Sri M is a teacher and guide, a spiritual person , who has set up the Satsang Foundation in Madanapalle, Andhra Pradesh. His fame has grown over the years, and recently he was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Born Mumtaz Ali, he is non-sectarian, one of those who belongs to no religion, or all religions, though he also delves deep into Hindu texts such as the Upanishads. Recently I read one of his books, Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master.
I had been wanting to read it as I knew him when he was Mumtaz Ali and headed the Neelbagh School, a school for rural children started by the brilliant educator David Horsburgh. Even in those days, in the 1990s, I was intrigued by his stories of his spiritual quest, and urged him to write them down. He also had a prodigious memory, and I recollect he could recite the entire Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit.
At some point he moved away from Neelbagh, and became Sri M, starting his ashram in Madanapalle. Along with a small group, he once led a peace march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, has opened other educational institutions and given talks across the world.
This book, his autobiography, is not for sceptics as it contains some fantastic material, difficult to believe. Are there really Nagas who can descend from some other world? His many experiences with his teacher, his different names, and his life in the Himalayas are all narrated here. For me, however, the book was more interesting for its cultural portrayal , beginning with his early childhood, how as a Muslim boy he was allowed to enter a temple, and his family’s harmonious relationships with their Hindu neighbours. The book also has a wealth of information on other historical spiritual people, and is valuable for this, not only for the insights it provides. Sri M believes in the truths of ancient Hindu texts, but at the same time has not denied his roots in his birth religion of Islam, or lost his empathy for people of all religions.
I have not written about the details of his life here, as these are easily available on the internet.