Evolution of a Muslim youth to a Hindu Yogi – FASCINATING AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI

published on May 2, 2011


Book Review by Pradeep Krishnan

The fascinating book ‘Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master- A Yogi’s Autobiography’ traces Sri M’s spiritual journey from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala to the Vyasa Cave in the Himalayas with his ‘Babaji’ Guru Maheshwarnath, in search of truth and enlightenment.

Spiritual well-being is an integral part of everyone’s lives. Spirituality and work—whether you are a policeman, a politician or a teacher— are interconnected. One cannot separate one from the other.  People are not born bad nor do their activities determine whether or not they are bad people.

About the root cause of selfishness, Sri M says, “It is the ego, the ‘I’ factor in ourselves that leads us to believe we are unique, and being so deserve more than the other person. We need to realise we are a part of everyone else. Just as the whole world is a part of us, there is a greater existence that permeates everything.” Disillusionment with hatred in today’s world may have led us to think that no good can come out of mankind. But there is still hope if there are more spiritual gurus such as Sri M to guide us.

Sri M is an enlightened soul, who was born in Kerala, became disciple to a very great Guru at a young age, moved to the Himalayas. Later he worked with J.Krishnamurty, another enlightened soul, in Rishi Valley.

Sri M is very accessible. He has started a school called Peepal Grove School in Sadum Mandal, Chittoor Dist of Andhara Pradesh.  

The book traces the metamorphosis of Mumtaz Ali Khan into an accomplished yogi with profound knowledge of the Upanishads and “first-hand experiences with higher levels of consciousness.

How has Indian civilization survived for centuries despite numerous invasions? It has survived because of its continuous intellectual, spiritual and emotional contact with its ancient past. Men and women, like M who have spiritual vision, had a vital role to play in the upkeep of the country’s rich civilization.

The whole of Indian civilization can be looked upon as a series of reinterpretation of the truth quoted in our ancient texts and that the “guru-shishya parampara” was the very essence of civilization.

Anybody who does anything against convention or says something that does not conform to the received wisdom usually becomes a suspect and is often branded. Worse, he often does not even get a hearing.

Sri M’s Foreword to the book encourages readers to ignore those portions which they may find difficult to believe and plod on but when one takes up the book it is difficult to put it down even for a while.
Sri M is an unusual person. Born in a Muslim family in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala he grew up in the eclectic traditions of the city where a temple, a church and a mosque stand in a line as if proclaiming that God is one. Unbelievable as it may sound, he got initiated into the intricacies of the “Gayatri Mantra” when he stole two books from his father’s drawer.

His maternal grandmother who doted on him forbade him from eating from any Hindu house but he had no difficulty in swallowing the ashes a holy man had given him, for as a Muslim he could not smear it on his body. The Sufi traditions, rather than the Wahabi traditions, which the family followed helped him in his search for the truth. Even as a student, he sought to walk alone even when he was in a crowd that included friends like the famous cardiac surgeon who set up Ananthapuri Hospital at Thiruvananthapuram.

While still at school, he often sought the company of the unconventional, the vagabond and the perpetually peripatetic to “understand holy madness”. One of his encounters with a holy man, whom most people thought was mad, was indeed enlightening.

The sadhu did not have much philosophical thoughts to share with the young Sri M. All he told him was to pronounce “Raa-maayanam”. Then he said, “Raa means night, darkness,irrtu. The darkness must go. Then you will see Rama”. What a profound thought from a man who was an “illiterate ex-tea maker”!

Sri M considers himself a tool in the hands of his Guru, who seeks him out at a tender age. An average person may dismiss his claims of his Guru appearing before him and speaking in tongues which, otherwise, he could not follow as the result of hallucination. But once the reader suspends his disbelief and blindly follows the author as he wanders all over the sacred places in the Himalayas, he will realise that it has not been an exercise in futility.

Babaji that he finally meets is over a hundred years old but has the body of a young man, less than two scores. He is the quintessential rishi, who can advise the young seeker of truth not to bother about taking a bath in the cold waters of the Ganga before the morning meditation and, in the process, catch pneumonia.

In the Hindu tradition, knowledge is always gained through an intermediary called the Guru. “Yatha Guru thatha Shishya” goes a saying. Sri M was lucky to get a guru who belongs to the class called “Raja Yogis”. Of course, allowance has to be made for the author’s belief that he was born to be his disciple.

Babaji has clear, concise answers for all his spiritual and transcendent questions that put even the reader at ease. He does not even fight shy of questioning many received wisdom like his mother’s belief that non-vegetarian food is better for human body. While she stuffed his tiffin box with brain curry and liver fry, his friends who always had simple vegetarian food for lunch scored more marks than him.

In the course of his journey, Sri M ultimately meets his “Sri Guru Babaji”, about whom he quotes Swami Vivekananda, “A particle of dust from his blessed feet could have created a thousand Vivekanandas”. On the way, he meets several interesting persons from the late Marxist leader AK Gopalan to Jiddu Krishnamurthy to an assortment of holy men of all faiths, from whom he learns and moves on.

It is prophetic that he will use the name “Sri M”, which will remind him of his Babaji Maheshwarnath, who comes across as the “great master, wise, powerful and loving”. The book is, in fact, a tribute to him. For anybody who has interest in mysticism, Sufism and Vedanta, Sri M’s autobiography is, indeed, a treasure-trove.

(Magenta Press and Publication Pvt. Ltd., Cauvery Towers, College Road, Madikeri, Coorg, Karnataka-571 201)

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