Born in a Brahmin family, a Hindu priest and yogi, Death of a Guru is the autobiography of Rabindranath Maharaj - a story that is about disillusionment and the search for truth. He gives a vivid description of Hindu life and customs, and the struggle he has between choosing the religion he was born to or Jesus Christ. At a time when the West is greatly fascinated by Eastern mysticism and religion, Maharaj offers new and important insights into them from his own experiences.
I heard about this book from my husband who was very keen I read it. Having leant it to a friend it was only recently that it was returned and I had my chance. It begins with a very young Maharaj who is greatly in awe of his father, a celebrated yogi who has been in a permanent state of meditation for eight years, having begun months before his son was born. Maharaj longs for his father's touch and longs to hear him call him his son, but he knows that what his father is doing is very, very important, and he is hailed a great man. People from all over the place would come to see this great man, in the process of attaining moksha, i.e. enlightenment. Maharaj is eight when his father dies and he feels the burden of responsibility keenly. His aim is to achieve what his father had, and he follows his religious duties with a lot of zeal.
Maharaj explains in keen detail all his duties as a young priest and guru, his ambitions, what goes on behind the scenes at Hindu temples and what drives the Hindu priests. He also explains his terror of the gods he worshipped, and the more fearsome and terrifying they were, the more he worshipped them in order to appease them. The god he feared the most was Shiva the destroyer, and often Maharaj describes invisible hands and a menacing presence that he suspects are Shiva's.
He mentions how twice when his life was in danger he called upon Jesus (the christian god his mother had once mentioned to him) to help him and he perceived immediate results. Yet, it isn't until much later when confronted by another Christian convert that Maharaj thinks of Christianity and then is drawn to a prayer meeting where his life is completely changed. From then on, within a matter of two or three weeks thirteen members of Maharaj's family are converted, and their dedication and faith are incredibly strong. They are guided through prayer, and thus Maharaj finds himself in England and friends with many drug addicts.
I found it very interesting that he mentions the resulting effects of drugs as being the same as the experience of a yogi - unearthly music, transportation to other worlds/planets, psycadellic colours and the like. Maharaj notes how, although the westerners did not know what Hindu philosophy was, the philosophies that drug addicts and hippies were exactly what Hindu philosophy is about! Ultimately all these addicts would follow the 'drug trail' into India to learn more about yoga and Hindu thought. The efforts made through faith to make these westerners realise their mistake is described in detail.
I would strongly recommend this to anyone who seeks inspiration, who is low on faith, and who needs something to boost them up spiritually.