By Suma Varughese
An experiential account of the breakthru programme run by Acharya Samadarshini of the oneness univercity which teaches us how to move into the auspicious zone of the higher consciousness
The slight figure on the stage dressed in a khadi kurta and jacket, short curly hair framing a thoughtful sincere face, seemed more like a social worker than a motivational speaker, but there was surprising power in her delivery. Insights poured out of her with astonishing frequency, and sometimes, her voice throbbed with passionate empathy for suffering humanity.
I was witnessing Acharya Samadar-shini of the Oneness University in action, as she spearheaded Breakthru, a three-day programme that the University has recently emerged with. In contrast to their intensely bhakti-based spiritual (mahadeeksha) programmes, this is shorn of overt spiritual fervour, and is aimed at the corporate and urban classes. For the uninitiated, the Oneness University, headed by Amma and Bhagavan, is a well-known spiritual organisation based in Vardiahpalem, Andhra Pradesh, whose USP is their emphasis of deeksha as a path to enlightenment.
Breakthru is designed around success but success that is holistic – inclusive of personal life and relationships with family. It combines the can-do dynamism of western motivational training with the wisdom of eastern tradition. The success mantra they teach us almost at the beginning is a good example of this. Success, they tell us, is a combination of intention+ effort+grace. The last component, which every seeker acknowledges as crucial, is still probably not the sort of thing they teach at management school.
The first session by Samadarshiniji introduces the programme to us and teaches us the eight steps that will enable us to access breakthrough states as opposed to breakdowns. There is something to ponder about in almost everything she tells us. Successful people, she tells us, have rules. She quotes the case of a couple successfully married for 25 years. They had two rules: they would resolve all issues before sundown and two, they would inquire into circumstances. She compares it to the case of a woman who tells her husband soon after they get married, “If you have a relationship with another woman, I will divorce you.” Observes Samadarshiniji sagely, “She had a rule for the failure of her marriage, but not for making the marriage work.”
We are introduced to our dual nature consisting of the lower consciousness and the higher consciousness. The lower consciousness is powerful and fast; its nature is ruinous, repetitive and compulsive. Seems familiar? Ever caught yourself wolfing down a packet of chocolate biscuits unable to stop? The higher consciousness is still more powerful but slower, which explains why we are quick to give in to anger, lust or greed even though the higher consciousness pleads for better judgement. Its nature, by the way, is constructive, auspicious and creative.
The success mantra
In the second session, taken by a baby-faced guide, Prahasithaji (most of the guides are astonishingly young), we entered into the depths of the success mantra. Terms are defined. Breakthrough, for instance, is seen as an emergence into the higher consciousness. Central to the process is the individual. Breakthroughs do not happen; we make them happen. She lets fall an insight casually, just tossing it off as it were. “We feel more intensely about failure than about success, which is why life gives us more of it. If we were to enjoy success more, we would get it more often.” Oh my God, so true!
More definitions. Intent is seen as desire charged with emotional intensity. Makes sense to me. Wants are pale watery things without impact. But when spiked with determination and intensity, they become totems of power whose very utterance seems to charge the body with energy. “Obstacles give way if you have a passionate intent.” We are asked to write out our own intentions. I choose health, an area of maximum concern for me.
Effort, she tells us, is a combination of commitment and hard work. “If you want to be a champion, you need to put in more effort than anyone else in the field.” We look next at grace. Grace is like internet, she tells us. It makes connections possible. Again, the definition vibes with me. I think of the number of people who have flowed into my life at exactly the right moment when I needed them and taught me what I needed to learn. Access grace through prayer, she advises us.
The third session by Samadarshiniji is a truly magical one which sets the context for the rest of the programme. She proceeds to teach us about chakras in a way which I have never quite heard or read, by assigning psychological qualities to each of them.
The first chakra, the mooladhara, stands for stability. When imbalanced, it either becomes unstable or rigidly fixed, immune to change. What causes stability are strong and secure family relationships, finance, health, and relationship with God. Strong and clear-cut value systems that guide decision-making is also a source of stability. It occurs to me that self-esteem is also a source of stability – the sense of being centred in oneself.
The second chakra, the swadhisthana, has the virtue of pleasure when in balance. Its two extremes include excessive indulgence and abstinence from pleasure. Samadarshiniji memorably says, “Pleasure has its continuity in thought. It does not end in the physical act. Because of this it always ends up in pain.”
“We have to learn to say, ‘Enough’,” she tells us. That simple word sums up the whole secret of self-control. If only it were easy to say ‘Enough’ when daydreaming over a lover or while watching TV or confronting a chocolate cake. Manipura, the third chakra, stands for power, significance and importance. “Importance needs to be shared, both at home and at the workplace,” she shares, warning us that if we do not make the people around us feel important and significant, they will turn against us. A sobering thought for employers and parents.
The love connection
The fourth chakra, anahata, at the heart region, stands for love and connection. The family stands out as the central force for love. She cites the story of a successful businessman who complained that his family did not treat him with the same deference that the outside world did. She clarifies, “In a family, only love can operate. No other relationship is possible.” How true, I think to myself. No mattter how grand a role you play in the outside world, at home you are only a parent, a sibling, a spouse. She also tells us something that struck me as very significant. “Find love first within the family while giving love everywhere. If we seek love elsewhere, we destroy the family.” I have been witness to several friends who prioritised friends over family, and ended up antagonising their family permanently. It is apparently in the order of life that the family must be accorded the highest priority.
The vishudha chakra at the throat stands for acceptance. Samadarshiniji asks, going straight to the crux of things as it were, “Have you accepted your body? If you have accepted your body, everybody will accept you.” It makes me think – is accepting the body the fundamental mark of self-acceptance? Before going to the sixth she goes to the seventh, sahasrara, which she says stands for unity consciousness or oneness. That, however, is not in the purview of this programme which stops with the sixth: the ajna chakra in the middle of the forehead. The ajna chakra’s virtue is intelligence. It is the command centre of the human psyche, and is the mark of the champion. The ajna chakra gives us the ability to ask what she calls quality questions; in contrast to fundamental questions these yield answers that can move us forward. The champion asks, ‘How can I use this situation to grow out of, or to make my product better?’
She comes now to the crux of the presentation. A champion, she shares, has a formula for living. The formula consists of learning, growing and sharing/serving/contributing. Now here it is – our growth, no matter in what area, only focuses on increasing one of these seven qualities – stability, pleasure, power, love, acceptance, intelligence and oneness.
This succinct summary of human endeavour quite takes my breath away. Is that what it’s all about? Again, I find a rich lode of insight to dig into and dwell on. This insight is the fundamental perspective that knits together the Breakthru programme. We are then made to do some exercises on what is most important for us and where we stand when it comes to the seven qualities. Searching questions that make us introspect and paves the way for change.
This completes the first day. The second day is devoted to relationships and is far more experiential than the first day. For the Oneness people, the ability to deal with pain is a core issue. Says Prahasithaji, who holds the first session on the relationship with one’s parents, “Hurt kills relationships. Because we have not learnt to deal with pain, it stays in us as a wound.” How absolutely true. In order not to feel pain, we run away from relationships, phase people out of our lives, turn indifferent and aloof. Our fundamental duality, after all, is to crave pleasure, and shy away from pain.
According to the Oneness people, resolving relationships with parents is crucial for lasting happiness or well-being. Says Prahasithaji, “Getting hurt in your relationship with your parents is the direct route to your lower consciousness” forcing you to indulge in behaviour that is repetitive, ruinous and compulsive. A block in one’s relationship with the father will result in financial issues, and a block in one’s relationship with the mother will put hurdles on the road to success. Again, something to think about.
We are then taken on a sensitive and deep exercise exploring our relationship with each parent. Some members of the audience burst into racking sobs as they engage with their wounded psyches. Later, we are asked to see things from their point of view, from their own backgrounds and contexts. A moving exercise which left me more complete in my relationship with my father than I had ever been. At the end of the exercise smiles have replaced the tears and we are asked to use the break to call up our parents and tell them we love them.
The next session deals with relationship with children. Again, insights illuminate our understanding. We are told that in order to get children of good samskara we need to engage consciously in the act of conception. The sweet-faced Radhikadasaji takes this course, and exhorts us to be as conscious of the muhurtam of conception as we are of marriage. Delivery, too, is a matter of great delicacy because the baby has expanded consciousness for the first six hours of her birth, and is aware of everything others think, feel or say. It is imperative during this period that she is surrounded with love and joy. He or she should be received like a king, she tells us, suggesting that we fob off any member of the family likely to comment on the child’s gender or complexion. As far as possible, the baby should spend the first six hours with the mother.
Some advice on upbringing taken from the Panchatantra: Treat the child like a king for the first six years. Say yes to the child’s wishes, as much as possible. Treat him like a prince from six to 12 which means discipline him while always sensitive to the child’s feelings. Once 14, he needs to be treated like a friend. Parents were then given the exercise of looking into their relationship with their children. Where have they erred? Could they ask for forgiveness? Again, a cathartic experience as many parents tearfully admitted to having made mistakes in this most difficult of human tasks.
The third relationship session has to do with one’s relationship with the spouse and Samadarshiniji spearheads this formidable topic by introducing us to the technology of dealing with hurt. Intelligence (the virtue of the sixth chakra) gives us the ability to deal with hurt. Hurt, says Samadarshiniji, begins with irritation. This grows and becomes judgement. “Once you label a person, you stop experiencing them,” she observes astutely. Anger dawns, and finally you give up on the relationship and withdraw. “Hurt robs you of intelligence,” she says.The wiser option is to experience suffering. Here’s how:
Become aware of escape routes &bull Awareness seals them off
&bull Stay still
&bull Allow the pain to suck you in. If necessary, help the pain to suck you in
&bull Bring attention to the physical sensation
&bull Stay there. The rest is a happening. At the end of it, one will be in bliss, ecstasy, overflowing with love and forgiveness We are made to go through this exercise. Later, she teaches us how to listen to someone we have hurt
&bull Look at their face as they speak. Not doing so is a covert way of disrespect
&bull Breathe deeply. When you breathe shallow, you operate from a shallow place
&bull Pray. Ask the Higher Power to help you listen
&bull Avow to yourself that the other person’s happiness is more important than anything else
&bull Get beyond the words to the needs. And the needs? Yes, you guessed it. The seven chakra virtues – stability, pleasure, power…
&bull Do your utmost to fulfil these needs.
Both these techniques have the potential to work beautifully if we would apply them sincerely.Day three begins with a deeksha from two guides who are called Oneness Beings. They belong to a unique cadre of dasas who are steeped in deep samadhi. The deeksha, we are told, will enable us to achieve, enjoy and be happy.Breakthrough The final session teaches us the technology of moving from breakdown to breakthrough. Samadarshiniji asks us to go into a breakdown experience. Not difficult. We only had to recall an upset, and whoosh, there we were in a tailspin. She helps us recognise that a breakdown is accompanied by a low energy body posture, thoughts and images of what upsets us, words, conflicting inner dialogue, and finally, negative emotions. Then we are led into the breakthrough stage by recalling our core strength. Breakthroughs too have images and words, but instead of conflicting inner dialogue these are statements of power. She calls them inner incantations: ‘I am a warrior’, ‘I am a champion.’ ‘I can do it.’ The next step is feeling (as opposed to emotion in breakdown) and finally at the core is prayer. The trick to moving from breakdown to breakthrough is to utter the inner incantation, recall a success one has had and utter a strong prayer to God to give us what we want in order to move to the breakthrough stage. There are four aspects to prayer: First, we become clear about what we want. Then we ask. Third, we feel as if we already have it. And fourth we thank God for it. A bit like the Secret, but then, the truth is always the same.
And finally it’s all over. The intense three days have broken down some inhibitions, tightly-held hurts and revealed dazzling possibilities. It’s time to go back, this time, armed with skills that can keep us on an even keel as we sail the turbulent sea of life.
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