By Jamuna Rangachari
Jamuna Rangachari interviews Raja Choudhury, a documentary film-maker, architect, public speaker, multimedia artist and above all, a passionate propagator of spirituality
People who defy classification always intrigue me. One such person is Raja Choudhury. When I met him for the first time, I knew he was a documentary film-maker, architect, public speaker and designer of multimedia installations, events and websites who had won several awards for his endeavours. He was particularly known for his films and talks on Indian wisdom, history and consciousness. But the core of his renaissance-like personality is his passion for spirituality and his commitment to propagate its truths to the world at large. On meeting Raja Choudhary I was impressed by his keen interest in understanding what makes the other tick. The one thing that came across was his passion to reach out to everyone, especially the young. Indeed, his use of multimedia is mainly because it is what most youngsters relate to.
Excerpts from the interview:
You are a teacher, architect, filmmaker, all at the same time, having worked extensively in all these areas. What gives you the maximum satisfaction and why?
What gives me most satisfaction is the inner quest for wisdom and an insatiable curiosity. A curiosity that is reflected in my indepth study and research, the questioning of all strongly held beliefs, accidental intuitive and fated discoveries, vast inner experiences and the creation of new ideas, thoughts or designs as a result. Everything I have done in films, digital media, architecture, design and teaching has been an expression of this core sense of curiosity and my own personal quest for knowledge and wisdom.
In your Ted talk on India’s wisdom for today’s world, you say that we have shown many seekers how to find their inner selves. Do you think this is happening at a faster rate in recent years?
What has happened in recent years is that more people than ever have access to media and information tools than ever before and therefore access to ancient wisdom, teachings and ideas. With the internet this evolution has accellerated even more in recent years. Now people searching for a deeper understanding of themselves and their mystical potential have more access. Indian wisdom has always been a great source and set of tools for that exploration and I think we can contribute to that future dialogue globally provided we do not take on a puritanical or dogmatic approach to our own wisdom traditions. The questioning mind is what is innate in the Indian psyche and that must be nurtured and retained. No gospels for us.
How does your family respond to your endeavours?
My wife Jagriti and I follow holistic practices like yoga, playing spiritual music and discussing spiritual gurus in our daily life and my nine-year-old daughter Gayatri Noor has unconsciously become a little seeker in the ambience of our home.
Yoga and its essence is now part of common parlance and has even become a way of life for many all over the world. In your experience, what is the true essence of yoga and do you think this is completely understood by those who practice it?
Yoga is the union of your deepest self with the Self or consciousness that is inherent in all existence and everything. When we come into alignment with this knowledge and source, the outcome is happiness, harmony, peace and eventually deep states of bliss and inner knowledge.
You have made many films on spirituality and people who have shown a path to many. Who are the ones who have deeply inspired you and why?
I have had the good fortune of having had many great teachers and gurus in my journey. My first teacher who taught me the love of knowledge and questing was my mother who was a teacher and public speaker. My father was also a major influence in my life for he was both a man of action and a deep meditator. In later years I studied under many great professors and mentors in my various professional areas. In the spiritual life my most important teachers were the writings and practices of Lao Tse, Paramahansa Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Yogananda, J. Krishnamurti, Suzuki, Alan Watts, Terence Mckenna and Helena Blavatsky.
In my own life I was initiated into the deeper aspects of Indian wisdom and mysteries by Swami Adiswarananda of the Vedanta Society of America (Ramakrishna Mission), Sri M who initiated me into Kriya and Sri Vidya Upasana, and most recently, Guruji Amritananda of Devipuram who taught me the deeper aspects of Kundalini and Sri Vidya Upasana. I also practice Qi Gong and Martial Arts.
You have spoken in various fora on esoteric subjects like mindfulness, kundalini, rewiring the brain, the pineal gland and so on. Which of these subjects, in your opinion, is something we should be more aware of and which of these are the most misused or misunderstood?
All of them. We have no idea of the potential that lies within us. They have been veiled and cloaked in mystery and religion for a long time and now we need to look at them as modern mystics combining a deep understanding of the wisdom traditions with neuroscience and the recent discoveries and explorations of other sciences like quantum physics and transpersonal and depth psychology.
Digital spaces are indeed being used by almost everyone to find themselves. Do you think the internet and digital spaces are the gurukuls in the modern era?
Yes. More so than ever we have the opportunity to “be the light unto ourselves” and become our own gurus. This is my fundamantal mantra: “Be your own Guru.” We can learn from many great teachers, we can be initiated into the mysteries, we can receive transmissions of great energies – but the ultimate illumination and awakening will occur inside ourselves and by our own effort and “work”.
What is Consciousness in the modern era according to you?
Deeper awareness of mind and energy as it permeates in everything from the quantum to the cosmic scales. We have to realise that reality is a construct of our senses, our minds and our conditioning and we are the architects of our own consciousness of it. We now realise that at our core we are fundamentally light, energy and consciousness, and the entire Universe, both outer and inner, are ours to explore and come into harmony with. And yes, the outcome will be a blissful presence here, now, that can only make us think in universal terms. All boundaries, all divisions, all separation, all polarities and any sense of separateness and aloneness will dissolve into that blissful consciousness.
In your film scheduled to be released in 2017 on Swami Vivekananda, you say Swami Vivekananda is the first Guru responsible for Hinduism and its true essence being understood all over the world. In your observation, is the understanding still clear to everyone or has it been diluted with time?
Diluted and made digestible. Which is fine. For it means that more people get to talk about it than ever before. If I can trigger one conversation with millions of people about universalist principles, the human potential, the energy and divinity within each person, how to see all paths as part of that one truth that binds us together, how to act in the world from that consciousness, and how to bring light and healing to everyone we meet or influence in the world today, then I would have begun to achieve my goal and fulfil my dream.
While Indian practices are becoming more and more prevalent, there are many who misuse these for their own selfish interests. What do you think will prevail in the coming years?
Wisdom teachings and practices are perennial and will always be used by some for enlightenment and healing and doing good and by others who will see its emerging popularity as an opportunity to make money or gain power. This has always been the case from the very beginning of inner discoveries. We must try and walk in the light whenever we can.
What are the areas you plan to focus on in the coming years?
My next film will be on Dying and how we can find a sacred way to spend the last few months of our lives especially as our population ages in larger numbers than ever. I would love to make a film on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother – possibly a feature film. I am also bringing all my teachings and learnings together soon into a book and film. I am thinking of calling them “The Quest for a Thousand Suns” which will explore what ancient Indian wisdom and practices can give the modern world and science.
Are there any specific experiences you would like to share with our readers?
When you hear the rumbling of a thousand oms inside your inner ear, feel the cool breeze of vayu or spirit flowing up your spine, and when the light of a thousand suns suddenly explodes inside your head as your third eye opens, you will never be able to return to a normal life. You will be on a quest to discover sat, chit, ananda _ truth, consciousness and untold, unbelievable bliss _ and nothing else matters after that.
About the author : Jamuna Rangachari writes and manages the websites of Life Positive. She has authored three books for children, compiled and interpreted Teaching Stories-I and II for Life Positive. and published a book through Hay House