Meeting Spiritual Masters of Contemporary India I.

When we say “India”, it may spontaneously evoke a feeling of something mysterious, deep, pure, exceptional, inspiring… And if we walk one of the paths of inner search and self-discovery, we may “look up to” these regions with certain awe – and, of course, rightly. However, it is likely that after a prospective personal visit to India, our pleasantly abstract images may be more or less modified…

The fact remains that the Indian subcontinent is in a sense a rather particular place on our planet. Spiritual quest is, of course, connected to history of all world cultures and a range of personalities who reached very deep levels of knowledge can be found in each of them. But precisely in India, the practical exploration of those deepest questions has been tremendously alive and constantly present since ever, perhaps in such an intensive extent as nowhere else. The rich spiritual history of India is lined with countless seekers of wisdom, ascetics, known and unknown masters, great characters of yogis, mystics and wise men of many directions and lineages. And majority of familiar practical journeys and paths leading to deeper self-knowledge have been carefully trodden here (or nearby surroundings) through the ages.

And thus, there is no wonder that many of those who have at least a small urge to take a look underneath the thin surface of the rapidly bubbling world (wherever they reside) often turn to this very direction. They may either follow one of the many practical systems leading to knowledge and improvement of one’s own personality or they may feel an intensive need for a meeting and contact with someone who alone surveyed these paths practically, who may show or at least indicate the real path and clarify problems and obstacles that may arise. India is the place where direct personal inspiration has been traditionally available to great extent. That is what we can at least read in many books, classical texts and travellers’ records.

At present, however, we need to approach it in a more realistic way and to accept the fact that modern times change many things (particularly in India, in quite a rough and merciless manner). And if we set out for this long journey and if we have overly great expectations, little time and we are not armoured against all the pressures that the modern Indian reality exposes us to, we may walk away with slightly lost illusions (in the better case). We may discover, among other things that the rampant commercial spirit was planted absolutely everywhere and not even the spiritual area is spared. Various “ashrams”, “yoga courses”, great “masters”, etc., can be found in India at present in dozens on every corner and it is not an exception that their major motivation is often an appropriate financial evaluation of their services. However, if we search for a real inspiration and knowledge, we will mostly find out soon that it might not really be what we have been heading for.

Should our wish be really strong and sincere, should we be ready to sacrifice a little something (time and some discomfort at least) and should we be a little lucky, the wild and unattractive surface of Indian present will part in front of us for a while… Since the spirit of boundless millennia cannot just be blown away. IT remains there all the time. It might be a bit more difficult to find it today, to set out for the right direction, not to be fooled by various “false prophets” and above all, not to get discouraged by all the disasters that India has been generously gratified by the “modern times”.

When I was leaving for India in 1991, right after graduating from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, I had no idea that I was about to spend there more than five years. Even though the main reason of my trip was the study of Indian classical music (which was gradually fulfilled beyond my expectations), the thing that drew me to India unstoppably at least as much (actually, already many years prior to this long journey), was the above mentioned area. And so in the first period I travelled the length and breadth of India intensively and eagerly and I travelled thousands of kilometres by trains and buses, from Himalayas to the jungles of the south. Always with one single aim – to meet authentic spiritual masters and masters of yoga and to open up to the strength and inspiration they radiate. Of course, I too, had to free myself from naive ideas throughout this pilgrimage and also, to merge with the daily Indian reality gradually (through tiny enlightening lessons). But then, step by step, many things started to open. When I look back now, I have to say gratefully that my dear India was generous to me perhaps even beyond measure – all the deep wishes came true entirely.

In this series of narratives, I would like to share my personal impressions and experiences from the encounters with some great Indian spiritual masters whom I was led to by my wandering and searching steps throughout the years spent in India. Among them, not the best-known names, surrounded by immense crowds of visitors, complexes of buildings and mass media, are to be found; I have never been tempted much by this direction. It is going to be about personal face to face meetings – in the foothills of Himalayas, in a remote village in southern India, at the foot of the Arunachala Mountain, in the plains behind Varanasi or in the very centre of Bombay…