What happens when an enlightened master of meditation asks you to join him for an 8 year advanced training?
Tuesday, March 12, 2019. 10:45 pm.
In December of 2018, I attended a 3 day advanced yoga retreat at a hotel outside of Washington, DC. I had been practicing yoga and meditation for more than 40 years, beginning when I was about 15 years old, with my interest initially aroused when I was about 14. This most recent retreat included a live Skype link with an enlightened master whom I had first interviewed for my book, Masters Among Us, which I authored and self-published 15 years ago. For a few reasons, I had need to pull that book off the market in 2006, and then I just got busy and never got around to reediting it, until this past year. I’m happy to say the book will soon be available again in the months ahead.
During my interviews for that book, I became impressed enough with this yoga master to host and organize several introductory and intermediate level courses with representative teachers who had studied with him in India. Many who attended those programs, myself included, had profound experiences of awakening, and, in at least one instance, a woman I know was healed of cancer.
Having studied earlier in my life with the Siddha master Swami Muktananda, I knew that this master, then called Sri Mukteshwar, was someone special. I recognized in him that rare, piercing embodiment of wisdom that only a well-seasoned sadhaka could posses. I first read of Sri Mukteshwar when I was looking for miracle stories for the book. In a periodical I often browsed, I came across the story of miraculous emanations of honey and Kumkuma – the red powder used in India for religious markings – issuing from photographs of Mukteshwar’s hands. In fact, I eventually learned of countless stories of similar miracles associated with this man that were coming out of India with increasing regularity. And then, I witnessed this incredible phenomenon myself one afternoon in 2003 or 2004, in the Puja room of a devout Hindu family in North Jersey.
I studied and practiced his techniques for a while, and enjoyed a nice boost to my spiritual life in those days. Then, I simply got tied up in the busy-ness of life. In late 2004 I seized an opportunity to return to full time collegiate study while working part time as an artist for Trader Joes to support a wife and child. My routine meditation practice took the back seat, and along the way, more opportunities for a full time career presented themselves, and life continued to happen.
Then, in late 2016, Sri Mukteshwar’s name once again returned into my orbit, arriving full circle back into my arena through a business associate whom I knew had spent time in India with Mukteshwar during those intervening years. Now Mukteshwar was more widely known as Sri Bhagavan, and the simple teachings that originated in some of those humble, small scale workshops I had sponsored in the mid 2000’s had since blossomed into the worldwide Oneness movement. This same teacher, for whom I had difficulty finding any information while researching my book, now is found easily with a simple Google search, has countless students around the world, and is featured on video lectures which are readily accessible on Youtube.
The affiliation with my business colleague had reawakened my interest in my old friend Mukteshwar. I wondered how he was doing, recalled the many benefits I had reaped from his courses all those years before, and considered that my yoga practice was overdo for a fresh jumpstart. I began to review some of the info I had compiled 15 years before, and then, in September of 2018, I saw a notice for a retreat in December that would be conducted by a respected teacher of his who had spent 9 years in India as a monk under his tutelage. I enrolled, and from the onset, it seemed that just the act of making the commitment had reawakened a dormant spiritual life and level of deepened regular practice I had forgotten about. I began to have stunning, profoundly deep, spiritual experiences unlike any I had in decades. This was getting to be quite interesting, I thought.
On the final day of the retreat, which was tele-linked between Sri Bhagavan’s ashram in Chennai, India and locations in 3 cities in the United States, my fellow participants and I were invited by Sri Bhagavan to join him, if we liked, in an 8 year teacher training process. This could be cool, I thought. I had been practicing meditation for so long, I reasoned, that this could be like a yoga graduate course and enable me to properly share what I’ve learned for the benefit of others. Bhagavan said to simply try the required sadhana practice for a year, and if we then liked how it was going, we could elect to continue for the ensuing 7 years. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Are you kidding me? This was an incredible invitation!
And so I have agreed within myself to embark on this 8 year journey with Bhagavan, and see where it takes me. I am fully aware that being mentored by a yoga adept will be challenging, and hard at times. Muktananda’s no-nonsense approach had prepped me long ago. Plus, I recalled even more challenging moments 15 years ago when I engaged in the processes conducted during the mini-retreats programs with his monks that I then hosted. As hard as some of those moments were, I certainly grew at an accelerated pace then. So, I already know what I’m in for, and I’m game. No pain, no gain. It’s all good.
It’s fascinating to consider how, in our 21st Century, what was once only available to acolytes committed to making a monastic lifestyle now is available with quite a different requirement than it was in ages past. In our era, monasticism seems to be about simply adapting the mindset of a monk without the external garb, and doing the practices wherever you are in whatever circumstances prevail. Certainly their are physical monasteries in which to live and study, but our era is unique. The goal of the path is right where you are, as you are. Nothing had to change because change is an illusion anyway. Monkhood is simply a frame of mind.
As I stated when I started writing here, this is only the latest on a journey that has already spanned 40 years of my 58 year existence. I’ve journaled that entire process in handwriting and word processing entries the whole time. From time to time, I will cull choice excerpts from those archives to post here. In the interim, as I begin this 8 year journey, the thought occurred – why not blog it live, as it unfolds? Because, for me, at this stage, there is nothing that is excluded from the spiritual path. Everything I do – we do – is all predicated on how we perceive and experience it. That’s the truth, the nugget of spiritual living.
In our time, with all kinds of craziness going on in our often confusing world, sharing this journey might be helpful, I thought. And who knows who or what might show up along the way? Journeys are like that. Ya never know what’s around the corner. That’s been my experience thus far. This should be fun. I hope you will come along for the ride.