“I am a very practical person. A guru should be a friend of the disciples, not be aloof from, but be part of the society, mix with people and spread social awareness.”

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Sadguru Yogiraj Sri Sri Dr. Mangeshda, with a doctorate in kriya yoga, is a multi-faceted personality who has excelled in whatever he has chosen – be it sports, studies, music, yoga, naturopathy and spirituality. A karma yogi, who believes that actions speak more than words, he has been personally leading various social activities for the under-privileged and the disabled. A patron of the International Naturopathy Organisation, he has participated six times in the World Congress on Alternative Healing. In conversation with A. Radhakrishnan.

What is the basic purpose of establishing the Sadguru Mangeshda Kriya Yoga Foundation?
It is a registered charitable trust, established to carry out charitable work and inculcate in the disciples, the habit of doing selfless work, and help society lead a healthy, balanced, and a peaceful life through kriya yoga.

A brief enumeration of its activities.
The 93 centres of the Foundation worldwide spread the message of ‘unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness’ for world peace.I conduct regular kriya yoga initiations and its other services include ‘Eye Pledge-We Pledge’, a campaign to eradicate corneal blindness, now reaching 50 lakh pledges; regular sessions of stress management, self-recognition and development, yoga and meditation, diet, alternate healing techniques, cleanliness awareness drives, tree plantation drives, regular yoga teaching sessions in schools for students and teachers. We also bestow the Kriyasheel Global awards upon distinguished personalities from different fields for their outstanding contribution to society.

What is kriya yoga and how is it different from other yoga?
I am a kriya yogi. Kriya yoga is a 5,000 year old ancient path of spirituality, which is the essence of all yoga-s. The main 5 fold paths are:1. Kriya hatha yoga 2. Kriya kundalini pranayama-s 3.Kriya mantra yoga 4. Kriya dhyana yoga 5.Kriya bhakti yoga. Known collectively as ‘Sahaj yoga’, everyone can practice it. Its base is dhyana (meditation), which makes the mind focussed, calm and ready for any challenges in the outer world. Its regular practice refines the metabolism of the individual, leading to good health devoid of stress and disease.

It works on all 3 levels of the body, the mind and the spirit and is different from other yoga-s as its foundation is spiritual, where health and fitness complement each other. Lord Krishna narrated kriya yoga to Arjuna in the 18 chapters in the Bhagwad Gita. A basic platform, it deals with human beings.

What are the highlights of the techniques developed by you? How does one learn it?
Kriya yoga can be learnt only after the age of 13. The initiation includes the transfer of spiritual energy from the guru to the disciple, after which, he discloses the secret techniques. The person concerned has to maintain the secrecy of this science. It is an intense session of six levels. After the first level, one should practice as per capacity for at least one year before going on to the second level. Self-commitment, readiness and an intense desire to learn are essential for success. Guru-disciple communication and guidance always exists in this spiritual progress.

Kriya yoga became available to the modern world when in the 1890s, Sri Sri Mahavtara Babaji disclosed the techniques to Sri Sri Lahiri Mahasaya. This lineage was taken ahead by Yukteshwar Giriji and Yoganandji. Keeping in tune with the complexities of the modern world, I introduced mindfulness techniques to augment the kriya yoga techniques without changing or modifying the original. It is necessary to practice it throughout the day and not just for 30-40 minutes to help keep the practitioner alert, full of energy and concentrated throughout the day.

How satisfied are you with your journey of spreading the message to the common people?
This is my 50th year of practising yoga. After nine years of sanyas in the Himalayas, I returned to the material world, sansar, 32 years ago. I have visited more than 55 countries, and am very satisfied with the response. In these testing times of violence and intolerance, the youth are looking for a unifying force of peace and calmness. At one end, there are negative forces creating violence and hatred in the world, and at the other end there are people practising love and forgiveness with Kriya yoga.

My Sadguruji wished that I live like a normal person and systematically spread what I had learnt about Kriya yoga as a mission to spiritual seekers. There is no need to renounce anything. One can continue to lead the life of a householder and yet walk the pious, ancient and scientific path of Kriya yoga.

What is the importance of yoga in life?
Yoga means union of the gross body and the subtler body. We use our five senses, to see, hear, smell, touch and taste. But often we are unmindful, unfocussed and overcome by stress, losing our energy, forgetting things. In a short time, without investment in any equipment or space, one can easily practise yoga effectively with correct postures, pranayama and meditation, and instead of controlling the mind, one can direct the mind to reality through mindfulness, and be stress and disease free.

Talk a bit about your childhood. How did you metamorphose into becoming a Sadguru? What does it mean?
My upbringing was from the lower strata of the society. As the youngest of nine siblings, I started to earn at a very young age due to our financial circumstances. Completing my own education by selling newspapers and doing mundane jobs, I also started learning classical dancing at a very young age and composed ballets at the age of 10, when in fact, I took a troupe of 75 people and performed at The Royal Albert Hall, London.

The area that we stayed in was infamous for notoriety, bootlegging, crimes, etc.. I realised that I needed to keep my body healthy and pure and eschew vices. But luckily, there were also people in our area, who used to practice yoga and trying to emulate them, I became a part of their group. I further learnt martial arts with the sole purpose of self-defence. I am a three time national karate champion and even won the gold medal for India at the Asian Karate Championship.

Soon after, the pious day of Mahashivratri was a turning point when I took a bold step and left home. I met my Sadguru, Yogiraj Sri Sri Mahavatar Babaji Sadguru at Dahanu for the first time. I did not recognise him, but there was a strong attraction, which made me follow him. I got initiated in Kriya yoga and after passing all the six levels was then sent back to spread Kriya yoga throughout the world. ‘Sadguru’ is a post given respectfully to me by my disciples, out of love and affection.

Can your versatility be called a miracle? What makes you such an unconventional jeans-clad Sadguru?
No, I don’t believe in miracles. What I achieved was because of my passion and determination. I would practise martial arts daily for 10 hours, and would aim only for gold, neither silver nor bronze and the same went for gymnastics, etc. Passion helps you achieve the ultimate. I love travel and trekking too. When I reached the base camp of Mt. Kanchenjunga, I vowed to touch the summit of Mt. Everest, but did not get the opportunity.

I am a very practical person. A guru should be a friend of the disciples, not be aloof from, but be part of the society, mix with people and spread social awareness. ‘Yes, I can, Yes, we can’, is my slogan. I integrate the talents of all my disciples, and encourage them to contribute to society.

How much importance should one give to wealth and money?
One should know how to have a balance of everything in life. Money is certainly very important to meet our basic survival needs and care of our family. Spending is important, but it is also very important to realise the source of this income. There is no balance, if one has wealth, but no health.

How important is the charity of the individual?
I feel that we need to contribute 25% of our earnings to charity. In spirituality, we say, Aham Brahasmi, which means that ‘I am a part of the society’. If I can contribute a tiny part for the benefit of others, it will surely help the needy. Just as we know to inhale, we should also know how to exhale.

How can the world be rid of its agony, sadness, and pain?
Basically these are negative emotions. Expectation from others is the biggest cause. I always advocate ‘do your best positively and accept the results gracefully’.

You have done yeoman work in the field of cornea donation and the elimination of blindness. Elaborate other services.
My friend Dr. Tatyarao Lahane, who has been working with the visibly challenged for decades, asked me to promote eye pledges. My mission of ‘Eye Pledge – We Pledge’ in a very short time, has achieved almost 50 lakhs. The day we reach two crore eye pledges, will be when we would have eradicated corneal blindness from India. ‘Tulsi Abhiyan’ was started to combat swine flu, where more than 10 lakh tulsi saplings were distributed door to door, free of cost. For the protection of women, self -defence training is given.

Our unique programme, ‘Gurukul’ teaches adolescent children to hone their hidden talents, aid in career guidance, improve memory, remove stage fright and impart many practical skills which will prove useful later on in life.

You have significantly contributed to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Please also tell about your journey from ‘Mumbai to Mansarovar’.
We began the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ about 19 years ago. We would go street to street and educate the community, especially kids, about the value of cleanliness, the ill effects of spitting on the road, littering etc. This awareness campaign, which began in Mumbai, reached the pious Lake Manasarovar, where we cleaned a tonne of garbage from its vicinity.

The Foundation does not propagate any religion or superstition, but it is essentially Hindu, right?
As a science graduate, I teach scientifically and have fought superstitions. I respect astrology too, but mental health is equally important. Superstition builds fear and spirituality negates it. Both are contradictory and cannot stay together. My Foundation has people from all religions and is based on the five elements everyone is born with. Where is it written that they belong to any particular religion?

Are awards important? What awards have you and the Foundation won?
Awards basically mean recognition for the work done, and an appreciation, a sign of inspiration, and encouragement, though I do not work for awards.
Among the awards received are the Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam’s Lifetime Achievement award, the Best Citizen of India award, the International Social Service Achiever award, Asia Pacific International Award, the Bharat Jyoti award, Jewel of India award, Indo-Vietnam Award of Excellence, Green Ambassador award, etc.

What do you feel about the politics and spiritualism in present India?
India has been the propagator of spirituality and home to many renowned spiritual seekers for thousands of years, and continues to be. Even Mahabharata saw politics, through messages of the characters of Duryodhana, Dushyasan and Shakuni. Similarly, we also learn the meaning of politics from Chanakya. Every human being is different with different feelings and experiences. The 18 chapters of Bhagwad Gita are very apt even now, where what Lord Krishna teaches about the true nature of a human being, beginning with the quote, ‘yada-yada-hi-dharmasya-glanir-bhavati-bharata….’Thus, in spirituality there can be no politics and is above all worldly desires.

How can Kriya yoga be used in making the dream of today’s youth meaningful?
Youngsters understand better if taught scientifically. Today, stress and expectation is the main cause of imbalance in the youth. Kriya yoga is a 24-hour practice session, which is, consciously doing things and resting the brain at regular intervals. Daily practice of Kriya yoga gives immense energy to the kriyaban-s.

My message is, “You have tremendous energy which needs to be properly channelised. There is a high possibility of moving on the wrong track and going astray because of wrong influences. Don’t be negative! Come forward, get counselled. Please note that there is a solution for everything.”

What’s your message to the world?
The effects of global warming and environmental disasters, are being felt. Turbulence has already begun, thanks to our ignoring the environment. This is the right time to introspect and be a part of positive groups, and unitedly fight against negativities. Nothing is impossible. Happiness is waiting for us. Don’t give up hope.


A. Radhakrishnan

A.Radhakrishnan is a Pune based freelance journalist, who also writes short stories, indulges in poetry and photography, and when not making friends, likes to pass around humour in good measure.

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