Tom Hodgkinson recalls his unusual introduction to matters spiritual
On our retreat to Umbria last week, I gave a talk on how my Dad introduced me to the practice of Raja Yoga when I was 14. While other Dads were drinking pints with their sons or taking them to football, my Dad earnestly discussed the immaterial nature of the eternal soul, karmic debt, reincarnation, the coming end-times, the theory of non-attachment to outcomes, and the necessity of connection to the Supreme Soul.
He gave up meat, onions, sex and booze and converted the spare room into a meditation space. We went to meditation classes together, and our book-lined sitting room in the well-to-do London suburb of Richmond, previously a location for my parents to hold drunken parties and blast Roxy Music at full volume, became a meeting place for wise Indian women in white saris. (My brother Will has written a very funny book about all of this called The House is Full of Yogis).
And in fact, though it was a bit weird having such an unusual Dad, I’m essentially grateful to him for bringing a spiritual element into my life, and although I haven’t given up meat, onions, sex and booze, I’ve stayed friends with the “yogis” (as we have nicknamed his group, the Brahma Kumaris) and still go to the odd meeting, and even meditate occasionally, when I can be bothered, which is pretty rarely. We’ve also created a meditation course for the Idler Academy, with Sister Jayanti,a senior Brahma Kumari.
My life with the yogis has also fostered an interest in communes and spiritual paths and the like, and that’s perhaps partly why I really loved Better to Have Gone, the memoir by our recent guest on A Drink with the Idler, Akash Kapur.
Akash grew up on a spiritual commune in south India called Auroville. It thrives today and has a population of around 3,500. Akash spent much of his childhood at the commune, and met his wife there too.
After a period leading a relatively normal life in the States, they decided to move back to Auroville. And that was despite the unbelievably grim things that happened there in the early days. It’s a moving story. Read an extract here.