From medical student to self-sufficient homesteader to a dedicated member of Ananda Marga, the man called Dada Gunamuktananda has been on a quest to discover his true self. Since 1995 he has taught meditation in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.
What is this thing called true self? Does self or truth even exist?
It’s the essence of yourself. Your inner self. Your greater self. We are one with it, just as a wave is one with the sea. Even though the wave is an individual for a brief time, it is essentially one with the sea forever. But to try to explain it is futile. You have to find it within yourself. You have to rediscover it – realise it – in order to attain what you are ultimately looking for.
How do you know when you’ve found it?
In the same way that you know that the sun has risen after a dark night. There is no doubt about it. All the knowledge of the universe comes to one who is self-realised, including the knowledge of self.
How do you know when you are operating out of your ‘false’ self? What are the signs?
All the signs of everyday life: the false perceptions and assumptions and other mistakes that we make on a day-to-day basis. You can assume that until you are self-realised you are operating out of your false self. In fact not so much false self, but incomplete self, or reflected self. It’s like always looking at a reflection of the moon in a lake or puddle instead of looking straight at the moon.
What caused you to take such an unconventional path?
I was looking for a deeper meaning in life; a purpose beyond all the purposes that we are conditioned to believe are our primary purpose. But really all those are just secondary to the primary purpose of self-realisation. Only self-realisation can give us what we ultimately want: the permanent experience of perfect peace and contentment; infinite happiness, bliss.
What drives you on a daily basis?
The conviction that there is a deeper reality within which we exist and the realisation of which we are all moving towards in the gradual and inevitable consummation of our deepest desire: that of infinite happiness: bliss.
Are you a happy person? Does it matter to be happy – or have we over-invested in this concept?
On the whole, yes. But it does not matter in the overall scheme of things to be happy each and every moment of our lives. Because often we will be working through issues that are unpleasant or painful. This is part of the process, part of our journey. This is the process of working though our karma so we can purify and expand our minds to experience the infinite. What ultimately matters is that we are working towards a state of permanent and infinite happiness.
What are your challenges and struggles with maintaining and growing your spirituality?
As human beings we are predominantly intellectual in the way we function but we are continually being pulled in two different directions: the physical (instinctual) and the spiritual (intuitional). The main struggle is to move towards the spiritual, and that takes work. It takes regular and persistent practice because without it the movement towards the physical is very instinctual and easy. It is easy to regress; not so easy to progress.
What’s the biggest mistake pilgrims make on the spiritual path?
To leave the path. Or not to even begin walking on the path. To dabble in spirituality. Spirituality is not something to be dabbled in. It requires dedication and commitment. You need to make it part of your life because it’s about you. It’s about finding the truth within yourself. Not to do so would be to deny yourself. Many of today’s problems – personal and social – are owing to people denying their essential existence and denying the essential existence of others. We have to keep on the path: keep realising ourselves as the Greater Self and realising others as that same Greater Self. This is what will lead to peace and fulfilment in the world.
What inspires you most about people?
Everyone is a manifestation of consciousness, an expression of the divine. What inspires me about people (and also animals and plants) is when I see the divine shining through in their divine qualities. Even not-so-divine qualities are expressions of the cosmic drama, or play, and so are also entertaining, if not inspiring! The more one evolves on the spiritual path the more one sees all of creation as an expression of the cosmic consciousness. The greater your expansion of mind, of self, of consciousness into the infinite consciousness, the greater the radius of your love. You see all as beautiful manifestations of divine love.
What are you going to offer at Starlight Festival?
My mission is practising and teaching meditation, because I believe that meditation will give individual fulfilment and make for a more peaceful world. So my colleague Didi Ananda Devanistha and I will be teaching meditation, offering group meditation sessions and giving meditation intros and guided meditations in order to impress upon the participants the importance of regular and sustained meditation practice in one’s daily life. We will also be giving a guided meditation to lead into The Bhaktas, who are a devotional trance duo of Ananda Marga who have especially come over from Germany to perform at this festival and our own Bliss Festival prior to Starlight.
Dada Gunamuktananda is one of the many featured printers at Starlight Festival at the Bangalow A&I Hall Thursday–Sunday. For more information go to starlightfestival.com.au.