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Experiences of the Himlayan Masters


Anil Sarwal

"Why cool the flames, Yogi, stay the stream?
Why dost thou walk fast upward in the sky?
Why milk the bullock? Why magic dream?
Why these base feats of the juggler try?

Hindu Scriptures.

Many Indians and foreigners go to the Himalayas in search of godmen with miraculous powers. However, miracles should not be taken as a proof of someone’s spirituality or prophethood. This subtle distinction is now being made even by those who have lived in the Himalayas and claim to have had first hand experience of the psychic or supernatural powers of the individuals living there. It may be possible to develop psychic powers such as communicating with the spirits, reading another person’s thoughts or performing some more complex functions in the realm of the supernatural.(see) However, acquisition of these powers is, in most cases, not related to the development of spirituality in a person’s life. The aim of persons indulging in such practices is to gather name, fame and wealth by displaying some supernatural feats to their innocent followers. Further, the development of such powers is generally undertaken at a great cost both physically and spiritually to the individuals interfering with psychic forces. Most saints and sages agree with this view point.

Swami Rama has recently published a revealing and weighty testimony on the Himalayan Masters based on a life time spent with them. He dismisses most practices such as lying on a bed of nails, piercing the body with needles, transporting goods from one place to another by mere sight, etc. He considers these practices not only a waste of time, a departure from one’s aim of life and path of spirituality, but worse, harmful to all involved in the process.

"Mostly," says the Swami, "such phenomena are tricks. Whenever they are found to be genuine, they are black magic.2 Spirituality has nothing to do with these miracles. The third chapter of Yoga Sutras explains many methods of attaining Siddhis (powers), but these siddhis create stumbling blocks in the path of Enlightenment. One person in millions does indeed have siddhis, but I have found that such people are often greedy, egotistical, and ignorant. The path of Enlightenment is different from the intentional cultivation of powers. The miracles of Buddha, Christ, and other great sages were performed spontaneously and for a purpose. They were not performed with selfish motives or to create a sensation.

"On the path of yoga [the science of union with God], sometimes one comes across the potentials of siddhis. A yogi without having any desire for a siddhi might get one, but one who is aware of the purpose of his life never misuses them. Misuse of siddhi is the downfall of a yogi." 3

The reasons for Swami Rama’s assertions are easy to understand. The desire for the attainment of these powers, like riches, diverts the mind from the path of God. Such latent faculties are prematurely cultivated to fulfil one’s greed for wealth, fame or other worldly games.

Similar conclusions have been arrived at by Paul Brunton who toured India extensively to arrive at the truth of the so-called yogis and fakirs claiming to possess supernatural powers. Dr. Brunton writes, "One heard so much of certain so-called holy men who possessed repute of having acquired deep wisdom and strange powers; so one travelled through scorching days and sleepless nights to find them—only to find well-intentioned fools, scriptural slaves, venerable know-nothings, money-seeking conjurers, jugglers with a few tricks, and pious frauds." 4

Even in the modern times, there is much spurious spirituality in India like everywhere else. "There is an innumerable crowd of mental acrobats and contortionists through which the seeker after pure spirituality must elbow his way… These are all interesting enough in their way and are well worth study by scientific men interested in psychic phenomena. But they are not the real thing. They are not the springs whence spirituality comes gushing." 5

In all this confusion, Dr. Brunton does find something to learn from the Indian sages of the past and from the very very few who live today. He believes that the present day materialistic ideas will not dominate the world for a long time and can perceive prophetic indications of a coming change of thought. However, he does not believe in miracles. He thinks that "…our knowledge of Nature’s laws is incomplete, and that when the advance guard of scientists who are pushing forward into unexplored territory have found out a few more of those laws, we shall then be able to do things which are tantamount to miracles." 6

Spiritually inclined seekers of truth, after investigation conclude that the urge for superpowers is born out of the egotistical lower self and is therefore unholy. The real purpose of human life is to know God and to worship Him, and finally to attain His nearness. The aspiration for any supernormal powers is thus seen by the spiritually advanced beings as an ignoble and accursed thing because it is born out of a hankering for material gains and a desire for fame and applause.

"Although most who know of or speak of Shambhala agree that to reach the mystic hermitage requires spiritual powers and not material means, the commonly regarded view of the need to 'fly' to do so, although it should not be discounted, is in contrast to many Tibeten legends and my own experience.

"I was left outside the ruins of a somewhat ancient dilapidated monastery perched precariously high up on the side of some steep Chinese mountain situated somewhere along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. And there I sat. People from the village some distance below would come by to look at me or leave me water and food on occasion. Kids threw rocks at me, dogs pissed on me. After awhile someone gave me a blanket to wrap myself up with, but still I sat. Days, weeks went by.

"One day when some monks came out of the ruins I got up and followed them into the fields hoping to pull something, anything, out of the ground to eat. They didn't stop at any fields but continued on, I just didn't have the strength to keep up with them over any distance. However, when they returned a short time later, I returned, entering the monastery in a single file line right along with them. In doing so, as a double set of rough hewn wooden doors, which hadn't been there previously, closed behind me, I suddenly found myself inside of a fully functional Zen monastery."


Most people who have read through all that I have presented, with the thousands of interlinking footnotes and all, have had enough. However, every once in awhile there are those who come forward interested in knowing how is it that I, as an adult at the Ramana ashram, returned to the monastery? We know with the help of the woman on the farm I ended up in Tiruvannamalai in some fashion because I met the young boy with the Code-O-Graph there. Yet, nowhere does it show up how it was I ended up back at the monastery. It is clear that I did because in Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery I write that I was abducted by military irregulars outside the walls one morning and taken back to civilization

After exchanging photos with the young anglo boy I met that day in the ashram he returned with, not leading, but instead being towed, yanked, dragged or pulled by one arm and his wrist across the ashram grounds, twisting on his knees while dragging the tops of his feet and toes trailing behind him in the dirt. It was being done by a nearly wild-eyed white woman who was basically running in my direction pointing a bony-like finger toward me while holding the decoder in that same hand and turning back to look at a white man some distance behind hurriedly trying to catch up --- two individuals I was sure I didn't want to meet or talk to at the time.

"I scooted as quickly as I could across what was left of the ashram grounds between me and the gate and out onto the street, melding into the small milieu of what counted as crowds in those days, disappearing.

"Years passed and one day a friend of mine helping me go through a few things ran across my rather loose knit so-called collection of decoders that were sort of doing not much more than just floating around in an unconnected fashion in a drawer."

The above sentences as found in the above quote are the two closing sentences at the end of Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery. Although the physical visual-space that separates them is small, the gap between the two as related to the passage of time within the context of the sentences is huge. One moment, when all the trials and tribulations that have been laid out from childhood through to the Army, the monastery, the Himalayas, et al have ended, I walk away from the ashram, suddenly jumping to many years later, apparently comfortably safe back at home in the United States as though nothing ever happened --- simply hanging with a friend sorting through a bunch of decades-old Captain Midnight Radio Premiums.

Let me just say, in more ways than one, that my return to the monastery involved monasteries operating independent of time in areas infused by a spiritual timelessness, war torn Burma, the Japanese Invasion of India, the crash of a C-47 high in the rarefied air in the Tibetan area of the Himalayas after being lost on a flight from Calcutta, and a U.S. Army captain who flew over the "hump" from China only to end up visiting the Ramana ashram at the same time I was there. That same captain, who had been called back into the Army to serve in the Korean War, during the throes of battlefield decimation going on all around him, as written in his tome A Soldier's Story, experienced a deep Spiritual Awakening not unlike those afforded the ancient classical masters.











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1. Jamshed Fozdar, Buddha Maitrya-Amitabha Has Appeared, Bahá’í Publishing Trust, New Delhi,1976, p. 199.

2. Since the Bahá’ís do not believe in the existence of the devil or evil spirits, this would be interpreted to mean indulgence in harmful practices.

3. Swami Rama, Living with the Himalayan Masters (Spiritual Experiences of Swami Ajaya), Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the USA, Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 1978, pp. 102-3.

4. Paul Brunton, A Search in Secret India, B. I. Publications, Bombay, 1994, p. 13.

5. ibid. Foreword by Francis Younghusband., pp. 7-8.

6. ibid., p. 20.

© 1996, Anil Sarwal
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