Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama has been in my library for more than two decades now. I kept an eye on it all this while with an intent to read soon. Now I know that I was not just ready to read the book. I had to be ready to appreciate it before I read it. It is almost as if the masters in this book were timing my reading of the book.
Swami Rama talks about his numerous anecdotes from his Living with the Himalayan Masters. He talks about his growing up with his master in the Himalayas, whom he does not name, but just calls ‘My Master’. I wonder why he does not use the word, Guru. Is it because the master was better understood when he lived in the west?
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The book comprises of small chapters, most of which are anecdotes from the life of Swami Rama. Each chapter has something to offer the reader, but it comes wrapped in a small story. Since the story is from the life of the one who is telling it, it also comes across as very real. I am not ruling out bits of fiction, but they drive home the point very well.
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What makes reading this book and memoirs very endearing is the fact that Swami Rama never shies away from sharing his own mistakes. In fact, through his thoughts and mistakes, he connects with the common readers and takes them on the path he traveled. You see your ego in his ego, you see your reluctance in his, you see the mental blocks and relate to his stories. However, this book does not help you with any practices or techniques to overcome them. It just makes you realize what you need to work on.
Siddhis of Himalayan Saints
Book talks about lots of Siddhis that the Himalayan saints have. Swami Rama talks about many he had seen the different masters perform without really taking any names. He gently acquaints you with the possibility of doing things that seem impossible, and more importantly the effortlessness with which they are performed. These include dictating judgments in courts to entering the body of someone else – dead or alive.
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All these stories take you into the world of renunciate Sadhus, which is a different world for all of us. Instead of families, there are lineages, instead of homes they have caves. They meditate, teach, study and travel, instead of working only to earn their living. Have their own language, be it Swara Bhasha, be it the language of silence where one is expected to learn just by being in the environment. They have their own routine very different from ours.
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As a traveler, I was amazed at the amount of travel Swami Rama did. I am aware that most renunciate sadhus travel a lot, but even if you ignore his wanderings in the Himalayas, which was his home in a way, he travels to every part of the country and the world. He refrains from talking about his days in formal education. His travels and meetings with various people also told me how well-connected Sadhus were from their caves in the Himalayas. They may have been living a minimalist life but they had the people in the highest places at their beck and call. To be fair, they also made themselves available to them. Given that most of this book has been written about the period before Indian Independence, they were amazingly well connected globally too.
It is written beautifully – simple, small bites, evocative and profound. The narrative has the power to transport you to a different world and let you feel it. If you ever thought about what do the sages do high up in the mountains, a lot of those questions would get answered. It opens a lot of windows to the world of mysticism without really revealing anything that the uninitiated must not know.
The book will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.