On my way to Vasishtha Ashrama, on the high peak of a mountain in the middle of the Himalayas, where Shri Swami Rama Tirthaji Maharaj dwelt at the time, I met a young man who was of the Sherpa type. He was about twenty-five years old, a Brahmin by caste, illiterate and far removed from civilisation. He had never cultivated the society of educated people and had been a Sherpa carrying heavy loads on his back for the pilgrims, or travellers from one place in the Himalayas to another.
He met us as we were descending from the top of a high mountain on the way to Tihri. He was standing by the side of a waterfall and singing sweetly : OM, OM, OM. He looked hardly conscious of his environment or of himself.
We had heard of a hillman who was called Mast-Ram, who had been in the service of Swami Rama Tirthaji to do menial work for him in the Himalayas. After a few months’ associationship with the holy Paramahansa, his soul caught the fire of Vedanta. He did not understand the holy Yoga by means of intellect because he was very poor in intellectual capacity, but on account of his simplicity and devotion and complete want of selfishness he was influenced by the personality of Swami Rama Tirthaji. Then he followed the Paramahansa from one place to another in the Himalayas, serving him, sometimes cooking for him without expecting any wages. He used to sing OM all the time.
When we saw this young man we thought he was Mast-Ram. We called him by that name and he responded. He asked us who we were and where we were going. When he learned that we were on our way to Swami Rama Tirthaji in Vasishtha mountain, he offered to serve us voluntarily. He was a good guide, a fairly good cook and, though unacquainted with the art of conversation, he was most sincere and faithful in his ways of life. He guided us to Tihri and stayed two days with us. We offered him a little sum of money as a token of our affection for him. He declined our offer and said : “ I think it a very high privilege to serve you who are going to see my Guru Deva.” We parted company when we left Tihri because we were supplied with a government guide by Pundit Suridutt and we did not need his services any more.
On the way, wherever we halted we heard about Mast-Ram, his most unselfish personality and his way of offering his services to anybody who needed them, free of charge.
When we arrived at the high peak where the holy Swami dwelt in a very rudely fashioned hut and with no habitation for miles and miles, he told us of Mast-Ram. He said that the youth had been of very great service to him and had often brought his visitors to him safely ; but as he had an old mother to look after and refused to take any remuneration for his services, Swami Rama thought it better that Mast-Ram should go and earn a living. He therefore left Shri Swamiji, but he was found to be too intoxicated with the holy truth to do anything remunerative. He offered his services to the aged and the poor pilgrims and accepted only the very scanty meals which they offered him.
The name of Mast-Ram had become well-known in the Himalayan passes at that time. When people asked him to teach them how to do Bhajan and devotion, he replied : “ I know nothing which I can teach you. I have had a little peace and an inner vision by the grace of my Guru, Swami Rama Tirthaji. I advise you to serve him ; verily he is God on earth in human form.”
Mast-Ram was advised by some well-meaning people to put on the yellow garb of a Sadhu and add the six gems, then other charitable people could offer him biksha (alms as food). He indignantly refused the suggestion, saying :
“ The spirit needs no outer mark of saintliness ; besides, I am far from being a Sadhu. I am trying to purify my heart by my devotion to Swami Ramaji. I don’t want to pass as a Sadhu, as I am very far from the ideal.”
We never heard anything of Mast-Ram after leaving Tihri and there was no way of communicating with him because he was illiterate.
I still remember the good young man and the blessings which he received by serving the holy Paramahansa. I wished I could copy his life. My pundithood was a burden and a barrier, while Mast-Ram had obtained peace and inner vision by sheer faith and devotion to his Guru.