Sri M spoke of the relevance of sacred texts as a management mantra at his three-day Gita discourse in the city recently. The spiritual guide and educationist had the packed hall enthralled. The social reformer wrote his memoir Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master – A Yogi’s Autobiography in 2011, and followed it up with The Journey Continues . He presently heads the Satsang Foundation at Madanapalle in Andhra Pradesh, which serves as the meeting point for spiritual seekers of all persuasions besides promoting excellence in education. On the sidelines of his presentation, he spoke to MetroPlus of his spiritual and moral journey and the divine call that took him from his parents. Excerpts.
How can the Bhagavad Gita help young professionals?
The battlefield in the Bhagavad Gita has been interpreted as an allegory for ethical and moral struggles. The Gita’s call to nurture an attitude to face the vicissitudes of life has inspired leaders such as Bala Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi who referred to the Gita as a spiritual dictionary. The Gita advocates selfless action as a way to attain one’s goal. The verses do not go into specifics of how to face problems at work or home. The Gita gives us ways to face odds. We are trying to interpret it for common understanding.
Could you tell us about your spiritual journey?
I was born into an educated Muslim family in Thiruvananthapuram and named Mumtaz Ali Khan. My father, a PWD contractor, studied philosophy from Kerala University and practiced Yoga. My grandmother was a devout Muslim and as a little boy I remember her telling me Sufi stories. The mystic element was kindled then. When I was nine, I had a divine call that got me absorbed into deep meditation. At 19, I was pulled towards meeting my guru in the Himalayas.
What was the reaction to your decision?
My parents detested my move to understand life in several perspectives and my relatives ex-communicated me. I do not subscribe to organised religion. I am interested in the deeper aspects, not religious rituals. I call myself Sri M, while my passport and bank accounts have my original name Mumtaz Ali. My guru at the Himalayas called me Madhukar Nath. I want to be a true human, Manav, so I chose to retain the common M.
What was your life like in the Himalayas?
After wandering for days I met Maheshwarnath Babaji, who didn’t accept me in the beginning. I knew he was the one who had given me a divine vision when I was nine. I persisted, and gradually he relented training me in Vedas, Upanishads, meditation and kriya yoga. He would ask me to fetch vegetables and learn to cook. My guru didn’t want me to drown in books, rather he wanted me to see the world. After three and a half years, he told me, ‘Go home, have a normal life, and help people with what you have learnt.’ I then got married and had two children. I started teaching in 1998, eventually leading to the formation of the Satsang Foundation.
What do you teach your followers?
I tell people not to talk too much, but read and get into open-minded discussions. Spiritual evolution is individual, it cannot be a mass phenomenon with meditation-technique franchises. Although my parampara is kriya yoga, I propound satsang as it cuts across barriers. Intervals of solitude are necessary, but you cannot shut yourself off totally. The world around you is your touchstone to spiritual practice.
What was your experience in the Walk of Hope?
The Walk of Hope started in January 2015 and ended in April 2016 covering 11 Indian States and 7,500 km. It was an exercise to restore the spirit of hope, love, peace and harmony.