Attraction Is The Action
My life after coming into the orbit of Sabyasachi Guha
You can download the chapters as PDFs or read them on this page.
I Found You
Sabyasachi Guha’s name surfaced in my life when I happened to read about him in Chandrasekhar Babu’s journal “Stopped in our Tracks”. It must have been January 2016.
The journal’s first mention of Guha reads like this: Guha learned about UG through the Internet. He met UG and got very close to him. In these three to four years, the whole family of Guha has become dear to UG. Guha has no other preoccupation in life except thinking about UG. This professor who has been doing research in superconductivity in Rutgers University just forgot himself in his attraction to UG. Chandrasekhar writes further, what self-forgetfulness in Guha! If he is around UG he is totally lost. Now he is filled with UG. He has been going through a lot of bodily changes. I don’t normally hear of such things happening. Even in UG’s case, I only have heard him talk about those things.
I started reading seriously about spirituality sometime around 2010. I was then working in Information Technology in Pune and living with my younger brother. My rather short-lived marriage of one and a half years had broken down in 2009 and I was back to being by myself again. Since I didn’t want either sympathy or advice from anyone in the world, I dropped out of the social scene completely. I started spending almost all my time reading Sri Ramakrishna’s Gospel and Nisargadatta Maharaj.
In the first week of September 2011, I had just come back from a trip to the wildly beautiful Valley of Flowers in Satara in Maharashtra, when something struck me. I remember vividly the night when I felt the tremors of something hidden deep within my body for the first time, something unknown before, which would express itself often from then on. I was tired from the two day trip and finished dinner early to go to bed. As I lay down, the inside of my head began to churn violently. I felt I was going to be thrown off my bed. There was a strange discomfort inside my head. Terrorised, I sat up and grabbed the bed with both hands trying to stay put. The world in front of my eyes was swinging wildly. After a few minutes, I tried to sleep but as soon as my head hit the pillow, the churn started again. I felt I was being sucked into a hollow inside my body. I don’t know when I fell asleep but when I woke up around 4 am the next morning, I was surprised by how light I was feeling. There was no sign of the previous night’s torture anywhere in my body. I felt amazingly alert and energetic. The chirping of birds sounded so sharp. It was as if I was really hearing them for the first time in my life! I looked out of my window and lo and behold, I had never seen colours so vivid – green, blue, orange, yellow – ever in my life! The intoxication made me dizzy. A cool breeze was blowing inside my head. This euphoria lasted four or five days I guess. Then it was back to the dreadful life of thought-driven highs and lows. But the memory of those five days kept haunting me day and night. I wanted to desperately get back there again, but I had no clue and nobody to ask. I lost my appetite and in two weeks I shed about eight kilos. I lost all interest in work and withdrew from everything as my mind went berserk trying to figure out ways to get back to that state of existence again. Nothing worked.
Not knowing what to do, I began reading about the experiences of spiritual stalwarts on the internet. I had finished reading all of Ramana Maharshi between 2013 end through 2014. All this while I also tried to meditate seriously, but failed. The moment I would close my eyes to concentrate on the image of either Ramakrishna or Ramana, the beautiful face would morph into that of a monster with deformed and ugly features, forcing me to open my eyes! This happened again and again until I gave up trying all together. Dejected, I told myself I was not good enough.
J Krishnamurti bulldozed his way in as 2014 drew to a close. He caught my attention like nobody else had before. After nine months or so, I came across UG, after hitting a dead-end with JK. UG’s words came to my rescue after I was thoroughly upset at not having found either the great mind or the ground of all existence. For about eight months, days and nights passed in a daze as I hungrily gobbled up everything UG ever said.
Early 2016 blew in the fragrance of Guha gently and almost unobtrusively into my waking consciousness. I was in a job at that time that paid me for doing nothing, so I spent all my time reading and endlessly pondering. When I found Guha in “Stopped in our Tracks”, it occurred to me that this gentleman was still alive. On the contrary, the spiritual masters who had captivated me until then were all dead. Wanting to find out more about him, I started searching the internet and soon landed up on the website guhasabyasachi.com by Golda Markovic. I had barely read a few lines from one of his quotes and I felt, “Oh my god! This guy is something!” It was as if I was struck by lightning! This was rather surprising. I had read so much of JK and UG yet felt what Guha was saying is so fresh and unique. Being a Bengali, I was lucky to be able to read his Bengali book “Fourteen Days in Palm Springs with UG”, which was available on his Bengali website. I was mesmerised by his innocent account of the extraordinary happenings in his life after meeting UG. Hungry for more, I then found Nandini Kapadia’s blog on Guha. I remember staring at his picture on my computer for hours in my office, and hurriedly closing the window when anyone passed by my desk! Nandini used to beautifully document her trips with Guha in India and elsewhere, with a generous sprinkling of his pictures. Guha laughing, walking with friends, talking animatedly and many more. I used to ponder, what can I do to be around this man and travel with him? Little did I know then what was coming!
On the15th of March 2016 I wrote to the admin of the Bengali website enquiring about Guha. I waited for three weeks for a reply, then wrote to Golda on the 7th of April. I was ecstatic when I received her reply ten minutes later. She wrote:
Guha does visit India a few times each year and only recently was in New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata visiting his friends.
I will be most happy to let you know when next he plans to visit India. Incidentally where in India do you live?
All the very best to you.
In the evening, I got an email from a gentleman named Sanjiv Chowdhury, a resident of Mumbai. He wrote he would be glad to host me whenever Guha visits Mumbai. I was pleasantly surprised. I thanked him for his generosity and mentioned that I was anxious to see Guha. Sanjiv gave me Guha’s phone number and I toyed with the idea of calling him for a couple of days. On the 11th of April I called Sanjiv in the evening and asked him, “Is it ok to call Guha and when is a good time?” I can never forget his reply: “If not now, when?” I thanked him and called Guha immediately. A booming voice rang on the other side of the line as I introduced myself as Tanusri from Pune. He said, let me call you back and did so instantly. He then asked sweetly in Bengali, “Ki byapar bolun toh?”, which means “Could you please tell me what the matter is?” I said, “How could one explain such a thing over the phone?” He laughed. Much later he told me that he was rather pleased with my answer since I didn’t try to show off my knowledge about UG.
I don’t want to define love, but it feels as if there is something left behind in me after interacting with a person that cries for his company again and again because something deep down found something that’s addressing its own true well-being. That is not something that you can put into words.Guha
In a couple of week’s time I called Guha again. After some chit-chat he said, “Would you mind if I asked you something?” I said, “Of course not.” “How old are you?” I said I was 36. “You know, if you flip the digits you’ll get my age!” “That’s 63!” I exclaimed and we had a hearty laugh together. Then he asked me about my work, my parents and who I lived with in Pune. It was a brief call.
When I got married into a royal family from Serampore in December 2008, I didn’t know what it would be like to live with a person who was mentally ill. I was unaware of the fact that the apparently normal behavior he exhibited initially, was the result of regular and controlled medication. Anyhow, I realized soon enough that I could not continue living like that. I decided to walk out. It was August of 2010. I took leave from my office, packed a small bag, boarded a bus to Mumbai and flew to Kolkata. Nobody had any clue what was going on, not even my parents. It was Durga Puja time in Bengal and the mood was festive everywhere, except in my mind. I had a steely resolve yet a dark uncertainty loomed before me. My parents were shocked but they didn’t ask for any reasons and stood by me through everything. After my vacation was over, I went back to Pune and rented a place for my brother and I to stay together. I returned to work. Next, I decided to take legal help to get a divorce. My father approached an old lawyer in Kolkata known to one of his friends. He said it was a very complicated and lengthy process and no one could tell how many years it would take to get the papers. But miraculously, even to the lawyer’s surprise, it was done in just a few months. I had to go to the court once and nobody asked me anything. My lawyer spoke to the lady judge and I just showed my face and walked out in twenty minutes. Thus ended my disastrous tryst with the institution of marriage!
Seven years later I entered into another relationship. This happened before I wrote my first letter to Golda. I was in a peculiar fix. I thought I didn’t want a relationship, yet I was in one and then I wanted out! I wasn’t able to handle the demands of a relationship, yet I couldn’t pull myself out of it. Then happened my third phone call with Guha. Surprisingly, the first question he asked me that day was, “Do you have any relationship?” He hadn’t asked me any personal questions before. I blurted out uncontrollably, “I do, but it is becoming impossible to continue it!” He exploded into a laughter that lasted for about half a minute! I listened in awe. Soon after, things turned out in a way that threw me out of that rut. The relationship got over before I could blink. When I look back now, I feel Guha’s laughter kicked up a storm that blew away everything that could possibly come in my way of getting into his closest orbit – like Mercury around the Sun!
Around June 2016 another storm started gathering momentum. I had to quit my job because I refused to bow down to the tyranny of my boss. Before leaving on my terms, I shook up the entire hierarchy of the organization right up to the top. I was surprised how fearless I felt at that time. It was as if some hidden strength had bubbled up from my deepest interiors. I moved on. When Guha got to know, he asked, “On who’s advice did you quit your job?” “Nobody’s” I said. “It’s alright then!” he added.
Back in Kolkata, life was rather unremarkable until the morning of October 3rd when I woke up to read a letter from Golda. She wrote:
I am following up on your email where you expressed an interest to meet with Guha when he is next in India. I am happy to inform you that he will be in India from 25th October to November 28th.
Please find listed below the upcoming dates and places that he will be visiting.
25th October — 28th October Mumbai
28th October — 7th November Kolkata
7th November — 10th November Jalpaiguri
10th November —15th November Kolkata
From 15th November Guha will be in Bangalore but the duration is yet to be determined as he also plans to visit some other cities south. Please feel free to contact me anytime to discuss the details further. Perhaps we shall see each other soon.
All the very best.
To say I was delighted would be an understatement. A charge of excitement ran down my spine! My mind started spinning webs of stories imagining what it would be like to finally meet the man on the other side of the phone line, and whose picture had a hypnotic effect on me. I received another letter from Golda on October 21st.
Following up on our conversation, the address where Guha will be is as follows:-
4th Floor (as you exit lift, first door on right)
171 SP Mukherjee Road,
Mudiali (near Lake)
We will be expecting you anytime after 10:00 am.
Look forward to your visit.
“Suryodaya” means sunrise in Bengali!
October 29th, 2016 (Guha showed me just yesterday that this number adds up to 21, a multiple of 7) was Diwali for most of India and Kali Puja for the Bengalis. Folks at my home were busy preparing for the festivities but my mind was constantly wandering off. Was I anxious? Maybe. I got ready, booked an Uber and left home. I called Sanjiv to say I was on my way to Suryodaya. He received me smilingly at the door as I came out of the lift on the 4th floor. I sat on the left corner of a big couch facing the huge living room. There were quite a few people there. I saw Golda and she smiled at me. Sanjiv said Guha would arrive in 10 to 15 mins. The room was quiet as everybody sat silently. After a while I heard the noisy rattle of the old lift. Amongst the many voices that drifted in from the other side of the main entrance, a booming laughter dominated the soundscape. As I shifted in my seat in anticipation, a man of delicate frame, dressed in all white, smiling ear to ear, walked in followed by a group of people. I watched the spring in his step as he came in and sat next to me on the other end of the big couch. We said hello to each other and I sat silently, watching. I don’t remember a word of what he said that day and I didn’t ask him anything either. After he started talking I saw many people in the room doze off. I thought “What kind of strange people are these?! They have come from all over the world to listen to Guha and now that he is talking, they pay no attention and fall asleep! Couldn’t they show some courtesy and try to listen to what he has to say?!” As he spoke he kept smiling and glancing at me. He seemed a very simple and easy person to me. Before I left, he asked me where I lived in Kolkata. When I said it was Mukundapur, he said he had never heard that name before. “I would like to go visit your village one of these days,” he said. I thought he was joking. He told me later that he actually thought I was from a nearby, nondescript village and that he had such fond memories from his childhood of rural Bengal, that he wanted to go see mine!
I didn’t call or try to get in touch after the first meeting. Instead, I received a call from him a few days later. He invited me for lunch at Suryodaya. He would joke with me later, “You showed no interest after the first meeting. I thought she seemed like a nice girl and looked interested, what happened to her?! Then I had to call you!” I bought some mishti doi and showed up on time for lunch. Sanjiv had cooked several dishes and had laid them out beautifully on the table. This was my first taste of the kind of food Guha ate and treated his friends to. I knew he was traveling to Jalpaiguri with friends on the 7th of November for three days and I wanted to know if I could come. When I asked for his permission he seemed very pleased. He grinned, then turned to his other friends and said, “Look what this girl is saying! She wants to come with me to Jalpaiguri!” I booked my hotel and air tickets the next day. I think the next time I saw him was at the hotel in Jalpaiguri on the evening of the 7th. My flight from Kolkata to Bagdogra was a couple of hours after his. All of us were staying at the same hotel and everybody gathered in his room in the evening. The room was overflowing with laughter and high energy. “He has such a pleasing personality,” I thought. I was introduced to Julie on this tour. For the next two days we moved around the town, drove by the forests and went up to the hills of Mongpu, where Tagore had stayed on a few occasions.
On the night of November 8th, India’s Prime Minister announced the demonetization of 500 and 1000 rupee notes. We were out for dinner when Guha got the news from Revathi, an old friend of his. We quickly returned to our hotel and Guha gathered everybody for a discussion. He said he had a stack of 500 and 1000 rupee notes, which a friend had given him in exchange for US dollars. The very next thing he did was to pay the hotel’s bill in full, for all eight rooms, for as long as we were staying. That’s how he got rid of the soon-to-be-defunct bills. It was the first time I saw somebody who was not afraid of losing money!
We returned to Kolkata on November 10th. He invited me to his hometown, Hindmotor, on the 12th. A big gang followed him everywhere! We had lunch at his family home, visited his local friends and went on a boat ride on the Hooghly River. I met many of his friends from India and abroad on this trip. Then the whole gang took a train to Chandannagar, an erstwhile French colony with a lot of history. After we boarded the train, I was taken aback when I saw the friends pushing each other trying to get a seat next to Guha! But he seemed unfazed and totally relaxed. I thought, “What is this childish nonsense! How can people behave like this after reading UG?!” Little did I know then what my fate would be around this guy in this strange game!
I was in the same car with him on our way back when he asked me, “We are going to Antpur early morning tomorrow. Would you like to come?” I said, “I’ll ask at home and let you know tonight.” When I told my father I wanted to go for a day trip to Antpur, he wanted to know who the people were that I was hanging out with and why did I have to visit them so often. I didn’t feel like explaining and said, “I am going anyway.” It was a nice little trip. We went to the Antpur Ramakrishna Mission and had lunch there. A friend of his, a top local Police officer, had arranged everything. As we were exiting the Mission, a couple of distinguished-looking ladies and gentlemen walked in. They were probably visiting from Mumbai or Delhi. They bowed down with great respect and touched the feet of the resident Maharaj who was in the office at that time. The guy was busy chatting on his phone and didn’t even bother to look at them as they prostrated. Guha rushed out of the premises and flew into a rage as he got into his car. “The guy in whose name they run this organization, Sri Ramakrishna, never allowed anybody to touch his feet,” he said. “And look at these sadhus! They are shamelessly fooling people by claiming they are the true representatives of God! Such insensitivity!” I was a bit shaken by his powerful outburst. I started pondering about it on our way back and felt what he just said was an undeniable fact. I grew up in a house full of books and pictures of Sri Ramakrishna and my parents were regulars at the Mission.
Guha left Kolkata on November 15th for Bangalore. I stayed back. He would call me once or twice every week. He encouraged me to look for a job again. Even after he returned to America, he would call every week wanting to know how I was doing and if I was having job interviews. I felt happy and was also surprised that he showed such concern about my life. Earlier I had been disillusioned and had little motivation to look for another job. Guha’s gentle prodding put me back on track. I started preparing seriously and in a couple of months landed two job offers in Pune. When Guha called again, I told him I was ready to go back to Pune, to visit the two companies that had offered me employment, and decide which one to join. He was overjoyed! I remember he surprised me by saying, “You should go, it’ll be good for you! And you never know, may be I’ll meet you soon in Pune!” I couldn’t believe my ears! I felt thoroughly charged up!
Sometime in 2008 I had written a poem I Found You. I can clearly recall I was overweight, lazy and depressed during that time. My situation didn’t change until I met him.
I met you somewhere my friend
Where the hills hide in mist,
Where winding roads end in a hermitage,
Or amidst the chaos of a thriving civilization,
Where fluttering prayer flags dot the sylvan hillside,
Where dappled sunlight reaches for the mossy forest floors,
Where monks meditate in magnificent seclusion.
When the rains swept away a hundred years of drought,
When lightning ripped the sky
I know I called your name – and found myself lost in abstraction.
When a thousand stars died,
When melodies were born,
I know I held your hand – and the scent of burning sandal filled my mind.
I know I found you.
Guha came to know about this poem around December 2017, when one day he suddenly asked me if I had ever written poetry in my life. I said I had and then dug out this one from my old emails. He made fun of my brazenly pompous attempt at writing English poetry. Then he said, “Were you hallucinating? Or was it a premonition?” I said, “I see now how fake I was then! I was so depressed that I dreamed of meeting someone who would change my life, so I imagined these things.” He said, “You know, the one thing that actually came true is you met me in the crowded city of Kolkata, like how you wrote “Or amidst the chaos of a thriving civilization…” He made me read this poem many times to his friends, joking and making fun of it!
One and a half years after meeting him, I wrote another poem on the 21st of March 2018.
I found you in the sunrise*
Amidst the chaos of a heaving city,
Not in a forest or a cave in the mountains.
Neither a sadhu nor a fakir,
Without a garb – unguarded, effortless.
Wearing an infectious smile, without a trace of holiness!
I found you amidst a crowd of people,
Floating like a lotus uncorrupted,
Unmindful of the tides of praise or blame.
Neither a guru nor a guide,
Without claims or promises – a beatific simplicity.
A volcanic presence in the lives of the hungry ones!
I found you in this oppressive land,
Luminous, without the cobwebs of fear,
Unbound like lightning, like a feather;
A waterfall in the chasm of despair,
Without a second, singing your own song!
*The building where I met him first was named Suryodaya, which means Sunrise.
When I read it to Guha, he listened seriously. After a long silence he said with a naughty grin, “How do you know you are not hallucinating this time?!”
Nothing compares to the “living energy” and without it the image has no meaning. Because you are a frightened chicken, you need to hold on to some image.Guha
Three months after bidding goodbye to Guha in Kolkata, I was back in Pune the first week of February 2017. I was relieved to return to the city where I was living independently for the past 7.5 years. I was getting ready to visit the two companies that had offered me employment. One was an American consulting company and the other one of the oldest and biggest Information Technology companies in India. I had never heard about the American company before. When I told my brother about it, he exclaimed, “Wow! How did you manage that? It’s one of the best places to work in India and people die to get in there. They are known to be fabulous paymasters. Their interviews are mighty tough though. Make sure you do well.” My little brother was always better informed than me about almost everything! He is an accomplished programmer who has to deliver softwares that keep businesses running. I on the other hand was a consultant who had to poke her nose into people’s work all the time, checking if they were doing their job right and on time!
One evening as I was sitting with my phone, a message popped up on Whatsapp. “Hello there!” it said. I jumped with surprise when I saw it was none other than Guha! “I didn’t expect you on Whatsapp!” I replied. “Well, I had to talk to some friends about the logistics of my India trip so I downloaded it.” “So, you are coming!” I exclaimed. He wrote, “Yes, see you soon! Will you be able to come to Mumbai?” I was thrilled and I said, “Of course, I will come to see you.” “You can stay at Sanjiv’s house when I am there. I have already spoken with him. Is that ok with you?” I was touched. After the conversation ended, I thought, “It seems he wants to see me again! Wow!”
On the morning of 15th February, the consulting company sent a car to pick me up for the meeting. When I entered the office building, I was shocked by the opulence. The interiors resembled that of a top-end deluxe hotel! Fabulously themed work areas, designer cafes, break-out lounges, several pantries stocked with goodies – it was mind blowing. I met the guy who had interviewed me already and we exchanged pleasantries. I was then introduced to his boss who grilled me for 2 hours. He was grim all along, but smiled when it got over and said he hoped to welcome me to his team. I agreed to join them on the 20th of February.
I think Guha arrived in Mumbai on the evening of the 17th. I took an early morning bus from Pune the next day and reached the Hiranandani Gardens in Powai around 10 am. His friends in Mumbai had found a super swanky apartment for him in the top floor of a high-rise. My heart started racing as I entered the flat and saw him seated gracefully on a couch in a huge living room filled with designer furniture and expensive artwork! He smiled and asked me to come in and make myself comfortable. His body language seemed as though he knew me since long. I found a seat and looked around. From every wall hung a painting of either MF Hussain, Raza, Souza or Tyeb Mehta. There was what seemed like a small elevator in the corner of the living room. I got to know later that it was meant for taking food up to the private terrace. I spotted two smartly dressed cooks waiting in the kitchen. A brightly lit mini Shirdi Sai Baba temple of sparkling white marble stood at the mouth of the corridor leading up to the bedrooms. Around Guha was a motley group of about ten people. There were three middle-aged gentlemen – an interior designer, a self-taught photographer and a retired IT professional. A fresh-faced science PhD from UK had brought along a friend who had recently decided to dedicate his time to the study of the Vedanta. There was a young medical doctor from Pune and another guy pursuing his masters in English literature from Gujarat. In the corner to Guha’s right sat a teenaged girl who was in the middle of a crisis, unable to handle the pressures of law school and her family’s expectations.
Guha started talking. The young PhD and his friend were putting forth some serious questions.
Guha: So, you see, thought gives solidity to the perceptive mechanism by creating an alternative reality and making you believe that you have a being, you are a somebody. You know, the scriptural significance of “third eye” is, when your wisdom flowers no disturbance can create illusion inside you. Your ability to see the way things are with you and with others cannot be clouded. You see me as a man and that’s it, no more illusion in it.
M: Why do you think yoga or other meditative exercises are considered different from the use of chemical substances to alter the perceptive reality?
Guha: The whole point of meditation was to do exactly the opposite. During meditation, the steps were originally devised to make you see the way you are supposed see. One of the fundamental prayers of the Hindus was: Take me from the Unreal to Real, Asatoma Sadgamaya. Whatever I see here is real, but what I think about it is unreal. That’s the beginning of the unreal because I’m using my imaginative faculty. The divisions like brahmin, shudra etc. have been created amongst us out of this imaginative faculty. Knowledge has created these identities and imposed them on you, telling you what you should be. This imposition is not acceptable to the system (body). So, right from the beginning, there is a conflict. The conflict is you’re being told what you should be, how you should lead your life, what is bad, what is good, what you will get out of life, and it goes on and on. You are being constantly bombarded by information.
S: Would you say it would be better for a human being if he or she is not bombarded with information?
Guha: That is not possible. That’s the dilemma, because without it you cannot learn anything. There has to be a dynamic balance. The balance is established when the learner finds a place that is appropriate for himself in that frame.
S: So the contradiction is inevitable?
Guha: Yes. It is inevitable, because in the beginning when you are learning, you have to have confidence. And you are taught to be happy only when you get the reward and acceptance from the value system. So you see, you need to have confidence and motivation in order to survive. In the process, your sense of self is also solidifying its authority in everything you do. And to an extent it is required. For example, your mother has to be possessive about you to protect you as a child.
S: You previously said that this reality is constructed at a very biochemical level in us …
Guha: I call it functional reality.
S: Right, but do you think there is a deeper level?
Guha: To me there is no reality, leave alone absolute reality.
S: That’s what the Upanishads say too, that there’s no reality.
Guha: No, that’s incorrect! What the Upanishads say is there is an unchanging reality which is beyond the grasp of human mind. That’s the fundamental assumption.
S: I think what it basically says is that there is one eternal consciousness and it came prior to the mind and body.
Guha: That is what I disagree with. I feel it is impossible for something that is changing constantly to be aware of something that is unchanging. My point of view is, consciousness is an emergent property of the brain. The workings of the brain give rise to consciousness. I don’t accept the belief that consciousness gave birth to everything. As far as I am concerned, this is not a verifiable piece of information, given the present state of human knowledge. But I am open to considering any scientific enquiry in this field that can bring to light things we don’t know yet.
S: It also says that you have never known non-existence and you are not the body
Guha: That’s what they say. But how do you verify such a hypothesis? Can you close your eyes and find out? You have to experience now, not in the future. My question is, at any point of time, without this knowledge, is there anything in you that tells you that you were there from the beginning of time, that you were there before this body? You have been told, but you don’t know it for yourself.
S: Exactly. Like they say consciousness is ever present.
Guha: So, at this point what can stop this consciousness in you? The doctor here knows (pointing to his doctor friend from Pune). When they take you to the operation theatre, they disable a certain bunch of neurons in the thalamus and you lose consciousness. So, you see, now medical science knows what chemical reaction will inhibit it.
S: But that is still at a very bodily level, right?
Guha: Yes. So what makes you think that there is something that’s not going to go? You are not ready to accept that. You want immortality and eternity. This sense is embedded in your question.
M: So, you’re saying that even the perception that “I am a part of or I am the eternal consciousness” is actually a knowledge?
Guha: It is knowledge, the information that is playing out in you. It has no relevance other than creating a belief structure. You can think about it. They did a lot of experiments. For generations, humans have enquired about the relationship between the thinker and that in which it lives, the body. That is the meditation they have tried to prescribe, in order to find out if there is anything that is not afraid of the physical connection. If you say you’re not the body, let the hand be cut off, who cares?! But obviously, it’s not like that!
S: It is what you identify yourself with. Like for example, freedom fighters identify their “I” with the nation and don’t mind giving up their life for it.
Guha: I would say the belief structure hijacked the body’s sense of well-being. The idea of “I” is connected with everything else. It does not exist by itself. It is basically a knowledge game.
Guha was so deeply engaged with the questioners, it seemed nothing else existed for him that moment. My mind snapped out of the discussion for a while as I began wondering about how life changed for the twenty one year old fugitive Guha, when he abandoned the armed communist movement, left home to run from the police and landed in Benaras in 1974. I cannot imagine what must have passed through his little head when a dead body washed up at his feet at a ghat. He was at a juncture in his life where everything he had previously believed in had fallen apart and he did not know where he was going from there. Guha says he was forced to ponder about his own mortality and the purpose of his life. He started devouring spiritual books at the library of the Benaras Hindu University, looking for answers to questions that have bothered humanity since ages. As a child he grew up in the shadow of his religious mother, who, when he was barely fourteen, sent him away to study for two years at her guru’s ashram. At the ashram the young boy would wake up everyday at the crack of dawn, get dressed in a dhoti and walk down to the meditation hall to pray to the guru for his grace, then meditate for half hour and study the Bhagwat Gita. During his summer vacations in his hometown Hindmotor, he would often go alone to the nearby Dakshineshwar temple and meditate inside Ramakrishna’s room. Guha says, he began experimenting with meditation techniques but found soon enough that none of them worked for him. Nonetheless, he developed some curiosity about spirituality and became an avid hatha yoga practitioner during that time. His father was his yoga teacher.
Back to the present, the two young men were still discussing with Guha.
S: Do you think it is all based only on knowledge?
Guha: You go and discover! Is there anything you can say that is outside the framework of knowledge or idea? Anything that you capture and put in your memory, which you can retrieve later, is a part of the knowledge that you acquire. But knowledge can never be in touch with life. I accepted this unknowability so deep down that my fear of the future vanished. It is impossible to know, because I am never in touch with what is going on inside me, no matter how much I meditate and experience Gods, Goddesses and everything else that is possible to experience as described in the scriptures.
M: But there was an incident in your life when in one of your deepest and most receptive states you saw Lord Ganesha in front of you very vividly …
Guha: What happened is my imaginative faculty created it. These things were taught to me from my childhood when I started reading books. They were part of my culture, these images. My discovery is, anything that creates a chemical disturbance in the body gives rise to internal visions and vivid imageries. If the brain begins to organise itself in a way that the illusion cannot disturb its capacity to see things the way they are, then it starts throwing out all that is sitting inside and creating a disturbance. I call it purging. It’s like cleaning your computer, which is nothing but neutralizing and freeing up the memory circuitry, so that it is available again. Because I am talking to you guys I have to use information. Where did it come from? I gathered it using my imagination. But inside that if there is some kind of emotional content which does not allow me to function the way I’m supposed to, then it becomes a problem. To not let this happen, the brain does a much deeper purging. It is some triggering mechanism. I think it’s a readjustment of the biological machine. But if I say it results in a clean slate, it would be a hypothesis. Only the holy man who wants to free you from your sense of self will dish out such possibilities. There is no such thing as a free state. You will never forget your name or food habits. What happens is, the memory is available on demand but it doesn’t have the churning that drains energy.
Right from the beginning, I was analysing the fact that if knowledge is supposed to free me from conflict, how much knowledge do I need to gather? Do you know how many subjects are there in the branch of chemical engineering, how many segments each of them have and how much work is still going on in each of these fields? So, we are constantly adding more knowledge. How much can you keep track of? So, you see, the knowledge game is just an impossible game. Obviously that cannot be the solution.
M: Right, that’s not where you’re supposed to look.
Guha: But that is where you have to look if that information can help you solve the problems you are facing. But if it has something to do with figuring out what’s harmony, what’s the relationship between you and the knowledge game and things like that, then this information is of no help to you. Now, you can really see the connection between knowledge and the process through which knowledge comes.
M: The process of thinking is innate …
Guha: The process of thinking should have a very specific goal. Just as the fish has to know what it should eat and what it must avoid. That’s discrimination. We are no different! But looks like we we have deviated from that and are creating a body of knowledge constantly. Our kids will continue to learn and adapt to it very fast.
S: So do you think it is absolutely necessary to know, because there is no end to knowing …
Guha: I call it functional reality. It is what you really need to know. But if you are looking to solve the problem which is not born out of knowledge, then it’s an exercise in total futility. Every instrument has a specific function. I have to use a saw to cut a piece of wood, a bucket to fill water or a vacuum pump to suck out air. So each instrument has its own utility. And thinking is the only instrument you have. Thinking has a targeted, specific goal but you are using it to solve a problem which is very different. The problem about your being and things like that. So you acquire more knowledge, read more Vedas, Upanishads and their instructions and you want to get more clues about how to solve your problem. What is actually happening is you are just collecting information and are still involved with thinking. Your effort to meditate is also the same thing.
S: They say that there are four yogas that you need to go through … raja yoga, karma yoga etc.
Guha: I did all of that!
S: And you arrived at nothing?!
Guha: I arrived at nothing since I discovered that the promise of achieving clarity in future through knowledge is false. You will never be clear. What they don’t tell you is, whatever you do, you are using thought and expectation which came to you through thinking. It’s just a sales pitch, you know. None of this actually helps.
M: Would you say it didn’t help you but it could help somebody else?
Guha: Maybe, but I cannot generalise.
S: I personally feel there’s nothing that needs help.
Guha: If that is so, then why all this reading and practising?
S: It is for further enquiry …
Guha: Okay. So, what is required for enquiry? How much can you read? Then you can go and study comparative religion.
S: Enquiry keeps the drive going …
Guha: Yeah. But the fundamental question you need to ask is, why are you gathering information to keep the drive going? To me there is no such thing as knowing just for the sake of knowing. We always want something out of it. But there are many aspects of knowledge that we really don’t know that well. Like how we are born with a lot of abilities and this brain accepts and utilizes them so easily or how the belief structure of my forefathers is going to affect my future actions. It seems a baby’s brain is already waiting to receive instructions from the human language.
Guha: Exactly. So, that means, it is not just my conditioning that is there, but the brain has already acquired a lot of things that my ancestors have handed down through generations.
M: That is by complete chance! That’s the base state before it starts accumulating information …
Guha: If I have a baby and I move her to China, she will go to school there and be conditioned by that language. You see, the language itself carries a lot of cultural conditioning. Language has already defined the emotional responses for the ways in which you understand or express anything. How you respond to words is already present as an effect of cultural conditioning in you. Language carries the baggage of the entire civilization. My feeling is that, learning is subject specific and as a part of the solution, the brain discovered the method of learning to find a way out of this mess.
M: So, you’re saying that for each person, there are many different probabilities and factors unfolding which result in that person’s particular reality …
Guha: Yes. In a way I like that part of Hinduism which says, you have to ultimately discover for yourself, if the way you perceive the world and the belief structure born out of that perception, can together form a way of living which has minimum conflict. For example, if I know this is fire and I will burn if I touch it, then it is a functioning knowledge. For that I don’t need any faith. Then I am not afraid of the image. So, if the knowledge operating inside you and the way you function are in harmony then you are slightly better off in a dynamic balance. But there is no reality that you will discover at the end of the day which you can call an absolute reality. If there is anything remotely close to that, the scientists will know it first! Ultimately, all realities have to be accepted through logic. Scientific logic came out of the thought process of very sharp individuals who could ponder systematically over long periods of time to see if a model is working. If somebody comes up with an alternative model which is better than the previous one, it is accepted. There is no obstinate belief structure there.
M: I want to raise this point that a model works only at a small scale. But when it comes to the aggregate, the model fails.
Guha: Exactly. At this stage of our evolution this brain is singularly incapable of creating a model that can mimic all the aspects of life. When you have a model, you assign certain attributes or properties to the model and see if you can connect points A, B and C. Then you use the dynamic properties of this model to predict through an equation that A follows B and C, and using that you can create the future points D, E and F. We have seen the power of this kind of analysis in the prediction of planetary motion. So the model works very well there. But in the same way, if I use a model to connect the past incidents of my life and create a psychological profile of myself and try to project a future out of that, it will be an exercise in total futility. I can guarantee that. Since there is no equation to predict the future, I don’t have a future!
Laughter fills the room and people get to loosen up after an intense hour of discussion! I noticed for the first time that I was drenched in sweat although the air conditioner was pumping cold air right above my head. It was time for dinner now. Guha usually likes to eat around 7:30 or 8 at night. He was full of laughter and lightness and it made me a little heady. He lights up the atmosphere around him, I thought. Then I wondered why the room still felt so hot. Was it just me? Anyway, it was time for everybody to leave for the night. I went with Sanjiv to his house in Mulund. There I met his wife Suchitra and his mother. They were so unassuming and warm that I felt at home in no time. I hit the bed soon and my thoughts drifted towards Guha. What is it in him that attracts people? How do people listen to him for hours without getting bored? Why does he seem so light and carefree? What is the mystery behind this man? He is definitely not like anybody I have met or known before.
I got up early next morning and remembered I had to go back to Pune today and join my new office tomorrow. The very idea that I was about to get stuck in a job again acted as an instant dampener. I pulled myself out of bed and took a shower and got dressed. We had coffee and then drove towards Powai to see Guha. He was in such great spirits! He greeted us and asked us to have breakfast with him and Julie. Other friends also began arriving. Guha started narrating how the mother of the apartment owner had met him privately that morning to discuss spiritual matters. “You are welcome to stay here as long as you want Guhaji. You say the same things my revered Guruji used to say”, she had said. He felt he had nothing to say to her after that and the conversation ended! The day passed quickly and it was time for me to leave. Guha wanted to make sure I left Mumbai early enough to reach Pune before dark. He said to me, “I wish you all the best for your new job. Give it your best shot and I will see you soon in Pune. And call me after you reach home.” He came down the building with his friends and saw me off as I got into a cab. My chest felt just a little heavy as his face vanished from my sight. The next day, I joined office and sent him some photos of my swanky workspace. He was delighted. A few days later he asked me to recommend some good hotels in Pune for him. He finally decided on Ginger which is about 30 mins from my house. Back at work, I met all the top executives at the Pune office. They told my boss they were very impressed with me and believed I had a lot of potential to make a real difference in the Quality and Project Management department. Well, time will tell, I thought.
Guha was to arrive in Pune on Friday, the 10th of March from Chennai. He called me on 9th and said, “I will call you after I reach Pune, no matter how late.” On Friday, I kept waiting for his call after finishing dinner. It was getting late and I felt sleepy. At 11 pm my phone rang. It was him! “Hello Tanusri! I just reached my hotel. Sorry I kept you awake”, he said. “No no, it’s okay, I knew you would call! Thank you for taking time out from your busy schedule to come here. What time should I meet you tomorrow?”, I asked. “Come as early as you can, I have come here just for you”, he told me in Bengali. His words startled me and his deep voice kept ringing in my ears long after the call had ended. Next day, I reached his hotel around 7:30 in the morning and found him at the breakfast lounge on the ground floor with Julie and Golda. He invited me for breakfast and started chatting with me about my work. We then went up and he showed me his room. He asked me if I had any pictures of my parents on my phone. I showed him a couple and he looked keenly at them but said nothing.
Soon a group of friends and their wives arrived from Mumbai and joined us at the outdoor seating area next to the hotel’s entry gate. I saw many new faces this time. There was a lot of chattering and jokes flying right, left and center. Then someone mentioned something about Guha’s Bengali poems which he had written almost two decades back. Suddenly, and I still remember this vividly, Guha pointed at me and said, “If there is anyone who can translate my poems into English, it is this girl” Everyone looked puzzled and surprised. I myself could not believe what he had just said. But then I forgot about it quickly. The chatting and merrymaking continued for the rest of the day. We went to a friend’s aunt’s house for coffee and drove around the city a bit. The next day I was at his hotel early morning. Guha wanted to go visit some nearby place before driving to Mumbai. We started looking and picked the Lohagarh Fort. On the spur of the moment, I decided to travel to Mumbai with him even though it meant I would have to come back early morning tomorrow. He said, “Of course you can come, it will be very nice!”
I felt a prick of sadness when I bid him farewell and returned to Pune on the 13th. Something in me felt empty and a little lost. A day later he flew out of India.
People want to hear what they like to hear. Basically, they want to guard the conditioning which they hold sacred.Sabyasachi Guha