Integrity – May 8 2019

Integrity – May 8 2019

After the appearance of The Autobiography of a Yogi, very few authentic spiritual biographies have appeared, and the writers of even those are no longer alive and available for discussion. Also, however authentic Swami Yogananda’s autobiography is, he hadn’t personally spent much time in the Himalayas. Therefore, I thought it was important that I relate my experiences, especially those I had in the Himalayas, right now, so that I am available to the reader for a one on one.

Sri M, on one of the reasons why he chose to write his

autobiography after hesitating for so many years, 

Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master: A Yogi’s Autobiography

from the forward

[This writing is from 2015, while I was on Sri M’s The Walk of Hope, in India]

Around the end of 2011, my wife, Adele, visited India with a friend. She went to a bookstore she’d been to before and asked the proprietor: what are the books you would recommend for my husband that are not available in the USA? Sri M’s autobiography was one of those books. I read it immediately when she brought it home and said, ‘I want to meet this man.’ I found that he actually was coming to the States in a few months and would be in Long Island, New York the same time as I would be working in New York City. I wrote to Sri M’s assistant and found that he was meeting people one on one.

So I made an appointment.

On the day, I took a very long train ride and then taxi to the address given, and took my place among the mostly Indian crowd awaiting my turn. After some time, Krishna Das – the American kirtan singer (sometimes known as the rockstar of yoga) – came out of the room, laughing and trading parting jokes with who I assumed was Sri M, still inside. After a few minutes, I was ushered into the room myself and introduced to the man. We spoke for a few minutes, and he invited me to a retreat he would be holding in Oregon later that summer, which I did in fact attend.

And now I am here in Varanasi, my last few days with this group.

There was one incident about two weeks back that was very impressive to me.

An Indian television reporter and cameraman were spending a couple of days with our group, making a ’24 Hours with…’ report, walking with us, following us into the various venues, interviewing Sri M and doing standups into camera. All in Hindi, of course.

At this time we were staying at the Daffodil Public School in Mirzapur and sleeping, all the men together, in one large barracks-type room of about 30 beds. (The women were one floor up in what I assume was a similar setup.)

Earlier, on the bus that transports the walkers out to the starting point and back to base, an argument broke out. I have no idea what it was about because of the language barrier, but two young men got very loud with each other. That evening, it continued or was re-ignited in our sleeping quarters, and one of the men actually raised a fist, threatening to strike the other. Not exactly what one would expect on a walk for peace, but then these people have been together for nearly a year, day in and day out, in often extraordinarily challenging circumstances. Neither Sri M nor the organizers of the march were present for either altercation, as they all are driven separately and stay in other quarters.

Shortly after the second fracas, Sri M arrived, trailed by the camera. It was clear that someone had informed Sri M of what had happened, and he walked straight in and confronted one of the two young men. Again, I don’t understand the language, but what I was told later (which matched the tone and gestures of what I saw) was that Sri M said something like, ‘If you want to hit somebody, come and hit me,’ pointing to the ground in front of himself, and telling both of the men to knock it off. When one of them argued, that Sri M had not listened to his side of the story, Sir (as he is called by all) told him to stop talking, and when he continued, told him, ‘if you say one more word you will be off the walk tomorrow,’ which ended all discussion.

He then continued, camera crew in tow, with what he had been about before, walking around talking to some of the men, at one point referencing the American as an interesting side note.

Not once did he apologize to the TV people, or seem at all concerned that the camera was rolling. Nor did he play up the conflict and his way of dealing with it. He simply was taking care of business.

This story does not speak at all to whether or not Sri M is enlightened, or has a teaching worth seeking-out; but it speaks powerfully to his character, which from what I have seen is impeccable.

And tomorrow morning I have my one on one with this author who chooses to make himself available.  All I had to do was to walk for a few days.

Today I will look for evidence of integrity in the world and in myself. I will listen to the voice within that tells me my behavior matters, and that seeks alignment with what is right, rather than what might look good in the eyes of others.

Walking with Sri M, just outside Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India