Awakening with Anishji
The pandemic may have been the single most disruptive phenomenon anyone has ever experienced, but it is also compelling us to wake up, says
Sri Anish, a Dharamsala-based spiritual teacher committed to the task of raising human consciousness, in an interview with Suma Varughese
I first came in touch with Sri Anish sometime in 2018. I got a call from a pleasant-sounding person who introduced himself as a spiritual teacher visiting Mumbai to hold a satsang (spiritual gathering). He requested a meeting with me regarding a forthcoming book of his. I asked him if he was willing to come over to distant Malad. To my surprise, he said yes!
Dressed in kurta-pyjama, with a dome of a head, long flowing beard, and a genial, good-looking face, Sri Anish looked every inch a spiritual teacher. But he stood out in many ways. There was a refreshing informality about him. And a lightness with which he carried himself. Unlike the patriarchal guru figure who places himself above his followers, Sri Anish was content to refer to them as his friends.
We talked about various aspects of spirituality, and I resonated with many of his viewpoints. He was passionate about the need to raise human consciousness, to free oneself from the shackles of separatist thought and recognise the truth of oneness. The present-day economic model and the subsequent ecological crisis concerned both of us, and he told me how he had started organic farming in a small way in Dharamshala where he lived. We were both also passionate about our great Indian heritage. “Primarily, India has been the land of sages, seers, scholars, and scientists who laid down the foundational systems on how to lead an evolutionary human life. They showed the ways to live, which takes care, nourishes, and helps evolve the collective human consciousness through the principle of co-existence with all life forms in nature.”
The pandemic had confirmed his worst fears of the destruction caused by mankind’s heedless obsession with materialism. And all his energies are now focussed on awakening humanity. “We only have another 10–12 years to change ourselves. After that, it will be too late,” he said soberly.
Recently, in a freewheeling Zoom conversation that linked him in Dharamsala and me in distant Mumbai, we touched upon the pandemic and what the future held for us, before exploring the fascinating spiritual journey that the Divine put him through. At the end of the one-hour interview, I was left feeling uplifted and optimistic, for as long as there are people like Sri Anish (and there are thousands of them across the globe), there is hope for humanity.
Q. Why do you think the pandemic has erupted at this point in time?
The Hindus talk about karma, and the Buddha talks about the Great Law of Cause and Effect. Either way, it can be said that the pandemic is the effect of a cause that we human beings have collectively created. We have created it through our excessive greed. By not being able to relate to Nature or have gratitude for it. By wanting the economy to grow at nine per cent annually for decades and centuries. How can we have unlimited growth with limited resources? It is unsustainable. Because of this, look at the suffering we have caused to plant, marine, and animal life. Where will the suffering go? Nothing goes anywhere. Only the form will change. So, I think we humans have sown some bad seeds, and the seeds are sprouting.
Q. How many people are even considering this possibility? Judging from the papers, it appears that business people are only waiting for the pandemic to go, to get back to business as usual.
It can never be business as usual. That is the hope for humanity. I am hopeful about the situation. I would divide people into three sections: The first would be the awakened ones who are making conscious choices. These people are becoming more awakened. If on a scale of one to 10 they were at five, they are now at seven. The second section consists of the large majority of people. They are essentially sensitive but have been led by their uncontrolled desires. This section is really shaken up. Earlier they were semi-awake. Now they are awake. I have great hope for this section. The third segment was in deep slumber before the pandemic. Some of them may still be in the same state. These are the people who have been selling Remdesivir in the black market for profit. But even they have progressed. If they were at a minus level earlier, today, they are closer to zero.
The pandemic has enabled progression. Common people are out on the road, trying to help each other with their limited resources. Large organisations have gone out of their way to support their employees. Some Tata companies are actually continuing to give to the families of those who died of COVID, the equivalent of their last-drawn salaries until they would have turned 60. These things are unheard of in India. You would not expect common people to come out and express their goodness to the world, but they are. The effects will come. You will see an awakening.
Q. In what ways are you responding to the pandemic?
Like most others, my work too has moved online. And the positive side to it is that I was able to reach people I could not have met physically. Earlier, the maximum I was able to achieve was an annual trip to Europe and a trip to Mumbai or Delhi once in two months. Because of the pandemic, I am conducting sessions every week and reaching out to all sections of society, ranging from deep meditators, people on the spiritual path, and even those who are novices. All of a sudden, my work has rapidly expanded. It is as if the tree of my being was ready, and the roots have expanded much deeper and wider.
I was initially apprehensive about going online. Can we create an energy pool when thousands of miles apart? I am now convinced that energy is not dependent on any media. The form does not matter for the formless to work. On a few online sessions, some of us were in tears because of the depth of the heart that we were able to touch. The work has probably impacted a few thousand people, and it is making the world a little more enlightened.
The pandemic is an extremely potent transformation period in human consciousness. A couple of thousands of years down the line, looking at the journey of human evolution, we would be able to put a date to it: pre-2020 and post-2020. However, it is not without pain. For transformation to happen, a period of intense suffering, dukkah, is almost unavoidable. Look at the labour pain a woman goes through because of the massive transformation in the life form.
Q. True. I am so glad you brought this up. It is not that we are insensitive to the suffering that is part of the transformation. What we saw in the last one-and-a-half months in Mumbai and Delhi was gruelling.
Yes, it was just horrible. I think none of us living has ever experienced suffering on this scale. No Indian family I have spoken to has been spared. They have either lost someone in the family or known network, or suffered in some other way. Over a billion people have witnessed this suffering. But the good thing is that it was a collective suffering. We were all together in this. It is not as if something is happening in Mumbai and people in Delhi don’t care about it. I think this then becomes another seed because, somehow, we all have been connected with each other.
Q. You are so right, Anishji. And it is not just India; it has impacted the whole world!
Exactly. This has been unprecedented in human history. The Spanish flu we keep talking about did not impact the whole world. Today, for the very first time in recorded human history, the whole earth has been affected. This coming together has a beauty; it has a possibility. It is our work to make that possibility a reality.
Q. In one of your talks, you had mentioned that to develop resilience, we must activate the heart. Could you elaborate on that?
India has always been the seat of wisdom. That is our contribution to the world. Where is the seed of wisdom in the human system? It is in the heart. You may know that you must not put your finger in an electric socket because your mother told you that as a child. However, only if you actually put your finger in the socket and get a shock will that knowledge become wisdom. If ever you had to talk about it, you wouldn’t need to think from your information database. You already know what an electric shock feels like. So wisdom is that which stays in your heart forever and cannot be taken away from you. I tend to believe that even when you change form from one life to another, the wisdom stays. Unfortunately, most education only fuels the mind. I am referring to the education systems that we inherited from the West. The right education is that which includes the application of the head, hands, and heart. When learning combines all three, only then are you walking the path of wisdom.
Do you know that the biomagnetic field of the heart is 5000 times stronger than the head? This means your heart is tremendously more powerful than the brain, even physically. The heart is the only centre that will enable us to feel for each other, to connect with each other, which the mind cannot. During the pandemic, especially in India, the heart centre got activated. We were feeling the bhava (emotion) of mass suffering. And we all wanted to do something about it. It has proven beyond doubt that the heart is powerful, and it can do a lot of good in terms of spreading hope, positivity, and light. It does not tire. The mind tires, but never the heart. No one will ever say, I got so tired of loving that I have stopped loving.
Since education is not focussing on it, we need to learn how to activate the heart. Creativity is a great way to awaken the heart centre. Every child who comes into the world must spend plenty of time in creativity. It could be painting, writing, poetry, thinking, woodwork, or farming. It is one of the ways to create an enlightened humanity. Education is key to creating an evolved society.
Q. Would you say that the pandemic is moving us towards Satyug?
We are entering a new phase of human consciousness. The word for it is evolution. It means we carry with us the wisdom of the past and combine it with the reality of today. So, in future, we will be an evolutionarily wise species, where we will integrate the past with the present to create a glorious future for all of us. It is a future of collaboration, co-operation, co-existence—not of competition. The current economic system which is based on material growth will go away. We will have a new economic system based on sharing and caring. The current phase is not sustainable; it will kill the Earth. If the Earth is gone, we are gone.
Q. Tell that to the capitalists, and they will tell you that the solution is to transition to a new planet. What do you have to say to that?
(Laughs) Nature will not allow it. Elon Musk and a lot of other people are trying to do that. All the best to them because I love explorers. But I have my serious doubts. Such an outlook is not right. We need to mend our ways instead of destroying more planets. We will be the virus then. We will be the pandemic. But I know that human beings are made of light. And we will change.
Q. Let’s move to something more personal. Who were you before you became Sri Anish?
During childhood, a lot of mystical things happened to me. Neither I nor my parents noticed them because we were not trained to. For instance, when I was three, my grandmother took me to Rishikesh and made me take the traditional dip in the Ganges. The water was not deep, so during the dip, I picked up a small black Shivalinga. It was the only friend I had. The stone had the energy of Shiva and would talk to me. I had a special place under my bed for Shiva. When my mother would scold me, I would go under the bed and spend hours with Shiva.
Four years later, when I was about seven, the Buddha came into my system and a lot of mysterious breathwork happened, including anapana sati. I would be playing with friends, and in between, I would stop breathing. I could hold my breath. I was led into the meditation of breath.
At around the same time, my parents took me to an amazingly beautiful guru—my first meeting with an enlightened being. He was Charan Singhji Maharaj of the Radha Soami movement. For the next two years, I remembered the satsang and everything he said, word for word. When we were in the darshan zone (where you pay your respects), I looked at him and he looked at me, and at that moment, the line stopped for a few seconds. I was in tears. My father could not understand it.
In my adolescence, I was passionate, ambitious, and a motorcycle rider. Later, I did my MBA and became a serial entrepreneur. One fine day, at the peak of my career, all my past came back with such force that I had to let my career, ambition, and material success go. It was as if someone woke me up and said, “It’s time for you to do the things that you are here for.” I was told that my real work would begin when I turned 40.
Q. How old were you? And were you married?
I was about 29 or 30. And yes, I was married. Our son was three years old at that time. Fortunately, my wife accepted my decision. I told her if she came with me, I would make sure there is a purposeful life waiting for us. She was also a career woman who had seen me as a CEO and enjoyed a lavish life. I promised her that we would not die of poverty. She agreed with me, and we moved to the Himalayas in Dharamsala. That period of 10 years was not easy for her. I was largely in solitude, with very little social contact. I would take off into the mountains for two weeks at a stretch. But she and my son supported me.
Exactly as predicted, when I turned 40, the message came that I was to move from the mountains and start to travel. That was five years ago. I spent the first three years travelling within India to understand the current spiritual fabric of this nation. I also travelled a lot in Europe, absorbing its spiritual fabric. Something tells me that India needs to forge a strong spiritual connection with the USA, and I would be going there shortly. Over the last two years, spiritual teaching has been happening. I have a sense of where we are as a collective humanity and the steps which have to be taken.
Q. Could you share the essence of your transformational journey?
It was strange. I was led from one school of spirituality to another very systematically. I have already mentioned Shiva and the Buddha. When my transition from the corporate world happened, I was plunged into bhakti (devotion). There was a strong pull towards Guru Nanak who taught me the essence of bhakti. From there, I was led to Ramana Maharshi and Vedanta philosophy, which was followed by Ramakrishna Paramahansa. I got introduced to Osho because he used to speak about all schools of spirituality. He was the door-opener. Each of these phases would come with such force that, for instance, for eight to nine months, it would only be Ramakrishna Paramahansa. I could not think of Shiva at that time. My thoughts, my tears, my dreams, sleep, waking hours, the books that would appear would all be about Ramakrishna.
After the 10 years were over, I was travelling to London, and I took a five-day halt in Turkey. I was led to a place called Konya, where Rumi’s tomb stands. And something phenomenal happened there. A group of strangers came up to me and said, “We have been waiting for you.” They took me to Rumi’s tomb where magical things happened. That was my exposure to Sufism.
I even spent a period with Jesus Christ during the 10-year phase, and a deep connection was formed with him. From there, I was introduced to yoga and a deep, ancient connection with Patanjali emerged. As for Swami Vivekananda, I feel as if he were a brother from another mother. It was as if an elder brother has done some work and has left some of it for me to do. These are strange things to say, but this is what I experienced. In addition, there was also a beautiful phase of Krishna bhakti which I went through. I felt that I was being put through a kind of preparation.
Q. What is the next step for you?
I am convinced that the leadership of this nation has to be enlightened. I am referring primarily to business leadership. Business impacts politics and also affects all of us at the ground level. My future work will be with leaders from all segments of life: business, social work, administration, politics, and education as well. If you look at it from the Maslow hierarchy of needs, these leaders have fulfilled their primary needs and even the need for ambition and success. Now they are ready to embrace the light of consciousness.
Q. What exactly is the work you do at Saadho Sangha?
It is a foundation we have created to organise my public talks. A lot of corporates are now inviting me to speak on spirituality. I will be speaking at the IIMs shortly. We also hold regular sessions on yoga and work a lot with sound. Sound has a big role to play in raising human consciousness. India has done a lot of exploration through ragas (Indian classical scales). This is the time to utilise that science.
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