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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

The Yogi

Monday, 28 September 2009 / Published in Indradyumna Swami / 5,221 views

Diary of a Traveling Preacher – Volume 10, Chapter 15 – August 24 – September 1, 2009

By Indradyumna Swami

The day after our last festival in Poland, I boarded a flight for India and landed the next morning in Delhi. I was going down a flight of stairs leading to Immigration and Customs when my knees buckled and I began to fall. A large man grabbed me from behind in the nick of time.

“You OK, buddy?” he said as he helped me down the last few steps.

“Thanks,” I said. “I’m fine. It’s probably from the long flight.”

It wasn’t true. I knew that two and a half months on the Polish festival tour had taken their toll. On the last day of harinama I stopped the chanting party early and told everyone to go back to the festival site. For the first time in thirty-eight years, I couldn’t go another step. It was then that I decided not to go to Russia, as I had planned, but to go to Vrindavan and recuperate as well as read and chant.

I continued walking toward Immigration and Customs. “It’s just a fact of life,” I thought shrugging off my mishap. “I’m getting older.”

Srila Prabhupada spoke about getting older while walking with his disciples on the beach at Jagannatha Puri.

“‘I was jumping here,’ he laughed. ‘In 1920 or ’21 I came here… I came after appearing for my B. A. examination. And because I was jubilant, I was jumping. When the waves came I was jumping. Now it is fifty-seven years after… Now I am walking with stick… the body has changed.'”

[Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita, Volume 6, Chapter 7]

I was met at the airport by my disciple Narottama Das Thakura das. “It’s still early,” I told him, “but I don’t feel like sitting in a car for another four hours on the way to Vrindavan. I’d rather walk and chant my rounds in a park in Delhi. Besides, I need to pick up some supplies before we continue.”

An hour later we were strolling through a scenic park. It had been raining for a week, so everything was fresh and green. Exotic birds flew here and there, and the ponds were full of yellow and pink lotuses. Some people were walking, others were jogging, and several were doing various kinds of group exercises.

“This would be called a botanic garden in the West,” I said to Narottama, “and it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain each year. But here it’s simply part of the natural beauty of India.”

After walking for a while we came to a small grove of trees. I looked at it and then quickly looked again. “Narottama,” I said, “is that someone meditating in that little grove?”

Narottama squinted. “Looks like it, Srila Gurudeva,” he said.

“It’s a classic picture,” I said, reaching for my camera, “the old trees, the lake with the lotuses… ”

As I focused my lens and composed the shot I could see that the person doing yoga was not a casual practitioner but someone serious. The pose he was doing was extremely difficult, and his demeanor made him look like a sage of antiquity. He was thin, with long white wavy hair, and his piercing green eyes seemed to be focused within, not outwardly.

Fixed in his position, he didn’t move an inch, and he seemed oblivious to everything around him. Slowly he changed asanas, going through what appeared to be a long and practiced routine. After taking several photos, I waited until it seemed he had finished his exercises and walked over to the grove.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said as he slowly opened his eyes. “Do you practice yoga here every day?”

“Yes,” he replied, “for eight to ten hours a day.”

“How long have you been practicing here?” I asked.

He thought for a moment. “For forty years,” he said.

“That’s amazing,” I said. “Forty years for ten hours a day. And do you work?”

“This is my work,” he said, “getting free from samsara, the cycle of birth and death.”

“I understand,” I said, “but generally yogis live in the Himalayas, not big cities like Delhi.”

“It makes no difference if you go within,” he said.

“Have you been to the Himalayas, to Hrsikesh or Haridwar?” I said.

“No,” he replied. “I’ve never been outside of Delhi.”

“That’s interesting,” I said, glancing at Narottama, who stood next to me with his mouth open. “And how did you start practicing yoga?”

“I met my guru when I was nine, at this exact spot,” he said. “He had come out of the Himalayas and was on his way to the Kumbha-mela in Prayag.

“I was playing here with my friends when I saw him meditating. My friends made fun of him, but I was curious. After they left I sat with him and discussed spiritual topics. I had always been interested in such things, even as a small child.

“He kindly stayed here for several weeks and taught me much of what he knew. I mastered many yogic asanas very quickly. It came naturally to me. He told me if I was serious and continued practicing, one day I would see the Paramatma, the Lord within my heart. Since then, I have come every day to this park and meditated.”

“Did you finish your education?” I said.

He laughed. “No,” he said. “I never went back to school. I live in a small room nearby. Sometimes I walk to other parts of Delhi to teach yoga.”

“Have you seen the Paramatma?” I said.

“Not yet,” he replied, closing his eyes to begin meditating again.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I am interested …”

He opened his eyes again.

“What scriptures do you study?” I said.

“The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,” he said. He relaxed for a moment.

“And you?” he said. “What scriptures do you study?”

“The Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam,” I said.

“Can you quote them?” he said.

“Yes, of course,” I said. I thought for a moment to choose a verse relevant to our meeting. Then I quoted this verse:

vadanti tat tattva vidas tattvam yaj jnanam advayam brahmeti paramatmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this non-dual substance Brahman, Paramatma or Bhagavan.”

[Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.11]

“I read that recently,” he said.

“In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras?” I said.

“No,” he replied, “in the Bhagavatam.” He picked up a book that was lying nearby. “It was given to me by another sadhu several months ago. I’m enjoying it. In fact, I had a dream of Lord Krsna last night.”

He laughed. “And now Lord Krsna’s devotees have come,” he said

“Baba,” I said. “What is your name?”

“Om Prakash,” he replied.

Just then I got an inspiration. “Om Prakash,” I said, “why don’t you come with us to Vrindavan? We’re leaving in a few hours. Vrindavan is one of the holiest places in India, and it’s only ninety miles from here, on the way to Agra. I can’t imagine you haven’t been there in all these years.”

“Here or there, it makes no difference,” he said, preparing to return to his yoga.

“True,” I said. “One can be spiritually enlivened anywhere if one knows the process, but at the same time, places where the Supreme Lord appeared and performed His pastimes are spiritually surcharged, especially Vrindavan. One can easily obtain pure love of God there.”

Om Prakash’s thick gray eyebrows went up.

“I’ll take care of you while you’re there,” I said. “I would consider it service to a sadhu.”

He stood up. “All right,” he said. “I am going there now. Which direction is it?”

“This very second?” I said. “If you can’t wait for us, here’s three hundred rupees. There’s a bus stop just down the road.”

He took the money in his chaddar. “I guess he doesn’t want to touch it with his hand,” I thought.

“We have some errands to do in Delhi before we go,” I said. “We’ll meet you there this afternoon. This is Narottama’s cell phone number. You can call us from a public phone when you arrive.”

I wrote the number on a piece of note paper and handed it to him. He bent down, picked up his few belongings, wrapped them carefully in a cloth, and started walking out of the park.

“That’s India,” I said to Narottama as we watched him leave. “Only here can you meet people like him, who on a moment’s notice can just pick up and go without any prior arrangement. It’s incredible.”

When the stores in Delhi opened at 10:00 am, we began our shopping. An hour later Narottama’s cell-phone rang. It was Om Prakash. “He’s already in Vrindavan,” said Narottama. “He went straight there.”

I smiled. “He’s a focused person,” I said.

“He’s using the public phone opposite the ISKCON temple,” Narottama said. “He wants to know what he should do next.”

“Direct him to the Krsna-Balarama tree on the parikrama marga and have him wait there until we arrive,” I said.

We met Om Prakash in Vrindavan that afternoon. As I expected, he was absorbed in meditation. “Arrange a room for him in the place where you’re staying,” I said to Narottama, “and some prasada.”

I called Narottama the next morning. “How’s it going?” I asked.

“We’ve been up since before dawn,” Narottama said, “and we’ve already visited the seven main temples in Vrindavan.”

“Great,” I said. “How does Om Prakash like Vraja?”

“He’s in awe. Now we’re off to bathe in the Yamuna,” Narottama said.

That afternoon during lunch, Om Prakash was studying me carefully. “You’re not in good shape,” he said. “You look exhausted. You’re bent over, and you have circles under your eyes. Why?”

I thought for a moment. “You’ve been sitting in one place doing yoga for forty years,” I said. “I’ve been traveling and preaching the Gita in the West for the same amount of time.”

“Then I will teach you yoga,” he said. “It will improve your condition dramatically.”

I had never desired to practice yoga, but when Om Prakash offered to teach me I accepted. That evening on the veranda, he gave me my first lesson. It soon became apparent that he was as enthusiastic to share the process of astanga-yoga with me as I was bhakti-yoga with him. One by one, he took me through the classic yoga asanas. But I could not keep up with him, and I fell back against a wall. He seemed disturbed.

“Be patient,” I told him. “You started at nine years of age. I’m starting at sixty.”

Later, as we were resting after taking prasadam, I spoke to him. “Om Prakash,” I said, “you’re accomplished in astanga-yoga, but in the Gita, Krsna says:

“‘yoginam api sarvesam mad gatenantar atmana sraddhavan bhajate yo mam sa me yuktatamo matah

“‘And of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in Me, thinks of Me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to Me – he is the most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all. That is My opinion.'”

[Bhagavad-gita 6.47]

“Through jnana-yoga and astanga-yoga one can obtain divine knowledge and mystic powers,” I said. “But that’s not enough to satisfy the heart. The soul yearns for love, or bhakti, and Krsna is the supreme lover. That’s why pilgrims come here to Vrindavan, to find Krsna.”

Om Prakash sat up straight in a yogic posture, his eyes closed.

“Om Prakash,” I said, “did you understand?”

He opened his eyes and looked around at the beautiful Vrindavan scenery. Temple bells were ringing in the background, peacocks were calling, and some sadhus were having a bhajana nearby.

“Be patient,” he said with a smile. “You started on the path of bhakti when you were young. I’m starting at fifty.”

The next day, Narottama continued taking Om Prakash around Vrindavan to the holy tirthas. They visited many temples, as well as Rasastali, the place of the Rasa Dance, and Vamsivat, where Krsna called the gopis to the forest with His flute. When they returned in the evening I could sense that Om Prakash was deeply touched by his pilgrimage.

But the following morning during breakfast he was silent. Afterwards I asked him to come to my room. As we sat, I took his hand. “Om Prakash,” I said, “you’re reaching old age. You have no family and no possessions. You’re renounced, austere, and accomplished on the path of yoga. I’d like to help you find a room here in Vrindavan where you can live and become Krsna conscious. You can associate with Krsna’s devotees and chant the holy names. It’s a natural step for you. I’ll help maintain you.”

To my surprise Om Prakash started chanting Hare Krsna for a few minutes. Then he stopped. “It will take me some time,” he said.

Then as quickly as he had come, he started leaving. He picked up his few possessions and headed toward the door with the same detachment he showed when leaving the park in Delhi.

“Om Prakash!” I called out. “Where are you going?”

“Back to the park,” he replied without turning his head. Then he paused and looked over his shoulder. “But I’ll be back some day,” he said. “Your Vrindavan is a special place. I’ve never known anything like it.”

jnatam kanabhujam matam paricitaivanviksiki siksita mimamsa viditaiva sankhya saranir yoge vitirna matih vedantah parisilitah sa rabhasam kintu sphuran madhuri dhara kacana nandusunu murali mac cittam akarsati

“I have carefully understood Kanada’s paramanuvada philosophy. I have studied Gautama’s nyaya philosophy. I know Jaimini’s karma-mimamsa philosophy. I have already traveled on the path of pseudo-Kapila’s sankhya philosophy. I have applied my mind to Patanjali’s yoga philosophy. I have ardently studied Vyasa’s Vedanta philosophy. None of these attracts me. It is the flood of sweetness from Lord Nandasunu’s flute that attracts my heart.”

[Sri Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, quoted in Padyavali, by Srila Rupa Goswami, verse 100] www. traveling-preacher. com Audio lectures: www. narottam. com Facebook: Indradyumna Swami

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4 Responses to “The Yogi”

  1. dhimana_krishna says :

    And your rest is well-deserved, Maharaja… No one beats the mridanga like you do.

    Regarding Delhi, when Prabhupada first beckoned this poor servant there in the early seventies, it was a nice city. fresh air, clean in certain areas and full of character in the bazaars. I even saw yogis here and there, like the the one that must have initiated your buddy Om Prakash. Om Prakash’s endurance, and the faithfulness that he and hundreds of thousands of yogis like him have shown, is amazing. Such yogis can dedicate themselves to decades of tapasya after instructions of only a few hours or days.

    …And still these yogis cannot seen Lord Paramatma. Even ordinary Western devotees on sankirtan report from time to time seeing the Divine Hand of Lord Shri Krishna at work in many different ways in their lives. How else can we account for the faith of your Summer Parade across the Baltic Coast? They are experiencing Krishna first hand.

    Therefore it comes down to bhakti yoga versus the form of hatha that even the son of Indra Arjuna himself rejected. Americans, Africans, Europeans, Indians: one and all are experiencing Krishna on sankirtan, something even great yogis cannot do. This is exactly as Shrila Prabhupada taught us repeatedly, that the highest yogis will be seen dancing to the beat of mridanga and Hari Nama in Kali Yuga.

    Your article brought to mind my memories of meeting Shri PN Oak, the feisty Hindu historian of Delhi who proved and popularized the Taj Mahal’s Vedic roots. He was a good friend of mine, and I even arranged his meeting with Shrila Prabhupada. But he had never been to Vrindavana although it is a morning drive from Delhi. Neither could he understand the simple message that Krishna gives over and again in the Bhagavad Gita As It Is, that He alone is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Yoga, scholarship, tapasya: in the face of Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s sankirtan these all fly away before the gentle, refreshing breeze of bhakti. And this is herewith 100 % proven by the experience you share.

    Thi process of hari nama Shrila Prabhupada introduced to the world is open to everyone, and it is so simple. Yet they would rather undergo great austerities or speculate for eternity than simply chant:

    Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
    Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

    Your humble servant,
    Patita Pavana das

  2. Suresh das says :

    After many births and deaths, when one is finally in full knowledge, he surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.

    What I really appreciated most about maharaja’s story is his compassionate attempt to again and again help this soul on his journey of surrender to Krishna, even offering to maintain him. It touched my heart.

  3. Suresh das says :

    I left home when I was 17 to begin my practice of hatha-yoga and the search for self-realization. I had traumatic experience where I felt God had spoken to me and instructed me to leave home and search for Him. I spent a year traveling across America, mostly living in mountain caves and in deserts across the Southwest United States. During that time all kinds of bad habits fell away, one after another, as I continued my daily yoga practice.

    Then in the fall of 1970, I traveled to San Francisco, and met the devotees in Golden Gate Park. I had given up almost all forms of intoxication, meat eating, and accepted celibacy as my way of life. I was used to long fasts sometimes 10 days eating only brown rice. Sometimes I would go several days without water as well. I really wanted to know who God was, and the desire burned in my heart. I knew He was a person, but had no idea He had a form. I met Jayananda in Golden Gate Park chanting with the devotees on Harinam. He recommended to me to chant the Hare Krishna mantra, and include it in the practice my hatha-yoga. I tried the chanting, but found chanting Hare Krishna aloud and practicing asanas caused a conflict, so I gave up hatha-yoga, and moved into the temple instead to just concentrate only on chanting. I felt the presence of my Lord in the chanting and with the devotees, so I knew I was home, and in the right place. It was easier to surrender to Krishna, and join ISKCON in those days, because everything had been taken away from me, and I had nothing left to return to. My family members had rejected me, so I knew I could never return to them. Joining the devotees was the only way to go. The joy of chanting Hare Krishna was so great that all of the remaining bad habits I was holding on to easily fell away at that time. My happiness grew steadily during that time of living in the Brahmacari ashram, which also confirmed to me that I was in the right place.

  4. Suresh das says :

    After a year of living in the temple though, extreme back pains returned. I knew I needed to practice some simple yoga asanas I had learned before for relief. Hatha-yoga practice was forbidden and ridiculed in the temple at that time by the devotees, so I used to hide in closets, or go out on the roof to practice my asanas, without being disturbed. I would wait until after the brahmacaris had fallen asleep, in the ashram, to practice my asanas at night as well. It made me feel better and my health gradually returned.

    Many years later, after becoming a householder and moving out of the ashram, I returned to my hatha-yoga practice full time. This time I changed what Jayananda had taught me before. If chanting aloud while practicing the asanas was impractical and cumbersome (you have to breathe deeply to practice Ashtanga-yoga properly), I changed my method to chanting the Hare Krishna name silently on my breath. I tried various mantras, such as “Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya”, in the practice of my asanas, but found the Hare Krishna worked perfectly with the time of movement between the asanas and the breathing cycle as well. I found that to be uncanny that both worked together so well. I have been steadily practicing Ashtanga yoga for 15 years now, five days a week in formal classes, as well as daily practice of Sun Salutes at home. I have incorporated the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra into my yogic breathing, making my practice a combination of chanting, breathing, and moving in a continuous flow. I have not seen the Paramatma in my heart. He has kindly come to us instead as the Deity form in the temple, so there is no need to wait so long to see Him internally. I have not found that I have been abandoned by the Lord either, in spite of my practice of hatha-yoga and Krishna Consciousness. I find, every now and then, a helping hand, slowly guiding me on my path, and chastising me, as well, when necessary.