Note: “Swami ji” refers to Swami Kriyananda and “Master” to Paramhansa Yogananda
One more thing I wanted to touch on was that, although you joined Ananda and dedicated yourself to these teachings, you have always continued your medical practice to whatever degree you could. You even held a full time job in Lavasa. The question is: what difference did it make? You have work experience prior to the teachings, and also after you started practicing. Give me some of the practical benefits you were speaking of.
First of all, I got a lot of knowledge after coming to Ananda: practical knowledge of how the body is made. The body of a yogi is no different than the body of an ordinary person, except that the yogi knows what is happening, and he is in tune with natural laws. Before, I didn’t know natural laws existed to the degree that yoga describes them. So, that was a major difference.
I started being more at ease as a doctor, because one of the things which used to disturb me, and I didn’t have an answer for, was the suffering in people. Medicines can treat ordinary sufferings, but there are many sufferings for which there is no treatment or known cause. So, karma, for example, came as a concept which, to me, was a big relief. Along with it came the concept of reincarnation, which makes everything seem quite just, although it can also be disturbing to people. They often try to deaden their reasoning or thoughts. I think the Universe, or something in life, is whispering: “don’t you wish to know why someone is suffering, or why are you are suffering?” When I used to voice such questions, my colleagues would tell me: “You think too much; science doesn’t know the answer yet, this is the best we know.” Fortunately for me, those questions came, and I projected them out. Then, through Autobiography of a Yogi and by coming to Ananda, I came to know the answers.
Afterwards, I have felt that having that conviction and knowledge inside me as a doctor would also put my patients at ease. There was, I think, a conviction that would come – has come – in my relations to them, in my communication to them. Somehow I’m able to console them, comfort them more, because I’m at ease! Sometimes I’m quite hopeful of their recovery! They may not be hopeful, science may not have solutions yet, but I have seen that those insights and certain results which yoga promises have come, and it has helped my practice.
Also, I keep up with sciences, especially with health sciences, and one of my favorite things is that medical sciences discover, on a weekly basis, something about which yogis have been writing for thousands of years. For me, this is very, very good news, and I like to share that with audiences, with my patients, and it is bringing more and more hope to people. That is how my practice has changed.
Very nice! So, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here for a bit: many times you have said that you want practicality and spirituality to go hand in hand, and to integrate in people’s lives and careers, etc. That has been quite a concern for you from the beginning. And yet, the decision you made was to go head-first into the spiritual side and you become a monk. Why this decision?
Because I could see that Spirit is where it all begins, which means that spirituality is the soul of everything else that we see. For me, being a monk was more of an inner feeling; I probably didn’t have to be one, but it felt right – it feels right. However, the most important thing is that it was very clear for me at that point that full immersion in the spiritual teachings is required in order to understand anything else and to do that better. For me, that was medical practice and helping people. So, I had to first become spiritual, or learn the way of the spiritual pilgrim (laughs).
Good answer! Now that you are a monk, I want to know: how has it changed you? What have been your experiences as a monk? What are you grateful for?
First of all, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to be a monk. It came to me at a point in my life when it was clear to me that that’s what I should be. A very simple answer would be that I wanted to help people and help myself, and I realized that this way you can have maximum time and freedom. I also like very much the teaching of yoga that everybody is part of your family…
Time and freedom, yes, but for yourself or for others?
For others, yes, or for whatever needs to be done! I was happy with that.
Anyway, the concept that everybody is part of your family was quite a statement. I can’t say still that I fully understand it, but yes, if one is able to give other people his time, if one is able to forget oneself in helping others, there certainly develops a kinship, which not only makes you feel as if they are your brothers and sisters, but also makes you feel that you are in them. So, if you help somebody, you are helping yourself. In that way, I see that opportunity as being a little more present being a monk.
Also, I should say, speaking of karma, that in past lives I may have had enough experiences so that I don’t need to get into a householder routine anymore to learn a lesson. In this life I had to learn my lessons before I came on the spiritual path, so I feel quite at ease and happy to be a monk.
Earlier you said “serving joyfully.” That was interesting, because joy and enthusiasm are very much staples of your personality. Was it always there, or only after you came to Ananda? Did Swami ji encourage that?
(Laughs) Yes! I was very happy to know, actually, that he was also enthusiastic, and Yogananda ji and Swami ji both spoke of joy as being the highest manifestation of the divine. Of course, we have to understand that joy is not just an emotion, but it’s a natural product of the soul, and in many people it can take the outward form of enthusiasm and happy service. As far as I can remember, I was always energetic in my life, and I think that, if you are the serviceful kind, if service is your dharma, service cannot be but joyful, because service brings joy, and therefore it should be offered with joy. It may not be outwardly exuberant, but it’s a liberating act in itself, and it’s a great opportunity, as I have said. So, I’ve always been very happy whenever I have had the opportunity to serve, especially to serve God and Gurus.
I have known you for eight years, and I can attest to the fact that your smile has become bigger and bigger. Is that accurate?
Thank you! Sure! Tests have also grown, always – that happens on the spiritual path – but thank you for the report that my smile has also grown, which should also happen (laughs). But I’m happy. I’m very happy on the spiritual path.
Here’s a hard question, if you can answer: Now you are the spiritual director for Ananda Pune. Why you?
Well… you will have to ask Jaya ji! (laughs) He asked me years ago if I would take this responsibility, and I said yes.
Okay, let me rephrase this question. Obviously Jaya ji asked you to fill in this position for a reason; for the sake of others, certainly, but probably also for your own sake. It may be your karma, your dharma, your test, or all of them together. You’ve probably had many obstacles, and moments in which you wonder “what am I doing here?” (aditya laughs and nods). So, to start with, what is your understanding of the implications of your role?
First of all, it has certainly helped me very much to be in this position and role, and perhaps we’ll come back to how it has helped me. But what is my role? I think my role is to keep harmony established, or to bring it about in greater and greater amounts. Of course, no one person brings it, but when you’re spiritual director you’re responsible for people, and the issue becomes: “can we all work harmoniously”?
Yogananda ji’s teachings, and Swami ji’s concept of having communities, include a spiritual director. So, I have to tune into what they may have had in mind with that. We are serving them; we are serving our dharmacharya. We are trying to attune our will to God’s will, the will of the Guru. For me, that meant honing my discrimination: “Am I in tune?” “If I’m not in tune, how can I get in tune?” It has been a very good process.
Also, I’m trying to see this in larger terms, because Swami ji said that Yogananda ji came for a worldwide mission. It certainly doesn’t seem worldwide when you’re working only on yourself. So, when you are with a group of people, when those people are having a further responsibility for another group of people and for different projects of outreach, teachings, finances, being exemplary householders, and so on, then I see that there are many, many components of Yogananda ji’s mission.
So, my role is to help whoever comes to Ananda Sangha Pune city asking for help. My role is to help people, if they come here, if they want Yogananda ji’s teachings – to help them and keep harmony in the process.
I want to elaborate on this “harmony” thing. You could have said anything else, since you are involved in so many activities. Yet, you started to describe your role with the word “harmony” and you ended on the same note. Would you say that “harmony” should be the main thing in a community, above every other consideration?
I think so. To visualize it simply, think of a community of only two people: what do they harmonize themselves to? Or let’s even say one person, because community starts with one person; we have to be in harmony with God’s plan. The first challenge for most of us at some point is to believe and to come to the realization that there is an intelligence to this Universe. And afterwards, the second revelation or realization is that that Intelligence has a plan; it’s not like we’re servants, but we have to cooperate with a certain plan. So, harmony is required over there, and then that harmony has to translate into a bigger group, and a bigger group, and it has to be reviewed and renewed… daily, shall I say?
Each community could reflect, for example: will it fulfill its dharma? That will depend on how harmonious the group is with each other and with God.
To end, I want to ask you a different kind of question: what is your vision as spiritual director of Pune, short term and long term? What are we moving toward?
I think we have an individual mission and vision (as Ananda Pune), and we are also part of a greater vision. The individual vision is that all people who are associated with Ananda Sangha Pune should be happy and fulfilled in a spiritual sense. When you look at their lives, I hope that everyone feels every day, and especially at the end of their lives: “oh yes, this is what I really wanted to do, and this is what God wanted to do through me.” So, if they’re happy in that regard, that is the first and most important accomplishment.
The second accomplishment would be – and you might say that this is also the most important – to realize Swami ji’s vision of making Paramhansa Yogananda ji known in India. I think that the Masters must be trying to fulfill that, and we all feel it to a greater or lesser degree; we serve in that direction. So, to take Master’s teachings out to people, to make them practical, to see how they can be applied in every aspect of our lives. To put it simply: I think the vision is to serve people in the way that Master and Swami ji would have liked us to do. And that can take many different forms, but again, those forms are justified as long as the people in those projects are happy and growing.
Let me confirm this with you, then: you’re not serving an abstraction which you call “Master”s work”, you are specifically looking at the people.
People are the most important thing. They have to be happy.
That’s a great note to end on. Thank you, Aditya ji!