Meet Nikhil, a YA from White Plains, New York. Nikhil shares how reading Easwaran's translations and commentaries on Indian scriptures led him to integrate his heritage of Indian spirituality into his day-to-day life.
Sri Easwaran's stories and commentaries took me on a much-needed journey to explore the breadth and depth of Indian spirituality. India has a rich history of mystics and teachings. Though all of it is accessible, the meaning of these teachings is widely misinterpreted by most people. I grew up amidst all this wisdom but the scriptures had little impact on me. My idea of religion and spirituality was going to the temple a few times a year to "ask" God for something for myself. Sri Easwaran's teachings made spirituality accessible, so I can incorporate his and other mystics’ teachings in daily living. Each commentary fueled my desire to read more and slowly begin my own transformation.
It began in the weakest moment of my life. I had the habit of running away from difficult life situations and each time I ran, the situations came back to haunt me. During one of those moments, I happened to pick up Gandhi the Man at a bookstore in Kolkata, India. The way Sri Easwaran described Gandhi's fears and transformation seemed like he was speaking to me. I was moved enough to read deeper about Sri Easwaran and practice the eight-point program.
Mahatma Gandhi and Sri Easwaran led me to the Bhagavad Gita. I had heard of the Gita but for the first time, I read Sri Easwaran's version seriously. I started understanding that there is more to life than the senses and the material world. As mentioned in the foreword to the Bhagavad Gita – "We spend our days in the familiar world of the five senses but what lies beyond that, if anything, we have no idea". The Gita helped me explore this world beyond. I started understanding the concepts of Dharma, Gunas, Karma, Selfless Service and the Supreme Goal. Essentially, the meaning of life was unfolding right before my eyes. I understood that I was responsible for everything that was happening to me, and I could change my life situation by changing myself. I finally understood why situations I ran away from kept coming back and how I could fix that.
The best part of Sri Easwaran’s commentaries is that he uses examples from different mystics to convey the teaching. As I started reading more, Sri Easwaran introduced me to the teachings of the Buddha and Sri Ramakrishna. Understanding how similarly these mystics describe the purpose of life, the power of concentration, will power, training the mind, and selfless service, removed all doubts in my mind about the truth of these teachings. The Buddha's teaching that "All we are is the result of what we have thought" reinforced for me the idea that I could change my situation by changing my thoughts.
These pages from Easwaran's translation of the Bhagavad Gita (top left) and his commentary on it (right, bottom left) contain passages that particularly inspired Nikhil.
Sri Easwaran has led me to explore the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mother Teresa and Sri Ramakrishna among many others. He inspired me to visit Sri Ramakrishna's temple in Kolkata where I had the chance to passage meditate. I have to admit, I was overwhelmed. All this knowledge but where do I start, how do I apply, and how long will it take? I continue to draw inspiration from all mystics, but I realized that Sri Easwaran's Classics of Indian Spirituality capture the essence of all teachings. I don’t need to read every text out there till I focus on understanding and applying in my daily life the principles of a few.
So now I use the Bhagavad Gita, The End of Sorrow, and other Easwaran's teachings as my daily guide in life. Mahatma Gandhi and the Buddha are my role models for how to live these principles. I look forward to reading The Dhammapada in the near future to keep deepening my knowledge. I thank Sri Easwaran and all the community around me for starting my new life and making spirituality accessible to me through his teachings. I pray that we all become instruments to serve and spread Sri Easwaran's teachings far and wide.