PHILOSOPHY & PRACTICES
The transformation from aadmi to aatma is facilitated by an accomplished spiritual teacher, a siddh guru. The teacher has two primary responsibilities. First, he brings his practical experience and wisdom to bear upon his mentorship. Second, he becomes the external representation of the jivaatma, which every student must acknowledge within themself to realise the param-aatma subsequently.
While some schools of Indian philosophy ascribe to the five stages of spiritual development, the mahaguru’s teachings translate to six stages of spiritual transformation.
- Shraddha – belief in a spiritual existence, something greater than oneself
- Vishwas – faith in the existence of a jivaatma
- Seva – a jivaatma’s efforts towards the betterment of other jivaatmas
- Gyan – the awareness that one’s jivaatma is a part of the param-aatma
- Bhakti – the ability to worship the supreme in oneself and others. The strong desire to merge with the param-aatma and lose one’s identity
- Divya Gyan – enlightenment; realisation of the param-aatma
In Gurudev’s school of metaphysics, gyan is both the passport for skyrocketing and the runway for final landing. Bhakti (self-worship) bridges the gap between gyan (awareness) and divya gyan (enlightenment). In worshipping one’s jivaatma, one is worshipping the reflection of the param-aatma in oneself.
You can interpret your transformational journey if attentive to the six stages.
When Gurudev was at the camps, people travelled long distances to see him. He told a devotee, Sushila ji, that even though he did not publicise himself, people from the far outskirts of the campsites came to seek his help in relieving their pains. Their shraddha (devotion) led them to him because they were convinced the guru they had come to meet would help them. He knew they came despite their poverty, forfeiting their daily wages, enduring the distance and travel required, and patiently waiting their turn in queues despite their physical discomfort. The knowledge of their condition prompted the mahaguru to relieve them of acute pains during their first meeting with him. In rewarding shraddha, the mahaguru was building the case for faith.
In response to Sushila ji’s question about why many people who came to meet him in Delhi did not receive immediate relief while those at the camps did, Gurudev said, “Many of those who come to meet me in Delhi are more focused on examining my powers.”
There are many metaphors to explain the concept of faith or vishwas. Faith is the most significant investment a person can make since it delivers the highest returns.
In a deeply compassionate way, faith in a guru binds him in a web of spiritual responsibility and creates a field of influence between him and the investor of faith. The guru, who is at a higher level of consciousness, shares his qualities, experiences, and knowledge with the investor, whether he is his follower, devotee, or disciple. As a result of this exchange, the investor becomes more receptive to the guru’s influence and energy. Such receptivity by the investor halves the guru’s efforts but multiplies the results. The connectivity between them grows gradually. In this manner, the investor begins to sense his own divinity.
Explaining faith, Gurudev once remarked, “A doctor can prescribe the medication, but until the patient has faith in the doctor, the medicines will not be as effective”. During his early years as a mahaguru, he would advise people to stop taking medicines and instead rely solely on spiritual healing for a full recovery. Those who did, benefited greatly. Guddan ji, from Kanpur, decided to give up all the life-saving drugs she had been taking for fourteen years after learning about the healing powers of a guru from Gurgaon who cured without medicines. Unafraid that such an act may slim her chances of survival, she developed faith in this unknown guru and travelled to Gurgaon to meet him. Not only did she recover completely, but since 1976, she has assisted her brother in running a sthan that Gurudev opened at their home in Kanpur. Incidentally, Kanpur was the first city outside Gurgaon where the mahaguru opened a sthan.
Increasing faith in the guru
leads to a deeper belief in the self.
It took some time for me to develop faith in Gurudev. When I first saw him in 1977, he partially cured me of rheumatoid arthritis and told me to follow a set of rules every Thursday. I dismissed them because I couldn’t see a link between a set of practices and pain relief. A year later, arthritis reappeared with such ferocity that I had to resort to acupuncture twice daily. Five years later, I sought Gurudev’s help again, and this time he asked me to do seva at the Gurgaon sthan (which became my home, on and off, for months and years thereafter).
I took my wife to meet the mahaguru when it dawned on me that I had developed faith. I had tears streaming down my cheeks as I sat before him. He looked at me, handed me his handkerchief to wipe my embarrassment, and reassuringly said, “It’s natural when you see your mother after a long time”. In that nurturing act, he had postured himself in the role of a mother. Years later, his casual conversation with me while relaxing on his favourite charpoy at his farm made me realise that I had staged a spiritual entry in 1982, even though I first met him in 1977. His matter-of-fact rhetoric about why I took so long left me speechless.
The math was straightforward. I had wasted five years of spiritual development, possibly because my intellect had blocked the conscious expression of the faith my spirit had developed on my first visit to the sthan. During our first meeting, the mahaguru blessed me and said, “You will get a lot more than you can imagine”. And I can confirm that every word spoken by my guru has come true! Such a story is not exclusive to me. Most of my gurubhais have volumes to share about their faith in Gurudev and the bounty of his benevolence.
Lucky are those who develop faith instantly. They fast-track their spiritual transformation, bypassing the stage of shraddha. Faith eventually triggers the progression to the next stage of transformation and serves as the underlying force that supports the other stages.
In the dictionary of spirituality, seva is probably one of the shortest words with the most significance. It is of prime importance in the journey of the self because it is in the service of others that you truly serve your best interests.
The mahaguru spent endless hours meeting people, healing them, and teaching them. He would make his disciples assist him, teach them powerful mantras, and help them transform spiritually and mentally. When he found them evolved enough, he would invoke in some the power to heal and serve people in countless small and large ways. He trained over a hundred spiritual healers in various parts of the world. Even decades after his death, thousands of people visit his samadhi to seek his blessing. Countless more visit his disciples’ homes across the country for the same reason. Gurudev’s disciples, who are always willing to help and heal, do not charge money or seek favours in exchange for seva rendered.
Seva commands enormous sacrifice because it is about prioritising the needs of others before your own. When Pradeep ji’s daughter, Pragya, fell from the stairs, she suffered a head injury and lapsed into a state of semi-consciousness. The doctors indicated that the situation was critical. So he decided to take her to Gurgaon to seek Gurudev’s intervention. But first, he spent time with a young cancer patient whose father had a dream in which he saw Pradeep ji curing his son. Finally, a few hours later, when he and his family met their guru, Gurudev smiled and blessed Pragya. His healing touch triggered the process of her recovery.
Gurudev blesses Pragya and triggers the process of her recovery.
In serving others, you serve yourself is a simple aphorism that works at multiple levels. The good wishes or blessings of those you serve act as aura-enhancers, adding to your energy bank. Furthermore, the laws of karma compensate for the sacrifice of thought, time, and effort in any act of seva. So what you lose through seva, you gain in multiples through good karma!
Seva makes you feel good and enhances your self-reflection. Better self-reflection makes self-judgment after death more rewarding because your spirit sees itself at a higher level in the transformational process. Many powerful spirits continue to help and heal people long after they exit their human forms. Gurudev often stated that he could endow even a dog with healing abilities to serve people. The devoted Kalu, who lived in the Gurgaon sthan, could heal wounds by licking them. Plants with curative properties are used in a variety of medicinal recipes. Seva is a type of practical spirituality practised by all forms of life.
When you serve another jivaatma,
you serve the jivaatma within yourself.
Therefore, what you choose to transform,
Signifying the fourth stage of spiritual transformation, gyan emerges from various external and internal sources. The senses play an important role in assimilating it since things seen, read, heard, spoken, tasted, touched, and so on, stir introspection. Reflections flash in your mind at random, sometimes from something and sometimes from nowhere. Conversations with parents, teachers, and gurus may also prompt insights. Dreams and visions can sometimes seem more real than the waking state, revealing aspects the conscious mind cannot normally comprehend. Intuition grows, and what you say frequently comes true. All of this and more assures you that there is divinity within you. Your supernature is beginning to show its colours even though its hues are dim.
Most people are highly impressed with themselves during this stage, not knowing that what they see or sense is only a trailer of divya gyan. Dealing with gyan is as crucial as discovering it. Arrogance, pride, doership and vanity can become massive stumbling blocks in the transition to enlightenment.
In effect, gyan is a series of realisations rather than plain awareness. It liberates you from dogmatic conformity while also making a compelling case for the urgency of self-transformation, invoking the stage of bhakti.
Bhakti is referenced in classical Hindu scriptures as intense love and devotion to a personal form of god. A bhakt (worshipper) can express his bhakti by assuming the role of a friend, child, or servant to his god, who can be personified as a friend, parent, teacher, or guru. This type of bhakti is excitable and emotionally charged.
Gurudev inspired in us an alternate view of bhakti. He defined bhakti as unemotional self-worship. For him, there was only one relationship, that of the ‘I’ within with the ‘I’ without. Until the two ‘I’s fuse into one, spiritual transformation is incomplete. Therefore, bhakti is a process of conquering duality and realising the unified consciousness/oneness.
His advice, “To conquer happiness, you must conquer sorrow”, set off my four-year tryst with bhakti. My quest to conquer duality soon demolished my personality. I went from being a flamboyant, proud, and popular guy with a gift of the gab to becoming reticent and serious, rarely allowing myself to have fun and behaving more like a social recluse than the showman I once was! As I started losing my identity, applause gave way to under-confidence. I would recite mantras for almost six hours every day and became siddh in a few. The powers of the Shiv-parivaar appeared as symbols on my hands. The bestowal of these attainments by the mahaguru qualified those four years as years of fulfilment.
My transformation was aided by tenuous efforts at mind-control and letting go of vices. At the end of this period, Gurudev gave me the responsibility of opening and running a sthan in Mumbai, saying, “Now you are ready to share gyan and make others do seva.”
As the mind of the bhakt enters a state of sensory objectivity,
emotional unaffectedness and frees itself of intellectual interrogation,
enlightenment begins to express itself.
Intense bhakti can lead to the opening of the Ajna chakra, also known as the third eye. When the third eye opens, a lot of things become possible. When I mentioned my third eye-opening to Gurudev, he placed his hands on my head and moved them to my lower back. I instinctively knew he was lowering my kundalini to shut my third eye.”You will start enjoying the pleasure it brings and become stuck at this level, unable to transcend”, he explained. Many years later, while I was meditating, I experienced transcendence. Something like a thin paper tore at the back of my head at the level of my nose, and I could suddenly see what was behind me. Symbolically I suppose this could be referred to as the opening of the fourth eye. For a couple of minutes, the fourth eye remained open. I have no conscious recall of how it opened and shut. It was most likely Gurudev’s way of giving me a preview of higher consciousness!
Though the mahaguru did not permit the continuation of the fourth eye, the lone experience is sufficient for me to share with those yet to experience it. A person can be in constant awareness, awaken clair senses, create energy bodies of himself, bilocate, and so on, depending on the powers unleashed during the stage of divya gyan. The list of the superpowers the mahaguru could summon at will was much longer!
In the stage of divya gyan, a person’s consciousness oscillates at will. When the mahaguru’s consciousness shifted to his Shiv roop, the colour of his eyes lightened, and his facial expressions changed from playful to serious. His voice became heavy as if it was coming from deep within him. We immediately perceived the presence of a mighty force and felt an odd sense of awe and apprehension.
Gurudev’s words were usually straightforward when he alluded to the supreme in himself. Due to the strength of his commitment, his words, “I’ll take care of it” and “Why worry when I’m here?” were the most reassuring. Following Suresh Kohli ji’s first meeting with the soil surveyor (later to become his guru), a holographic image of the latter started appearing every night on a cupboard that had been partially converted into a home temple. It appeared when Suresh ji began meditating and vanished when he stopped.It happened seven nights in a row, but not on the eighth. When Suresh ji inquired why Gurudev had stopped appearing, the mahaguru’s response, “Whenever you see an image of me, remind yourself that you have discovered god”, was neither pretentious nor arrogant but rather a matter-of-fact reflection of his level of consciousness.
The mahaguru seldom went inside temples since he did not want to interfere with their energy equations, though he did ask his disciples to visit the sacred sites he recommended. Standing outside the Badrinath temple, he told me to go inside and hug the statue of the presiding deity while addressing him as ‘big brother’. When I came out to tell him that I had done so, he told me that I needed to go back because I had hugged the wrong diety! I was flummoxed and reluctant to brave the crowds and return to hug a statue! So, in an impulsively childish but spontaneous act, I grabbed his hand and pulled him in. As we walked, the long queues started parting on either side, opening a straight passage for us. Within minutes, we found ourselves in front of the temple’s presiding deity. The mahaguru looked at me and said, “Now do what you have to.”
In response to Bittu ji’s question about gyan, the mahaguru stated, “All my disciples have gyan within them, even if they may not be consciously aware of it. As and when the need arises, gyan will emerge on its own”. My personal experience is a validation of Gurudev’s words. A djinn attacked me at night shortly after I opened a sthan in Mumbai. I rolled out of bed when I noticed him throttling me. As soon as he saw that, he became more aggressive. I instinctively knew how to repel his attack with the Mahagayatri mantra!
The complete obliteration of the jivaatma’s identity, ego, or ‘I-ness’ is a gradual transformative process. And it may take several lifetimes, not just a few years! Spiritual transformation entails moving from one loka to another. Nothing matters once one has reached the higher, if not the highest of the lokas. The ego is diluted, and one realises that ‘Nothing is’. These are the accruals of ultimate gyan.
The dissolution of your identity (jivaatma) into the absolution of the param-aatma is the final phase of this last stage. This erasure is the basis for attaining moksha. A nearly impossible feat, but technically achievable!
As you amble through your transformative journey, be aware that the six stages are neither linear nor parallel in progression. They work in conjunction with each other. The first two stages of shraddha and vishwas serve as the foundation and pivot of the transformative process. The stages of seva, gyan, and bhakti co-mingle and piggyback on each other. Bhakti internalises the energies of a power. Seva helps enhance and intensify. The energy growth becomes a tool for the ascent of the kundalini. When this ascent reaches the Ajna chakra, gyan becomes a reality. The final stage of divya gyan emerges when the remaining stages have matured into saturation.