PHILOSOPHY & PRACTICES
The transformation from aadmi to aatma is facilitated by the guidance of 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 himself/herself to realise the param-aatma subsequently.
While a few 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 everything else. The intense desire to become part of the param-aatma and lose one’s own 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. The distance between gyan (awareness) and divya gyan (enlightenment) is shortened by bhakti (self-worship). In worshipping one’s jivaatma, one is worshipping the reflection of the param-aatma in oneself.
If you are familiar with the six stages, you can interpret your transformational journey.
When Gurudev was at camps, people from remote areas came 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) brought them to him since they were convinced the guru they came to meet would help them. He knew they came despite being poor, often forfeiting their daily wages, braving the distance and travel required, awaiting their turn in queues notwithstanding their physical distress.
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.
Upon Sushila ji’s inquiry on why many people who came to meet him in Delhi did not get immediate relief while those at the camps did, Gurudev told her, “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. If understood correctly, faith is the most significant investment a person can make. It is also an investment with 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. So long as the guru stays invested in the relationship, there is transference of energy and insights. Being at a higher level of consciousness, the guru shares his qualities, experiences and knowledge with the investor, be it his follower, devotee or disciple. Profiting from this exchange, the investor becomes more receptive to the guru’s influence and energy.
Such receptivity by the investor halves the efforts of the guru but multiplies the results. Gradually, the connectivity between them increases. 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.”
In his initial years as a mahaguru, Gurudev would ask people to give up their medicines and rely only on spiritual healing for a full recovery. Those who did, benefited tremendously. When the Kanpur-based Guddan ji, heard about the healing powers of a guru from Gurgaon who cured without medicines, she decided to give up all the life-saving drugs she was on for the past fourteen years! Unafraid that such an act may slim her chances of survival, she had developed faith in this unknown guru. Fifteen days later, Guddan ji travelled to Gurgaon to meet Gurudev. Not only did she recover completely, but since 1976, she has been assisting her brother in running a sthan that Gurudev opened at their home in Kanpur. Incidentally, this sthan was the first sthan outside of Gurgaon and its neighbouring, Delhi.
Increasing faith in the guru leads to a deeper belief in the self.
It took me a while to develop faith in Gurudev. In 1977, when I first visited him, he partially cured me of rheumatoid arthritis and told me to follow a set of restrictions every Thursday. I took them lightly as I could not see the correlation between a set of practices and pain relief. A year later, arthritis recurred with such vengeance that I was compelled to revert to acupuncture twice a day. Five years later, I sought Gurudev’s help again, and this time around, he asked me to do seva at the Gurgaon sthan (which became my home, on and off, for months and years thereafter).
When it first dawned on me that I had developed faith in the mahaguru, I took my wife to meet him. Sitting in front of him, I had tears rolling down my cheeks. He looked at me, gave me his handkerchief to wipe my embarrassment and said reassuringly, “It is natural when you meet your mother after a long time”. In that nurturing act, he had postured himself in the role of a mother. Years later, a casual dialogue he threw my way while relaxing on his favourite charpoy at his farm made me realise, I had staged a spiritual entry in 1982 even though I first met him in 1977. His casual rhetoric of why I took so long left me speechless.
The arithmetic was clear. I had wasted five years of spiritual development, possibly because in those lost years, my intellect had blocked the conscious expression of the faith my spirit had probably developed on my first visit to the sthan. During my first meeting with him, he had blessed me and said, “You will get a lot more than you can imagine”. And I can confirm that ever since, every word spoken by my guru has come true! Such a story is not exclusive to me. Most of my guru bhais 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, by-passing the stage of shraddha. Eventually, faith triggers the movement to the next stage of transformation and serves as the underlying force supporting the other stages.
In the dictionary of spirituality, seva (service) is catalogued among the shortest words with the most significance. In the journey of the self towards the self, seva is of prime importance as it is in the service of others that you truly serve your best interests.
The mahaguru invested hours in meeting people, healing them, teaching them. He would make his disciples assist him, teach them powerful mantras and help them evolve spiritually and mentally. When he found them evolved enough, he would invoke in some of them the power to heal others besides serving people in countless other ways, small and big. He created over a hundred spiritual healers in different parts of India and abroad. Even today, decades after his demise, thousands visit his samadhi to seek his grace. Thousands visit his disciples’ homes across the country for similar reasons. Always available to help and heal, Gurudev’s disciples neither charge money nor seek favours in exchange for seva rendered.
Seva commands immense sacrifice as it about prioritising the needs of others before your own. When Pradeep ji’s daughter, Pragya, fell from the stairs, she slipped into a state of semi-consciousness due to a head injury. The doctors indicated the matter was serious. So, he decided to take her to Gurgaon to seek Gurudev’s intervention. However, before doing that, he spent time with a young cancer patient whose father had a dream in which he saw Pradeep ji curing his son. Finally, when Pradeep ji and his family met their guru a few hours later, 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 sacrifice of time, thought and effort in any act of seva is compensated by the laws of karma. So what you lose to seva you gain in multiples through good karma!
Seva makes you feel good and enhances your self-reflection. Better self-reflections make self-judgement after death more rewarding as your spirit sees itself at a higher level in the transformative process. And long after they exit the human form, many powerful spirits continue to help and heal people.
Gurudev often mentioned, he could empower even a dog with healing abilities to serve people. The faithful Kalu, who stayed at the Gurgaon sthan, could heal wounds by licking them. Plants with curative properties find favour in several medicinal recipes. Seva is a form of practical spirituality undertaken by all forms of life.
When you serve another jivaatma, you serve the jivaatma within yourself.
Therefore, what you chose to transform, transforms you.
Signifying the fourth stage of spiritual transformation, gyan comes from many sources, external and internal. Your senses play a crucial role in assimilating gyan as things seen, read, heard, spoken, tasted, touched, etc., stir introspection. Sometimes from something and sometimes from nowhere, reflections flash in your mind. Reflections may also arise from conversations with parents, teachers and gurus. Occasionally, dreams and visions seem more real than the waking state, revealing aspects that the conscious mind cannot ordinarily grasp. Intuition develops and what you say often comes true. All this and more gives you the confidence that there is divinity within you. Your supernature is beginning to show its colours even though the 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 the divya gyan. Dealing with gyan is as important as discovering it. Arrogance, pride, doership and vanity can become massive stumbling blocks in the transition to enlightenment.
In effect, gyan is not only awareness but a series of realisations. It frees you from the pressure of dogmatic conformity but makes a compelling case for the urgency of self-transformation, invoking the stage of bhakti.
The classical Hindu scriptures refer to bhakti as intense love and devotion to a personal form of God. To express his bhakti, a bhakt (worshipper) can adopt a stance of being a friend, child or servant to his God, who can be personified as either friend, parent, teacher or guru. Such bhakti is ardent, excitable and emotionally charged.
Gurudev inspired in us an alternate view on bhakti. He considered bhakti as unemotional worship of the self. For him, there was only one relationship, that of the ‘I’ within with the ‘I’ without. Until the two ‘I’s fused into one, the 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. Soon, my quest for conquering duality demolished my personality. From being a flamboyant, proud and popular guy with a gift of the gab, I became reticent and serious, and hardly ever allowed myself any enjoyment, behaving more as a social recluse than the showman I once was! As I started losing my identity, applause gave way to underconfidence.
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 or the third eye. A lot of things are possible when the third eye opens.
When I told Gurudev about my third eye opening, he put his hands on my head and moved them to my lower back. While he was doing this, I knew instinctively he was lowering my kundalini to shut my third eye. He explained his action by saying, “You will start enjoying the pleasure it brings and get stuck at this level, unable to transcend”. The transcendence happened many years later while I was in meditation. 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 it could be termed as the opening of the fourth eye. The fourth eye stayed open for a couple of minutes. I have no conscious awareness of how it opened and shut. It was probably Gurudev’s way of giving me a preview of higher consciousness!
Though the mahaguru did not allow the fourth eye’s continuity, the lone experience was enough for me to share with those yet to experience it. Depending on the powers unleashed during the stages of divya gyan, a person can be in constant awareness, awaken Clair senses, create energy bodies of himself, bilocate, etc. Gurudev had a much longer list of superpowers he could summon at will.
In the stage of divya gyan, the consciousness of a person oscillates at will. When the mahaguru dawned his shiv-roop, the colour of his eyes lightened, and his facial expressions changed from playful to serious. His voice became heavy as if emerging from deep within. We could immediately perceive the presence of a mighty force and felt an odd sense of awe and apprehension.
Whenever Gurudev alluded to the supreme in himself, his words were usually straightforward. “I’ll take care of it” and “Why worry when I am here” were the most comforting due to the power of his commitment. After Suresh Kohli ji’s first meeting with the soil surveyor (who later became his guru), a holographic image of him started appearing every night on a cupboard that had been partly converted to a home temple. It appeared as Suresh ji started meditating and disappeared when he stopped. It occurred for seven nights in a row but not on the eight or the ninth night. When Suresh ji asked Gurudev why he had stopped appearing, the mahaguru’s words, “Whenever you see an image of me, remind yourself that you have discovered God”, were neither pretentious nor arrogant but a matter-of-fact representation 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 those he recommended. Standing outside the Badrinath temple, he told me to go inside, 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 asked me to go back again since I had hugged the wrong deity! I was flummoxed and very reluctant to brave the queues and return to hug a statue! So, in an impulsively childish but spontaneous act, I caught hold of 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.”
Responding to Bittu ji’s query on gyan, the mahaguru told him, “All my disciples have gyan within them, even though they may not be consciously aware of it. As and when the need arises, gyan will emerge on its own”. My personal experience validated Gurudev’s words. Immediately after we opened the sthan in Mumbai, I was attacked at night by a djinn. I rolled out when I saw the djinn throttling my body lying on the bed. As soon as he noticed me, he came to attack me. I instinctively knew how to use the Mahagayatri mantra and repel his attack!
The complete obliteration of the identity or ego or ‘I-ness’ of the jivaatma is a gradual transformative process. And, it can take multiple lifetimes, not just years!
Spiritual transformation entails the advancement from one loka to a higher one. After one has reached the more elevated, if not the highest of the lokas, nothing matters. Nothing does! The ego dilutes, and one understands that ‘Nothing Is’. These are the accruals of the ultimate gyan.
The final phase of this last stage is the dissolution of your identity (jivaatma) into the absolution of the param-aatma. In this erasure lies the permanence of Moksha. An almost impossible attainment 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 are the base and fulcrum of the transformative process. The stages of seva, gyan and bhakti co-mingle and piggyback on each other. The final stage of divya gyan emerges only when the remaining stages have been saturated.