Lighting the lamp within
In a talk with Pradeep Krishnan, Shri Jayakumar, founder of the Sai Paduka Yoga and Spiritual Study Centre (SPYSSC), Bengaluru, reveals how one can surmount immense difficulties in life by pursuing Self-knowledge
If a tragedy strikes when one is at the peak of their career and life, usually, most would succumb to it blaming karma, fate, and the stars. All around, we have examples of people leading a miserable life after an accident, terminal illness, or break-up in a relationship. However, there are extraordinary individuals, who, transcending their misfortune, use it as a launch pad to transform themselves and uplift others.
One such unique soul, who has turned a catastrophe into an opportunity, is Shri Shekaripuram Kailasam Jayakumar, founder of the Sai Paduka Yoga and Spiritual Study Centre (SPYSSC), Bengaluru. His remarkable life story fills one with awe and admiration.
Born in 1954 in Palakkad, Kerala, Shri Jayakumar was a brilliant student, winning gold medals in school and college. His Upanayana (sacred thread ceremony) was performed in the presence of the late Sathya Sai Baba, and after graduating in Chemistry with a Packaging Technology degree from the United Kingdom, he served as an executive for Brooke Bond and Hindustan Lever in different parts of India. However, at the age of 47 (in 2002), when declared totally blind, instead of surrendering to providence, he took a firm decision to transform himself with the systematic study of Vedanta and other spiritual texts.
Like Ekalavya of the Mahabharata, Shri Jayakumar, as a distant learner, for a decade, using audio appliances, persistently studied the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Brahmasutra, and other texts (about 10,000 hours—nearly a hundred thousand pages) of late Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Swami Paramarthananda, his senior disciple, eventually attaining Brahmanishtha (God- realisation.) In his case, the adage, ‘the blind leading the blind,’ often used in a negative sense, turned out to be literally true as he has been guiding hundreds of seekers to lead a peaceful, happy, purposeful, and contented life.
About his book, Own Your Self and Enjoy Completeness: The Manual on Self Knowledge, based on the scriptures, renowned Vedanta teacher late Swami Dayananda Saraswati said, “This is a unique presentation of the subject of Self-knowledge. You have grasped the matter well. You could present the subject in the light of science.” He has also compiled a series of pocket booklets on Mind Management Techniques (MMT) and has developed the Comprehensive Health Educational Curriculum based on Ashtanga Yoga. His talks, ‘Vedanta Simplified for my Productive and Happy Life,’ on YouTube, are very popular.
The centre has now become a foremost institution in India and has received several awards and recognitions, including the Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Award for distinguished service to the nation and the Bharat Excellence Award. Jayakumar is settled in Bengaluru with his wife Mahalakshmi J K, a yoga instructor, their only daughter, Sai Darshana, and Jawahar Narayan, their son-in-law.
When I met Shri Jayakumar during December 2019, we became very close instantly, as if we knew each other for ages! Since then, on several occasions, as if to a younger brother, he patiently answered my questions on life and spirituality in lengthy conversations over the phone. Once, about the goal of life, he said, “In human life alone, using free will, one can realise his swarupa (real nature), by a systematic study of the scriptures with the help of a teacher who has not only studied the scriptures but also lived the teachings to realise himself.” Thanks to his inspiration, I started seriously pursuing Vedantic studies. Due to the sudden spread of the pandemic, the interview with Shri Jayakumar happened online.
Q. Jayakumarji, please tell us about your spiritual journey?
In my early thirties, it was detected that I had an incurable eye disorder, retinitis pigmentosa, which was gradually weakening my eyesight. When I became totally blind, after taking voluntary retirement from HLL, I underwent training in computer operation, mobility with a cane, etc., at the National Association for the Blind (NAB), Bangalore. Soon, I started the online distribution of inner garments, towels, and napkins, passing a portion of the proceeds to NAB. Fortunately, my venture became very popular and successful, and several print and electronic media featured my story. Accepting everything as God’s Grace, I continued my Karma Yoga for eight years, as prescribed in the Bhagavad Gita, the ‘user manual’ of the sophisticated instrument, the ‘body- mind complex.’ Soon, I started studying the Vedantic scriptures in depth. While staying in an ayurvedic eye hospital in Kerala, my spiritual journey commenced with listening to Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s talks on Vedanta, which eventually led to my meeting Swamiji and attending the discourses of Swami Paramarthananda, his direct disciple.
Q. What was the turning point in your life?
Having lost 95 per cent of my eyesight, with the available five per cent, with great difficulty, I used to read the Bhagavad Gita, sloka by sloka, chapter by chapter. One day, reading the following sloka suddenly prompted me from within to make use of the remaining five per cent eyesight:
Indeed, no one ever remains for even a second without performing action because everyone is helplessly made to perform action by the (three) gunas (sattva, rajas, and tamas) born of Prakriti (Nature). (verse 5, Chap 3)
So, instead of allowing my senses to work on their own, I started directing them: my ears, what to hear; my legs, where to go; and my mind, what to desire and what to concentrate on, think, and understand what can be good for me, even if I lose the minimum eyesight I had at that time.
After a few years of pursuing Self-knowledge through the systematic study of the scriptures with regular telephonic interaction, mainly with Swami Paramarthanandaji, I felt easy with a positive and productive mindset; it was a striking transformation. That was the turning point in my life.
Q. What did you learn from Swami Dayananda Saraswati and his foremost disciple Swami Paramarthananda?
Advanced learning, later on, was required to understand that no learning was really required to get something new! Because I am Brahman before learning, while learning, and after learning. The gain is that I was not knowing the Truth before learning and the systematic and committed learning removed all my erroneous misconceptions about what I already was.
As advised by Swami Paramarthananda, I learnt Sanskrit and undertook the contemplative listening and study of Sri Shankara’s Bhashyams (explanations) of and about 50 Vedantic texts, containing detailed analyses, commentaries, and discussions. I feel that the Bhagavad Gita has everything for human beings to achieve the highest and ultimate benefits while living. From the stage of a non-spiritual being, I travelled through the phases of mumukshu (seeker of freedom), jignasu (seeker of knowledge), adhikari (qualified seeker), sadhaka (seeker of Self-knowledge), siddha (seeker who has accomplished the goal), and, finally, reached the stage of Brahmanishtha.
Q. Please explain the state or stage of Brahmanishtha.
It is neither an experience nor ‘experiencelessness.’ Rather, it is abiding in the Atman, or Self, or Brahman (whenever there is nothing to do with the body-mind-sense complex) and enjoying ultimate happiness, satisfaction, peace, and security, taking care of all my possible activities. It is just like remaining in ‘open-eye meditation,’ sharing with interested seekers what I have learned and understood. Quite often, I enjoy the tranquillity of a silent mind and momentarily stop the mind when it tries to chase purposeless thoughts.
Events, both good and bad, are retained as a dream-like presence in the mind. Adverse events lose their sting, and, if at all they remain, they are quite vague in the mind.
This gives fearlessness, fullness, completeness and the sense of accomplishing the goal of life.
Q. What prompted you to establish the spiritual centre?
The main focus is on improving the individual’s physical and mental health. The centre was established in honour of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in 2010, the year in which I got completely cured of my 40-year-old asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, sore throat, and headache that allopathy, ayurveda, and homoeopathy could not heal. Thanks to the Vibhagyatha Pranayama of Rishi Samskruti Vidya Kendra, Bangalore, that I practised, I got rid of my illnesses within a week. So, along with this pranayama, I adopted different techniques of Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (SVYASA) and started the centre. For teaching yoga without eyesight, I developed a new concept of teaching yoga with innovative audio and video aids. So far, from housewives to senior professionals, I have trained over 4000 people from India and abroad. The institution contributes part of its income to organisations preserving or promoting Indian scriptures, spiritual activities, and for social service.
Q. How can one maintain perfect physical health and empower one’s mind?
Our integrated Healthy Body and Mind Program, based on Ashtanga Yoga, is designed for making the best use of one’s sophisticated body-mind complex, Nature’s glorious gift. This programme aims to minimise one’s physical problems and psychological barriers by maximising one’s potential by cultivating self-discipline and making use of the body’s own resources, leading one to absolute transformation.
During its lifespan, though the physical body is subjected to changes (modifications), such as birth, growth, metamorphosis, decline, and death, one can maintain optimum physical health with the regular and systematic practice of all the eight disciplines of yoga.
Empowerment of the mind means realising the limitlessness of the Self, using the mind. In this pursuit, as a by-product, mastery of the mind can be achieved, when one realises that everything, including one’s mind, is mithya (unreal) and only the Self is satya (real). In simple language, the power of the mind is limitless, or, using one’s mind, one can understand that they are limitless, only on losing their individuality.
Q. What do you mean by following a spiritual life?
The meaning varies according to the different stages of the spiritual pursuit of the Self. In the preparatory or preliminary or purification stage, one has to intellectually remove the negative qualities and has to follow the noble qualities mentioned in the scriptures: viveka, or discrimination between real and unreal; vairagya, or dispassion towards the unreal; and the desire for freedom. In this pursuit, the benchmark is the increase of interest in the pursuit and the valuable time spent thereby for the systematic study of Vedanta.
During the intermediate stage—Karma Yoga—the duties, work, and actions occupy most of the seeker’s time. The seeker takes all these as an opportunity to contribute, rather than for getting or grabbing. The seeker also makes efforts towards manana, (introspection), or clearing of doubts, along with shravana, or the listening of the scriptures. Here, the yardstick is the benefits acquired in the form of reduction of emotional fluctuations, psychological fear, and insecurity.
In the advanced stage, shravana continues with the clearing of complicated doubts. The seeker gives the highest priority to the pursuit of the Self by neutralizing the stimuli created by the world, by using their free will. The standard is the lightening of the mind, leading to ‘desirelessness’ accompanied by constant positive productivity and an increase in happiness.
Q. Please elucidate the ‘Applied Spiritual Science’ (ASPIRS) study.
It is part of the ‘Life Improvement For Ever’ (LIFE) course consisting of 25 topics covered in six levels. The course is structured to enable one to comprehend the ‘secrets’ of life, so as to maintain good health and relationships, improve the quality of work, grow in one’s career, etc., and derive maximum happiness, satisfaction, peace, and security in life.
The course helps one to scientifically and logically realise that one is neither the physical body, mind, or soul nor their combination. One can intellectually grasp the Truth that they are the Spirit or the non-changing Awareness, the nature of ultimate happiness that enjoys life as an extremely dynamic and interesting entertainment that is useful to oneself as well as others. It teaches one to remove the mental blocks and correct the misconceptions so as to lead a stress- and anxiety-free life.
The programme enhances the aspirant’s clarity of thinking and takes them to a higher psychological mindset, so that they can effectively achieve total psychological independence. The whole module is designed in such a way as to enable the seeker to reach their higher Self and enjoy ultimate happiness, satisfaction, peace, and security.
Q. Why should one manage their mind? What are the mind management techniques that you teach?
Mind, its origin, constituents, formation, development, modifications, and multidimensional functions have a great influence on one’s life. Therefore, moulding, grooming, and educating the mind is indispensable, even for the short-term requirement of handling it. This continuous process should begin at about the age of 10 and continue for life.
Whether one is a saint or a scientist, rich or poor, irrespective of the position, power, status, or the authority they hold, their greatness or their insignificance depends only on their inner personality or the mind. For toning and tuning the mind and to prepare it to respond properly in any situation, we give a series of lessons: Guidance for Growth and Improvement, Success Stimulators, Problem Solvers, and Happiness Enhancers, culled from the essence of ancient Indian wisdom and my own experience. The feedback I received from hundreds of my students testifies to the usefulness of these concepts.
Q. How can one achieve ultimate happiness, satisfaction, peace, and security in life?
The Vedas proclaim that the real nature of man is limitless happiness, satisfaction, peace, and security. One does not realise this because of Self-ignorance. Only the knowledge of the Self can lead one to remain in the ‘continuous mindset’ of one’s real nature.
Q. Message to the readers?
Everyone who wants to be freed from the struggles of life and enjoy the best of everything in their personal, professional, social, religious, and spiritual life should take up the pursuit of Self-knowledge at the earliest.
And those who cannot take up systematic and advanced spiritual pursuit, I consider creativity as an excellent inner instrument to overcome severe problems and difficulties. Further, those who have nothing to achieve or do not have any problems, by imbibing creativity in their daily routine, can make ‘Life Positive’ and exciting.
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