Dada Vaswani’s Pithy Prescriptions for Life
In an interview with Khabar this modern day saint and the head of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission shares insights from his 95 years on the planet, a majority of them as a highly admired and loved spiritual teacher.
Dada Vaswani once stood at the threshold of a brilliant career: at age 17, he was already a college graduate, and later his thesis for his masters in physics on “The Scattering of X-Rays by Solids” was seen by a physicist no less eminent than Sir C.V. Raman, the Nobel laureate.
But he gave up all that, which would’ve surely resulted in a life of worldly success, to follow his guru Sadhu T.L. Vaswani, a mystic and humanitarian. And in doing so, carved out for himself something far larger than just a brilliant career—an unmatched legacy of spiritual and humanitarian contributions spanning several decades. It’s a legacy that has impacted the lives of people throughout the world, and has allowed him to share the platform with the likes of Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Through his Pune-based Sadhu Vaswani Mission, Dada has made notable contributions in many spheres: education, medical welfare, social service, women’s welfare, village upliftment, and animal rights. But most of all, he is known for his insightful talks that have endeared him with people wherever he has traveled across the globe. His words are marked by simplicity, and are in service of his overriding mission—to move people closer to God.
An honorary citizen of Georgia, Dada Vaswani will have a rare appearance in Atlanta in May this year.
In the following interview with Khabar, which was conducted over email, Dada Vaswani answered with lucidity questions ranging from the spiritual to the practical.
Dada Vaswani has shared platforms with the leading spiritual icons of our times: at left, with Mother Teresa.
A lot of your writing hints towards self-denial and austerity. But shouldn’t there be some balance between austerity at one end and over-indulgence at the other? Even the Buddha talked about the middle way. And if so, how is one to tread that fine line between this side and that?
My Master, Sadhu Vaswani, taught us to live neither a life of luxury nor a life of austerity. The emphasis in his teachings was on simplicity. Build your life in the ideal of simplicity, was his teaching to us again and again.
Indians living in America love to socialize. Often this socializing happens around rich food and alcohol. How
can one remain an active and effective part of society and yet live a simple and spiritual life?
Human beings differ from animals in self-control. If your life is rooted in self-control, you will not find it difficult to live a simple, spiritual life.
How can one overcome desires,
cravings, and lusts, which seem to be
so intrinsically hardwired into the human psyche?
It depends upon the individual’s background. Thus a man like Thoreau did not find it difficult to keep away from desires, cravings, and lust. One can over-come desire by living in close association with men and women who have conquered desire. Also through prayer and selfless service.
The man who has lived a life of self-control and tasted its joys will not be trapped into a life of self-indulgence.
Despite our rich spiritual legacy, why is modern Indian society so steeply tainted by corruption, materialism,
We may have a rich legacy, but what we lack are examples who, in deeds of daily living, bear witness to those high ideals. There was a time when we had men like Mahatma Gandhi, Maharishi Raman, Swami Ramdas, and Sadhu Vaswani. Life kindles life. Words do not have that effect.
Left: With the Dalai Lama.
On the one hand, India is about massive population, a Third World infrastructure, wretched poverty, corruption, etc. But on the other hand there is youthful vibrancy, energy, creativity, and an impulse towards kranti (revolution). What do you think the future holds for India?
I believe that India is passing through a transitory phase. The soul of India is strong and will soon assert itself.
In your lifetime you have witnessed the worst of human atrocities, including the bloodshed of the Partition years.
How can you still have faith in a benevolent God?
Man has been given the freedom of choice. At every step, in every round of life, he has freedom to choose between preya (pleasure) and shreya (good). Freedom entails responsibility. Man is responsible for the choice he makes. God is not involved.
It seems easier to push back spirituality to when we are older and retired. Is it possible to practice spirituality in the prime of youth as well in the midst of various responsibilities of middle age?
By God’s grace, and the Guru’s mercy I found that it was possible to do so.
Spirituality is not a matter of reading books. Spirituality is not taught. Spirituality is caught through association with men who are truly spiritual. Their message is silence: silencing the wandering of the monkey mind, silencing the egoistic reasoning of the intellect, silencing the cravings and desires of undisciplined minds. The ultimate nature of spirituality is silence.
Not only is it necessary to practice spirituality in the prime of youth as well as in the midst of various respons-ibilities of middle age, but it produces positive results to do so. Man is a composite creature—built of the soul, the mind, and the body. We put efforts to build the body and to train the mind. We need to cultivate the soul from the very start. Rightly did Ashtavakra say, “My spiritual education started when I was in my mother’s womb.”
Left: With Pope John Paul II.
Ritualistic Hinduism seems so
complex. What is the place of rituals and religious rites in doing God’s work?
Rituals have their place in keeping spirituality alive. What rituals are to religion, nourishment is to the body. If we dispense with rituals, a time may come when religion will be obliterated. Ritualism is rightly regarded by many as the kindergarten of religion.
In modern life, where individualism is on the rise, relationships are often
so strained. What’s your advice to overcome personal conflicts and live in peace and joy?
In matters of little or no consequence, yield. We argue over many nonessential matters. We may win an argument, but in the process we lose a friend. When someone incites or speaks ill of us, let us remain silent. It may be hard to do it, but it is not impossible. Mahatma Gandhi had these words inscribed on one of the walls of his ashram: “If you are in the right, you do not need to be angry; if you are in the wrong, you cannot afford to be angry.”
How does positive thinking coincide with the theory of Karma? For example, mental attitude and practices such as visualizing good end results seem to contradict the concept of nishkam karma, where one is advised to do the action but have no expectations of results.
The Bhagavad Gita has an answer to this question. Speaking unto his dear, devoted disciple Arjuna, the Lord says, “Whatever you eat, whatever austerity you practice, whatever charity you give, whatever you do, O Arjuna, do it as an offering unto me.” If all action is done as an offering at the Lotus Feet of the Lord, then you are not the doer—then there is no karta bhav. Then you transcend karma. Then the rule of your life is
Dada Vaswani will be in Atlanta May 13-16.
For further information contact Asha Advani at 678-462-7456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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