An Interview with Ma: Anusthan
Part one of an interview that Shri Anandi Ma and Dileepji gave in 2004 where they answer questions about the practice of anusthan.
We rarely encounter the term anusthan in spiritual literature. Why did Guruji decide to emphasize it as a practice?
The term anusthan is widely used in India, although Guruji stressed it more compared to many groups. Basically, an anusthan is a concentrated period of practice over a short period of time. It’s a part of what the yogis call tapa, or austerities, but the yogis’ practice went on for years and years and years. Guruji offered this practice in a modified way. The whole concept of anusthan is that you go into retreat where you can evolve spiritually by being focused totally on God and the practice without any distractions, however short or long the period of anusthan may be. He felt that the current age we live in doesn’t support the type of spiritual environment where people can take off for years at a time to do practices, as they did in earlier ages. Also, He always recommended that disciples remain in the world as householders and do their practices. Anusthans, as Guruji taught them, are an effective and practical way to achieve the benefits of tapa.
What are the benefits of an anusthan versus the regular daily practices that you recommend?
Daily practices are, of course, very important, and at a subtle level they are breaking through blocks and taking the soul, one step at a time, toward the goal. But you don’t have the luxury of enjoying the fruits of the day’s practice. You meditate for an hour, and then your mind says ‘I have to go work.’ There is a level of distraction, which definitely keeps you from being focused on the practice. But when you know that you have cut yourself off from your job and the other aspects of daily life and are simply concentrating on whatever practice has been selected, then the benefit is a lot deeper and more subtle. Plus you can get the results quickly. So there is a difference in the time factor in which you receive the fruit of the practice. For example, it may take three months to receive some of the benefits of daily practice, whereas if you do a nine-day anusthan, you get the benefits of three months of practice. In a shorter time, you’re gaining a lot more.
You often refer to pilgrimages to India as anusthans. What is the difference between such a spiritual pilgrimage and an anusthan that you do in your home or in the Nikora ashram?
The Indian scriptures, the seers, the saints, and the Gurus have given several options in terms of evolving spiritually and reaching God. The land of India is infused with tremendous levels of energy, because for thousands of years so many saints, sages, incarnations, as well as the people themselves, have done practices. The land carries a lot of spiritual energy so it’s very supportive of any person who does any spiritual practice there, particularly in places like Nikora, which is by the River Narmada. Narmada is a powerful energy within itself. So any practices done there are naturally going to bring profound results with less effort in shorter periods of time. It’s definitely worth the time and energy to go there and do some practices, if it’s possible for you. The cost is always worth it.
Some disciples have the desire to do an anusthan but find they have difficulty committing to it and then completing it. Sometimes they don’t even have the energy to start an anusthan. How can the disciple overcome these obstacles?
Guruji would say there are three types of people: one thinks of all the possible problems that can come along and never even begins; the second starts something, but as soon as an obstacle arises, however minor it may be, they quit right away; and the third type sets a goal, puts in all their energies and efforts, and, no matter what obstacles come, never stops until the goal is reached.
He said that He expected all His disciples to at least put in the effort and not worry about what they can or cannot accomplish. If the effort is there, obstacles might still arise, but God’s and Guru’s Grace will also be there to help overcome them. So when you set up an anusthan, decide on the practices that you can best do, based on your own capacities and circumstances. Guruji said these are matters of ‘Do or Die’, so jump in and put in the effort, and then if, for whatever reason, you cannot accomplish your goal, you can always re-do it at another time. It is important to at least put in the maximum effort without having any fears.
In our experience, before you start an anusthan the mind will throw such things at you as, ‘It’s going to be so long, so many hours, how will it ever be accomplished?’ But once you get started, after a while you don’t even feel any of that and the time goes by so fast.