which has the honour of having the address 101 Wilshire Boulevard, meaning that (a) it’s just up from the Pacific Ocean and by (a very long) extension not far from Suva; (b) a lot off posh people stay there. I have had cocktails and canapés with film stars, just by showing up at the bar, once bumped into (literally) Sir Anthony “Hannibal the Cannibal” in the hotel shop, and was told to try the spa and sauna by Michael “Batman/Beetlejuice” Keaton.
I apart from the stars, I also encountered the starry-eyed. No, not people with “stars in their eyes” people who seem to be from another planet. It is unavoidable in Hollywood. Movie-executives who after dinner over coffee that they find your aura interesting, then call you to say that they were meditating and remembered that they met you in a past life. Great. So who were we? David and Goliath, Pharoah and Moses, wait... I have it Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (this is America afterall).. no it is Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. The twist being I was supposed to have been Cleopatra!
Then there was the time when I met Napoleon Bonaparte, which was fine only that a couple of weeks later I met another Napoleon Bonaparte. I never get to put them into the same room to see if there would be some cosmic reaction.
Interestingly enough, most of the people with past life experiences that I met, never once owned up to having been anyone else but famous people in a past life. There were one or two honest enough to admit to having been a maid in the middle ages, a cobbler or a lowly high priestess. But put them in the company of the former Alexander the Greats, Florence Nightingales, Crusaders and the like (off course no one wanted to have been a slave or even just a primitive jungle tribal person). I never met Elvis, although I was reliably told by Jim Morrison of the Doors, who runs an “incense and pipe shop on Santa Monica’s 3rd Street Promenade that, “Elvis lives in Vegas.” Sure, why not?
The most confusing were two women and a man who were convinced that they were Princess Diana and Mother Teresa and Gandhi. Strange because the one who was the reincarnation of Princess Diana was born not only before Diana died, but before Diana was even born! Strange because the former Mother Teresa (again born before “she” had died) had vivid memories of growing up among the poor in Calcutta (Teresa was from Albania). Weird because the gentleman kept referring to his past life as Mahatma Indira Gandhi!
As Christmas is approaching and we start to organise the parties, feasts, presents and reminders for our once a year appearance at church to celebrate sweet baby Jesus’ 2010th (or 2016th – for historians) birthday it is important that we focus not on the life we had, or wish we had, or that we could borrow who has the life we wish we had, but the life we have right now. The people we are with right now matter.
Well, that’s what one of the wise men told me and the other shepherds in that stable the night the shining star led them to find the promised king....
A Happy and Holy Christmas to you and yours!
A sunbaked, self-confessed Jesus-freak, Padre James Bhagwan preaches at Dudley Methodist Chuch ,teaches at Davuilevu Theological College and beaches as only a human whale can at the nearest swimming pool when not playing with his children and driving his wife around the bend.