In Memoriam: Mantriji

Today it is my sad duty to announce the recent demise of Sri Krishan Lal Mantri. Known to all as Mantriji, it was through him and his disciples that I learned most of what little I know of Jyotisha. Mantriji’s difficult task during his time in Toronto, where he spent several decades, was to try to make Westerners comprehend Indian Shastra; that he succeeded so well is a tribute both to the stubbornness of his students and his implacable determination to keep insisting that they learn.

At age eleven young Mantri witnessed lethal violence when Partition convulsed the Indian Subcontinent and his non-Muslim family had to flee what is now Pakistan, then painstakingly rebuild their lives after relocation, during which time Mantriji (like Vimalanandaji) spent many years training as a wrestler, a program of preparation fosters discipline and the development of significant physical stamina. He learned then how to live as a stranger in a strange land, a knack that served him well when he moved from India to Toronto, a land yet stranger to him.

Mantriji strode up to me at our first meeting, on a Toronto sidewalk more than thirty years ago, and most of the time since then that I have spent with him has been at satsanga where he would expound on Jnaneshvar’s treatise on the Gita or Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. He taught that no matter how much control we think we have over the five senses, by locking them away and repressing them we are actually create a crafty
thief in the form of the ego. Mantriji averred that the first of all dharmas is kshama, the ability to bear patiently, endure, forgive; mental stamina and tranquility, for the past can’t change your life, only the future can. We’re making the future every moment.

The times I liked best with him were when we shared a meal (like most Punjabis Mantriji loved good food) conversing in Hindi and from out of his depths some gem would emerge unbidden.

Mantriji changed lives; he had an uncanny way of knowing what was needed for each person, in each situation, in a given time and for a particular life trajectory, and he tried always to help each person achieve their best selves. He will be sorely missed.