Swami Veda Bharati was a child prodigy with a flair for scriptural knowledge. But his life took a new turn when he came into Swami Rama's orbit. Today, he is a reknowned spiritual teacher and author who travels all over the world.
At the tender age of five, he could meditate for an hour a day. Memorized 4,000 sutras of Panini at 6 1/2. Taught his first course on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali when he was 9. Addressed huge gatherings all over north India at 13. And when he was 33, he earned himself a B.A., a Masters as well as a Doctorate in Sanskrit from the University of London within a span of three years without the benefit of any formal education. Yet, Swami Veda Bharati (originally named Usharbudh Arya), a renowned spiritual teacher based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, considers being a disciple of Swami Rama his primary qualification.
It is said that you meet your guru only when the time is right. This holds especially true for Veda Bharati. During the Kumbh Mela of 1950 at Hardwar, he went looking for the most revered sage in the Himalayan tradition. This journey of discovery took him to a conference of sages where everobody unanimously suggested Swami Rama's name. But he did not get to meet his master then. It was only in 1969, when he was at Minnesota, that the master came calling. Ever since, "I am in his orbit", he says.
So, what was so extraordinary about Swami Rama? Swami Veda describes him as a person of 100 different faces, a 'phenomenon'. He could master any area of life--be it meditation, poetry, establishing a hospital or teaching.
Swami Veda states that apart from being a spiritual person, Swami Rama was also a superb administrator. In 1992, Swami Rama set up the Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences at Jolly Grant near Dehradun, one of the largest hospitals in north India. In 1996 he left his body. But before that, he had already managed a medical faculty of 100 people along with fully equipped medical and nursing colleges. This in a country notorious for the pace at which things work. Today, the hospital offers a combination of holistic therapies along with mainstream medicine.
According to Swami Veda, Swami Rama offered him many siddhis but he only asked for samadhi. So, he was given one ashram to "carry on the purely spiritual part of the legacy", he tells you with great aplomb.
Swami Rama left different gaddis (seats) to different disciples. In that sense, he did not appoint a spiritual successor. Swami Veda says:"Everyone is unhappy that he has not given ample recognition to his disciples." But he himself considers that irrelevant. Even in his own case, Swami Veda confesses: "I am such a puny character compared to such grandeur ..."
Swami Veda was married to Lalita Arya in 1961. She now stays in Dehradun and runs KHEL (Kindness, Health and Education for Lepers or Kid's Health, Education and Laughter), which the couple set up in 1983. Unlike many on the same path, he did not face any conflict between spirituality and marriage. It was understood by his family that "God will call him".
Since he has been running a meditation center in Minneapolis. He is almost always travelling through the year, providing spiritual guidance to those who seek it. He also runs the Rishikesh Ashram of Swami Rama and another ashram he has opened a few kilometres away, called Swami Rama's Sadhaka Grama. The residential facility of this ashram, however, is open only to those who are initiated in the tradition of Swami Rama.
Swami Veda claims to do half of his sadhana at American airports. He says that between running a worldwide organisation, travelling and answering hundreds of e-mails every day, the only time he gets for this personal sadhana is while commuting.
Talking about his inclinations, Swami Veda believes he can neither be a businessman nor can he manipulate the media. So he just sits in his ashram and takes whatever people offer. He also claims that his primary meditation is moral purification. He explains: "Even when I am speaking, I must check myself ... am I being rude? Am I boasting?
Today he knows 17 languages and can conduct lectures in 10 languages. On asking how he grasped so many languages--sometimes barely within half an hour--he saus, "It just happens. It is God's gift. Besides, apart from relaxation, i practice Yoga Nidra, which can aid quick and easy learning."
He feels that in most cases, our capacity for recalling is hampered due to various external and internal interferences. The storing of information is not the problem, but recalling it is. Swami Veda just needs to visualise the place, the people sitting, and the exact words come in a flash. Once he gets rid of the externals with yoga, "it all comes together and rises up like foam from the unconscious mind".
According to Swami Veda, one of the tragedies is that we take phrases from the West and present them as Indian philosophy. Citing the example of 'mind over matter', he claims that this statement is a fallacy in strict Indian philosophy. That is because the mind, which has been defined in the Indian tradition as a particular energy field, is one of the devolutes of prakriti, which is manifest in matter.
He is also upset with the way yoga is practised in India today. He feels that due to a lack of standardization, most teachers of yoga don't have the necessary meditational and philosophical background. "A lot of yoga these days is gymnastics, he complains.
He believes that meditation has unimaginable applications. But for its optimum use, it has to be so integrated with the consciousness that one can go to any layer of the mind one wishes to operate from. He has also authored many books on meditation including Superconscious Meditation, Mantra and Meditation and Meditation and the Art of Dying. His translation and commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (first two of the four sections) is being recognized as the most authentic by western Indologists.
Although belonging to the intense and ideological Himalayan tradition, Swami Veda's lecture can be poetical as well as methodical. His The Light of Ten Thousand Suns, for instance, is a poetic discourse that includes edifying compositions. He appropriately chooses his style of discourses and the language for different people. For those in the knowledge industry, such as IT, he would even divide his teachings into categories.
Talking about the 'master-disciple' relationship, he feels that this term, which is used with immense care in the Himalayan tradition, has become a 'fashin' these days. He himself has only a few close students and intimate friends whom he calls his 'guru brothers'. Although he might address someone as a disciple to enocourage him, he says: "My restriction on them is to work in a self-effacing way."
Swami Veda feels that yoga and meditation tend to influence all aspects of life. So, all the arts and sciences have come from the meditative states of their creators. But that is not so any more, especially in the West. He explains: "Whenever a culture becomes too smug, contact with an outside culture comes as a shock." At the same time he mentions that if you look at the history of mankind, you witness a similar degree of interest in spirituality all over. It is a myth that there has been a sudden rise in need for spirituality in the West. The first upsurge of spirituality in America started with the Quakers and William Penn in the early 19th century, he points out.
According to him, means of achieving happiness are rather simple. Just like carrying water in a sieve or having peace of mind. You just turn the water into ice, stabilize it and you can carry it anywhere. Similarly, you just need to stabilize your mind.
And if you don't know the technique for that one, you can simply begin with feeling the flow of your breaths.
"Those who don't know the limits of yoga will confine it to stress management. But those who do know will have 200 people for stress managements and keep an eye open for those who can be told that there is more."
He puts it beautifully in this verse:
Let your mantra come through, Riding on the vehicle of
the prana, and
in that order, from within,
coming to the surface,
and merging with the awareness of
Contact: Swami Rama's Ashram, Sadhana Mandir, Ph. (0135) 431 485.
Copyright 2002 Magazine 'Life Positive', India