Indian management grad Mukundananda spreads Hinduism in US

Chennai: He has an engineering degree from IIT-Delhi, a management degree from IIM-Kolkata, and could have been a successful management guru. But he chose to be a spiritual guru. Mukundananda has created Jagadguru Kripaluji Yog (JKYog), a charitable non-profit organisation in the United States, in memory of his guru Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj.

JKYog conducts week-long camps every year in 30 cities of USA and also undertakes various projects around the world. News Today had an interaction with the swamiji and posed questions that spoke about spheres other than spiritualism.

Excerpts from the interview.

Q: Tell us about your transition from a management graduate to a disciple of Kripaluji Maharaj.

A: My quest for the ‘Absolute Truth’ began from a very early age. As a child, I was drawn to prayer and long hours of meditation and contemplation. When a promising corporate career did not quench my longing for God, I renounced and travelled throughout India as a sanyasi. During these travels, I was closely associated with many enlightened saints of India, read the writings of great acharyas of the past, and lived in many famous holy places. Ultimately, my search took me to my spiritual preceptor, Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj, who is the fifth original Jagadguru in Indian history. My guru entrusted me with the key task of disseminating the ancient knowledge of the eternal truth.

Q: Being a teacher of spirituality, how do you see Indian traditions accepted elsewhere in the globe?

A: Over the past 30-plus years, I have been preaching in the most varied settings, from the tiniest villages in India to the Ivy League colleges and Fortune 500 corporations in the USA. They (people) are all alike in their aspirations to alleviate their suffering and find peace, happiness, and contentment in life. So, I find that our traditions and Vedic psychology is well-received wherever I have preached. It appeals to people of all ages from diverse backgrounds and dispels various myths and misnomers associated with the divergent paths of God-realisation.

Q: Indians seemingly are more attracted towards western civilisation. Your take on that.

A: To act with the purpose of attaining happiness is our innate nature, and in ignorance, those who place high value on material happiness, are drawn to the modern, western socio-economic system. This chase will leave one high and dry, as Bhagavatam states: ‘Fulfilling the desires of the senses does not extinguish them, just as offering oblations of butter in the fire does not extinguish it; instead, it makes the fire blaze even stronger.’

Q: Having been a person who gives discourse on Vedic scriptures, what would you say about recent gender equality problems that are being put forward by women and related organisations now? Can there be ways for us to learn from the Puranas on how to tackle these issues efficiently?

A: Our Vedic scriptures repeatedly proclaim that we are the soul, not the body. In this material realm, we look upon ourselves as male or female, as we identify ourselves with the body. We become oblivious to the fact that souls are the energy of God, and that this body is a vehicle of the soul. Therefore, endeavouring to establish that relationship with the creation and the creator helps us rise above the gender bias.

Q: Having spent a lot of time abroad, what do you think contributes to their success that India is still trying to replicate?

A: I feel it is only time that separates India from taking its place amongst the firmament of successful nations. The nations that we call successful today began their developmental journey a few hundred years ago. Further, many of them were colonial powers, who looted the wealth of their colonies for their progress. In fact, the Industrial Revolution in England was financed by the wealth that was drained from India. On the other hand, the biggest constraint for India today is that it is exceedingly poor. The generation of wealth is limited to the growth rate of the GDP. As the saying goes, ‘The first million is the hardest to make’. Nevertheless, India chose the free enterprise system that provides human beings with the freedom to strive for success. The potential of the human spirit is tremendous. The role of the government should be to provide an environment that unleashes the energy of the people for progress.

Q: Do you think India should be trying to replicate it at all? Why can’t the country make its own terms and invent things according to its own needs?

A: For many millennia, our culture, education, scriptures, and traditions inspired the entire world. Today if we blindly ape the western world, just because it is more economically developed, it will be the biggest tragedy. The development plan for India should be tailor-made to its unique cultural strengths and historical experiences. The Indian success story should be accompanied by gifting to the world the innumerable gems from our heritage, such as Ayurveda, mind management, Yoga, holistic health, meditation and spiritual values.

Q: There are schools in Chennai that fine students if they speak in their mother tongue. How do you take this?

A: Learning a new language opens up new horizons, and we are witnessing how English has become a global link. So, due to its importance in so many occupations across the globe, getting a good grasp of English language is no doubt professionally advantageous. However, in the process, students must not become estranged from their mother tongue. It is their link to the thousands of years of heritage of the culture in which they have been born. Without knowledge of their native dialect, they become dislodged from their roots. If the founding fathers of modern India had had the insight to promote Sanskrit as the second language in education, we would not have had a splintered country as we find our nation today. Sanskrit would have united all the States and people.

Q: What should be done to inculcate spiritual values among children once again?

A: Schools and educational institutions at present offer courses in material education. We have syllabi designed to make doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc., but none to make us good human beings. This is merely money-making education, which is starkly incomplete. The Vedas state that there are two kinds of knowledge one must cultivate in life — spiritual knowledge and material knowledge. While material knowledge helps us understand the external world, spiritual knowledge shows us how to conquer our inner world to manifest the divinity within us. The glaring need in present times is of imparting spiritual wisdom to children, either as part of formal education or at home.

Q: About elections…

A: The system of democracy is a very delicate one that can only function effectively if the voters have the ability to cast their vote sagaciously. Unfortunately, for so many decades after Independence, issues of caste, creed, and sect often overruled all other factors in elections. That is why incompetent, corrupt, and often criminal, elements got elected. However, as the electorate is becoming more educated and discerning, the deciding factors in elections are also shifting. Today’s Indian voter is more likely to give importance to development and growth. Besides, the risk from neighbouring countries will make national security an important factor in the minds of the people.

Praveen Kumar S