End suffering through sadhana
Guru Atma Nambi explains to Pradeep Krishnan how focussing on the spiritual side of life (instead of the material) fulfils its very purpose
Atma Nambi, an enlightened master and mystic, was born on March 17, 1955, to Subramanian and Mayilambal in a village near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu. As the boy had a deep spiritual quest right from his school days, he was sent to several religious teachers. Ultimately, his enlightenment happened on October 7, 1994, and then, for about two years, he was in complete silence. Afterwards, he started guiding seekers through meditation, yoga, and kriya.
In 2008, Atmaji (as he is affectionately called) quit a top managerial post in a leading multinational pharmaceutical company and plunged deep into the dissemination of spiritual knowledge. In 2010, he established the Upanishad Ananda Mandir (UAM) in Siva Hari hills, a quiet place surrounded by hillocks of the Western Ghats, in Vazhapadi village near Salem, Tamil Nadu. Regarding the choice of name for the institution, he said, “I love the Upanishads, which teach that one’s inherent nature is ananda (bliss). I am of the view that every human being must become an Ananda Mandir (temple of bliss).” He said that in UAM, the energy of the place beautifully amalgamates with the energy of the guru, enabling the seeker’s quick transformation. Perhaps that might be the reason for seekers from all over the globe coming to Atmaji. He says that to attain realisation, one’s inner qualities and individual power have to be enhanced through different techniques.
Atmaji, a householder, lives with his wife Smt Dhanalakshmi and twin sons, Siva Sankar and Siva Kumar in a nearby house. Here are excerpts from an exclusive interview he had with Pradeep Krishnan for Life Positive:
Atmaji, please tell us about your spiritual journey?
I was born in Pazhaya Gudalur, a village in Tanjore, Tamil Nadu. My spiritual journey commenced in my childhood when my mother sent me to my first teacher, Sri Nataraja Gurukkal, a local Shiva temple priest, who initiated me into Bhakti Yoga: rituals, chanting of mantras, and performing yagnas. When I was 26, I met my second teacher, Sri Lakshmi Narayanan, who introduced me to Karma Yoga. A couple of years later, Sri Gnanapranjothi, an adept in Kundalini Yoga, gave me deeksha (initiation). Finally, I happened to learn Raja Yoga from Sri Mohan Bharati. All these teachers created the right atmosphere for my spiritual awakening. Meanwhile, during a visit to Tiruvannamalai, an unknown lady forcefully took me to the late Yogi Ramsurat Kumar, in whose presence I had the initial glimpses of bliss or experience. All my spiritual expeditions ended with the experience I had on October 7,1994, transforming me completely.
Could you please explain that eventful day’s experience?
On that day, I was in deep meditation in a place in Tiruchirappalli. Suddenly, my mind-body-knowledge disappeared. Everything around me started disappearing or, rather, I started losing everything. The experience lasted for a few hours and it felt like a tsunami or a cyclone happening within. Later, when I opened my eyes and looked around, my body and mind were intact. I touched a deep silence that I had never experienced before.
Can anyone get that experience?
Yes, it is possible for all. I was not an intense sadhak (spiritual practitioner) or a yogi; rather, I was an ordinary family man leading a normal life, earning a livelihood, and practising a little bit of meditation. At the same time, my preparations—the different types of sadhana (spiritual practice) I did—were contributing factors. When the homework is right, the outcome will follow naturally. For that experience to happen, one has to prepare oneself with the right kind of sadhana.
What were the changes in you after this experience?
The silence was so beautiful that I wanted to remain silent always. For almost two years, I did not interact with people and stopped all kinds of entertainment: cinema, TV, and reading. Those days, I often used to move away from the family and hide in the caves of the hillocks of Salem. One day, while in a cave, I had an intuitive feeling that I was wasting my life. Soon after, I lost all interest in mundane matters and ultimately resigned from my job. Meanwhile, people who came to me seeking guidance expressed that they felt intense peace and calm in my presence.
What actually is spiritual enlightenment?
The language and expression of enlightenment vary from mystic to mystic. While some describe it as an explosion sensed inside, others depict it as a powerful force pulling one’s self towards light. Some have explained it as the death of the lower self. It consists of a permanent and irreversible separation of the spiritual self, which is the Divine in essence, from the mind (bundle of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and intellect).
Enlightenment, being a spontaneous happening, no one can either plan for it or fix a time limit to attain it. It may happen now or in the next birth, or it may take several lifetimes. No true guru can assure his disciple the time of enlightenment. Understand that enlightenment is the result of sadhana practised over several lifetimes. At the same time, one must always be aware of the possibility of attaining realisation in this birth itself. One has to work for it and then surrender the outcome to God. If one prepares the body and mind, and creates an internal climate, the result—the flowering–will happen on its own. For this, the sadhana that is dear to one must be practised.
The event when one’s self gets permanently disconnected from the mind and gets established in superconsciousness is known as spiritual enlightenment. This is also called ‘mano-nasa’ (annihilation of the mind) and always takes place in an instant, after a seeker attains spiritual maturity. Mano-nasa doesn’t mean ‘destruction of the mind’; rather, it changes the mechanism of its operation. This event is the culmination of all spiritual efforts or sadhana, wherein life finds its absolute fulfilment. The mind becomes free of all its cravings. In different traditions, it is variously described as moksha, nirvana, nirvikalpa samadhi, or salvation.
Could you please throw light on death, the greatest puzzle?
Death is a deep mystery. One is reluctant to explore death in depth as it is considered the end of everything. Usually, if one witnesses the death of a person closely attached to them, they experience deep grief and fear. On the other hand, if one approaches death with the mind, i.e., philosophically, they cannot go beyond certain concepts. One can understand the mystery of death only through spirituality, by the process of continuous sadhana that opens up the Anahata Chakra, giving them the experience of the timeless domain of the self. Seekers who have experienced this superconscious state would alone be able to understand death and at the time of death will be free from fears and worries.
What is your concept of God?
It is very difficult to define God, the unexplainable, inexhaustible supreme power beyond limitations that is within and without, and outside the comprehension of the logical mind. For the purpose of making people understand, in different contexts, I give diverse definitions and use different names such as Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Ganesh, etc. For many, only through a form can they relate and travel to God, the formless.
What ought to be one’s aim and purpose in life?
Life is made up of two components: spiritual and material, two sides of the same coin. When one focusses on the spiritual, i.e., the Creator, one’s material purposes are automatically taken care of. Unfortunately, without knowing this truth, most people spend all their energies seeking material gains. I am of the view that one can attain God also through following one’s passion: music, dance, painting, or writing. The best example is Saint Tyagaraja, the famous Carnatic musician. If one expresses one’s inherent creative gift without any motive whatsoever, one will definitely realise God.
How can one find one’s true passion or gift?
Everyone born on this planet is unique. Unfortunately, due to societal pressure from family, friends, and parents, many are forced to follow the dictates of society that arrest their possibility for further growth. The path one must follow should come from within. My advice to those who are confused is to mediate and introspect deeply. Like clear water emerges when the water in a pool is allowed to settle down without any disturbance, meditation helps not only to experience God but also to make the right decisions in life. Another way is to approach one’s guru or master seeking clarification. The guru, acting as a scanner, finds out what is suitable for one and guides one in the right direction.
It is often said that one’s suffering is related to one’s prarabdha karma (karma to be worked out in the present incarnation). How does one end this suffering?
Suffering indicates one’s inability to face a particular life situation. One can get the ability and the power to face life as it is, only from a powerhouse called Paramatma or God. For this, the only way is to open the account of sadhana: chanting of mantras, singing bhajans, and engaging in Karma Yoga. The fact that everyone is longing for peace and happiness indicates one’s inherent potential to pursue sadhana. When one moves with God, no suffering would touch them. Absence of sadhana denotes the presence of suffering.
The only way to get rid of any type of karma is spiritual sadhana. As karma belongs to the domain of the mind, sadhana helps one to go beyond the mind, to reach the realm of consciousness. If a person living in the karmic area of suffering starts doing sadhana, his consciousness level reaches higher levels, making all sufferings vanish. The more one focusses on sadhana, the more he moves away from any kind of karma.
What led to the establishment of Upanishad Ananda Mandir?
It was not planned; rather, it happened. When people who wanted to remain in my presence started donating money, in order to channel it in a proper way and for proper accounting, a trust was formed. Those days we were holding satsangs in a small room in Salem town, and when this room became insufficient, we thought of establishing an institution in a lawful and orderly way. So, land was purchased and buildings were constructed, and Upanishad Ananda Mandir (UAM) came into existence with a mission to make people happy and peaceful. One must understand that the root of all experience—physical, mental, emotional, or intellectual—is the atman (soul). This is a place for helping people realise their source of experience.
Message to the readers?
More and more people should read Life Positive, one of the finest spiritual magazines of this country. Every month, LP comes with fresh ideas and suggestions to improve one’s life, and several realised masters have appeared in the magazine. As it not only covers spiritual aspects but also carries articles relating to body, mind, intellect, health, and healing, I consider it a complete magazine. All those who are looking for the real spiritual stuff would get guidance and grow further with LP. I am of the view that each issue of LP should be preserved and read again and again as it definitely helps one in their inner transformation. Personally, I love the magazine and sincerely wish that it should reach every house in India.
I thank you for coming all the way from Thiruvananthapuram to Salem to meet me.
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