In June 2019, everything was going well for me. The future of my startup was looking glamorous.
I was in Bangkok, attending conferences and meeting with people. I met investors, potential customers, founders, and friends. We were already incubated and were in talks to raise a round of funding to move to Berlin. The goal was to get clients and grow our business there.
But, with time, things started to get a little tense. Our existing and new investors had troubles with our cap table (equity split). Soon, I and my co-founder were stuck in between trying to mitigate the risk and saving the deal.
By August, what I dreaded had finally happened. The deal came to an end. We also had to part ways with our existing investors. The two of us were now alone to figure this out.
It was difficult to fathom since the event around which I had been planning my next 5–7 years had taken a wrong turn. At this point, it was getting difficult to cope up. Though we had some ideas on how to find new clients, it would still take a lot of time to build momentum.
A Place Called Ananda
I’ve been into self-help books and courses since I was 16 years old. I had also found Zen meditation techniques and tried hard to practice them regularly. While working on my startup, I tried my best to make time for meditation as I knew all the benefits that it could give me.
But somehow they never seemed achievable. Everything was always ‘out there’. My life apart from meditation was also not very spiritual. All my energy was on building my company. Sometimes I dreamt about a big company with employees. Other times I feared failure and crumbled like a kid. It was an emotional roller coaster.
This is when I read Autobiography of a Yogi. It was lying in my bookshelf for more than a year. I’d told myself that I’ll read it when the time was right. Because all the other business books were high on my priority list.
I did not understand much when I read it the first time. Like many others, I doubted a few things and was skeptical about others. But the chapter on Kriya Yoga stuck with me for long.
I started reading about Paramahansa Yogananda and his teachings. That led me to Ananda. From there I was curious to see if they have centers in New Delhi.
I found many centers in NCR and was surprised that I never heard of them. Even more surprising was that the Ashram in Panscheel Park had a Basic Meditation Course coming up.
I made up my mind to attend it despite all the doubts I had. I did not tell anyone that I’m going to the class. I didn’t know what to expect and I wanted to avoid any questions from friends and family.
Little did I know that it was the path to Kriya which was one of my latent desires. I discovered that the class I had done was only the first level. There were three more levels one needs to complete to prepare for Kriya initiation.
There wasn’t a question about whether I’ll take those classes. The answer was a big yes!
I thought I had found something special, so I held tight.
Almost 9 months later, I received Kriya initiation, a couple of days ago (May 2020). As I sat down to reflect on my journey so far, I realized many ways in which my life has changed. In some ways, I can’t relate to myself a few months ago. The actions and behaviors of my old self are already seeming foreign.
The benefits that I’ve got after coming to Ananda and by meditating are innumerable. This is an attempt to list the major ones.
Unparalleled, Ever-New Joy
If one were to ask me what is joy, I would have said it’s the happiness you experience doing something you like. It’s watching a movie, playing your favorite sport, going to the gym, writing, having dark chocolate, and so on.
It never dawned upon me that the joy that we all look for, is inside. I’ve always been seeking happiness in things outside myself. But as anyone can attest, the joy that comes from the pleasures of the world is transient.
More often than not, it is followed by boredom, sadness, or other negative emotions. The law of duality always holds true. Where there is an up, there’s always a down.
But the joy of divine communion through meditation is ever-lasting and ever-increasing. Unlike worldly pleasures, the indulgence in which makes you dull, the divine joy in meditation keeps expanding.
I have not tried a lot of meditation techniques. The only technique I tried before coming to the path of Kriya, was Zen meditation. I experimented with focusing on the breath, mindfulness, and quite a few here and there.
But, I could never stick with them for more than a month. On the other hand, the techniques I learned on this path — like Hong-Sau, Aum, and of course Kriya itself — have given me results like no other.
As a result of practicing Hong-Sau, I’ve drastically improved my focus and attention in all things. I still marvel at the effectiveness of the technique given its simplicity.
I’ve also learned different aspects of meditation and their importance. The biggest eye-openers were relaxation and expansion.
You see, wherever I went, I was being taught a certain technique and to do that for a certain time. The aim was to increase the time as you go. But that was it. It was all about technique. Nothing was before or after it.
At Ananda, I realized how important it was to relax before even thinking about meditation. Divine realities are not perceived unless you relieve the tension in the mind and the body.
I also learned to never make the technique the supreme focus of my practice. Yes, it’s important. But equally important is calling to God and Guru and receive their response. The techniques take us to the point of stillness where all spiritual growth happens. It’s our job to extend those periods of stillness and not get caught up only in the mechanics of the technique.
Making it all about the technique is like coming to the door of a restaurant but returning without having your meal.
Willpower and Energization
I had a tendency to ignore the energization exercises early on. But soon I realized, they’re as powerful as all the other techniques Master gave us.
To energize the body and relax the tense body parts using my will seemed strange at first. Yet, as I practiced them, I unlocked a new reservoir of energy. Now, I never start my day without energizing. If I don’t, I feel lethargic. I imagine how lived without it before. Though it’s good to have a technique to energize at will, it taught me a much more important principle.
‘The greater the will, the greater the flow of energy’
I’ve applied this principle when I was sick or had some physical injury. By sending energy to a body part and by using my will to affirm good health, I’ve overcome many ailments quickly.
During one such experience, I managed to get a cold away from my body on the first day I felt its symptoms. Another time, my knee was bruised while trying to do a handstand. I used the same principle to send energy to the knee and got through the pain like a breeze. Even my mother was perplexed with my calm response to the injury!
As I learn to do them more like meditations rather than ‘exercises’, I see the benefits amplify.
When I read Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda used words like ‘God’ and ‘Divine Mother’ as freely as his breath flowed. His devotion to God and his Guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, was deeply inspiring.
But I did not have the slightest idea about how to work on developing devotion. As I learned more from my teachers and worked on myself, I started to develop a longing for God that wasn’t there before.
Sri Yukteswar said that we cannot take one step on the path without the “natural love of the heart.” Had I not worked on that, I would have been stuck (maybe for lifetimes) trying to reach God using my will alone.
As I learned to love Divine Mother more, I began to love everyone. For we all are made in Her image. My anger and emotional reactions reduced as if someone had turned a switch off inside of me.
Although I still have a long way to go, I’m much more confident about the future. With God’s grace and my self-effort, I’ll be able to overcome all obstacles. Yogananda was right indeed — life is dry without devotion!
Before coming to Ananda, magnetism was only a scientific concept for me. Master’s teachings taught me otherwise.
Though it is possible to gain spiritual magnetism in other ways, physical presence is always preferable. Books and videos do not have the same effect.
I distinctly remember the first day I came to my class. The prasad was being served. Someone greeted me at the entrance and encouraged me to enjoy the prasad with other devotees.
When I go to business networking events, I’m sometimes scared to approach some people. The expression on their face isn’t very inviting.
But here, it felt like home.
The magnetism and aura were so uplifting that I automatically started smiling. Instantly I knew that I would be coming here again — perhaps for a long time.
No matter how hard I tried to meditate at home, meditating in the temple was much more blissful. Having the constant support of teachers and gurubhais ensured that I was consistent with my sadhana. The assurance that someone was always there to solve my doubts and help me progress was missing.
As I look back, it is one of the main reasons I could never establish a consistent meditation habit. There was no one to go to in difficult times. It’s very easy to get lost on the spiritual path and not realize it even years later. With the help of someone more experienced, you can avoid pitfalls and save lifetimes of wasted effort.
Accepting Paramahansa Yogananda as my guru has had a tremendous impact on my life in all areas. In times of distress, I call to Master. In times of happiness, I thank Master.
Master said that 25% effort on the spiritual path is that of the disciple, 25% of the guru, and 50% is God’s grace. Well, the guru himself is the channel for God’s grace so to sum it up, 75% of our progress is in the hands of our guru.
While we can talk all day about the importance of a guru. But to put it simply, you need a teacher for almost anything you learn in life. So when it comes to Self-Realization, it would be foolish to think that we can get there on our own.
If we were so capable, we would already be self-realized.
As I attune my consciousness with his Infinite Consciousness, I feel closer to God. Knowing that I’ve handed the control of my life in his hands, I’m less attached to outcomes in life. I pray to align my will with his Divine Will because I know his will is for me to reach my highest potential.
What I’ve said above may or may not be true. Your experience may differ since the path is unique for everyone. I have a long way to go. But that’s the exciting part. I will be ever grateful to have found Ananda (that too, at a young age of 20).
I have a lifetime of meditation and growth in front of me. In a couple of years I want to come back to this article and say, “Oh god, there’s a LOT I didn’t know back then.”
I’m awake and ready for everything Divine Mother has in store for me.
I hope I can awaken the love of God in my heart as well as in all souls around.