Ram wishes to postpone his Interview. In a generous
gesture, he gives me his recordings of the late Beethoven quartets as compensation.
However picturesque ancient dharamsalas are, there
is something to be said for modern luxuries such as running water, a chair on
which to keep your things, or an electric fan to frustrate the flies. Although
this is winter and there are no flies, two nights of dharamsala life is enough.
I move into the nearby Government Tourist Bungalow where my room has two chairs
but the water is off and so is the electricity.
Well, as I said, this is winter so who needs a fan?
It’s the best season in India but this place is empty. I enjoy the view
of the Ganges and the two chairs. It’s peaceful and private.
Ram has arranged for me to meet a young American who,
like himself, is allowed to live inside the Ashram of Anandamayi Ma. I find
him cool and casual and speaking in a slow southern drawl — well, it sounds
southern to me. He is a brahmachari, a celibate ascetic, so he
is wearing white, and what with his long pale hair he looks younger than his
age. I am too quick to admire his frankness about Ashram life and as it affects
him: he is certainly in the middle of an orthodox Ashram scene not geared to
deal with many Western outsiders let alone to encourage them to integrate. From
time to time he pauses to polish down what he has said – there must be
no repercussions. If you want to live near your guru, it’s best to conform, no
need to annoy anyone.
I was born in Oklahoma City. I first came to India in 1969 when I was 21 with
the urge to live with Tibetan Lamas. I had read books on Eastern philosophy,
on Taoism and Buddhism. One book I liked a lot was
Alexandra David Neel’s Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects.
Eastern philosophy seemed to fit in with the understanding I was coming up with.
I was with Kalu Rinpoche
for some time. I was interested in Meher
Baba, but he had just left the body so I went to Nepal.
After about two months I returned to the United States
where I met an American Swami,
and I stayed with him for four years in his monastery. It was very orthodox
with orthodox rules, so I learned a lot about Hinduism there. I had good and bad experiences
at that place.
Did you have a job at
the time or were you studying?
I was just living there. A lot of money had been given to me, mostly an inheritance,
so I gave nearly all of it to that creep. Then after a while he threw me out.
You must have been extremely
disillusioned. Do you want me to leave all that in? (He obliterates the creep’s
We get helped on the way by all sorts of people.
But wasn’t it a
setback to be made to leave?
I didn’t really fit into the place. I looked on the man as a guru, and at one time I would have died
for him, I was so devoted. But there were many things about the situation that
weren’t correct. These people were devotees of Ma Anandamayi and I had
come again to India with them to see her in 1971. When they threw me out two
years later, Mother took me in and I have lived here almost constantly ever
How does your family
relate to all this?
Being in that monastery in the States was hard on my parents because I wasn’t
allowed to speak to them. Under the influence of that person I treated them
badly — it was the cool thing to criticize so-called worldly people and
to speak about one’s parents as demonic. I should have known better. I
treated them bad until I came to Mother who teaches we should honour our parents.
When a devotee takes sannyas
and becomes a renunciate, the monastic life calls for some separation. But there
must be a kind of honouring of the parents. Adi Shankaracharya was a great Swami,
but he went to his mother when she was leaving the body and he himself performed
the cremation. The whole thing of treating parents like dogs when a person enters
monastic life is wrong. Slowly over the years the relationship with my parents
improved. They have been to India to meet Mother and like her, and they now
accept my way of life. They are much more in agreement now. They would like
me to stay with them and get married and have kids and all that, but they are
now to a certain extent resigned to what I’m doing.
Can you give a description
of your way of life?
For some time now it’s been erratic. I’m supposed to meditate seven
hours a day at least — this is what Mother has recommended for me. I haven’t
been doing that for some time as I have been travelling around getting into
What sort of projects? For a couple of years I was into —
and I still am but not so intensely — collecting tape recordings and photographs
of Mother. I have some good equipment so I have copied close to 200 hours of
Mother talking and singing, and also many rare photos.
Isn’t this regarded
— selfless service?
In most people’s book it is, but in Mother’s it isn’t. The
last time I visited the States I helped start a center for the distribution
of her photos and tapes. When I came back to India I started distributing them:
the idea was to benefit everyone and also to preserve what I considered to be
treasures. I looked on this work as noble and part of my sadhana.
Whatever I do I do to perfection; it is like worship. In doing something publicly
though I had to deal with the Ashram authorities, and there was some criticism,
both just and unjust. This started disturbing my mind. I spoke to Mother; she
said I should resign from these activities, at least publicly, not to get involved
on an official level. I followed her advice and things are better now. I had
been in charge of the publication of her photos and the tapes for the Ashram,
Some years ago I asked Mother what seva
I could do for her; she said meditation, japa and dhyan, studying scriptures
and attending satsang.
So this is what she considers real seva
— the work that perfects your own nature. One is encouraged to do intensive
meditation — maybe not to sit formally, but to concentrate the mind on
God. I am now trying to get back into my meditation. I had gotten into travelling
a lot so it’s impossible to sit for seven hours.
Have you received a form
of initiation from Mother?
Let’s say I’ve had initiation in Mother’s presence. She says
God gives the initiation, and that God is the guru. We view initiation and the guru from a condition of ignorance: we
have the notion we “got” something we didn’t have before from
a guru. To Mother there’s only one
— all creation is her own. One can experience a multitude of relationships
with her as well, but she doesn’t admit to any definition as definitive.
She doesn’t deny our ideas we have about her either — she simply
urges us to a fuller understanding.
Is there a formal initiation?
There can be a formal initiation… it can take various forms… but
there is definitely an initiation. For some it can be formal: they take fruits
and flowers, sweets and cloth, various items for the ceremony. The procedure
isn’t supposed to be talked about. Everyone who comes to Mother, their
and meditation is different; they are guided personally by her.
The guidance is given
during private Interviews?
In various ways. Just as initiation can be informal or formal, similarly instruction
can take many forms; during a private Interview, during one’s meditation.
You have adopted a new
name, but does that mean you have renounced the one you were born with?
No, occasionally I use it. I was given the name Gadadhar when I was living in
that monastery. Mother likes it so it hasn’t been changed. Receiving a
spiritual name often accompanies one’s entry into a more committed spiritual
Do you have to become
a renunciate to receive a new name?
No. Many of Mother’s householder devotees take spiritual names. People
like to have a name that’s given by her.
What does yours mean?
Gada is the mace or club held by Narayan. He has four arms; in one hand he holds
sudarshan chakra, in another a lotus, in another
there’s a conch, and in the fourth the mace. So Gada is the mace, and
dhar means the holder of — the holder of the mace. Gadadhar was also the
name of Ramakrishna Paramahansa when he was a boy.
Many of Mother’s
followers wear orange — you are wearing white. Can you tell me if there’s
Orange denotes a high level of renunciation, a firm monastic commitment for
life. Anyone wearing white can eventually marry. In traditional Hindu life everyone
should be brahmachari — that is chaste, and
wear white up to the age of about 25. Then they have the choice of either marrying
or becoming a renunciate for life, which is rare. Most people are not cut out
for that austere way so they are encouraged to marry. I am trying to lead a
brahmachari life, but the intensity of
my renunciation has evidently not become enough for Mother to consider it appropriate
for me to wear orange.
Is that your aim?
I don’t know. I want to surrender to Mother’s will — if she
wanted me to marry, I would go that way; should she later want me to take the
orange robe, that’s fine too.
But as you are still
so young, do you not find living a celibate life difficult?
I practice it because it’s pleasing to Mother. There are scientific reasons
extolling brahmacharya such as conserving energy which is then channeled into
one’s meditation, and that energy can take you into higher consciousness.
There are health reasons, and it helps one’s concentration also. Too much
involvement with worldly people — emotionally as well as physically —
can disturb the mind. Until a person is established in his meditation he should
observe moderation, aloofness with the world. This means not only sexually but
in all his dealings so that his attention is directed inside. These are some
of the main reasons given in favour of brahmacharya; for me the main reason
is because I think it is pleasing to God. It is not necessary for everyone to
take to that way, though — many people around Mother are married, and
their lives are pleasing to her.
But has it ever been
a problem for you?
At certain times, but only on a childish level, which to most people would be
nothing. It hasn’t been serious as there’s no desire behind it.
It’s not something I can’t control. It’s just annoying if
things come up — I’m just a person. Sexuality is one of the last
things to go; even the rishis
and sages until they’ve attained enlightenment still have traces of sexuality
which come up occasionally. So although that thing is there, it’s not
so serious that I can’t practice brahmacharya. If a person finds brahmacharya
really difficult it should be given up; the urge should be sublimated —
divinised — perhaps by getting married or having some sexual experience
in the right context and frame of mind. Then he can pull himself out of that
condition or desire, and if he can love the person not only for her body or
the physical satisfaction it offered, the whole scene will be raised onto a
No one should force himself into brahmacharya. I
have not done this. I rarely think about it. A person’s evolution takes
place over many lives. A controlled life is one of the things pleasing to God.
As a Westerner brought
up in a Western culture, you are now living in an orthodox Hindu Ashram although
you are not a Hindu — you are non-caste. Did you find it difficult to adapt
to this way of life?
I find much in Hindu philosophy and teachings according to my own nature —
even the ideals within Hindu society. I could be called a Hindu, although I
am not accepted as such by orthodox Hindus. I hold to my relationship to Mother
so it doesn’t bother me what others say — I am not this or that.
I am here only to be with Mother and practice sadhana.
It is difficult sometimes. My life in this Ashram by Western standards may not
be all that great. By Indian standards it’s quite nice. This small house
inside the Ashram has everything I need, and it’s kind of the Indians
to allow me to live here.
But one should understand that one need not live in
abject poverty to meditate. I don’t live like the average Hindu. Anyway,
I don’t belong to any one particular culture; my life is in fact a combination
of both Western and Hindu cultures. And I feel at home in both place.
Sri Anandamayi Ma
Gadadhar died the ideal devotees’s death one year after this Interview.
He was in his early thirties. Vijayananda, (Interview No. 1) seeing Gadadhar
had slipped into a hepatitis coma, rushed him to Delhi hoping that a blood
transfusion would save him. He died before this could be arranged. At that
time Anandamayi Ma was attending the Kumbha Mela at Allahabad where millions
of pilgrims gather for this festival. She was extremely ill but remarked
she had clearly seen, as did others in her entourage, Gadadhar on the day
of his death ecstatically dancing in the big bathing procession.