Journey of a Lifetime

by Vyaas Houston, M.A.

In the fall of 1970, I retreated to my family’s cabin on Cape Cod. Inspired by Thoreau’s “Walden”, and tantalized by the prospect of profound meditation, I had made the decision to spend an extended period of time in solitude. During the preceding four years of college, I had not found a single academic pursuit that could provide a direction for a career. It seemed that the only thing I had come away with was a regular practice of yoga, and a strong interest in pursuing it further. I passed the late fall and early winter contentedly doing my practices along with the daily tasks of cooking, cleaning and cutting wood. In January I began to feel a little restless and took up painting. Pleased by my initial attempts, I considered a career as an artist. But by the spring it was clear that I lacked the talent and inspiration. At this point I abandoned the idea of a conventional career, and made the decision to devote my life to yoga. I wasn’t sure exactly what this meant, but I was ready to stay on living in the woods until I received some illumination.

During this time I became friends with Fred and Mary Tasch, a couple who opened theirs hearts and their home to me. Fred was a painter and the president of the Provincetown Art Association. Mary was a psychologist in the elementary school. They had found a guru and were wildly enthusiastic about my meeting him. In late May, they actually brought him to their home and for a lecture at the local meeting house. Although certain that he was not my guru, I was taken with his exotic appearance and meditative manner. I attended one of his retreats, and became a certified yoga teacher. Mary and I started offering classes, and we began plans for a meditation center. But two months later she and her daughter Anne took a trip to New York to meet another yogi. At the first opportunity she called me and urged me to come to New York to meet him.

I decided I should take a trip, visit some friends in New Hampshire and then swing down to New York for a couple days. The moment I got to New Hampshire, I felt compelled to go directly to New York. I convinced a friend to drive to his family home in a Westchester suburb. I spent the night there, awoke at four in the morning, caught a train to the City, and from there a bus to a small town in the western Hudson Valley region. After getting directions at the local bus stop, and walking remote country roads for several miles I reached the entrance of the ashram. The force that moved me from my life on Cape Cod to the gates of my teacher’s ashram remains a mystery. Once the journey started, it was relentless, and gave me a physical strength I had not known before.

I entered the grounds, passed over expansive lawns and through an apple orchard before seeing a gathering of people seated on the grass facing a small Indian man standing before a blackboard. I stopped at a safe distance under some shade trees and watched, feeling I had come upon something sacred, uncertain whether I had permission to enter this new realm. At the same time I was uncomfortable remaining apart as an observer. So I took courage and approached the back of the group, feeling very exposed as I entered the visual field of the teacher. He suddenly stopped the class and said in a very sweet and musical voice, “who is this young man?” Mary and Anne joyfully claimed me and introduced me to Dr. Ramamurti Mishra. The class resumed and I watched him intently. He was covered from neck to feet in pale orange, which created a striking contrast to the dark color of his hands and face. His extraordinarily handsome features were accentuated by long black hair and skin that seemed polished. I had never before seen a face that revealed such strength, and such refinement. His voice was powerfully resonant as he led the group in the chanting of Sanskrit verb conjugations. His presence was electric and he was completely in command...