This interview is in continuation to the 'Interview with Maria Wirth by Pradeep Krishnan (Part-I)' which was published on NewsGram on 24 July 2020.
There are too many experiences with Gurus. I have met famous and unknown gurus from Osho, Devaraha Baba, Anandamayi Ma, Swami Chinmayananda, Babaji of Herakhan, Ramsurat Kumar to the present day living gurus, like Amma, Karunamayi, Sri Sri, Baba Ramdev, Sadhguru. To all those gurus I am grateful for giving me direction, but with two gurus I stayed for longer and considered them "my" guru. Satya Sai Baba, with whom I stayed for 7 long years and afterwards with an unknown guru, a coffee planter in Kodagu, with whom I stayed for 5 years. Both I left as I lost my faith in them. In today's time, when knowledge can be easily accessed, a guru may not be necessary, but can surely be of great help. Important are one's own sincerity and the guru's integrity, which of course is difficult to fathom, especially in the case of gurus with a huge following who cannot easily be approached. It's good to listen to one's inner voice and not depend on what others say.
I was very lucky that right at the start, at the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, I had met Ananadamayi Ma and Devaraha Baba who undoubtedly were genuine. Devaraha Baba was said to be at least 250 years old, and Ma went only 2 years to a school in Bengal, yet well-known scholars flocked to her to get doubts cleared. Around Ma I learnt to take the presence of Bhagawan for real and to develop love for that inner Being in me. She exhorted us to do japa and keep the name of one's Ishta deva always on one's tongue, as there is nothing sweeter than that. "Be 24 hours a day aware of his presence", she would say. She kindled the desire to really find out who I am.
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"What is meant by God?" was an important question for me after I came to India, because "God" had not figured in my vocabulary in Germany during my studies, but here in India, the topic came up often. The concept of God in the Abrahamic religions and in Hindu Dharma is very different. The Hindu concept which is clearly expressed in the four Mahavakyas of the Upanishads – Aham Brahmasmi, Tat Tvam Asi, Prajnanam Brahma, and Ayam Atma Brahma – makes great sense. The eternal, all-pervading consciousness is the absolute truth and it is the essence in all of this varied manifestation. This is in tune with science and can be experienced. Only in India the absolute level of Truth is also considered – the one without a second, which is without name, form, attributes. Anyone with an open mind will realize that this view comes closest to the absolute truth.
"The Hindu concept which is clearly expressed in the four Mahavakyas of the Upanishads – Aham Brahmasmi, Tat Tvam Asi, Prajnanam Brahma, and Ayam Atma Brahma", tells Maria. Wikimedia Commons
The God of the Abrahamic religions in contrast is on the relative level. He (male) is separate from his creation and biased towards his followers. Actually, he is more on the level of the Hindu devas whom the dogmatic religions so much abhor. Yet even the Hindu devas are not seen as separate. It is made clear in the Upanishads that all devas are expressions of the One and actually one with it. It's amazing that the majority of Westerners, who consider themselves as rational and intellectual, accept a concept of God which will fall flat on genuine enquiry. How can the omnipotent and omnipresent creator be separate? Where is he? If infinite, he must permeate his creation, too, if all-powerful, then Satan must be also under his control, if all-merciful then he must include all in his mercy, and not single out the majority for terrible, eternal suffering in hell.
My idea, of what being enlightened means, was very fuzzy in the beginning. Somehow I also did not expect that it could be really possible for us 'normal' people to become enlightened. Yet the more I read and reflected, I realized that we all have the same potential, like great spiritual personalities. And still later, after having meditated a lot, I felt enlightenment is basically a shift away from the content of the mind to pure mind or pure awareness. When this happens, a very pleasant feeling of expansion goes with it which is impossible to describe. Occasionally I was allowed to get a glimpse of it, but it's not in my hand to get into this state. It is occasionally granted. Of course this may be a low rung on the ladder of enlightenment and many higher rungs are surely possible. But already this shift makes life extremely worthwhile.
Basically it is about sometimes stopping the thought stream and be aware of the present moment. The mind prefers thoughts and it is not so easy to stop them, especially nowadays with so much information coming our way via the mobile. Yet if one becomes aware that one is thinking, then better take the chance immediately and stop at least for a few seconds. This little is already helpful and may bring fresh ideas into the mind afterwards.
Another method I practiced in the beginning a lot is to remind myself that all this is just like a movie on the screen of Brahman, in which I am just one actor, but in reality and in the depth of my being I am one with all.
Everyone needs to find his own ways to avoid being sucked into thoughts and emotions so much that he gets drowned in them. These are ever-changing. The real reality is unchanging. It's sat-chit-ananda, blissful awareness. While waking up in the morning, one can sometimes get a taste of this blissful, pure awareness. One is not asleep anymore but not yet identified with one's person. One of the texts of Kashmir Shaivism, the Vijnanabhairava, details 112 methods how to catch this state of pure awareness which is always underlying our existence, but gets covered with thoughts and emotions.
One more thing is helpful: to be well meaning towards all. It happened automatically that I wished "may you be happy" when meeting others, even just passing people on the road.
Maria Wirth believes that yoga and pranayama are helpful in bringing happiness into daily life. Facebook
What I described in the previous answer is also the best way to bring happiness into daily life. Yoga and pranayama are helpful. India has also many methods in company with others. For example Kirtan or Bhajan is a beautiful method, going for Arati to a temple, going on a pilgrimage, in short, if one can make the Divine one's dearest companion and feel love for it, that's the best way to happiness.
Moreover, strange as it may sound especially to Westerners, fulfilling one's duty in one's station of life also gives happiness. Anandamayi Ma also advocated freely sharing of what you have, whether it is knowledge or material things. Once she said: people feel pity for Sanyasis because they have renounced the joys of the world. These people don't know what they miss out by being immersed only in worldly pleasures.
And a practical, quick method to change one's mood if one feels low: dance with your arms up in the air. Try it out. It works.