Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Meeting with a Himalayan Yoga Master: Swami Veda Bharati

Swami Veda Bharati

Before arriving at the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, a Himalayan Yoga Tradition ashram in Rishikesh, I wrote down all the questions that I wanted to ask Swami Veda Bharati, the founder of the ashram and disciple of Swami Rama.

I'd heard stories of people forgetting all their questions when meeting a master like him so I put them on paper to make sure I wouldn't forget them.

I had quite a few questions but while I was at the ashram I realized that Swami Veda was too busy and that if he would have any time to meet me he wouldn't be able to answer all my questions. So I tried to shorten my list until it became just four questions.

Who is Swami Veda Bharati?

Before telling you more about my experience meeting Swami Veda let me give you a little bio:

Usharbudh Arya (who later became Swami Veda Bharati) was born in Dehradun, India, in 1933, and spent most of this life teaching and providing spiritual guidance around the world.

He was raised in the 5000-year-old tradition of Sanskrit-speaking scholar-philosophers of India, and from the age of five, guided by his father, he sat for an hour of meditation daily. By the age of six and a half, all four thousand sutras of Panini's Sanskrit grammar were memorized.

By the age of nine, his study of Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, the six systems of Indian philosophy, the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali, along with Pali (the language in which the Buddha taught) was completed and he began formally teaching.

He formally taught his first course in the Yoga-sutras at the age of nine and, over 50 years later after a lifetime of study and contemplation, authored a comprehensive commentary on the first two chapters of the Yoga-sutras with his Yoga-sutras of Patanjali with the Exposition of Vyasa, Volume I: Samadhi Pada (1986) and Vol. II: Sadhana Pada (2001).


Update: Swami Veda Bharati attained mahasamadhi, conscious departure from his physical body, on Tuesday, 14th of July, 2015.

Meeting Swami Veda Bharati

Finally, at the end of one of his lectures he said, “Marco, I will meet you tomorrow at 5pm.”

I got excited. I thought I would have the time to talk with him and ask at least three questions, but later I realized that I wouldn't be alone with him. I would be together with four other ashram guests.

So the moment came. We waited for a few minutes sitting silently on blankets on the floor just in front of his couch.

He came out of his office and greeted us. He sat is in his couch and started talking with us, just making conversation, asking about ourselves, how we find the ashram, how was our stay and so on.

Finally, he said “So, do you have any questions for me?” I looked at the other guests and nobody seemed to have any questions so I quickly replied “Oh.. so many questions.” He smiled at me and said:

“Questions are not answered. They are resolved. Imagine somebody sitting here looking at my phone and thinking - should I steal Swami's mobile phone or not? -. You wouldn't make that question to yourself, you are not at that level. The question doesn't arises in your mind, but it does arises in the mind of that person.

In the same way the questions that are currently in your mind might seem relevant to you now, but when you make progress in your spiritual practice little by little all those questions will be resolved, you just need to keep up with your sadhana (spiritual practice).”
Later smiling he said, “but you can make me at least one question.” Great! I thought. Since I was not alone with him I chose the most impersonal question that I had, so I asked:

“How can we practice meditation while we are engaged in a mental activity, for instance using our minds creatively? (or in other words: how can we be present here and now while thinking intensively at the same time?)”

I also added, “Yesterday you mentioned that you could do your meditation while at the same time reading your e-mails from your many e-mail accounts. How can we do that?”

He answered me with another question. “Do you have any thoughts while you are driving?” “Oh yeah, many!” I answered.

He continued, “but you are still driving, aware of the road and aware of the traffic. It is just a matter of having one thought, your mantra, while performing any action. While walking, instead of thinking many thoughts just think one thought and be aware of you walking; while eating be aware of you eating and think only about your mantra.”

After listening to his words I thought, “but then I'm not using my mind, I'm just performing an action with my body. It is easier to practice meditation or being present in that situation (not that I can do it) than when you are performing an action with your mind.”

Then, like if he was listening to my thoughts he said, “But meditating while reading your emails is a very advanced practice, not something that you can learn in a day, a month or even a year. It requires lots of practice.”

I was a bit confused with his answer, didn't really get it at that moment, but after the meeting, I talked with one of the guys who was also in the meeting. We shared our views and it kind of gave us both more clarity.

I concluded that we need to practice meditation or being aware and present while performing physical actions like eating or walking and by constant and regular practice that awareness will become second nature, just like driving.

When we reach that stage we would be able to perform mental actions or being mentally engaged in any particular subject while at the same time being aware that we are thinking; like a witness of our own thinking process. We could be even repeating a mantra in the background.

This is actually what you do at the beginning of a sitting meditation.  You become a witness of your thoughts without getting attached or identified with them.

But this is already quite difficult, imagine if your thoughts required all your attention, for instance, if you were trying to solve a business problem. Well, I guess the only way to find it out is to keep practicing.

What about my other questions?

We also came to the conclusion that the master is not just going to answer all our questions. We can find all our answers within ourselves, we just need to continue with our practice.

Why shouldn't we trust ourselves to provide the answers? “The guru is within yourself.” That's what the masters say. I recalled what a teacher had said during one of the lectures quoting Swami Veda: “My best students don't ask any questions. All their questions are resolved by doing their sadhana (spiritual practice).”

This doesn't mean that Swami Veda doesn't answer his students' questions.  He does, but I think the lesson for me at that moment was to learn to listen to my inner guide and find my own answers through my practice.

A few days later while checking my twitter account I read a tweet that I had made a couple of days before my meeting with Swamiji.

It was a quote from one of Swami Rama books: “If we ignore our inner teacher then a teacher outside will be of no use to us.” I didn't make the connection at that moment but now it hits me in an even deeper level.

Then on another day during a lecture we came to the same questions and answer subject. The teacher started telling a story that Swami Veda had told himself.

There was a moment when Swami Veda had a lots of questions that he wanted to ask to his guru, Swami Rama. For some reason Swami Rama was sort of avoiding meeting him so the meeting was postponed for weeks, even months.

Knowing that Swami Rama had little time Swami Veda wrote all his questions on paper and everyday he was reading them and trying to make them shorter and clearer. He did it for several months until finally Swami Rama called him and said “We can meet tomorrow.”

So when they finally met Swami Rama asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” Swami Veda said “Yes” and he took out his paper with all the questions.

Swami Veda look at his questions and started to say to himself, “Oh, this one I already know the answer; oh, this one is not relevant anymore; hmm this I don't need to ask” and so on.

After a few seconds Swami Veda replied to Swami Rama “No Swamiji, I don't have any questions.”

I wonder how the original story sounded like.  Anyways... In my case, my questions still remain unanswered, but I feel the answers will come soon. What is important is what I've learned:

  • Don't run here and there to find answers, just listen and trust your inner guide.
  • Being present while mentally busy is possible only by constant and regular practice.

Swami Veda Bharati

Suggested further reading

If you are interested in visiting Swami Veda's ashram you can check my previous blog the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama.  You'll find there all the information you might need to prepare for your next trip to Rishikesh.

In my next blog post, I talk about a beautiful inspiring book that I read recently.  It somehow connects well with everything I've been learning lately.  You can read all about in Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch.

Did you like this story?  Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

And if you would like to follow me on my yoga journey you could subscribe to my newsletter here.  Once you subscribe you'll be able to download my free meditation ebook.  Thanks for your support!

Hari Om Tat Sat


  1. beautiful post! keep sharing more of your spiritual journey with us. always inspiring!!!

  2. Dear Marco, I really appreciate your site and this is one of the best posts I've read on it. Thank you. Anna