By Suma Varughese
Meet Balarishi Sri Vishwashirasini, a young and vibrant spiritual adept, whose ashram, Vishwashirasini Bala Peedham is based in Coimbatore. Interview by Suma Varughese; Introduction by Arundhathi Subramaniam
I first met Balarishi at a Guru Sangamam, a conclave of Indian spiritual guides, held in New Delhi a few years ago. I remember first being taken aback by her youth, and then struck by her radiant presence and air of quiet self-possession. We talked briefly, and she invited me to visit her ashram on the outskirts of Coimbatore.
Last month, I made that long-deferred journey to her quiet green hermitage on the road to Palakkad, and found myself in an invigorating one-hour conversation with her. Sharply intelligent, articulate and unpretentious, her sense of humor and air of calm self-assurance left an abiding impression.
She answered my questions readily and graciously and talked at length of her ability to access the deeper truths of existence through ‘nada’ or primordial sound. As a poet, I am fascinated by the texture and flavor of words, their shape, their grain. The fact that she prioritzies sound over meaning – the aural over the semantic – is something that interests me. But above all, she is a seasoned explorer of places beyond the realm of sound – the realms of silence, the very source and octane of language. This fascinates me even more.
She talked of the many existential mysteries that she realized could not be addressed by the activity of the mind alone. She spoke of the guidance that came to her through unexpected quarters – through sound, as well as through fire. At the same time, she was far from anti-intellectual, emphasizing the need for both heart and mind on the spiritual path.
I remember her saying at one point that though she’d started an ashram, she was aware that it could reduce her into an administrator, and she was keen on retaining her freedom. The clarity and candor of that admission stayed with me.
As the meeting drew to its close, I realized I was in the presence of an extraordinarily courageous woman – a mystic with an inner guidance so profound and a calling so compelling that she has been able to craft her own life from a remarkably young age with a maturity, grace and independence that few achieve in a lifetime.
I am curious to see the direction in which her life unfolds in the future. Balarishi Vishwashirasini is a surprising young woman, and given the dexterity and confidence with which she walks her improvised path, I have no doubt she will continue to surprise us much more in the years to come.
It is said that your spiritual journey began at the age of 10. Can you please elaborate.
A journey has a starting point and an ending point. Whatever awakening I had at the age of 10 just revealed that I had already been on a spiritual journey for many lives. So it could have been a transit point, and not a starting point. I had glimpses of past lives and of my being strongly connected to spiritual gurus and rishis. Even without knowing what I was doing, I started reciting and writing down the mantras I was receiving. I also had a tendency to perform yagnas with whatever I got.
Can you tell me a little more about these mantras? Were they Sanskrit mantras?
The concept of the mantra is an ocean by itself. Some use it as an instrument to attain single-point focus. Some mantras convey life principles and philosophies. Some mantras take you to ecstatic meditative stages. Mantras have a rhythm which resonate with divinity. Basically, mantras are the prime methodology (yukthi) in Tantra to facilitate liberation. They are divine utterances which can burn your karmic structures. The mantras I receive cannot and need not be seen under a language category. There is more of nada and sabda in them … they took me more deeply into the journey of divinity and revealed many dimensions within me.
Yes, they certainly had some syllables and rhythm, but the vibration is more intense and deep than the syllables, and creates a deep silence, which actually leads to an experience. So as I started travelling with these vibrations and sounds, they revealed new techniques and new yukthis. It also assured me that my path was authentic and accurate, beyond doubt.
And of course, Shiva is the perennial force of flow in my mantra. I never experienced him through scriptures or teachings. As I get immersed in my chants and as the vibrancy rises, I encounter the purest moments of sound. This is how I experience Shiva as Nada Shiva. The purest of sound is his asana (seat).
This sound (nada) and the experience it provided have been the key in my spiritual journey.
Who were the siddhas and masters who guided you?
During my childhood I was deeply connected with Shri Kagapujanda Maharishi and his patni Sri Bagula Devi. Whenever I chanted I felt their presence strongly. In the initial stages of my journey, as I underwent many experiences, their invisible presence and subtle guidance gave me an immense sense of security. The best part is that their presence and impact was very comfortable and communicable to a child of that age.
This revelation happened at Kasi through the grace of Sri Vishvanatha (Shiva). I see siddha and Shiva as one, and though I use such names and terms, I understood Shiva not religiously but spiritually.
What kind of a child were you and what kind of childhood did you have?
My childhood was not that easy; my family was confused on how to raise me, as well as how to lead its life. A child knows how to enjoy life without worrying what next; I was not an exception. I could not undergo proper schooling and I studied life mostly through the people who thronged to see me, who were from all walks of life; so I had an opportunity to learn about the outside world by sitting in one place.
My childhood was interesting; people had interesting ideas about me and expected me to fit into their ideas and expectations. For instance, they believed that someone in spiritual life should be serious and not crack jokes. Or should not be playful; I used to wonder if anywhere in the scriptures it was written that a seeker should not play shuttle or ride a cycle. I loved to ride a cycle but they thought I should only talk about life cycles!! So such people took me literally for a ride. Many thought I should not wear coloured clothes, and that I should close my eyes and do tapas for 24 hours.
I keenly observed their ideas and opinions, and as I grew year by year, I decided I would never stoop down to their expectations.
My problem was, I could not be serious anywhere; the more intense my spiritual experiences, the greater my playfulness. I used to see many visitors waiting for me and would look to see who was holding a chocolate. I would call them first… and the others would have to wait until I finished having that chocolate.
People used to get fruits … and while they talked I used to throw and catch fruits in my hand, listening to them simultaneously. Some felt that my playfulness was against divine life so they left; I became very happy as I had more time to play.
In spite of that I completely stopped playing for a few years; so my playfulness is very alive; My childhood was more of learning … where I could understand the human mind; karmic cause and effects, and what prevents people from being happy.
How did the other children respond to you?
They were confused whether to play with me or not. They asked me lots of questions. They were keen to know what I talked and what exactly I was going through. I had to find someone from among my visitors to play with me.
Did the guidance you received help you in living your life, in dealing with others, in overcoming pain and meeting challenges? Did it help you in your studies? What kind of student were you?
When you have a guru … who guides you in your inner journey… intense love blossoms through that; this gradually brings down your insecurity and your own instinct says nothing will go wrong. Then every problem will be experienced as a process with the understanding that all problems or processes are temporary. And that the process itself will take you to the next level; sometimes problems reveal beautiful insights and compel you to change your approach towards life; pain is required to know what is pain, and how to overcome it.
Meeting challenges was always easy when I started looking at them not from the logical mind but through openness and experience. Logic is only a tool, and the essence is seen when you look from love, and not through logic alone. Logic should follow the inner guidance of intuition, which helps to understand circumstances that are mostly beyond the boundary of logic.
I was not a good student at all, and didn’t take studies seriously even by mistake; I didn’t do my schooling or college properly until I reached my graduation.
What kind of an understanding of life were you given by your spiritual masters?
The learning was internal as well as practical; the internal journey was with nada. And experience said that all are one; the shades of ignorance and the colours of the ego might be different; but in reality we all are the same; apart from the body and mind, oneness is the reality. Even Shiva being seen as a god and having a distinct entity from the seeker is only a yukthi; in experience we understand that Shiva the whole is not different from us. We, the whole, are not different from anyone;
Then why this difference? The difference is due to cause and effect. Karma is the cause and ego is the effect. These differences are perpetuated by the ego and the reality in us takes a backseat.
The best sadhana is spreading love; and if you do that without pride it will make you more and more subtle.
And what is your connection to the Suruli Hills?
Well! When I was recollecting my past lives at the age of 10, the word Suruli Hills vibrated in me, and when I visited the place, it was very familiar to me. The caves were so familiar, and I could identify a few places which were clearly connected to my past life. Later, I had this same experience of familiarity in Varanasi.
How did people discover you, and how did you find yourself in the role of a spiritual preceptor?
I don’t call myself a guru; but when I grew up, I could see people following me and that once initiated, they evolved …so it was not decided; it just happened.
Later; at the age of 16, I got bored with people focused on materialistic growth; so I was in a quandary about whether I should stop meeting visitors completely.
Then I also realised that most of the problems are created by the mind, so wisdom and love alone would raise people up and then evolving would be very natural …
I designed a few techniques for peace of mind and love. Mantra is the best key to evolve from a karmic cycle. Mantra is the light of wisdom and through it arises a practise called nadakriya.
In a nutshell, can you sum up your teachings?
With love and compassion any hard nut can be broken. The reality is bliss and ananda; which is not just the ultimate state, but can also happen to you even while travelling on the path with awareness. Let’s not worry about the goal; let’s make the travel vibrant. Some intellectuals lacks humanity; some emotional people lack clarity. Both are needed and intellect should follow love to have balance and to evolve. These are as important as internal practices like initiation, meditation, and feeling the oneness. So these are certain areas I share with them.
Femininity is a state; it’s good that women are expressing their divinity; shakti is a powerful energy and it’s wonderful that it’s spreading. Femininity is nothing but motherhood. Femininity in spirituality is nothing but Universal Motherhood.
What advice do you have for people going through difficult times today?
See whether the difficulty is in the situation or in your mind. Mostly difficulties arise when you plan something and it goes wrong or it does not come up to your expectations! Expectations either give you happiness or difficulty or pain. So most of the time the difficulty is not in the situation; the difficulty is how you look at it. Live life; plan little … enjoy the process. Acceptance is the key for difficult times.
Look at the flame of a diya or candle every day for 10 mins.
What advice do you have for those who are seeking enlightenment?
Closing your eyes and doing tapas 24 hours a day, might not be helpful; reading gives you an idea on how to proceed, but even it can tell you only what is enlightenment. So many tough thoughts and questions even if answered cannot be realised until you are prepared for it. So serving with love and without claim; serving the needy; service towards your guru’s mission … all these purify you… Sometimes even advanced practitioners feel some blocks while meditating. These are nothing but your karma … so service cleanses that, and as a result practice get enhanced; when your practice is strong along with service and awareness, the real state of enlightenment will blossom.
What do the siddha masters have to say about our present times?
Siddhas have given many solutions in the field of medicine; they talk about siddhis and reaching superficial power; as well as the highest goal. They give guidance for seekers too. In the North it’s called kriya yoga ,and in the South, vaasi yoga
They are everywhere in the universe; they can connect with you through any one of the five elements. They are one with nature. So they understand our life, the world, and all its difficult phases. All current hard realities are just a moving phase and everything keeps moving and changing.
What lies ahead?
A beautiful journey called life.
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