Yogado Ashram, Simla - 1978
“ When the Student is ready the Teacher will appear”
Heard that one before? It’s happened for me a few times in my life thus far. One of those times was during my 1st of 32 trips to India, the year 1978. It was during a browse through a Calcutta bookstore my partner and I came cross a well-seasoned dog-eared book titled, “The Gurus of India” written by a British hippie going by the name of Muz Murray.
The book was a collection of various Gurus & Ashrams that you could visit whilst cruising your way around India. We proceeded to write to half a dozen so called Gurus listed in the book thinking this could be a hoot spending a few days in a secluded ashram under the guidance of a “real” Indian Guru. The only way to communicate back then was through the written word; pen & paper, and mail could take anything from 10 to 110 days if at all, as stamps were often steamed off the envelopes at the back of the post office and resold leaving those letters displaced and undelivered on the mailroom floor.
We were excited to have received one reply from a Professor R.C Gupta, inviting us for a month-long summer camp at the Yogado Satsanga Ashram of Simla. Mr Gupta or Dadaji as he was affectionately named, which means grandpa in Hindi, was of the ripe old age of 81 and still pulsating with vital pranic energy.
Each year he would run these summer camps during the University holidays with a gathering of dedicated followers, this year over 200 students attending, myself and my partner where the first foreigners that had ever joined the camp.
Each morning was a 3 hour Asana and pranayama class, we all followed the role of Dadaji, his performance was exemplary, lecturing in both Hindi & English for our benefit with his booming voice carrying the length of the hall. At the end of each class a small group would gather around him with reverent attention, some would describe ailments, which he promptly diagnosed and treated, but most where just curious onlookers. Indians are naturally curious people and love to gather in groups but in this case I detected something more, a great respect and awe towards Dadaji’s presence. I can vividly recall one of these such gatherings when Dadaji demonstrated jala neti.
First he removes his glasses and dentures and for the first time really looks his age. He gargles with some saline water then with the spouted end of a tea pot full of this liquid he places it at the tip of one nostril, tilts his head gently to one side and allows the liquid to run out through his mouth We, who are all watching are entranced, but this is only the beginning. Dadaji then proceeds to poke what looks like a thin piece of rubber tubing, later to be informed it is in fact catheter tubing, up one nostril, still talking in Hindi as he does so, opens his mouth wider and places 2 fingers of his right hand to the back of his throat catching hold of the tubing and draws it out through his mouth. He then proceeds to saw it backwards and forwards to thoroughly clear the nasal passages. I happen to look around the crowd and notice the onlookers wincing with uncertainty at such a feat, once it’s over I too relax at such a complex task.
This is, in fact, one of the 7 “Yoga Kriyas”, or yogi cleansing techniques, that Dadaji committed to teach me over that 4 week, period living in a Yoga Ashram with a real life Indian Guru.