Letters from Mirtola (Sri Krishnaprem and Sri Madhava Ashish To Karan Singh)

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Item Code: IHL420
Author: Jyotsna Singh
Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8172763565
Pages: 194
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.6 inch
Weight 280 gm
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Book Description

From the Flap

Sri Krishnaprem (Ronald Nixon) was born in England in 1898., and educated at Cambridge University. After serving as a fighter pilot in the First World War he came to India, where he was Reader then Professor of English at the Lucknow and Banaras Universities. Later, he retired to the Himalayas in the service of his Guru Sri Sri Yashoda Ma, and together they founded an ashram at Mirtola. He died in 1965.

Publications include: The Yoga of the Bhagawadgita (John M. Watkins, London, 1951); the Yoga of the Kathopanishad (John M. Watkins, London, 1055); Man the Measure of all Things (Rider & Company, London, 1969).

Sri Madhava Ashish (Alexander Phipps) was born in England, and while serving in the Royal Air Force, was posted to India in 1942. Inspired by meeting Sri Ramana Maharshi he wandered through India ending up at the ashram at Mirtola, when he became Sri Krishnaprem’s disciple. After his guru’s demise he continued to run the ashram until he passed away in 1997.

Publications include: Man Son of Man (Rider & Company, London, 1970; Relating to Reality (Banyan Books, 1198.)


It was early in the 1950s when I had just turned twenty, that I came across a fascinating book by the author, poet, musician Dilip Kumar Roy entitled Among the Great. This book consisted of interviews by the author with five towering contemporary figures—— Mahatma Gandhi, Bertrand Russell, Romain Rolland, Rabindranath Tagore and Sri Aurobindo, and was destined to have a major impact upon my life and thinking because it introduced me to three people about whom I might otherwise have remained totally unaware.

One revelation was Sri Aurobindo, whose life and evolutionary philosophy immediately fascinated me. Although I did not have the privilege of seeing him personally, as he had passed away just a year or so earlier, this inner contact steadily grew, culminating in my Ph. D. thesis on Sri Aurobindo a decade later. I was also closely involved with the Aurobindo Movement throughout the world, and was for years Chairman of the Auroville Foundation. I paid numerous visits to the Sri Aurobindo, Ashram at Pondicherry, and had three personal meetings with the Mother.

In the course of his piece on Sri Aurobindo. Dilipda several times mentioned an Englishman named Sri Krishnaprem, a dear friend and evidently a man of outstanding gifts — intellectual, emotional and spiritual. on reading that book I wrote to Dilip Kumar Roy asking him for some more material regarding Sri Krishnaprem, in response to which in December 1952 he sent me another one of his books entitled Sri Aurobindo Came To Me. This contained a 70 - page chapter entitled "Sri Aurobindo vis-a-vis Sri Krishnaprem" and included many of Krishnaprem’s letters to Dilipda as well as Sri Aurobindo’s comments upon them.

I was most impressed to find how positively Sri Aurobindo responded to Sri Krishnaprem’s ideas. He writes in a letter to Dilipda:

"It seems to me that Krishnaprem has diagnosed with his usual accuracy and his mind of sight, the truth about yourself and your sadhana. I think that you can do no better than accept his diagnosis and follow entirely his suggested treatment." And again "Krishnaprem’s letter is admirable from start to finish and every sentence hits the truth with great point and force. He has evidently an accurate knowledge both of the psychological and the occult forces that act in Yoga; all that he says is in agreement with my own experience and I concur."

This naturally further whetted my appetite and curiosity. By then I was about 25 and had begun to look for a guru who could lead me on the spiritual path. The question was how to get Sri Krishnaprem’s address. It struck me that Dr. K. M. Munshi, the then Governor of Uttar Pradesh and himself a man of great erudition and spiritual striving, would certainly know the address. I wrote to him and, sure enough, he replied giving me the address of the Ashram where Sri Krishnaprem lived in a small village called Mirtola, a few miles beyond Almora. It was in mid-1957 that I began my correspondence with him and his disciple Sri Madhava Ashish, a correspondence which lasted for four decades until Ashishda’s passing away in 1997.

During this period I visited Mirtola often, and would spend three nights there in the sylvan surroundings, drinking in the ambience of the Radha-Krishna Temple which dominated the hill, and of the wisdom and affection of these two remarkable men. I have recorded in my autobiography in some detail my first visit to Mirtola, from which I reproduce two paragraphs:

"During the conversation Sri Madhava Ashish would join in from time to time in such an effortless manner that it appeared almost as if I was talking to a single mind divided into two bodies. The relationship between the guru and his disciple — Gopalda and Ashishda as they were called — was unique. Sri Krishnaprem's words came from the depth of great spiritual achievement, the vision of a true seer. When he spoke of Krishna, his beloved, the eternal lover of all beings, his eyes would glow with a strange radiance and his whole body seemed vibrant with inner joy. Never will I forget the glory of his presence when, along with Ashishda, the three of us would sit by the glowing embers in that little room in Mirtola, talking deep into the long winter nights. We talked of everything — politics, people, relationships, books, dreams. To every topic they would bring a fresh approach, constantly linking outer activity with inner aspiration.

"They looked upon life as a series of concentric circles, each covering different areas of 'activity but all centred in the self. Here were the great teachings of the Upanishads brought alive by a pair of vibrant Englishmen born and raised ten thousand miles away from India. Keen intellectual perception combined with deep emotional empathy enabled them to analyse my life-situation in a manner no one else had ever done, and in the process gave me a deeper awareness of my inner being. And even more eloquent than their words were their silences, when their eyes would lock into a flow of power so tangible that I hardly dared breathe lest it be disturbed."

During this period I also read with tremendous fascination two books written by Sri Krishnaprem —— The Yoga of the Bhagawadgita (John M. Watkins, London, 1951), and The Yoga of the Kathopanishad (John M. Watkins, London, 1955). These commentaries upon two of our most luminous spiritual classics are a source of endless inspiration whenever one turns to them. Happily they are now available in Indian editions brought out by New Order Book Depot, Ahmedabad. In addition, they were working upon a classical work of Western spiritualism entitled The Stanzas of Dzyan. The first volume by Sri Krishnaprem and Sri Madhava Ashish entitled Man, the Measure of all Things, came out in 1969 (Rider and Co., London) and the sequel, Man, Son of Man, by Sri Madhava Ashish followed in 1970 by the same publisher. Taken together these books represent a treasure house of inspired insight bridging the Eastern and the Western spiritual traditions.

Over all these years we carried on a lively correspondence. Many of Sri Krishnaprem's letters to Dilip Kumar Roy have, of course, been extensively published by him in his books including his biography Yogi Sri Krishnaprem brought out by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in 1968. Sri Madhava Ashish’s letters have also been published from time to time, most recently by Shri S. D. Pandey in his book Guru By Your Bedside, Penguin, 2003).

After Sri Madhava Ashish passed away in 1997, I was left with a large collection of memorable letters, full of wisdom, insight and compassion. There must be hundreds of more letters written to various disciples and friends in India and abroad. The reader will notice that there is a subtle difference of style in the letters of Sri Krishnaprem and Sri Madhava Ashish. The former reflects the immense luminosity of his personality and his spiritual insight. The latter does the same, but is also more focussed upon outer events in the country such as the Chinese invasion, the Emergency, Hindu revivalism and so on. Sri Madhava Ashish held strong views on these matters and expressed them clearly and often devastatingly.

‘Indeed he and his disciples undertook innovative agricultural activities in the Ashram, including reforestation and ecological education at the village level, which were a model for the Kumaon and for which he was awarded the Padmashree. But whatever the outer setting may have been, their teaching lay essentially with the inner life and inner work which constituted the true spiritual quest. This included creative dream interpretation.

‘It was my daughter Jyotsna who undertook the difficult task of reading through the hundreds of letters and selecting those which would be of general interest to spiritual seekers rather than of concern only to my personal life. She went to immense trouble in transcribing them, and I must reiterate that these letters would not have seen the light of day had it not been for her dedication and constant exhortation to me to get them published. She had been visiting the Ashram from childhood, and also had the privilege of meeting Ashishda.

When I finally decided upon publication, I faced a dilemma. One approach would have been to extensively annotate the letters and relate them to events in my own life. However, this would have turned the focus away from the letters themselves, which was not my intention. These letters are so rich in psychic and spiritual! Vibration, and so full of wisdom and insight, that I wanted them to speak for themselves rather than continually interrupt the flow. Naturally they do deal with events in my life, but as a body of spiritual guidance and inspiration they stand on their own, and I sincerely hope they will be of value to those engaged in the extremely complex and often confusing exercise known as the spiritual quest.

All royalties on this book will go to the Mirtola Ashram founded by Sri Krishnaprem's Guru, Sri Sri Yashoda Ma, and at present managed by Sri Dev Ashish. It: is appropriate that the book is being published by the A Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan which was founded by Dr. K. M. Munshi specially to propagate spiritual values in the modern age.

Back of the Book

Dr. Karan Singh was born heir-apparent to the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. In 1949, at the age of eighteen, he was appointed Regent and was head of State thereafter for eighteen years as Regent, elected Sadar-i-Riyasat and as Governor. In 1967, he was inducted into the Union Cabinet by Shrimati Indira Gandhi he held important Cabinet portfolios of Tourism & Civil Aviation, Health & Family Planning and Education & Culture. His appointment as India’s Ambassador to the United States was warmly welcomed by both countries.

He was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of Delhi for his thesis on the Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo. He has been Chancellor of Jammu & Kashmir University and Benaras Hindu University, President of the Author’s Guild of India, the Commonwealth Society of India, People’s Commission on Environment & Development; Chairman of the Temple of Understanding, a global Interfaith organization; Member of the Club of Rome, the Club of Budapest, and the Green Cross International. He was a four-time Member of the Lok Sabha and is not a Member of the Rajya Sabha since 1996. He is Chancellor of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Karan Singh has written many books and has lectured on political science, philosophy, education, religion and culture, in India and abroad. He is recognized as one of the India’s outstanding thinkers and leaders.

Jyotsna Singh is a potter and social activist. She holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Delhi.

This book is a collection of a fascinating and instructive series of letters from two great thinkers - Shri Krishnaprem and Shri Madhava Ashish - addressed during a period of almost four decades to Dr. Karan Singh. The letters cover a whole spectrum of subjects concerning the inner spiritual quest and its relation to the outer life. There is a subtle difference of style in the letters of both these luminaries. The former reflects the immense luminosity of his personality and his spiritual insight, the latter does the same, but is also more focussed upon outer events in the country such as the Chinese invasion, the Emergency, Hindu revivalism and so on. Taken together, these letters constitute a valuable corpus of literature which will be of great value to seekers on the spiritual path.

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