By Clifford Sawhney
Vikas Malkani, Businessman, Metaphysical Teacher and Author
The gate to Vikas Malkani’s Mayfair Gardens bungalow in Delhi is deep red. I wonder why as I’m led to his second-floor retreat. The wandering gaze registers Malkani’s write-ups and pictures on the walls, including a thank you note from Bill Clinton for a gift presented by the teacher. The man’s self-belief leaps out from the walls of his study. A collection of his books lines a rack.
I’m reading between the lines, the walls and the books to figure out what prompted the MD of Avis International to gradually withdraw from his family business and plunge into full-time spiritual teaching and counseling.
Malkani’s spiritual journey began at 16, he says, after he had ‘seen it all and done it all’. Born into a business family, the teenager was extroverted, with dollops of self-belief and an equally strong mind. In his words: ‘I went after pleasure in a focused fashion. Went deeply into power, wine, wealth, and women. Tried everything. During one of those moments my attention turned inwards. I realized all this was just external stimulus. This made me feel shaky. In the midst of the fast life, I felt unsure.’
He began participating in spiritual growth programs of all kinds: ‘When your search starts you seek information and guidance. As a student in the US, I would read self-motivational literature—Dale Carnegie, Anthony Robbins, Zig Zeigler, Cohen. I also read autobiographies of masters. Paramahansa Yogananda ‘s Autobiography of a Yogi; Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama. These were my building blocks of faith. I also took meditation classes and self-transformational courses. Even today I meet other spiritual teachers. Learning never stops.’
Did these courses change his perception in any way? ‘The courses, a little. But spiritual readings exposed me to a whole new level of thinking. Meeting and spending time with the spiritual masters made all the difference. Swami Rama accepted me as his disciple. After Swami Rama left his body in 1996, I spend time with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, his successor, based in the US. Although such masters deal with all kinds of problems and have everything, they lead a very simple life. The higher a tree wants to go, the deeper are its roots in the ground.’
Who were his primary inspirations? ‘My heroes have always been people who believed in themselves—Lord Krishna, Buddha, Christ. I believe in Christ, not Christianity; in Buddha, not Buddhism.’
Why did the scion of a flourishing business family (Avis Jeans) seek monkhood? ‘I resigned as the MD since my passion was driving me here. Every man needs to be very clear what he’s here for. Only a few years ago, I was successful but unhappy. At 29, I had an awakening and realized that I was here to teach people about life skills, about higher things that could transform their business life, work life, personal life and inner life.
‘I slowly opted out with my family’s permission. Initially, everybody doubted whether it was the right course of action. If you’re successful and then change course, there’s bound to be initial resistance. Today, however, my entire family is behind me, since the returns are coming in… since people tell me their lives have been transformed… The whole world steps aside for a man who knows where he is going.’
Malkani’s spiritual outlook has positively influenced the company’s employees: ‘I walk the talk. I believe in living life like that. What I am influences the family and the people around me…’
But don’t ethics and business make incompatible partners? ‘Ethics is very personal. Like values and morality. But all are based on the kind of person you are. As your awareness grows, these qualities tend to grow with them. They are not contradictory. ‘
Besides his counseling, Malkani is heavily into writing. Already he has published eight books. What does writing mean to him? ‘Writing is my passion. And it’s my way of healing.’
Malkani continues after a pause: ‘I believe in making spiritual principles practical and effective in daily life. My USP is spirituality made simple, which incidentally is also the title of my best-selling book.’
Malkani is also the founder and spiritual director of Soulcentre and Atma-Vikas groups. ‘Soulcentre gives a modern interpretation to principles of ancient wisdom to act as a catalyst in the transformation of individual consciousness through the body, mind and spirit, to empower people to become healthy, wealthy and wise. Atma-Vikas were groups of people, essentially seekers, which formed around me in an informal manner. This happened as a result of my first book, Spirituality Made Simple, and the talks I was giving.’
He also teaches what he calls Awareness Meditation. ‘It is actually one of the oldest, simplest, most effective forms of meditation practised even before the time of the Gita and Yoga Sutras. Patanjali codified meditation. Ancient masters practised this. It involves becoming a witness of your own mind and self. You learn to harmonize the three levels of your being—the physical, emotional and intellectual. Then you rise above that and go beyond your mind. You become a witness. It takes you beyond your conditioning to the pure, unblemished, limitless self that you are. I teach this myself. We do a lot of stretching, bodywork and yoga. ‘On the emotional level we do a lot of visualization, breath work and emotional release. This changes the way you perceive things and shows how preconceived your emotions have been. This gives stability.
‘Intellectually, there’s observation, detachment, witnessing. You start watching yourself, your mind. It changes the way you react to people and how people accept you. Essentially, awareness meditation is about changing what you are. As soon as you change for the better, the world changes for you.’
Has he trained as a counselor? Or is it an innate skill? It’s a role I’m performing as far back as I can remember. In school, amongst my social circle or friends, people would approach me for advice and help. And when I met the spiritual masters, they guided me…
‘In college I studied basic psychology and read books by psychologists. But I found them to be very limiting. I felt that a spiritual basis in life is a much more efficient tool for counseling than western psychology. I grew into the role of a counselor.’
About his Spiritual Science of Success workshop he says: ‘It talks about how to achieve material abundance with spiritual principles. This gives you success that is lasting, stable and satisfying. It works in personal life also. It gives you success as a whole if you use these principles on yourself. It brings about a change in you first, then on the outside.’
Moments later, while making my way past the gate and mulling over his words, I again notice its red color. The sublime significance now hits home—Vikas Malkani lives life with total awareness. And blood-red passion…
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