By Suma Varughese
Suma Varughese speaks to Maa Gyaan Suveera, a spiritual teacher and guide who lives in her beautiful Hermitage in the upper reaches of the Rishikesh mountains, overlooking the foamy, frisky, sublime Ganga
I visited Maa Gyaan’s ashram on my visit to Rishikesh last year. Situated very close to the Vashista Guha where sage Vashista is said to have meditated, the Hermitage is an utterly charming place, abrim with life and beauty. She was in the midst of taking possession of a cow, but there were already dogs, a cat, parrots and ducks enlivening the place. Glimpses of the capable, aesthetic and efficient housewife she once was, were evident in the way she had done up her ashram, and especially in the way she served a delicious meal for us, outside on a patio. The dining table was beautifully decorated with flowers; it being the first day of Navratri, she had pulled out all the stops to honour the shaktis who had descended upon her (myself and my friend, Kunti Nagwekar). We were therefore treated to a wonderful meal, compete with all the chutneys and condiments one could have asked for. Later, we sat in a little grassy alcove a few levels below the dining table, sipping tulsi chai and listening to her melodious chanting of Sanskrit slokas. Replete in body and soul, we departed with a lingering sense of well-being. Recently, wanting to capture the experience of living such a life, I interviewed her on email. Excerpts from an interview:
You have a charming life living in the mountains of Rishikesh, high above the Ganga. Would you like to describe the life you lead there?
|People from overseas often visit Maa Gyaan’s hermitage in search of peace and divine guidance|
There is nature around me, the river and the mountains, the seasons, and animals. The sun rises each day to enliven the yoga of ‘homa with the Ganga, and the Himalayas’. Nature is at its best here, inspiring and teaching something or the other each moment.
I hardly ever go to town except when I have something really important to do. I have no social visits, no friends and no entertainment. I don’t watch TV, I haven’t seen movies for a long time now, I am not privy to political and regular news. I don’t speak to many people on the phone.
Yet, my life bubbles with enthusiasm. Whatever I need reaches me one way or the other. I find an effortless comfort in the unfolding of day-to-day events. Issues do come up occasionally, but somehow they don’t convert into problems. I experience witnessing and actually ‘see’ the issue dissolve. Me the doer, happily participates. I work for 10-12 days in the month, the remaining time is dedicated to my Self .
I experience the compassion of nature very closely here. There are different species of animals and insects that surface each season. I observe that none cause us any harm. There is co-existence which we learn only when we live amidst them all.
I do go through emotional ups and downs, but the downs don’t last for more than a few minutes or hours. I have learnt the art of raising every negative thought to the positive level of the Divine. I romance with God in all forms.
What is a typical day in your life like?
Most of my time is spent in sadhana. My sadhana involves all the three yoga practices – karma yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti yoga. I spend a stipulated number of hours in chanting, and I do my choice of rituals and homa each day. I serve all the beings here consciously with love. I study scriptures, I read and ensure that I have some learning challenge each day. I write poetry, I compose small simple experiential wisdom nuggets which are unconditionally shared with my students and visitors. I practice shastriya sangeet, I paint, I create small give-aways for my students and visitors, I look after the garden, I cook, I attend to the animals myself, and I teach whenever and wherever I am given opportunities. I have my hands full of activities throughout the day. My typical day begins at 3:30 am and ends by 9 pm.
When I have students, my time from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm is dedicated to them. The teaching is not just of their chosen subject, but also about a way of life, positive selfless attitude, and the virtues that support spiritual living.
I live the life that I teach.
How did the ashram come about? I remember your telling me this amazing story.
I was looking for a place to set up my hermitage, and this just happened. On this small hillock, lived a naad-yogi Baba, in a small room for almost 50 years. It was an isolated unattended place when I arrived, because Baba had already left his body but he had already told everyone that I, who he had never laid eyes upon, was going to live here. He knew that I would be coming; this place was as if waiting for me. Within a span of six months, I had built a verdant garden and stocked it with many animals. I experienced a personal transformation; the place absorbed me completely. I found myself more committed to my path than ever before, I experienced the dissolving of desires. I also believe that I am brought here to be groomed to my highest potential and possibility.
What happens at the ashram in terms of teaching?
|The tranquil Hermitage is ringed by mountains, with the Ganga flowing below it|
This apart, we often have spiritual groups coming to the hermitage for evening satsang These are question-answer sessions followed by chants and meditation. We don’t allow casual travellers to just walk in. People who wish to meet me, call up and take an appointment. The energy and vibrancy of the place hence is always very high.
You live alone when you do not have students, right? How do you feel about that? Have you no fear?
No, I don’t fear anything. In fact when students leave, I find myself comfortable in my empty space. There is a feeling of fulfillment, of having taught and worked. I then laze around for some time. I soon get busy with my other activities. I believe that I am never alone. I can sense the company of these trees, animals, and the subtle forces that are around me all the time. It’s strange, but I have NEVER felt alone. Also, I live with a conviction that I am watched by a hierarchy of masters, and God is with me all the time. They personally take care of my grooming and protection. I think what they want me to think, I do what they want me to do. I live in a surrendered mode, hence I fear nothing.
Have you ever faced any spooky goings on? Any encounter with ghosts or other entities?
My peripheral and auric vision is very sharp; I can sense and ‘see’ things easily. This has, however, never disturbed me. There is co-existence in nature, I believe there are beings around that we can see, and also those that we can’t. As long as we have no fear and negative thoughts in our minds, as long as our own aura doesn’t attract them, there is never anything to worry. They are all there, but as a part of existence and not to harm us. None of these have ever bothered me, or scared me, or interfered with my work or living.
On the other hand, I have experienced higher powers visiting this place. Siddhas do give us darshan on many occasions. They have communicated with me in their direct form, as well as in the form of visiting creatures like langurs, parrots, snakes, and even strange insects. There was this beautiful swarm of fireflies entertaining me like a laser show one day when I was sitting down on the stairs looking at the Ganges late in the night. On another occasion, a parrot communicated to me that his name was Swami Keshavdutt. He visited us for almost two months. Each day he would come and eat the served fruits and grains, and then fly away. I would go near him, we had eye-to eye contact and long communication through silence. We saw a huge langur attending the morning homa one day. Our dogs couldn’t see him, he was right there where they were sitting! He disappeared in front of our eyes when we tried to go near him offering bananas. A naga-devta resides under the space where Baba used to meditate. He gives us darshan on many festivals. There have been innumerable incidents of love, warmth, empowerment and protection from other existential planes, and none that have scared me.
Your ashram is full of animals and birds. Can you share a little about your love for animals and how it all began?
I connect to them heart to heart, soul to soul. They help me practice karma yoga. I do the best that I can for them, and expect nothing. They shower me with unconditional love. I am sure that I am thriving on their blessed energy.
I have been an animal lover since childhood, but could never have so many pets for practical reasons of space. I find the space and reason to have them now. I love the way they co-exist and support each other. None of them fight with each other. The dogs, cat, parrots, pigeons, ducks, and the cow, all live in perfect harmony. It’s a feast to the soul to watch them grow.
How have you changed since your advent into spirituality?
Yes I have changed, slowly, gradually and surely, from a healer-reader-practitioner, to a spiritual master.
For many years, my focus was on outside of me than inside of me. I was moved by the sufferings of this world and people. There was a lot that I was ‘doing’ to help this and that.
I am concerned and sincerely feel for the suffering of this world and people even today, but I have stopped ‘doing’. I feel I am able to help more people this way. My focus today is more internal and hardly external. The change has been on account of continued committed practices; it is so willed by God.
How has it changed the way you handle relationships in general?
I am more tolerant, least expecting, and I look through people’s mind. I love everyone. There is God in people whom I deal with, and never the person himself. I do feel hurt when people misbehave or manipulate, but the feelings are very transitory. I overcome them with my intellectual spiritual conscience. I seek forgiveness from one and all in my mind; I drop down all impressions and perceptions consciously. I don’t tolerate violence. I move away from such places where people use it as a tool for gaining control over others.
What about the impact of spirituality on the way you deal with money?
Money has no inherent quality; it takes over the guna of the user. I am a sadhak and lead a simple life, I need very little for my survival, and whatever more, is for the plants, animals and the maintenance of this Hermitage. There is always enough for all of us. These animals are eating what they are destined to; I am getting what I am destined. I do feel odd at times because I don’t have a cushy bank balance, but the feeling is overpowered within minutes by the inner richness.
How do you cope with health issues today?
I am blessed with good health in general. I deal with minor issues through natural healing. I may lie down on the bare ground when I have aches and pains, I give myself packs of leaves and flowers, use soil and sand packs, massage and heal with stones and crystals to remove any discomfort. I heal with focus and energy, with determination and nature’s support. I hug and speak to my cow when I feel low. I decorate my space with flowers and burn candles to invoke positivity. I haven’t visited a doctor for years, and I pray that I don’t have to even in the future.
Looking back at your life, how were you led to this juncture?
I have had innumerable experiences and encounters with masters from the subtler world from my early days. I was always guided and protected.
I had glimpses of my present juncture, when I was in my early teens. I would purposely go to school very early to sit alone on the stairs facing the huge playground. In the rising sun I would witness a curtain opening as if a show would begin. I have seen myself this old, and even older than what I am today in the many scenes that randomly passed my mind. I understood over the years that there is a script, and it slowly unfolds empowered by consciousness.
I therefore hold no one responsible for the events and turnings in my life. I put everything in an envelope of gratitude; it’s a process of my ‘becoming’ into whatever HE wills; God’s Will is, nothing else is.
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