It’s 10 pm and though I’m half sleepy, half awake on a cold winter night, I decide to soothe my troubled Covidoxic mind by listening to a bit of meditation music as recommended by a friend.
But three minutes into the sounds of waves crashing and droplets of rain, making a cling clang noise, supposedly to help me relax, I give up. Not because these things dont work; I’m sure they do, for a host of people but perhaps not when you’re feeling impatient and sleepy and would instead prefer some human element to it all.
Next option? To plug on my earphones and listen to some nuggets of wisdom from a new age guru who isn’t too bad looking either. With a fan following all over the country and abroad, Nithya Shanti as he is known, is the complete paradox of what you’d expect a guru to be.
But then, hey, he doesn’t prefer these labels and would instead be known as a spiritual friend we might have or a happiness coach or a life coach. Labels are not for everyone, I guess.
So, as I’m tuning in to a discourse, I dont really know what to expect. After all it’s the first time, Im reaching out for spiritual salvation and though most of us, non religious folks dont know it, our minds can be very hungry for this kind of stuff.
Nithya, not his real name but his legal name now, likes to read from various books and chapters relevant to the ongoing online discourse and also quote from some of the most beautiful poems and writers and invite us to say/feel/think/ruminate on it.
Interesting, intelligent and with the power to soothe, I felt. Half an hour into this discourse and I was wide awake, unable to plug out. Addictive too. Yeah. If your poison is words, thoughts, the complexities of life and always looking to get a balance from teetering on the dangerous edge.
What’s different here is that Nithya Shanti does not offer or claim to offer a solution, as most healers, would do, to fix a problem or some disconcerting thought. Instead he wants you to soul search. Works well when you go by the premise that each of us is an individual and all our thoughts need not be the same!
It is in helping others that we find the way to alleviate our own pain.
Between stimulus and response is a gap.
This is where wisdom lives.
Wise words. But not very surprising when it comes from a 40 something, former worker bee in the corporate world, turned into a new age motivational life coach who preaches positivity and happiness interspersed with meditation to a host of troubled millenia.
But again, not everyone who attends his sessions are troubled. Some end up listening to his sound bytes for a love filled, negativity free world, as a means to attain moksha, after having had a life of too much materialistic plenty and feeling spiritually starved at times.
Others attend his workshops as part of the regular corporate culture of destressing from high pressure jobs at some scenic offsites. And yet others come to him, out of curiosity and some more to understand the extra pain and grief that life bestows on them. Here, the question why me?..is usually explained through calmness and clarity about our purpose in life.
Perhaps this balm for our souls was never more needed, especially in times like the present Covid infused abnormal lives as we are leading now. Therefore somebody like Nithya Shanti, is even more relevant today.
Was he always this ‘guru’ inside that relatively ordinary body or did life transform him? ” It was a lot of teenage angst and some difficult times which brought me to where I am. I was of course interested in meditation from a very early age and my schooling in the early years at an alternate philosophy school, the free progress Mirambika School at Aurobindo Ashram, really nurtured that.
Later, as I sought answers to many issues, I turned to Buddhism and ended up being ordained as a monk, when I visited Thailand and Sri Lanka,” says the XLRI, Jamshedpur passout who had joined the corporate world initially but gave it all up for his spiritual pursuits.
After spending close to six years as a monk, he finally gave up his robes and started teaching about life and its higher pursuits to people from all echelons of life, including many from abroad though he resists calling them his followers and instead insists they are friends who understand his philosophy about life.
“I gave up monkhood not because I no longer believed in it but because my horizons widened. I felt that it should not be relegated to only Buddhism as I was preaching, but should apply to all religions and paths of spirituality. That is who I am today,” he explains.
Also, since his childhood meant changing many schools and even a stint at a boarding like Welhams Boys in Dehradun, it helped him to compare, judge and absorb different influences in his life, that started falling in places to form his composite whole identity as a human being with a unique thought process, that appeals to his core audience; the educated, urban professional. As would be, he is not an advocate of schooling away from home and family. “It messes with your head,” he explains.
Talking about the Covid 19 life, what according to him are the biggest challenges people have faced in such a scenario?
“I would say it’s a mixture of many things. Problems during this period have got intensified. So if somebody is a worrier or depressed; he or she has sunk deeper into it. Jobs and relationships have possibly seen the worst. I do not dole out manuals to solve these problems; rather I would explain my views and expect people to figure out the solutions on their own, as reality is multifaceted and there is a big difference between knowledge and wisdom .
He says there are five spaces in our lives: work, family, leisure, holiday and my space. The last is usually the most neglected and therefore the reason for a lot of problems. Whatever nourishes the soul, must be indulged in and this simple fact is ignored by so many, whereas this is what can save many a life from degrading. Exercise or music or dance or writing or reading or any thing that one is passionate about, can help steady the rocky boat of life. He says to hold on to that passion. It makes life worth living.
The goal should be to live a safe and happy life and sometimes that is what is the most difficult, he agrees. “I do not pretend to have all the answers. I just want to invite you to explore life more consciously,” says the erudite speaker at many international and domestic conferences and live sessions for whom it is a busy time, with many online teaching practices taking place now that everything has come inside our living rooms.
Born in Boston in the US, Nithya Shanti, is still very much the Indian at heart and resides in Pune from where he imparts teachings of life and love to the many that seek him out.
His most important tenet? The journey from an unhappy somebody to a happy nobody.
Finally, that’s what life is about.
Happiness? Isn’t it?
To know and follow Nithya Shanti, check out his videos and teachings on YouTube and SoundCloud and also his website www.nithyashanti.com, to learn more about his non profit organization and also his company, Funwise Consulting.