The first time I ever heard of Sri M was when Magnus shared a video he had seen a few days earlier. When I watched the video, I was initially quite skeptical, but the more I listened and focused on the story he shared, I became increasingly interested. A few moments later, I began to feel a very strong pull towards him.
Sri M has lived a fascinated life where he met and lived with great spiritual masters. He was born on November 6, 1949 but his journey began well before this. In a past life, Sri M was a direct disciple of the great guru Babaji who lived in the Himalayan mountains. One day while sitting and meditating in a cave, a man came to Sri M. The man was exhausted because he had walked very long to meet Sri M, or Madhu who was his name in the past life. The man who visited him was Muslim and wanted to learn the truth from M. But M denied the Muslim man because he did not want any disciples. The Muslim man felt heartbroken and no longer saw any meaning with his life. If he could not find the truth that his heart cried out for he felt that he could as well die in order to unite with God. He threw himself into a nearby lake and drowned. His master Babaji was very disappointed in M and had him reborn as a Muslim in his next life to make a similar journey as the Muslim in order to understand the suffering he had created for the man.
Sri M was born in his present life as Mumtaz Ali Khan to a Muslim family in Trivandrum, Kerala. Already at an early age, he showed great interest in religious writings and when he was 9 years old, a man appeared to him in his garden and this man would prove to be his future guru. When he got older he started to feel a strong pull to go to the Himalayas to find the truth. After a long and tough hike he eventually reached the mountains and ended up at the holy place Badrinath where he hoped to find a master he could follow. However, he found none and a total hopelessness filled his heart and he no longer felt any desire to live. He felt the same feeling the Muslim man had in M’s earlier life. Just when he was ready to give up and throw himself in the river he saw a fire from a cave, and from within the cave a voice called for him. When he was 19 years old, he left his home in southern India and started the journey towards the Himalayas. After a long and tough journey he reached the mountains and searched around the holy place Badrinath after a master. But he found none and a total hopelessness filled his heart and he no longer felt a desire to live. He felt the same feelings as the Muslim man felt in M’s past life. Just when he was ready to give up, he saw a fire outside the Vyasa Cave, and from inside the cave a voice called for him. Inside sat the very man who had shown himself to him in the garden as a child. The man turned out to be his guru.
Sri M lived and learned from his guru for 3.5 years until he was told to return to society again. Since then, he has shared the knowledge he has learned and guided people on the path. He has formed the organization The Satsang Foundation and released a number of books. Including the bestseller Apprentice to a Himalayan Master: A Yogi’s Autobiographyr. This book is wonderful if you want to know more about Sri’s amazing story and he has also released a sequel where he continues to share his exciting and amazing story.
During March 2017 we visited Villa Unspunnen in Switzerland and attended a retreat with Sri M. We talk about our experience during this retreat in Maldorma TV- Episode 20.
Once I came across a parable that compared thoughts with a barking dog. I thought it was a very entertaining parable and since then I have found it to be true. The ego is very complex and if you’ve ever carefully observed how it works then you’ve probably seen that it always finds a way to take you away from the present moment. It’s like a barking dog that never keeps quiet. When it looks at something or hear something it starts to bark and makes a lot of noise. The same goes for our thoughts. Our thoughts tend to create a picture of what is happening and instead of finding ourselves in the present, we are drawn into the image that the thoughts created. Just like when a dog begins to bark, we lose our focus and our attention is focused on something else. We try very hard to keep the dog silent. We scream and we get frustrated when the dog does not do what we want.
This usually continues from the moment we wake up to the time that we fall asleep. We may be present a few occasions during the day, but rarely for a long time, and rarely do we find ourselves fully in the present moment. Our thoughts always want something to bark at. When you wake up in the morning, you want to check your phone, look at social media or read the magazine, so your thoughts will have something to react to. Therefore, I think it is very important that we instead begin our day in a calm place where we can be present.
Meditating can be very useful to gain control over your thoughts. Initially, when we start meditating, thoughts can become even more active. As we close our eyes, we remove something that our thoughts can respond to. All that remains is the black space and our thoughts will make everything they can to make you open your eyes. It’s all about trying to get you out of balance and coming up with things from your past or creating anxiety for the future, hoping to get you out of the present moment.
Initially, it may be very difficult to avoid this phase. The thoughts want to survive and when there is nothing new to bark at, it starts to bark even higher in panic. The important thing is to master your thoughts. Only then will the barks cease. Once you have shown that no matter how much the dog barks, you will not give in, then the dog will realize that it should be quiet and obey. The key is to show who’s the master. By not responding to the thoughts that appear, you are showing that you are in control.
Once you’ve practiced your mind it will be like a well-behaved dog. It will be your best friend who will always be there for you. And when it’s not advisable to help you, it will lay quiet next to you. In order to find the present moment, you must master your mind. It must be your best friend who will be with you when you need it, but stay quiet when not needed.
From Nainital we started the journey towards Kakrighat to visit the ashram where Sombari Baba spent his time during the winter. Getting to this ashram was a bit more problematic as the road was in worse condition than the roads to the previous ashrams we had visited. It took an hour before we reached our destination because there was a lot of construction work at this time. Even though it took a long time for us to get there, it felt positive that they were working on improving the accessibility to this particular place.
Eventually we arrived at our destination. While outside we became very unsure if it was open to visitors since the gate was closed. Fortunately, we noticed that there was a small door on the gate that could be opened. We stepped into the area and were greeted by a smaller garden. Shortly thereafter we came to the temple area. We stepped in and met two temple caretakers who seemed incredibly happy to see us. They explained that this was the place where Sombari Baba and Neem Karoli Baba spent their time when they were alive.
We felt a huge calm inside of us when we visited this place. The time stopped and an inner peace emerged. We walked around and were met by the huge tree found in the middle of this temple. Under this tree, Sombari Baba used to sit while he was at this location. It felt unreal to sit in the same place as this incredible saint had sat.
I sat down to meditate. This particular day I felt sick and had a fever so it was very hard to for me to go into my meditation. Suddenly it was as if a voice came to me saying that I should go down to the river and wash myself. Sombari Baba always asked his visitors to wash themselves in the river before they stepped into the area. I was ashamed that I forgot to do this and immediately went down to the river. I cleaned my face, arms and legs. As I stepped out of the river, all feelings of fever disappeared and I did not feel sick anymore. I felt as if it was Sombari Baba who had made me recover and I felt incredible grateful.
We spent a few of hours in the area and we bathed in the feelings of well being that this place gave us. It was so soothing to be in this place and my faith to Sombari Baba became even stronger.
Within this temple there was also a section dedicated to Neem Karoli Baba. When he was alive he wished that a temple would be built at this spot because Sombari Baba had stayed here. It is the Kainichi Dham ashram who is responsible for preserving this place, demonstrating the incredible reverence that Neem Karoli Baba felt for Sombari Baba.
Inside the temple there was a statue of Neem Karoli Baba and pictures from when he was alive. Being able to feel the presence of these two amazing saints in one place was powerful. This location has left a memory for life and we long for the next time we will get the opportunity to visit this temple again.
Nearby there is also a temple dedicated to Swami Vivekananda so we decided to visit this place as well. Unfortunately, it was in very bad condition, but they were working hard to restore it. At this place Swami Vivekananda had one of the most important experiences of his life. He saw how the whole inner and outer world is one and that God exists in everything. It was while meditating under a tree that he gained this strong experience, and around this tree they have built this ashram. Unfortunately, the tree is no longer there since it died but they took a sapling from it and it’s slowly growing tall again. Hopefully, the new tree will be a place where more people will experience the same amazing experienced that Swami Vivekananda had.
A saint that is not that well-known in the western world was a man named Sombari Baba. A big reason for this is that he passed away back in 1919 and at that time there were very few westerners who ever had the opportunity to meet him. This was also a time when it was difficult to spread information so even in India he is still quite unknown. However, he has begun to have a greater spread in the West in recent years. Especially because of the book Deva Bhumi recently released. In the book, the author Krishna Kumar (K.K.) Sah presents a series of stories about this amazing saint.
The word Sombari means Monday and Sombari Baba got his name because he always gave food to those who visited him during the Mondays. No one knows for sure when he was born but many claim that he was born sometime between 1815-1825 in a small town called Pind Dadankhan.
He lived a selfless life and had very few possessions. His only possessions were a small cloth bag, a tiger skin and a chillum (pipe). He radiated an enormous peacefulness and kindness. He requested nothing from anyone else. He never preached, never wrote any books; instead, his way of living was an expression of the highest spiritual doctrine.
He spent most of his time in Kakrighat during the summer and in Padampuri during the winter. In Padampuri it became very cold during the winter that the nearby river was frozen to ice and there were several meters of snow on the ground. Nevertheless, he wore nothing else but a small piece of cloth and even refused to let the devotees build a simple shelter to protect him from rain and snow.
People who were with him explain how all their problems disappeared in his presence. Those who were with him never wanted to leave his side. He always radiated happiness and love and never showed any anger. All negative feelings and thoughts vanished in his presence and were replaced by a sense of divinity. This feeling could be felt within them for a long time after they left him.
Sombari Baba knew the past, the present and the future. If someone came to him with a problem, they did not have to say anything. The answer usually came before the question was asked. Even though he knew all, he loved everyone unconditionally and helped those who came to him with an open heart. Another proof of this was that he always knew if anyone would visit him without receiving any prior information about this. On several occasions he prepared food for visitors and just as he predicted they showed up.
Another miracle that he performed was that there was always enough food no matter how many people visited him. Even though it should have been impossible that the food would be enough for everyone, there was always food left and Sombari Baba always ate last of all. Only when all visitors were fed, he ate. In the book Deva Bhumi, K.K Sah tells stories about how the food never ran out of the bowl, even though they served far more than would fit inside. No matter how many people ate from the food in the bowl, there was always food left inside of it.
Those who visited Sombari Baba explained how they felt an divine protection while they went on the dangerous road to the ashram where he lived. At that time, this part of India was much more dangerous than it is today. They didn’t have the kind of roads that exist today and getting there was a big challenge. Especially because there were wild animals along the roads, including tigers attacking the people. But everyone who visited Sombari Baba was always unharmed while traveling to and from the place.
Another sign of the greatness of this saint was that other saints showed great respect for him and he’s regarded as one of the highest and purest saints who ever lived in the area. Neem Karoli Baba chose to build his ashrams in the places where Sombari Baba had stayed. Thanks to this, these places are still available today and you can visit them. We recently visited the two ashrams where Sombari Baba lived and we explain the feelings we felt while we visited these wonderful places in these two articles and in our Podcast:
We traveled to India in 2017, and in this article series we will share what we experienced in a variety of places. Prior to this journey we had read a lot about Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj-ji, so we had a big attraction towards visiting the various ashrams he stayed at. Above all, we felt a very strong pull towards Kainchi Dham where he lived in the later part of his life. If you do not know about Maharaj-ji then you can read our previous post “Neem Karoli Baba” which explains who he was.
We took a taxi from Nainital and drove on the twirly road that take you towards Kainchi. When we arrived, it felt a bit unreal that we were really there. I looked at the temple from a distance for a few minutes just to let it sink in. When we took our first steps in the temple a sense of peace came over me. It was as if time stopped and any worries no longer existed.
As I sat in front of the statue of Maharaj-ji, I got a strange feeling that it was alive. To some extent, it felt like I was sitting in front of him even though he had left the physical body. As I looked around and saw nature around me, I got a strong feeling that he’s in everything. I could feel him in the mountains, in the water and in the air. Even though he is not in the physical body, he still felt present.
I closed my eyes to meditate on his presence. After a while it was like he grabbed me and said, “Let go.” I had had similar experiences a few times earlier, and once again I felt how my identification with Tobias Ahlberg started to leave me. Unfortunately, I made the same mistake as I had before, not daring to let go fully. After a while I opened my eyes and began to walk around in the temple trying to get a picture of how it was when Maharaj-ji still was in his body. It was great to be there and get an idea of he place where he had received so many seekers.
I felt I wanted to sit down somewhere undisturbed so I sat by the wall at the very end of the temple and then I closed my eyes. I went into myself and just gave up all expectations. Instead, I allowed myself to just be. Perhaps Maharaj-ji’s energy was still in the walls of Kainchi Dham, or I just created an excuse to find myself in the now, but the next moment I opened my eyes, I felt a great peace within me. I needed nothing more than my existence to feel happiness. Once in this state, I saw how others met my eyes differently. They could see the peace that was within me and I could see it within them too.
We stayed until the closing ceremony and took part in the tribute to Maharaj-ji. It was a very nice ending to the stay at the temple before we went back to Nainital. On my way home, I felt very harmonious and grateful because I had come to know the place where Maharaj-ji had lived.
We visited Kainchi Dham on two occasions during the week we were in Nainital. During the first day, I let myself be absorbed by the energy the place had to offer. It did not take long for me to feel an inner peace within me after walking for a while at the place where Maharaj-ji spent so much time. The beautiful statue of Maharaj-ji made the biggest impression on me. It felt almost alive, like he was sitting there before me and in any second would begin to move.
The second occasion we visited Kainchi Dham would be a memory for life. Even before we went there I had a strong intuitive feeling that I should go back there once more. It had been a few days since we were there the first time and we had visited several places in between, places we will describe in the coming parts of this article series. When we arrived at the temple there were a lot more people there than the last time. The first time we were almost alone, but now it was a lot of visitors meditating or wandering around. After I had meditated for a while inside Maharaj-ji’s room, I sat with down with a group of people and meditated with them in front of the statue of Maharaj-ji. For some reason, I did not feel peaceful enough to sit with closed eyes and meditate, so I opened my eyes a fixed them on Maharaj-ji’s picture in front of me, and began to sing. I sang Krishna Das prayer to his guru, “Om Namo Gurudev.” It’s a beautiful song dedicated to Neem Karoli Baba. In some way it felt like the right thing to sing it directly to him.
After a while when I sang, something started to happen within me. Tears began to flow from my eyes, the voice burst while I sang and the feelings of his love flowing into me overwhelmed me. After a while, the tears exchanged for a giggle I could not hold back. I felt how my level of consciousness was raised at a rapid pace. I no longer felt a need to sit down so I walked around feeling high and feeling completely free. I could feel how the energies in my body and the surroundings flowed. Everything I looked at was so beautiful, so divine. I felt drunk on God. It was a state completely different from my normal state of mind, but still everything was alike. I went to our friend Niklas who was with us on the trip and he immediately saw what state of being I was in, because he was there too. We shared the joy together for what we experienced.
When I entered this state of being, I suddenly realized why I had felt a need to go back here again, it was to trigger this experience. After this realization I had no need to stay any longer. Niklas was also ready to go and Tobias had already left the temple and was talking to some people at the entrance. On my way out of the temple, I suddenly met an Indian mans gaze. When our eyes met, we looked at each other with big smiles and nodded silently to each other. I saw that he saw what state of being I was in, and I knew intuitively that he was in it too. I understood the true meaning of namaste, “I bow down to the divine in you.” This state of being lasted for about an hour before I landed in my normal self again, but nothing was alike. Something had happened within me. Something big.
We also talk about Kainichi Dham in Episode 15 of our podcast.