Yogi was used to fending for himself. He was a very quiet child for all of his six years. He had bright shining eyes, large forehead, high cheekbones and aquiline nose. His lips were less than full but not thin and when he smiled everyone got mesmerized. He had that tranquil quality to his persona. He was largely left alone.
Yogi loved to go into the wilderness. It was an easy access from the back of the house. He loved the forest and was not afraid of anything. For hours he would sit on a fallen tree branch and daydream. The forest creatures too left him alone. They knew a kindred spirit when they saw one. The playful monkeys stilled in his presence. The birds simply loved to be within his sphere soaking up his benign aura. Their lively twitter hushed of its own volition. The flowers perked up brightening when he was around. The tree boughs would bend as though in reverence. They recognized an ancient soul. They knew.
Yogi was a loner and his cousins only sought him out when they wished to play chess. He was a born chess player. No one had beaten him yet in that household, elders included. Yogi never showed off, just made his moves effortlessly. He simply knew. It was uncanny.
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Sheila was Yogi’s mother and a widow. She was very attractive and still retained her perfect form and lovely voice. The only thing that had changed was her bubbly happy go lucky spirit. She had now become more quiet and pensive. She had gotten married to an army officer of her parent’s choice and had been relatively happy. Her heart however belonged to her childhood sweetheart Amar Pundit and she had always thought they would get married one day. But as fate would have it Amar died in a freak road accident and Sheila was inconsolable. She almost lost her mind in grief. The family out of concern quickly got her married to a family friend’s son who adored Sheila. Yogi was born soon after. He had been fathered by Amar but only Sheila knew about it. India was at war with Pakistan and as luck would have it; her husband was killed in the very first sortie. Sheila returned to her parent’s home carrying her infant son. She did not wish to get remarried or leave her home ever again. The family had a huge barnyard of a house and Sheila was welcome to stay. She was the only sister to four older brothers and they all loved her.
Sheila decided to hone her singing skills. She approached the revered Pandit Jairaj of the famous Hindustani gharana. The guruji put her through her paces and reasonably appeased, accepted her as a student. Guruji was a very hard taskmaster but Sheila did not shirk and won over the guruji in a short time.
Pandit Jairaj was often invited to sing at prestigious events and often he invited Sheila along. Occasionally he even let her give solo performances. Thus gradually Sheila gained self confidence and then after three years, she decided to strike out on her own with her guru’s blessing. Sheila loved to experiment and loved fusing old with the new. Her first solo disc was sent to the local radio station and soon it caught the fancy of the young and old alike. Her compact disc (cd) became a hit. Sheila has arrived. Subsequently she made several new cds with her own brand of fusion music and lyrics and they sold well as she had become known by then. She even gave solo concerts. Thus Sheila became financially independent and well able to care for Yogi and herself. But she loved her old home and never left it. Banaras had a strong hold on her. She belonged.
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Amar Pundit’s lineage was a veritable who’s who amongst the learned savants and sages of Banaras. His family was very orthodox and traditional and conversant in all the holy texts and Vedas. Amar was the second son and hence when he strayed from the family fold, there wasn’t much opposition. He wanted to be an astronaut and was pursuing his career accordingly. Sheila and he were school friends and had gravitated towards one another from day one. Opposites attract as they say. Amar was the quiet one and Sheila was the chatterbox. Amar loved chess, Sheila loved tennis. Amar loved the library, Sheila loved the movies. Thus each one gained from the other. Amar however was extremely good looking and had a strong lithe body. He loved to do yoga first thing in the morning. He was in perfect shape and swam life a fish. He had great discipline and strength of mind. Sheila’s family loved him like a son. Often they would be seen on the roof of the house where Amar would point out all the constellations and then point out to that one particular star which he said belonged to only the two of them. Laughingly he would say, once he became an astronaut, he would take her there. He was crazy about astronomy and dreamed of visiting faraway galaxies and planets.
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As far back as he could recall Amar had that same recurring dream. He would find himself prostrate before a huge gold Buddha statue in a subterranean cave in a remote mountain. Ancient Tibetan chants washed over him and he seemed to be mouthing the same with fervor. All he’d recall upon waking up was that he felt energized and at peace after this dream. In his spare time, he took to researching Buddhist texts to find an answer. Often in his dreams, he also saw his head in the cosmos and the planets and stars rotating and revolving around him! He would awake all shook up and perplexed after this particular dream.
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To free my mind
I sit to unwind
Detached from tree
A mere leaf I be
Can hold neither them nor me
Time and tide I ever be
Stilling mind I sit still
Lotus pose daily drill
Mind’s activity to abate
Ever wiping its slate
To free mind
I sit to unwind
A monk I be!
When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering
Like the flame of a lamp in a windless place.
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The head monk Tenzin Rinchen who was the senior most amongst the yellow hat sect was dying. All the senior monks had been summoned to pay their last respects and get final instructions. There were five of them in all and now they had to follow old traditions and after suitable visions and divination, they would find the home where the head monk had reincarnated.
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The lake was like a blue turquoise studded in the pristine Himalayas. The monks gathered early in the morning mists. They chanted the sacred prayers paying obeisance to invoke the Goddess Kali of the lake. Finally after exact one hundred eight minutes the Goddess appeared on the surface of the lake and pointed towards the foothills and Ganges valley- there seemed to appear a glowing light in the sky showing the direction they should take. Quickly they noted the latitude and longitude and the constellations and after final prayer, they headed back to the cave. There they collected the sacred relics and some personal objects belonging to the venerable yellow hat and began their quest.
Two of the monks Yongten and Tsewang were sent on this mission and the other three stayed back to prepare for the anointment of the reincarnated one. They had many secret ceremonies to perform.
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Yongten and Tsewang got up early in the morning to take a dip in the holy lake and ask for blessing from Goddess Kali. Then they were on their way following the direction of the holy light as was manifested by Kali. They carried with them a sacred lamp. When the glow was strong they knew they were on the right track but if the lamp’s glow weakened, and then they knew they had to turn back. This was their compass of faith. They lived off the fruits in the forest and if some kindly villager invited them over they accepted their invitations. This gave them an opportunity to know about the village and its people. They usually turned their conversation to children with uncommon abilities and grace. So far they had struck out. They did not lose heart but pressed on. Soon they entered the forest leading to the city of Banaras.
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Yogi was seated on a tree branch and as usual was in deep reverie. Some ancient chants and Sanskrit slokas continuously played in his head. Of its own volition, he started writing these in the dirt in front of his feet and then suddenly he wrote the letters Y and T.
He came to and looked at what he had written but was mystified. He had no clue. But he was aware that something momentous was about to take place which would change his life forever. His inner spirit was beckoning the two monks Yongten and Tsewang.
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Yogi’s mother Sheila was having strange dreams. She saw Yogi dressed in flowing saffron robe with tonsured head seated on a high dais. People were prostrated before him and were chanting ancient hymns. She too found herself bowing to her son! She was confused. How? What? Why? She knew in her guts that her son was different and his destiny was preordained. Only she did not know when that would happen. She also felt pangs of separation from him which she quelled fiercely. She bided time nevertheless.
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Yongsten and Tsewang lighted their lamp to determine if they were on the right track. The lamp glowed brightly. They were reassured. Quickly they settled down for the night in the dilapidated hut they had come across in the forest. They would leave early and head for the great city of Banaras.
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Mystic Banaras city of Shiva and sanctity, resting on left bank of the holy river Ganga is the Hindu’s center for nirvana. It is believed here in Banaras Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati stood when time started ticking for the first time. A plethora of folklore is associated with this ancient city. Varanasi has found place in the Buddhist scriptures as well as the great Hindu epic of Mahabharata. ‘Kashi’ signifies that it is a ‘site of spiritual luminance.’ It is the city of the dead, the undead and rebirth.
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Monks Yongten and Tsewang
The two monks resumed their quest through the forest. Soon they experienced a subtle change in the air and in the flora and fauna. This part had strong vibrations and the trees were greener and flowers brighter. They knew they were headed in the right direction. Their bent shoulders straightened and their gait gathered speed. They felt rejuvenated. They confirmed by lighting their special lamp and the flame was strong and steady. They smiled satisfied.
At the edge of the forest they came across a sprawling house. Involuntarily their eyes looked up and espied a young boy standing in the roof. He was calm and looking towards them as though expecting them. It appeared as though he had beckoned them here. They were compelled to bow towards the child! Gathering themselves they entered the courtyard.
Yogi’s cousins surrounded the monks and as was customary invited them inside and ran to fetch the elders. The monks were served with a simple repast and then everyone gathered to know about them. They plied them with questions about where they were from and where were they headed. The monks exchanged glances and then asked about the child on the roof. Instantly everyone knew they were enquiring about Yogi. Quickly the cousins ran to fetch Yogi and Sheila.
Sheila’s heart was pounding. She felt it in her bones that something momentous was about to take place. She felt bereft and elated.
With unhurried steps, Yogi descended the staircase and entered the living room. He quietly sat down in front of the two monks with an impassive demeanor. The monks seemed nonplussed at first.
Then they asked to speak with the boy’s parents. Sheila came forward saying she was a widow. Then the monks spoke about their quest and the passing away of their head monk and subsequent reincarnation. They had come to fetch their master home. They said they had been guided to this house and were certain the child Yogi was their master.
The whole family was wonderstruck except Sheila. Then grudgingly they too felt that this statement felt just right. Yogi had always seemed removed from them. He belonged on a different plane altogether. Then the monks in order to clinch this matter conducted the ancient tests as was customary. Yogi passed all the tests without faltering for a second. Yongten and Tsewang were satisfied. The head monk Tenzin Rinchen had reincarnated as Yogi.
Now came the hard part. They had to take the child away from his family. Sheila felt all torn up inside. Yet she knew that this was Yogi’s destiny. He was destined for greater things in the service of humanity.
He was going home.
note:* Banaras aka Varanasi, Kashi info. and picture from internet
Hindustani gharana: particular style of singing