This interview of Ajayan by Greg Crowe was first published by the Alice Springs News, Alice Springs, Australia.
Even the casual observer must be aware of the huge growth in interest in meditation and allied practices. There are several centers in Alice Springs where one can learn various types of meditation, prayer, yoga and the like.
So why would a leading meditation teacher from Washington State, USA, need to come to Alice Springs? Well, it all started when a local couple, Greg and Trish Crowe, surfed the net looking for ideas about meditation. Most contacts on the Internet sent back standard, wholesale messages. One answered personally and so a communication was set up. The advice offered proved so useful that Greg and Trish decided to visit Ajayan Borys when they went to USA over Christmas.
At a modest but beautifully situated house on Puget Sound outside Tacoma, Ajayan conducts a variety of seminars and meditations which Greg and Trish joined. Simple, yet profound, cheerful, down-to-earth approaches proved to be very beneficial. Ajayan was invited to visit the Centre of Australia spiritual/mystic life and accepted.
A set of questions were put to Ajayan who provided his replies:
GC (Greg Crowe): What aspects of your life, past and present, keep you in touch with the day-to-day realities of ordinary people?
AB (Ajayan Borys): Well, first of all, I am an ordinary person. I’m married, I have two children, plenty of work to do, bills to pay, and all the rest. Actually, your question reminds me of that saying, “We’re not human beings having a spiritual experience, but rather, spiritual beings having a human experience.” This is the reality. And as we begin to experience this truth through meditation, there may be an appearance of something extraordinary unfolding—an inner freedom, joyfulness, creativity, and love—but it’s really normal, human life.
So, to answer your question, more than anything else I know of, meditation itself brings you more into touch with this Reality of moment-to-moment life. It allows you to live with more awareness, more fully present. Without meditation, a person lives caught in thoughts, fears, worries, moods—completely out of touch with the reality of this moment as it is.
GC: Where did you gain your interest in meditation?
AB: When I was in high school I had some profound spiritual experiences. Then I happened to pick up a Bhagavad-Gita on my father’s bookshelf. It was like I had written it myself; it was so intimate and familiar. Then I read some Tibetan Buddhist books. By the time I got to college the following year, in 1970, I was hungry to learn meditation. I saw a poster for the TM Program®, took the class, studied with Maharishi for several years, and then started teaching it. After that I studied other forms of meditation. Now I teach what I’ve found to be the most effective, simple, and powerful.
GC: What has been your greatest learning activity?
AB: In my experience, the greatest learning comes from deepening one’s own awareness through meditation, and applying that in daily life. Learning through books, teachers, etc., is, you might say, a horizontal style of learning. It’s filling one’s mind with information, but without substantially expanding the knower. If you graduate from college and feel you’re the same person that entered college four years before, how much has the mind really expanded? Four years of regular meditation and you will look back and be able to say, “I’m a different person,” or better yet, “I feel much more my Self.” That’s because meditation expands the knower. It’s a vertical experience of deepening the container of knowledge, the mind. So it unfolds your inner, creative potential. But then you have to express that potential to give it form and enjoy it. For me that happens most in my teaching, my writing, and also in my relationships.
GC: What has been your deepest experience of meditation?
AB: In the beginning stages of meditation you are concerned with experiences. You feel you are a “human being having a spiritual experience.” Looking back on those days, it would be impossible to recount the amazing spiritual experiences. I could fill volumes with them and bore everyone to death. But all experiences pass. Discover you’re a spiritual being having a human experience; then you will smile at passing experience; then you know you exist beyond experience. To put it another way, the highest experience is simply to be fully present each moment—in freedom. Then you see that everything is God.
GC: You have taught meditation at Ammachi’s Centre in India for four years. Who is she and why did she choose you (an outsider) to teach in the home of so much meditation?
AB: Amma is a classical Indian saint. Even as a young child, she was very devout and loving. Without a teacher, she realized God at a young age through intense devotion. She is highly regarded around the world and has sponsored numerous charitable activities on a grand scale in India. Thousands of Westerners also visit her ashram each year. Because of this, she needed a meditation teacher who could relate to Westerners. No doubt Amma saw my love for meditation, and must have appreciated my approach to teaching it, so she honored me with that position.
As for why she chose an outsider: Meditation is universal. Because it’s a very subtle experience—in fact that’s its nature, to enter into the subtler, more powerful and creative layers of the mind—it’s also universally misunderstood; surprisingly almost no less so in India than in the West. This is simply the nature of true meditation; it’s subtle, so it will be misunderstood by the rational mind. So, you have to look nearly as hard in India to find a good meditation teacher as you do in the West.
To this I should add that some of India’s rare, great teachers have taught in the West, and I am entirely indebted to them for everything I know.
GC: Most Australians have come from a Christian tradition. Have you incorporated other meditation sources into your teachings you learned in India?
AB: I was raised Catholic and have a great appreciation of Christian mysticism. For years I read and reread the collected works of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, as well as others. This was after I had been teaching meditation for many years, and what I found was, the Christian saints were describing the very same experience of meditation I knew. So in essence there was nothing different to incorporate! It was the very same. Yet my exploration of Christian mysticism did heighten my appreciation for the tradition of teaching in India, for though it may be hard to find good meditation teachers even in India nowadays, the tradition of meditation, the science of it, has been developed there as nowhere else. One could say this is India’s greatest gift to the world.
I should add that the meditation I teach is not Hindu or Catholic or any other. It’s simply a systematic means to make the mind subtle and pure, to unfold one’s full human potential. Why are some people more compassionate and loving and creative and happy than others? It’s a quality of mind. By purifying the mind, we can all enjoy life to the greatest extent—to an absolute extent; we can see everything as God. This will help make one’s religious ideals a living reality. This is why meditation lies at the heart of all the great spiritual traditions.
GC: There is, in health circles, a more holistic approach to life in which body, mind and spirit are considered together, e.g., Deepak Chopra’s work. Have you had experience of meditation affecting other dimensions of human life?
AB: Human life is a whole. The spirit is the root of the tree of life, the mind is the trunk, the body, personality, talents, etc., are the branches. When you water the root, the whole tree flourishes. This is the experience of anyone who is properly meditating. At 48 I can honestly say I enjoy the best health of my life, the most creativity and mental clarity, the most happiness, and the best relations with my wife and children. It has to be, for as the mind becomes clear and pure and calm, so much stress is taken from the body and from all our relationships and activities. We are free to function in health, love, and happiness. As a result, life responds and we feel supported by the environment. Everything just gets better.
I like the ancient Taoist proverb that says, “When you have a disease, don’t try to find a cure; find your center, and you’ll be healed.” This concept applies not just to physical health, but also to health of the mind, emotions, and our entire relationship with others. Health means total health of life in all its aspects, and throughout the ages, the great spiritual traditions of the world have proposed meditation—seeking the heaven within—as the ultimate solution.
GC: Many writers talk about the growth in consciousness as described, for example, by Tiehard de Chardin. Do you see evidence of this, even with the world events that show much inhumanity, e.g., Kosovo, Timor?
AB: Ordinarily I like to keep the focus of the growth of consciousness on the individual. Thinking about changes in world consciousness can become an exciting intellectual diversion, when the truly exciting work is within oneself. Think of it: we don’t have to wait for the world to change to know the Infinite, to know God. That’s a great relief for a seeker of Truth. And realizing Truth within oneself is also the greatest gift we can give to uplift world consciousness. Humanity is a collection of individuals, and as enlightened individuals, we cannot but spread an influence of light.
That said, my feeling is that world consciousness is rising very quickly. It seems many more excellent spiritual teachers are around today than 10 years ago. And there is receptivity to what they say. I think we are in for some big shifts in consciousness, in a very positive direction, over the next few decades. Yet, you could point to many negatives in the news. So who’s to say? We can theorize that the negatives are expressions of a “phase transition,” or purification of pockets of stress on a global level, but a theory is just another concept. A lover of Truth knows the limitation of all concepts, however uplifting and exciting they might be. Be in this moment, with what’s right before you, loving what is, and you bring the greatest possible gift to humanity.
GC: Have you written books about meditation or other topics?
AB: I’ve written a few books. The Way of Marriage (Purna Press, 1991; HarperCollins 1993) was my first, which is a very personal account of a period of struggle in our marriage and how the insight of meditation brought us through to a place of much more openness, understanding, and love. The Sacred Fire (HarperCollins, 1993) took the insights of the first book a bit deeper. Now I’m just finishing two books, The Valley of Miracles, and Whispers of the Himalayas. These are both based on my months spent in caves in the Himalayas, meditating and observing silence there. Valley is fictional and Whispers is factual.
GC: Finally what do you hope for from your visit to Central Australia?
AB: The same I always hope for: To be an instrument in the opening of others—if they so wish—to the Truth of who they are, and to the unlimited joy of That.