Sri M: “Discussion on Mindfulness with Sri M” | Talks at Google

Sri M: “Discussion on Mindfulness with Sri M” | Talks at Google

morning, everyone. Welcome to today’s Talks
at Google with Sri M. I’m Prasad Setty. I’m a Vice President in our
People Operations organization here at Google. I lead our People
Analytics, Compensation, and Benefits teams. We are here today to
talk with Sri M, who is no stranger to Google and
perhaps not to many of you. But since this is
going to be on YouTube, I want to read out a short
introduction as well. Sri M is a spiritual guide,
author, a social reformer, and educationist. His transformational
journey from a young boy born in a Muslim family
to being a living yogi is a fascinating
story symbolized by single-minded
discipline and dedication. At 19, he embarked on a
journey to the Himalayas, seeking a true master he found
in the form of Maheshwarnath Babaji. After traveling extensively
through the Himalayas with his teacher
for a few years, his teacher encouraged him
to return to the plains to start a family
life and to prepared for his life’s mission. Over the years, his efforts
as a social reformer and educationalist
have given rise to many initiatives that include
Satsang Vidyalaya, Satsang Rural School, Peepal Grove
School, Satsang Swasthya Kendra, and Manav Ekta Mission. He completed a walk
of hope in 2015-2016, a 15-month-long journey
from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, spanning
7,500 kilometers across 11 states in India, for
peace, harmony, and tolerance. He also did another
walk of hope in Europe earlier this year in 2017. Conversant with the teachings
of most major religions, Sri M says, go to the core. Theories are of no use. His method seeks to
transcend the outer shell of all religions by
exploring their mystical core to nurture the innate
goodness in every human being. He has authored several
books, including his memoir, “Apprenticed To
A Himalayan Master, A Yogi’s Autobiography.” And the journey continues. Please join me in giving a
very warm welcome to Sri M. [APPLAUSE] Thank you for being here. SRI M: Thank you, sir. PRASAD SETTY: I thought
I’d start off initially with a question about just your
early years and your journey to the Himalayas. Most of us are
brought up thinking about what a standard model
of success looks like. We all need to study
and go to college and go get a job,
perhaps at a Google. Right? That is what we are
all taught to do. But you took a very
different path. You decided that
you would go off to the Himalayas,
which is not something that most people think of. Tell us about that. You know, what was that
thought process like for you, and what made you
embark on that journey? SRI M: [INAUDIBLE] like this,
when something is so serious, and you want to do it, then
you do it no matter what the consequences. And in my case you can
imagine– even in India– if you are born
in a Hindu family, and then you decide at the age
of 19 to leave your college and go to the
Himalayas, it’s a shock. Even if you are born in there. And in my case, being
born in a Muslim family, to say that at the age of
19 you stop your college and go to the
Himalayas of all places is quite a tough
thing to take up. So I did the short cut
in this matter, which is I didn’t inform anybody. I quietly disappeared. So I went to the Himalayas. Now this is not just
a sudden thought that came when I was 19. It had been working on
my mind for many years. Because at the age of nine– how much time do we have? PRASAD SETTY: We
have an hour today. And so I have a few questions,
and then shortly after that, we’ll turn it over to
the audience as well. SRI M: Sure, yeah. So I’ll try to keep it short. At the age of nine, I met
an extraordinary individual in the backyard of our
house in Trivandrum. I was born in Kerala,
in the southern part. The capital of Kerala is
Trivandrum, the coastal side. So I met this wonderful
person and he touched me once on my head. We can say he laid
his hands on my head. And after that, he disappeared– I mean he went away. I’m not saying disappeared
like he came and went poof. And then that, I think, did
a lot of things to my mind. I started thinking differently. When others would be playing,
I would be sitting quietly and looking at the sky. In fact, my parents started
wondering if there was something going wrong with me. I did have to go
to a psychiatrist. I was taken there. So don’t believe a word
of what I’m saying. I might have gone bananas. I was taken to a psychiatrist. And after five minutes,
the psychiatrist said to my people who
had brought me there, my uncle and so on. Can you go out, step
out for a while? I need to have a private chat. This was when I was 14 or 13. And they stepped out. And then the psychiatrist said,
I know this is all nonsense. But can we discuss
the Upanishad? [LAUGHTER] PRASAD SETTY: So you
know, it was interesting. I had a long relationship
with him later on. Anyway, then it was things
were changing in my mind. I was wondering if, as you
said, there’s only one world– where you study, you get
your job, you get married, you have children, you
die, and you go off? Or is there something
other than that? Is there something
that is offbeat? You know how the flower
people and the hippies respond in the United States? They were looking for
something alternate. PRASAD SETTY: Right. SRI M: But it ended up
in drugs, of course. But there is, of course,
the human mind seeking for something different. I think all minds
sometimes seek. They’re so bogged down
by day-to-day life and the practicalities of
living that there is no time, there is no energy to do this. In my case, I
decided, if there is something like that,
which is alternate, I need to go at it whole hog. Let’s put it that. PRASAD SETTY: And once
you made the decision, how did you know what to do? How did you know how to
get to the Himalayas? SRI M: Right. So then, from that age
of, let’s say, 12, 13, I started reading books on the
yogis and philosophy and things like that. I met several people who were in
that locality who were supposed to be spiritually evolved. And then in most
books I encountered one thing, which is that high,
high up in the Himalayas, there are these great yogis. OK? And also, I had this fascination
for the snow-capped mountains. In the south of India, there are
no snow-capped mountains there. So when I saw clouds,
I used to imagine that they were like mountains. If you ask me why,
it’s something to do with what was already
in my consciousness, maybe from the past. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: So I decided I
will go to the Himalayas. There is no Google
then, no maps, nothing you could do,
no search engines. So I had to relay on
the old railway guides to check how to get there. So we was in a pretty
affluent family. So there was– my
pocket money was enough to take me out there. In fact, that was
my father’s regret, that instead of taking
over the family business, I chose to run away somewhere. Anyways, so I– finally, after
a great deal of traveling, I reached Badrinath
in the Himalayas. And there I met and I can’t–
we can’t explain the entire circumstances here. It’s there in my book
and autobiography, which is “Apprenticed
To A Himalayan Master.” It’s already there on Amazon. Anybody can go in and take it. So I met the same
person who I had met when I was a nine-year-old boy. And the way he greeted
me was interesting. As soon as he saw me,
and I saw him, I said, oh, this is the person. He said, oh, you wandered
around and come back to me. He learned Hindi. He said [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. So I told him, look, Babaji,
I’m not going to leave you. I want to be with you forever. He smiled, and he said,
we’ll think about it. [LAUGHTER] SRI M: So this is
how my life started. And I spent 2 and 1/2
full years with him, wandering, going
wherever he went, like a dog following its master. Not the modern dogs,
masters follow the dogs. You see? Why, yeah. So I spent– and
whatever I have here, whatever has been understood
here as well as here, I think both are important,
the heart and the brain– is from those 2 and
1/2 to three years of being with this great person,
studying, more than actually studying, the feeling of it. PRASAD SETTY: Yeah. Your book describes
many wonderful stories in your journeys
with your master. How would you synthesize
and capture the learnings from those 2 and 1/2 years? Like, you know, what
stands out for you? SRI M: It’s difficult to
put it all in a nutshell, but if you try hard, there are
a few important things that emerge from all the
data that I have and all the
experiences that I had. And that is, first,
a human being should think of himself as
part of this entire universe and not a separate,
isolated thing. This is a vast network. And from our point of
view, the consciousness is not confined to one center. It’s an all-pervading
consciousness. It acts from different centers,
from you, from me, from– but these are only different
points from where it manifests. It’s actually one– let’s
say, global consciousness. Global does not mean
global business. Global means like every
living being in this universe has a place. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: And it’s as
important as anything else. A human being has the
advantage of having the capacity to reflect
and understand this, which some animals may not have. But that doesn’t
mean that they’re not part of the structure. So this is the first
thing that I learned. The second is that there
are different points of view and different ways people
think, due to the differences in their mental makeup, the
way they live, and so on. Therefore, it’s dangerous
to say that I’m always right and somebody else is wrong, even
when you’ve studied the truth. Let’s say even if you studied
the concept which many people call God, or the truth,
whatever you want to say. If it is infinite,
if, we think it is– if it is infinite– then there must be infinite
ways of reaching it. It can’t be one. See all the problems,
even in this world, start when we say
there is only one way. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: Even in a small
setup like your own home, I have a wife. I’m a married man. I am not a monk. If I insist that I’m always
right and my wife is wrong, how do you live this way? Because it’s a fact that
she may be right many times. So I also learned that
the second point– to look at things
from different angles. And say, hey, wait a minute. There are different
ways of looking at it. You don’t become so caught up
in what you are saying is right. There may be different ways. And the third is a healthy
concern for all living beings. PRASAD SETTY: Hm. SRI M: Now living beings also
includes trees and plants, [INAUDIBLE]. In some way, they
are all living. And we like to think that
only those things are living which can move. The tree doesn’t
move, but it lives. So this is like the
first point which I said, that we are part of this whole. W, actually whole,
not H-O-L-E hole. We are part of this whole. And we have a place in
the system, of course. And the less selfish
we become, the better we merge with the system. And fourth, since you
asked for points– PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: –you can put
them into points. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: The fourth be
that there are ways and means to get in touch with
the essence of your being. It’s beyond all religions and
doctrines and philosophies. There is a way. There are ways of getting
in touch with the core of your consciousness. Once you get in touch with the
core of your consciousness, or even begin to see
this possibility, then you can no longer
be the same person. You may dress the same, but
you can’t be the same person. You see everything
reflected as one. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. So talking about
those practices then, is that where things like
meditation and mindfulness, et cetera, come into play? And how would you distinguish–
are they the same things when you think about
mindfulness, when you think about meditation? Are they the same? Are they different concepts? Can you share a little more
about the practices themselves? SRI M: When I say practice,
it need not necessarily mean a technique. Techniques are there, of
course, very important. However, when I say practice it
means it starts with a mindset first. When we say we want
to find out, then it begins with a
mindset which says, let me explore this with
no prejudice whatsoever. PRASAD SETTY: Right. Right. Keep an open mind. SRI M: Keep an open mind. So that is the first step. There are two kinds
of people, generally. There are many kinds of people. But you can divide them
into those who say, well, I am very scientific. I’m very materialistic. I don’t believe. Now what I’m saying is that
if you start with an inquiry saying I don’t believe,
then you cannot inquire. PRASAD SETTY: Right. SRI M: For that’s a
distracting point. PRASAD SETTY: Right. SRI M: At least
suspend your judgment, and say, let me find out. There’s the other set which
is so deeply religious, and it doesn’t
believe in anything that is material and
physical and scientific. This is another extreme. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: So we have to find
a middle point somewhere. If you do that, then it’s
possible to slowly explore. This mindset has
to develop first. Then, if you do this,
you’ll discover also that the entire journey starts– the first starting point
of this spiritual journey is a quiet mind. You know our mind is
always distracted. PRASAD SETTY: Right. Right. And we keeping
inventing new things. SRI M: We keep
inventing new things. It’s OK to invent
physically new things. But we keep inventing new
ideas, which sometimes may be quite not conducive
to human welfare also, many a time. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: So also you will
notice that you can’t sit– we can’t sit with our mind
calm even for a minute. It’s jumping around. PRASAD SETTY: Yeah. SRI M: So the
starting point, if you need to really explore the
core of your consciousness, is a quiet mind. So therefore when it
comes to technique, we need to figure out some
method by which you can still your mind and make it quiet. The mind can never
become thoughtless. It’s quite a
contradiction to say that I have a thoughtless mind. If you have a
thoughtless mind, you won’t even know who
you are, where you are. I can say calm mind, quiet mind. Mind which is positive. Mind which is not
agitated all the time. Mind that is not always in
conflict and contradictions, such a mind. Now for that– that
is a starting point. Without that, you can’t
explore this vast thing called consciousness. PRASAD SETTY: Right. SRI M: So first, we
understand this theoretically, as we discussed. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: Then we see other
ways by which, at least, you can start
quietening your mind. Ultimate quietness
of mind comes when you’ve touched this,
whatever we’re aiming at. But you have to start somewhere. So you should have some method
by which every day, at least for 10 or 15 minutes, you can
quieten your mind, sit quietly. There are a couple
of techniques, many techniques, actually,
depends on the person. Some people get very quiet
when they just sit and pray. That’s fine. There are those who
don’t believe in that, so they have to find other
ways of quietening your mind. If you have none
of these, like yoga is one way of quietening your
mind, which is pranayama, watching the breath. Working with the breath
is a beautiful way of quietening your mind. OK, if you don’t want
any of these things, are you interested in something
like music, for instance? So can we sit for
10, 15 minutes, just listen to beautiful music,
music which calms you down. There are all kinds of music. There is some music, the moment
you listen you start moving. That’s OK for a certain
circumstance, but not here. So here you need like
good classical music. I love, myself, I like
Beethoven symphonies or Brahms. There are many,
even in the West. It is not as if
there’s only in India. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: So if you get interested
in, for instance, music, and spend half an hour, one hour
completely absorbed in it, when you are fully absorbed in
it, if you quietly reflect, you will see that your
mind has become calm. There is no
distraction out there. Distraction happens when
I am not interested, and I’m forcing my
mind to get into. This is when distraction comes. When I am really absorbed,
there is no distraction, which means every human
being has the potential to remain undistracted. PRASAD SETTY: Right. SRI M: It is not
properly tapped. PRASAD SETTY: How do you
develop that practice? Many people in the audience
and those who are listening, perhaps, have young kids. And kids nowadays are growing
up with a lot of technology that just keeps them occupied,
right, but it also leads to distractions. Any thoughts on how
do you cultivate this practice and this kind of
thinking, even at a young age? SRI M: OK, now children,
especially little kids, more than teaching them, we
have to set an example to them, you know? If I live a kind of life, and
I teach them, hey, be calm, it doesn’t work. Because they are
very intelligent. They know exactly
where you stand. So when you have
children, if you lead a life which is
conducive to quietness, then they will start imitating. OK. The other thing is children
are full of energy. They want to do many things. I will give an example. There are some kids who
love to paint and draw. For them, the wall in the
bedroom or the sitting room is a canvas. They start drawing on
it, scribbling on it. And what is the first
reaction we have? Hey, don’t do it on the wall. You’re actually killing
the genius out of there. So what is the solution? We can’t get canvases
and hang them everywhere. So the other day there was
this problem, actually. And I advised the parents, can
you leave one wall for the kid? Any time you want to
draw, use this wall. Don’t say don’t draw. Don’t stop. So we need to understand
the child first. And very often we should
know that children are sometimes wiser than grownups. We like to think because we
have a lot of experience we know everything. But sometimes child can
teach us many things. So if there is
this understanding between this child
and the parents, then the child also is
very happy with this. Because he sees the
parents as not somebody who is trying to
impose things on them. People want interacting. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: So these are some of
the things that we can follow. PRASAD SETTY: Yeah. SRI M: So if they find you
getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth, and
sitting down quietly, they will ask curiously,
what’s happening? Don’t tell them, you sit down. PRASAD SETTY: Yeah. Provide a role model for them. SRI M: You need to. PRASAD SETTY: A
role model for them. Going back to the Himalayas,
you spent 2 and 1/2 years. As you mentioned, when
you met your master, your initial thought was,
I’m going to stay with you. But then after 2 and
1/2 years, you know, you came back down south. Tell us about the decision
and how you made that. SRI M: There is a
very nice description in the autobiography. But I’ll tell you. After 2 and 1/2
years or three years, roughly almost three
years, when I was mostly with my master,
Maheshwarnath Babaji, walking everywhere
in the Himalayas because he was a
man who wouldn’t use any kind of transport. He always walked. Maybe later on, the walk of hope
originated there from my mind. So one day, he
dropped a bombshell. I had forgotten everything about
my home and everything about– and I was quite happy,
actually, really, really happy. Suddenly, one day
he said to me, now it’s time for you to go back. This was something
I did not expect. It’s time for you to go back. I said, oh, Babaji,
where would I go back? Because there’s no
place to go back. I have burned my bridges. There’s nothing left. And here, I’m happy. So he said to me,
I thought I was working on you all these
years to make your mind, to expand your mind. Looks like your mind
is narrowed down. It’s thinking only about
yourself and the Himalayas. What about the wide world? So I said, but still,
I can work from here. He said, no, you
cannot work from here. You go back and bless. You have a special role to play. I trained you not for– I didn’t want to waste
my time with you. And you have a
special role to play. Go back, be normal. I mean, you can’t be normal. [LAUGHTER] SRI M: Pretend to
be normal, and be– you know, wear ordinary
clothes and just stay. And then later on,
when you feel like it, you might probably find
somebody and lead a married life and have kids. He said, most of the people
who come to you are not monks. They are people who lead
a life in this world. So you are in no position
to give them any advice if you don’t know
what it is all about. So go back, lead a normal life. Work for your living. We’ll see as, if
you find somebody, we’ll see how it works. PRASAD SETTY: Mhm. SRI M: So very
reluctantly, I left. And not only that,
after leaving home, I had not informed my mother. So nobody knew where I was. In fact, my parents
thought that I’d died. And I was the only
son in the family. In India, it’s very
important, son– only son and eldest,
oldest of the family. So they were completely– their hearts were
broken in a way. So Babaji told me, you are
not going back like this, as you are now. Because those days, you
know, I never used to cut– I had very thick growth of– in my head, the hair. So like Babaji, I always used
to tie it up to about this high. And I used to have a
[INAUDIBLE] bead on my neck. I used to wear just a white
piece of cloth and sleeveless. And since Babaji belonged
to the Nath tradition, we are all supposed
to wear rings. So I had rings in my ears. So Babaji said, you
are not going like this in front of your mother. Already she has a problem,
and she might probably get a heart attack straight. So he sent me to Delhi. And he had a disciple who
lived there, was a businessman. And he had instructed him
to go take me to the tailor, get me a pair of pants,
and he was so kind. So when people talk
of mindfulness, I always say mindfulness is not
just sitting down and looking at your mind. Mindfulness is minding
other people, how they feel. So he said, then he also
said go to the barber and get a decent haircut. I was about to ask
him, what about you? [LAUGHTER] SRI M: Get a decent haircut
and go back, like, you know. Then he said, remove
your earrings. I was really unhappy, because
I was so fond of them. Anyway, they were copper. So I got them out. Now what? He said, put it into
the Ganga, there you go. PRASAD SETTY: What
was it like when you came back and met your
family after all those years? SRI M: You know, they
thought that I had died. In fact, somebody told me that
they saw an ad in the paper, in the “Indian Express,”
saying, please let us know if you find this guy. So my mother was
shaken when she saw me. I don’t think she
could say anything. She just hugged me and cried. There was nothing she could say. And my father was a little
more controlled kind of person. So he just said, so how are you? Was everything OK? I said everything’s OK. Are you going back? Will you be staying here? I said I am staying here. OK, that’s fine. So it was like that. I don’t know later, what
they talked among themselves. I have no idea. So this is how it happened. So I went back, and just
as Babaji instructed, I started finding work
here and there, doing– I worked as a journalist
for some time. I did many things. I worked for NGOs. I did quite a lot. Because I was sure I
couldn’t do the business, which he was doing. He was into construction. And construction is one of
the most corrupt businesses possible and I just
couldn’t fit into it. So I didn’t do that. He was unhappy, but it’s OK. I mean? So this is how it was. Then I met this girl
who I got married to. We have a nine-year difference. And we started our life. And I’m here now. Yeah. PRASAD SETTY: Very nice. I have a couple
of more questions, and then we’ll turn it
over to the audience. I wanted to shift our attention
to the Walk of Hope itself, and how did you get that idea? What exactly were you
trying to accomplish, and how do you characterize it? You have done a couple of them,
one in India, one in Europe. So tell us about that. SRI M: The Walk of Hope
in India is basically, you know, there is always– in India, there’s always this
difference of religion, God, create going on. Difficult to say at one
time it’s less or more, but it’s there. So I was in a unique position
to go and tell people that this is not required. You don’t have to fight
in the name of religion, in the name of– you know? My idea was, if you want,
you can stay in peace and still accomplish
what you have to do. In fact, you can
accomplish things better if you can
bring about some peace. You may have
differences of opinion, but everybody has
different ways of thought. You can still live together. You can’t become the same. But you can be different
and yet be one. We are humanity, after all. So I thought the best
way to talk about this would be to take a walk. You know, from ancient
times, many people have walked whenever they wanted
to do something important. Many people asked me, in this
jet age, why are you walking? I said, in this jet
age, I wish everybody walked at least for
20 minutes every day. I was walking for over
one year and four months. And there were many
people walking with me. There are some people
here who walked with me. So it was a unique experience. One, I was sending the message
that we are human beings. Let’s drop the differences
and live together. Two, I was trying
to convey this– that there is no high or low. You might be economically poor,
somebody may be very rich. But when it comes to grief
and difficulties and problems, it’s common to all,
and the same– the joys are common to all. Everybody has some kind of joy. These are things which
are not different just because you are
Thomas, or you are [INAUDIBLE], or a Ranganath. You still have your sorrows,
you still have your joys. You are no different. So this was one of the
reasons why I walked. And walking makes a
lot of difference. You actually are
with the people. It’s like literally when
you say down to earth. When you walk, you’re
down to earth, really, touching your feet to the earth. You’re not flying. So I think it did make a good
impact, because we walked from village to village, city to
city, met all kinds of people. Not only could we sow
some seeds of harmony, we also learned a lot. Not only did we learn from the
villages and people we met, we also learned among
ourselves in the group that we were how minds worked. It’s easy to stare away
and pretend to be nice. But when you are together
you’re not always nice, see? So all these things had
great lessons to be learned. So I think– well, we
have sowed the seeds. But I don’t think you can
expect a big tree to grow after five days or two years. It takes time. Now we need to work on this. So having seen
this, some friends from abroad had come
and walked with us. Like, somebody
came from Germany. So they organized
a talk in Berlin. So we had to walk in
Berlin city for a day. Then in Netherlands,
in Hague, which is the International
Court of Justice, so they organized
a very big walk. It was only for a day. But there were over
1,500 people walking. And they are saying, every year
we need to repeat this walk. And there were all
kinds of people. There were immigrants. There were people from
there, the Dutch, and so on. So I think the movement
is slowly catching up. People are beginning to see
me as the man who walks. You know, when I was young,
I used to read comic books. Phantom was called
a ghost who walks. It’s like the man who walks. [LAUGHTER] PRASAD SETTY: One last question
and then we’ll turn it over to the audience. I’m curious, like, whether
it’s the Himalayas, whether it’s the Walk of
Hope itself, like just what even the mundane things– how did you prepare
for something that is so elaborate,
so strenuous on the body, and things
like food, right? Like, we can’t go 50
feet anywhere at Google without running into food. When you were taking
on journeys like this, like, what was your– SRI M: I’m sorry
I’m not looking– [LAUGHTER] SRI M: You see, if you ask
me, I really don’t know. I don’t know how it–
the whole thing happened. I really don’t know. It just happened. I think we were very
sincere about it. There were no vested
interests anywhere. So it just– from day one,
we did face some problems here and there. But it worked out. And we very carefully kept
out big corporate institutions from funding us, especially
the liquor lobby. PRASAD SETTY: Mhm. SRI M: Because
that means we would have to take their banners. We didn’t want any banners
except A Walk of Hope. PRASAD SETTY: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. SRI M: But I think it’s– there were about a handful
of people who organized it. They did commit
mistakes, no question. But they were, deep down, quite
sincere about these things. So it worked out quite well. And I used to have review
meetings every now and then, and see how things were going. And if there was something
wrong, we tried to correct it. Because we knew that you
can’t solve all the problems before we start. PRASAD SETTY: Sure. SRI M: It’s a completely
unique experience. In fact, many political
leaders came and asked me, how did you manage this? Even with our party in tow,
we are not able to do this. How do you do this? I said, I don’t know. Why not? If you don’t know, you
should be sincere enough to say you don’t know. PRASAD SETTY: Right, right. SRI M: And the
problems in the world are because everybody knows. And nobody doesn’t know. PRASAD SETTY: A question
from the audience– we have a mic out here. So we do have a roving
mic, and we are now ready for any
audience questions. Anyone? Yes, so there. AUDIENCE: I think
you had a live master to guide you in your path. And we are very lucky
this day and age, you know, like YouTube
brings us– like, once you get interested in a
topic, all that you have to do is, like, deciding which, one
or two, gifts coming and coming. So that way we are
very, very fortunate in getting the information,
whether it is open issues or what, as you said,
infinite paths are there. So whatever path appeals
to the individual, we are able to get more
information on learning the techniques, to
seek the truth however we think aligns with us. My main question is– because I consider my– it’s again another label,
but a seeker or whatever– my question is, is it possible
to realize the true nature of consciousness without
having experience like you had with the live master? And assuming it’s possible,
then I have a second question. That even assume you did
have direct experience of your true
nature, how does one integrate it in everyday
life in this modern times? SRI M: Yep. You might read about some
extraordinary experiences, what’s your name? [INAUDIBLE]– AUDIENCE: Yes. SRI M: –experiences in my book. However, I think
in my case, there was a special kind
of training required. So that when I go out
into the wide world, I can deal with people
in different ways. I don’t think everybody
needs to go through all that. If you don’t go
through all that, it doesn’t mean you’re any less
spiritually evolved or anything of that kind. Because there are
many ways of doing it. I did have a live master,
yes, I agree with you. Many people may not have. Actually, it’s good to
have a wrong live master than no master at all,
when you might end up for many years in a mess. So it’s better that you do
it yourself in many ways. So my suggestion in this
matter is that there is literature available, go to it. And then see what is
your kind of approach. Suppose somebody says, oh,
you should leave everything, and then all these things. But it’s not your cup of tea. You can’t do that,
somebody else, maybe. OK? It’s not wrong or right. I’m just saying it’s
not your approach. So take time to
look and figure out what would be your
approach to this. Especially if you’re a
thinking human being, you’d be more
interested in a part where there is thought
process involved and when you’re
trying to figure out where are we going,
where have we started, why are we here, and so on. If the journey starts,
then when required– this is my experience– the help on this path
would come from somewhere. It may not be one person. It may be many people. But it will come
somehow, because that is the law of this
particular journey. That when you need, you will
get help from somewhere, provided you are sincere about
it, if we are sincere about it. So that’s one part of the
question you asked me. In fact, without going
to the Himalayas, you can do it at your home. You don’t have to
go to the Himalayas, but you can go to the
Himalayas sometimes. You don’t have to live
there for two years. It’s not required. Your own little bedroom can be
converted into the Himalayas, if you want. The second part
of your question– if I got it right– were the challenges of
day-to-day existence, yeah? How can we do this? I think in the
beginning, it’s not easy. But you learn to come
to terms with it, because you know that you
can’t discard it altogether. So you’ve tried
to do things which are more conducive to your
spiritual progress also and drop things which
you think not required, not drop everything. And then, as you
go along in life, you will need to meet your
challenges individually, and try to sort them out. Now, in this process,
what would help, probably, is to read the
biographical touches, descriptions, auto-
or non-autobiographies and see how these
people handled it. You don’t have to
imitate anybody. But you can get
information and see how it’s possible to tackle it. And if you need
some kind of advice, you wonder how to get
it, search around. You’ll find– if you want my
email, you can write to me. There’s no problem. I can do my best. AUDIENCE: Thank you. PRASAD SETTY: Next question? Yes? AUDIENCE: Sir, I have a question
about meditation and mantras. With Maheshwarnath Babaji,
you have gone through with us and of the meanings
of [INAUDIBLE] and the other stuff. I was, like, every
Hindu, and also I know Muslims and
Christians, they pray to God by chanting
mantras every day, like a 15 minutes prayer. My question is how useful it is
in a person’s spiritual journey compared to meditation,
sitting there, you know, sitting in meditation
for hours or an hour? So how does this
help, like chanting prayers versus meditation? SRI M: You know this, again,
is a very big question. But let me tell you that
chanting of a mantra can [INAUDIBLE] you
to calming the mind. And meditation is calming the
mind, at least to start with. Therefore, the mantras maybe
useful in whichever language they are. You can even have
an English mantra. It doesn’t matter. However, some of these
ancient mantras have a sound. Not only– they
are not only words, but there are some
sounds relating to them that when you chant them, it
brings about a certain change in consciousness. So therefore, it’s important. Let me give you an example. From 1,000 years or
so, the Gayatri mantra has been chanted in India. When a child is small, they
are given the Gayatri mantra. Unfortunately, I think
this was an aberration that came in later. Only a certain section got it. But I think it
was an aberration. I think any one who
needs to lead a good life should be chanting in that. It’s good. Now the meaning of the
mantra is one thing. It simply says, if you
lived at beginning, and come to the last part,
which is to pit the meaning of the mantra [NON-ENGLISH]
means may my understanding be stimulated. That’s what you’re asking for. You’re not asking
for anything else. May my understanding
be stimulated. See? So the meaning is very
profound and deep. Plus, the sound of
the mantra itself has a certain vibration,
which is effective because it’s started om. Om is another sound. Now please don’t classify om
as belonging to this religion or that religion. It’s a sound. It so happened that it
was written in Sanskrit in ancient times. Because in India,
a lot of people were seriously interested in
exploring the other realms and the spirit. So it developed well there. That’s the only reason
why it’s in Sanskrit. Om is a sound. So you can chant just om
and listen to it carefully. That itself brings
about a certain change. And do not draw a dividing
line between meditation and chanting, because
they’re kind of– they overlap each other. However, that doesn’t mean that
you cannot meditate without chanting. This is also possible. Now to give you a typical
case, Ramana Maharshi did not chant any mantra. He only meditated. So it depends on the person
and what kind of path you are following. However, generally I would say
it’s nice to listen to hymns, to sing songs, to
chant mantras, OK? AUDIENCE: And another part
of this, is it om or owm? SRI M: Now here some people
exaggerate too much on this. And if you ask them
to chant om, they’ll go on for half a minute, ahh. It’s om. Because om is made
of ah ooh and muh. OK, agreed, but you don’t
have to keep on chanting ah as if somebody is hurting you. You just say– you
start with ah and then you immediately shirt on to
ooh and then come to muh. So it’s om. And since you asked
this question, the most important
part of the mantra, which can bring about
internal change, especially in your
energy centers is the last part of
om, which is muh– not muh, but mm. Mm is muh, right? The letter is m,
muh, not the same. So when you chant om, you see? Om– [HOLDING THE M, HUMMING IT]
that is a very effective vibration to bring about change
in your energy systems inside you. In fact, it’s the
most natural sound. We all know that. You go to any hospital where
people are convalescing, the most common sound you hear
is mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm? [LAUGHTER] SRI M: Even when you
say as s, there’s a mm. It doesn’t have a
language, right? So this sound is a
very important part of our inner soothing of
the mind and the body. So why I’m saying this is,
some people refuse to chant. Oh, this is from
the Hindu script. It’s a sound. This is like I had a big
argument recently– not argument. I don’t have arguments. I heard a discussion
of a person who decided that those who are
in India, who are Muslims, should not do Surya Namaskara. Now Surya Namaskara
is a yogi practice. His theory was–
quite of an old man, he comes and keeps talking. His theory was that you are not
supposed to bow down to anyone other than the supreme
god, what you call him, whatever you want to call him. So therefore when you go
down Surya Namaskara mean– implies you are bowing
down to Surya, the sun. So we can’t do this. You’re not supposed to do this. I said, listen. Actually, after he had talked,
the TV people came to me and said, please have
dialogue with this guy. So I said OK. So I said, OK, how many people
do Surya Namaskara in the open? Most people do inside. Where is the sun here? [LAUGHTER] SRI M: They are exercises,
yogic exercises. You don’t have to bow down
to the sun if you don’t want. It’ll be nice to
bow down to the sun, because without sun the
whole Earth will collapse. There would be no life. Sun is a visible
representation of the divine. Because there would
be no photosynthesis, you won’t even get vegetables
to eat without the sun. So that’s OK. I said, if you don’t want
to, do it in a closed room. Then I told him, if
you go to a doctor, and he says you have
a heart problem. And one of the
things you should do is perform Surya Namaskara
half an hour every day, would you do it,
or would you die? [LAUGHTER] SRI M: So please, get
out of this mindset. It has nothing to do with it. So that’s why I am telling you. Please chant om. Don’t think this
is not Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Muslim. It’s a sound. Understand what
I’m trying to say. And when you say om, don’t
keep choking ah like that. Sounds like somebody’s hurt. Just accept it somewhere
and then go to ooh and muh. AUDIENCE: So I’m from
Trivandrum myself. And reading your book, it
made me very, very nostalgic at the description
of the streets. And I’ve been through
many of those myself, so it is very nostalgic. My question to
you is you briefly mentioned that at some point
you were able to connect with your consciousness. And after that, things
dramatically changed. And it was– it could
never be the same again. Could you explain what that is? Or in a way we
can understand it? SRI M: First of all,
since you said you are from where in Trivandrum? Where are you from? AUDIENCE: From Karamana. SRI M: Karamana. What’s your name? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. SRI M: [INAUDIBLE]. Somebody who lives
close to Karamana here. Ah. Anyway, when I said
in my book that I had a certain spiritual
experience after which life is not the same anymore,
that’s something like that, what I said. It’s a deep
experience I had when I was with my master
in the Himalayas when I suddenly discovered
that the consciousness is not confined to just one little
point, but it’s all-pervading. It works through
different centers. But it’s not really
belonging to you or to me, it’s for everyone. Not as a theory, but
as an experience. If you think of
this as possible, I would like to refer you
to a [INAUDIBLE] case, which is not of a meditator,
but of someone who had a brain hemorrhage. I’m just saying, how
can this be possible that we feel that you are there
and here at the same time. It is not possible,
but it is possible. And here, I’ll
refer you to a book by Jill Bolte called
“My Stroke of Insight.” She was a– I think she was a
doctor or a pathologist or something of that kind. And she had a stroke. And with the stroke,
what happened was the left side of her
brain was totally paralyzed, and only the right
side was working. You know, we have a left
brain and right brain. See the left brain is the
one that calculates and says, oh, when you say you are
[? m, ?] your consciousness is confined to this
limit only, not here. It’d be mad if I said,
this is [? m, ?] normally. In this lady’s case,
the calculating brain, which decides your
space and time dimensions, which is the
left, was kind of completely paralyzed. She recovered enough to write
about it, of course, later. And her right brain was
fully awake, still working. That’s when, according
to her, she figured out that when she was in the room
and there were these birds outside and the breeze blowing
and the leaves shaking, it was not as if the leaves
were moving, she was moving. It was not as if the birds
were singing, she was singing. She was not singing,
but she was singing! You get what I’m trying to say? So I’m not saying we
should all have a brain hemorrhage to experience this. I’m saying that there are ways
and means in yoga by which this can be brought about
without a hemorrhage. So after that,
once you feel that, then you cannot be the same. Your life changes. You can’t be the same. I think that’s self-evident. PRASAD SETTY: Maybe
one more question. Yes? SRI M: Ah, only one. [CLAPS] AUDIENCE: My name is Vic– Vivek. Thank you for coming. SRI M: What’s your name? AUDIENCE: Vivek. Vivek Rao. SRI M: Vivek. AUDIENCE: My sister was
on the walk with you. Her name is Sunita. SRI M: Oh, Sunita! We have a big joke, you know. That when we entered Nashik,
from somewhere a monkey came down, and bit her. PRASAD SETTY: Oh. SRI M: Yeah, so
nothing happened. We gave her some injections. She was fine. But I have this joke. Every time I see her,
it’s to watch out. AUDIENCE: So I have a question
about advaita and non-duality, which I’ve been thinking
about for a long time. So if we are really
not separate, if there is only
one thing, then how do we reconcile that with
karma and reincarnation? What is the entity
that is reborn? What is the entity to
which karma attaches if there is no separation? SRI M: As long as there is an
ignorance of this understanding and experience, then all
these things are really real. Where does an entity separate? Where is the reincarnation? Everything is going on. The moment it is actually
understood and experienced that there is only one, then
there is no reincarnation, there is no nothing! It’s the mind that
decide on this. You– right now we are
living in this dream. And if anybody says this is
a dream, we won’t believe it. Because in the
dream, all my dream, when we are chased by a tiger,
do we say this is a dream or do we run for our lives? I’m just giving you an example. Examples are not perfect. And when I come
out of the dream, I say, ah, this
was a great dream. I may still be sweating
and palpitating, but I say, oh, this was a dream. So according to the
theory of advaita, when the truth is understood,
then all these things do not exist. I mean they exist, but
they are not part of it. As long as that
is not understood you’re still in the
circuit, coming, going, separate feeling. I’m different. You’re different. Look, Shankara is the right– is the well-known
interpreter of [INAUDIBLE],, advaita philosophy. And even after that,
I think he fully believed that the mind can be
reborn, come, go, everything, even after having
that experience. So which means that at
one stage, it is real. In another state, it is not. From the ultimate point,
there is no such thing. OK one more. AUDIENCE: Then why do
we have this separation? Why are we not born– SRI M: I thought he was
going to ask that question. AUDIENCE: Yeah, I thought he
was going to ask that question. Why are we not born with like– SRI M: We don’t know. But it is so. There are many things
which we don’t know. But it happens to be so. And now, since it happens to
be so, how do we get out of it? That should be the question. Why in the first place
it became like that? We have no explanation
for many things in the universe that way. Perhaps we may
discover at some point. If I may say so, all
people who have discovered the way, if anybody
has, have not been able to explain
it to somebody who has not touched it. We understand what
I am trying to say? You cannot explain it. It’s not possible. It doesn’t mean that
you have not found it. There are many things which
language and our thought process cannot define and catch. Those things it is better
leave it like that. But the actual fact is
that we are suffering. We need to get
out of it somehow. Perhaps when we get
out, we find the source and why it does happen. I’ll give you a small
story before we wind up. This was Buddha’s
very popular story. And somebody asked him about the
same thing in a different way. Where did the first karma start? Why are we going on and on? He said, listen. You have gone into a
garden to eat fruits. Somebody shoots an arrow at you. The arrow is stuck in
your chest, there is pain, and you might die soon
if you don’t pull it out and do something about it. So the Buddha’s question
was, lying down there in pain with the arrow in your chest,
what would you do first? Would you try to pull it out
and free yourself, and then figure out where it came from? Or would you lie down there
and say, who sends this arrow, where has it come from? How do I find the source? [LAUGHTER] SRI M: You see? So in this urgency of
pain, you need to get out. Perhaps when you
get out, you might be able to go out and see
who has sent this arrow. And it may be so
that you may not be able to explain it
to the other guy who’s still laying down with
the arrow in his heart. But I’m just trying to give
a theoretical question– an answer to a
theoretical question. But it comes from
my understanding. What’s your name? AUDIENCE: Raj. SRI M: Raj. Thank you very much. I think now– AUDIENCE: Can I– can I
have one last question? [LAUGHTER] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] SRI M: First, are we aware
that the arrow is there? Yes, first step is that,
that I feel there pain. There is an arrow’s [INAUDIBLE]. Understand this fully first. If you understand
this fully, then you will find ways to take it out. Many people have the arrow,
but they eat lollipops and think that it’s OK. The seriousness of
trying to get out of it comes when you really
understand that it is so first. Self-realization
does not mean to say that I am the Supreme Brahman. I’m not this body. That’s not [INAUDIBLE]. Self-realization
means to find out where I stand at the moment. What is life to me? Who am I in this context,
not that context? When these things
are clear, you’ll suddenly see a small little
part going to separate it. But it must be urgent. I really have to get out. Till that thing comes,
whatever if I tell you the path is not going to work? Hm? I hope you understood
what I am trying. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. PRASAD SETTY: Thanks


  • siva nair says:

    Namaskar sir !!

  • Lakshmi Gutta says:

    Thanks to Sri M ji and Google . 🙏

  • yash sandhu says:

    A syncretic product of science & spirituality is Indian philosophical tradition!!

  • Manuuncle Manoraajyam says:

    Sri. M has to explain well the importance of making india a Hindu country. By Hindu country I mean, making bhagavat geeta, upanishads etc compulsary in our education system. Countries like denmark has included bhagavat gita in syllabus

  • Vindawg says:

    Excellent talk. The final q&a section is particularly enlightening, the last 10 minutes the most. If anyone is interested in reading or listening to more of Sri M's words there is a large range of material available on his website ( ) including digital downloads. Unfortunately, at this point only purchases can be made via Indian debit/credit cards but some of his other books are avilable in Amazon worldwide

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