In this interview, Sri M tells of meeting in person, Shirdi Sai Baba, Mahavatar Babaji (who’s disciples include Sri Yukteswar and Paramahansa Yogananda), serpent spiritual beings from another galaxy and many others… (Watch Part 2 of this interview Here.)
From Vanchiyoor in Kerala to the Vyasa Cave in the Himalayas, Sri M’s journey epitomises a unique spiritual ‘rags to riches’ story; one where sheer dedication, sincerity and single mindedness allowed a young boy to evolve into a living yogi.
Born on November 6, 1948 in Trivandrum in the state of Kerala, Sri M seemed to be drawn irresistibly to what seemed an unusual preoccupation in one so young. From his very first distant interaction with a God absorbed Swami to his constant fascination for the grace and mystique of stories of Sufi saints, Sri M was drawn to the ‘other’ and longed for a world of Himalayan heights.
At the age of nine, his inner transformation was sparked off by a visit from a yogi – his master Maheshwarnath Babaji who came all the way from the Himalayas to re-establish his past life connections with M. Even though the meeting was only for a few minutes, it paved the way for the definitive encounter with Babaji at the age of nineteen in the Himalayas, where M arrived after running away from home.
For the next ten years, Sri M appeared to be a normal young boy, enjoying life’s experiences and school, but he was drawn towards esoteric and religious texts, and even met with various holy men and sages in and around his locality; people who would appear to us to be strange and unusual but who offered him glimpses of a spiritual reality.
At nineteen, wise beyond his years and raring to go, he used money given to him for his college exam fees to set into motion a visit to the Himalayas to find his true guru – perhaps even the person who he met at the age of nine in his backyard.
Upon reaching Delhi, he wasted no time heading north to Haridwar, the gateway to Hari, deity in Badrinath and Hara, deity in Kedarnath. At Haridwar, with a new name and dressed as a typical jigyasu, he spent a couple of days visiting various temples, marvelling at the sadhus and seekers from the Vaishnavites with vertical stripes, shaktas with blood red tilaks and others with strange markings.
He then continued to Rishikesh on Bhagwan’s (God’s) train where he first went to the Divine Life Society. Living at the Divine Life Society for a couple of weeks, he practiced yoga, attended classes on the Upanishads and explored the various ashrams and caves around Rishikesh, interacting with a slew of seemingly enlightened people always in search of a teacher.
Still seeking, he decided to leave the foothills behind and journeyed on to Badrinath. Walking all 220 kilometres, he arrived in Badrinath after much hardship. After meeting the Ravalji who kindly advised him to return to his parents, disturbed but still determined to make a last ditch attempt to find his teacher, he set out for Mana and the Vyasa Cave. Arriving at the cave of Vyasa one evening a couple of days later, his sheer determination was rewarded and his master Babaji appeared and took him under his wings.
For the next three and a half years, M lived and travelled with his Master across the Himalayas, including various destinations off the beaten track. From his initiation into the Nath tradition, the awakening of his Kundalini fire, his arduous journey to Tholingmutt in Tibet and meeting the Grand Master – Sri Guru, his teacher gently guided him, preparing him for his life’s mission.
After his time in the Himalayas, Babaji asked M to go back to the plains and prepare for his life mission. He was further instructed to undergo extensive preparation that took him from Kashmir to Kanyakumari where he familiarised himself with varied spiritual and religious traditions. He meet great souls such as Neem Karoli Baba and learnt from Laxman Joo and J. Krishnamurti.
Sri M received a green signal to commence his teaching phase some years after his Master passed away and since 1998 he started off with his satsangs and the formation of the Satsang Foundation. He now travels extensively, quietly and steadily teaching and guiding people as per his Master’s instructions, who said “Quality, not quantity. Spiritual evolution is individual and cannot be a mass phenomenon. No meditation technique franchises can do much good. Each individual is special. No poster blitz and poster wars when your work starts.”
Two years ago, Sri M was instructed to write his autobiography. The book titled ‘Apprenticed to A Himalayan Master – A Yogi’s Autobiography’ is a look at his fascinating journey and experiences in his own words.
When asked to comment on the spiritual evolution of a person and the path a person could possibly follow, Sri M says, “My Himalayan master taught me that spirituality was not to be advertised and spiritual evolution does not happen like a big bang. It’s like the milky way. In my case, I was born into a non-Hindu family and at the age of nine someone picked me up and put me on the spiritual path.”
“Though, my parampara is kriya yoga I don’t think it suits all aspirants. I propound satsang even between two people. It cuts across barriers of caste and creed. Spiritual evolution is not diverse from regular living. Intervals of solitude are necessary but you cannot shut yourself totally. The world around you is your touchstone to spiritual practice.”
Equally at home in the religious teachings of most major religions, Sri M, who was born as Mumtaz Ali Khan, often says “Go to the core. Theories are of no use.”
Sri M is married and has two children. He leads a simple life – teaching and heading the Satsang Foundation, a charitable concern promoting excellence in education. At present he lives in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh, just a three hour drive from Bangalore.