Post Format

Rishikesh, India

Having breakfast the fruit salad I ordered is taking ages to arrive. I’ve already had my coffee and cinnamon roll – would have preferred it if they’d come later, but you never get things in the order that you want them in India. I tell the waiter that if they haven’t done the fruit salad yet then I’ll forget it because I have to go, but then he shows up with it.

Mangoes always taste like vomit. The rest of the fruits are good though: pineapple, banana, apple and one or two other things.

I like this cafe. Always have breakfast here. It serves real coffee and overlooks the suspension bridge across the Ganges. Monkeys climb over it eating bits of fruit. Probably the mangoes people have chucked down from here.

When I get to the ashram for the morning philosophy of yoga lecture a couple of women are standing outside the classroom. I must be late again. This is the fifth time I’ve been and I’ve only been on time once. It’s only the chanting and the praying that always happens at the start and which I don’t mind missing, which I prefer to miss if I can. Once it’s over the three of us go in and Swami launches into a criticism of people walking in late. He asks what he can do to stop it. Someone who showed up on time suggests he shut the door once the class has started.

Lecture notes:

Atman is pure consciousness, like air in a bottle. When the bottle breaks the air inside merges with the ocean of air outside.

The soul splits into two and becomes consciousness and energy. Like milk and butter. I am a dualistic entity and… I’ve written down other things but I think I’m getting to the point where I’m not making much progress. Either I see some kind of evidence for all this, much of which does seem to make sense and have some consistency about it, or I actually do the yoga and meditation and experience it for myself. But then what if I do, and I spend years doing it and then nothing happens? Not even a glimmer of enlightenment. That’d be a bummer.

Pascal said it was a good bet to believe in God because if He does exist you get into heaven when you die but if He turns out not to exist you haven’t lost anything, you’re no worse off than the atheists. But if you have to go to church every Sunday and lead a holy life, or sit in the lotus position for 8 hours a day every day, then maybe you have lost something if it all turns out to be for nothing.

Swami talks about his own guru who went to America when he was 27, and then when he was 31 this American businessman came to him and asked to be taught the techniques of kriya yoga. The guru thought: Mm, these Americans are shrewd. I won’t give him the techniques straight away, and he sits the American down, puts his hands on the American’s head: What do you see?


Okay, he must have too much business stuff in there creating a blockage. I’ll have to try something a bit stronger. He places his forehead against the American’s forehead. Tell me when you see a star.

Yes! I can see a star!

Now, into that star you can summon the enlightened masters and they will bless you. Can you see the masters?

Yes, I can see them!

Now, what I have shown you is the end result of kriya yoga, but you have only seen this thanks to my powers. To see the star again you will need to practice the kriya yoga techniques yourself.

But the guru still hasn’t given him the kriya yoga techniques. The American moves into the ashram, which is somewhere in California (where else? an ashram in Nebraska probably wouldn’t do much business), donates 90% of his money to the ashram and keeps 10% for himself and his family. (He’s a pretty wealthy guy.) One evening the guru takes him by the hand saying, come on child, let’s go for a walk. The American is 48 years old, but he doesn’t protest and being referred to in this way. THey walk around the ashram, not speaking. After a while the guru says: When I give you the kriya yoga techniques you will practice them, won’t you? Yes, guruji. I will practice them.

Another ten minutes go by. The guru says: When I give you the kriya yoga techniques you will practice them, won’t you? Yes, guruji, says the American. I will practice them.

They walk for two hours and every ten minutes the guru says: When I give you the kriya yoga techniques you will practice them, won’t you? And the American says: Yes, guruji. I will practice them.

The following evening the guru takes the American by the hand and says: Come, child. Let’s go for a walk. When I give you the techniques of kriya yoga you will practice them, won’t you? Yes, guruji. I will practice them.

This goes on for the next six months until the American says: Guruji, either you tell me the techniques of kriya yoga now or I will go mad. Or perhaps he threatened to sue the ashram. Whichever, the guru gives him the techniques and he stays at the ashram practising them every day, eight hours a day until, after four years, he sees the star the guru showed him.

I think the moral of this is that things take time, and you have to lose your ego. I’m not sure. I wonder what the American’s friends and former business associates thought: “You gave how much money to this guy and all he did was show you a star? Jeez. I could walk down Hollywood Boulevard and see all the stars I want and it wouldn’t cost me a cent.”