In pursuit of awakening
Published by: Penguin Books India
Price: INR 250
What’s our purpose on earth? What’s the cause of human suffering? Can we become one with the eternal consciousness? In present times, where everyone and his brother regard themselves as ‘spiritual, not religious’, it’s fashionable to ponder over such questions. But most of us don’t make it our life’s ambition to find answers to these questions. We go on with our lives, busy with our material pursuits, hoping that the answers will unravel when the time comes. But there are spiritual mavericks who throw caution to the wind and set out to find the answers. This is the story of one such seeker, Maximus Pzoras.
An investment banker in New York, Max has convinced himself that his life’s aim is to be conventionally successful, especially because he grew up in an underprivileged neighbourhood and worked his way up the ladder. But then his mother passes away, triggering an emotional upheaval that leads to a sudden decision to quit his job and head to India in search of answers to his life’s questions.
His decision seems a bit impulsive, considering that all it took was a brief meeting with an Indian street-food vendor followed by a Google search to help him decide the course of a life-altering journey. A little build-up of his fervent urge to seek the truth would’ve made the story even more plausible.
The journey puts Max’s mettle to the test, physically as well as emotionally. The first hurdle he faces is to find a genuine spiritual mentor. Real masters prefer only genuine students, so they stay mostly inconspicuous and you have to earn your privilege to learn from them. After failing to find a guru in the Himalayas, Max meets a man who directs him to a guru named Ramakrishna, who lives in the small village of Pavur in southern India. When he reaches the guru’s ashram, he at first feels like leaving, but he then makes up his mind to stay there and give it his best. Each day brings with it new triumphs or failures for Max. However, his single-minded determination begins to show results as he masters some of the most difficult yogic poses and also starts to reap the accompanying superhuman benefits such as reading minds and communicating with animals. The author introduces concepts like karma, samyama, chakras and bandhas as well as a few advanced yogic poses, without getting too technical. Just enough to arouse curiosity in the reader to want to learn more about them, as yoga plays an instrumental role in this seeker’s journey.
After having learned all that he could under Ramakrishna, Max decides to leave the ashram. Once again he heads to the Himalayas; not to find a guru but to live in a cave himself. Life as a cave-dwelling yogi brings with it unspeakable hardship for the investment banker. Fortunately, his intense training under the guru Ramakrishna enables him to withstand the freezing conditions. But his ‘penance’ still doesn’t help him find what he’s looking for, as he is still haunted by the memories of his past.
The story is divided into three parts—The Traveler, The Yogi and The Sage. The last part, which ends with his awakening, left me wanting. I feel it could’ve been developed a bit differently, with more focus on the awakening process, and less on the physical agonies that Max suffers. But then this book is not intended to teach you spirituality; it’s a story about one man’s spiritual quest. The author manages to paint vivid pictures of Max’s experiences as we travel with him. Overall, I found the story gripping though the pace of the story varies, sometimes becoming sluggish, especially in the beginning. Perhaps one of the things that save this book is that it’s not preachy at all, as many spiritual novels tend to be. It’s a straightforward first person account of a man in search of himself.
If you’re looking for a thriller, this book will disappoint—it’s devoid of adrenalin-pumping twists and turns. But if you’re up for a story of a genuine seeker, go ahead and embark on this intense spiritual journey with Max.
This was first published in the August 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.