Guest Post: by Andrew Cohen. An interview with Ajja. A rare example of egoless enlightenment. Ajja passed away in 2007, yet his message to humanity remains crystal clear. This insightful interview was recorded in 1998 for the publication: What Is Enlightenment?
Who Is Ajja?
A Meeting with the Absolute.
Every other year at the Vivekananda Kendra Ashram outside Bangalore, India, a conference is held entitled “Frontiers in Yoga Research and Applications.” The theme is always the relationship between science and spirituality, consciousness research and the medical applications of yoga. On my first visit I didn’t know what to expect, but on my second, as an invited speaker on “Enlightenment,” I knew that at this conference anything was possible. At this event, where the mundane and the sacred meet and intermingle on so many levels simultaneously, a most unusual cast of characters comes together in a kind of soup that only Mother India could cook. But in spite of knowing this, when I returned to southern India last December I had no idea that I would have the rare opportunity to spend time with that most precious gem—a fully enlightened jnani, one who has realized the SELF ABSOLUTE.
Ajja, or “grandfather,” as he is fondly called by all those who know him, is a living example of the extraordinary spiritual legacy of India, and his personal story is as strange and mysterious as it is miraculous. Born in 1916, Ramachandra was a wealthy farmer and landowner who, although he expressed no particular interest in matters spiritual, was said to be naturally possessed of unusual purity of heart and rare simplicity of being. One day at the age of thirty-six, for no apparent reason, Ramachandra was struck by a terrible pain in his heart that gradually moved to encompass his entire body. For six months he bore what he describes as excruciating physical pain, and all the while his family tried desperately to find what it was that was causing him to suffer so. Their efforts proved to be fruitless, as no one could find the cause of his torment. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the pain vanished, leaving no trace.
Although previously he had not been a deep thinker, this experience provoked an intense inquiry within him that lasted, we were told, for several months. “What was this pain that had been torturing my body?” he asked himself. “What was bondage? What was liberation?” Because of his simplicity and the purity of his mind, he was able to go to the very root of these questions in no time at all. What he found in his investigation is that pain is bondage, and that the root cause of bondage is karma. Karma is created by mind, he realized, mind being all thoughts that are concerned with the small self. On the last night of his inward inquiry he asked himself: What is the root of worldly possessions? Of money? Money, he concluded, was the most important thing in the world, and all fear and insecurity are rooted in attachment to that.
In that instant he experienced a powerful vision that was both glorious and terrifying. Before him there appeared an extremely beautiful woman whose entire body was red and who, to his horror, had blood pouring profusely from her mouth. He recognized her to be death incarnate. And as he beheld her for some time he had a powerful insight. The root of money, he realized, was possession. And possession, he realized, was death. Then the female form vanished and a door appeared, at which point a final inquiry began within him. “Who am I?” he asked himself. The door then opened and he left his body through the top of his head. He was met by “divine entities” that guided him further on his journey to what he calls the “third level.” During this entire process, which took place in the middle of the night, he was lying on the floor in his room, apparently physically dead. All the while, Ishmael, a Muslim farmer who was destined to become his closest devotee, was sitting by his side, commanded, we were told, by the unknown to look after his body. Then, a ball of light appeared and hovered near his inert form—and then entered it.
As the light entered Ajja’s body he opened his eyes, and the first words that he uttered were, “The one who was here is gone—someone else has come.” He continued, “I am not the body, I have no mother, I have no father. I am that brightness.”
For the next three months he sat quietly in his house as a profound silence within him grew in intensity. As his mind was gradually adjusting to his new condition, he became so sensitive that even the slightest sound was completely unbearable to him.
At the end of this period he emerged from his house, utterly transformed. Completely intoxicated, he would wander naked, at times dancing and singing for hours in the rain, and at times staring endlessly at the sun. He slept on rocks and under trees. His family thought he had gone mad and finally committed him to an asylum. When the doctors asked him what his name was, he replied, “I have no name.” When they asked him where he lived, he replied, “Everywhere.” After two months, the doctors determined that he was not mad and released him.
He spent the next twenty years as a roaming avadhuta [one who has cast off all concerns], so deeply immersed in the consciousness of the SELF that most of the time he seemed to be oblivious of the world around him. Ishmael, now his constant companion, looked after the needs of his body. Then, in 1961, when he was in Rishikesh, in northern India, he heard a voice that called out to him, “Come to me. You come to me. I am here in Ganeshpuri.” Responding immediately, he went to Ganeshpuri to see the legendary Swami Nityananda, with whom he spent only five minutes. Not a word was uttered as they stared into each other’s eyes. It was this meeting that enabled Ajja to “come back to earth,” and soon after he began to wear clothes again and to converse with others.
Back in his small village, he continued to spend most of his time in complete silence. Seven years ago the famous pundit Bannanje Govindacharya was giving a talk about Vedanta in Ajja’s village, exhorting the people to “go within!” Ajja, who was listening, followed his instructions to the letter. It was then that the pundit discovered him because Ajja, upon going into a mystical trance, fell down. When the pundit went to him and asked, “What happened to you?” he replied innocently, “You told me to go inside. I went inside.” Govindacharya recognized Ajja’s experience to be in accordance with the Upanishads [the classical scriptures of Vedanta], and as a result of their meeting, which has grown to be a warm friendship, Ajja’s reputation as a living master of Advaita or nonduality has begun to spread throughout Karnataka state in southern India.
It was early evening at the conference when Ajja began to speak simply and unpretentiously about the nature of our true identity to a mostly Indian audience. His utter vulnerability was almost painful to behold, and he seemed to be uncomfortable and even slightly suffocated by the role that he had been thrust into, sitting in front of a large number of people. Speaking slowly and deliberately, his words were simple and penetrated deeply to the core of Being. He spoke of unimaginable bliss and of transcending the mind completely. He described tremendous energy moving in his spine and the great importance of one-pointed desire for moksha, or emancipation. Again and again he emphasized the absolute necessity of stilling the mind in order to experience directly that which lay beyond it. As he spoke, his authenticity was made apparent more by how he was than by what he said. This was a man who seemed to have no face, no name and most striking of all, appeared to have no mind or personality in the ordinary sense. His discomfort with the spoken word was obvious and he continually repeated that “one cannot speak about these things”—they can only be understood through direct experience. To my surprise, who Ajja was seemed not to be apparent to many people in the audience, as some aggressively demanded proof from the gentle man that he was genuine. To make matters worse, some of his ardent devotees began to declare aloud in no uncertain terms that their guru was a living example of the highest attainment described in the Upanishads. A circus-like atmosphere was soon created that spread throughout the crowd. In the midst of the chaos, Ajja chose to remain silent.
Later in the evening I went with a few of my students to meet Ajja in his room. When we arrived, he was on the receiving end of piercing questions from the renowned physicist George Sudarshan who, in addition to having been a candidate for a Nobel Prize, has also been intimately associated with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the great J. Krishnamurti. “Ajja,” the physicist asked, “When two people are standing side by side, gazing at the moon high up in the night sky, why is it that one experiences intense curiosity as to why things are the way they are, and the other has no curiosity at all?” Ajja replied in the way that he answers many questions, “You have to have the experience. Only then will you be able to understand.” The physicist would not accept Ajja’s response, claiming that anybody could say that, that Ajja was avoiding the question and that it was simply not an acceptable answer. I found myself going back and forth between two completely different impressions of what was occurring. On one hand, I was impressed with the physicist’s courageous unwillingness to accept anything less than a direct answer from an enlightened man. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but be equally impressed by Ajja’s striking equanimity. Even though Ajja appeared to be unable to respond directly to the question, I was touched simply by the deeply vulnerable nature of his being. It seemed ironic to me that while the physicist appeared unable to perceive the greatness of the man who was sitting in front of him, neither could Ajja recognize why his own response to the physicist was so unreasonable.
I visited with Ajja on two more occasions, traveling from the ashram where we were staying, half an hour’s drive outside of Bangalore, into the city, where he was staying at the apartment of one of his devotees. Attempting to “interview” Ajja for this issue of What Is Enlightenment? proved to be more challenging than we had anticipated. Being a man so deeply and utterly absorbed in the nondual nature of his own self, he finds any question that in any way requires the consideration of a subject/object relationship almost impossible to comprehend.
Upon leaving Bangalore after our first three-hour interview with Ajja, we were amazed and deeply touched, but also slightly confused. There was no question in our minds that we had just been sitting in the company of a profoundly enlightened man whose “state” or “attainment” was undoubtedly extremely rare. And it became very clear after spending only a short period of time in Ajja’s intimate presence that he was one who had left this world and everyone in it far behind a long time ago. But there were some strange tales from his devotees: one was that Ajja was in fact the reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi. We were told when Ramachandra left his body through the top of his head, the great saint, pacifist and revolutionary’s soul entered Ramachandra’s empty vessel. “Only in India!” I thought to myself. We were also informed that Ajja had the clairvoyant ability to reveal to others who they were in prior births—but when he did it almost always turned out that in their prior birth they had been foot soldiers in Gandhi’s revolution. So on our second visit, I forced myself to ask him if what we had heard from some of his devotees was true. Was he the reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi? To which he replied, “What I experienced was Universal Soul.” But this question was never completely resolved, as Ajja still made room for it to be true, even if only in other people’s minds. “We cannot see our own face,” he added, “that is left to others.”
In the end, more than anything else, what I was profoundly moved by was this extraordinary man’s utter emptiness of a personal self. Indeed, he does seem to be a literal example of one whose mind and body have become a truly empty vessel through which that One without a second shines through, untainted by even a trace of individuality.
Ajja: First, we should introduce ourselves, so there will be mutual understanding and harmony. After that, our conversation can begin. Only then will there be usefulness in this conversation. Otherwise, words are mere words. The other day when we met, you described your experience of awakening, but the others here have not heard it, so could you please describe it again?
Andrew Cohen: I was sixteen years old.
Ajja: Who was sixteen years old?
AC: The individual, the young man, who was convinced that there was a problem, that there was something wrong.
Ajja: You can continue.
AC: Suddenly the doors of perception opened. It seemed like the walls in the room had disappeared and suddenly there was infinite space. And this infinite space was full of energy. And this energy was conscious, it was aware of itself.
Ajja: And what you are now—is it that awareness itself?
Ajja: So it’s not this body that you refer to as “I.” The awareness you experienced at that time, is that the “I” you feel now also?
AC: Yes. It’s the same.
Ajja: It’s not this body?
AC: There’s only one “I.”
Ajja: And what happened after that?
AC: Then what happened was that I realized that this energy which was aware of itself was intelligent—there was intelligence—and the nature of it was love. Unbearable love. Excruciating love. And it also became apparent that everything that existed in the manifest universe was of the same substance, which was this consciousness. And in that it became apparent that every point in space was exactly the same point as every other. For example, now we’re here in this room. We just came from Prashanti. Before that I was in Europe. Before that I was in America. While these all seem to be different places, what I realized in that moment was that every place I could be was the same point, literally and actually. Also, there were tears but I wasn’t crying. And my throat was opening and closing.
Eventually this experience faded. But then, six years later, when I was twenty-two, I began to seek for this experience once again, because even though by that time it felt very far away from me, I knew that it had been the most real experience of my life. I began to do sadhana [spiritual practice] and had various experiences and was with many different teachers. And then finally when I met my last teacher, I told him about it. Over the years, I had told many people about this experience and they had never known what to say, but when I told him, he said, “Then you experienced everything.” And when he said this, it began to come back. Then I experienced this overwhelming love and heat and burning for several weeks. After that happened I began to find myself speaking spontaneously about the Absolute—I couldn’t help it; I would start speaking about it and then it would come into the room. And my body would fill up with bliss, and other people would feel the bliss and be drawn into the experience.
Ajja: What is your state now?
AC: That’s what my experience is now. It happens when I’m teaching, when I’m speaking about the Absolute. Then this experience comes, and when I stop speaking about it, then I go back into a more ordinary state. But the difference now is that I have no doubt—self-preoccupation and doubt are gone—and this love that I met at that time is my whole life.
Ajja: In the beginning, the “I” was a constricted “I.” Later, it started becoming expanded, and then you reached a state where there was no time and space, beyond even emotions. In that, “you” and “I” become one—the supreme Divine. We only use the word “I.” Whatever there is in this body, for that we say “I” as a simple indication. We say that it is “me,” but I am nothing. I am not the body. I am not even a power. What really exists is That whose nature is light, its nature is satya [ultimate reality]. It is truth, it is bliss, it is peace, and that is the real existence.
Who is that energy, that power? What is the source of that? Who am I? What is my source? I am that energy. I am that power which is my source. So when I go to search for the source of this “I,” I reach that self-illumination. Then this power that is existing in this body, residing in this body, is also arising from that self-illumination itself. And it has all the qualities and nature of That itself. So when I know this, I start evolving. This “I” starts evolving to become That itself. That is its nature. Total expansion is its nature.
So what is that “I” which we were calling “I”? This body is not “I.” The one who resides in this body is the real I. That power, that shakti, is I. When one goes into that self-illuminated state and recognizes it as his own true nature, he also finds that it has endowed him with the qualities of illumination, expansion, compassion. The individual self has become one with That. Whatever he sees around him, where does it come from? It is evident that it always comes from within; in every instant, it seems to just come springing up from within. To a realized soul, that is how the whole world around us looks.
Everything has come out of that “I.” The most important answers, how do they come? It is not as if they were written down somewhere. These answers have just come out. Not from the individual self, but from this state they have come out. So there is no self! It has just spontaneously come out.
So for the individual soul who aspires to be totally free, what is the easiest and most direct path to freedom from the cycle of birth and death? The answer to that question will come when the mind becomes totally silent. So it is not what I say that is important. We have to get those answers ourselves, and that we can do only by silencing our minds. All of us have the capacity to get those answers, because every question has an answer within silence. When the mind has reached a state of stillness, the answer comes. This will not happen in one or two days, but it is certain that we will get the answer in the silence.
AC: I understand that when the mind is silent there is no problem and therefore no need to find a solution. However, I have some questions I’d like to ask you anyway, for the sake of the many people who will read this.
Ajja: Whatever question you ask, the answer that comes out of here is: “Silence the mind.” You have to first concentrate the mind on itself. If, after that, you still need a perfect answer, my life itself is the answer. By seeing my action, you can understand, you can realize That. That is my message. That is my answer.
AC: Can I ask you a question anyway? It’s a good one.
Ajja: If I answer something, it should be of some use. The importance is for action. When the message is given, will they bring it into practice?
AC: That is what I wanted to ask you about: What is the relationship between nonexistence and action in time and space?
Ajja: One loses his existence through knowledge and action. Through these he becomes free. Then he himself is a jivan mukta [liberated person]. But when that “I” has gone, what is there? Where is the question then?
AC: Even though he is free, isn’t the jnani [Self-realized individual], the jivanmukta, still expressing something through his actions?
Ajja: I don’t have the awareness that “I’m a jnani“or “I’m a jivan mukta.” I don’t have anything. When the “I” has gone, the consciousness does not even raise the feeling of “I.” That is completely gone. So for a jnani that question does not even arise. When there is no question of thinking, then ordinary action in day-to-day life does not take place. Our thoughts are transformed into contemplation. Then our day-to-day routine interactions become spiritual. In that, the regular routine itself becomes spiritual life. That itself is yogic life. That itself is divine life.
AC: There is a mystery that I’m infatuated with. From nothing, there became something; it’s literally the beginning of everything. In the jivanmukta, also, he is nothing, he’s in nothing. And yet, from nothing comes something: words, actions, etc. This is what I want to know about.
Ajja: I have already described how day-to-day interactions themselves can be converted into spiritual actions. Having that objective, when an individual soul is engaged in day-to-day actions and duties, he gets transformed. Then as he advances on the path of evolution, through contemplation on the thought “Who am I?”—who is that individual soul?—then, even while residing in this body, he becomes totally free from the cycle of birth and death. He becomes the Self itself, and the Self is total freedom. This is real freedom. This realization is the objective of human birth. It is for this alone that a human birth is taken. When this objective is fulfilled, our life itself is fulfilled. It is a state from which there is no more birth. It is a life free from duality, and beyond death. This is applicable everywhere in the entire world. This is true for the whole of humanity. When the whole of humanity understands this and puts it into action, then where is this question?
AC: Then there will be no difference between birth and death.
Ajja: Yes. Only when there is birth can there be death. Where is birth in this? We think: “I am this body. All the sense objects that are related to the body are mine.“ With such a constricted feeling, when a person is involved in action, and is experiencing the joys and sorrows that are resulting from such action, again and again he will take birth in this world. So his lives continue according to his actions. This is the secret of birth, life and death. But when the individual self is freed from the bondage of action, and also the bondage of this body, then he becomes one with the supreme Self, which is his original nature. He becomes the supreme Self itself. When the individual, through contemplation of the question “Who am I?” becomes free from karma, he evolves, he becomes the self-luminous Supreme. That itself is Self. That itself is bliss. That itself is satya, ultimate reality. That itself is Life. That itself is Self-realization.
So Self-realization is for the good of the whole. It brings auspiciousness and good to the whole universe. That is the objective of human life. When we understand the secret of this, we will really understand the relationship between the individual soul, the supreme Soul and the universe. The individual is a part of the cosmos. This body, this “I,” is nothing but a microcosm of that macrocosmic universe. When we understand the micro level, we are bound to understand the macro universe. Anyone who seeks here is bound to reach there, because this individuality is a part of That. And also, it containseverything. All the secrets of That, this also contains. Through the study of the individual—or even the atom—the basis of the whole universe can be understood.
How is this freedom realized? Through action alone does realization come. That is jnana, that is freedom, that is moksha [liberation].We must understand how, by doing action, we can reach that state. What kind of action will help us to become liberated? Chanting the name of God, contemplation, surrender, truth, nonviolence, detached action. One who, during his lifetime, can translate the knowledge of the Self into action, that one deserves to realize that supreme blissful state. Not only that, he becomes bliss itself. “Who am I? What is the secret of my life, my birth?” Understanding this, realizing this through his search, even when he is engaged in actions and duties, he attains his original nature, which is bliss. So it is through action that he becomes transformed.
AC: When you speak about karma yoga, or detached action, are you referring specifically to spiritual practice? Or to any form of detached action?
Ajja: Any action which is done as a duty without the expectation of a result. Any action, if you do it without expectation and selfishness, is transformed into duty. This leads you to a state where there are no emotions. One is doing, but he is not doing. There is no feeling that “I am doing something.” What happened to that “I”?
This evolution is step by step. It doesn’t happen all of a sudden. It has to pass through various stages. However, even the most elementary state of bliss is Bliss itself. The nature of bliss is Bliss itself. Bliss itself is the nature of bliss. Bliss is Bliss itself. Bliss is Bliss. This bliss is eternal reality. This bliss is eternal Truth. That bliss which is eternal reality, that is the eternal bliss. This is the supreme Bliss. This is the Brahmic [Absolute] Bliss. And that itself is Ananda [spiritual bliss]. There is nothing there—no state. Experience and words cannot reach there. The actual nature of the individual self is this bliss itself. And the easiest and the shortest path is to always dwell in that sahaja [natural] state that is our original nature.
The question may arise, “Where is that Bliss?” That Bliss is here and now, ever present. When this jivatma [individual self] is dropped, that Bliss is there, already existing. The individual soul has the bondage of action, but the Supreme doesn’t have that. There is not even birth for the Self. So let us go beyond this dualistic world of action, let us evolve, and reach the paramatma [supreme Self].
For all this, meditation is the starting point. In the beginning you should sit. You should have that internal preparation. One has to discipline oneself. But it is not enough only to sit. It is not merely that the body must sit; your mind must sit also. The mind should not be wandering. Unless the mind is controlled, there is no meditation. The wandering of the mind itself is the world.
AC: Yes. The mind is the world.
Ajja: So in the beginning, the mind should become still. The mind is wandering and that must stop. Through meditation, the mind turns inward. And this should happen not only in meditation, but also in the midst of action.
Nothing that we take to be real in this world actually is. When this world becomes unreal to you, then the true reality reveals itself. That is the beginning. In that, we realize that there is no death, there is no life, there is only existence. At one point or another, we all have to die. But I do not mean the death of this body. There is another kind of death—a death from which there is no rebirth. When the one who keeps coming back for reincarnation, when that one dies, that is the real death—as in my case, where all experiences have passed. Now, here in this state, there is nothing.
AC: When you say there is nothing here, do you mean that you have no experience right now? You seem to be expressing a great deal.
Ajja: Whose experience? Words are coming, it is true. Through this vehicle, some unknown force is acting, some power is working, using this body as an instrument. It is not this body that is speaking. There is a power that is inspiring this body, intellect and mind. In each one of us the same thing is happening, but often we say, “I am speaking.” Here that is not happening. Words are just coming out. That is the difference. I don’t say, “I say, I speak.”
AC: In my own experience, the relationship between this state of bliss, in which there is no “I,” and perfect action in the world of time and space seems to be very mysterious. So I would still like to know more about how you define that relationship for the one who is actually established in that bliss consciousness in which there is no notion of “I.” How do that individual’s actions in this world express the perfection of that condition? What is the relationship between that state and the expression of perfect action in this world of appearances?
Ajja: My level of interaction is totally different. There is no relationship between these two in my actions. What is your understanding about perfect action in the world?
AC: Perfect action means action that comes from pure love, in which there is no sense of individuality and no self-interest whatsoever. There’s no pride, there’s no greed, there’s no egotism, there’s no self-consciousness. And it is also the expression of pure love that has no sense of itself as being separate. But this action does occur. All the realized souls express this.
Ajja: This is difficult to explain, to put into words, but if one spends time in the company of a person who is in such blissful consciousness, then it becomes possible to understand. Such an individual will not tell you anything. He will communicate only in silence. But through contact with him, understanding can happen. One can know this only through experience.
What is love? Are we speaking about a love related to the senses? Or is it beyond the senses? Some people are the embodiment of love but the nature of their love is beyond the senses. You cannot see it with your eyes. You cannot describe that love with your words. They are love embodied. This love is not something to be displayed. It is their original nature. It’s not something they merely express. It is their nature always.
AC: It’s who they are.
Ajja: They exist in this world, but they are not. They are, and they are not. That is what self-illumination is. That itself is Atman [the Self]. That itself is bliss. That itself is truth. That itself is life. Which life is it? It’s not worldly life. It’s a life beyond duality and beyond death.
AC: So how they are, then, is the answer to the question. How they are is the answer to the question of what the relationship is between nothing and something.
Ajja: These things are beyond description. This we cannot explain. This can only be seen and understood. It’s not because they have something to say that they speak. It’s not possible to describe bliss. When you are blissful, it’s an experience, but there is no one there to speak. Words come out, but between the words that come out and that ultimate reality there is no relationship. The real state and the words that describe it are not related. That exists only as Itself. The words show That, they manifest That, but they are not That. The existence of that Supreme is indicated by the word “I” only for the sake of interaction in the world—for the sake of the world, but not for the sake of That.
My experience is of the Universal Soul only, which is energy, light and power—the self-luminous supreme Universal. It has come for evolution and it has evolved. Universal light comes for evolution and it evolves.
AC: The light evolves?
Ajja: Light and power came, but now only light remains in the evolved form. There is no power. The indweller of this physical body is the soul, which is nothing but self-luminous light and power. And in evolution, the power dissolves, leaving only light.
AC: Can you say that again?
Ajja: The indweller of the body is a universal power and light. And in the process of evolution, the power dissolves and the light remains. But the truth of this cannot really be communicated. Only through contact, by being in the proximity of a realized soul, can one understand. This is one of those questions the answer to which can only be discovered when you search for it in silence. Otherwise it becomes mere lecture from which none of us will benefit.
AC: I understand that the most important answer cannot be given in words, that it can only be found by the individual in silence. And yet it is my experience that by asking these kinds of questions sometimes magical and extraordinary things can happen.
Ajja: Even if the truth comes out or if, as you say, magical, miraculous things occur, when words come out, they are still nothing but words.
AC: But the words coming from a jnani have the power to enlighten.
Ajja: That is about the jnani. But where are the jnanis? Who is a jnani? And who is it that recognizes the jnani?
AC: The jnani and the one who recognizes the jnani are one and the same.
Ajja: Is that your experience?
Ajja: I do not deny that experience. But a jnani will never have the experience that “I am a jnani.” He is simply what he is. It’s his original state. If an unnatural state comes, he will be amazed. This is the original, natural state for a jnani. There is only bliss. There is no one to experience that bliss. The person who sees has gone. That is evolution. So what is, in that case, is a state which is not a state. This is the original state of every individual. But one must be ready to go to that original state.
AC: One of your disciples told me that when you get to know people more intimately you can see their past lives. Is this true?
Ajja: I am not an astrologer. I don’t read anyone’s mind. This is contradictory for spirituality. Liberation should happen in this life itself. Sometimes we are told that for some reason it’s not possible in this life, that we have to wait for future incarnations. But we don’t know if this is true or not, so here and now we should become free.
AC: I agree with you, and my question is based only on what I’ve heard from other people here. I personally feel that this kind of thing is a complete waste of time and also that it’s the opposite direction one should be looking in if one wants to be free. If one wants to be free, one wants to know the Self one is when there’s no time and no history. Finding out about past lives could never tell you anything about that which never happened.
Ajja: Yes. Let us know about this life. In knowing this you know everything you need to know. Now we are here. It’s now about this. Why should we go back? There is no future and no past. We have come here. We are here. What is this? Who are we? Who am I? Who is the one who has come? That which has come is self-luminous power with light. This itself is the foundation. There are engineers who build the building, but we must look only at the foundation, we are concerned only with the foundation. “Who am I?”—this inquiry is the foundation. When you go in search of That, it is possible to find the answer to every question on this earth. When you go in search of “Who am I?” you will reach a state where there is nothing. “I” means the state where nothing is there. It’s over. No sadhana is required for this—only search.
AC: Direct search.
Ajja: Yes, direct search. When the seeker goes in search of That, the seeker is no more. That state is Atman, which is bliss, which is self-luminous and which is silence. Until then, ego is there. Then it is not.
It sometimes happens in life that due to some incident there is total transformation. In many people’s lives, due to one incident there is total transformation. It is in the biographies of all the great saints of southern India—Valmiki, Tulsi Das, Ramana Maharshi, J. Krishnamurti. According to their karma, due to small incidents, they changed. Through all these stories, there is one thread. In my case, for example, there was pain for six months, then no pain. Then contemplation began; worry became contemplation. Untruth became truth. Darkness became light. As with fruit, when it is unripe, it is bitter. When it becomes ripe, it is sweet. But that sweetness was always there. That bitterness is transformed into sweetness.
So worry should become contemplation. For that reason alone we should give importance to thoughts. We should not get agitated or lost when we get worries or problems. We should experience them. Then there is an explosion.
AC: Do you mean that we must face them completely?
Ajja: Yes. Experience that. And how should the mind be when you experience that? During that time, the mind should be focused, the mind should contemplate on that. When the mind is fixed on that, then—
AC: You mean there should be no resistance to experience?
Ajja: No resistance. In this way, the same mind that experiences everything else now goes to contemplation. Beyond that there is no mind at all. So mind itself is both the cause of bondage and the means to liberation. This world is nothing but the roar of mind. When the works of mind are over, there is no mind. Then all desires are gone—desires which the mind imagines. Everything is imagined; all of that is mind. So the mind has to withdraw. All desires should go. Even if one desire is there, you cannot take the mind inward. The mind should go into the heart and begin the search. “Who am I? Who am I? I am here in this body. Who am I?” We should search like that. When you are in the search, in that the mind is gone. We are afraid to touch that place. But the mind must be totally gone. Give it up.
AC: You said earlier that this is universally applicable and true for the whole of humanity.
Ajja: Yes, this is a question for the whole of mankind. We need freedom. No one wants to be in bondage. Everyone wants to be free. My message for the whole universe is not that only one should get free. Others also should become free. The whole world should become free. That is my message.
What is the path to freedom? If you have a clear picture of the experiences I’ve had during my lifetime—joys and sorrows, triumphs and miseries, honor and dishonor, and how I reacted to these—that can help you to find your own way. How I faced those experiences, how I walked in my life, how I accepted death. How action was performed, and how transformation has come. My whole life, once understood, gives a clear picture of the way. When we have understood all these things, then we have to bring that understanding into our practice. Then we become free. If one individual is liberated in this way, then the mission of my life has been fulfilled. That is why I am giving these statements—so that it will be helpful for the public. That is why I have agreed to this interview. Otherwise I would remain in total silence.
The total picture is the integrated evolution of the individual and that power. When we become totally free in our action, only then is our birth fruitful. Then our life is really fulfilled. Freedom is the goal. Everyone should become free. And all have come to life only for that purpose—that freedom itself is bliss for all, for every individual. Every individual should be released from bondage. If I alone become free, it is not enough to make me happy. Everyone should become like that. Every soul has to become free. I have had a glimpse of that possibility, and if all were free, that would be true bliss for me.
AC: So this is for the benefit of mankind.
Ajja: Yes. This message is for the whole of humanity. When there is purity within, mind, heart and action should be one. Mind and heart should be pure and our deeds should be the same. We all have to go beyond thought to that state in which there are no obstacles at all. It is by this true search alone that one becomes a universal soul. And every individual has that capacity. Not just one. Every individual has the capacity to become That.
I am not in mind at all. I am in a state beyond all thoughts and emotions. I am speaking, but I don’t know anything. I don’t think; I read no books. For the true knowledge itself, none of this is necessary. For intellectual discourse, books are necessary, but for Self-experience, nothing is required. If I am in some remote corner, also it doesn’t stop. It spreads through the whole universe, percolates through the whole universe. If one reaches that state of ananda, even if he is in some remote corner, it just spreads. Even if he tries to hide, it just radiates from him. It reaches throughout the whole universe, the entire cosmos.
So . . . what are you going to do with what you have recorded?
AC: It will be part of an article about you—your experience and what you are saying—that will help people in America and other places to benefit from what you have discovered.
Ajja: It feels as if you are very known to us. You do not feel like a stranger to me.
AC: Yes, I feel the same way.
Ajja: There is no America and no India. There is only the whole universe.
Related: Is the Ego an Illusion?