Om Swami is a 36-year-old Siddha who chucked his multi-million dollar business at the age of 30, and left for the Himalayas in search of the Divine, says Punya Srivastava
Punya, drop your anger. Let go of your past. It’s gone; do not hold it. It doesn’t do well to dwell on the past,” he said, while I was busy slipping on my shoes after the interview ended. I stood in the doorway… stunned. How did he know? And then… I mentally smacked my forehead. Of course he would know; he is a siddha. I was rooted to the spot, unsure of what to say. And saying anything would have been futile. He already knew what was going on in my mind. The ride back home was a blur, for I was in a daze.
My interview with Om Swami and the journey leading to it was nothing short of a whirlwind ride. There was almost no information about him on the internet. There was not much on his website apart from a few journals, pictures and mention of his ashram in Kotla Barog, Himachal Pradesh. The only other thing that popped up in Google search was the mention of his recently released memoir, If Truth Be Told.
Only after I had gone through the memoir, was the life journey of this 36-year-old Swami, from a multi-millionaire to a sanayasi, revealed to me.
Born as Amit in 1979, the youngest of three siblings, in a middle-class Brahmin family in Chandigarh, Om Swami was a child prodigy. At the age of five, he was an avid reader, particularly of religious and mythological books. By the time he was 10, he could make accurate astrological charts and conduct consultations. At 16, this remarkable boy had already become a scholar, undertaken a computer course, dabbled in the share market as a hobby, and worked as a part-time editor of a weekly business newspaper, The Business Times. At 18, he flew to Australia for higher education. In 2000, he completed his graduation in business studies from the University of Western Sydney and later, in 2002, acquired a Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Technology, Sydney. By the time he was 24-25, he owned a software business, his own house, and an Australian citizenship. His company had operations in USA, Canada, UK and India. He was, indeed, living life king-sized. So what brought him back to India, and that too the Himalayas, to lead the life of a sanayasi? The answer to that would be, his childhood quest to relive that vision of the Divine he had at the age of five (or six). He had already decided to renounce this world at the age of 30, and that’s what he did.
On March 15, 2010, Amit renounced his material wealth and embarked upon his childhood quest. Heading straight to Kashi, he was initiated into the path of renunciation by a Naga saint in a little village some 80 km away from Varanasi. Rechristened Swami Sarvananda, he spent an uncomfortable four-and-a-half months there, for the Naga extracted a large sum of money from him, while denying him food and basic comforts. Later, he left for the Himalayas where he spent the next 13 months meditating in complete isolation and solitude. During his spiritual journey, Swami learned and practised various tantric sadhanas and was declared a siddha. He was also blessed with the vision of Goddess Kali.
Standing tall at 5’10”, dressed in a light saffron robe, Om Swami sported a round red tilak on his forehead and a chandan-tilak on his hairline. Fair complexioned with a bald head and a smooth, glowing round face, he looked every inch the young and vibrant sanayasi he comes across through his writings. He was as comfortable quoting verses from the Bhagavad Gita as discussing the philosophy of Socrates and Kabir, in his slightly accented English.
Following are excerpts from an hour-long conversation with him.
Your memoir ends in the year 2011, soon after you had the vision of the Divine Feminine. What happened after that?
When I came back from the Himalayas, I thought I could help people who were as desperate to find God as I was. But soon I realized that very few people are actually that desperate. For them God is a conditional commodity which can wait till they tick off other things from their to-do list in life. So I decided to write what I had to say through my blog.
Tell us about your ashram activities.
It is a totally non-commercial place as I am strictly against commercialising any aspects of the ashram. We don’t charge for food or stay. People just register through my blog and book their stay when I am available. Beside me, there is Swami Raghavananda whom I initiated a year-and-a-half back, and three other people. (Swami Raghavananda, or Pradeep, was his companion during his sadhana in the Himalayas.) We generally do some bhajan kirtans. I am busy replying to emails or in writing, when I am not meeting people. When there are devotees in the ashram, I hold some discourses.
But when do you find time for your sadhana which was your life-long aim?
I no longer really do meditation or sadhana because I am already in a meditative state. I do not know how to come out of it. Since my vision of the Divine Feminine, there are perennial sensations in my body which never fade out. Preparing my body for sleep is a two-hour long process including three turns of my body. Hence, if I meditate specifically, these sensations become extremely intense.
How is the ashram kept afloat?
From the sale of my book. As a matter of principle, I do not accept any donation for my personal needs. The only reason I write books is to help me pay my bills.
What teaching do you impart to people who come to you?
I don’t promise anyone wisdom or insights; all that comes from within you. Insight is something that dawns upon you. But one thing I am sure of is that a person will experience peace in my presence. If you don’t, it means that something is lacking in me. It’s just like butter melting in the presence of fire. Doesn’t matter how hard you try to restrain yourself, if you don’t experience that melting feeling in my presence that means we are not yet ready for each other and you shouldn’t believe in what I am saying.
In your memoir, you have mentioned that you can stop your pulse, change your body temperature, and do astral travel.
When I talk of astral travel, I am not talking about some philosophical or mythological concept. I can leave my body and go to explore other planes of existence and come back. I travel by the speed of thoughts, not by the speed of light. Around two-and-a-half years back, I announced to a group of people that roughly 72 light years away, there was a green planet in the north-east direction which is two-and-a-half times the size of earth, with 21-degree Celsius temperature supporting life form. I had this vision four years back, and around 18-20 months back, at least five countries have confirmed the candidature of a planet which they call Kepler 22b which fits this description. This is what I mean when I talk about reality. I want you to experience it for yourself instead of merely believing in me.
(NASA announced the existence of Kepler 22b on December 5, 2011.)
What is your mission?
I do not have any grand vision or mission. I am not here to make a grand ashram or a huge movement. The only thing I am committed to in my life is Truth. I don’t want anything beyond that. I can just drop my body in a moment and go away from this world. What is so special in taking care of this body round the clock only to be caught in the vicious cycle of earning money and spending it and again earning it to spend it again? What is the point in living such a life? The only thought I have is to be of some use to those who are seeking the truth. I can at least tell them the truth as I see it. I want people to question the dogmas and rituals and experience their truth for themselves. I do not want them to become sheeples – people who behave like sheep.
What would make people do that?
See, we all are individually responsible for the choices that we make. If each individual leads a responsible life, half the problems in this world will be gone.
Responsible in which sense?
We often hold other people responsible for how we feel; that is being irresponsible. The lack of gratitude is what most people experience in their lives. This makes them unhappy. The sole purpose of any meditation, sadhana, bhakti or ritual is self-purification. If you keep purifying yourself, eventually you will uncover your true self which is the Supreme Consciousness. Krishna says, “The moment you learn to establish yourself in samadhi, the conditioned viewpoints gathered from books will disappear from your mind, and you’ll discover your pristine nature.”
What made you stick around with your first guru, Naga Baba, even after seeing through his shortcomings, and the way he treated you?
See, he had given me a date for my initiation. Till that date, I must give him complete freedom. And one thing that I never forget is that he never forced me to be his disciple, it was my own choice. If you are a piece of clay, the potter sometimes pats, caresses or slaps you to shape you. Staying with Naga Baba was complete annihilation of my ego. Because of all the successes I had in my life, I used to think my guru would absolutely love me. I had always been loved by everyone around me, and the feeling of not being loved was alien to me. With him, I experienced being a ‘nobody’.
What was the experience like?
From having a personal staff of 10 people to just short of being kicked out of his ashram is obviously not a small experience. It is enlightening in its own rights. I thought I’ll give everything that I have, to my guru, and be a good disciple. I wanted to be true to my dharma, and later that very conviction and purity of my truth enabled me to fight out with nature’s extremities in the Himalayas. I could put my hand on my chest and say, I never violated my dharma. I lived by my own values for which I was responsible. With that strength I sought Mother Divine. She had every reason to not show up if I failed in my dharma, but if I did not, on what basis would she not?
According to your memoir, at one point of your life you were all head and no heart. When and how did that change?
There is still a strong head aspect in me because I do not merely flow with my heart’s emotions and do anything. Before every action, I am fully aware of the impact it’ll have on other people. However, I did become more of a heart person in the sense that I can cry easily now. Before renunciation, I hardly cried twice or thrice in my 30 years but after that, I must have cried a thousand times. The moment I spoke these words, “Main nashwar sansar ka tyaag kar ab sanayasa dharma mein pravesh karta hoon,” during my oath taking when getting initiated, something died in me, changing me forever. I couldn’t look upon myself just as one person anymore. I thought, I belong to the world now, and that opened up something in me. I cry easily now seeing the pain and suffering around. More than that, the mere helplessness that people go through overwhelms me; it is remarkable.
How did your parents react to your taking sanyas?
My mother had always been quite supportive of me since childhood. When Naga Baba called her up to tell her that I was taking sanyas, she didn’t ask him to make me understand. She only asked him to make me a mahatma that she could be proud of. My parents are simple people with simple needs who were always supportive of me. I am still in touch with them as they come to see me in the ashram just like other people.
But for a sanyasi…
For the sacrifice that my parents made, the least they deserve is to see me. I am not a lakir ka fakir sadhu. Many sadhus follow certain guidelines and code of conducts because their followers want them to; because their followers have put them on a pedestal and expect certain kind of behaviour from them. I don’t care about my image at all. I do not bother if a thousand people follow me or none. I do not want to be put on a pedestal. If that is your benchmark, please do not come to me. I only want people to know the truth about me. Kabir has said, “Tu bole kaaghaz ki lekhi, main boloon aankhan ki dekhi,” (you speak what you have read, I speak what I have seen). If someone comes to me and even for a fraction of a second feels that my eyes are judging him or her, he or she should immediately abandon me.
What is next?
I am going to create a website myself where people can sign up and periodically, everyone together can meditate at one particular time on one issue. That will draw the attention of the universe to that issue. People do offer me money but I tell them that I am not keen on building infrastructure. There is my blog where I post an article every Saturday and then there are more than 120 YouTube videos where people can listen to what I have to say. Moreover, I don’t resist anything, but just flow. In that flow everything comes out.
How can an average Joe find peace in his routine life?
First of all, find a purpose because without that life is a drag every single day. But if you cannot find a purpose, at least find a passion that keeps you involved. Second, lead life with a sense of gratitude. Without gratitude, you will always find a lack in life. Third, try and help someone in some ways, big or small. All these then turn your every act into an act of sadhana. You feel fulfilled and do not need anyone else to make you feel good about yourself. As long as we don’t delve into the ocean of our own existence, we won’t know what pearls lie in the bottom.
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