[Continued from a previous conversation]
Guruji: “All the shrines and ashrams Yogananda Paramhansa built are beautifully placed in natural surroundings. Really remarkable, though I have just heard about them, never visited them personally. There is some atmosphere there! Also, if you compare their [accomplished yogis] photographs from their young age and their old age, you’ll find they looked more beautiful in their old age. It is as if they were getting more beautiful as they were getting older. This happens with everyone who practices yoga. Don’t you feel some change in yourself? You look very different now then when you had started doing yoga.
These days I am getting a lot of compliments for my skin. It feels good to hear such things in old age (laughs).”
Q: “Have you heard Kishori Amonkar’s Meera bhajans, for example, “Mharo Pranam”? Aren’t they beautiful?”
Guruji: “Yes, they are amazing. They were also divine people. Not the singers; they are just repeating what has been left behind, but the original people were wonderful! Just imagine the feeling Meera Bai must have had when she sung those songs, when even today, after centuries have passed, when we hear those songs they are able to evoke such strong emotions inside us. Have you heard the poetry of Neeraj? “Karwaan guzar gaya, gubaar dekhate rahe” (the caravan had passed, we caught only the dust). Rafi has also sung this song, but he could never produce the same effect as when Neeraj used to recite it, even though Rafi was a great singer in his own right. Similarly, Harivansh Rai Bachchan was a great hit when he recited Madhushala on stage. Manna Dey has also sung those poems now but it doesn’t create the same magic.
“Now keeping these examples in mind, try to imagine the sensation in the atmosphere when Meera Bai, Tulsidas, etc, used to sing their compositions. And that kind of ambiance was created because they were sung with the actual true feelings of the composers themselves, and were not just plain recreations of the originals. People used to get lost and overwhelmed! These days people have become millionaires by cashing on their compositions, but the true were those who lived centuries ago. They were truly exemplary.”
Q: “Why did Meera Bai take birth? Was it to set an example of some kind as she was a great devotee of God from a very early age?”
Guruji: “First of all, as she was born in a royal family she can’t be regarded as an ordinary soul. It won’t be wrong to say that her emotional state of mind was much heightened as compared to any ordinary person. And I strongly believe that the level of her devotion cannot happen without a direct experience of some kind. She definitely had some direct experience in her childhood. Only after a direct experience can the live of a person change so dramatically. You simply cannot cultivate this level of devotion. The way you cannot cultivate love, you cannot cultivate devotion. It just happens, and when such an extraordinary incident happens to somebody, history remembers them!
“Such experiences are always kept secret. She never propagated her experience. She just stayed in her bhava (divine emotion), and she is still remembered as a great soul. I really like her. Meerabai, Tulsidas, Soordas, all of them wrote extraordinary compositions. They suffered in life because of their devotion. People who fall in deep emotions, like Majnu, who fell deeply in love, may get ruined materially but still leave a deep impact. These people were not happy even on the family front. This is a striking similarity between Meera Bai and Tulsidas; Meera Bai’s husband Bhojraj died very early and she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl. These incidents in life must certainly have resulted in a lot of bottled-up emotions. Tulsidas’s wife used to mock him, and his son Tarapati died in his childhood. It was only after these incidents that their poetry truly developed rasa (taste, emotion) which was absolutely miraculous. These people certainly had seen God. It is impossible to become a poet of this level all of a sudden without a blessing from God.
“I never believed in these things earlier but after coming to Vraj (almost 11 years in Oct 2004), I have since realized that these divine mysteries we hear about do exist. There is truth in people seeing God or experiencing some kind of contact. An ordinary person can’t even imagine what those people must have seen or experienced. He’ll consider those men and women as crazy or insane.
“People who are at an advanced stage in Yoga practice experience it for sure, and even those people who have reached the zenith of any one emotion experience it as well. This is what we remark in India as kripa (blessing). Who confers it, to whom, when, and how it happens remains unknown. There are no set of rules to predict it. It’s just the matter of purity of heart.
“Now let’s consider Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He had an experience in Gaya when he was looking at the feet of lord Vishnu. After that, he got the darshan of lord Vishnu and Balram. People generally say these were divine visions, but I feel they were actually the experience of seeing God face to face (darshan). How amazing it is that the whole Vrindawan transformed into a vaishnava pilgrimage when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu arrived here! I would never believed it, but after living in Govardhan for a long time now, my awareness has definitely increased. I do feel it’s true that when he used to do kirtan (sing devotional songs), the entire nature used to sing with him! Imagine the beauty around with the birds singing alongside with him and the trees dancing on his rhythm. The entire nature would get tuned to the melody of his devotion (“saara vatavaran kirtan-may ho jata tha“) and sing alongside “Hare Rama Hare Krishna” with him. That effect can still be felt in and around Vraj.”
Q: “Then guruji what exactly is the feeling of the people of ISKCON who get overwhelmed while singing devotional songs. Are they also spiritually accomplished?”
Guruji: “See, this is again the same difference between the original and subsequent followers, as we discussed earlier. ISKCON is an extension of Gaudia sect, which is a cult of Bengali gaudias started by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The life-style of original vaishnavas as I have observed was extremely simple and were forever distant from commerce. But now-a-days, with ISKCON, the original culture has gotten buried under something entirely different and new.
“The gauriyas who went to stay in ashrams in an early age had to follow a very strict discipline. They had to chant “Hare Ram Hare Ram Ram Ram Hare Hare, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare” 125,000 times every day. It didn’t matter how long it’d take, 4hrs, 6hrs, or even more. Now a person who is doing these many chants everyday and following an extreme diet along with offering his devotion and work to God, how can he not develop strong bhava (divine emotion) in his heart?
“The second kind of vaishnavas are grihasta (householders) who far exceed in number the ones living in ashrams (hermits). They mainly belong to the Bengal region. I am telling you, the way they talk with you is so sweet, they’ll win over your heart! And they won’t even try to convert you! You will find the sweetest people in that region. The gauriya cult was the most beautiful region ever before the coming of ISKCON, and it still is beautiful as the original vaishnavas do not have any strong ties with ISKCON. Only those vaishnavas who are materially inclined get in touch with ISKCON. Others are the homeless gauriyas who cook food for them. So I must say that some of the principles are still followed in ISKCON, like only the gauriyas can cook food for them. But otherwise the simplicity in the lifestyle, which was the main characteristic of vaishnavas, is nowhere to be seen in ISKCON followers. You should definitely observe that and you will love it.
“I still remember a family from my childhood (around 30yrs back). The man of the family was a vaishnava and lived in Vrindawan. His son was going to America for his PhD in Atomic Physics. They used to have around 15-20 cows and they fed them raw barley everyday. They would make their roti (Indian bread) out of the raw barley grains passed in the the cow-dung! They’d separate the grains from the dung, clean them, dry them, and grind them into flour to make rotis. This is such an amazing thing to know! I didn’t understand it when I was a child but now when I look back I am awestruck by their simplicity. Imagine the boy, who was so well educated and going aboard for higher education, who used to carry hay along with his wife for the cows and clean their dung. You couldn’t guess how highly educated they were by looking at their simplistic lifestyle. They were the nicest people I have ever met in my life! They also had this everyday routine of doing a certain chant. The father of that boy had become a complete renunciate, and thus he was following the strict rules of the vaishnavas who become hermits after following the life of a householder. Even today I get emotional when I think about him. This is what I call real life! So full of simplicity, having no demands at all! The old man is no more now and I am not sure about the whereabouts of his son. But I am highly confident that his roots and principles were so strong that he must be doing good wherever he is living right now and following the same kind of simple life even now. He went abroad for 5 years along with his wife, and both of them were highly educated.
“So this was the real beauty of the original vaishnavas, their utter simplicity. Now with outside influence, that beauty is getting lost and is not seen very often. But even today if you go visit some of the vaishnava villages, you’ll love it there. Nadiya village and a few areas in Vraj still have that feeling of pure simplicity and devotion. ISKCON is just a fashionable part of it that became popular.
“Like that, there’s a place here in Vraj called Tatiya Sthan, founded by Swami Haridas. I have also met their previous mahant (leader, principal) who is not living anymore. This place is still what it was 500-600 years back when it was founded. Even today they don’t have any electricity or water pipes, and every single tree is very old and maintained to look the same as before. They are also following the same routine as laid down by their founder. There is a very positive and weird feeling about the place. You feel completely at peace in your heart the moment you step inside that place. Amazing stuff!”
Q: “Guruji, how could they follow such strict discipline?”
Guruji: “It’s a matter of love. The people of Tatiya Sthana still live as sadhus (hermits) and their discipline is very different from the householder vaishnavas. The man from my childhood I told you about was following all the principles of householders before he took renunciation. He was married, educated, kept a job, and supported his family. But after he took renunciation, he followed the rules of the hermit stage. The brilliance and peace on his face was just amazing to see, and I still remember it. It was simply wonderful.
“I understand ISKCON has propagated itself a lot, and has built beautiful showcase kind of structures as their temples, but I don’t find that mesmerizing beauty in it that the original had.
“But then again there is another interesting thing. There are a lot of foreigners living in Vrindavan who have decided to take their last breath there. They have come to Vrindavan to die only! So how can I say that ISKCON followers don’t have any spiritual feelings? You’ll find good people in them also. But the commercial majority in ISKCON is what I find unappealing. Formerly there was no commerce in the name of Krishna. The devotees were simply devotees.”
Q: “Guruji, don’t you sometimes feel that our present condition is the result of our past life and karma, so why should you help us out?”
Guruji: “See, there are two sides of the same coin. The past life influences your birth, like the family you are born into, and the kind of physical body you carry. But at the same time its also due to the past karma that you have come to me to learn Kriya Yoga. Not everybody find their way here.
“The spiritual bond that forms between me and my disciples during initiation flows the energy of whatever is happening with me to them as well. This is the most interesting thing. I didn’t realize it earlier but now I can see it very clearly.
There is also a flip side to this situation. There are a lot of new people coming these days who are trying to become my disciple because they think that their financial and family problems will improve after becoming my disciple.. But I don’t entertain such people. The objective with such people is completely twisted as none of my old disciples ever came to me for becoming millionaires. They had a genuine motivation to learn yoga. But even then, their situation in life substantially improved.
“It all depends on the motive. The people who come to me with a wrong motive end up spoiling my mood, but a genuine person’s life definitely improves. There is this man who came to me from Delhi – he is a disciple of mine. He was here on Shivaratri. His daughter’s finger got completely ripped off – it got stuck somewhere and she tried to pull it off which teared the ligaments and the bones came out. She had her exams after 15 days and the doctor wasn’t too hopeful of the finger ever recovering. He told this to me when he came here. I couldn’t give a lot of attention to what he said as there were a lot of people around. I was in a very spirited mood, so I just said “Don’t worry, everything will be fine”. When he took her daughter for a change of bandage, the doctor was shocked and told them that the finger was absolutely okay and it didn’t need any further bandages! The girl wrote her exam papers with her own hands and didn’t face any problem at all in writing. She has come here to visit me and I’m noticing that her finger does show some swelling but all the movements have restored. The vibrations of the discipline I follow here in the academy flow to all my disciples. Even though I’ve always been careful about my routines and discipline, ever since I have understood this principle, I’ve become extra careful. So many new discoveries are happening slowly and gradually.”
Q: “For example, OM that appeared in Shivalinga?”
Guruji: “Now that the OM has appeared in the Shivalinga, it’d be interesting to see what happens next. It becomes visible when we offer milk to Shivalinga through the bull’s horn, and due to the accumulation of the milk the form gets revealed. It appears as if it is engraved on it. It’s nice, but you can’t stare at it for long as the eyes starts warming up and they turn blood red, and you also start feeling drowsy after a while. The entire mental activity kind of stops when staring at it.”
Q: “Guruji, when does a person start understanding OM? Is it at the highest developed state of the mind?”
Guruji: “Definitely. It is the symbol/word of God, and I feel that this is how Shiva-ji appears in form himself. The Shivalinga is already considered His form, and now with OM appearing on it, it is as if Shiva-ji has put His stamp over His own form. Another amusing thing is that the OM looks quite similar to the one showing in the MRI scans of my brain.”
“So how can we interpret this?”
“Well, I am not able to interpret it as of now. All I can quote here is a phrase in Hindi which describes it beautifully, “sab unki kripa hai yeh” (this is all His grace). I think I need more discussions with people so we can find an answer to it. You should also think more about it so we can discuss.”
“May be it’s date of appearance has some significance?”
“May be. We do see an onset of fighting happening all around, and since Shiva-ji does the dance of destruction (tandava), there might be a relation here. If the fights are happening with the will of God, it won’t stop any time soon. Another important thing to note here is the fight with the third biggest oil producing country in the world precisely on the third day of the third week of the third month of the third year (17 march2003). It feels as if some magician was consulted to plan this. It all feels very strange.”
Q: “Here (USA) in a day-to-day life, it is very easy to ignore all these things. Nobody thinks of what is driving things actually.”
Guruji: “Yes, but with growing awareness around the world, it is getting impossible to ignore underlying causes. After all, the entire humanity is one single unit, though we are distributed all over the planet. If something happens in one place, its consequences will be borne everywhere.
I agree that an average person is not aware of this connectivity but it does exist. If you get stung by a thorn in your foot, the entire body feels the impulse which doesn’t even spare the brain. You can not ignore your foot then.
“And I feel this is just the leftover vibrations of Mahabharat. It also happened in the Middle East region, and now it is it is now being taken down again with a war. As you know, when all the vegetation of an area gets burnt due to very high temperature, it gets converted into petroleum. So that is what happened in that area and all that was left was petroleum and sand (desert). So peace will get restored in the world only after the entire petroleum stored in this area will get burnt and destroyed. There will be a sudden peace after that. What happened, does this worry you? (laughs).”
 Conversation recorded on : March 29,2003