Interview with Sri M (mathrubhumi) – Translation from Malayalam

March 6, 2011 4 Comments

By T. N. Sushama, Originally published in the Malayalam daily ‘Mathrubhumi’ dtd. March 3, 2011. See

A boy born in a traditional Muslim family breaks the barriers of religion, language and space.  He realises the essence of religions by means of reading and spiritual practices.  He meets his Guru, Maheshwar Nath (Babaji) whom he had seen as a boy at the age of nine, just as in a dream, and realises his identity as one belonging to the Nath yogic tradition.  His name in that tradition is Madhukar Nath or Madhu, as his Guru would call him, and presently he is known as Sri M, the spiritual guide of many earnest seekers.

In “Apprenticed to a Himalayan Master: A Yogi’s Autobiography”, Sri M describes his fascinating and unbelievable experiences in the course of that journey.  Those experiences transcend the limitations of the human body and, to an ordinary person, would appear to be hallucinatory.  In his autobiography, Sri M tries to find the rational background for them.

All my preconceived notions were dispelled when I cam face to face with the author of this absorbing book, which reads like science fiction.  Ordinary dress.  The physique of a Yogi.  Gentle features.  Deep and peaceful eyes.  He looked more like an old, intimate friend or poet than the spiritual head of the Satsang Foundation.  Extracts from the interview:

Q:  In your boyhood, you met Mahatmas like Kalladi Mastan and Maayi Maa, who apparently looked like mad persons.  After you received the blessings of Swami Abhedananda, same night you experience a strange dream (in which you feel you have become a girl companion of Sri Krishna).  As a man of realisation, how do you feel about the masculine and feminine aspects of personality?

A:  Was it a dream or an actual experience? – it is not clear even to me.  After a stage, gender becomes irrelevant in a physical sense.  May be, in some previous birth, I was a Gopi in Vrindavan! (laughs)  Any sensitive visitor to Vrindavan may have such an experience.  Is it not a fact that Sri Ramakrishna lived for some time as a hand-maid of the Divine Mother, dressed and behaving like a woman in every respect?  The mind moving at that level is not the ordinary mind.  At the higher level, the mind does not find any pleasure in worldly affairs.  Physical sexuality has no place in the functioning of the subtle mind.  In that state, one does not feel oneself to be a male at all.  It was also an occasion to experience and understand the feminine mind, which has a greater creativity.  One can find some element of femininity in men with greater creativity and imagination.

Q:  What is the ‘Nath Tradition’ of which you are said to be a member?

A:  It is a very ancient spiritual order, which existed even before Adi Sankara.  It is believed that our first Guru – Adi Nath – was Siva Himself.  This is yogic tradition, while Sankara’s is the vedantic tradition, not yogic.  Except Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali, all other major yoga texts have originated from the Nath tradition.  The Nath order, with its headquarters at Gorakhpur, is a live yogic tradition.

Q:  Is it mainly based on yogic practices?

A:  Only some branches.  The Nath tradition is highly elastic.  Its followers need not be monks; they can be house-holders.  There are no specific rituals to be followed.  The “dhuni” is the only common symbolic feature of all the branches.  I have been exempted from that too. 

Q:  You have studied all religious texts in depth.  Are they helpful for the spiritual growth of a seeker of Truth?  “Throw away all your knowledge and embrace the Void”, said Babaji to the old monk at Uttarkashi.  If knowledge is an obstacle, why we should acquire it?

A:  Not so.  Knowledge is a means of arriving at the Truth.  Knowledge should become experiences.  By worshipping Knowledge alone, one does not gain experience.

Q:  Many seekers of Truth end up in disappointment.  Ignorance and evil practices are mounting in this field.  You were abused and thrown out of a temple in Karnaprayag for accepting the hospitality of a cobbler.  You also meet a monk who has thrown away his “danda” (indicative of brahminhood), pained by evil customs.  Have such experiences persuaded you to turn away from the path of seeking Truth?

A:  No, such incidents did indeed cause pain, but the yearning to move forward was very strong.

Q:  What is our goal in the spiritual quest?  Is it happiness?

A:  Yes.  Happiness obtained from the external world is limited.   One is never satisfied with it.  Happiness experienced within oneself is boundless.  Once you attain it, it never vanishes.  This principle, which is called Truth, Essence, etc., is unknown to us until we experience it.  It will remain as an ideal.

Q:  Is spiritual experience subjective?

A:  I am of the view that the experience of the world is relative.

Q:  A mesmerising experience related to Agni (Fire) is described in the book.  Kundalini is the fire sleeping in the human body, like the latent fire in the firewood.  The flame of the Dhuni fire touches the navel of the disciple and awakens the internal fire.  It burns away all obstacles and clears the path for the Kundalini.  Will you give this experience to an aspirant who accepts you as a Guru?

A:  (Yes,) if there is a suitable person ripe for such experience.  Some persons have experienced it.  It need not be demonstrated as a show.

Q:  Is temple worship necessary?

A:  No, but there is no need to prevent those who find satisfaction in it.

Q:  Babaji asked you to live in the world as an ideal house-holder yogi.  Why this great importance given to Brahmacharya (celibacy)?  Why do some so-called spiritual gurus try to hide their sexual activity?

A:  A married life is no obstacle to spirituality.  Of course, sexual restraint is necessary.  Brahmacharya does not mean total elimination of sexual relationship.  Whatever is to be done to know the Eternal Reality is Brahmacharya.  Very rarely can one go to sannyas from the first stage of that of a celibate student.  When persons do not have that competence put on the garb of a monk for the sake of wealth or fame, they have to hide their sexual desire.

Q:  Babaji speaks in Malayalam to the Ravalji of Badrinath.

A:  This is possible.  One should concentrate on the language-centre in the brain.  Though it is difficult to speak, one can understand.

Q:   There are some unbelievable incidents described in the book, such as, travelling in space.  Could you please explain?

A:  One gets this experience in meditation.  One may feel that the body is rising up; but if you open your eyes, you will see that it is not so.  It is the subtle body rising up leaving the physical body.  Only once I had the experience of the physical movement of the body in the company of Babaji.  What we call rational is related to the limited capacities of the five senses.  Actually these capacities are not limited; but one has to think standing apart from the physical body.  We should know that we have other abilities.  At least, we should give the benefit of doubt..  We should have the open unprejudiced mind of a scientist.

Q:  How do you explain miracles?  You know magic.  God-men are said to employ magic in the so-called miracles.

A:  Magic is the imitation of miracle.  ‘Real Magic’ exists somewhere.  Miracles happen when we transcend our limitations.  Only laws of Nature operate there.

Q:  It is said that a man of Self-realisation can appear in different places at the same time.

A:  If one has that capacity, he could sit here and enter the adjacent room, where it would appear real.  But the operating centre is here.  No one does it except in an emergency.

Q:  What is the proof for re-birth?  What is death?  And what happens after death?

A:  Death is only like crossing a door.  This is the theme of the Katha Upanishad.  I do not need any proof of re-birth; my own experience is enough.  I am sitting here with signs and characteristics of a previous birth.  Leaving this beloved world is the greatest sorrow in death.  That does not happen if one has Self-knowledge.  The I-consciousness continues even after death.  Even though it is not the same person who comes in the next birth, some characteristics of the previous birth will be present.

Q:  You worked for some time in “Manthan” magazine and were connected with many social organisations.  How will you avoid the “religious politics” which you observed there?

A:  It can be avoided to a great extent by means of a multi-dimensional approach.  Emphasis on one religion is the problem.  Spirituality transcending religions is essential.

Q:  Are religions necessary?  Is their influence good?

A:  The influence has been bad.  There has been a great deal of bloodshed in the name of religion.  Religious extremism arises when one says that “my religion is better than yours”.

Q:  Throughout your travels, you do not come across women.  In a book of more than 300 pages, women are practically absent.  Is it the (physical) body  which prevents women from entering the spiritual field?

A:  The world may not be aware of spiritually advanced souls.  They may be in our own homes.  When they come out, they may even excel over men.  Gender is not at all relevant in Self-realisation.

Q:  Could your successor be a woman?

A:  It should be a competent person; whether it is a man or woman is not relevant.

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