TALKING TO SANTOSH IS A PLEASURE. SHE DELIGHTS YOU WITH HER STRAIGHTFORWARD OBSERVATIONS AND HONEST OPINIONS (SOMETIMES EVEN BLUNT!) AND THAT IS WHAT STRIKES YOU AS REMARKABLE! WE APPROACHED HER WITH A BUNCH OF QUESTIONS AND HAD HER REGALE US WITH GENUINE, STRAIGHT-FROM-THE-HEART ANSWERS!
INTERVIEW WITH SHALLY KHEDKAR
Q: Hi Santosh! How would you describe yourself and your life so far? What are your memories of your childhood?
A: My life so far has been pretty normal. It has followed a natural course of events, in the sense that, I have gone through all the ups and downs any life would go through.
I remember how once in college we were asked by our teacher to write an essay. We were given a choice and I chose the quotation: “Stand aside and watch yourself go by, think of yourself as He instead of I.” Ever since, I feel I have lived life as an observer. With the result, my joys and sorrows were not in any way better or worse than those of the others were! In no way did I feel that it was only my lot to be suffering or to be happy! I acknowledged the sorrows, the heart aches, reveled in all the emotions of pain and ecstasy. In other words, I always enjoyed each emotion and moved on!
Have you ever experienced the cleansing of a good solid spell of heart-rending sobs? Try it! I have never been ashamed of myself, I laugh when I want to, I cry when I want to. I have never bothered about what others will think or say! I am a stickler for time. I will not let a friend down.
I am a very open person: there are no hidden agendas in my life! I say what I want to say, do what I want to do! The other day my daughter overheard me telling someone that ‘I am an honest person.’ She chided me for using such a hackneyed phrase. “But that is the truth, Shibani,” I told her. “Why shouldn’t I say that I am an honest person, when I know I am!”
My mother tells me that I was a particularly dark child, no one in the family had been that dark! To add to that I developed a boil on my ankle, which nearly led to an amputation of the right foot! The prospects seemed to be very dark for this little girl who was not only dark (a bane in an average Indian household) but was also on the verge of becoming lame!
I was not a lonely child but a ‘detached’ child. There are not very many early memories. My memories start when I reached the age of 9 or 10, when my parents relocated to Mussoorie after the partition of the country. Maybe I blocked the earlier memories because I felt neglected or rejected because of my color and threatened handicap.
What I remember from my childhood is that I never had a ‘Want’. I don’t recall wanting toys, dolls or asking for new clothes. All along I have just lived and whatever was required for my growth – mental, physical or spiritual, was all provided for me. I did what all the children my age do. I did not particularly enjoy studying, but still it was fun. I enjoyed playing the role of Jesus in aschool play, when I was in the tenth standard. That role made me feel great, especially the way I had to walk. That stayed with me.
Q: Have you always been spiritually inclined? Do you remember any incident, which propelled you towards the spiritual path or has spirituality always been an integral part of your nature? Q: What exactly is the Course of “Mental Physics”? Why did you decide to do it?
A: People in saffron clothes were a familiar sight at our bungalow. Since we lived on the foothills of the Himalayas, holy men going up and down would visit us and we would engage in a conversation with them. My parents had a family guru who, with his entourage, would spend six to seven weeks in a year with us. You could say that spirituality has always been an integral part of my nature.
Now I realize that I must have been different in some way, because when I was going through intense spiritual experiences from August 1995, all that my siblings could say was “We always thought you were weird!”
Q: What exactly is the Course of “Mental Physics”? Why did you decide to do it?
A: As I understand the course of Mental Physics, it is a course in self-development and deconditioning the conditioned mind. For me, however, it opened another dimension, which could also be termed as self-development but definitely a development of another kind! It brought forth for me a knowledge that otherwise I would not have understood, no matter how much I would have read about it.I was lead to the course. I was made to attend it. I was not given a choice! My friend Usha Banerji informed me regarding the course. She felt that I would enjoy it as it dealt with ‘the mind’. I told her that after spending the day in the office, I had no inclination or desire to attend any class. The very thought was boring. She would not give up and threatened to keep waiting at the gate till I accompanied her.Q: Can you briefly describe your journey through this Course? How did you feel when you started intuiting these magnificent visuals?
A: When I began my exercises, at first I didn’t realize that anything strange was happening. I was just enjoying myself, therefore, I think the beginning of my awakening went unrecorded. I started recording my visuals when I questioned myself, ‘How am I seeing above my head, below, back and front simultaneously?’ Not only that, I could see into my body and visualize in a multitude of colors! I could see prana (the life force), which is colorless, I could see vibrations, I could sense when I shifted from one vibratory level to another. In time, I realized that the Breathing Exercises were working on the density of my body, and when I was done with one vibratory level, I automatically shifted to the next.
The surprising part was that much against my nature, I was persisting with the course. Normally I would have lost interest after a couple of months. Sometimes the question would arise, ‘Why am I doing this, what is the purpose?’ I didn’t know that it was a spiritual awakening that was happening. I didn’t realize that I was being given what I was asking for in the affirmations. I was given the gift to actualize my thoughts and words. What I was affirming, I was manifesting. This has made me realize the power of the word. What comes to my mind is when my grandmother would tell my father, “Never say, ‘I have no money, never say business is bad’.” I understood better the power of positive thinking.
I became used to the daily affair with the SOURCE; I brought to Guruji’s notice, what I was experiencing. His advice was not to get too involved with the process. It was no big deal. His under-playing the whole process and the experience, helped me be objective and play the role of a channel for the Masters (who seemed to be some kind of spiritual guides) with a total dispassionate attitude. The Masters were extremely caring and at no time my slightest discomfort was ignored. If I were not ready for a particular process, they would wait till I would give the go ahead. Initially I would only sense the Masters. Later, when the cleansing and repairing of the body was done, they would be sitting with me for meditation in the early hours of the morning. Much later, I would see them, dressed in white, reading to me from books or wanting me to take interest in some charts. According to my inherent nature, I would be inattentive with the result sometimes they would lose patience and it would be Guruji who would take on the role. I was not under any one particular guide, at least, I don’t think so. I never had the urge to see their faces. The whole process was just a happening.
At no point of time was I biased in my visuals and I did not look for any specific visual experience mainly because I did not know that anything like this existed!
Had I known in advance the strict regimen that I would have to adhere to, I doubt I would have got into it. But once into it, life was fun, there was a thrill hitherto not experienced, there was adventure and curiosity to know what was next. The whole experience was a challenge, reminding me of the old fairy tales with all the horrors thrown in.
Q: The first response of a normal person experiencing a metaphysical phenomenon is to give it up, and retreat! Did you ever feel that what was happening to you was out-of-the-ordinary and that you should quit? Were you ever scared?
A: For me the biggest joy throughout my spiritual journey has been to travel to the unknown. The course did not entail any rigorous routine or any punishment for me – every meditation, affirmation or visualization had its own enjoyment. Perhaps I took the phrase that Mental Physics is all about “deconditioning of the conditioned mind” seriously and allowed the deconditioning to happen fearlessly!Now that you mention fear, I recall how earlier in my childhood in Mussorie, I sometimes used to observe these roadside sadhus making weird expressions. They probably used to be in trance and were going through an awakening process. Even that time I was more fascinated than frightened by all that I saw.
There was one time during my meditation when I really felt challenged – this was the time when I wanted to move out of the body and was unsure what to do about it. When I explained my predicament to Guruji, he asked me, “What do you think will happen if you move out of your body? You will die? So what?” I did not know what to say!
Another instance, where you can say I was a little frightened was when I visualized a group of elephants charging towards me during one of the exercises. I was a little scared and asked them to stop, which they did! I regret that I did not allow them to come closer and missed that experience (whatever it would have been) because I never saw them again.
Q: Do you believe that true Self-realization can only happen by relinquishing the worldly possessions and all the materialistic attachments? Did you ever feel that, as a normal person with her set of duties and responsibilities, your spiritual growth was confined or slower in any way?
A: You don’t have to give up anything to realize the God within you! What worked in my favor throughout this process of awakening was my Faith, I guess. I was never in doubt about the fact that whatever the Source was unfolding to/through me was beautiful and what was meant to be.I have never held the belief that one has to do penance or go hungry to achieve awareness. I would rather complete the Vaishnodevi climb on horse ride than complain throughout the 18-kilometer ascent and be called courageous!
I firmly believe that there are no rules, no rights, no wrongs and nothing like good or bad while one moves along the spiritual path! Perhaps the only rule is not to carry any emotional baggage with oneself while making this biggest pilgrimage of one’s life.
Q: It is seen that whenever a person goes through a supernatural, transcendental experience he is always as if in a meditative reverie. Did you experience the same? Was it difficult to juggle the roles of a mother, a homemaker and a career woman during this phase?
A: The exercises, the affirmations, everything fitted into my routine and interfered with nothing. It seems unlikely now that I went through the entire phase of growth, of balancing client meetings and meditations, of managing house and children without any inconvenience, but that’s what happened.
I guess I have always been provided for in life and did not specifically worry about how mundane, routine things would be looked after, which they were. I have never really gone to meet life, it has come to me and I am quite content with that.
For me, going through a supernatural, transcendental experience has been an ongoing affair and I have more or less been in a state of meditative reverie. But this state has not made me neglect any area of my life; on the contrary, each relationship is given my whole self. Whether home or office, I am just there, and the rest is taken care of. No juggling is required. What is required is ‘surrender’.
I am where I am probably to round off my personality in totality. My normal life span in most of my earlier lives has been between 25-30 years of age. I have never seen any extended family members. I have not seen any parents also in earlier lives. Maybe they were required to just give me an entry into the planet and the rest I had to work at myself. I have been given a complete life this time. I begin with my parents, my siblings, my teachers, my friends, my husband, my children and finally coming face to face with my Self, my Guru, a relationship in which, I complete myself. I have been allowed to live and value each relationship with full awareness.
Q: According to you what role does a Guru play in an individual’s spiritual journey? Is it necessary to have the support and guidance of a teacher to achieve Self-realization?
A: I feel that one needs to be in the presence of a teacher, a Guru, for the energy to be channeled and harnessed properly. For me, the presence of my Guru at the seemingly agitated moments brought the right kind of anchoring in my life. He remained silent when I needed the churning of emotions inside to find my own answers; he was encouraging when I needed his support. He provided me with the right kind of a mirror to see my emotions and myself.
I believe that the Source or God manifests for you as your Guru and he will assume the relationship with which you are most comfortable. How did I know that God manifested as my Guru? Simple: Source exercised great deal of patience in Its efforts to make me aware that the teacher, who was sitting opposite me, was the Form through whom the grace of the Source would flow for me.
How was I so sure? As my perception was best manifested through visualization, I was shown different aspects of the Guru’s glory. I would see his aura in different forms and shades, I would see the wings on his head, symbolizing his functioning at higher level of Consciousness. The Source went on and on but I was not on that wavelength. The penny would not drop! I was engrossed in my own world.
Till one day, I saw over the Guru’s head, a white sheet stretched. After drawing this visual I sat looking at it, and then went back over all the visuals I had done of him. I realized that there was a message here. But what? I kept thinking and thinking. Where had I seen a sheet stretched before? What came to my mind was a gurudwara (place of worship) where there is a canopy over the holy book made of rich cloth. What did that symbolize, what did that mean? It was too awe inspiring: My Guru and Granth Sahib were one! I was too humbled. The canopy representing the Source Consciousness thought me a fit candidate to manifest ITSELF for me in the form of my Guru. I was the recipient of special attention. Wow! I was in a daze!
Now the question was: In what relationship was I most comfortable? The Source manifested Itself as my friend: a relationship where there were no expectations, you accept the other as a whole.
In my opinion a Guru is an absolute essential, because it is only in this relationship one can work out all one’s hopes, fears, desires, love, hate, and wants. All the negative emotions are worked out without being judged. As Swami Muktananda says, “The Guru’s job is to clean away the dirt that has accumulated around the heart – the dirt of “I am a man,” “I am a woman,” “I am the giver,” “I am the doer,” “I am this,” and “I will do that.” He burns to ashes the disciple’s limited individuality and makes him realize that he is nothing but the supreme Lord. He frees him from the meshes of different types of sadhana and makes him realize the truth.”
The Guru who is the embodiment of God’s power, in his grace has adopted the role of a screen on which I carry out my own play of consciousness. Without his constant presence and support I would not have reached anywhere. What is required to be the recipient of the Grace? It is surrender.
Q: What, according to you, is the essence of all that you have learnt from these visions?
A: I have been often asked, “In what way have these experiences influenced your life? How have you grown as a person?” Till some time back, I would say that I am more of all that I was earlier. Now looking back, I can say that I have been re-created! I am a whole new person who is still going through the process of transformation.Through awareness I have discovered freedom. Though this awareness was there earlier also, there were confusions! These were during the times when I created preoccupied dialogues with myself related to situations seen as coming events, with the result that everything would be thrown out of gear because I had set a stage for something which I wanted to control! In the last couple of years, I have learnt to leave things alone and deal with whatever comes along, in the ‘Now’.
I realize more than ever that my future is created and recreated every second through my thoughts. ‘I am the master of my destiny!’ This insight is very empowering and motivates me to live life in total awareness.
Q: What advice would you give someone who is on a similar voyage?
A: What I want to convey through my experience to everyone is the complete simplicity, sensitivity, gentleness and care of the Source Consciousness. The Source does not lay any rules… there are NO dos and don’ts, no rights and wrongs in Its space.
Another thing which I have realized in these few years, is that, ‘There is nothing to fear!’ Just as we face life in the physical realm with all its turbulence and ups and downs, the same courage works in the other dimensions as well. One just needs to be in the ‘Awareness’.
Don’t ever forget that you are a part of the Source… Don’t ever fear!… How can you fear yourself? You are all that is!