Swami Mukundananda is a renouned spiritual teacher from India, and is the senior disciple of Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj. He is a unique sanyasi (in the renounced order of life), who has a distinguished material educational background as well. Hearing the profound secrets of the Vedas from him is a rare privilege, for he is able to explain the ancient esoteric Vedic knowledge with rigourous scientific logic, in the modern context.
Swami Mukundananda finished his B.Tech. from the world-renowned Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. He then completed his MBA from the equally distinguished Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. After that he worked for some time with one of India's topmost industrial house.
However, material education did not quench his thirst for knowing the Absolute Truth. The longing for God was so strong that he renounced his career and began traveling throughout India as a sanyasi. Ultimately his search took him to the lotus feet of his Guru.
Swamiji shared some enlightening words with Lokvani.
What prompted you to become a Swami after gaining an IIT and IIM degree?
While I was a student during my time at IIT and IIM I was constantly searching for greater meaning in life. I learned about important scientific laws but I began asking why the laws existed in the first place. I learned a lot about sociology, psychology and economics at IIM and yet felt a little incomplete. I then came in contact with my Guru Jagadguru Shri Kripalu Maharaj. He told me that while there is no shortage of MBAs, there is a great need for spiritual seekers. He was kind enough to accept me as his disciple.
The Bhagwad Gita emphasizes that one can pursue a spiritual path while living a normal life. Why did you chose to leave the normal life? The Bhagavad Gita talks about two paths Karma Yog and Karma Sanyasa. Karma Yog is wher you do your worldly duties and simultaneously learn to love and surrender to God. Karma Sanyasa is defined in the Shloka “sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja aham tvam sarva-papebhyo moksayisyami ma sucah”
Giving up all other duties come to me. When the calling from God comes to follow Karma Sanayasa which is the path I have chosen we cannot refuse. When you do your duty God you benefit society. We work for society in the way the God chooses to use us. In my case God asks me to share the knowledge I have for the benefit of society. Karma Sanyasa should only be done under the instruction and guidance of a Guru.
Could you tell us about your Guru? He is thus the fifth original Jagadguru in the last 5,000 years. Prior to him there were only four original Jagadgurus: Jagadguru Nimbarkacharya (before 600 BC), Jagadguru Shankaracharya (509-477 BC), Jagadguru Ramanujacharya (1017-1137 AD) and Jagadguru Madhvacharya (13th century). This title was bestowed upon him by the Kashi Vidvat Parishad. Shree Maharajji says that the desired goal of a soul is to receive the selfless Divine love of Radha Krishn. They are the Soul of your soul and are eternally related to you. Knowing this, you have to develop a deep desire to selflessly serve Them and love Them and strengthen your faith in Them. Keeping away from bad associations, yearningly remember Them and chant Their name and the leelas.
He did not come from any parampara. He felt that the Sampradhayas divide us and cause strife. He says that all four Vaishnava Parampara and the Shankara Parampara lead to the same goal. He says there are only two Sampradhayas - on of God and the Other of Maya.
Having come from a scientific background while pursuing religious studies, did you encounter any conflicts and have to change your mindset? No. The Hindu thought is logical and scientific. So there is no incompatibility. The Vedas speak of two types of knowledge Para and Apara Vidya. The knowledge of material science helps harness the forces of nature. The knowledge of the self helps harness the internal energy. The Vedas speak of both as required knowledge.
Is there a concept of heaven and hell in Hinduism? The Vedas do speak of different planes of existence. The idea of life in other universes is accepted. Some of these planes have a greater facility for material comfort than others and can be called heaven. But the scriptures say that the goal is not to go to those planes but rather to get out of the cycle of birth and death. The ultimate goal is to realize God.
God is unlimited and infinite and cannot be explained. God needs to be realized. Our first realization is that he is the creator of this whole universe.
How important is it to realize God? Many religions including Buddhism and Jainism do not talk about God. Isn’t it enough to do good ?
Doing good is not enough. Without surrendering to God it is not possible to cleanse the mind. We accept that by following the Buddhist and the Jainist path you can elevate yourself to some extent. But without surrendering to God you cannot reach the final destination.
Now that you have advanced spiritually are your previous lives revealed to you? Are you able to have experiences such as those described in the “Autobiography of a Yogi”
I think each Guru has a different goal in mind when they preach. In that book he is trying to bring people to the path using creative means and thus the book is like a spiritual fairy tale. Usually such experiences are not revealed for they detract from the main message.
How do we pass on the knowledge of our tradition and religion to the next generation? When children are small, we must spend time with them. We must read the Puranas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to them. It is an impressionable age and good ideas can be implanted easily. As they grow older they want logical answers to their questions. For this, the parents themselves should have knowledge of the scriptures. More importantly if the parents practice the spiritual path, children will definitely emulate it. Let us lead by example.
There is so much strife around us. What is the cause for this strife?
We have firm firth that God is not only the creator but he is also the controller. Lot of lessons need to be learned at the individual level and strife helps us learn the lessons.
Is War also God’s creation? God also gives freedom to individual souls . Wars are caused by ignorance and thus providing enlightenment is one of the greatest service that we can provide to the society.
Could you tell us the true meaning of Yog? There is a craze for Yog that is sweeping the world but people think it is only a physical exercise. Yog means to unite. It refers to the Union of the individual soul with God. This union comes about by the elevation of the mind. Thus we must focus on the mind along with the physical exercises.
In the Jagadguru Kripalu Yog we focus on five sciences – Yogasan, Pranayam, Medidattion, Subtle body relaxation and the science of proper diet. We need to improve our health at four levels - Physical, Mental, Intellectual and Spiritual. Spiritual is the most important .
How much time should one set aside for spiritual practices? In the modern day, when life is so busy is it possible for us to set aside the required amount of time Ideally a person should set aside two hours for themselves each day. According to the scriptures, the right time for spiritual practice is two hours before sunrise which is referred to as Bramha Muhurta.
Lord Krishna deliberately chose the battlefield to preach the Bhagavad Gita to emphasize the fact that even under most intense situations we can practice spirituality.
How does one reduce personal tensions?
Inculcating spirituality reduces personal tensions. Spirituality is not mere philosophy. It is practical because only through spirituality can you control the mind.
Do you have suggestions for reading materials? The Bhagwad Gita, Bhagavatham and the ten Upanishads is recommended reading. My Guru has written a book in English titled Prema Rasa Siddhanta – Philosophy of Divine Love which presents of all these teachings.