I am very intrigued by a news story last week regarding a NYC man designated by Guiness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest man – he is 111 years young (and yes, the oldest human is a Japanese woman). Alexander Imich lives near me at the Esplanade on West End Avenue, and he is a professor of the occult, a WWII POW, and had a book published in his 90s! He seems to embody the spirit, humor and curiosity of a yogi – even though I do not know if he did or does practice yoga. In the online West Side Rag article, he is quoted: ‘“How long can this go on?” he told the Times. “The compensation for dying is that I will learn all the things I was not able to learn here on Earth.”
His quote reminds me of the ancient Upanisad Sanskrit chant that we do at Integral Yoga at the end of each class: “Lead me from Unreal to Real, Lead me from Darkness to the Light, Lead me from the fear of Death to Knowledge of Immortality. Om, Shanti, shanti, shanti.” It is a beautiful and powerful chant (and by the way, it was chanted at the end of the first Matrix movie), and at Integral we chant it in Sanskrit and English. When I was at Rasa Yoga, we chanted it repetitively in Sanskrit during cobra pose. It speaks to so many spiritual aspirations, but the most challenging one for most of us is the deep-rooted fear of death. Even for those of us who believe in soul reincarnation, there is still likely a sense of unknowing and fear (either in our conscious or unconscious) regarding what happens to us (the spark that makes us unique individuals) when the body dies. Maybe I am reading too much into his quote, but it does seem that this interesting man who has lived on this Earth for 111 years has summarized the sanskrit chant in his concise and unique way.
And on a lighter note, he seems to have the yogic understanding of balance: “Eat sparingly, but enjoy chocolate ice cream.”
For the full TV interview and news report:
And West Side Rag article: