Autobiography Part 2: "India"

RandomStu's picture

Average: 4.6 (5 votes)

The previous blog entry describes my practice/life through my freshman year in college, 1977/78, when I encountered guru Swami Muktananda and his “Siddha Yoga” (SYDA) organization. He inspired me to give up ordinary-American style. I quit school, worked and saved for months, and started living in Siddha Yoga ashrams, joining Muktananda’s “3rd World Tour” by early 1979.

Today, as I progress into deep middle-age, it’s difficult to keep all these memories organized. In this case, though, I’m certain of the date. The first ashram I lived in was Oakland, CA, a stop on Muktananda’s Tour. After 2 months, I returned to see my parents near Philadelphia, PA. I recall my nervousness when flying back East, because the accident at Three Mile Island had just exploded. So I have a reliable time-stamp for my story at this point. We may assume that it’s pure coincidence that my years with Muktananda started with a nuclear melt-down.

Anyway: the great lesson I learned from Muktananda is that my thinking, what’s going on in my mind just now, is incredibly, amazingly powerful. Attending to how I keep my mind moment-to-moment can be a more interesting, rewarding, and efficient life direction than trying to get or control anything in the external world. In order to comprehend and experience the power of mind, it’s necessary to take a pause, slow down, and observe this inner world with care and energy. That is: this 5 year period in SYDA ashrams was when I began to do formal meditation practices.

It’s hard to break the habit of always focusing on the world of stuff, always striving to get stuff. Looking at thought-patterns is usually more difficult than distracting myself from them. Even the act of sitting still for long periods is itself physically painful. There are major hurdles to overcome in starting a meditation practice. The ashram helped me through this in a number of ways.

I had the support of the large group that lived and practiced together (human beings are herding animals more than we realize). I adopted the belief-system that Muktananda was on a higher, more spiritual level than ordinary people, so I could believe him when he told me that meditation was special and holy, that it would bring me to God, to enlightenment, and all that. I got lots of great, euphoric feelings from the practices, and from focusing on the guru. The community, the hope and desire to climb the spiritual ladder, and the good feelings inside kept me going.

And I liked the philosophy. I liked remembering that It’s All One. Just as gold can be fashioned into different types of jewelry and still be the same gold, all things in the world are in fact the same substance: God or Self or Absolute. This understanding freed me from clinging to particular things, people, or situations. If it’s all God, then wherever I go, whatever I do, whatever happens is OK. Following this understanding, after 2.5 years in American ashrams, I moved to the main ashram in India, effectively renouncing everything from my previous life.

I was there when Muktananda died; it didn’t bother me at all. By that point, I was really interested in exploring truth for myself, not so much in devotion to a guru. Sure, in the early years, it gave me energy to believe in god-like super-beings. Eventually, all that seemed cultish. I’d prefer to take my understanding and my meditation practice and run.

But on the other hand… everyone around me believed in the magical power that emanated from the guru, a power most concentrated in his physical presence, a power that’d exponentially quicken my ascent to enlightenment or whatever. What if they were right? It’d be stupid to give that up, and I didn’t want to be stupid. Muktananda had left successor gurus, so for a year after his death, I remained with them in the India ashram, uncertain about giving up my connection to the special power that was (maybe?) dependent on holy people and places.

Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to believe in myself. I preferred having a scientific mind that openly questioned everything, rather than believing in magical invisible energy, in Gods, in holy enlightened beings. I was tired of believing in things because other people did, or because some authority told me to, or because some old and popular book said so. If I could get enlightenment in a year by believing in a guru, or in 1000 lifetimes by believing in myself, I’d still prefer to believe in myself. What’s the hurry anyway?

So I left India in early 1984, figuring I’d go back the good old USA, where people are skeptical and cynical and don’t believe in any folktale that sounds nice. My kind of people! I’d find some simple life to sustain myself, continue to meditate, to train my mind to be quiet and focused, and use my remembrance of Oneness to remain as a witness. Whatever would appear in the real world, I’d watch it unfold as if a movie.

In the course of finding an ordinary life situation, I ended up in California by 1985. There I had my first encounters with Zen teaching and with major psychedelic experiences, which jolted me into a new direction and new understandings (or perhaps a lack thereof). Details to come in the next couple blog entries of my story.

[Originally published here]

madan_gautam's picture


You are one of the fortunate to have direct blessings of Swami Muktanada .
One of the great Siddha of this age.

madan_gautam | Sat, 08/29/2009 - 05:38
RandomStu's picture

Re: Fortunate

You could call ANYONE a "great Siddha of this age." It's just an idea, an opinion. If you believe it, then that belief may have an effect. If you believe ANYTHING, it'll have an effect.


RandomStu | Sat, 08/29/2009 - 05:49
carlito santo's picture

Disguised secularism

No, it's more than that, system of reality is not just an arbitrary projection and the power of belief to create reality as secular spiritualists' simplistic pattern of thinking tends to believe.

carlito santo | Sat, 08/29/2009 - 09:32
RandomStu's picture

re: Disguised secularism

Suppose, for example, you're afraid of tigers. So to you, when you see a bush, you imagine there's a tiger in it. Since it's really just a bush, you don't say, "There's a tiger!" Instead, you say, "There's a disguised tiger!"


RandomStu | Sat, 08/29/2009 - 19:56