Written by Pradeep Krishnan
“One’s ultimate aim in life should be mokṣa, or liberation, or self-realisation.”Dr. Subramanyam
Every visit to Sri Ramanashram, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, gives me unique opportunities to speed up my spiritual evolution. Each time, the spiritual energy emanating from the holy mountain, Arunachala, offers a different experience through books, people, incidents, etc., helping my progress. Absolutely aware of my limitations, I am convinced that each event acted as a pointer to tread my spiritual journey smoothly and comfortably. My visit in July 2019 was no exception. During my stay, one day, I was intuitively led to buy the book, ‘Tryst with Divinity’ written by S. Mohana Krishna about the life and teachings of the late Sri Anasuya Devi (1923-1985), a spiritual master, popularly known as Jillelamudi Amma. Soon, the author became a very close friend of mine, and we interacted as we had known each other for decades. One day, he suggested I meet Dr. M.M.V. Subramaniam, an enlightened master and read his book, ‘Awakening- A Guide for self-realisation.’
The book, ‘Awakening,’ is a practical guide not only to seekers but to all those who aspire to lead a contended and happy life. It throws light not only on spiritual issues but also on various mundane matters. In the forward to the book, PVSL Ramesh writes, “The author being an enlightened soul, instils a deep and broad understanding in the minds of the readers in solving the problems of human life and thereby leading a blissful and peaceful life all along.”
Interestingly, Dr. Subramaniam, a homoeopath by profession, does not prescribe any spiritual practices, nor does he deny any such methods. His view is that as everything in this world is predetermined, one should accept every situation or problem without any complaints or regrets. In fact, the book answered several of my own lingering doubts.
About the spiritual path, he says, “actual meaning of “spiritual” is Absolute truth. But nowadays, based on individuals, there are varied definitions suiting to one’s theory. Every religious practice, ritual, or occult practice may not be spiritual.”
Muthuraju Maruti Venkata Subramaniam was born on 17th November 1975 as the eldest son to M. Mohan Rao and M. Indira in Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, in a middle-class family. Since childhood, the young boy had a different perception of life and the world and remained in solitude most of the time. His family consists of his wife Smt. Mrudula and daughter Nischala.
As it has been my passion to meet enlightened souls to increase my spiritual quotient, reading the book at once convinced me that I must meet this young master. Our constant interactions over the phone resulted in us becoming very close, like siblings. When initially contacted, though, he was reluctant, as he is shy of publicity however, he finally succumbed to my persuasive requests for an online interview.
Pradeep Krishnan (PK): Dear brother, what was the turning point in your life?
Muthuraju Maruti Venkata Subramaniam (MMVS): In fact, in my life, there was no turning point as such. Since childhood, I have been very quiet and calm and always pondered over the reality behind the world, relations, incidents, life experiences, death and birth experienced by individuals. The question of what happens after death has always haunted me. I had spent most of my childhood alone and aloof from family gatherings. I don’t even know why I behaved like that, but I enjoyed my solitude. I did not talk much, even with my parents. I was always in search of something beyond this apparently projected world.
PK: Could you please explain the statement: “One’s ultimate aim in life should be attaining mokṣa or liberation or self-realisation.”
MMVS: I think this aspect has been grossly misunderstood by seekers. Since birth, every living being deals with the material world, which is ultimately perishable. Every being has come to experience life on this earth according to its given role. None can escape from this. That’s why all living beings, except man, function as per nature’s laws and principles and then perish. On the other hand, human beings alone develop a personal attachment to perishable things; surroundings, family, friends, relationships, body, caste, colour, creed, sex, religion, etc. No other living being behaves like this. But human beings alone have an adhesive tendency; to stick to all perishable objects and will try to keep them forever. This behaviour leads him/her to grief, sorrow, fear, insecurity, selfishness etc. Thus, we cannot say that human beings are greater than or wiser than other beings. The root cause of one’s grief is the identity crisis. That’s why spiritual masters advise getting detached from one’s ideology and identity to get rid of the so-called grief and fear. That detachment is actually the distancing of oneself from the idea of ME OR MINE, that is mokṣa.
One must realise that one is already free from attachment as well as bondage, which are mere thoughts. Once you realise that you are always free, within no time, you will be settled in the SELF.
PK: What do you mean by self-enquiry?
MMVS: As I said, we all are falsely identified with th psycho- biological limitations of the body. It is merely a thought. The Upaniṣads (scriptures of ancient India), as well as realised Masters, have constantly reminded us that as we are not the body, we are neither born nor are we going to die. But until one realises one’s true nature, these words remain as mere statements. To realise one’s true nature, one must ponder, “WHO AM I?” This self-questioning is called self-enquiry. This quest gradually enables one to realise one’s true self or nature, which is pure consciousness or stillness.
PK: For seekers, the pull of vāsanās is strong, and they complain that they are finding it difficult to get rid of their lower instincts.
MMVS: Constant inner enquiry of who has these strong “vāsanās,” helps a lot to eliminate this, as vāsanās cannot remain without EGO or “I”. One should enquire deeply into one’s own true nature and should constantly practise listening to the SELF. In conventional parlance, it is said that śravaṇa (listening), manana (contemplating), and nidi dhyāsana (absorbing) would ultimately lead one to realize the ĀTMAN or THE SELF. Another possible way is to live in the company of a realised person (A Jñānī).
PK: How can one benefit by reading a book or listening to a talk? In both cases, how to make the intellectual understanding experiential or how to put into practice what one has learnt?
MMVS: Reading a book (svādhyāya), or listening to a talk (śravaṇa) will definitely have an impact on one’s mind. Being indicators in the spiritual journey, they can guide us in a particular direction. However, one must be prepared to put into practice the teachings already imbibed from a book or from a talk. At the same time, understand that mere intellectual understanding will never give you the experience. Suppose someone says, “I know that I am Atman,” it is sure that he has not experienced it. On the other hand, once an individual is enthralled with the true experience of the Ātmic state, he/she remains as ĀTMAN instead of uttering it in words. Unfortunately, people on the path of self-inquiry often mistake intellectual understanding of Vedas (also scripture of ancient India), Upaniṣads and even Ramana Maharshi’s talks as experience.
PK: Many realised masters, though they don’t do/follow any rituals, advise the followers to undertake rituals/rites etc. Is this not a paradox?
MMVS: Yes, this may make others confused. Literally, karma means prārabdha karma (accumulated past karma that is to be experienced through the present body), hence practising rituals is to be considered part of the prārabdha. That is why everyone cannot put into practice the same ritual. One cannot perform a ritual unless it is part of his prārabdha karma. One’s every act to be done by the physical body must be part of one’s prabdha karma; otherwise, one cannot do it. In short, one does not have the free will to perform any sort of karma as he chooses; he is free only to do that which is part of his/her destiny.
PK: So, I do not have free will hence I don’t have control over my thoughts as they have already been programmed in me. How can I ever improve myself, as I have been incapacitated right from the beginning?
MMVS: As long as a man possesses an ego, he thinks he has free will. Similarly, he has an idea of influencing thoughts, events and plans about his future. But he cannot understand that every little incident of his life has already been made. Our life is like a movie which has been released to be played on the screen. While it is running on the screen, even the director sitting in the cinema hall and watching, cannot alter or replace the characters or script. So too, is our life. But it is too hard to accept this blatant reality due to our profoundly established EGO.
Everybody has their own likes and dislikes about their lives. So, they cannot accept the pre-determination of their life incidents. Their own likes and dislikes are responsible for their sense of doer-ship. As much they possess likes and dislikes, they are that much more stringent in their sense of doer-ship.
PK: In an answer to a question, you said, “The baby just exists, and that is all. It is an egoless state. In the course of time, the mind is formed, and with that, the idea of I, my and mine is formed.” Is not one’s natural physical growth a part designed by nature? My growth from a child to an adult, to middle age and old age, happen on their own. Please elaborate on this.
MMVS: Here, you are talking about physical growth. But what I have spoken about as the idea of “I” is a collective psychological formation. For a baby at the age of days or months, there would not be any identity of that existence. It just exists. But gradually, that baby forms the idea of “I” and “mine” in a collective process.
PK: If you consider that whatever is happening here is meaningless, what is the need for satsaṅgs (time in enlightened or elevating company, usually takes the form of conversation or questions and answers) and books?
MMVS: It is absolutely based on one’s own point of reference. Everybody believes and asserts that their life has a meaning and goal. But from the point of absolute truth, everything is a thought-based event. As long as your thought is followed by you, you will get the experience of the world, life, goals, and other biological, social, and economic events. So, we can easily understand that it is merely a thought projection. If you keenly observe the thoughts in your heart, you will find the source of all thoughts. You will realise that the source of all thoughts and the source finder are the same. So, the entire world is nothing but your own projection. This clearly indicates that if you are not there, there is no world for you. That is why it is meaningless. However, satsaṅgs and books will help you to go within and find the source.
PK: If I do not really exist, how can the question of my accumulating tendencies over several births arise? In that case, is not my taking several births to eliminate my habits guided by the collected tendencies a myth?
MMVS: Do you really realise that you do not exist? You have read books or listened to somebody’s talks. It is all about their experience. So first get the experience of absolute reality, then automatically, all your doubts will come to an end.
PK: What is your understanding of God?
MMVS: One is the absolute God that is consciousness (saccidānanda svarūpa). It has no form, name, attributes or any dimensions which can be experienced without the experiencer. Another is the mind-created conceptual God with many forms, names, attributes and dimensions, which can be experienced by the experiencer. So, it depends on the individual’s state of mind.
PK: You said, “As there is only one thing that exists, you need not undertake any such practice or put any effort.” However, almost all our Rishis, past and present, including Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi, have advised us to engage in a practice that suits our temperament.
MMVS: Yes, as long as one lives with the ego, effort and practice are needed. It is well and good if you settle in your heart without any effort. If you are haunted by your tendencies, you cannot settle down in your Self. For them, practices have been prescribed by ṛṣis (sages of ancient India) and Sri Ramana endorses it.
PK: Kindly explain your statement, “Spirituality is what we experience in our day-to-day life”.
MMVS: God Alone exists. Every action of every being is nothing but God’s Actions happening through his/her own will. Realising this fact through the various experiences of one’s day-to-day life is spirituality.
PK: While you say that people behave in accordance with the genetic code of likes and dislikes embedded in their genes, you also say that people are attached to certain identities. Dear, in your case, you have not identified, and in others, they are getting identified because of their genetic codes. How do you view this?
MMVS: Every trait and behaviour of the living being depends on two factors; one is hereditary, and the other is conditioning of the mind. While all the vāsanās or saṃskāras (tendencies) are embedded in one’s genes, conditioning is not hereditary. It plays a major role in this present time (vartaman) of that individual. I will give one example. A dog has a natural tendency to identify smells that cannot be erased by any amount of training. But one can train a dog as a sniffer dog to help in crimes. Similarly, in the spiritual path, a sādhak (seeker or practitioner) can train his mind by proper understanding (viveka) about the actual nature of the material world. That is why Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi always advised seekers to train their minds in the form of enquiry. Maharshi never insisted that anybody fight with their tendencies rather, he suggested training the mind to settle down in its source. When you search for the mind in you, it disappears. The whole confusion comes to an end.
About the author: Pradeep Krishnan is a seeker based in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and for the past three decades, he has been contributing articles on Indian culture and spirituality to several periodicals published in English/Hindi/Malayalam. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org