The Peaceful Warrior
In conversation with Suma Varughese, editor-in-chief of Life Positive Magazine, this candid interview of revered master Anandmurti Gurumaa brings to light her syncretic approach, the significance of healthy body & mind for the aspirant, her perspective about today's society becoming more spiritual, and the legacy she would like to leave behind. And there is a lot more. Read on...
Suma Varughese: What I find most beautiful about you is your syncretic approach. How did that happen?
Anandmurti Gurumaa: Maybe if you love beauty, then beauty is omnipresent and it is hard to miss. My question would be, how come everybody misses that? Wherever the eternal flowering has happened, it is the same consciousness. All sentient beings have the same passion to experience happiness. And we all have the fear of death. There is always a great curiosity about what truth is, and what happens at the time of death, and the reason why it is happening. If the questions are there, the answers would be there. In the whole unified field of consciousness, wherever the questions arose, the answers came.
The methodology may be different, the language may be different, they may believe in God or not, as happens in Buddhism, and Jainism. But the understanding of Guru Nanak is not different from Buddha’s. It is not different from the Shankaracharya’s. If I see the 112 methods taught in the Bhairav Tantra Sutra coming from time immemorial, the dialogue which happened between Shiva and Parvati, I would say Buddhism comes out of it; Jainism comes out of it, Patanjali Yoga Sutras come out of it. If you have eyes, the reality is bang in front of you, and if you don’t have eyes, God can say, ‘See, I am standing in front of you.’ And you will say, ‘Who are you? Give us a certificate. Who certified you?’
I find it nonsensical for people to say, I got enlightened on this particular day, and now I know the method of enlightening everybody at one go. I always wonder, the seed never knew how to become a rose in a day. It’s a whole journey to be in the soil. To go through the pangs of being alone, in the dark womb of mother soil. And then to go through the pain of breaking the barriers, not knowing what awaits it, and then it brings its small head out. It is tedious, it is arduous. Every seed has to go through this to become the final rose. There is no way that you can convert a seed into a rose tomorrow. Whoever follows the process, will gain the experience. If the sky is the same from America to China, can the Truth change?
If I could have opened a café and I could have served tea or coffee of the Truth there, I believe that Jesus, Buddha or Guru Nanak would be sitting there and sipping it, while others would be fighting in the name of Shia or Sunni or Hindu or Muslim. If you move a little deeper, peel the layers of the body, mind, sanskaras of our subsconscious, the truth is the same.
Some of my Swami friends also say, how come you subscribe to all paths? I say, life is all about living, about celebrating, about all that has been seen, perceived, experienced. And anything that has happened to anyone human, opens up the possibility for others. I say, okay, you have achieved Samadhi. Now what will you do? Either you sit silent your whole life which I don’t see you do, or open franchises (laughs). And that is what most of them are doing, and hiring more marketing executives, for better visibility.
That seems to be happening a lot today. Why do you think this is so?
They have nothing else to do. People are looking for the easy way out – both the gurus and the devotees. It is a scientific, metaphysical journey, which requires you to surrender, and to have sheer conviction and dedication to the cause. But what if I say, I have one method. Learn that method and you will reach the height. Only 15 minutes in the morning, and if you are in a good mood, maybe in the evening. Rest is all my grace and blessings. This is a very alluring statement.
What happens at your ashram?
There is a basic structure, which you need to understand. Without knowing abc, you cannot read Shakespeare. A healthy body is a must. Nothing works as well as the yoga asanas do. You will also need to know about food, when to wake up, how to breathe. There is a way to breathe. You need to breath from the diaphragm so that the stomach comes out, and when you breathe out it should go in. And if you can’t sit straight with your lumber erect, how will you practice anything? If your spine is weak, you will have very low immunity, fall sick and have many psychological problems. Keeping your spine erect is very important. This is something every child should know. If you just sit erect, it is enough to give you the optimum level of attentiveness to do your studies, home chores, office work, to have both hemispheres of your brain work in harmony.
Those who find it difficult to do asanas, can go to the inhouse ayurvedic doctor who will help them open up through abyangs.
You have to have a healthy body. You have to have a healthy mind. You have to have good uninterrupted sleep. If you are waking up too much in the night, it is a sign of pitta aggravation. If your body has pitta aggravation, you cannot sleep undisturbed. If your vata is disturbed, you will find it difficult to sleep. For years I have been teaching Vedanta. I had to bring yoga into it. Because here I am teaching Vedanta, and here a person is suffering psychologically and physically.
When I started mass meditations I would have 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 people sitting. No teaching. Right away I would guide them using various methods. They became very popular. It was a revelation, that people would go directly into meditation without the Vedanta. I also began sankeertans and bhajans. Lately, I have been explaining the science behind sound.
Your teaching also has been evolving…
Have to. As a teacher you need to grow. You have to see what the subject requires. If a subject comes from an engineering college, and you ask him to say Om Namah Shivaya, he will say why? I had to bring the physics of sound. The impact of sound on the body. When higher decibels, over 500 hertz, pass through water, the shape of water changes. When you take it all the way to 8000 hertz, then it gives fantastic results.
Your body has 70 per cent water. If external water can be so impacted by sound, then think of what a mantra can do to the body.
Would you say society is becoming more spiritual?
It depends on your perspective. If you sit in Tihar Jail, or a bar where boozing and drugs are happening, you will wonder what is happening to the country.
What is your perspective?
Sincere seekers were always few, and will always remain few. The rest is all about hobnobbing, or because spirituality has become fashionable today. It is a very ‘in’ thing to say I meditate or I have a guru. It gives them an ego boost.
Would you like to tell us a little about your enlightenment at age 16?
Some of my early chroniclers wrote that I got enlightened at 16. I said, what! But that has got stuck to my bio. I can’t put an age to it. I was just aware of the events that happened. I was maybe 12 when I heard a satsang in my neighbourhood. And I engaged into the wonderful conversation the mahatma was giving. He was talking about the varieties of joy that happen to us. He concluded by saying that everything comes like a bubble and goes away. Nothing is permanent. What we actually need is a permanent happiness.
That is when I started listening. Every evening the classes would happen. And one day he said, ‘Close your eyes.’ He never used the word of dhyana. I also sat. And when I opened my eyes, I was told it was a good four hours gone. Everyone had gone, and I was the only one sitting there. I was curious. Where did the four hours go? That was the question presented to the mahatma. He never answered me. He just embraced me. He said, “Keep on doing it.” That was the state of no-mind.
So you started meditating at 12?
We never called it meditation. The swami is teaching something and in all rapture, we listened. Then it just happens. Total sheer silence. Not even a ripple of thought. or of darkness in the mind. It is all gone. Like the sun coming out and the darkness is gone. The simplicity of the whole thing. I loved Rinzai’s answer. He was asked after enlightenment, what did you do? He said, ‘I stood up and had some tea.’ Our very being is the ultimate satchidananda. You don’t have to become it. You already are it.
We have to remove…
Nothing to remove
There is so much of rubbish inside…
It is a game of the mind. Let me put it like this. You are dreaming and you see yourself being followed by ghosts and demons. You are racing and racing, and you are hungry and tired. Then you wake up. What did you do to kill the demons? Nothing.
But when you are dreaming, the dream is very real.
Yes, as long as the dream is there. But the moment the dream is gone, either you wake up or somebody wakes you up. Once the sleep is gone, the whole scary mind-created world is gone. People say, what should we do, to become enlightened. Ask your mind to shut up
If you find it difficult, we will teach you yoga or something. This is what truth is. This is what untruth is. How much time does it take?
Waking up is instantaneous, but there is a long process that happens before that.
People love sleeping and people love dreaming. Who wants to wake up? That is the problem. Why do they crucify masters? Because they don’t want to wake up. They say, kill him. We love our dreams, desires, modifications of the mind. If truth was somewhere else, we could wait. If truth were at a distance we could walk to it, if truth were an object, we could have searched for it. But when I am the truth, how long should I wait for it? Nothing is required. You don’t have to move a finger. Whatever you are or however you are, in the very existence you are the Divine. That is it. I say you have chosen this darkness. Because to sleep you need darkness (laughs).
You are focused on woman empowerment. How and why did that happen?
It was a coincidence. A girl met me. Somebody brought her, and said that she is the daughter of a widow and she wants to study but does not have enough money. When I saw her, I decided I would take care of that. It started with one, and this year we will be educating 22,000. And we have opened up five institutes. Every year, 16 to 17 hundred women and girls get some training in a variety of six-month courses.
As you face certain challenges yourself, you see the requirement to do something about it. About 20 years back, some male chauvinistic sadhus gave me a hard time. Like ‘We will not sit on the same dais. We will not speak after her.’ I said, ‘Okay, let them speak before me.’ Then they said, ‘We will not speak before her.’ My being a female was a challenge for them. I read somewhere that a very popular guru said, ‘Women cannot chant Om.’ I remember it was in Delhi. In ’92. And in my open sessions I challenged him and said, ‘You give me the verses from the Upanishads where this has been said.’ If we had rishis, we had rishikas.
I was perhaps the first person who talked about the purity of the menstrual cycle. There is nothing impure about it. I have written a book on it. And sold it at the cheapest cost so more and more women could read it. Women would ask, ‘Oh, can we do our puja, mantra, if we are going through our cycle?’ I said, ‘Who said you can’t?’ In Hyderabad a scientist, Dr Vijayalakshmi, and her friend, did an experiment where they made women going through the cycle prepare chutneys and achar. After six months they were able to prove that the pickles had not gone spoilt.
I started this new trend of celebrating the birth of a girl child with a lohri. Lohri is having a bonfire and feasting when a boy is born. Another thing I started is, whosoever has a girl child, I will name that child. I was in a house and I was told, give prasad. So I was giving this mithai to everybody. They brought their daughter-in-law for prasad. I lifted a barfi and they said, ‘No,no, please don’t give it to her. Give her a laddoo.’ Then somebody said, ‘If you give a laddoo, she will get a boy.’ (laughs). I said, ‘Now she will get this barfi only. Let it be known, whosoever gets a barfi from me will get a girl, and whosoever will get a laddoo will also get a girl.’ (Laughs).
What is the legacy you would like to leave behind?
I would not like to leave behind any legacy. Legacy is for blind followers. And followers are always very keen on destroying the master’s work. Just see and observe around you. Buddha gave one statement. This body is temporal. Don’t worship my body. Don’t put up statues. See how revenge has been taken. Guru Nanak said, do not worship any idol. Today, his holy book is being worshipped. The individual cannot leave behind a legacy. What I received is truth, what I leave behind is truth. Truth was, is and will eternally be.