My Spiritual Journey

Existential Crisis in College and J Krishnamurti [1995]

I completed my graduation in Civil Engineering from REC Kurukshetra, India in 1997. I met my wife Shikha in college and the pull of a common destiny made us tie the marriage knot. It was in college that a profound existential question took birth in my mind, “What is the purpose of life?” The question slowly became a black hole which sucked away all meaning from whatever I was doing or held important in life. It was then that I encountered J Krishnamurti’s teachings, which gave a definition and direction to my seeking. Shikha encouraged me to go deeper into this question, citing the example of Buddha. Krishnamurti gave me the courage to pursue inquiry against tremendous odds; against all social pressures and internal self doubts. He laid an indestructible foundation for my inquiry as he showed that inquiry could happen without a guru and without leaving the world like a sannyasi (renunciate). In fact he stressed that inquiry has to happen in the midst of all relationships.Towards the end of my third year in college I had a Kundalini awakening which would play a pivotal role in my spiritual journey. Thus, while in college itself, we decided not to follow the conventional trail but to search a way of life that would lead us to the final understanding.


Self Inquiry While Seeking a Livelihood [1997-2006]

This seeking for the ultimate truth became a touchstone for whatever we decided to do in life henceforth. The most difficult part was to balance my inquiry with livelihood. I tried to the hilt to sustain my inquiry, but nothing in the mainstream world offered me the time and space to go deeply into my quest for the ultimate truth of life. Despite enormous social pressures and with the courageous support of Shikha, I left a lucrative corporate job which I had got after my college – abruptly – to devote myself completely to inquiry. After three months of confinement for intense study and meditation, I got a certain clarity and joined Krishnamurti School in Chennai as a school teacher.


Leaving All Jobs and Starting NEEV To Deepen Self Inquiry [2006]

While the school was more conducive to my  inquiry, organizational demands were always pressing on me. It took nine years of jumping various jobs – from being a school teacher to organic farming to becoming a school principal, to finally starting out with my own organization called NEEV – in order to have space for my inquiry, while earning my livelihood.

All these years, as I never got the quality time to devote myself wholly to inquiry, I picked up the art of contemplation or deep thinking about the nature of self and life in the midst of all my activities. Apart from this I used to read a lot of books on philosophy and psychology. Also, since college itself I had kept up my habit of writing a journal to explore my inner landscape. All in all, I succeeded in developing a very focused and disciplined lifestyle, where the only activities I did, pertained to livelihood, contemplation, reading and writing. Domestic quarrels which are the part and parcel of all unenlightened relationships were the only digressions 🙂 So my spiritual practices at this time could be summed up as reading, writing, self- observation, reflection and contemplation. Much later, when I got introduced to Jnana Yoga of Vedanta, I came to know that instinctively I had been following the three main pillars of the practice of Jnana Yoga – sravana (listening/reading of scriptures), manana (deep reflection and dialogue on the truth expounded in the scriptures) and nidhidhyasana (deep contemplation on the truths ascertained till the truth becomes a fact of being)

NEEV was born as a result of the questions that we sought answers for – in our spiritual journey – as a non-profit Trust. We started NEEV School for the urban and rural underprivileged children in the year 2006. One of the constant and key challenges that we faced were related to funding and sustainability of the organization. So in 2007 we started NEEV Herbal Handmade Soaps, a social enterprise which would generate profits for NEEV but at the same time honoring the triple bottom line of People – Planet – Profit. Shikha has been actively overseeing the work of NEEV Herbal Handmade Soaps since then.

You can learn all about our work at our NEEV Website


Understanding the Root Problem of Life as Duality and Arriving at Vedanta [2012]

With all the years of work in NEEV, through constant engagements with a wide spectrum of people and a spate of emotional upheavals, coupled with deep inner inquiry, I reached a point of certainty in my life in the year 2012: nothing in the outer world or the mental world can give permanent happiness. Both the outer world and mental world is a dual world where every aspect is equally matched with it’s opposite aspect. Behind every happiness lurked a sorrow. Moreover this world was confined by space and time. And this being it’s fundamental nature, it could not be the source for permanent happiness.

This point marked a resolute and final departure in my life, from the duality of world and mind to search for a limitless, non-dual principle. This dispassion, combined with the powers of discrimination I had honed through all these years, fueled with the unceasing desire to seek the ultimate truth, brought me to the doorstep of Vedanta.


The Advaitic Insight – “I Am Awareness” or Witness Stage [December 2012]

The last three months – before I had an insight into what Vedanta calls, the true nature of Self – were a capsule in time. All outer activity was curbed to bare maintenance state, and I immersed myself into Vedanta. It is said in Vedanta that the teacher appears when the student is ready. I realized that I am Self/Brahman/Awareness/Witness, aided on the final stages by my teacher James Swartz, an internationally acclaimed teacher of Vedanta, through an insight / akhandakara vritti on 4th December, 2012. Through his body of teachings, generously shared on his website, I realized that the non-dual principle I was seeking was the experience closest to me, hidden in plain sight: ordinary awareness, and it was my true nature. Awareness is permanent but experiences are temporary. Everything, the mind, body and world rises and falls in Awareness/Witness. The Witness/Awareness is the Subject who is eternally aware of all changes/objects while itself remaining unchanging. This is the state which Krishnamurti calls “Choiceless Awareness of ‘What Is'”


The Pathless Path [September-2015]

When the nature of one’s true Self as Awareness/Witness is revealed, one gets liberated from the notion of “doership” and “attainment”. Self/Awareness/Witness, being non-dual, is partless, whole and complete. There is nothing for it to do and attain. Thus ends the journey of all seeking and attaining which keeps one enchained to the world of suffering / samsara.

The notion of attainment and doership is only an illusion created by the “ego”. The “ego” is the ignorance that clouds our real nature as Self/Awareness/Witness. While as Self there is nothing to do or attain – it is always whole and complete – the illusion engendered by the ego is that one has to become something or get something to reach a state of completion. Thus the ego binds us to the notion of doing. As a doer one is constantly acting in time and space to reach a state of completion and happiness. All paths, all journeys one undertakes, whether in the material world or the spiritual world are, ultimately a journey in illusion. Since all actions and their results are limited by time and space, no doing or action can lead one to the reality beyond time and space. It is only through knowledge of the real Self and negation of the false or not-Self, by which one understands that one has always been nothing else but Self/Awareness/Witness which is immutable, unborn and undying.

But the illusion of the ego is a powerful one. It has existed for millenia. Not only is it powerful, it has it’s own strange intelligence. No wonder, the Indians gave it an alluring name of Maya – something which appears as real but not real.  Thus even after having an insight into one’s real nature as Self/Awareness/Witness, there is still a residual force of ego which remains. This is akin to seeing the mirage of water in the desert even when one has known or ascertained the unreal nature of the mirage.

So even though there is no attainment and no path that remains after one comes to the Witness stage, there is still a journey that continues in time till the illusion of ego is not completely destroyed. I call this the pathless path. It is pathless because there is no “doing” involved but just abiding in the knowledge of Self/Awareness/Witness. On the other hand it can be called a path because there is a journey in time wherein the illusion of the ego dwindles gradually as one continues to abides in the knowledge of Self/Awareness/Witness. The Bhagavad Gita says that “Knowledge is the best purifier”.

This pathless path is full of surprises as well. It is not uncommon for the knowledge of Self/Awareness/Witness to be completely overtaken and clouded by the ignorance of the ego again. One again starts entertaining the notions of doership and attainment. But the beauty of the insight into Self/Awareness/Witness is that once it has taken place, it can never be clouded permanently. Eventually the knowledge shines through the trappings of the ego again. This play of light and shadow continues for some time (even years) till one starts getting stable in the knowledge of Self. The point of no return to darkness or, complete liberation, happens when the ego is shattered completely. Though, even saying this is a falsity. The ego is an entity in the illusion of space and time. As far as the Self is concerned, it was never anything but Self. The Self does not need any enlightenment. So even ignorance and enlightenment are equally illusory concepts operating in the dualistic world of Maya.

The ultimate truth is that neither bondage nor enlightenment exists. The Self is all that there is – One without a second 🙂


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