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The monk who recalled a TV show

(Retrieved from a tendril of memory in 2001. Filed under “San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip”)

Long weekend, gracious host, uncomplicated life status, and absence of a Los Angeles bucket list combined for a relaxed trip.

Autobiography of a Yogi (AoY) was fresh in my memory. While I had read it several years ago, in a recent trip to Sydney we had a serendipitous encounter with a taxi driver – a Yogananda fan with a trunkful of AoYs handing out copies to every passenger. This was the reason why I persuaded my cousin that we should go visit the Lake Shrine.

Self Realization Fellowship (SRF), the organization founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, was headquartered in Los Angeles with an ashram and temple. So off we went to visit the ashram/Lake Shrine.

The ashram was predictably serene and beautiful. At the tail end of our loitering, we ran into a trio of SRF monks (all males). My ever inquisitive cousin started quizzing them on their current life, their pre-monk life, etc. Conversation veered to this:

She: “Do you miss any part of your pre-monk like?”
Monk: “Not really.. but..”
She (perked up): “Do you watch TV or read news?”
Monk: “Not anymore.”
Monk (continuing): “Talking of TV.. that show still going on?”
She (really perked up): “It finally ended in <19xx> but old season reruns are on cable.”

And discussion moved to one of the show’s characters… And petered off.

Details of that conversation and the context are a bit hazy. Was that nostalgia that made him ask the question? Or was the question laced with a twinge of regret?

Years later I’d read Hermann Hesse’s novel and watch the movie. It’s a fascinating tale of two friends, one who follows the Buddha while the other walks a more worldly path — who do you think ultimately gets enlightenment first? Thanks to this Wikipedia page, you don’t have to watch the movie (or read the novel) to know the answer.

Was the Lake Shrine monk Siddhartha or Govinda?

(This post was written on Google Keep in airplane mode)

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