Those looking for spiritual gems will not be disappointed; this book is a bough laden with them. Don't be daunted by its 600 pages, they make delightful reading. Like an oasis beneath a starry sky these pages are a place to dip into and immerse oneself in; a source of rest and rejuvenation. Poetic, humorous, sometimes child-like, sometimes chiding, impatient, sharp, playful, tender, ardent, ever truthful, this wondrous teacher, Swami Ambikananda, mad with an unbridled love of God, sings to the heart, and urges the 'in-dweller' in each of us to awaken and to love.
The journal format of the book opens a window onto the past, enabling the reader to peek into, and then become a fly on the wall of, the Swami's kirtans. These were extraordinary gatherings of prayer, music, dance and spiritual discourse, spanning almost 30 years until the Swami's passing in 1997. Ambikananda's passion for God, his emphatic injunctions, scoldings and entreaties to his devotees to awaken, his colourful metaphors (sometimes mixed) his play on words, and his phrases darting like a needle in and out of a tapestry that is ever being worked, ever being enriched - all these transport the reader on an expansive journey inward.
Of particular interest are the Swami's evolving meld of Hindu-Christian devotion, his penchant for personal sacrifice and for certain Christian visionaries, and his embracing of dogma that was challenging to some devotees. We get a sense of Jai Narain, referring to himself in the third person, as being at times bemused, perplexed, critical, cautious, as well as clearly devoted to the teacher. And we get a taste of Ambikananda as being hard to please, grouchy, and even alarming in his departure from the orthodoxy that some followers were seeking.
There have been many fine compilations of the teachings of enlightened masters. This book differs in that it offers the reader a sense of being in an unfolding relationship with 'the Man' himself. The final impression is of a powerful, deeply generous and passionate soul, ever devoted to his followers and to their awakening, cooking food for them, tinkering with the engine of a car to give to a friend, dancing his life in exaltation to a melody from another realm - and most importantly, his urging to love.