By Ambica Gulati
After revealing the secret symbols of reiki, maverick Indian reiki master Madabusi Subramaniam returns to the traditional path of kriya yoga, made famous by Paramahansa Yogananda, and, in his inimitable style, intends to unveil its techniques
Where do you expect to find a reiki grandmaster, kriya yoga exponent and shakti pata expert? In an ashram? Definitely. In a house? Maybe. At an airport? You must be joking!
Not really. For, Madabusi Subramaniam, or Mani as he is known, is quite comfortable amidst the drone of aeroplanes in his office at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.
At first glance, the 57-year-old spiritual teacher, clad in the airport uniform of plain gray shirt and dark blue trousers, appears unassuming. Then, in a clear and well-modulated voice, he starts talking.
‘My guru is Maharishi Bharadwaj, an unknown saint who I was destined to meet,’ says Mani. ‘Palm leaf readers based near the southern Indian city Chennai predicted that I would meet my guru on a full moon day, under an old banyan tree where Krishna of the Mahabharat had spoken the words of the Bhagavad Gita to Arjun, and I would recognize him the moment he uttered the phrase shakti pata.’
Shakti pata is the transmission of creative force from guru to disciple that helps awaken an aspirant’s kundalini shakti. On the fated day, Mani found himself standing before the banyan tree watching a man who looked ‘more like a Sikh with his long open hair’. On reaching the tree, the man told his companion; ‘Bhagwan ne yahan shakti pata kiya (God had given shakti pata here).’ That instant, Mani knew he had found his guru.
Maharishi Bhardwaj attained enlightenment at the age of 12, informs Mani. ‘He follows a simple Vedantic philosophy and refrains from rituals,’ says Mani who has raised an ashram for his guru on the outskirts of Delhi. He is also the chosen one to spread his guru’s unique concept of ‘no’ system. Both guru and disciple claim that only this system can help you look into your innermost being and analyze both your vices and virtues. Only then, they claim, will you be able to drop all that is not essential.
According to Mani, only the existence of the individual matters. ‘A man is a father and a husband at home, but ultimately he is an individual,’ he says, adding that this real self can be realized only after overcoming the add-ons and ‘rising above the body-mind complex’. This path can lead to shunya sthithi (grand nothing).
Shunya sthithi was not a novel concept for the seers of yore. ‘All answers lie in the ancient techniques of kriya yoga and shakti pata,’ asserts Mani.
Mani was initiated into the ancient kriya yoga technique by Sathya Charan Lahiri, the grandson of Yogiraj Shyama Charan Lahiri (popularly known as Lahiri Mahasaya), in 1973. Lahiri Mahasaya learnt this method from the immortal saint Mahavatar Babaji. In the Bhagavad Gita, it is mentioned that Krishna gave this technique to Surya (the Sun god) who passed it on to Manu (an ancient Indian sage). Ever since, kriya yoga has remained a well-guarded secret to which only a chosen few are initiated.
The basis of kriya yoga, according to Mani, is the theory that the soul is encased in human energy or prana.
‘Prana binds human beings the way a cage binds a bird,’ he explains, ‘and kriya yoga can be a royal highway to reach the infinite.’ The real identity of the soul is revealed when you can control your prana. Subramaniam practices the Lahiri tradition of kriya yoga, different from the one popularized by Paramahansa Yogananda in the West. Yogananda was taught kriya yoga by Sri Yukteswar Giri, a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. According to Mani, Yogananda ‘modified the traditional kriya yoga technique to suit the West’.
Kriya yoga initiation in the Lahiri tradition is through four stages. In the first stage, the vital forces in the lower chakras are awakened through breathing exercises. The second stage involves special kriya pranayam.
‘The nostrils are the middle passage in the body. All secrets lie in this middle path,’ says Mani.
In the third stage, you chant the primordial sound aum. Aum stimulates the crown chakra. All ancient texts are unanimous in their belief that spiritual awareness comes through this chakra. ‘Other religions, too, have similar sounding words such as aman and hum. Aum is the bridge between God and you,’ says Mani. The final and the fourth stage involves advanced meditation techniques. ‘This is rare and takes years of practice. I’m still practicing this.’
The efficacy of kriya yoga lies in regular practice. The technique loads your cells with extra energy, enabling you to easily inhale for 22 seconds and then exhale for 22 seconds. After years of practice, the body goes into a state of suspended animation.
The state in which the mind is placed at a point between the eyebrows is called yoni mudra. In this mudra, you create stillness by closing your eyes and pressing your eyelids. Then you see a golden circle in this stillness. Within this circle you see a blue sphere and inside that a violet light with a five-point star. ‘It is through this star that the soul goes out and unites with the higher consciousness.’
Mani, however, refuses to accept the secrecy surrounding the teaching of kriya yoga. ‘All that came into being is recorded in the cosmos. The knowledge is not exclusive to anybody. Then why is it manipulated by a few?’ he asks.
Swimming against the tide has always been Mani’s forte. Earlier, he had shaken the reiki community in India by revealing its secret healing symbols in his book Unveiling the Secrets of Reiki. The maverick master says: ‘The reiki symbols are Japanese letters. Their meaning is as sacred as our Sanskrit shlokas. Like our mantras, these letters too have positive vibrations. Then why do we delink reiki from spirituality?’
This time, Mani is all charged to defy the guardians of kriya yoga. His latest project is the translation into English of a Bengali version of the Bhagavad Gita written by Lahiri Mahasaya that contains interpretative passages on kriya yoga. Mani plans to elaborate on these passages and make the work accessible to all.
By revealing the reiki symbols, Mani also contributed to curtailing the exorbitant rates of reiki courses. Even today, he is aware of the steep cost of reiki workshops that put many genuine aspirants off.
‘So, I decided that my workshops would be a non-profit venture. I do not charge any fee for initiation but the participants have to pay for lunch and venue expenditure,’ says Mani. But his workshops are not bound by reiki: they are a synthesis of reiki, shakti pata and kriya yoga, and one hour in each workshop is devoted to mantra chanting. Now he has also integrated another meditation technique, called life energy tapping, into the workshops.
‘This helps you create positive energy,’ says Mani. From kriya yoga to reiki and now back to kriya yoga. Looks like Mani has come full circle. So, why did he deviate from the traditional technique in the first place?
‘I hadn’t really planned to learn reiki,’ he says. ‘It was fated. Around 1990, I went to Mumbai and taught kriya yoga to some Parsi ladies. In return, an architect, Roshan Dalal, taught me reiki.’
By now Mani has initiated about 300 grandmasters. Mani’s philosophy is simple. ‘We all seek God,’ he says, ‘because we have presumed that God is lost. Actually, God is everywhere and there can be no possible conditions attached to finding Him. His unconventional approach towards traditional and esoteric subjects has helped open the doors of spirituality to many aspirants. But what after that? Who knows?
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