Interview With Jain Master Dharmananda In New Delhi - Wisdom Is?

Posted: 28.12.2005
Updated on: 29.01.2016

This very morning of January 25th, 2005, I had the honour to interview a master of mental and physical health, as well as one of the important representatives of Jain culture and religion in India. He belongs to SERVAS Association, thru which I had the grace of being admitted by him to his Adhyatma Sadhana Kendra (Spiritual Practice Centre), where I am spending the first days of my fourth visit to India. It is only five days since I am here, but as it usually happens, every time one moves from place, especially to such a different cultural environment, the novelties one experiences are countless. I have the impression, I made a good entry and I confirm this because there are doors opening to me. There is a strange power that wants to make sure all my experiences in India will always be favourable and that I love this land and this people of millenary culture.

Luis Carlos Rodríguez Leiva: I would be delighted, if you would present yourself as a meditation master, maybe as founder of this Centre and also as representative of the Jain community.

Shri Dharmananda: Don Luis, I must tell you that I was a 22 years old student when I started to suffer severely of asthma, having to remain awake from 11:00 pm to 04:00 am, and only sleeping two hours before having to stand up to go to University.
It was a terrible suffering, and I tried the cure by all available means, allopathic, homeopathic, ayurvedic, unani etc, in short, all sorts of treatment but to no avail.
Someday someone told me I should try
Yoga, so I started it and after a week of practice I felt stupendous. These were the reasons, which made me interested in Yoga.

After that, I went to live in Calcutta, which by that time was the financial capital of India, all the big business and industry were there. A number of different holy Indians used to go to Calcutta’s Ashrams to look for donations, and there I had the opportunity to meet a lot of Yogis and Sadhus, from whom I got the inspiration to follow the Yoga path. Since then, I have been practicing and feel perfect.

By then, my practice was centred on Kunjal and Neti, cleaning practices and just a bit of meditation, shortly afterwards. These were my second and third step into the Yoga, being Yama and Niyamathe first ones. I then tried to find a master to guide me on these subjects, but it was a bit difficult to find one there, although as time went by I was getting the habit and started discovering the essence of Yoga.

In 1956, I graduated in Business at the University of Calcutta and returned to Rajasthan.
I am the son of a community, which dedicates itself to commerce, and I followed its line. In fact, one thing is the stuff one learns at the University, and another very different is to do business, so I went back to Calcutta to learn it.

For about three years, I have been working for a Company that gave me the basics of trading and after that I started my own business in 1963. Being my own boss, I could allow me time to approach the spiritual masters.

In 1975, Acharya Tulsi started the Preksha Meditationmovement. This man was of my acquaintance, because I was born within the Jain community, thus I was his follower.
Acharya Gurudev Tulsi learned that I had a good command on Yoga techniques, so he got me the book " Manonushasanam” which means “How to control the mind” and asked me to produce some pictures of Yoga Asanas.

When the meditation movement was started, he summoned me and told me: “This is your business. From now on you will make yourself and a lot of people happy”. This was his blessing for me.

By then, I already had three sons who were on their first year of University and who I was gradually introducing in my business. Acharyashree suggested that I should not ride two horses at once, “ Ride only the Yoga one, and besides, we need you here.”

Since January 1986, I am at the head of this institution, and I will explain you how I happened to be in charge of all this. The Ashram, we are now sitting, was founded in 1965 and managed by an elderly man, and there were very few activities. In 1985, at the age of 82, this man proposed himself to travel for learning whether the world needs meditation or not, and he asked me to accompany him.

From here we started to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Japan, where we spent a whole month, discovering the Okido Yoga, a tradition over there; and finally America, where we spent another month. Soon we jumped to Europe: Belgium, France, and Holland, where my fellow fell ill, due to the cold and humid weather of the country.

Everybody had told me that I was travelling with an elderly man, and had to take good care of him. So that, when this happened, I decided we should go back to India and finish our trip, because it supposed a big responsibility on me in case the man would have died abroad. Different things happened, and it behoved me to succeed him, giving Yoga a somewhat more scientific approach, than the one, we had been giving to that time.

I began to talk to medicine doctors to make them understand that Yoga can be a curative. Although they insisted, it is only preventive and not curative. Nevertheless, in 1990 Deenor Ornish, an American doctor, published a study which results reached even our Centre. Indian doctors started to get interested and came here to check if we were able to recuperate the health of severely ill persons.

The first study we realized dealt with the causes, which provoke the heart diseases.
The results from America were already available there, and we had to carry on the experiment here in India. Thus 100 people presenting all sorts of illnesses which induced heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure etc. were sent here and 100 more to a hospital. Here we taught them meditation, relaxation and Yoga. After one year, we realized that the majority of the people here had overcome their problems and led gratifying lives, while those in hospital remained ill, and some of them, indeed, had to be operated. Our case gained an enormous repercussion, and in February 1995, I organized an International Encounter in which the majority of attendants were medicine doctors whose main idea was that people had to switch their lives to an attitude of Yoga practice.
Dr. S. C. Mamchanda, University professor and chief of Cardiology Department of New Delhi Medical Institute, sent us 21 persons who presented multiple arterial obstructions of up to 70%.
This study was very expensive; at the time, the whole angiographic tests costed 15.000 Rupees per patient and had to be carried twice for each one. They offered it for free as well as us.
Doctor S. C. Mamchanda was very pleased with the results obtained among our patients and asked me to carry on with it, Yoga and Meditation. We are doing this since 1993, that’s to say since 12 years, and have treated 15.000 people. This amount could have been doubled, but people remain reticent. Only when they meet people who have been treated here and hear, how wonderfully it changed their lives, they decide to come.

The majority of doctors talk about the dangers of telling the patients they have a heart condition and drum into them an atrocious fear, as if they had a bomb in their hands that could go off at any moment.

Nevertheless, we keep doing our work at a fair price rate, which for native people is 2.500 Rupees for a 7-day board. The doctor, who has been working here with me, settled his own institution with similar methods and charges 25.000 Rupees for 3 days board. He moves all over India and is making millions. We on the other hand are not here to get rich, but to serve people.

Luis Carlos: Have you always been a Jain? What makes a Jain different of a Hindu or a Buddhist?

Shri Dharmananda: Definitely. I was born Jain, but as time went by, I took the decision to become really Jain, what corresponds to a second baptism. Once, a holy man came to my village and asked me, if I was Jain, and I told him, I was. Then he asked me, if I knew something about Jainism, to what I answered, I did not, but I would like very much to learn, so he kindly started to teach me.

According to Jainism, we have a soul, which can get rid of its karmic load, while the Buddhists say there is no soul, but I ask myself, how can one have karma if there is no soul? For me, it seems something contradictory. Another important aspect is that Jains do not believe in a Creator. Man gets good or evil, fortune or disgrace, due to his own Karma. We Jains do not believe in God, but in the liberated soul, which is God. We call it PANCHA PARMESTI. We feel our soul can illuminate itself. When the soul does not reincarnate again, it reaches the final liberation. Those, which are on the path to liberation, are called Arhat, those who are trying to reach salvation, but without a deep knowledge are the Sadhus. Among them are the Upadhya who help to understand the holy writings. Last, we have the Dharma.

Religion is our main enterprise, and we endeavour to understand it. We do not accept evolution as the occidental world presents it. All the souls have always existed and will always exist, because there is neither beginning nor end. Our work is to make ourselves better, getting rid of karma.

Luis Carlos: It seems that to be guarded and to live with some restraint, shapes the character. Which sort of identity one searches in Jainism?

Shri Dharmananda: In Jainism, we have two sorts of people; those who renounce the world completely, and therefore live on the woods far from the worldly noise. The other are those who keep their own houses and shall follow the 5 fundamental principles which are: 1) Non violence; 2) The Truth; 3) The Celibacy; 4) Do not steal and 5) Do not own. All religions in India have these principles. What actually happens is, that other religions do not prescribe anything for the family heads, apart of performing his offerings, prayers and helping the priests. Lord Mahavira said, it is not like that, the family heads have the possibility to achieve realisation, although it may take some time. If one try with interest can become a Siddha, the same way as a monk. The Jivan Muktha is the one who is free from the physical body.

Luis Carlos: The Vedanta Advaita tells us, we are neither body nor mind nor emotions…. These are the same teachings, I have been listening here during the Preksha Meditation sessions. What is the connection between the Upanishads sageness and Jainism?

Shri Dharmananda: Upanishads, Jainism and Sankya Yoga, which is the Yoga that deals only with the soul, says that at liberation stage we will melt with god Ishvara, but we Jains say no. We think we will keep our individuality. Ones soul will remain as a candle among thousands of others, that’s to say everyone keeps its own identity.

Luis Carlos: Once the SELF is not something which can be attained thru ones own efforts, is there any key to be blessed and receive the grace to see with clarity?

Shri Dharmananda: Yes. Although the Hindus talk of blessings from gods, in our case we talk of angels called “devas”. They are here, but cannot realise themselves, they may get attached to you or to get even with you. Nevertheless, the blessing of a holy sage can make one advance, once it comes from his heart. Anyway, in Jainism we say one shall try by oneself and do oneself’s best. Other people may help, but at the end of the day, it is oneself who has to achieve own realisation. Definitely, the personal realisation can be attained thru spiritual practice. One must follow the 5 fundamental principles and self-control.

Luis Carlos: To which extent the light given to Lord Mahavira is different from the one received by Buddha or Ramana Maharshi?

Shri Dharmananda: Lord Mahavira and Buddha belonged to the same age. Lord Mahavira was somewhat older than Buddha and both belonged to the same caste, the warriors, or Kshatriyas. Lord Mahavira was enlightened since the beginning of his life; therefore, he was born with the third state of knowledge, the Avadhi.

When he went to school and conceived questions, his master could not answer it. It is said also, that when he was still in the womb of his mother, he used to freeze his movement in order not to bother her. Others had to reach this knowledge….

Nevertheless, in order to reach salvation Lord Mahavira had to remain 12 years in the jungle and mountains practising relaxation and meditation. He used to eat once every three days and even did a 6-month fast, which made him realise the totality, and this was achieved thanks to his penances. It is said (smiling), Buddha who was a follower of Lord Mahavira, was getting so much flabby that he once fell in a ditch and a young lady had to bring him food, which was the hint of his intuition about the “Path”; but Mahavira insisted, that if one elects to be an ascetic, one must follow the path of hardship.

In truth, Lord Mahavira had an extraordinary physical constitution, once his bones had three lays, while ordinary people’s bones have only one. On the other hand, the angels, of whom we talked before, inflicted him all sort of pain, but in spite of that, the effort of Lord Mahavira provided him the definite knowledge.

As to Ramana Maharshi, this is a modern times Saint which tried to be an exponent of the “SELF”, but neither Buddha nor Ramana achieved such a perfect enlightenment as reached by Lord Mahavira, though both were exceptional Saints.

Luis Carlos: Who has inspired you fundamentally along your life?

Shri Dharmananda: I followed several Masters along my life, but the one who actually most provided is the current Acharya of the Jain Terapanth community. To all of them, I made the fundamental questions: Do you really know who you are? Can you guide me to meditation? But some of them told me to go away.

Luis Carlos: What has India to offer the world at this moment?

Shri Dharmananda: To India still lasts spirituality, and the world keeps suffering because of violence and materialistic attitudes without any spiritual base, which produce misfortunes. India can show the world as not to be violent, how to keep happiness and to get rid of the depressive attitude. That’s true, we have needs and we must try to fulfil them, but not all of them. We also do not have to compare to others.

When I went to America in 1985, the Americans used to tell me: Why do you come here when we already have so many Yoga institutions in our country? I answered them: I came here to bring you the knowledge I have acquired and I wish you would practise restrain upon yourselves. You have too much of everything, you must live with less.
But of course this sort of message was not easy to assimilate.

Luis Carlos: Talking about restrain upon oneself, can you tell me something about physical love and the role, which sex plays in our lives?

Shri Dharmananda: Sex is instinct and is present in every human being, and this creation exists thanks to sex. The excessive indulgency in sex will bring us problems. In a couple’s life, there is far more than sex, although it does not mean, sex is bad, once we are family heads. While one does not convert into an ascetic, the body’s production of semen is wasted. According to Ayurveda, one loses the greatest of the body’s strength, once it is not allowed to reach up the brains, what we call Oja, and it is also said in Taoism; but of course this is for the ascetics.

Luis Carlos: Karma could prevent us to live a wholesome life and at the same time affects our mental health. What can we do in such situations?

Shri Dharmananda: Karma is: good or bad things, which happen to us, related to the karma acquired in innumerable lives, previously lived. We have been born and have died endless times, nobody knows. Lord Mahavira could recognise only 27 previous lives.

We cannot know, we cannot explain all the past, but thanks to penances, we can destroy the bad karma. Besides, there are two sorts of Karma. One that keeps stick down to us as when one throws sand against a wall, and is actually very few; and the other similar as to when one throws mud. Karma is acquired thru body, mind, and words.

We all like the good Karma, because there is no pain in it, but boggle the bad one. To achieve salvation, we should get rid of both, and live beyond good or evil. Thanks to meditation as well as to fastening, we can destroy Karma. I will give you a list with 20 ways of acquiring good Karma taught by Lord Mahavira, and the Samaras to destroy the bad Karma.

I was feeling somewhat nervous; a good group of trainee teachers was approaching, coming to use this building to receive instruction as how to teach Yoga and Meditation to young students. I had finished my 10 questions and knew that a difficult transcription was awaiting me due to the many unknown words the Master has used. On the other hand, his far from clear voice conjugated with his accent.

Nevertheless, I was grateful to feel he had given himself entirely to answer in order to make easier for me to understand his wisdom.

While I am writing it down at this centre’s computer, I am watching two Jain nuns clad in white. One of them just finished reciting somebody a blessing by phone and is now placing a cloth over her mouth to avoid harming any insect. I am touched by their aura of love.

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Translation from Spanish to English by Paulo Soukup