A Westerner’s Initial Impression of Kaulantak Peeth

This Christmas has been like no other. Accompanying my wife, who is a disciple of Mahayogi Ishputra Satyendra Nath, I have had the privilege to spend the last five days at Kaulantakpeeth, the centre run by the yogi. My Christmas dinner was a simple vegetarian thali with roti and rice, but in many ways it was the best Christmas dinner I have ever had. At first sight, the tiny village of Bali Chowki (Population 1052) has little to recommend it. One rather poorly maintained high street with a few small shops offering little but the very basics, a school and a veterinary hospital is all that is evident in this unpromising hamlet on the main road from Delhi to Kullu Manali, but hidden in a backstreet, behind gates displaying a large image of the sun, lies a truly exceptional spiritual centre, led by a truly exceptional man. Kaulantakpeeth is a place of teaching, pastoral care, meditation, worship, retreat and sanctuary all rolled into one. Built up by the yogi himself over four years, from one room to the three story multi-functional facility that it is today, Kaulantakpeeth boasts a lecture theatre, media centre, and refuge with accommodation for the needy and vulnerable. But the thing that impressed me most is that the yogi in no way benefits financially from any of this. He receives his own modest income from a contract with You Tube, and any fees received for teaching sessions are invested in the upkeep and expansion of the centre. This is a place that people do not want to leave. The facilities are basic, but the fellowship, love and devotion of its inhabitants are priceless. From a background of 30 years in the Evangelical Church, I am sadly used to the back biting, gossiping, and falseness of many retreat and teaching centres. I see nothing of this here. The fellowship and care are genuine. The residents joyfully and willingly share all the work between them and laughter is always in the air. Here we find a girl who ran away from the prospect of an arranged marriage and found sanctuary here, an owner of a large successful company living side by side, sharing the tasks and their lives is true and humble fellowship. Ishputra sets the tone and leads by example. Not for him are the trappings of fame and position. He moves among his followers with grace and charm, emitting an air of peace and harmony. Many beat a path to his door with questions, and he considers it his duty to answer them all to the best of his ability. He is, all rolled into one, a teacher, pastor, leader, protector, and priest. And yet this is not what he wishes to be. Ishputra is far happier meditating in the beautiful mountain scenery of Himachal Pradesh. A humble man, he is no stranger to the ascetic life, living on a simple vegetarian diet and wearing a basic toga even in the biting cold of the Himalayan winter. The peace and beauty that he finds in his mountain retreats he brings back with him to infuse into Kaulantakpeeth and its disciples. He is an incredibly busy man, but to speak with him is to believe that he has all the time in the world for you alone. Ishputra comes from a very different background and philosophy from me. My evangelical Christian doctrine teaches me to distrust all who do not follow the narrow path set by a particular interpretation of the Bible. And yet, Jesus himself states ‘by their fruits you shall know them’ (Matthew 7:16). I rather think that the fruits displayed by Mahayogi Ishputra Satyendra Nath compare very favourably with most of what I am used to. Trevor Barritt

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