Beyond Worldly Desire

Colors of Life Photo by Debashis Biswas

Sreeram from Bengaluru, India, shares his personal journey of self discovery.

When I was about 27 years old, I was gripped by an intense desire to get a degree in Master of Business Administration (MBA). This desire was partly driven by fear and partly by a desire for recognition. I felt, at the time, that I was stuck in a dead-end job with a high risk of obsoletion and had to do an MBA to get out of the situation. An MBA from a reputed institution would not only help me with this cause, but also provide a big ego boost. I spent about a year and a half working hard to get into the college of my choice and the day I got the admission letter from the college was one of the happiest days of my life. I joined the college and worked hard. However, the happiness that I felt initially upon getting admission had dissipated and I went back to feeling how I had always felt before. 

The Taste of Success

At college I narrowed down on Product Management as the area I wanted to go into after my MBA. I dedicated myself to making this desire a reality and on the first day of campus placement I got a job in Product Management at one of the hottest startups in India. Again, my joy knew no bound and I was happy to have attained what I had worked hard for. However, over the next few days and weeks, having a job as a Product Manager at Flipkart (India's version of Amazon) became the new normal and I went back to how I was before. 

At Flipkart, I was tasked with working on Mobile apps and I was initially happy to have been given that opportunity. However, over the next few months, I noticed discontent sprouting in my mind. This time, instead of getting caught up in the next big thing to chase, I asked myself what was going on. Every few months, some big desire took root in my mind and I chased it with all my energy. Once it was attained, I felt satiated for a few days until the next desire swept me away. I was left wondering if the problem lay in my mind. 

Not this, not this

Around the time when I started working in Flipkart, I took an interest to ancient Indian history and started reading a lot about it. Whatever I read kept pointing back to the Upanishads being one of India’s greatest contributions to the world. Since I had no idea what the Upanishads were about, I decided to read more about them. It was the greatest blessing of my life that I was able to read the Upanishads when I was going through this personal crisis. Under other circumstances or during a different phase in life, I might not have grasped the profound wisdom it contains and would have dismissed it. Given what I was going through in my professional life, the teachings resonated with the core of my being and I immediately knew I wouldn’t be the same person I was anymore. I also realized that what I was seeking was not to be found in the world outside.

My Experiments with Truth

The next challenge I faced was to identify what to do about this realization. I did not know how to meditate or deal with my mind. I did not know anyone who did either. I tried to learn these from various books. Though I had some temporary experiences, I found books to be ineffective in explaining the nuances of the practice. I tried going to yoga teachers to teach me how to meditate and I found that they did not know anything beyond the asanas. When I asked one teacher to teach me pratyahara, she said she didn't know it and she did not know anyone who did either. 

The Darkness before Dawn

The desperation I felt being trapped in a life that I had realized was meaningless and not knowing what to do to change it is indescribable. My family life took a nose dive and I felt that my family was burden to me. I became aloof from my wife and daughter, not speaking to them for days at a time. I spent almost all my time searching the internet and books, looking for a method that I knew was real. I was desperate for a teacher who practices what the scriptures talked about, who was further along the journey and hence could guide me. I read autobiographies of all the yogis I could find. Some of them resonated with me more than others, but the one that stuck with me was Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama.

I started searching more about Swami Rama and that lead me to a website about Swami Rama's teachings. I picked up some techniques from that website and started practicing it. However, I couldn’t understand how to do Sushumna Kriya and therefore, in the course of finding more about it, I chanced upon the THATfirst website. I still remember this vividly. It was late in the night and I felt incredibly drawn to the Contact Us link on the website. I decided to give in to this urge and clicked on the link and dropped a note to Radhikaji about what I was going through. It is quite unlike me to reach out to a complete stranger for help or advice. I had never done it before neither have I done it since. But at that time, it strongly felt like the right thing to do and that has been the greatest gift of my life. 

A Second Birth

Radhikaji introduced me to a systematic process of meditation and I have spent the last few years trying to assimilate it into my life. It is very difficult to say which practice has helped me the most. Over the last three or four years of practice, I have tried different experiments to “compress” the practice and fit it better in my daily life. I have come to realize that each step has a specific role to play in the overall practice and skipping it or not doing it properly has a tangible effect of the outcome of the practice. For example, when I skipped diaphragmatic breathing for a couple of weeks, I started feeling difficulty doing the equal breathing and 2:1 breathing exercises. When I skipped atma vichara, my mind wandered off much more than on the days I didn’t. When I didn’t spend enough time elongating my breath, I found it difficult to maintain my concentration during pranayama practices such as Sushumna Kriya. The practices that have helped me the most, are Shavayatra and Sandhya Kriya as these practices have led me to deeper states and given me experiences that I can use as milestones and serve as an inspiration to go deeper into the sadhana. 

Unlearning old thinking and emotional habits

Radhikaji’s guidance has helped me tremendously is in improving my family life. For instance, Radhikaji pointed out the “rebel” ego I was carrying around. As I was growing up as a child, I couldn’t relate to traditional brahmin customs being practiced by my family. Rituals as a concept felt alien and the concept of god who needed constant praise and appeasement made no sense. I kept wondering how an all-powerful, all-knowing being could have such a fragile ego. This led me to create a “rebel” ego within me and I felt I had to fight against everything that was brahmanical. I did not want to be one of them. This ego led to friction with my mother and a lot of heart ache for her. However, under Radhikaji’s guidance, I was able to see and recognize this ego for what it is and with effort, reduce its effect on me. As a result, I can do things for other people, even if I don’t see meaning in it, without it bothering me. 

Light thy own Lamp

I feel that the biggest benefit for my family out of this is that I no longer care of the smaller things in life and as a result, it reduces the sources of friction in the family. I try not to impose my system of beliefs on my family, but I try to ask questions that might give them another perspective on things. Making my children more self-aware is an area I try to spend time on. One of my favorite bed time routines with my children to recap the day and talk about how we felt when certain things happened. It has helped me bond with my children and give them confidence to open up to me. 

I have transformed significantly over the years I have spent with Radhikaji. I know that I am finally in the right tradition for me and from my limited experience, I also find comfort in knowing that the system of meditation I practice can and will take me to my goal, if only I did justice to the practice. I know that the onus of spiritual achievement is solely on me and the decisions I take. I no longer see my family as a burden and enjoy my life with my wife and children. I recognize that each event in life has a lesson to teach and focusing on identifying that lesson and trying to assimilate it into life takes the edge of even the unpleasant events in life.