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Long Pilgrimage

Long Pilgrimage: The Life and Teaching of Sri Govindanda Bharati, Known As the Shivapuri Baba


by John Godolphin Bennett

This is one powerful book — one of John Bennett’s best, I think, having read several of them carefully. Bennett is much better known for his sudies in Sufism, Subud, and the philosophies of Gurdjieff & Ouspensky. But this one is written with perhaps more humility than any of his others. I don’t see how one could read even a few pages, without wanting to make some changes in one’s life — the book makes the ancient Hindu scriptures come alive for the modern Western reader, without necessitating belief in anything traditional — it establishes practices that can be integrated into modern life without pre-supposing group work or work with a teacher — it explains clearly where & why you might need a teacher, a group, or a religion for that matter. Many books that “tell you what to do” don’t simultaneously leave you room to direct your own path according to your own intelligence and discrimination. This book is amazingly different and thus singularly profound.

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One can wish that we knew more about Govinda’s meetings with people all over the world during and after his pilgrimage, but as he himself is quoted, roughly: “I am not important; this teaching is important.”
Anyone interested in comparative mysticism from a practical standpoint (i.e. with the hope of applying a book as a teaching, to one’s own life)can only be very thankful that Dawn Horse took it upon itself to republish this story and methodology almost 10 years after Bennett had died — and 20 years after the original edition. However, if you are the type who judges a book by its preface, the Dawn Horse preface can be disregarded. Written by Georg Feuerstein, apparently a devotee of Master Da Free John, the preface is an almost hilarious non sequitor to the book itself. Mr. Feuerstein presumes to be able to pigeonhole both the level of soul-evolution of the Shivapuri Baba and the method he taught, according to a system of levels defined by an ad hoc terminology atributed to Da Free John.
Such an attempt at categorization is indeed ludicrous in the face of a story like this: After reaching the age of 18, the Baba spent 25 years alone in the forest as an adult, came out sane enough to spend another 50 or so years travelling the world, mostly on foot, meeting Queen Victoria and many other world leaders. Bennett, who was no dilletante at comparative religion himself, was amazed at how at home the Shivapuri Baba was in several religious traditions — as if he belonged to each, completely. And Bennett did not travel to meet the Baba at his home in Nepal until the man was over 135 years old! I have heard a couple of tapes of their conversations, and it is remarkable to hear the Baba answer any question put by Bennett, instantly, with no hesitation, and with complete relevance. Introduce me to someone like that — and over 100 years old! Bennett, in his introduction, gives some sense of what it must have been like to meet so rare a person. But again, it was the teaching of “Right Life” or Swadharma that the Baba emphasized, over and above any interest in his person, in spite of the awesome authority with which he spoke.


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