Beyond the 3D ego
Pradeep Krishnan traces Ananta’s spiritual journey, replete with the influence of various masters, up to the point where Ananta himself came to be recognised as one
Ananta, born in 1975 as Tapan Garg, is a disciple of renowned spiritual guru, Sri Mooji. His quest for Self-realisation, which began at the age of 23, led him to several spiritual masters. After spending a couple of years with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation, life guided him in a different direction when he happened to come across the teachings of Nisargadatta Maharaj, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, and Sri HWL Poonja (Papaji).
Deeply inspired by Nisargadatta’s book I Am That, he used to listen to Ramesh Balsekar, and after a while, the search for Truth finally led him to his guru, Sri Mooji, in January 2009. At the meeting with Mooji, he experienced a complete sense of surrender, and in his presence, he discovered all that he was seeking. Since 2013, Ananta has been holding satsang in his modest apartment in Bengaluru.
Last year, on the 21st of September, I reached the eighth-floor apartment of Shri Ananta, half an hour ahead of the scheduled time. Two of his devotees greeted me with a warm smile and led me to a hall, the walls of which were adorned with pictures of Ramana Maharshi, Papaji, and Mooji. Around 15 disciples sat cross-legged on the floor, eagerly awaiting the master. After a while, Ananta, in blue pants and spotless white shirt, entered the hall with a cheerful smile and sat in a chair. True to the words written on one of the walls, “Let silence be the art you practice,” the session began with a few minutes of meditation. After some time, Ananta announced, “Today’s satsang will be the interview with Pradeep Krishnan.”
Ananta ji, please tell us about your spiritual journey.
Usually, I do not share much about my spiritual journey because people may treat that as a benchmark. For spiritual seekers, the so-called journey assumes significance because of the idea that one has to get somewhere from point A, where one is now, to point B, of Self-realisation or God-realisation or enlightenment. But sages have advised looking for that which is unchanging, which is here and now, within and without. In the concept of a journey, from one point to another, the notion of ‘seeker’ gets activated: ‘That I am not yet, but I have to become that.’ That is why, for those who are new to satsang, I share the story of a cat. Suppose you were born in a world with no mirrors and everybody told you that you are a cat and for eternal happiness you should get the milk of good education, a fine match, and a decent job. From time to time, the goals keep on changing, and even after enjoying all such goals of getting milk, ultimately you would ponder: “How can I get that milk or amrit or nirvana or enlightenment so that I will be the happiest cat ever. At that point, someone poses the question, “What makes you think that you are a cat and why do you want the goal of getting milk?” They are the only ones having the mirror to make you realise your true nature. That is the beginning of the inquiry of “Who am I” or any other technique or practice. So, I say, before I can give you the goal of getting milk, confirm your ‘catness.’ That is why, I usually do not share my journey, for the cat journeyed from place to place seeking different goals and finally recognised that there was no cat at all. As the sages have said, “Where I was looking from is what I was looking for.”
Could you please share your spiritual experiences?
I went to several spiritual teachers and have a deep sense of gratitude to each one. The so-called journey started with the Autobiography of a Yogi and at that time, Paramahansa Yogananda was my final master. At 23, I got married to the girl I wanted to and had just started my own business in Bengaluru. One day, hearing from a relative about the Art of Living programme and the Sudarshan Kriya of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, I too did the course. Shortly, not only did I start assisting the teachers but also became very good at parroting the master’s spiritual concepts and experiences. I was feeling good about myself and believed that I was making deep spiritual progress. Later, an event in the family, coupled with business struggles, completely shattered me. Then it dawned on me that a spirituality that does not free one from suffering is useless. I must say that I have great gratitude for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji as it was not the master’s fault or the defect of the AOL programme that I had to suffer.
When struggles came up, you left the Art of Living?
Feeling utterly dissatisfied with life, I searched for ways to end the suffering. Before long, questions popped up: “Who am I?” “What am I doing here?” “What is my purpose?” Whilst growing up, my goal was to own a software company, and be married to my college sweetheart. In my life, though these events happened as desired, I could not find peace and satisfaction. The birth of the question “Who am I” happened without my knowing anything about Ramana Maharshi. At that time, I came across two books: I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj and Be as you are by David Godman. These two books completely hooked me, like a thirsty man to a pool. Although I could not fully fathom Maharaj’s teaching, I knew that he was speaking the truth. Thereafter, for a few years, in Mumbai, I intently listened to the talks of Shri Ramesh Balsekar (disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj) and became convinced that I did not require a guru. One day, searching on YouTube for living disciples of Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana, I found Papaji’s videos and started viewing them regularly. Strangely, in a related video, when I saw a Jamaican man talking of Advaita, it did not interest me due to my biases and prejudices; being an Indian, why should I listen to a foreigner speaking on Advaita? However, this reluctance did not last long. I felt that Mooji was a nice man but I was firm about not having any more gurus in my life. Interestingly, most of what I decide to do or not do, does not happen that way. Mooji says, “God is not that kind that he makes all your desires come true.”
Then, how did Mooji become your guru?
When I came to know of Mooji’s visit to Tiruvannamalai, seeking my wife’s permission, I reached there on the 19th of January 2009. As I had arrived late, I had to sit outside the hall and watch Mooji on CCTV. After the satsang, when Mooji came out, I just watched him. At once, I felt completely surrendered and had the assurance that my life had been taken care of. It was, in a way, falling in devotion at first sight. The trust that was needed, automatically materialised. In spite of my scepticism about gurus, meeting Mooji made me happy, contented, and satisfied. I attended the satsang the next day also; strangely, I have no memories of that day. But on the 21st of January, I was asked to sit directly in front of Mooji—in the hot seat. Just looking at each other for a couple of minutes, my identity melted away, and I had no idea of what was happening around me. In that beautiful moment, I felt completely adopted by the spiritual master, experienced complete surrender, and discovered all that I was seeking.
When did you start holding satsangs?
After that eventful day, for a couple of years, I led a secluded life. Before long, once a week, Mooji’s videos were played in my house for those who were interested. Later, people started raising questions, and I had to answer them. Interestingly, my answers came spontaneously and effortlessly, and this became a regular feature. In the course of time, the number of participants increased and several wanted to remain in my presence. Not sure about my role, when I consulted Mooji, he suggested continuing with the satsangs, and that’s how they happened.
What happens during satang?
Satsang means being with the truth. It is an invitation for sincere seekers to come to the complete realisation of the Self. Satsang is basically a question and answer session, albeit at a deeper level; a lot of energy changes happen in people. During the session, one’s inner core opens up naturally, especially because it touches that which the mind cannot access and fathom. The truth of what one is becomes very apparent, and one might not have the words to express it. The mind will not agree easily that something within has shifted.
Will not such shifts happen while listening to spiritual discourses?
It can happen. Whatever takes one beyond the limited thinking of one’s mind, whether it is listening to spiritual discourses or the presence of a Zen master, as long as it takes one beyond one’s limited notion about oneself, ones ‘cat’ identity, it is good.
Do you approve of different kinds of practices (sadhana)?
I am happy with any form of spirituality that takes one beyond the limited notion of ‘I.’ The form of satsang shared through Ananta is not required for all as the basic nature of each one is different. Some may have to do service (seva), others, practices; while some require clarifications on questions, others need nothing. While I fully approve of all types of practices, I do not approve of the practitioner. In satsang, I give the participants an exercise: just sit; nothing has to change and whatever changes take place are OK. It helps one to drop the effort of trying intently to have an experience. What I am trying to convey is that practising meditation or chanting or any sadhana is OK. But if it is only adding to one’s ego, strengthening the practitioner identity more and more, reinforcing the spiritual ego, then that is worse than the ordinary ego. Even the concepts that someone can hold on to like “I am Brahman,” or “I am not the doer,” if taken personally, would not help anyone.
What according to you is true spirituality?
True spirituality is that which gives you an insight into your unlimited Self. Whatever be the method, if it is glorifying your limitations or increasing your identity as a body-mind entity, then it is not spirituality. On the other hand, wherever you are—living in an ashram or sitting at home—if the idea that one is an object in time and space is receding, or anything is taking you beyond your limited perspective, then that is true spirituality. In spite of the so-called higher spiritual practices, if your belief in the idea that you are just an object in time and space gets rooted, then that is not spirituality.
In day-to-day life, are we not compelled to live with the idea that one is an entity existing in time and space?
I always get this usual objection. When someone comes and tells you to examine the reality of what you are and that you are not an object in time and space, rather time and space are objects in you, the mind says “I have to live my life practically so that I can run my life well.” But can anyone run their life using one’s will? The point is who is the one who has this will? Is it Pradeep, the mere label through which Life happens?
Understand that no one can take credit or put the blame for the functioning of their body. Is Pradeep responsible for making his internal organs function? Mooji beautifully says, “Your so many organs are functioning, so much is happening in the universe; millions of planets are functioning, moving. Those who are spiritual say ‘God is doing all this.’ Cannot such a God run my life? If I entrust my life to God, will He only make a mess of it?” Recognise that the idea of doership is one of the fundamental ideas of the 3D ego: Duality (me and the other), Desire (to have or not to have), and Doership (should or shouldn’t I do?).
Is not the 3D ego God’s play?
A very good question. There is no answer to why this play happens and why we are in the 3D mode. However, I can give answers, just to free you from the pain of the question. The question, “Why this existence?” can have many answers. I do not subscribe to the concept of evolution from lower to higher consciousness; rather, I consider it as Leela (divine play). Will any child play expecting an outcome? To the question “Why this existence?” I answer, “It is just a play.”
Do you mean to say that life has no purpose other than living?
Do not get me wrong. The problem with the mind is that it can deal only with opposites. When I say that existence is a play, the mind makes the inference that life is purposeless. In fact, life is beyond the duality of purpose and purposelessness, which we cannot grasp with the mind. The mind can only understand the dualities: up/down, true/false, light/dark, happy/sorrow. That is why the masters have been urging us to get out of duality. No one would announce that I have a mouth, ears, legs, as it cannot be any other way. According to the Ribhu Gita, even the statement, ‘I am Brahman’ indicates the possibility of one not being Brahman, making one conceptually stuck in duality. One can build up a great spiritual ego even out of a profound statement, which is only a pointer to the reality. Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi says that such aptavakyas are thorns used to remove the thorn stuck in the body, which are to be ultimately discarded, else one will always be stuck with the concept of duality.
Is one’s life predestined? What is the role of one’s will?
If you show me this will, I can tell you it’s role. I do not agree with the concept of absolute predestination because that would mean that consciousness or being or Self or whatever you call it is also subject to space and time, which are completely malleable. When one says that one has the experience of exercising one’s will as well as things happening on their own, are they able to define the ‘I’? This ‘I,’ doer or non-doer, is it inside the body or an object in time and space? If one looks within, instantly, he starts to experience a space in which the dimensions of time and space are absent: that which is beyond the objective reality. Ashtavakra says that you are that boundless ocean in which the heart of the Universe comes and goes.
What could be the cause of suffering, relationship problems, and so on?
I can guarantee you 100 per cent that in this moment, right now. . . now . . . now . . . you have no suffering. But if I give you a moment to think, you invent or think of your past or future limitations about yourself, and once you have a limitation, you identify yourself to be a tiny object in the objective reality. Then that object is bound to suffer. Understand that this realm of objective appearance is constantly changing. Life has to be lived from moment to moment. Also, appreciate that suffering by itself is not at all that bad. When I was a very arrogant 23-year-old man, the suffering I underwent helped me a lot. However, as Mooji says, let us not become Olympic sufferers.
Is not one’s suffering and prarabdha karma connected?
In reality, there is no such thing as karma. But if the concept makes anybody better their life, it is OK. Nevertheless, karma is very much unequitable as it puts consciousness in the framework of time and also one cannot define the first cause, the starting point. I am not opposed to any perception that is helpful. Actually, what you experience right now is only your interpretation. This ‘me’ is a pure presumption, not even an experience.
Message to the readers?
Trust that there is a greater power, a force, in seeking the ultimate reality. You can call it sadhguru’s grace. A person who is reading a magazine like Life Positive must be looking for ‘that’ which is beyond body concerns. Know that the sadguru’s grace, the master’s grace, is guiding us beautifully.
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