He gave up his career to turn inwards. And that has made all the difference. The author and monk with 10 best-selling books including Kundalini: An Untold Story, A Million Thoughts, The Wellness Sense, When All Is Not Well and If Truth Be Told: A Monk’s Memoir, is already on a five book deal with Harper Collins. From dabbling in astrology to a Bachelor of Business from Australia, Om Swami even got an Australian citizenship, and then decided to chuck it all, and head to Kashi. Today, he exudes wisdom on life, leadership and finding happiness. And has recently released a free app called Black Lotus to spreads kindness and concern for others.
QYou have signed a five-book deal with Harper Collins. Tell us more?
I am currently writing a book on kindness. I have already written a book on parenting. It’s spiritual parenting, the core values that can make or break a child's future. There will be a couple of books on big questions that every educated mind has been searching for. Also a book on writing about my journey in Himalayas. When I wrote my original memoir If Truth Be Told, people asked what sadhana did I do? The book will focus exclusively on my sadhana period.
Q Why are you not on social media?
You are right, I should be on social media but it's one of those personal things. To be famous was never, has never been, will never be my goal. I have no desire to be known by millions of people. In this digital age, we waste so much time online, I don't want to contribute to that. I think those who are in search of the truth, will find me. My only specialisation is meditation. I have devoted my lifetime to the ins and outs of meditation, rest is auxiliary.
With my app, my idea is to help people with guided meditation to help them see how they are progressing spiritually.
Q Do you still have roots in Patiala?
Yes, I still have roots in Patiala — my parents are in Patiala and I visit them or they come to the ashram in Himachal Pradesh. My family is everywhere. There is a biological family, my siblings and then there is vasudhaiva kutumbakam, the whole world is my family and it’s one of the greatest rewards of sanyasa, of being a monk.
Q You left at the peak of success, how different are you now?
It’s a very beautiful question. All the things I am doing now I didn’t think of doing earlier. I discovered that when you do sadhana, you become flexible. When I came back from the Himalayas and thought about moksha, enlightenment, I realised that this is what a lot of sincere seekers want, the ‘how to’ in life (joy, relationship, anger, work, etc). I realised they needed my thoughts more on these aspects.
Q How can one learn to step back? Mindfulness. When you ask yourself what you want from life, you have a car now, tomorrow you will have two or 3, a house, or two but is that what you want to be known for? Reflection comes from mindfulness.
Q Astrology and its scientific nature is at odds, your thoughts?
For years, I practiced astrology. My experience of astrology after years is that I no longer practice it. We should encourage people to believe in themselves and have faith in divine consciousness, to take responsibility for their actions as opposed to looking for answer in dead planets roaming about in a solar system!
Q Who are the people you have learnt from and what have you learnt?
The most beautiful thing about being a monk is, you get to learn from everybody. What I have learnt is in life, you are very lucky if one or two people really love you sincerely or you love one or two people sincerely as most people are in love with an image of you, and what they want or are getting from you. I am not saying it’s selfish, or right or wrong.
Q What is the aim of the Black Lotus Peace Foundation?
To spread goodness and kindness. One person at a time. To build a community of good and kind people who are there for each other. Black Lotus is a movement. We stand on the tripod of meditation, mantra chanting and kindness. Meditation allows you to train and tame your own mind, mantra chanting allows you to align your consciousness with the cosmic consciousness and kindness because no man is an island. Unless you do something good for others, you cannot experience true happiness, pleasure maybe but not happiness. So, Black Lotus is about building a spiritual community with focus on your own spiritual growth as well as growth and happiness of those around you. Ever since we launched Black Lotus, more than 30,000 random acts of kindness have already been done. This world will throw many things at you, we don’t have to react to those things. The ability to just simply let those things go is what makes you Black Lotus.
Q What are we doing right and wrong?
Although it seems that society is in crisis, I think there has never been a better time to be alive. We are living in beautiful time, science is making rapid progress with technology, spirituality is all corners, people are becoming more and more open minded. Today, I can read about any holy scripture online. So, I think, what we are doing is right and educating the ignorant. What we are doing wrong? People are being too hard on themselves. Right now, we are so busy just doing, there is this immense burden to respond. What people think of you? It makes no difference whether people think you are great or not.
Q To the people who cannot meditate, what would you say?
Meditation is amazing once you get used to it. The first thing you realise is how talkative your mind, this monkey always hopping from one thought to another. Start small, for only three or four minutes, watch your breath, watch your thoughts or concentrate on any one thing. In my book A Million Thoughts, videos and app, I have addressed this.
Q What do people not know about you?
I like my food well presented and lead an extremely disciplined life. I do procrastinate but my procrastination is that I start doing things that are not urgent, important yes, urgent no. I like to play the piano (still a beginner). I am a very slow learner when it comes to music. I exercise regularly at my gym as physical fitness is as important as emotional, mental and spiritual fitness.
Q The five tenants to peace and joy? First is truthfulness and honesty. I am using them as synonyms, be honest, truthful and you will grow fast. Often, people tell stories about themselves, and they start to believe those stories — I am not successful because of Shani mahadasha or kaal sarp yog or my husband or wife or boss is not good. We believe in such stories and the mind starts to look for excuses. Second is acceptance. Remember that any point in life, there will be at least one difficult person. Often, we think that if this person was not there, life would be good. That’s a mistake, acceptance makes the heart grow. Choose compassion over other emotions. If someone ignores, be compassionate as they are going through something more difficult. If somebody asks for help, help them. Fourth is love, we all want to change the other person, that is the whole conflict, and struggle. Love is the only one way to change something, not pressure or force. Fifth is impermanence — anything you have, one day you won’t have it. Everything is transient. Nothing is going to last forever....