hygienic dark retreat

profound rest for the self‑healing psyche

a book by andrew durham

formerly darkroomretreat.com

365-day retreat of a 150 year-old yogi

[This story originally came from Rhio’s website. I finally got a rare copy of the book mentioned. I photographed it, extracted the text, and published it as Maharaj. The excerpt below is from chapter 27 I compared the two texts and restored a handful of lines that Rhio deleted.


Remember I had told you about the Indian Mahatma who had lived for 185 years and rejuvenated his body three times, growing new teeth, and regaining a youthful, flexible and wrinkle-free body. The book has a picture of him when he was 168. I wish I could put it through this email.

The following excerpt is from Maharaj, A Biography of Shriman Tapasviji Maharaj, A Mahatma Who Lived For 185 Years by T.S. Anantha Murthy, 1972. Revised American Edition, The Dawn Horse Press 1986. The excerpt is a description of the second Kaya Kalpa treatment that he took at the age of 150. The first treatment he took at the age of 100 was a 3 month treatment.


The Saint lived happily in his hermitage for many years and grew to be nearly 150. In due course, he began to experience various symptoms of bodily debility. In addition to the general weakness of his limbs, his eyesight had again become dim and most of his teeth had decayed and fallen. He was partially deaf, and his hair had become wholly white or grey. His skin was black and wrinkled, and his sallow face proclaimed his extreme old age. The Saint, therefore, decided to undergo the rejuvenation treatment that he had learned from the mahatma of Parashuramkund.

As soon as he decided to undergo the kalpa treatment, all necessary help arrived by Shri Krishna’s Grace. The Saint needed two young and intelligent servants to prepare the medicine according to his directions as well as to administer it to him, and two such youths, named Haridas and Laldas, obtained his darshan at that time and agreed to live in the hermitage with him and render every necessary service during the kalpa treatment. He intended to take the medicine for 365 days in order to obtain the full benefit of the treatment, and for that purpose he required an underground cell. His wealthy devotees were glad to assist him. First they built a set of new rooms near the sweet-water well for the use of the attendants and then they built a commodious underground cell close by. Mayi cheerfully agreed to fetch fresh cow’s milk every day.

Before beginning the treatment, the Saint instructed Haridas and Laldas, “My sons, on the appointed day, I will leave this hut and move to the new underground cell. I will keep the jar of medicine with me in the cell. You must see that no one comes near the cell on any account. After I enter the cell, close the door and lock it from the outside and keep the key safely on your person. I will fasten the bolt from the inside and lie down on my bed where I will be either sleeping or in meditation, and so no one should disturb me except at stated hours. Open the door every morning at daybreak and enter the cell with a vessel of fresh cow’s milk, leaving it and a measured quantity of medicine by me. Take care that no one else accompanies you when you visit me at daybreak, not even Mayi.”

When Haridas and Laldas had understood these and other necessary directions, and when the chosen day arrived, the Saint left his mud hut and entered the cell. It had no windows or skylight and would be faintly lit only when the door was opened at dawn. It would otherwise be completely dark, and the Saint felt that the cell served his purpose admirably.

Haridas and Laldas followed the strict daily routine described by the Saint for a year, living quietly in their rooms and allowing no one to approach or even speak in the vicinity of the cell. The Saint spent his time either in sleep (which he could enter at will), in meditation, or in repeating a mantra. Everything he did was associated with the contempla- tion of God. He never allowed his mind to become blank. Rather, his mind was still when he was in samadhi, or else he was actively remembering Shri Krishna’s Name. After the Saint had taken the medicine for many months he began to feel some signs of bodily rejuvenation. Slowly and surely his muscles became strong and his emaciated limbs regained their former size. Haridas and Laldas noticed the signs of improvement and expressed their pleasure, but they were told not to divulge the secret to anyone; the results of the treatment would be assessed and disclosed to others only after the treatment was complete. At last, the final dose of medicine was taken on the 365th day and the Saint told his attendants that he would give darshan to all his devotees the next day. They retired and sent word to Mayi that she would be able to obtain the darshan of the Saint the next morning.

The next day, Haridas and Laldas opened the door of the cell and prostrated to the Saint, who was standing to receive them, beaming with happiness. His broad, full face proclaimed his regained youth. His skin was rosy and shining with not even the vestige of a wrinkle from head to foot. All the joints of his old body had become supple and strong and his grey hairs had all turned black. His eyesight had become powerful, his deafness had disappeared, and a new set of teeth had grown in. He felt that he had regained the stamina and physique of a young man of thirty years. Even Haridas and Laldas, who had been privileged to see him day after day, were amazed at their Master’s tall, muscular body when he gave them darshan that morning. They fell at his feet over and over again and told him that they were glad that their humble services had fulfilled their purpose. The Saint told them that the success of the treatment was all due to the Grace of Lord Krishna and that the medicine and so forth were all secondary and unimportant.

His attendants told the Saint that Mayi was waiting outside to obtain his darshan. He replied, “Yes, she has served me for a very long time. Fetch her at once. She can see me today.”

Haridas brought in Mayi, who had not been allowed to see her Master fora year. She prostrated at his feet and then stared at him, unable to believe her eyes. When she had last seen him, he was wrinkled, emaciated, and weak-eyed. Now, a clear-skinned, well-built, agile man with strong, clear eyes stood before her. Mayi expressed her joy with respect and love, and after she had obtained the Saint’s darshan, Haridas and Laldas permitted other devotees to enter. Thus, the second kalpa treatment gave a new span of life to the aged Saint.

Four days after the treatment had been formally terminated, a devotee named Jayaval Singh came and obtained the Saint’s darshan. Jayaval Singh was wealthy and had served the Saint in various ways. He, too, was astonished to behold the youthful face and features of his Guru, and he prostrated to the Master and said, “Maharaj, this kalpa treatment baffles my understanding. If a stranger saw you today, he would say that you were only thirty years old. If you permit me, I will make arrangements to hold a feast in commemoration of the success of your arduous kalpa treatment, which has been a kind of tapas for you. No ordinary man can stay in a dark cell for a year in sleep or meditation. I think that the success of your treatment is the combined result of the medicine and the power of your tapas.”*


In the description of the Saint’s first kaya kalpa treatment, the “medicine” was described as various herbs, but no name was given to them. I had to cut down the previous paragraphs a little, but from what is missing above, it is clear that the “Saint” as he was called, believed that the herbs and other kalpa conditions were secondary - and he attributed the rejuvenation, for the most part, to Shri Krishna. He seemed to want to be rejuvenated only to be able to continue his spiritual practices.

One thing I note is how similar the “cell” where he spent his time is to a womb. It was dark. It was quiet and secluded with minimum disturbance. He seems to only have consumed raw milk and herbs. He seems to have slept a lot with the balance of time spent in meditation and repeating mantras.


*Each explanation in the story for Tapasviji’s rejuvenation reflects the wisdom of the explainer.

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