About two months ago, I was initiated into Kriya Yoga, an ancient technique made accessible in modern times by the great householder-yogi Shyam Charan Lahiri Mahasaya.
Though the first practice of the technique brought a profound sense of peace, it also became the trigger for a tumultuous inner battle between my lazily unreconciled ideas on service & spirituality, gurus & profundity. This in turn kicked up the dust on seemingly unrelated topics like career trajectory, marriage, and family obligations. Suffice to say that though its been a dusty couple of months, some part of me knew that I was and still am undergoing a process of arriving at greater integrity between disparate and sometimes apparently contradictory elements of my life. I’m the first to admit that I’m all over the map, so I imagine that I’m in for a lot more heavy dusting and sweeping.
Hands that help are holier than lips that pray. –Mahatma Gandhi
True to its Gandhian roots, service is the spirituality of Manav Sadhna. The concept isn’t an unfamiliar one, but to see it actualized so deeply is something truly precious and rare. There is no hedging around this bet at Manav Sadhna. Religious or spiritual sentiments are practiced to the extent that they highlight underlying harmony between faiths and call for unity on the level of our common humanity. Earlier on my Indian sojourn, my meditation practice had first taken a hit first from inability to go deep (probably because of Mefloquine), and then because of the demonic little mosquitos that would consume me alive when I sat still. Though I dropped the Mefloquine and learned non-toxic ways of dealing with mosquitos, at Manav Sadhna I found myself feeling that the hours spent in meditation could be better spent working on some project or another. Besides, I reasoned, too many in India mask their laziness and inactivity under a guise of spirituality. What the country needs is the kind of integrated service-based spirituality that gets people’s hands moving.
Infected by the variety of service at Manav Sadhna, I found myself not feeling right about deriving causeless peace from Kriya. Was it fair to feel so good without really doing anything to help anyone? The kind of peace I felt also made me feel like nothing needed to be done, which in turn damaged productivity on so many projects that I try to juggle.
On one level, the highest service you can bestow is to meet each moment with peace. On another level, the world cries out for you to act from that space of peace. Yet when you’re not past selfishness and egotism, it takes lots of work to act and continue to remain totally peaceful. Egotistical impulses want to keep from doing anything that makes the good vibes evaporate, even if its sewing them into serviceful activities, while another part enjoys the righteous indignation that finds proper channelling into some outward ‘service’. But can good ends ever be brought about by less than good means? Without knowledge of the whole and action based in the complete purity of ‘inaction’, am I really doing any good after all?
This is the debate I wrestle with. Though its not fully resolved, I am beginning to view my spiritual practice as a sort of bath that cleans off the dirt of the world before it sticks and becomes part of me. Balancing meditation with activity, and viewing the peace of the former as an enabler of the latter.
Another part of what has bubbled to the surface are many undigested thoughts on gurus and the process through which one arrives at greater purity. Life demonstrates that every moment presents an opportunity for self-evolution, and the only ingredient missing is the vigilance needed to hear the silent lessons blowing with the wind. Still, that kind of vigilance takes a lot of effort and it feels like its easier and more expedient to have a partner in the process, one who’s walked the path. Yet that too can be a crevice for laziness to hide and a crutch that weakens as it supports. There are so many other nuanced elements of to the question of being your own teacher vs. having one that it lends itself to some serious conflicted thinking…
More on gurus in Part II.