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“Create bridges between people, not walls”

He propounds the timeless truths of the Bhagavad-Gita in a palatable way for the modern man. Through his simple yet effective discourses, Swami Sukhabodhananda, 62, has been providing practical solutions for the conundrums of everyday life and, in the process, has transformed the lives of many—from corporate honchos and management students to sportsmen and spiritual seekers.

Born in a Kannada-speaking family in Bengaluru, Swami Sukhabodhananda’s tryst with spirituality occurred when he was just 20. A disciple of Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda Saraswati, he went on to establish Prasanna Trust, a charitable organisation that engages in social-oriented service and imparts spiritual transformative education to young and old. Today, he is one of the most respected spiritual leaders of the country, and his ability to blend two unlikely subjects—spirituality and success—has won him the sobriquet ‘Corporate Guru’.

A multilingual author with over 112 books such as Oh, Mind Relax Please, Personal Excellence through Bhagavad Gita and, more recently, Managing Life Creatively—Mother and Son: A Unique Life Journey to his credit, his inspiring talks and workshops aim to bring about positive attitudinal changes in society and self-empowerment in individuals. In an email interview with Sai Prabha Kamath, Swami Sukhabodhananda shares his views on the role of spirituality in later life and his mantra for successful ageing. Excerpts:

What is your definition of ‘spirituality’? Please share something about the blossoming of spirituality in your own life….

Spirituality is to heighten the spirits to direct energy to the unlimited universe inside oneself. From my childhood days, I have observed the trials and tribulations my mother went through. At one time, she was taking care of her bedridden mother-in-law, her two sisters and my aunt who had delivered their babies all at the same time. She nursed and took care of them with a smiling face and grace. This showed me the value of service. When I was in college, many of my friends were addicted to drugs. However, my grandmother’s advice stood me in good stead. She used to say, “Look at Yudhistira [from Mahabharata]. He was called Dharmaraja, the righteous king. However noble he was, he had one weakness: playing dice. This vice led him to the ridiculous extent of waging a bet on his own wife. Hence, beware of any habit that is not good.” This teaching was indeed a revelation to me.

After intelligent quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ), spiritual quotient (SQ) is now seen as an essential for a fulfilling life. What are your views?

Spiritual quotient is a product of one’s ability to look inside and not get lost in the outside world. Violence or silence in the external world is an expression of what one experiences in our inner self. If one can discover the ecstatic energy within oneself, one will inevitably spread this ecstasy all around. The present world needs this very badly.

What is the role of a spiritual guru in today’s world?

The task of a spiritual guru is well cut out. Guru in Sanskrit means ‘Gu’ karo andhakaraha ‘Ru’ karo tat nivarthakaha. Guru is the one who dispels the darkness of ignorance in people; one who doesn’t indulge in creating followers but creating masters of their own selves by imparting clarity to them, motivating them to be explorers and not gullible followers.

What are the ways to create positivity around us?

Look around. The greatest book is the book of life. The whole universe is a dance of ecstasy. Five billion people in this world are being nurtured by the oxygen we breathe, the warmth of the sun, the water that quenches our thirst and energises us, and the food Mother Earth provides us without any expectation to keep us alive and kicking. What more hope and positivity do we need? The sad part is our consciousness, which is unconsciously asleep to this reality.

How does one elevate oneself spiritually?

Constantly reminding oneself that there is an undercurrent of divinity that is the basis of life, which is the foundation of this whole universe.

How can we shape our destiny?

Destiny cannot be denied. It does play an important part but, at the same time, don’t fool yourself and feel everything is just destiny. God helps those who help themselves. Do your part and let destiny take its course. Lord Krishna says in the Gita, “Lift yourself by yourself; you are your friend and you are your enemy.”

How can we prepare ourselves to face the ultimate truth—death?

Death is the fundamental reality of life. No one can deny this. The ultimate truth is not death but One’s real self, which is one of existence, consciousness and bliss—sat, chit and ananda. Adding years to your life is ageing. If you add life to your years, death will come dancing to you. You will welcome death as you don’t have the wanting self, pressurising you.

What is the need of the hour for the world today?

Mind is the cause for bondage and mind is the cause for freedom too. If we can transform this mind towards creating bridges between people rather than creating walls, the divisions plaguing this world will disappear. As Lord Krishna says in the Gita, Parasparam bhavayantaha shreyaha param avapsyata—this means, ‘supporting each other we will attain the ultimate good.’

Why do you think many turn to spirituality in old age?

I am not sure of this. Many people seem to be engaging themselves in some activity of external gain rather than engaging themselves into their inner being. Some might have turned to spirituality because they might have found the futility of the madness they have been into all their life and realised spirituality could be a way out of this madness. For people who were running after money, name, fame, etc, they might have realised their superfluousness after achieving all that they wanted and now want something more to actualise.

What is the role of spirituality in wellness and self-healing?

Spiritual discipline helps organise the inner energy of disorder to order. Ease when disturbed is dis-ease. Spirituality helps to create ‘ease’ with what is in a wise way.

What is the mantra for successful ageing, according to the Gita?

If I have to summarise in a nutshell, I will say three aspects in life—paristhiti, manosthiti and atmasthiti—hold the key. Paristhti are situations in life. We feel situations create pain in life. However, Lord Krishna says it is not situations but manosthiti, or the way you relate to situations, that creates pain or power. The third higher state is atmasthiti, which is the pure being one has to attain, which shifts the very paradigm from which you relate to life.

How can we train ourselves to let go of the past?

We are not living in the past. We are living the past. The past is not bad. Let it be a reference. Let us learn from the past, live in the present and plan for the future. Let this be the basis of our living.

Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
November 2017