“For picking up the pearls one must oneself dive deep into the ocean”
This interview is brought to you by the fellows of the Heartfulness Fellowship. It is the second instalment of our interview series, called, Pearls of Wisdom, where we document the experiences, memories and journeys of meditation of the residents of Param Dham ashram. Many of these people have had spiritual journeys spanning decades. They are seasoned travellers on the path and have experienced the twists and turns and highs and lows of their quest. We hope, by sharing their stories, we may also learn from their wisdom.
Introducing, Raghavaschari Jagannathan, from Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.
When, why and how did you first start practising Heartfulness meditation?
I had not joined Heartfulness to start with. Way back in 1984, I joined the Sahaj Marg meditation. The concept of Heartfulness was not there. In Sahaj Marg meditation, we meditate on the divine in the heart, and the process of meditation is to realize the divinity in your heart. That is how it was put to us at that time.
Why I joined is, from the very beginning, I was inclined towards spiritual matters. I have done a lot of traditional practices. I belong to the Shri Vaishnava tradition, the Hindu tradition, by birth. I was a disciple of Shri Ramanuja. In Hindu philosophy, three schools exist; one is the advaita by Adi Shankara, the second one is Vishishtadvaita by Shree Ramanuja and the third is Dvaita by Madhvacharya. These are the three founders of the three traditions of Indian philosophy, darshanas, they are called. They founded their different traditions on different interpretations of the Vedas and the Upanishads. I belong, traditionally, to the school of Shree Ramanuja. In this tradition, is the worship of the Naryana, the ultimate God, that is the foundation of all creation, Srishti. I had been doing a lot of ritual practices. That school says the ultimate goal is the realization of God through dyanna – meditation. There was an inner quest and as a result of it, I went to several gurus. In 1984, I met Chariji. Chariji himself was a Vaishnav, by tradition, and there was some discussion about it and he said, “Ritual practices do not go very far. The ultimate stage is to come to meditation.” And so, he initiated me. It was him who gave me the three sittings. And from that time forth, I have been with him. As a person, I have immense respect, which deepened into a deep reverence and love for the personality of Chariji. He was a loveable person.
How has your journey in Heartfulness been so far?
It’s a long journey, for 34 years I have been with the Mission. How do we define progress in these areas? For me, it was very smooth. There were no ups and downs and all these things, because my religion included a lot of spirituality in it. It wasn’t just a ritual religion and somehow or another, I had been practising meditation. In the Indian tradition, we teach the youngsters a mantra called the gayatri. The mantra says, “I meditate on that splendid light in my heart, may that light illuminate me.” In sanskrit, it is “Om bhur bhuvah svaha tat savitur vareneeyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat” I was initiated into this mantra when I was nine years old, so I’ve been practising this mantra for a long time, and it has to be done thrice a day in the system. So I had been repeating that mantra, chanting it. All mantras have to be done by mental chanting in silence. So Chariji said to me, “Dhimahi, you are not doing dhimahi. You are only chanting it! Dhimahi is different. Every mantra must lead you to a stage of meditation.” So then I asked, “How do you do this dhimahi business?” and he said “This is how dhimahi should be done” and he initiated me. In dhimahi, chanting should stop and meditation should start. That is what attracted me to Sahaj Marg because it is not away from tradition, it is the next stage of tradition. It was very nice, as it should be! That’s what I tell others, when I initiate them, that this is not something new in Indian tradition. It is a smooth, seamless transition from a mental understanding to a deep spiritual experience.
Even when you grow mentally and intellectually, then the questioning starts and you ask yourself, what is this mantra? What is this light? Can there even be a light and is it present in my heart? No, it is not this light (points to a lightbulb), it is the light of knowledge, the light of gynna. Through this light (pointing at the light bulb) you can see the world, through the light of gynna you understand the world. You understand relationships, you understand time, you understand space, you understand how transient these relationships are. When you understand this transciency, your mind becomes illumined and you are not affected by these transciencies. And in your internal calmness, everything comes from this understanding. And the source of this light, the gynna, is in your heart, not outside. So that light, you meditate on. What is the ultimate end of this? Transiency is the law of life, but is there something which is beyond this transiency and which is permanent? And what is the nature of this permanent existence? And can you experience it? The Hindu philosophy says it is experienceable and it is the ultimate stability of this universe. So, Sahaj Marg is only a modern interpretation – a modern elucidation – of the old theory. Laluji, Babuji and Chariji simplified it. It’s very hard to go around and learn all the Sanskrit verses and the Vedas and the Upanishads. The source of all Indian philosophy comes from the Upanishads. But it becomes difficult to understand it, and it becomes difficult to practise it, because we don’t even know how. For that, you require a guru, someone who can explain to you, this is how you should practise. In Reality at Dawn, Babuji’s book, your heartfulness comes out of that. Heart full of what? Heart-full. You fill your heart with what? Gynna. The illumination. That comes from meditating on that light. That light is pure gynna and you become a gyani and the intricacy of the world is revealed to you.
How have you experienced the evolution of the movement from Sahaj Marg to Heartfulness?
About the community, I am not qualified to say how they are experiencing it and all that. But there is a lot more activity in taking it to people. It was not like that before. The old concept is that the seeker comes to the guru. You have an intense desire to seek, and you try various things and you want that experience and say, who will give me this experience? And then you seek the guru and the guru comes to you. But these days, I see this concept being taken to people, although I have not been a part of it. I see around me, youngsters organizing classes, going to places, corporates, colleges, universities, even to temples! I see this kind of thing. Well, that is maybe the next stage in the evolution of Sahaj Marg itself; the meditation being taken to people.
There are a lot of external attractions. Money is an attraction, power is an attraction, IT is a big attraction. People have no time to think about spirituality. And as a result of these attractions, I think they get disrupted, a lot of mental challenges, oscillations, vibrations of a different kind. When this is happening, then maybe spirituality should be taken to them to stabilize the individual and stabilize the society.
What would you say to someone, whose life is very busy and they say, they have no time to meditate?
The individual, as well as society, learns from experience. Senior individuals like us who have been seeing things happening, seeing people disturbed and distracted, a lot of depression, all these things, we see around. Naturally, we feel we should give some guidance to the youngsters who enter into this. Someone who is unilaterally following one course; going after money, going after this and that, going after the external enjoyments of life. If such things are not available, then they become depressed and angry, even becoming terrorists. All these things are part of the same disenchantment. First, there is the enchantment of the glitter of money, power, positions and then when they are not able to get it, they get disenchanted and then enter into all kinds of personal depression, social depression, or even going to the extent of terrorism, that is, to punish those who are acquiring all these riches! There should be a counter for this. Spirituality is the counter. Gynna. All these things are unnecessary, but is there something else which is necessary? When you pursue this path, simultaneously, you get a stability in life. Okay, you do your work, you earn your living, you enjoy your life, but within limits. That is gynna. That is wisdom, if you put it into English. But if you keep it in Sanskrit it actually means much more than wisdom.
What we can do is say to youngsters, that there is much more to life than money, powers, positions. These are important, I’m not denying them! You cannot live your life without money, but you cannot spend your entire life in making money. If you practise this meditation, you will experience the fullness of life. Then you will see the peace, the joy, the bliss! They will come to you.
You were saying that Chariji is the one who initiated you into Sahaj Marg, so you must have spent a lot of time with him and have many stories about him! Is there any particular story that you would like to share with us?
Chariji was just like the sun, you only get a part of it, part exposure to the sun. In the 365 day orbit, you may only receive one small orbit of his, but on and off, yes, I have had exposure to Chariji.
He is a very deep man, a very subtle person. He is not just the physical format, he is much deeper. At very deep levels, he can touch you. I’ve experienced this time and again with him. There was a time where I was very angry with him and I tried to avoid him. In the guru – shishya relationship, this kind of thing happens, so I didn’t go to him. But once, he came to Bangalore, to CREST, where I was once a director. I was standing at a distance and he didn’t even notice me. I also didn’t want to push myself into his line of sight. But somehow he knew that I was there in the crowd. Somehow, he knew. That is still a wonder to me. We have a tradition where, as soon as the guru comes, there is Babuji’s statue and he goes to the statue and offers flowers and a prasad. So, he came that day and went to the milling crowd. A lot of abhyasis were around and the prasad was given. Then, after offering the prasad, he normally takes one spoon and gives it to some disciple around. He took the first spoon and said, “Where is Jagannathan?” I was standing far behind, so naturally, the crowd pushed me and brought me before the Master. In Tamil he said, “Oh, you have come, good. Take this prasad, the first maryada for you!” I took it and you wouldn’t believe, all my anger towards him just disappeared. A guru can sense your mood and can change it just like that. Only a great guru can do that kind of thing. That is the hallmark of a sadguru, he can touch you! Not words, not big advices, nothing of that sort. One small touch.
Which book from the Mission have you found yourself returning to over the years?
I constantly read Babuji’s book, Reality at Dawn. That is the book, it is like the Bible! All Chariji’s subsequent lectures, pronouncements and everything are founded on this book. It is the Upanishads at work. You can read it any number of times, and each time a different illumination, a different interpretation, a different idea, will strike you.
Do you have a favourite quote from any of the Masters?
Chariji; “Character building is in your hands.”
Were there any times when you stopped the practice altogether?
Never! What is practice? See, though he says, at 5.30am you must wake up and do your practice, after a time that becomes ritualistic. Now, all the time, I practice. If I am sitting here and I have no work to do, I practise. And recently I have taken up this Heartfulness methodology of relaxing from the toes to the crown, more towards other people who come for meditation. Before this, it used to be just meditation and the flow would start and it would go on for 45 minutes, one hour, sometimes one and half hours. In my personal meditation, I have sat for two hours. It is a constant practice. It must not become ritualistic; such as 5.30am morning meditation, 9pm prayer. It is like that, to embed it into your system, but after some time, you don’t need these things. Anywhere, you can practice.
Many people struggle with regularity of practise and even sitting to meditate. Sitting for two hours is probably outside of the remit of most of us!
Slowly, it will happen. It’s not a question of whether you want it to happen or not. You become absorbed in that. Then, in that state, once you transcend your mind and go into the realm of heart, pure consciousness, there is no barrier of time or of space. Yoga shastra talks about 18 different types of siddhi. You just sit, and then you get up and it’s already been two hours! It is written in books such as Autobiography of a Yogi. There is plenty of evidence in literature that people can transcend time and space and cross many barriers, which we usually experience. The meditation has given me a deep faith in this. It is all possible. It is just like climbing a mountain, your vista is limited when you are at the bottom, but as you climb, climb, climb, your vista becomes big, isn’t it? You can see as far as your eyes extend. If you can climb to that, everything is visible to you! Instantly, you can see all these things from the ancient past, to the present, to the future. Everything can be visible. This was only a theoretical knowledge, but now I strongly believe in it.
For our generation, do you have any tips for people who are practising meditation or who are interested in starting?
Practise meditation! Now it has become easier. Master has made it a very easy and nice capsule. The capsule is coming to your house! Everything is online, even he is online, via the HeartsApp. I used to switch on and see Daaji there! It was not at all possible in Chariji’s time and not at all heard of in Babuji’s time. The concept is new, the technology is new and technology will change. Only he knows in which direction it will flow. We have a limited understanding of it.
How has the experience been for you coming to live at the ashram? How does living in an ashram shape you and your practise as compared to living outside?
This is just like the mother’s lap, coming and living here. I like these people around me and there is a subtle atmosphere here! A parental feeling, like you are in your parental house or your ancestral house and you are happy. In our house, we both sit and eat. Here, I never eat in my room, I want to meet a lot of people and chat and experience the oneness of us all. And the oneness is the Master and through the Master is the divine. That kind of feeling we have here. But of course, we have certain restrictions. You don’t feel like listening to film songs here. Not much Mohabbat! They are all mundane affairs; but as we say, mundane affairs are also necessary in life! So when we feel mundane, we go to my city house and see a picture, or go to the club and chat to people, or play golf. That is the other side of life and it compliments my existence. But I love to be here; the atmosphere, the company and the subtle spiritual vibrations that exist.