Sandhya Nankani is a sincere seeker and writes about Dada J.P. Vaswani in terms of simple adoration. She is also an intelligent woman of letters who visited with Shri Vaswani by intellectual as well as emotional choice, who came to true discipleship at a time of worldly desperation - family turmoil, writer's block and a sense of futility about her life and its meaning. As she makes clear in the course of this narrative/memoir, she has come to rely on the teaching and guidance of this remarkable, Gandhi-like character.
Nankani refers to Vaswani as a Sadhu, and affectionately as just "Dada." She was fortunate enough to be able to stay with him and to write about him at his request. This process unfolded naturally, forestalling objections or questions until she was prepared for his answers and her acceptance.
Vaswani is a compelling man, scholarly and practical, who appears to focus on the highest realities while living solidly in the world around him. He can be capricious and childlike, despite his prodigious worldly education. In writing about him, interviewing him in brief segments over the course of some months, Nankani found her own life magically coming into clearer focus. The book relates this connection between writer and subject very neatly.
Nankani gives this description of her way of understanding the connection: "Dada is a guidepost on my spiritual journey. He is a marker, a large, neon billboard that has blessed the path on which I tread." A Ghanaian by birth, Nankani was sent to India as a child for schooling and to avoid the political undercurrents that threatened her homeland. And though she knew of Dada during her youth, and even came to revere him while a teenager listening to his observations, she let the possibilities for deeper contact languish until her need increased. As the Eastern expression goes, when the disciple is ready, the master appears. Thus it was between Nankani and Dada, though they had known each other for some time before that pivotal moment.
Dada is a well-read man, and much admired Benjamin Franklin, among others. He expressed the idea that children should read the biographies of great men and women, an activity which he engaged in as a child. He was impressed that Franklin had decided to become a vegetarian after seeing fish caught in a net, and had determined to eat no flesh thereafter even though this forced him to a diet of bread alone for a long period. Dada himself, as might be guessed, is a strict vegetarian.
As well as observing the spiritually directed lifestyle of her Master, Nankani received from him a wealth of advice. He led her to an understanding that trying to help others may not always be helpful, and that gently refusing is not improper. He indicated that she would find a soulmate and need not worry about this. His suggestions were doled out, it seems, more because of her need to be advised than his need to offer advice.
The content of Moments with a Master is far more subjective than objective; still one wishes Nankani had shown something less than an icing of sweetness surrounding all of her Master's activities and discourses. Most spiritual teachers occasionally show a strict and even angry aspect, and this was missing, and missed.
The book ends with the death of Nankani's father and the many ways in which Vaswani spiritualized that experience for her and her family. One feels that without the guidance she had been receiving from Dada, who had become something of a surrogate father to her, she might have viewed this event quite differently. Her story is one of faith revealed and confirmed, and about the evidence of things, important things, not generally seen.