By Roozbeh Gazdar March 2004 Spirituality in the New Age has flown out from the icy peaks of the Himalayas. Self-contained asceticism, though still valid, is no longer considered the only path to nirvana. Facilitated by a growing trend in unconventional careers, and the easing of work routines aided by the Internet, urban aspirants today effortlessly combine the quest for money, matrimony and meditation—these are not seen as watertight compartments anymore. For life’s routines offer the best ground for practice, they say. Spouses are co-seekers on the path and children are divine—to be nurtured, not molded. A truer awareness has led to tastes becoming more sattvic and wealth, though there for the taking, is not the only ‘feel good’ factor in their lives. Find out how some spiritual families are walking together the golden path to salvation. “Spiritual life is just a life lived with awareness”“Our home is a spiritual adda where everyone interested is invited”“So much joy and peace came into our life because of the children”“The purpose of life is to live in harmony with the laws of nature and in harmony with the spirit’s grandeur” A heart-to-heart with four couplesYour daily life is your temple and your religion. Whenever you enter into it take with you your all. —from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran Rajiv and Romola ButaliaHimalyan quest for wisdomPeople have always been asking, ‘Where are the enlightened Masters?’ Well, they exist, just that they are so difficult to access and recognise,” says journalist Romola Butalia, whose travels in the Himalayas provided several meetings with enlightened sages such as Mahayogi Pilot Baba and Goraknath Baba, culminating in the book In the Presence of the Masters.Romola, who is the editor of indiatravelogue.com, and husband Rajiv, spend a few months every year teaching at the Mahayog Academy, which was set up to bring the wisdom of these masters to the world. “Our lop-sided development with extreme distractions, materialism and consumerism needs a balance. These masters have so much to share with us,” she explains.A few years back, Rajiv took a year’s sabbatical from his bank job and the couple took off travelling the country by car. “We were trying to see if we could have an alternative lifestyle and it was wonderful,” he says. “However, it’s not as if just by leaving everything you will grow. What you have to do is work on the mind, till you come to the point where you leave it behind.” A couple of years later, he quit his job for goodTheir quest for spiritual awareness involves the environment. Keen on Himalayan conservation, Romola is planning a yatra to Panch Kedar around September. This is an area that is still relatively pristine, she says. Tourism is inevitable, but she wants to ensure that it is better planned to avoid pollution, and at the same time serve local interests. “The idea is to have a platform where people from different backgrounds with common interests can join hands and build bridges. For instance, spiritual leaders can do a lot to spread environmental awareness,” she explains. But, before that, they will be going to the Kumbh Mela to be held in Ujjain in April. These schedules mean that the couple is often on the move. Romola especially is home for only about a couple of months in a year. How do they ensure their regular practice? ‘‘Spiritual growth is much broader in context. It is about detachment to the result of your work,” says Romola. “There is a complete cessation of conflict where any event would make you transcend life, so that your practice and your work are not two separate paths. However, if the schedule is busy I make extra time by cutting on my sleep.”For Rajiv, who is much more at home, life follows a more regular routine. Morning is time for swimming, yoga, pranayam and dhyan. During the day he attends to different things. “But even then there is more of a flow because I am not acting as the entity called Rajiv Butalia. It’s more about being part of the whole.” Once a year he finds time for a scuba diving trip. “While diving, I see myself as a microscopic bubble lost within the immense power and vastness of nature. For me, it is the closest to a spiritual experience,” he says.Romola’s extensive travelling means that she spends only a couple of months at home with her husband. How do they ensure that the marriage stays alive? “Well, we are together at the yoga academy,” they laugh. “But it’s not just about being physically together. And for a happy relationship, it’s important not to be judgemental. One accepts the other unconditionally,” explains Rajiv. Romola adds: “There should not be this need to possess, which usually comes from social pressure. But then, this is true of every relationship.” The same worked for Siddharth, their son who is 21. Into advertising, he has currently taken a break to give an exam. “Though he is our son, we did not feel the need to impose our own views on him. We have brought him up without any expectations, believing that he will find whatever potential he has.” Rajiv believes that everyone should go in for what they want to do. “We have been trained to always postpone happiness for the future, which never comes. Life should be a series of present moments where nothing is postponed. If you enjoy every moment of life, you have enjoyed life. One should create an awareness in every activity. For instance, while eating, I enjoy the flavour of food. I would find it disturbing if there were people talking at the same time. Also quantity is now not as important as the quality.” Romola has over the years become a vegetarian. “It wasn’t a conscious decision. The reasons were partly environmental, partly the spiritual practices I am into.”For Romola, spiritual growth has led to a mellowing of attitude, even with respect to clothing. “For instance, I used to wear jeans and say that I would never change into anything else. Now I dress more appropriately to the situation. But that’s not because of someone else. It was more a natural change, just as you outgrow what you wore at three.”Both are untouched by the current trend of decorating interiors in accordance with vaastu or feng shui. Says Rajiv: “See, spirituality is freedom from fear. Dependence on stones, rings amulets, etc., comes from fear.” Romola agrees, but adds: “That is not to say that I don’t believe in that different planets, stones and material do have a bearing. But I would rely on my instinct to guide me and would give more importance to aesthetics, and ensure plenty of air and sunshine.”Having given up a good job, do they feel any insecurity? “Well, you come to a point where you see that life is not just the pursuit of money,” says Rajiv, admitting that they have given up a lifestyle. “But one doesn’t need money for anything,” says Romola. “I feel it is totally irrelevant, so there is no need for insecurity. If money is there, it’s fine, if not, the Universe will provide.” Besides, the couple says, the kind of social circle they move in has changed. “We meet so many interesting people who have gone in for their passion, be it river rafting or para-gliding. You spread out and make connections and meet different people from all over the world. If you earn money, it’s incidental, if not, at least you are enjoying,” laughs Rajiv.How has life changed with spiritual awareness? Rajiv quotes Zen: “The enlightened master explained it thus, ‘Before enlightenment—chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment—chop wood and carry water’.” While a lot is outwardly unchanged, the couple professes a deeper significance in their lives. “While we may still socialise, we won’t go to a cocktail party,” says Romola. Rajiv adds: “I can’t talk at a superficial level any more. But if people are willing to come from where they really are, I find it easy to relate to them. If I watch TV it’s because I want to see a programme, not kill time.”Adds Romola: “Every moment is so important now that I am not willing to fritter away even a minute. I always ask, “Is this the best thing that I would be doing… because if not, I will not be doing it.” Rajiv quotes Carlos Castaneda: “You see, a warrior considers himself already dead, so there is nothing for him to lose. The worst has already happened to him, therefore he’s clear and calm.” Death is always with us like our shadow, and any moment he can tap us on the shoulder, explains Rajiv. “If you have lived in total awareness, you are always ready for it.” Prem and Bharti NirmalLiving the TaoThere is a wrong notion that spiritual practice is not possible while living a normal city life. In fact, every situation in Mumbai is an ideal testing ground for growth and pushes you even further. Mumbai, thus, could be the best ground for spirituality,” believe Prem and Bharti Nirmal, both qualified electronics engineers.While still in his teens, an intense spiritual experience in the presence of J. Krishnamurti left young Prem with a void, one that was filled only years later when he met Dada Gavand. “That which was pending all these years was completed and remained so. The journey continues but is a joyous one,” says Prem who today manages his own electronics business.Till last year, Bharti used to be actively involved with the business. “But I found that I was being torn between different roles,” she says. “I realised then that I had accompl
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