In the modern fast-paced, pressure-filled world, it’s hard to pause and focus on the moment at hand, but as Dog, Yogi, Banyan Tree shows, it is only by slowing down and paying attention that we can truly develop as human beings.
Indeed, when we become better attuned to the world around us we can discover that anything – a person or animal, place or even object – can teach us important life lessons.
That’s the take-home message of this inspirational and insightful book, written by one of the world’s most noted homeopaths, spiritual thinkers and practitioners of holistic healing: Dr Rajan Sankaran.
He is already the author of over 20 instructional books on homeopathy but with Dog, Yogi, Banyan Tree, Dr Sankaran makes his entry into the popular genre of mind, body and spirit with a unique guide that chronicles his personal and spiritual journey of discovery thus far.
Calling upon the Indian tradition of teaching through story-telling, Dr Sankaran shares his lessons through short and colourful anecdotes and recollections.
The early chapters centre on his childhood and the deep impact of his father’s death at a young age. An only child, he was driven by his loss to seek guidance and instruction from those around him, learning from these substitute father figures as he grew up and set about becoming a homeopath.
That openness to new teachers and experiences has been a core element of Dr Sankaran’s life philosophy ever since and has enabled him to navigate through times of crisis without losing himself or his direction.
For instance, in the discussions of his celebrated career as a homeopath he talks openly about having had to deal with professional attacks from his peers, incensed by his radical new theories that they claimed were causing harm to their profession.
These attacks caused him much agitation and self-doubt, but rather than let his critics win, he ultimately drew strength from an Indian song sang to him by his close personal friend and mentor Dr Roheet Mehta, that states the “elephant walks at its own pace, not bothered about the dogs that bark.”
And in another section, he describes the sage-like qualities of a stray dog he calls Blackie; a content animal who enjoys interaction but remains completely independent: “Blackie is a free dog,” he says with admiration, “for he does not belong to anyone.”
Dr Sankaran’s counsel will undoubtedly be of benefit to those searching to find themselves, but it is made all the more impactful through the way it is all packaged.
For he writes with humility, with warmth and with a fine sense of wit, even citing American comedian Louis CK while imparting his teachings. You get the real sense that the author is not some lofty guru looking down on the reader from some higher plane of existence but is simply a fellow traveller, further along the same road and kindly offering directions to those walking behind.
I came away from this book with a powerful new viewpoint and appreciation for the minutiae of life, which we often ignore but which can reveal so much.
This is well illustrated in a conversation Dr Sankaran has with a taxi driver. He asks the driver to recommend ‘the best’ places to see, to which the taxi driver responds: “Look at that tree, that is the most beautiful thing.” Although the taxi driver says no more, Dr Sankaran draws this out as a timely homily on the fruitless yet habitual tendency to search constantly for “something more, something better” and asks, “are we not losing touch with the wonder around us?”
It’s only one of many probing and profound question we should ask ourselves if we want to firmly grasp the opportunities for personal growth that we might otherwise miss.
Dog, Yogi, Banyan tree will appeal to anybody with an interest in mindfulness, meditation and personal growth, and who are keen to invest the time to fully develop their emotional and spiritual outlooks.
Dog, Yogi, Banyan Tree (Homeopathic Medical Publishers) is out now in paperback, priced £21. For more information visit www.dogyogibanyantree.com.