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The first insider account of an ancient and secretive tradition
? By the first foreigner to become a member, and later an elder, of the Juna Akhara, the oldest and largest grouping of Naga Babas
? Filled with true accounts of magic, miracles, ghosts, and austerities
? With lessons on Hindu gods, ayurveda, and Indian culture woven throughout
After traveling at age 18 from his native California to India in 1969, Rampuri was drawn to the Naga Babas, an ancient and wild order of ...
The first insider account of an ancient and secretive tradition
• By the first foreigner to become a member, and later an elder, of the Juna Akhara, the oldest and largest grouping of Naga Babas
• Filled with true accounts of magic, miracles, ghosts, and austerities
• With lessons on Hindu gods, ayurveda, and Indian culture woven throughout
After traveling at age 18 from his native California to India in 1969, Rampuri was drawn to the Naga Babas, an ancient and wild order of naked yogis whom he calls the “Hell’s Angels of Indian Spirituality.” Organized into a sect by Adi Shankara in the 5th century BC, the Naga Babas see themselves as the ultimate protectors of the Sanatan Dharma, or what we call the Hindu religion. Rampuri became a disciple of a Naga Baba—a master shaman sadhu—from Rajasthan and, as foretold by astrological prophecy, soon found himself the first foreigner to become an initiate of the Juna Akhara, the oldest and largest grouping of Naga Babas with more than 50,000 sadhu members.
From drinking the “Nectar of Immortality” at the source of the Ganges River to allegations of tantric murder, this autobiography is filled with true accounts of magic, miracles, ghosts, and austerities, with lessons on Hindu gods, ayurveda, mantra, and Indian culture woven throughout. Through his journey of extremes, Rampuri takes us into the mystic heart of India.
"Rampuri's account of his spiritual journey is an intentionally entertaining story with personal accounts of many fascinating characters that changed him completely. He also gives the reader valuable glimpses into authentic life in India."
"Whether he is truly a holy man or a real-life Indiana Jones, Rampuri's journey looks like a compelling read."
“An authentic and fascinating account of a Western yogi who has made India his home for his body and his spirit. Autobiography of a Sadhu 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.”
“Lovers of imagery and the sounds of words will be mesmerized by Autobiography of a Sadhu.”
“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.”
“This book will entertain and enlighten you. A bold journey that explores the true intersections of Eastern and Western thought.”
"At the end of this compelling autobiography, the author says that he hopes readers will be edified and entertained by his quest for Truth and his adventures in the Extraordinary World. We are."
I DREAMED INDIA INTO EXISTENCE
My first three months in India went by very quickly. As my visa was about to expire, I decided to go to Delhi where I would either find a way to extend it or travel to Nepal and obtain a new one there. I met a young sadhu while waiting for the train in Nasik, north of Bombay. We struck up a quick friendship and managed to communicate despite the fact that neither of us had command of the other’s language. What we did have in common was our long hair.
Thumping himself on the chest, and shaking the dreadlocks that hung halfway down his back, he called himself a Naga Baba, a yogi. Naga means “naked,” and indeed many Naga Babas have abandoned all clothing, but to these yogis their initiation into nakedness meant that they had given up everything of the Ordinary World, including its social behavior, rules, rituals, and books. I saw them as the Hell’s Angels of babas.
The young baba, who wore only an ochre cloth around his waist, couldn’t have even been my age, which was nineteen at the time, as he was failing miserably in his attempt to grow a mustache out of peach fuzz. He was going to see his guru in Ujjain, one of the most ancient and sacred cities in India. “I am nothing,” he said, “but my guru is everything.” So I decided to postpone my Delhi trip and accompany him instead. How could I pass up this opportunity?
When we arrived, the young baba took me to the simple Shiva temple where he lived with his guru and several other sadhus. His brash behavior melted away in front of his guru and he became the boy that he was and went right to work. I was enjoying the company of his guru, an old laughing Buddha of a man, but the young baba, after touching his master’s feet, quickly departed to the kitchen area to prepare vegetables.
“Here? There? Where you will go?” the old baba asked me in his broken English. He waved his hand in a circle. I knew what he meant. I was running around like a chicken without a head. If I hadn’t wanted “in” as much as I did, I might not have felt so outside and could have enjoyed the exotic locale as a spiritual tourist. I felt a subtle shift in my perception. There were doorways, passageways, in my dream of India, whose entrances had proved inaccessible. Could I dream my way through the labyrinth? Perhaps. But I sensed I needed some additional tools. It requires a leap, I thought.
After sunset, evening worship began. Two babas, standing in the temple, banged brass plates with wooden mallets, alternating two beats each, a tempo that started to sound like the rhythm of time. The old baba looked at his watch, he shook it a few times, and looked at it again, then he put it to his ear. Obviously it wasn’t working.
Helped by two of the younger babas, the old one got on his feet and led us over to the temple. We walked up a couple of steps through medieval archways into the mandapa, or meeting hall, where already half a dozen babas had gathered and were ringing the heavy gunmetal bells hanging down from the ceiling on long chains in front of the holy of holies, the inner temple housing the Shiva linga. The smoke from the incense and wood resins created a haze in the hall. I strained to see the priest pouring water on the Shiva linga and then decorating it with flowers. The crowd swelled, another dozen enthusiastic babas had arrived. The baba-priest now waved a brass butter lamp, five wicks and five flames, in circles in front of the linga, while a couple of drummers whacked their dholak drums.
I stood on tiptoe behind the frenzied worshippers so that I could watch the priest, his head swaying to the hypnotic beat, offering Fire to the god Shiva. I tried to get closer but everyone had the same idea; the crowd surged. The pulsating sounds were overpowering, pulling me like an ocean riptide, filling my veins with liquid rhythm. I began to lose control and tried to resist.
Then I caught myself. What was I doing? Why fight it? Let go! My eyes closed for a moment, and my body started swaying to the percussion—brass plates banged, bells jangled, and drums cracked. I felt myself dancing. I opened my eyes to see the crowd give way before me. I moved slowly forward, rising up from the temple floor with every step, a few inches at first, and then I was dancing on air. Soon I began to float, supine, four or five feet above the ground. I was able to put my head just inside the holy of holies, which had a low arch, and saw five little fire deities, little Agnis, dancing in front of Shiva in the form of a large egg of naturally polished black stone. The wet black stone radiated heat that made me sweat, and it made a sound like Om that hummed louder and louder until it consumed all the other sounds. Maybe it was the Mother of all Sounds.
Everything was suddenly very quiet, and I became aware that there was nothing holding me up. At the same time I realized that I was no longer attached to my body and I fell to the ground with a great crash.
When I was able to focus again, I saw the heavy round jowls of the old baba who was cradling me. Ten faces looked down at me with concern.
Hara Hara Mahadev!
They kept shouting as the old baba made me sniff some more camphor. I tried getting up but was too weak to move.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Shiva like you,” smiled the old man.
1 Meeting Cartouche 5
2 I Dream India into Existence 11
3 Hari Puri Baba 22
4 Becoming Rampuri 35
5 "I Can Only Show You a Path" 49
6 What Is Remembered 63
7 Kashi: The City of Liberation 79
8 Kumbh Mela 90
9 Angrez: Foreigner 109
10 Tantric Attack 121
11 The Healing Mantra 128
12 A Question of Paths 132
13 Hari Puri's Miraculous Return 137
14 Gangotri Baba 149
15 The Ghost of Hari Puri Baba 158
16 The Process of Un-Becoming 168
17 Possession 180
18 Deconstruction 194
19 The Nectar of Immortality 213
Posted October 1, 2011
This book is not just the autobiography of a renunciate it is an engrossing and entertaining story. It's one of those books you have a hard time putting down. It gives the reader a look into a tradition that is virtually unknown in the West. A remarkable story about an amazing journey.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 29, 2010
I have read his book several times, and it only gets more and more interesting and profound. It contains so many different layers, it has such a depth, so anyone that is interested in the esoteric world, almost regardless of your playing field will have huge benefit from reading his book.
This book is a blessing in disguise and a rare opportunity to have a glimpse of the extraordinary world of Naga Babas.
Reading it many times has made it possible for me to see some of the marks and signs in the book where more esoteric wisdom and knowledge lyes. Baba Rampuri has a brilliant and extraordinary mind that goes beyond most peoples understanding and conception of the world. He is a true storyteller and is definitely able to articulate his knowledge and wisdom!
Magic happens where worlds meet, as Baba Rampuri is fond of saying in his masterful book. Deepak Chopra wrote: "This book will entertain and enlighten you. A bold journey that explores the true intersections of Eastern and Western thought." I found this to be true as I felt a connection with the Yoga Tradition as I have never had before. Baba Rampuri talks about his travels in India, making pilgrimages to a 'crossing point between worlds', the hidden entrances to these other worlds, the meaning of 'darshan' the beholding, achieving immortality, the alchemical contribution to the world, expanding one's vocabulary, Hindu scriptures and words such as 'karma' and 'nirvana' and their relevance to the experience of living, Indian culture and the oral tradition of naga babas, the 'yogi shamans', the search for new meanings, Indian cannabis use, gurus and their communication of self-knowledge, the distortion of Hinduism by India's colonizers, the "book of the world," the Mother Goddess and her fruits spread across the world, the uncluttered mind of the yogi, his connection with the Goddess, and Amrita the Elixir of Immortality.
As an American teenager, fuelled by the naïve exuberance of the Sixties, Rampuri is "pulled" deep into India, into an ancient order of yogis, where he is initiated and eventually possessed by a master shaman, a baba. But the spiritual path isn't quite what the young Rampuri expected, as the tantric murder of his guru presents a riddle to the young man that he must solve, requiring an inner journey of self-discovery, in order to know who he really is.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Yoga, India, Spirituality, Self Knowledge, and Esoteric Knowledge. But that aside, for any reader of good literature, it's a great adventure story that leaves the reader anxious for his next book!
Posted May 28, 2010
A rare and fascinating story of a young mans journey to the unknown in his search for knowledge.
One of the few books and maybe even the only one, about Naga Babas (sadhus) and the magical world they live in, that is actually written by a Naga Baba.
"... Sadhu: A Journey into Mystic India" takes you on a pilgrimage into the extraordinary world of the Naga Babas. It questions many of the thoughts, ideas and beliefs that we have adopted in modern western discourse and it is filled with teachings and knowledge from an obscure and ancient oral tradition. Like all old traditions, the teachings are given in the form of storytelling and Rampuri is a very articulate and captivating storyteller.
I read it in less than two days and have enjoyed reading it again, it's as if there are hidden words, content and story inside the pages of the book that only unfold when you read it again.
The book is a must read for anyone interested in Naga Babas, Indian thought, esoteric knowledge or yoga.
Posted July 13, 2011
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Posted June 1, 2011
No text was provided for this review.