The India-china war of 1962 brought the author, commanding a paramilitary battalion at the time, to the Himalayan foothills. Here, in the secluded environs of Mirtola ashram in a remote Kumaon village, he met an extraordinary man: Sri Madhava Ashish, an aircraft engineer who came from England in 1942 and stayed on to become a sadhu. It was the beginning of a teacher-disciple relationship that would last over thirty years, and change the author’s life.
Ashish Da, the ‘modern seer’, is the central figure in this absorbing account of a mystical journey. Other significant presences are Yashoda Ma, a devotee of Krishna, who took sanyas and established the ashram more than seventy years ago; Ashish Da’s own guru, Sri Krishna Prem, one-time fighter pilot; and the pivotal Moti Rani, yashoda Ma’s daughter, who, like her mother, renounced the world for the spiritual life. But the book is not so much about personalities as it is about the teachings and the methods used by the guru to help his disciples in their spiritual growth: mystical ideas (of Sri Nisargadatta and Gurdjieff, among others),austerities, dedicated service, meditation, intelligent enquiry, and the use of one’s dreams as tools in the quest for self-knowledge.
As he describes his own spiritual journey, and life at the ashram that he shared with like-minded seekers, including his wife Kamla, the author also analyses and attempts to explain the teachings of a truly unique, and in many ways unorthodox, spiritual guru. The result is an engaging and invigorating book that should appeal to every intelligent and sensitive reader.
Born in 1930, Satish Datt Pandey took his master’s degree from Allahabad University. He was selected for the Indian Police Service in 1953. During a long tenure of distinguished service, he held several important posts like that of the Director General of Punjab Police, and Director General of Central Reserve Police. After taking premature retirement, he moved to an ashram, situated in the Himalayan foothill, to follow his inner quest, under the guidance of his guru. His long association with the ashram began in 1965. there, he came in close contact with Sri Krishna Prem and Sri Madhava Ashish, both of British extraction, who had come to India during the Raj days and stayed on as Vaishnav sadhus to Pursue their sadhana and, later, to guide a small number of seekers from India and abroad who were drawn to them.
S.D. Pandey has published five books in Hindi-two novels, a collection of short stories, a book of poems and a memoir of his days in the police. Guru By Your Bedside is based on his memory and the notes that he kept on what he saw, heard and experienced during his years of association with his spiritual mentors. He now lives in Noida, near Delhi, cherishing and trying to live by what the guru taught in his lifetime.
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