598. Gautam Sachdeva

Gautam SachdevaBorn and brought up in Mumbai, Gautam faced one challenge after another fairly early in life. He remarks, “As a result, I grew up before my time.” Having to cope with the loss of his father at the young age of 14 gave rise to questions related to death, insecurity, and survival, which would affect most children faced with a similar loss.

Gautam’s fondest memories are of the times spent with his parents on weekend trips to the shrine of Sai Baba at Shirdi, and on annual holidays when the family went to Kashmir. His father had built a prospering advertising business, which after his father’s demise, had continued to grow and progress under the watchful eye of his mother. Gautam started attending office while he was still in college and, three years later, took over the reins of the business.

Running the business and dealing with a staff of thirty who were all much older than him taught him about building relationships with people – whether they were CEOs of multi-national corporations, suppliers, or his colleagues at work. Gradually, he was able to bring the company out of the red – bad debts that had been incurred over the years – and back into the black.

At the turn of the millennium (December 1999), Gautam’s inherent but latent spiritual inclination surfaced through a series of synchronistic events. Following his mother’s example, he started attending a course in Brahma Vidya (Knowledge of Brahman) based on a system of ancient Tibetan breathing exercises. This course was conducted by his mother’s guru, Justice Dudhat of the High Court of Mumbai.

Around this time, Gautam diversified into publishing by setting up Yogi Impressions, primarily to publish his mother Santosh’s book on her spiritual awakening. Santosh Ma’s journey of awakening spanned three years, from 1996 to 1999. Although there was no desire or ambition to publish any other book besides this one, destiny had charted a new course for him, as he was soon to discover.

As a single parent, Santosh played the role of both mother and father during Gautam’s as well as his sisters’ growing up years. This role took on another dimension after her spiritual awakening when aspirants started visiting her for guidance on the path of Kundalini and meditation. By now, Gautam was closely working with her on other books that were to follow as well as witnessing, at close quarters, her interactions with aspirants. He imbibed a lot by just being in her presence. He is often asked what it is like to live under the same roof with a personality such as his mother. His sister Shibani sums it up by saying, “Never once did our mother utter the word ‘No’ to us.”

In November 1999, Gautam met Eckhart Tolle, the best-selling spiritual author of The Power of Now, in Hong Kong, while holidaying with his sister Nikki who worked there at the time. He had several interactions with this spiritual teacher over the next few years, courtesy of Nikki and her friends’ proximity to Eckhart, which led to his publishing company bringing out the Indian edition of The Power of Now. Eckhart had said that publishing would be the start of ‘an adventure’ for Gautam, and so it turned out to be.

It was at Nikki’s urging that Gautam met the Advaita sage, Ramesh Balsekar, in February 2000. Some of her friends were flying down from a distant country just to meet this modern sage who lived a mere 20-minute drive away from Gautam’s home. Having no conscious interest in the subject, he tagged along one Sunday morning to Ramesh’s residence in Mumbai. On his next visit when Ramesh saw him, he asked Gautam: “Isn’t this the second consecutive Sunday you have come? Be careful young man… this will become your Sunday church!” Little then did he know that he would keep visiting Ramesh over the next nine years to attend his satsangs.

In hindsight, Gautam says that these three events: the culmination of his mother’s awakening, meeting Eckhart Tolle as well as Ramesh Balsekar, all in a span of a few months between November 1999 and February 2000, were to shape the course of his life’s journey thereon. As he was not familiar with their teachings at the time and was graced by directly being in their presence, he refers to this period as ‘being introduced to the presence of Presence.’

Ramesh’s teaching was a validation of Gautam’s life experiences. It became evident that Ramesh was more than a friend, philosopher, father-figure, and mentor – he was the Guru he had been unconsciously seeking. Sitting with Ramesh, Gautam says he got answers ‘to questions he never asked’. This was reflected in Ramesh’s words (from the Foreword to Gautam’s second book The Buddha’s Sword, based on Ramesh’s teaching): “During the early years when Gautam visited me every Sunday morning, I noticed the keen interest he showed in the subject and I soon came to the conclusion that ‘awakening’ had taken place, and that he was on his way to ‘deliverance’ – awakening functioning in daily living.”

During these years, Gautam worked closely with Ramesh assisting him with the editing and publishing of some of his books. In later years, Ramesh encouraged Gautam to write especially after reading an article Gautam had written for India’s leading spiritual magazine on the occasion of Ramesh’s 90th birthday in 2007. It was this gentle nudge that eventually led to Gautam writing his first book based on Ramesh’s teaching – Pointers from Ramesh Balsekar.

Since then, Gautam has authored five more books. He is quite perplexed himself at this ‘happening’ as he had no intention of becoming a writer. “At least one doesn’t have to look hard for a publisher,” he adds with a smile. His books have been translated into Russian, German, Spanish, Hindi, and Marathi.

Gautam has an active work-life that includes overseeing the publishing business. He lives and works in South Mumbai. Depending on Gautam’s schedule, meetings take place on some Sunday mornings at his residence in South Mumbai. Talks are being regularly live-streamed on Zoom as well as YouTube.

Some of the points discussed in this interview.

  • Gautam’s background
  • Relationship with Eckhart Tolle and then Ramesh Balsekar.
  • Thoughts on reincarnation.
  • The quest for peace of mind and ultimately, happiness.
  • Learning to accept the will of “the source”.
  • You are an instrument of God, having been shaped by the Divine.
  • Nisargadatta on the distinction between consciousness and That which is prior to consciousness.
  • Not getting lost in concepts and imaginings.
  • The evolutionary value of challenges.
  • The most reliable spiritual awakenings are often the least spectacular – “The kingdom of heaven sneaks up like a thief in the night”.
  • You have control over action alone, never its fruits. Ultimately, there is no free will, but we perceive ourselves as having it and should act accordingly.
  • Witnessing the flow of life – such a glorious way of being.
  • A discussion of kundalini.
  • Equanimity as a measure of spiritual advancement.
  • Nisargadatta on the importance of meditation and spiritual practice.
  • Ramana Maharshi on how to recognize a sage: the peace and humility he radiates.
  • Seeing God in everything develops compassion for all beings.
  • The “I am” is revealed when the thinking mind dissolves.
  • Gross, subtle, and transcendent levels of speech.
  • The test of any teaching is its impact on daily living, especially the unexpected.
  • The influence of individual spiritual development on the world.
  • Discussion on death. Fear of death is actually fear of ego death. “Dying before you die” eliminates the fear of death.
  • Accepting that everyone acts according to their conditioning transforms relationships.
  • A moment of silence ends the interview.

Website: gautamsachdeva.com

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Interview recorded May 15, 2021.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

593. Ameeta Kaul

Ameeta KaulAmeeta was born and raised in Mumbai India and recalls two predominant family themes which influenced her formative years: intellectual curiosity and devotion to God. She was educated and conditioned to aspire to conventional success, which pursuit dominated the first three decades of her life.

She consciously experienced the first stirrings of her deepest yearning following the cancer diagnosis and subsequent death of her father in 1999. Questions opened up in her like “What is life?”, “What is death?”, and “What is going on?”.

From then on, Life orchestrated a series of events and experiences which placed her and nurtured her, on an overt spiritual journey. The major influences along the way were Ken Wilber, Byron Katie, and Adyashanti. It was with Adya that she finally found what she was looking for, in terms of his spiritual guidance which has always resonated in her being, in terms of his living example which continues to inspire her, and most especially in terms of what those two brought alive and online within her.

What she now sees clearly is that it was the Heart Sutra teaching of Emptiness is Form and Form is Emptiness, which is the meta-story of her life and existence.

In 2017 she received her Soul name of Moving Mountain in Taos. And this opened a new facet on her journey, where she experienced deep communion with Nature and a tangible connection with Goddess.

Ameeta’s path has been gradual and studded with many life-altering realizations, which illuminated her self-knowledge, and which continue to translate into how she lives and relates in the world. She likes to say she is eternally a work-in-progress.

Over the years she has been sharing her experience with small groups and coaching spiritual seekers one on one. Now she is called to share her message more broadly through Moving Mountain Academy.

Main points discussed:

  • Ameeta’s background and spiritual path, including her irresistible shift from businesswoman to spiritual seeker.
  • Ken Wilber’s influence in reconciling the battle between her spiritual and intellectual lives.
  • Adyashanti’s influence.
  • Healthy and unhealthy teacher/student devotional relationships.
  • Primordial fear and its falling away.
  • Having a teacher ‘carry the present being awareness’ until one is ready to hold it for oneself.
  • Teachers are ‘custodians of what the student has not yet recognized’.
  • Ameeta’s relationship with Taos mountain and how it helped her recognize the spiritual progress she had made.
  • Embodying what had been realized.
  • The underlying direction of Ameeta’s journey: form is emptiness, emptiness is form.
  • Different paths enrich one other and contribute to the whole.
  • We “stand on the shoulders” of past spiritual pioneers.
  • The value of ancient traditions and innovative modern ones.
  • Spirituality vis-à-vis formal religious systems.
  • Direct vs. progressive paths.
  • Fear of life and embodiment.
  • Individuals are more powerful than they realize, and choices more consequential.
  • The significance of spirituality in dealing with the world’s problems.
  • Listening to opposing viewpoints is a way to test one’s realization.
  • Love and empathy for humanity.
  • The importance of closeness to nature. The universe is talking to us.
  • A fundamental shift in consciousness is happening now in the world, without which, attempting to solve problems on the level of symptoms would fail.
  • Presenting spirituality in ordinary language.
  • Depression, anxiety, addiction, etc. are cries for help. People know there’s something deeper and are dissatisfied with surface values.
  • Ameeta’s program to help people experience that there is something much vaster than the thinking mind.
  • The mind-body system is a portal to unboundedness.
  • Including but transcending rationality.
  • Understanding can help us recognize previously unrecognized experiential shifts.
  • The importance of and distinction between knowledge and experience.
  • The correlation (or lack of it) between health and spiritual development.
  • Using ‘free will’ to align with life’s flow.
  • The relationship between science and spirituality.
  • Integration of our boundless essential nature with the boundaries of individual life.

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Interview recorded April 3, 2021

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

584. Helané Wahbeh

Helane WahbehHelané Wahbeh is the Director of Research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Oregon Health & Science University. Dr. Wahbeh is clinically trained as a naturopathic physician and research trained with a Master of Clinical Research and two post-doctoral research fellowships. She has published on and spoken internationally about her studies on complementary and alternative medicine, mind-body medicine, stress, and posttraumatic stress disorder and their relationships to physiology, health, and healing. Her current research interests include healing stress and trauma, examining mechanisms of mind-body medicine, and rigorously studying extended human capacities. Dr. Wahbeh’s extensive meditation training includes the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Teacher Training by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a four-year Meditation Teacher Training with CoreLight, and a 19-year regular meditation practice.

Books:

Website

Topics discussed:

  • A broad definition of channeling.
  • Do psychic and similar abilities run in families? Nature vs. nurture.
  • Does the utilization of “junk” or non-coding DNA result in the unfoldment of abilities such as channeling?
  • Helping people find their Noetic Signature.
  • Everybody has the capacity to channel and many have done so without knowing it.
  • We are undergoing a paradigm shift. Abundant evidence challenges the materialist worldview and is shifting the predominant paradigm to an understanding that consciousness extends beyond the brain. This is important because it better explains our reality.
  • The implication of non-local consciousness is that we are all connected and part of a greater whole. This understanding radically changes our behavior and our influence on the world.
  • The influence of major events on collective consciousness as detected by random number generators (RNG’s).
  • The ancient history of channeling. The respect traditional cultures had for channelers (shamans, medicine men, etc.)
  • Degrees of authenticity among channelers and degrees of positivity and usefulness among the entities they channel.
  • Looking to external sources for wisdom vs. looking within.
  • The importance of discernment.
  • Whether subjective, spiritual experiences can be studied as scientifically as the physical phenomena hard sciences study.
  • The currently existing tools of material science are unable to evaluate subtle realities.
  • IONS is developing new ways to measure these realities using the scientific method.
  • Plans to study the legitimacy of out of body experiences and perception of subtle beings.
  • Whether great artistic and scientific achievements are sometimes channeled.
  • People knowing or doing things far beyond what their education and training should have made possible.
  • The capabilities of autistic savants.
  • Higher intelligences interfacing with humanity to transmit wisdom.
  • Could major shifts in collective consciousness (Nazism, QAnon) be mass channelings of powerful negative entities?
  • The question of evil.
  • Can Artificial Intelligence become conscious?
  • Could anxiety or mental health issues result from involuntary ‘channeling’ of negative influences?
  • Conspiracy theories. Striking a balance between closed-mindedness and willingness to consider unconventional possibilities.
  • Those committed to mainstream thinking, such as in medicine, often refuse to consider alternative ideas, such as naturopathic medicine.
  • We need to eschew black and white, dogmatic thinking and be more open-minded, curious, and inquisitive.
  • Being able to face uncertainty and discomfort without taking refuge in false certainty.
  • Does greater spiritual maturity enable one to channel more evolved intelligences?
  • Helané’s personal channeling experiences.
  • Potential pitfalls of channeling. Can it cause health problems? Some teachers and traditions discourage it.
  • Helané discusses how to participate in her work.

Interview recorded January 24, 2021

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.