Mumtaz Ali, popularly known as Sri M, is the founder of Satsang Foundation, a charitable organisation dedicated to educational, health and spiritual institutes committed to improving the lives of people in need. Sri M answered questions through email. Excerpts:
At what age did you start learning about Hinduism?
At the age of ten or so. Well, I could understand quite a bit to my surprise.
What was the first scripture or book you read and did it influence your thoughts?
The first book about Hinduism was by Swami Chinmayananda, called ‘Japa, Yoga and Gayatri.’ It opened my eyes to the profundity of the Vedas on the one hand and psychology. It sharpened my thinking capacity.
What was the reaction in your family, when you were involved in deep study of Hindu religion?
My mother did not know what was happening and my father was already interested in the subject considering that I found the booklet on his study table. I think he was mildly amused.
Can you describe what actually happened to you under the jackfruit tree in your house?
I was only nine when I saw the tall, long-haired, sparsely clad stranger, under the jackfruit tree. I felt no fear and walked up to him when he gestured to me. He laid his hand on my head, said in Hindi (He spoke Deccani Urdu at that time which is very much like Hindi) “When the time comes, everything will be all right.” Then he said, “Go home.” I walked back to the back door, turned and saw that he had gone.
There are many unbelievable instances for a common reader. Has anybody questioned you on these incidents?
Yes, some have questioned me. I can only speak from my personal experience. Truth, my dear Sir, is stranger than fiction!
Your description of the lives of sadhus in Himalayas is fascinating, especially those living in the caves...
First of all, they live in solitude and do not like potential reporters like me. All I can say is that they spend most of the time in spiritual practices and do not care much about physical comforts. Some have developed the capacity to withstand the inclement weather. They shun publicity.
You travel up to Kailash where you are introduced to Jesus and Guru Nanak. How do you experience these visuals and how to believe them?
These were not physical experiences, but happened in an altered state of consciousness. I know the next question would be what if these were hallucinations. May I counter by asking how real is the sunrise and sunset. We see with our own eyes every day, when actually the sun neither rises nor sets and it is the earth that moves.
Do you believe in re-birth?
For me, re-birth is a fact, not a belief. It is my own experience. I am toying with the idea of writing about it, but have shelved it so far, considering the current sceptical mindset of many readers.
What was Mr. Kalam’s reaction to your activities?
He did not give me any advice. He is a good-hearted soul is the impression I got in my interactions with him.
Is there a scientific answer to all the abnormal happenings?
Yes, except that some of the laws that operate are as yet unknown generally.
What was the reaction of the audience both in India and abroad to your speeches on the Gita, Upanishads, etc.?
It was quite mixed, but I was welcomed, listened to carefully, appreciated and given a lot of respect, considering my rather unusual background.
Have you come across anybody from Muslim organisation that objected to your preaching Hindu scriptures?
Yes, sure. But also there were those who welcomed it.
What have you learnt from this life?
Plenty. The most important understanding is that the whole world is one vast network and to isolate oneself into small exclusive groups is to enter the realm of misery.