Baba: Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Yogi
From Publishers Weekly It is 1969 in Beverly Hills. After experimenting with mind-altering substances, a 19-year-old dropout leaves his prosperous family and heads for India to find himself. Cartouche, a fellow traveler, recommends an English-speaking guru. The young man renames himself Rampuri and begins an apprenticeship involving deities, servitude, ceremonies and a fair amount of cannabis. After two years, he is initiated into the Great Renunciation and becomes a yogi. After his guru falls ill and dies, Rampuri is horrified to discover that the guru has possessed him. Cartouche reappears at just the right moment, gives Rampuri a stiff dose of language philosophy and helps him interpret his quest. By the mid-1980s, India's first blue-eyed yogi has founded an ashram. Rampuri mixes his story with fanciful tales of deities and holy men, gurus who converse with crows and people who fly out of their bodies at night. Linear thinkers may be perplexed by his conflation of myth and autobiography: "The line separating mythology and this Extraordinary World in which I was now living became blurred, and increasingly I couldn't see it at all." But readers nostalgic for magical mystery tours who don't mind frequent Hindi-laced sentences ("The microcosm of the twin dhunis mirrored the beehive activity of the akhara, which in turn reflected the electricity of the mela") may enjoy this exotic tale of enlightenment and self-realization. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Review "This book will entertain and enlighten you. A bold journey that explores the true intersections of Eastern and Western thought." - Deepak Chopra, author of The Book of Secrets
"Rampuri's search has carried him into the very depths of one of the great ancient wisdom lineages of India. He has gone where very few Westerners have gone." -Krishna Das, "Chant Master of American Yoga" (New York Times)
"An authentic and fascinating account of a Western yogi who has made India his home for his body and his spirit. Baba is bound to challenge your view of reality and the spiritual life. It is not just the story of a personal quest but of a journey beyond the Western civilization mind-set to the real India of the yogis, where the limitations of both our cultural ideas and our egos are continually exposed. An adventure into a different kind of reality." -David Frawley, author of Yoga and Ayurveda and Yoga and the Sacred Fire and director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies
Book Description Although this book often reads like a fast-paced adventure story, it is the true account of a nineteen-year-old American (the son of a Beverly Hills pediatric surgeon) who in the late 1960s, after experimenting with drugs, sex, and political activism, set off for India in search of the truth. He arrived with twenty dollars in his pocket and, enchanted by the extraordinary world he found there, explored the country until he stumbled into the presence of Hari Puri Baba, a yogi in the ancient tradition of the Renunciates of the Ten Names. Hari Puri proceeded to shave the young stranger's head and initiate him into his order. Now called Rampuri, the young man embarked on a discipleship unlike anything he had ever imagined. He had to learn Hindi and Sanskrit, overcome opposition as an outsider, and deal with the battle that raged within him as he attempted to reconcile the Western view of India with the reality of its culture and beliefs. Despite overwhelming odds and the mysterious death of his guru, he stayed the course and has remained in India to this day.
As Rampuri reveals the teachings he received and describes the rituals and pilgrimages in which he participated, it becomes clear that this is an unprecedented telling of one man's sacred initiation and training and a must-read for any serious seeker.
About the Author Rampuri was born in Chicago and grew up in Beverly Hills. In 1969 he traveled overland to India, where he has lived ever since. In 1970 he met Hari Puri Baba, who became his guru and initiated him, the first foreigner, into Juna Akhara, the ancient order of the Renunciates of the Ten Names. In 1984 he established Hari Puri Ashram in Hardwar, North India, where he continues his practice of the Yoga tradition. He can be found on the Internet at www.rampuri.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
THE THREE-DECKED STEAMSHIP HAD BEEN FOLLOWING the contour of the palm-lined Indian coastline since sunrise, weaving its way through flotillas of fishing boats and other small ships until it reached Bombay. The voyage from Karachi was the final leg of a six-month overland journey that had taken me from Amsterdam to what would become my new home.
A deck-class ticket bought you a place on the ship, but not a seat, berth, or cabin. You were on your own when it came to claiming a piece of the deck, usually the size of your straw mat or blanket. The two upper decks soon became a multicolored sea of bedding and people. When I first came aboard, Sigi, a young German, led me to a remote corner of the deck, where I could smell incense and there was a kasbah partitioned with pastel silks into passageways and small camps. This, apparently, was the foreigners' quarter.
We were pilgrims, refugees, children of the revolution! We came from North America, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and every country in Europe. We had encountered one another at every stop along the way-Istanbul, Ankara, Konya, Tabriz, Tehran, Mashad, Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Peshawar, Karachi-individuals, groups, and clans, all making the great pilgrimage. Where to? We were on our way home, moving toward the Light, or so we believed.
"Watch out for thieves," my new friend warned, as we put down our mats at the edge of the little colony. "It's usually the French. One of us must guard our belongings at all times."
"Pardon," said an orange-robed European with flowing black locks, accompanied by several young women. He resembled one of the Three Musketeers, except for his pointed Aladdin slippers. "You are going to India for the first time?" he asked, introducing himself as Cartouche. "May we join you?"
"What kinda name …," I started.
"Egyptian," he said, "from my father's side. My mother is French."
In what appeared to be flawless Urdu, he instructed the Pakistani coolie where to put each bag, argued over the price, said something that made the man laugh, and then paid him.
"We wanted to share this journey with spiritual people," Cartouche said, as he explained why they had moved from the Italian section of the deck. Cartouche and the girls spread their bedding next to mine. "You and I must have met before," he said. "Perhaps in a previous life?"
A man dressed in a green Afghan robe came over to harangue Cartouche in Italian and was the recipient of a long outburst in the same tongue. Cartouche's scowl turned to a smile as he remarked, "I told him to fuck off, if he wanted to remain attached to the material world!"
Sigi was suspicious. "Why did the Italians force you to move?"
"They are Greens," replied Cartouche. "You know, Muslims, and they thought it inappropriate for a Hindu holy man to camp beside them. They are making a pilgrimage to the holy places of their Sufi saints before heading down to Goa."
"I'm going straight to Goa," said Sigi. "A night in Bombay at the Carlton, and the morning boat to paradise." He said that he'd had some kind of problem in Germany, and didn't plan to return there for many years. Everyone seemed to be headed to Goa.
"This is actually what he wants." Cartouche's eyes flashed as he pulled a drawstring bag out of another drawstring bag out of a shoulder bag. With great reverence he removed a small statue of the god Shiva, wrapped in red silk. "Swat Valley, maybe a thousand years old," he explained. "He wanted to pay me shit! And he's not even a Hindu!"
"I'm going to find me a nice shack on the beach," said the German, carefully placing his valuables under a makeshift pillow.
"Me, I want to find the ice palace of the Mother of the World, where the gods and goddesses hang out," crooned one of Cartouche's young women from under her veil. She was high on something.
"And you, my friend?" Cartouche turned to me with his infectious smile. "Where will you go?"
I thought for a moment, like a child about to enter an amusement park, before blurting out, "I'm not sure. Maybe Goa … but I'm looking for something-I'm not sure what yet, but it's something that we've lost in the West. Yeah, I guess I'm also going to India to have my mind blown!"
"Not enough action in your, uh, San Francisco? That's why you have come?" he asked with raised eyebrows.
"Well, actually, I think I've sort of been pulled here." I grinned.
"That's the case with all of us," he said. Cartouche had very old eyes, in contrast to his youthful face and body. He looked about twenty-two years old, a few years older than I, but had the demeanor and maturity of a man at least a generation older.
I had dropped out of high school. I had questions my teachers wouldn't or couldn't answer. I had other ideas, perhaps immature and incomplete, but compelling. I had lost my faith in them, but not lost faith. I thought of Manifest Destiny as a pack of lies. I wanted to go join up with the American Indians. But they were all dead.
"Where are you from?" I asked him.
"Paris," he said.
"You were there in May, the one before last, for the Revolution?" I asked him.
"Non, I was in India at the Kumbh Mela, the largest spiritual gathering in the world, with my guru. The real revolution is to transform yourself, not society. If you can succeed, then society will follow. The world is fucked up, corrupted by capitalist elites, but we cannot hope to win any war on the material plane. Finding the Truth is the only way."
For many young people, the lines that existed between politics, spirituality, and lifestyle were faint, if they existed at all. We were wildly idealistic and naive. I told Cartouche that I wanted to find a treasure in India that would somehow make the world a better place.
"A better place?" Cartouche asked. "For whom? Is it heaven that you wish to bring to earth, or is it earth you'd like to raise to heaven? If it is the former, you are following a long line of failures. Ask Karl Marx. And my friends who made the Revolution of '68-one day they will rule France, but nothing will be any different."
Cartouche had crossed the line and made it to the other side. He was confident and authoritative. He seemed to know India well, so I asked him if he could give me a list of places to visit.
"A waste of time," he replied. "You'll find all the right places. That's how India works."
"And what's with this 'ice palace?" I asked, feeling a bit stupid. "Come on; is it a real place?"
"Sure it is," he said, "but you can't go there. Foreigners aren't allowed. It's in the Himalayas, within what they call the inner circle, too close to China. I guess they're afraid of spies."
"Have you been there?" I asked.
"Non, but I tried. The police caught me and sent me back down the mountain. My guru had told me that if I would meet him there, he would give me a magic potion that would let me live forever."
The small group that had been listening to our conversation dwindled until Cartouche and I were alone, watching the moon sail across the sky. He enchanted me with more stories about his experiences in India. For as long as I could remember, I had been fascinated by what, in those days, we called the "occult." I wanted to meet real shamans and wizards. I believed they existed, but I needed proof. I wanted to find ancient manuscripts containing secret knowledge, mantras, and spells. But that was all surface stuff. I desperately needed some answers. There were the basic questions concerning the meaning of life, death, life after death, and Truth, and there were other less formulated questions that had arisen after I had taken mind-altering substances. In America I had been unable to find a Don Juan to guide me, but my omnivorous reading of the Upanishads, Vedanta, and books on Theosophy led me to believe that I could indeed find these answers in India.
"Don't waste your time going to Goa, hanging out with hippies. In India there are real masters who can teach the Path and help us understand who we are. The first thing you have to know before you begin your search is that there is no search; you are already there at that place where you hope to arrive, but it takes time to discover that. So, with that in mind, go and search," he said.
"But where should I start?" I asked
"Hey, enlightenment is not subject to the illusions of time and space. The possibility of transforming consciousness lies only in the here and now. But I'll give you some addresses," he replied.
He drew the Sanskrit character om at the top of one of the pages in my notebook, explaining that this symbol would ensure the success of my quest. Then he wrote the names of a few temples and holy places and of some of the big gurus. He explained which temples were dedicated to the Mother Goddess, which to Shiva, and which to the blue god, Krishna. He rambled on about the claims and feats of various teachers, including Satya Sai Baba, who could remember his past lives and materialize objects out of thin air, and then gave me the names and addresses of some sadhus, characterizing each as he wrote.
The last name was of a sadhu in Rajasthan. "Hari Puri Baba is a bit more modern. He speaks English, which my baba doesn't. I studied with my guru the traditional way, in Hindi and Sanskrit. Still, they say Hari Puri Baba is a gyani, a knower. They say he knows how to read the world." Cartouche laughed. "Perhaps you would prefer to follow the Path in your mother tongue. Ah, if only the whole world spoke English, no?"…