An American Odyssey
By Nandini Dasgupta
The Weekend Observer
November 27, 1999
Justin O’Brien is a well-known writer, theologian,
philosopher and a long time explorer in ‘wellness’ and human consciousness.
A former Catholic monk, he is also an ordained Pandit in the Himalayan
tradition. He lived with Swami Rama - the master of yoga, spirituality,
meditation and ayurveda - for over 20 years.
His latest book
Walking With The Himalayan Master
offers an exciting, powerful and delightful story of the ‘extraordinary
yogi’ and the author's candid revelations of his own spiritual odyssey. The
book, to be published in India by Full Circle early next year, has been
well-received in the US and has been described as the ‘real relationship of a
sincere disciple to a great guru’ by Swami Sachianand.
In a free-wheeling discussion with Nandini Dasgupta
Justin O'Brien talks about his book and his association with Swami Rama.
Q. What As your latest book Walking with the Himalayan
Mater all about?
A. It is a biography of how an American scholar reluctantly meets a saint, is
inspired by his philosophy of life and a how new vista emerges for this century.
It is an insight into two decade of my close association with Swami Rama. The
book talks in detail about Swamiji's reasons for coming to the West and how he
enlivened others scientifically, emotionally and spiritually. I describe the
Swami as he was perceived by his disciples.
Q. How did you come In contact with Swami Rama?
A. It was in 1973, when I was 30 years old and a college professor at Chicago
University, that I first came in contact with Swami Rama. For several days
before I met Swamiji, I was dreaming about a gathering where a saint or a guru
is sitting and talking to his disciples. And that I am sitting there as one of
disciples. The dream kept on haunting me for several days and one day as I was
walking through the streets of Chicago, I came across a poster which was
advertising on some ‘Healing Seminar.’ I attended the seminar and to my
surprise the saint (Swami Rama), the room, the tree and even the discourse that
was going on were similar to the incidents that I had been dreaming about. The
entire episode left a strong impact in my mind and I knew that I had met my true
Q. What are the reasons that Inspired you to write this
A. It was Swami Rama's philosophy of life that inspired me the most. Swamiji
emphasised on the goodness of people and that one must ignore negative
qualities. He stressed that one is not born with positive or negative attributes
and that all the treasures are within one’s self. Men have to study themselves
and our job is to awaken them and channelise their energies in the right
direction. One should focus in a particular direction which would determine your
way of life. Very few people are aware of this philosophy and this book is an
attempt to reach out to them.
Q. What Is the most Interesting feature of this book?
A. In this book I have mentioned how Swami Rama chose to shake up the West with
his experiments which shattered the myth that science and spirituality are poles
apart and that the two cannot be mixed. Swamiji provided a scientific approach
to spirituality and human wisdom.
I have described how Yoga or meditation which has so
far been regarded as ‘spiritual’ exercises have scientific connotations. The
science of Yoga helps one to compare results of the past and aim for a better
Yoga is an experience of life and it is a path which
offers dignity and sacredness.
Q. How have you described Swami Rama as a person?
A. I have described Swami Rama as the kind of person he was. He was just like
any one of us. He liked to play cards with us at night, loved to eat Pizzas and
loved to take care of dogs. He insisted on truth in life.
He was careful not to cultivate a cult around him and
create any sensation by being in the limelight. Most people will term his
experiments as miracles but he used to stress that it is all possible by
harnessing the natural power that is present within one's self. Miracles are
done for the benefit of others.
Q. How is Walking With the Himalayan Mater different
from your earlier works?
A. My earlier book Wellness Tree is a six-step programme for rejuvenating health
and creating optimum wellness. It challenges to transform ordinary health and
ensuing decline into powerful possibilities for rejuvenation and awakened
consciousness. Meeting of the Mystic Paths is about the principles of Yoga and
how these can help Christianity discover new energy, retrieve lost wisdom and
reexamine the mystical levels of life.
Walking With The Himalayan Master deals basically with
human nature and how it was perceived by Swami Rama. By citing suitable
instances from Swamiji's life, I have stressed that the body is within the
domain of the mind. I have also challenged the myth that the body and mind work
The guiding principle of this book is that -by
following the right path human nature can be redefined.