Several of my Danish friends were disciples of Swami Narayanananda and I wanted to check him out. He had his ashram in a newly build section called Inderpuri, just out of New Delhi. Jytte was there, and Niller was there too, all dressed in white, and he explained how to go about it. On the ground floor of the ashram was the meditation room, and the Swami was sitting on a dais right inside the door. It was a tricky screen door, if you let go of it, it would slam closed behind you with a disconcerting sound like a shot, just as you were bowing to the holy man. I had been warned and closed it silently before greeting the Swami.
I could not doubt that this was a man of great power. He received me graciously while scrutinizing me with his intensely beautiful eyes that seemed to radiate love. I decided to stay for a while.
I found a room that I could move into in ten days time and decided in the meantime to go with a young Danish sadhu, John, on a trip to Rishikesh, a town of ashrams situated where the Ganges comes out of the mountains. Only sadhus are allowed to live in the town; the merchants have to go away at night. John said he knew of a place where we could stay as long as we wanted. It turned out to mean that he knew how to get the door open to a hut belonging to one of the big ashrams. We were sadhus, but even so the time for a visit to an ashram was limited to three days.
Wandering around among the ashrams, we were invited in at one place and offered tea, and they told us to come back next day for the celebration of the guru’s birthday. For this celebration, about three hundred people came. It was a mixed crowd with all from half naked sadhus smeared with ashes to New Delhi businessmen in suits with their obese wives in silken saris. We were seated in long rows on the ground and provided with plates made of leaves stuck together with toothpicks. The guru himself and his disciples served us, and with a grin the guru gave John and me extra big servings of sweetmeats.
At one side was an altar with pictures and flowers. Half way during the meal a sadhu arrived in only a loincloth and with his long matted hair wound into a crown on his head. He was conducted to the altar by the guru and installed there among the flowers, where he sat with a beatific expression without eating anything. One moment our eyes locked together; with a tiny smile and without words he invited me: “Here is your chance! Give up everything and come with me.” But I was not ready to go naked into the mountains.
Next day a young sadhu came and sat on ‘our’ porch. We offered him food and smoked with him, and he stayed the night. In the morning he had his little fire going and went through the ritual of smearing himself with ashes, and we offered him again food and smoke; it began to look like he was going to stay. After a couple of days John was tired of him and told him to leave, but the karmic retribution was swift; the morning after evicting the sadhu we were evicted ourselves. I was ready to go back to Inderpuri, but John wanted to stay. Before I left he offered me a lump of hash, but since I was to begin my ascetic life with Swami Narayanananda I declined. That turned out to be lucky, for at one bus stop near Delhi the police spotted me in the bus and came rushing in to search all my belongings. They had obviously been sure of a catch when they saw a hippie sadhu, and they retired crestfallen, excusing their behavior, since I had proven to be a serious sadhu, a man of God!