Friday, 3 March 2017
BLOG REACHES 500,000 HITS... Q AND A
With the Serious Sadhana coming towards half a million hits, we catch up with the blogger Baba T and his thoughts on just why people read it! Edited highlights follow:
So .... Congratulations first off! Did you expect this level of interest in the blog when it began?
Not at all. It was meant...still is... Primarily to be a resource for western students of what you could loosely call "Yoga philosophy" who might be interested in what it's like to try live a life of sadhana through thick and thin while tackling a life of work and responsibilities. So it was never meant to be despatches from a cave or a comfortable ashram, but more from the trenches.
Then what happened was unexpected. Indian readers appeared, especially around the spring and autumn Navaratri periods, and they have remained ever since. Unexpectedly they had very different needs from people in the West and it took a little time to understand what their needs are.
What are the spiritual needs of Indian readers?
Well, I am in the odd position of engaging them, as a westerner and Englishman, with their own cultural heritage. So there are a few observations I hope my Indian readers will allow me to make.
The first is amazement at the profound disconnect many who get in touch seem to feel with their spiritual heritage, and healthy suspicion of the giant money making ashrams and high profile teachers. We have the same in the west, after a naive and uncritical approach to Gurus in the seventies and eighties. The suspicion is good, as many teachers are like greedy wolves addicted to power and often in India tied in with politicians. Sex scandals tend to follow...
The second is among some a high level of superstitous fear, of worry of saying and doing the wrong thing, of not being allowed to recite this or that mantra, of punitive deities who will strike you down for mispronouncing a syllable! It is the "angry god" syndrome that we also battle in the west. God as the "smiter". This is a Tamasic view of religion which reflects the general decay in ethics within society.
Finally, the beauty of a number of pure and sweet souls, many of whom have taken the serious sadhana correspondence course and are just wonderful beings.
So the needs... Really to be free of fear and willing to make an effort to approach God innocently. One curious fact: Indian students tend to find visualisation exercises very difficult. I have no idea why there is such a difference between West and East in this regard....but it is pretty noticeable. Some Indian readers also seem reluctant to even grant 5 minutes to sadhana every day.
And western readers?
Here we are dealing with people who are less rigid and very syncretic in their practice..grabbing bits and pieces of teaching and practice from many different sources, mixing them all together in a body of teachings which suit them. This has a downside, too. Western readers tend to move on rapidly and the danger is not engaging at all in spirituality, just in the new sensation.
Some western readers have particular fascinating histories and experiences, so it is great to hear how the Divine Light has refracted in their lives.
What is the basic message of this blog?
It boils down to "Don't talk about it. Do it!" Practise spiritual discipline and stick to it. Do Japa and stick to it. Meditate and stick to it.
Life is very very short. My 63 years of age has passed by in a flash. Stick to it, step by step, bit by bit. Sadhana you will find answers its own questions. Don't burble on about needing a Guru ... God is the only Guru. Shiva is not just the primordial Guru, but his presence shines through the teachings of dharma in whatever form.
Sadhana is not about disputing which way is best or which teacher is the greatest. This is just child stuff. We all have different needs, temperaments and circumstances and cultural inheritence. We all fail many many times. Sadhana is bruising sometimes, always uphill, dealing with strong human compulsions. If bewildered, then go back to the Sri Bhagavad Gita in particular as a wise synthesis of different major approaches. But avoid dodgy translations, like the hare krishna one, which try to angle the message one way only.
How is the blog related to the teachings of your Guru Shivabalayogi Maharaj?
There is absolutely no connection to his official ashrams at all, nor should there be. This is just from the experience of this silly soul, who has done with all the hoopla of ashrams and organisations etc etc. But his teaching was not really with words. He wrote no books and gave no long lectures. He Emphasised practice and experience and at a very early stage of his public life as a Yogi pointed to the Yoga Vashistha which in his view said everything that needed to be said. And it is a big big work on non-dualism. But many people were influenced by him. For me, I feel the blogs words are given, not from conscious thought, all at once in an orderly flow with never any pause. So I think this great Yogi just has a bit of fun playing through the intellect of this idiot!
The main relation is that I practise his medition and consider him my Guru.
Any failures or regrets?
Not really. In relation to the Serious Sadhana correspondence course, there was one course at the end of 2016 that melted away after one lesson, and I thought "no more Indian students"! Also in the beginning of the blog I got kind of taken in by troubled people who wanted jobs, love, money, or help cursing the neighbours and were not approaching God but a resource! Then there were one or two who swore enthusiastically - without me having any say in the matter - "you are my Guru" and then never bothered keeping in touch. I am an English gentleman, and whatever you might say about the English in history, we English gentlemen believe in good manners. These days any rude, abrupt, dumb or arrogant comments simply don't get published. the ones which particularly are annoying are from people selling dodgy "magic spell astrology" services.
What makes you write about certain topics?
Sometimes just curiousity, such as my lovely Bishnois of Rajastan or Frances Schlatter or Peter Deunov.
But mostly, it feels like an inner order "write about this". And then the thing gets written just like that, like copying a clear scroll of words that appear in the mind.
After a while, it became sadly clear to me that even the basics of spirituality were getting lost in this fog we live in, the fog of Kali Yuga. It is so sad to see how sick the world is and I firmly believe that people have got so used to grabbing and getting that they have forgotten how to give. Even that is lost! So I get emails from people kind of ordering me to give them this or that "and be quick about it". The level of impoliteness and arrogance from a few is pretty striking. But that is the way of the world, no point in pretending otherwise. It is important to remind people of the importance of giving and sacrifice.
What I always look for is people who can step outside religious orthodoxy and not just blindly repeat the thoughts or views of others. The blog gets many comments along the lines of "god x is the most powerful" or "we should recite y twice a day" and I think "says who? Have you really actually lived what you repeat or are you blindly and robotically spouting useless dogma?" Words....postures...attitudes....and of course humility is in short supply. We live in a service-orientated world, service to our egos. This changes bit by bit by regular sadhana, not by spouting a few borrowed thoughts.
What pleasant surprises from the blog?
Funny comments and great souls. Lovely hearts... Beautiful people who are really awe inspiring! Some truly wonderful people have connected with the blog, many who keep in the background and many from across the world. If just one word is of use to others then that is perfection for me.
What are the most popular blog posts?
Pretty much the ones on the great texts, like the Devi Mahatyam, the Sri Lalita Sahasranam, the Sri Rudram etc. Most of these were written some time ago now and the period of intense tapasya chanting these holy texts is over for me at present. But I would recommend anyone to commit to a period of chanting some text or other every day. Chanting is a great, great purifier. But you have to have the right attitude. My approach was always "I love you, Mother, so I want to chant.. it's going to sound awful, but, hey, I'm your child!" I never wanted to chant for anything apart from helping others, otherwise the whole thing becomes like a bank transaction.
And the posts you love above all others?
Two, which are very little read... but extremely personal, called "a bhakta's love of krishna", which kind of told the early story of this westerner's love for Lord Krishna. It was full of very secret stuff from the heart of the soul. But for some reason the Lord directs most people away from reading this!
On to the thorny question of enlightenment and spiritual progress.
This is something absolutely riddled with misunderstandings. My hippie generation in the west in the 1960s and 1970s had this very naive, linear thinking about enlightenment and self-realisation, compounded by a wide reading of Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, which of course related amazing experiences by a great and blessed soul, and in addition many of us had taken LSD and seen briefly what the world was really about.
But for all of us, it was a little bit like driving on a flat road in a clear sky, seeing a range of beautiful mountains in the distance and thinking "oh, they are really near".. and not realising all the foothills in between! Sadhana is how you walk the foothills. Enlightenment is not how we originally conceive it to be, and there's a lot of effort involved in the foothill bit. Anandamayi Ma once described sadhana as a "bitter pill" that you have to take to get better, and that me seems about right. The classic picture of sadhana is contained in the famous paintings of Lord Krishna as Arjuna's charioteer - the horses representing all the unbridled wild forces with in that have to be carefully controlled.