Santosh Puri Ashram

In 2011 while in India I was drawn to an ashram and a woman who has shown me clearly our true goal and purpose of life: to clear all karmic debts and to shed all inhibiting attachments so as to make the transition at life's end a smooth passage into pure spirit. She was an inspiration to all who met her and you may connect with her through her book and through her website.  Purchase her book Tears of Bliss: A Guru-Disciple Mystery on Kindle here.

Her story
Narvada Puri, Santosh Puri Ashram's guru/co-founder, came to India from Germany at age 24 in 1970, a young woman of the mad 'sixties. She was not – as most of us were – mixing social involvements and pleasurable diversions with seeking. The enlightenment that we sought paled dramatically in contrast to her utterly relentless pursuit. She uncompromisingly hunted the match to her vision of a white-bearded guru, a very certain person whom she'd seen in dreams when but twelve. Imagine looking for a single face seen only in the mind's eye, throughout the endless mazes of India, amongst millions who could roughly fit the description: a white-haired guru.

The cliché of Indian gurus and hippies in the 'sixties is laughable to most, even sometimes an embarrassment for us, myself included, who were exploring that world at the time. The desire for knowledge of  that type was widespread amongst us who had "seen God" during our psychedelic trips - it was commonly parodied and dismissed by the world at large as our hallucination. But with this young woman and her guru there is no stereotype to be found at any stage of their lives. She remained in India, never leaving, until her life's end at age 69, having become a renowned teacher to western students worldwide, and also being widely recognized in India as one of its most genuine gurus. Her story is the most remarkable story I know, of anyone I've personally met. Her poetic autobiography can be found here
Here's a bit of that story, from my perspective.

Growing up in a average household in Germany, Narvada Puri, then Gisele Rox, studied acting and music, was beautiful and socially adjusted enough to enjoy all the pleasures of the world. All was seemingly normal until her 24th year when she suddenly shunned all of that with finality in favor of the realization of a deeply felt desire for her complete and total enlightenment. Confounding the family but undeterred she set off with only a small parcel and a flute and took to the road - the overland silk route to India. All throughout northern India and into Nepal she persevered in her one-pointed mission, at last finding her envisioned guru after a year's search, after investigating a thousand other possibilities of where to find him. 
On a river island in the Ganges at Haridwar he sat beside a lonely fire, keeping constant, intimate company with God and the universe. By her intuition alone she knew him. Immediately announcing to him in no uncertain terms her discipleship, she sat down with him at his fireplace. He, a near-naked sadhu renunciate of the world and its objectives, and she, a lovely young German girl, did not easily mix. Her presence broke all his rules – sectarian and societal – against association with women (a foreign woman at that!) and brought them both to the scathing attention of all the town. He tried hard to rid himself of her, but she held fast to an inner conviction that she alone could see, and endured all the miseries of having no security, shelter or evident love, nor the luxuries of sumptuous - often any - food, nor fine clothing, nor any amenities or comforts she had known upon growing up. Broken many times, sometimes sobbing for days beneath some secluded tree in a nearby jungle of the Himalayan foothills, even doubting her own sanity at times – can a wispy dream have any real reality? – through it all she persevered. He taught by simply going about his sadhu life. His regimen was to get up at three, immerse into the cold Ganges River then sit in deep meditation until ten each morning, reciting the mantras. He would then tend to cows who would gather from the streets to be fed, kept his dhuni fire alight, and help those in need when he could. She dedicated herself to learning without any didactic teaching - by absorbing his wisdom through action, by herself assisting and attending to all that he did. Her resolve did not break, she refused to give in to weakness. 
His rebukes were sharp and often severe - she regarded everything as purifications of soul; requirements for entry into the realm of the weather-toughened baba-saints whom he kept company with every day and she yearned to be fully a part of it all. All sufferings must be endured and accepted, the price to pay for the promised joy, the indestructible happiness she sought.
Time passed – five years, eight years, ten years – wheels turned and veils thinned, a smile began to grow from deep within which was slowly emerging, and eventually never to fade, never again. She was losing her darkness. Seeds of sorrows from many lifetimes were frying in the boiling cauldron of her sacrifices, soon to be rendered dead. She was on her way to an unfathomably joyful knowing, seated in eternity itself, the ultimate truth which withstands all erosion.

With another shift, another kind of relationship began, with her guruji – a husband he would also be! With a child on the way, rescue money came from mother in Germany, but was used not to return, but to purchase - with the diligent assistance of a friend of the island family, the young Dr. Ram - river-front land nearby, upstream. Work began on building a sanctuary – an ashram – to provide a home for their coming son, and a shelter for those dedicated to spiritual pursuit. Sister, sent by mother, came to fetch her but also became a devotee. Mother came to get them both but found a new life so real that she sold everything in Germany and became herself a disciple! Now a permanent resident of the new haven, and grandmother to the eventual three children – a son and two daughters,* – she accepted her daughter's guru as her own and found a blissful home with them for the rest of her earthly life. She was laid to rest in the liberating waters of the Ganga after passing in a blissful state.
After thirty years of the guru-disciple-husband-father relationship, Guruji announced that it was his time to go. This caused a panic by many of his close followers and of course, the family. A doctor was ordered, and after an examination he was declared quite healthy. Health was not the issue - he would proceed, and after a process of preparation, he quite deliberately sat down beside his fire and with three powerful breaths ushered his life-force out. His yogically unified consciousness exited through the crown of his head with the last breath, to freedom. His spirit left his body on that full-moon night, but the strength of his life force kept his body seated upright in a slightly slumping lotus posture, a sure sign in India that his maha-samadhi - his fully conscious and blissfully enlightened passing was complete.
That, as I perceive it, is death - and victory over death - going hand in hand.
Mataji, as she is simply known, carried on to become a widely accepted and hugely revered guru-teacher-friend in the community, where she was once reviled. She'd grown into a saint in plain sight of everyone. Her mischievous and caring smile welcomed all in unpretentious and understated informality. 
I still see her as clearly as it were now - as she transmits her teachings, drawing from her bountiful and hard-won knowledge. Taking her seat now, assuming the full embodiment of the guru, she grows tall and straight in her cross-legged foundation. She challenges us to match her power of poise and fullness of voice, keeping us for three full hours, bringing us at last into states of deep calm through the electrical current of her fully developed spirit. She quietly and eloquently explains to us how we may attain immortality, nothing less, then sinking back into her chair by the patio she picks up the morning news and tries to find the joke amidst all the tales of confusion.   

Mataji quietly passed away on Febuary 4 2014. After morning puja she felt slightly ill, was taken to the doctor and by noon was gone. That's all I know - another moment in the saga of her Guru-Disciple Mystery. 

*The Santosh Puri Ashram is now run successfully by the three children, now in their thirties

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