Notes on great spiritual figures

Paul Deussen’s meeting with Pundit Baijnath

When Pundit Baijnath unexpectedly appeared at a meeting in Najibabad in 1908, just after Shri Dada had been mysteriously called away to the Himalayas, he was to all appearances a prosperous, middle- aged lawyer, accompanied by three companions, coming to see his...

Trevor Pryce Leggett

Trevor Pryce Leggett was a multi-talented man who excelled in whatever he seriously set his mind upon. His major interests were Adhyatma Yoga, a well-trodden classical path to the realization of the infinite and all-pervasive Supreme Self, and its non-dualist...

Hari Prasad Shastri

Above: pictures of Professor Hari Prasad Shastri and Trevor Leggett with his teacher, Hari Prasad Shastri Hari Prasad Shastri was born at Bareilly in Northern India in 1881. He came from a long line of Brahmin scholars and himself took the highest possible...

Shri Dada was Hari Prasad Shastri’s teacher

Shri Dada was Hari Prasad Shastri’s teacher. Hari Prasad Shastri wrote his biography “The Heart of the Eastern Mystical Teaching”. Trevor Legget has a talk on these matters on this site. Narayana Prasad, later known as Shri Dada, was born in a rich family in...

Mohammed Shah

Some thirty years after the death of the great Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, the throne of Delhi was occupied by one of his descendants named Mohammed Shah. He was a man who loved luxury and took delight in sense-pleasures and allowed the administration to...

Mullah Hakim

He was short, old and thin, his eyes dim, his face full of wrinkles. He sat and walked with a stoop; his dress was poor and untidy. On summer afternoons he sat on a straw mat under a spreading -pepal tree, with a staff on one side, and a pile of Persian books on the...

Happiness, according to William Law

“Happiness.” it has been said, “is no laughing matter.” 1 lThe book, published in 1729, that brought William Law eminence in spiritual literature, offers grave and lucid reasons together with lively and imaginative illustrations to show that a desire for happiness and...

Nicolas of Cusa

Born in 1401 as the son of a German boatman at Cusa on the banks of the Moselle some twenty miles from the present Luxembourg border, he took part in the Conciliar movement of the fifteenth century, engaged the redoubtable Torquemada in debate, became converted to the...

Sonjo was one of the pupils of the great Basho

Sonjo was one of the pupils of the great Basho; she was an eye-doctor. She came to Yedo after her husband’s death and is buried there. She became a Buddhist nun. She writes:— Not to seek for the Truth not to seek for error—this is the basis of the Great Path. The...

Chuang Tzu was a native of what is now Ho-nan

According to H. G. Wells, humanity attained to adolescence in the 6th century b.c. It is hard to recognise the truth of this statement for even to-day nations behave as selfish and imprudent children, ignoring the law of philanthropy and believing in the supreme...

Narayana Prasad

Narayana Prasad, later known as Shri Dada, was born in a rich family in Moradabad, a city of the United Provinces. He was a Brahmin, or member of the highest caste. In early youth he met his guru, Swami Krishnanandaji, and devoted himself entirely to his service. The...

Swami Satchitananda: years 1912-1916

The year 1910 brought upon me colossal misfortune and economic difficulties, and the burden of supporting my good and dear mother and my younger brothers fell on my shoulders. I was at that time an itinerant preacher of Sanatana Dharma with no fixed income and...

Tulsi Das

The reputed author of the Hindi Ramayana, Saint Tulsi Das, in his old age used to live in the holy city of Benares. His verses had won the hearts of the people of northern India, and his fame had been established as a great classical writer forever. Tributes were...

Julian of Norwich

“The goodness of God is the highest prayer and it cometh  down to the lowest part of our need.” This sentence from the 6th chapter of the Lady Julian’s Revelations summarizes a large part of her teaching. It was not of petitionary prayer that she wrote, but of...

Bhavabhuti

Bhavabhuti, second in fame only to Kalidasa among the Indian dramatists, wrote about 700 a.d. and lived for a time in Kanauj at the court of King Yashovarman. Virtually nothing else is known about his life at all, and in particular it has not been possible to...

The Spiritual precepts of St Seraphim of Sarov

St Seraphim of Sarov, the greatest modem saint of the Russian Orthodox Church, was bom in 1759 and died at the Sarov Monastery in 1833. His life spanned six reigns, those of the Empress Elizabeth, Peter III, Catherine II, Paul, Alexander I and Nicholas I. In it fell...

Jalal Uddin Rumi

Certain organisms, like the mole for example, are lacking in one or more of the five senses. If the mole were to run about in a room he would know something of its dimensions and would have some sense of the hardness or softness of the objects he contacted. He would...

St. Vincent de Paul

THE young Priest who was to become known to the world as St. Vincent de Paul, founder of modem philanthropy, missionary, Chaplain to the King’s Galleys, Father of Foundlings, originator of District Nursing and the greatest beggar of all history, was born in France in...

Saint Teresa of Avila

“God preserve me from sullen saints ! ” was one of  St. Theresa’s favourite exclamations, and so He did, for she herself was the epitome of joy. Everyone of her books overflows with this high spirit, and to read even one is to be captivated by her, not only because...

The death of Bach

In the year 1750 the great singer of God, who had adored Him through his compositions as perhaps no one else had ever done before, lies dying in an unimportant place. He has lost his eyesight. His children have disgraced his name. He is treated with indifference by...

Raidas the Cobbler

Raidas, a cobbler of Benares belonging to the Shudra caste, was a great devotee and saint of the 15th century a.d. He was one of the glorious band of disciples of Rama- nanda, who was fourth in spiritual succession from Shri Ramanuja Acharya. Ramananda, who lived...

Wali Nazir

Wali Nazir (1740—1830), the author of Non-attachment, was born at Delhi of prosperous parents who educated him well in Persian. As a young man he is said to have led a licentious life, but he later became a convert to the Sufi doctrines. He married in Agra where he...

Emperor Ashoka

Emperor Ashoka was one of the most enlightened monarchs of all time. Alexander’s domination over North-western India did not last more than three years. In the revolt against the Greek rule, a young man of 25 named Chandragupta came to the fore as a leader. He was a...

Houien-Tsang

Houien-Tsang was born in North-western China in 602 a.d. of a family of Confucian literati, he showed astonishing piety and learning from his earliest youth, and at the age of 13 joined a Mahayana Buddhist monastery, under the influence of an elder brother. In 629,...

Sigmund Freud

There is a saying of Swami Rama Tirtha to the effect that the scientist pursuing truth in his laboratory was as much a saint as the formal adherent of one of the great religions who put his faith into practice. Freud’s passion for truth was indeed striking ; early...

Shyam Kant Banarji

In the year 1912 I came across a little book in Hindi called “ Sohum Tattwa ” on Vedanta. The subject was. treaded scientifically and boldly disregarded the orthodox opinion of the Brahmins who, while acknowledging the truth of the unity of spirit and the divinity of...

The Confessions of St. Augustine

The “ Confessions ” of St. Augustine is agreed to be one of the greatest books ever written. Whether we consider it merely as a literary masterpiece, as a classical example of a certain type of rhetorical excellence ; or whether we approach it as a psychological study...

Mast-Ram

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...

The living art of Rembrandt

“All that came to be was alive with his life, and that life was the light of man. The light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never quenched it.” John I. v. 4-5 (New English Bible). However dark the mind of man, however black the pages of history, there have...

The youth of Swami Rama Tirtha

THE mention of Swami Rama Tirtha’s name always inspires reverence and joy in the hearts of those who have either read his works, or who have heard of him in one way or another. Not only is he held in high esteem by yogis, but he is also held in very high regard by...

Trotaka Archarya

We know little about the life of Shankara, the founder of Advaita as a philosophical system. It is now known that he must have lived about a.d. 700, but the earliest surviving circumstantial account of his life is the Shankara Digvijaya of Madhava, apparently written...

Marjorie Vickers Waterhouse

Marjorie Vickers Waterhouse was a lover of life; no disappointment in it, no setback drove her to despise it. Always she had an unquenchable spirit and it was this thirst for more abundant opportunities, for proof that indeed the breath of life held a gift more...

God manifests Himself in love and through love

This is an extract from a long article by Swami Rama Tirtha (Punjab, India, 1873-1906) which appeared serially from 1900 onwards in his Urdu magazine Alif under the title “Peace or War? Waves of the Ganges.” The extract here presented was written shortly after the...

Sureshvara

Sureshvara was a pupil of Shri Shankara, the classical guide to the Upanishads in the Advaita Vedanta tradition. He is chiefly famous for three works: a relatively short treatise called Naishkarmya Siddhi , a sub-commentary on the Taittiriya Upanishad of comparable...

Paramahansa Rama Tirtha

On the death of Paramahansa Rama Tirtha, many of his friends and acquaintances published their impressions of his association with them. These are valuable because they serve to give a view of the life of the saint before his ultimate illumination. Every man can make...

The last Confucian sage was Wang Yang-ming

The last Confucian sage was Wang Yang-ming, a universal genius who as a Minister occasionally commanded military campaigns. A master strategist and tactician he lost very few men. On one occasion before an imminent battle, he made his dispositions and then in his tent...

Leonardo Da Vinci an Adhyatma Yogi

The metaphor of the reflected moon and sun illustrates a further truth of the Yoga psychology. The whole of our experience is lit by the reflection of the self in us. It lights up all our inner operations of thought, feelings, will, memory, imagination and intuition,...

Shankara the Teacher

Shankara, the great yogi-philosopher of India who revivified the ancient doctrine of the Upanishads when it was in danger from Buddhist scepticism on the one hand and from the refined materialism of ritualists on the other, is the reputed author of more than 400...

Bodhidharma and the Emperor

THE HEKIGANROKU and the Shoyoroku are two Chinese koan anthologies, the first favoured by the Rinzai sect and the second by the Soto. The Hekiganroku was compiled by Setcho (979-1032) of the Ummon Zen sect, who put his own comments and poems to the hundred (tcases})...

Siddhi

When I first met Dr Shastri, I had done meditation for about seven years, on the lines of practising casting off thoughts including desires at any time, while being able to entertain them at other times at will.  My interest was to develop some powers and knowledge...

The Dragon of Myoshinji Temple

All Japanese know of the great painter Kano Tanyu, whose work exists even today at the Myoshinji temple. This is the story of the time when he painted the great dragon on the ceiling of the main hall of the temple. It was his masterpiece and is one of the art...

Rabbi Leo Baeck – a Karma Yogi

There seems to be a lurking feeling in many people’s minds that a practical and active life is less spiritual than an intellectual one, and again that an intellectual life is less spiritual than a contemplative one. They apparently think that only those who cannot...

A note from Tokyo

Dear Dr Shastri Just returned to Tokyo from Kyushu, stopping at Kyoto on the way back. Kyoto seems almost the same, and I went round some of the temples. I expect you remember the Moss Temple of Saiho-ji, with its garden designed by Muso Kokushi, and made by arranging...

My friendship with Trevor Leggett

I first had the good fortune to meet Trevor in the early 1970’s when, with my wife-to-be, we made weekly trips from Kent to London to attend talks given by speakers from Shanti Sadan at the Friends’ Meeting House in Hampstead.  A different speaker was chosen for each...

An incident in the life of Shri Dada

Ram Dayal was an illiterate youth. He was born in a Brahmin family, but having become an orphan at a tender age, he had no advantages of education. He was tall, of strong build and a determined youth. He often came to Shri Dada’s evening Sat-Sang and brought...

From a letter by Thomas Jefferson

Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains, rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose, that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonourable thing, however slightly so...

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