- Four First-Class Sadhus | Podcast

Four First-Class Sadhus | Podcast

Click here to listen to Four First-Class Sadhus if you do not see the player above. The podcast length is 16:00 minutes.


Sadhu at prayerSadhu: a seeker for truth (sat); and a person who is practicing spiritual disciplines. Usually this term is applied to monastics.

In this podcast, Abbot George relates his experiences with four monks he met in India that were definitely of the first class. These were:

  • The Ganges island swami
  • His friend in black
  • The Swami who would not be a pet, and his guru who laughed.

Below is a transcription of his encounter with the first sadhu:


The Ganges Island Swami and His Sandy Mansion

At the beginning of 1963, Sri Anandamayi Ma instructed me to find a kutir in either Hardwar or Rishikesh where I could do sadhana. Thanks to Brahmacharini Atmananda, who was known to many pilgrims to India as translator, counselor, friend and smoother of the way, I was put in touch with an ideal devotee, Rai Bahadur Narayan Das who was the chief director and patron of the Sapta Rishi Ashram which I have already mentioned.

The ashram was not a single large building as is usual, but rather was a kind of small sadhu village consisting of kutirs in which single sadhus would remain for a while and do tapasya. One I met lived there for many years.

Sapta Rishi ashram was a perfect place for meditation and study–at first. But then pilgrim season began when hundreds of thousands would traverse the Himalayas to visit the great pilgrimage centers of Gangotri and Badrinath. Then all day long people streamed into the ashram and knocked on the doors of all the kutirs in hope of meeting a mahatma, a great soul.

To compound the problem, the doctor who ran a free medical dispensary at the ashram began bringing crowds of people to look at the American yogi, a rarity indeed. I had someone make me a sign in Hindi asking that I not be disturbed, but that just meant that it was discussed for a while and then the banging began on the door beneath the sign. “All I want is darshan” (in Hindi, of course) was the common preamble for the racket.

Seeking solitude

The only solution was the very unsatisfactory one of spending the whole day on an island in the Ganges where two or three sadhus were living and completely left alone at all times. I have no idea why. Anyway I went there every day and starved until it was safe to go back to my kutir and cook something (usually Anandamayi Kitchuri, a recipe formulated by Anandamayi Ma for sadhus living under her supervision and taught to me by Atmanandaji).

This went on much too long, but did have one good result. Each day when I was sneaking back to the ashram, I would meet two sadhus coming to the island for the night. Both were perfect examples of the sadhus I have already described: first class. They would pranam and smile, but never speak.

Joyful freedom

One day when I came over to the island I saw one of the sadhus sitting on a tiny bit of sand not even ten feet long and five feet wide. The only thing there but the sadhu was a very big rounded rock. As I was passing by, the sadhu motioned for me to halt. Then he indicated to me that this was where he lived. First he pushed the rock out a way into the river and made the motions of washing his clothes on the rock. That was his laundry room. Then he pushed the rock back onto the sand over a bit and made the motions of making a fire. That was his kitchen. Then he moved it to another spot and sat down on the rock in great dignity. That was his living room. Then he moved it to the far end, laid down and put his head on it. That was his bedroom and his pillow.

In this way he showed me that he had a complete house right there and everything he needed. And throughout the entire pantomime he was smiling and radiating the joy of freedom from possessions. He was living in the luxury India provided for him so easily. Then he made signs that I knew were his question: Did I understand? I did. And I never forgot the lesson.

Listen to this podcast (Four First-Class Sadhuspodcast length is 16:00 minutes) to hear this and about:

  • My friend in black
  • The Swami who would not be a pet, and his guru who laughed.

Listen to more podcasts on meditation, the Yoga Life, and great spiritual figures at our Podcast Page.

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