Thursday, May 31, 2012

Leaving home to enlighten at 40

Sadhu Videhi is an Indian sannyasi: a wandering monk. He surrendered a successful professional career as a clinical psychologist, renounced everything and carrying a shoulder bag, two spare pieces of cloth and a begging bowl, walked away from home at the age of 40.

He took the name of Sadhu, the Hindu name for a renunciate (although he would not call himself a Hindu) and took the name Videhi meaning "no body" as a reminder that we are not the body. He was barefoot and trusting in the love of God and inspired by the example of his guru Jesus, and the Hindu tradition of sannyasi, he stepped into a whole new experience. 

Coming from a wealthy family he had never walked barefoot, slept rough or been short of money, but he says he has never regretted his decision, even for a minute, and has rarely been hungry. He acknowledges the first year was very difficult - he had a huge ego and begging for food was very challenging, particularly when he was refused with a gesture of dismissal. As a sannyasi he could only beg for food five times a day so if five people refused him he would eat nothing that day. He was also required to stay no longer than three nights in any one place.

Throughout his life Sadhu had been a seeker, studying different faiths and practising meditation and yoga. He determined while wandering to experience for himself the richness of all religions by living with people of different faiths, coming to understand and know the truth at the heart of all traditions. 

Now, after twelve years of wandering, having completed his "training" as a sannyasi, Sadhu Videhi is eager to establish a totally inclusive, interfaith ashram in India, Sarwa Dharma Ashram (Sarwa meaning "all" and dharma meaning "teachings") where he can share his wisdom, knowledge, compassion and love with his students. It will be an ashram for spiritual seekers of all faiths and will focus on the teaching of meditation and Indian spirituality.

Yesterday it was a privilege to meet him at a small gathering at a friend's house, overlooking her radiantly beautiful garden. He had been invited to England by another acquaintance, who it was a pleasure to see after a significant lapse of time. Sadhu is giving a series of talks and retreats both here and in Germany.

It was a wonderful occasion. He talked with great simplicity and intelligence of who we are and why we might meditate and took us through a simple, beautifully structured introduction to Insight meditation. He was  one of those people who radiated a real, and hard won, calm, that you felt sat on a real depth of understanding and compassion.

It is a long time since I had meditated in a group, and had forgotten how it can deepen your own stillness into silence, as you quietly observed your breath and the arising and passing away of thought.

The accompanying picture is of the memorial at Saccidananda Ashram  to Fathers Monchanin and Griffiths. It is near Shantivanam that Sadhu Videhi presently lives, and in whose path he sits, though he has radicalized it by making it universalist. May his endeavours be blessed and Sarwa Dharma Ashram come to pass.

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