Sunday, February 19, 2012

pure life

In the orthodox sense I am not a Christian, yet in a way I consider myself a Christian for, as many of my Oriental brethren do, I look upon Jesus as a great Yogin and a great Paramahamsa Sannyasi, for in life and teachings are in perfect harmony with their ancient treatises on Yoga and the metaphysical and spiritual teachings of the Upanishads.(Swami Satyananda)

Saturday, 17 February 2012

After the first three nights at SFA (since that room was only available ‘til then), there was some discussion about where to house me, and I asked that I could come back here where I am now––at the Pure Life Society with Mother Mangalam. This is the ashram-orphanage founded by her with Swami Satyananda. I’ll repeat my explanation of this place from three years ago…

Swami Satyananda was a Malaysian-born Tamil Indian, born in 1906. He had a Roman Catholic education (interesting to note that he would later write a what he called a “catechism” if the Indian religion), entered government service at 17, and spent ten years studying yoga, during which time he met some sannyasis of the Ramakrishna order. He first had a career as an educator, both in regular schools and adult education programs, and was active in social, cultural and religious movements. Then in 1937 he joined the Ramakrishna Order, after which he studied Sanskrit and Indian philosophy. In 1940 he was sent to Singapore (when it was still part of Malay) as the head of the RK schools there, and studied and lectured particularly on comparative religions, and also did lots of work in education and social reform. He parted amicably with the RK order, mutually deciding that he was on his own path. He continued to live as a monk but was heavily involved in social work, education, pacifist conferences and inter-religious dialogue. He was greatly respected and decorated by local government leaders. As a matter of fact his book “Influence of Indian Culture on Malaya” was at one time the recommended text book for the Malayan Civil Service Examination. He joined the Indian Relief Committee after WWII and in 1950 established this place, the Shuddha Samaj–Pure Life Society, which includes an orphanage, a school, an adult education center, the Temple of the Universal Spirit, and a printery which issues a magazine called Dharma. In 1960 he suffered a terrible car accident from which he never fully recovered and he died a year later. Since then this place has been under the guidance of his closest disciple, Mangalam, affectionately known as “Mother.”

It is also Swami Satyananda who taught Father John Main how to meditate when Fr. John was stationed here in KL as part of the English Civil Service, which would later bear fruit as the seed of the World Community for Christian Meditation, for whom I have done considerable work and who have been such good friends to me. I will be doing a retreat for the WCCM next week in Penang, and my friends Leonard and Pat Por are involved with them too. The sweetest part of the whole thing is that I always get to stay in the Swami’s old hut, a few steps below the Temple of the Universal Spirit. As is often the case in India, main room of the hut (where he actually lived) has been turned into a kind of museum and shrine, with articles of his clothing and some of his books and autographs. It’s rare that anyone stays here but Mother always spruces it up for me, and this time even had a real bed brought in instead of the cot that I have used in the past. I always feel as close to India as possible in Malaysia and especially here. The room that I stay in attached to the main room is very much like a cell in the ashram, cement floor and noisy fan above, the bathroom consisting of a squatting toilet and buckets for a bath.

I’ve got most of today off again (Saturday here) and one of my young friends is coming up to do some yoga and meditation with me up in the Temple. So I’m feeling very much at home.