My Story

I was born in the deep South during the hottest month of the year in 1975.  My mother was kind and loving, but my father was an abusive alcoholic.  My earliest prayers were for my mother and I to be spared my father's drunken rage.  My grandmother was deeply religious, and I was always impressed with her devotion when I stayed summers with her.  She would kneel by her bed at night, while I would lay near, and she would call out to God with sincere fervor.  On Sundays, she attended an old-fashioned Pentecostal church.  As unorthodox as it would seem to many, I always felt at home there.  It wouldn’t be until my teen years that I would be faced with the impure nature of my human condition and seek refuge in God.

Some of the most powerful, spiritually somatic experiences I have ever had were during those years in the church.  The "spirit" felt tangible and often physically moved me, both from within and without.  I would feel overwhelming love, devotion, and bliss that are difficult to articulate with the full force they deserve.  At times it felt like electrical shocks, and at other times it felt like warm oil being poured over my body.  I would spontaneously and ecstatically dance under the spell of the divine, and at times my body would turn limp and appear lifeless; I would fall to the earth, being only conscious of God and not my surroundings.

I married early, right out of high school.  I wanted to join the mission field and I felt it would be better to do so as a couple.  Unfortunately, the marriage was a disaster from the start and only grew worse.  Despite having so many divine experiences, I realized I needed a deeper experience of God in order to survive my unhappy wife.  I had always been an avid reader, and about this time I stumbled upon a book by one of the Christian mystics.  The affect that book had on me was profound.  The monk described a knowledge and experience of God much beyond anything I had known.  It wasn’t something external, like healing the sick or seeing visions; it was a direct, inner experience that was always available.  One that gave peace and certainty that whatever happens, it comes from a place of love and is always perfect.  I started learning about mystical prayer, and took my first steps toward inner union, which I would later discover is just Yoga by another name.

Eventually, I would go on to university, find myself divorced, suffer a bankruptcy, and also lose my faith.  While earning my degree, I studied religion, philosophy, psychology, and other sciences.  One the one hand, I was learning many new things, which broadened my world in an exciting and fascinating way, but on the other, I had numerous personal misfortunes that caused me to question previously held beliefs.  As a result, my mind turned to agnosticism.

At some point, I found myself in Canada studying a native Russian art.  It was both mystical and martial.  The teacher was a man named Vitali.  The first evening we met he invited me to attack him in any manner that I liked.  Without rehearsing, I attempted to take him to the ground.  I had practiced both Karate and Jujitsu growing up, so I felt confident in my abilities.  The Russian softly and gently placed me on my back; I scarcely know how.  I tried again, with the same result.  I was as amazed as if I had just seen a magician’s trick.  In fact, I responded in the same way, asking to see his trick again, all the while laughing in amusement.  He said that this art was named Lubki, which is Russian for love.  I don’t know how accurate the stories are, but it’s claimed that some Greeks from Athens ended up in the Vladimir region a long, long time ago, wandered around like gypsies, used a secret language, and guarded the jewels of hidden knowledge, which were somehow insinuated to have descended down from Plato.  They became known as the Ofeni, which sounds similar to "Athens" in the Russian language, and it was from them that Lubki originated.  I asked him for the secret of how he could send me to the ground as lightly as laying a baby to sleep.  He said the secret is self-knowledge.

A few days later he demonstrated an ancient Russian practice of cleansing the soul through inquiry.  I remember sitting down; he was still standing, and he asked me “Who are you?”  The question seemed odd.  He knew who I was.  I had been staying in his home and eating his food.  I gave him my name, along with a look that suggested he’d gone senile.  He responded with, “that is your name, but it's not who you are.  Who are you?”  I could see that he was teaching me something and not simply engaging in polite conversation.  I gave some additional thought and said, “I’m an IT professional.”  “That’s your occupation.  Who are you?” He replied.  This went on for a while, but it didn’t take long to run out of answers and begin to feel frustrated.  He must have sensed this because he ended the dialogue.  Shortly after, I returned to the US and he to Russia, but I continued to wonder "who I am?" 

Since Vitali was no longer available to instruct me, I searched elsewhere for self-knowledge, especially as it related to martial arts.  By looking online, I found Peter Ralston, who taught both martial arts and contemplation.  We exchanged several emails, some of which were especially helpful, but the cost to attend his camps were cost prohibitive for me at the time.  Through more investigation, I learned that Peter had based his contemplation retreat on another retreat known as the Enlightenment Intensive.   Fortunately, these were more widely available and rather economical.  The first event I could find was a few months away, so after speaking with the facilitator, I paid my deposit and booked my flight.

The Enlightenment Intensive is a three-and-a-half-day monastic retreat.  Up to 18 hours each day are devoted to self-inquiry and meditation.  I had no spiritual aim for attending; I did it to improve my worldly life.  The Universe had other plans.  After the first day I realized that all my problems were only in the mind, which caused a huge sense of freedom.  I remember thinking that this insight alone was worth the price of admission.  At the end of the second day, while contemplating "Who am I," I directly experienced the truth of my own nature.  I clearly saw that I was not the mind or the body, but I was the silent, perfect, unchanging witness that has always been present, always been who I truly am.  I felt a surge of energy rush through the center of my body and tears of joy began to flow.  I laughed and laughed and laughed at this wonderful cosmic joke.  Nothing had ever been wrong, nor could it ever be.  I saw the absolute perfection that was all there is.  It completely changed the course of my life.  I have also written about the retreat here, if anyone wants to read more.

After I returned home, I was at complete peace.  Things that had bothered me before no longer did.  I was truly happy...for about 6 weeks, then stuff began to change.  I noticed that things began to annoy me again.  I actually found this slightly terrifying.  What had happened?  Why was I no longer enjoying such bliss?  This was the true beginning.  

I began looking for a teacher that could help me solve the riddle.  It took some trial and error, but I did find someone who I trusted to guide me.  She went by the name “Durga Ma.”  We had a strong connection from the start.  On my first visit she said, "I finally have a son."  I always referred to her as "Ma."  She had been a student of Yogeshwar Muni, who had actually created the Enlightenment Intensive retreat, and Swami Kripalu, who was a pioneer of Yoga in the West and was taught Yoga by an immortal named Lakulisha.   She explained to me about samskaras and the impurity of the mind that distorts realization.  She gave me shaktipat diksha, and I began meditating earnestly for up to 4 hours a day.  I continued that routine for many years.  She taught a meditation that was natural and spontaneous and only required the sadhaka to surrender the awakended energy to the Absolute.  Everything that followed happened without any volition.  Asana, pranayamas, mudras, yogic dreams, and many other phenomena unfolded without external instructions or personal effort.  It reminded me of the Pentecostal church of my youth, and so naturally, it was like a homecoming.  I have written more about my experiences in meditation during those years here.

Durga Ma

Yogeshar Muni

Swami Kripalu

Lord Lakulish

Those were precious years where I sat at her feet and on her living room floor, but in time, I wanted to learn more about Vedanta.  Even though I had great affection for Durga Ma, I asked for permission to leave in search of a Jnani; she agreed to let me go in search of one.  That search took me to India where I found new feet to sit at, those of Sri Ramakant Maharaj, the direct disciple of the well-known Jnani, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.  He did not teach Sanskrit, or the Upanishads, or the commentaries of Sri Shankara.  He spoke from the immediate realization of the Absolute, and he was uncompromising in his message.  “You have read enough books,” he would say.  “It is time to pay attention to the reader.”  “You are Absolute Truth,” he would proclaim.  “There is no God, no Atman, no guru, except for your Selfless Self.  This whole world is projected out of you.  Life is just a long dream; wake up!"  These and more words like them where all he would repeat day after day.  If you didn’t get the message, he advised meditation and then to try again.  I remember after being in the ashram for two weeks, during one of his satsangs, he looked me directly in the eyes, while smiling slightly.  I don't even remember what he was saying, but I saw IT.  How could the Truth be so elusive?  In that moment it was plain as day!  Later that afternoon I was walking with an Australian disciple, basking in the glow of awakening, which was noticable to my friend.  “Ah, you finally caught it!” he exclaimed in his Ausie accent.   I would remain with Maharaj until he departed from his body 2 years later.  After his passing, I would take one final teacher, who brought everything together for me. 

Sri Ramakant Maharaj taught that his sampradaya hailed from Lord Dattatreya, the Adinath, or first master.  Guru Datta taught nine others, the Navnaths (nine masters), and the tradition was passed down from there.  These masters were Mahasiddhas, some of which are counted in the lineages of both Tibetan Buddhists and Hindu Yogis.  The mantra that Maharaj gave to his initiates was said to have been first given by Lord Dattatreya to his nine disciples.  Shortly after Maharaj’s samadhi, I was reading more about Lord Dattatreya and discovered that he had given another mantra to a yogi saint on mount Girnar. 

Sri Ramakant Maharaj

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

Sri Siddharameshwar Maharaj

Adinath and the Navnaths

Less than half a century ago, Lord Datta appeared to Sri Punitachariji Maharaj in the jungles of Girnar mountain and gave him the mantra “Hari Om TatSat Jai Guru Datta” and instructed him to make it freely available to the world without discrimination.  This mantra was unique in many ways.  Unlike most mantras, which can only be given in secret from the mouth of the guru to the ear of the disciple, this mantra could be given to anyone and by anyone.  Also, the chanting of this mantra gives shaktipat directly from Guru Datta.  It’s the only mantra I am aware of that can initiate someone into Sahaja yoga.  It will guide, protect, and ensure the success of the sadhaka who takes refuge in its practice.  Go to the Intro to learn more about the mantra and its practice.

When I discovered the existence of this mantra, I instantly wanted to connect with the disciples of Sri Punitachariji Maharaj and learn more.  After an email campaign in search of such disciples, someone responded saying, “contact Chandrukant Shukla in London.”  We soon made contact, and he even invited me to come stay in his home in the UK, which I did the following year.  We are still in touch, and I have attended other retreats he has led.  He has been very gracious toward me and continues to offer guidance.  Later I would also connect with others, such as Swami Vishu Datta, who provided me with books in English by Sri Punitachariji Maharaj, as well as his own books about Sahaj Yog. 

From then to this day, I have experienced tremendous grace through the mahamantra, and I have seen blessings in every aspect of my life because of it.  I have detailed some of my experiences with it in the meditation experiences section of the site.  Sri Punitachariji Maharaj (Bapu) is my final guru, and my sadhana is chanting the mantra “Hari Om TatSat Jai Guru Datta” followed by Sahaja Dhyan.  Any progress I have made, I give credit to Bapu and Lord DattatreyaNothing I have written should be taken as a claim of attainment; I am just a simple sadhaka, a fellow traveler along the path.  My only hope is that something found here will encourage or inspire you in your own journey.

Sri Punitachariju Maharaj

Lord Dattatreya

Hari Om TatSat Jai Guru Datta