Almost everybody in the major cities of the Western world
must have read something about Benjamin Creme, if only from the sporadic full-page
spreads he bought in virtually every prominent newspaper. If nothing else,
one had to admire his nerve! We have to remember that Creme was receiving
all his messages telepathically, relying on non-mortal guides for any information
he had--and we all know how tricky telepathically-received information can
Creme was predicting the Messiah would make himself known on world-wide TV;
he even picked the weekend in question: May 22-23, 1982. The Maitraya was
to speak to each of us watching in our own native language! Yes, this was
going to be the Big One we’d all been waiting for...
Ben Creme had himself a fine old time telling everybody about it, publishing
books, going on the air, giving news conferences, and generally stirring
up a lot of Messianic fervor. But unless I missed it entirely, I don’t
believe Creme has his Maitraya yet.
At least, he doesn’t think he has! Creme was looking to the old authoritarian
model. Surely it would be too easy if some omnipotent super-terrestrial
strode onto the world stage and took over--even if there are times when
any of us might call passionately for just such an intervention. No, this
time, I suspect it’s going to have to be a bit different; perhaps
along the lines of a group entity, a collective Messiah. And I further suspect
that the Maitraya that Benjamin Creme and others so desperately want has
come and gone and done His job.
It was late September, 1982, and I was in London visiting my family when
my mother, ever happy to be on some trail, thought of contacting Benjamin
Creme. When I telephoned, a lady answered. Loving wife or bewitched acolyte
it was hard to discern; she didn’t introduce herself. Ben Creme was
out of the country, giving a lecture in Holland, but she confirmed what
I’d supposed--namely, that the Maitraya hadn’t manifested himself
as Ben had predicted, either on world-wide TV or anywhere else. Since I’d
first heard Creme’s pronouncements back in New York, I’d assumed
this speaking-in-one’s-own-language on TV would be angelically assisted--a
miracle of sort, a kind of supernatural zapping into the satellite circuits.
But it seems Ben’s man was going to do it by calling together the
world’s press and letting them translate. And what happened? I asked.
Apparently, she explained, the press couldn’t find the Maitraya. They’d
scoured the streets for a week or two, but by all accounts, no Messiah had
emerged. In Ben’s terms, the two or three people claiming to be the
Maitraya certainly weren’t all-powerful or all-knowing, and Ben had
disqualified one because he was too short!
It’s turned into a Maitraya contest, I thought, wondering where Creme
fitted into all of this: as ringmaster? Judge? The Maitraya himself, in
“But Ben feels sure the Maitraya will make himself known just as soon
as we are ready for him,” Creme’s companion hurried on. “Ben
thinks the press didn’t get behind it enough--they weren’t sufficiently
I asked about the Pakistani I’d read about, the one who’d declared
himself the Maitraya? She hastily told me there’d been two. Fortunately,
one had stepped down, so that simplified my quest. All she could tell me
was that the other claimant lived and worked in the Brick Lane area of Bethnall
Green, among the Asian communities settled there.
“But doesn’t the Maitraya of Ben’s transmissions also
work in that community?” I asked.
“Yes... Well, it can’t be the same man, because Ben says the
Maitraya is from the Himalayas and only arrived here in 1976.” Apparently
the “impostor” had arrived in England from Sri Lanka sometime
in the mid-’60s.
Well, I was more than eager to meet a man someone else had denounced as
not being the Maitraya. So the next day, my mother and I set off into the
interminably long Brick Lane.
We left the car in a sidestreet. Torn posters advertising Pakistani movies
lay in the gutter. Dilapidated shops sold a variety of heavily-scented sweetmeats,
whose pheromones swirled together with the odor of old mattresses. It was
an unloved place. The Muslim Dynamic, too, had taken it’s toll. “By
crediting Allah with all, the people have allowed too little joy into their
own lives,” an Egyptian friend had told me; and indeed, it seemed
this dis-spiritedness spread through Brick Lane like a fog.
None of the more likely-looking prospects I asked had the slightest idea
where I might find the Maitraya. Some had difficulty with the word, others
scuttled off muttering. Most just shook their heads.
A startling modern structure loomed out of the gathering mists. We were
drawn into its courtyard, in through the revolving doors to a receptionist
who told us it was Truman Brewery--ironically, smack among this teetotalling
Asian colony. Asked about the Maitraya, the nice-girl receptionist smiled
with a tolerance reserved for nuns and suggested we ask in an Indian restaurant.
Nothing seemed to be happening, nor was I aware that our feet were being
led. But when we emerged from the Brewery, there in front of us was a tiny
police station. “When in doubt,” my mother intoned, “always
ask a policeman.” And in we went.
“Er, ‘scuse me, officer, but remember all that Messiah stuff
a few months back?”
The bland-faced young fuzz smiled across the counter at me. “Ho yus,”
he said, straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan and, I suspect, putting me
on something dreadful. “Wha’ ever ‘appened to all that?
Lived darn this way, din’ ‘e? Back in Mye, warn’ it?”
He turned to his mate for confirmation.
“Had the press darn ‘ere an’ everyfing. Over on Commercial
Street, warn’ it?”
“How would you know if he was the Messiah?” my mother asked.
Not believing the set-up, the mate stammered, “’Cos ‘e’d
‘ave ‘oles in ‘is ‘ands!” and started the
slow heave of pub-roar. Midway, he caught my recoil of pain, knew he’d
overstepped the intimacy of the occasion.
“Mye twenny-secon’,” the first officer mused. “Or
was it the twenny-third? Lasted abart a week, ‘din it?” A dreamy
look came over his face at the thought of the Messiah, right there on his
beat. “Aye, but wouldn’ it ‘ave been wonderful...?”
And that was all they could tell us--apart from the Maitraya’s address
on a nearby street.
The small house was a dump. We climbed the dark, rubbish-strewn stairs.
Opening the second-floor door, I found a crammed sweat-shop full of clicking,
whirring machines and bright-eyed Pakistani lads. One detached himself from
“I’m looking for the Maitraya, I’m told he lives here....”
He didn’t understand me at first. Then I said “holy man,”
and his eyes lit up: “Ah! Sadhu, Baba...He not here right now. Back
I gave him my mother’s number and asked if the Maitraya could please
call me after nine that evening.
At ten, sure enough, the ‘phone was bleating in its strident English
“Could I speak to Ti--” He couldn’t read my writing, but
at least he could speak English! There was a moment of disequilibrium--what
does one say to a Messiah? But after a few formalities, it all came out
in a bubbling rush:
“My name is Premaratma. People around here call me Sadhu, Baba, many
names...” He told me he was born in Sri Lanka in 1926 and had come
to England in ‘66. Then, taking the bull by the horns, he said he’d
known for thirty years that he was the Maitraya. He’d been told by
holy men back in Sri Lanka but at the time, hadn’t understood what
After reading one of Benjamin Creme’s press conferences, the publicity
for which he’d stumbled upon merely by “chance,” Creme’s
pronouncements had started him wondering--after all, he did work in the
Brick Lane area! But he had sat quiet for two years and had become confident
enough to announce himself only when the press and all the people had descended
on the Lane that week of May 22nd. Some of the articles, he said proudly,
had reached all of two or three million people. I couldn’t tell if
he meant this constituted enough of an audience to count as a “world-wide
I found myself starting to feel sorry for the guy. He was so evidently happy
I’d called, so open and enthusiastic and lacking in any of the kind
of sophistication I might have anticipated from a Messiah. I could see why
Creme didn’t think Baba was his man. What had gone awry? I wondered.
“There’s much Mr. Creme doesn’t know...” He wanted
to meet us, he said, he’d even been waiting for us! “There’s
so much to tell you....”
I set a time for the following weekend and arranged to meet him outside
the little house.
When my companion, newly arrived from New York, and I arrived that next
Sunday afternoon, Premaratma was waiting outside the terraced shop in which
It was unmistakably him: small, a little plump, with sweet, delicate features
breaking into a broad smile of recognition. Wide-set grey-blue eyes twinkling
amid the scrunchy crinkles. Yin softness to the skin on his face and hands.
Yet his grip was a whole lot firmer than I might have foreseen.
As he led us upstairs, I saw he’d wound his hair into a bulbous spiral
that lay like a soft beret on the tilt of his head. He ushered us through
the family sweat-shop (not his, apparently) and into a tiny office at the
rear of the building. Its one redeeming feature was a room-wide factory
window, now open in part to allow the rays of an English autumn sun to fill
it with gold.
It was in those first few moments that we all knew each other. Soft as a
whisper, a spirit fell over the three of us--a far deeper communication,
well beyond our rational grasp. We all felt a connection set up, and our
spiritual minds joined together in a new way.
I recognized the nature of this communion from other encounters, and am
now starting to comprehend the rapport somewhat better. It seems to appear
among Spirit-led individuals whom we have come to perceive as the spiritual
nobility of our times--just those people who, I have suggested, may be carrying
the baraka of the collective Messiah. The sensation is that of witnessing,
of a detached wonderment that inevitably leads to a still deeper appreciation
of the Indwelling Divine Spark in all of us. It is heartfelt and not a matter
for words and intellects.
The richness of the moment passed, and we settled down to hear his story:
He’d been born in Sri Lanka of an honored and illustrious family--proud
and independent people of the land. His great-grandfather became known as
the Maitraya to his people and, according to Baba’s researches, the
old man had single-handedly fermented enough righteous indignation in the
populace to secure the great nationwide land reforms of the 1840s. (Somehow,
I felt I should have heard of them.)
They were staunchly spiritual people, too, with a cultivated acquaintance
with the inner life, born of the interactions of Buddhism and Hinduism meeting
and blossoming on their doorstep. And there was a considerable Western influence
as well. C.W. Leadbetter, one of the most spiritually knowledgeable forces
in the last hundred years, attended Baba’s father’s guru. In
fact, that is why Theosophy was first drawn to Ceylon:
“Madame Blavatsky had a vision while sitting in...Green Park, I think
it was, in London. A beautiful young indian guide appeared to her in a cloud
of light and told her the answer to her quest lay in Lanka.” There
was no hint at self-aggrandizement; Baba was simply unfolding it as he saw
In childhood, he’d always been spiritually inclined and from an early
age had devoted his life to religious studies. On two separate occasions
he had been told, under rather remarkable conditions, that he was indeed
the Maitraya. In one of them, the sadhu in question had fairly leaped at
him, bowling him over with the energy and certitude with which he assured
him that he, Baba, was the Maitraya.
In a curious way, Baba told us, these incidents hadn’t really registered
on him, strange though he’d thought them at the time. Indeed, thirty
years later he’d all but forgotten then when into his hands fell a
Los Angeles Times article describing one of Mr. Creme’s press conferences.
And there it was--the Maitraya, alive and well and living in the Brick Lane!
This was two years ago, after he’d already been in England a full
fourteen years. He’d moved around a bit before being drawn to live
and work in tis particular community. Now he was known and accepted by everybody:
Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists all regarded him as a holy man, and he moved
freely between otherwise dissenting groups. He had not pursued the Creme
situation; information would just show up at the right time. He pointed
to a pile of newspapers and magazines which, together with some religious
books, lay on the floor next to my metal folding chair. Every so often,
he would reach over and scrabble through them, although I noticed he had
them in chronological sequence. I dreaded having him read us the whole bundle!
My companion, fresh off the plane, had settled down onto Baba’s sleeping
mat. He, ever solicitous, unwrapped a new blanket for her. Presumably celibate
all or most of his life, he was unaccustomed to the ways of women, but discreetly
“And what actually happened on the weekend of May 22nd?” I asked.
Well, he’d watched the journalists scouring the streets for the Maitraya
they’d been told would be awaiting them with open arms. But it wasn’t
to be as easy as that; the post was evidently a coveted one. A young Pakistani--evidently
the one we’d heard about in New York--a self-styled “representative
of the government in exile” (and even Baba had wondered what that
might have meant!) had stepped up and claimed the title. Benjamin Creme
had chosen to meet the pretender in a local Brick Lane tea shop. And in
one of those odd little synchronicities that pepper Baba’s tale, Baba
had chanced to be walking by at the time. He recognized Creme from newspaper
photos and sat down to join their debate. No doubt Ben Creme had been unconvinced
by the Pakistani, since within ten minutes the exiled official had forsworn
the Maitraya bit and had pledged himself to Premaratma as his disciple!
Baba, so it seems, did not go into his feelings about his own status at
that point. The press never did find him, nor any other Maitraya, and hurried
back to their usual murders and mayhem. But amongst all this coming and
going, some canny young American searchers, alerted by Creme’s publicity
blitz, were sniffing around. One, said Baba, kept being led to his door.
Every trail he’d followed inevitably pointed in Premaratma’s
direction, and he’d managed to turn others onto Baba’s Maitrayahood.
Baba himself had remained strictly ambivalent: It did not feel seemly to
him to make such a claim. If it was to become known gradually, in the natural
course of events, then so be it; but from his hesitations, I could see he
felt he was stepping into someone else’s dream.
The Americans had been insistent, so he had told them his story. Creme had
heard about it and, not recalling him as the small, shy man who’d
had tea with them a few days back, had agreed to a press interview with
his newly-found Maitraya. Thus it was on the radio that Benjamin Creme,
in his self-appointed role of Messiah-maker, busted poor Baba’s chops,
exposing him as an impostor.
By this time, of course, Baba was bewildered. He’d done what they
all wanted, against his better judgment, and they had rejected him because
he was too short! Did that make him any less the Maitraya? He knew there
was no one else working the Brick Lane area with any such notions, yet Ben
Creme continued to insist that his Maitraya was well-known in the Asian
community and gave numerous public meetings.
With this comical, rather sad story out of the way, we started exploring
more substantial issues. For Baba, cosmic consciousness is the central point
of Buddhism. In his experience, no other teaching had outlined so clearly
the paths and pratfalls of an ongoing relationship with the Inner Divinity.
When I asked about the lack of a personal god in Buddhism, he said that
cosmic consciousness brought about a real awareness of God, and only then
was it possible to have any real depth of understanding of a personal Deity.
He saw it as Man’s greatest adventure--first to acquire cosmic consciousness,
and then to know and love the Atman, the Divine Inner Spark.
The sun slewed in through the commercial metal window. Motes of dust from
the stacks of journals eddied and swirled, defining the beams that bathed
us all in light. In the silence, the lines of the world met in Baba; the rhythms
of generations of God-realization joined and centered on this small, delicate
man. In those moments, he spoke as the Maitraya.
In sing-song Pali, the Buddha’s original spoken language, he chanted
the eight sutras--teachings the Buddha gave immediately after receiving
his enlightenment. The echoing melody of the words had a power to them,
a loving wisdom quite outside and beyond what they might have meant. Translating
them for us, Baba dedicated each to all our mutual activities ahead. Again
in Pali, he evoked the Devas, especially the Old Ones--those whom we might
call the Energy Beings who hold together the physical fabric of the planet
and solar system.
We, in turn, asked our Angelic friends--whom we imagined coursing happily
around the entire encounter--to bless the Maitraya Premaratma with their
joyous presence. There, among the host of super-mortal Beings, we shared
fruit together and knew that this great collective entity, this Group Soul
that is starting to overshadow so many of us, had taken another casually
personal step forward. The Indwelling Spirit in each of us had let us to
this meeting, had shown us through personal experience, as well as through
signs and intimations, still further aspects in the coming-together of the
evolving Supreme Deity.
In the calmness among us, we rose to leave. Baba silently kneeled down to
kiss our shoes. At this gesture, we shuffled our democratic feet. “Is
this part of it?” I asked. “Is this what one does?”
Taken aback by my frankness, Baba smiled and assured us that it was merely
the way of his people.
“Well, here’s one from the ways of our people,” my companion
chuckled, giving him the biggest hug he had probably ever received. His
little arms dangled by his waist in surprise, quite unable to make the reciprocal
shapes, and then we all three burst into happy laughter.
Before leaving London, I gave the Messiah-meister Benjamin Creme another
call. This time, he was in. He had nothing new to add, insisting it was
the media’s fault for not showing sufficient interest and that his
man was still lying low, waiting for His time to come.
I probed him a bit on the collective Messiah concept that had felt so right
to Baba. But he would have none of it, reasserting that the literally omnipotent
and omniscient Maitraya would be making a personal appearance in the flesh.
“Well,” I asked, “don’t you think it would be plain,
old boring if someone just stepped in and did it all for us?”
He didn’t have an answer for that one!
In the final analysis, however, Ben Creme centered a lot of awareness on
the coming of a Spiritual Being and raised a great deal of passionate Messianic
interest. He was, in all likelihood, playing a different and vastly more
complex role in the Master Game than even he imagined. After all, regardless
of his unfulfilled predictions, he became something of a collecting point
for a whole host of Spirit-oriented people.
And then again, perhaps he did know more than he was saying. He ended our
conversation with a phrase he had reiterated a couple of times in the course
of our talk: “Baba is a very nice man, I’m sure, but he’s
no more the Maitraya than you or I.”