A few months ago I posted an interview with Richie Quirino, author of The Amen Vibration, the story of his spiritual journey (link) Recently he introduced me to Dada, a childhood friend who had lived in India, Africa and South America and was now back in the Philippines as the head monk at the Matayog Health and Wellness Center in Parañaque. (link). Dada and I talked at the coffee shop in the Hotel Kimberly across the street from my subdivision in Tagaytay. Thanks to Dada for the photos I pulled from the center’s Facebook page.
I understand you’re a Hindu monk?
Rather than “Hindu monk” I’d prefer “universal monk, although the root of my practice is my training in India. I come from a social-spiritual organization started by a grand master, a guru by the name of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, who was also known as Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (link)
I started practicing in 1971 and since have been practicing and teaching this science of the total development of the individual. It asks these questions: What is the purpose of existence? Who are you? Where did you come from? What is the final goal of every human being?
People are born, live and die. Everybody has desires and goals. Most people don’t know what the final goal is, the purpose of existence. So our lives are not much different than those of animals—we eat, drink, sleep, procreate and die. A human being has a developed mind but one which has only a limited understanding of the outside world. Everybody wants happiness, but how long do you want to be happy? For a few days, a few months, a few years or for the rest of your life? In other words, do you want perfect happiness? Is that possible?
So we say the grand master, or the guru, says that perfect happiness can be found within. But first, live a clean, balanced life. Respect nature and the laws of the universe. Practice the disciplines of yoga and of science, Don’t just believe in them, but prove them to yourself in the laboratories of your body and your mind. The state of perfect happiness and peace is something that can become a reality, and it is important that you prove it to yourself. Experience it.
When you practice certain yoga postures, certain body movements, regularly, then you can make your body supple, refine it, purify it, detoxify it. It’s like providing it with nutritious, clean food from plants, not from killing animals. When the body and the mind are nourished, you can control anger, fear, shyness, hatred, insanity and jealousy as well as an inferiority complex or a superiority complex. The goal is to create a perfect balance where your unique mind becomes one with the cosmic mind, God’s mind, which we all came from.
As you practice meditation daily, you come closer to the truth. You don’t want to remain in falsehood because then you can’t be happy. Whether they are aware of it or not, human beings want perfect happiness. If they’re not given the proper discipline or philosophy or ideology, they’ll look for happiness in the wrong places, outside of themselves. Pleasure and happiness in the physical world is very limited. Let’s say you look for happiness in food. How much can you eat? Not much—otherwise, you get sick. It’s the same with how much you can drink, even how much music you can listen to.
The five senses connect you with the outside world—taste, smell, hearing, sight and touch—but if one of these is defective it lessens your understanding. The senses have to be trained to be under the control of your mind. Some body parts—feet, genitals, anus, vocal cords and hands—along with the five senses are called the ten wild horses. If they aren’t controlled the mind goes racing off in ten directions, resulting in a scattered brain, a confused brain. People who are out of control create problems for themselves and others. The yogi says the mind can control the wild horses. After you do that, the mind goes deeper and realizes that it can be guided by God, who created everything. The mind becomes more open and more one-pointed, like a needle, and eventually goes back to where it came from, the source of everything which exists. As you grow closer and closer, your experience of happiness increases, and finally the day comes when you are one with that cosmic mind.
The problem in the outside world is that humans have abused nature and disrespected the laws of the universe. Otherwise, they would be at peace. They would be a light for others who are living in darkness and feeling confused and hopeless. In darkness there’s no light, no color, just blackness. When the sun rises in the morning, there’s light. You enjoy all the beautiful colors. As the light grows, everyone receives some love. This is everybody’s path. It’s universal. Happiness increases and becomes one with the divine, the universal God. The mind expands.
Usually people’s minds are small, so their enjoyment is very limited. Like a frog living inside a well, they just eat, drink, sleep, procreate and, make noise. They live inside that small radius and think that’s all life is about. But if someone helps the frog get outside the well, its mind expands and sees. That expanding is like a person being enlightened. The third eye opens.
You say, “Close your eyes and see.” Then people wonder how they can see with their eye closed. But if you imagine something intently and vividly, your mind can see it. If your third eye opens, you’ll transcend the barrier and understand what’s going on. You’ll be omniscient. Really? Why not? There are people who know what’s on your mind even though they’ve just met you. They can tell you all those things, even about your past life. This knowledge comes to certain people who have elevated their minds closer to the cosmic mind. It comes to an individual at a young age or later in life. Those people come to human society in order to give light and guidance to those who are lost. This is what I am attempting to share.
Okay. So can you tell me about the wellness center?
There’s a gym where teachers give classes in two types of martial arts, tai chi and Filipino arnis as well as physical training and yoga. We teach whatever will help individuals heal themselves in a more natural way. The center is a place of awakening, in Sanskrit jagriti. We want people to have the chance to wake up, open their minds so they can share that happiness. They need proper guidance.
The center is in Sucat, Parañaque, a small village maybe 15-20 minutes—with no traffic—from the international airport. It’s quiet. You sometimes hear a jet from far away, but the village is not in the flight path. It’s still under construction, but we’re able to accommodate people who are ready. People don’t come just because they have the money for their food and lodging. They’re brought there because it’s their time. The cosmic mind brings them to come and be awakened.
So in order to take these classes people would come and stay in the center
There’s a schedule of classes for the day, and the participants go through that schedule, practice with us and eat with us. We serve vegetarian meals—mostly vegan, but there’s milk as well. .
I’ve stayed in Buddhist temples in Korea and I also did another ten-day retreat here in Cavite. So what kind of schedule do you have in a typical day?
You get up between four and four-thirty. Then you drink two or three glasses of water, turn to the mirror in your bathroom and scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper because toxins accumulate on the tongue. You brush our teeth and sit on a stool to clean yourself and shower. Relax. Sitting down is the safest way to shower. Many people die in the bathroom because they fall. You also can’t clean your feet nicely. So you relax, wash, and put a natural oil on your body and your face—your hair, your underarms, your genitals.
At five we meet in the hall to chant and do a therapeutic dance, We do basically three types of dance which are supposed to cure certain diseases and remove certain inferiority complexes or superiority complexes. They build stamina and the different parts of your system are enhanced, energized.. So for example, there’s called kaoshikii (link) (link) (link) It’s supposed to cure twenty-two different diseases.
Then there is this lalita mritya. (link). It was given by a queen mother named Parvati. the wife of the first grand master and guru, Shiva. Parvati taught this special dance to be done before meditation, enabling the body to sit longer in meditation.
Ah, that would be good
When you want to sit motionless in meditation but your body is not prepared or warmed up, then it it’s very difficult. It hurts, the blood doesn’t circulate properly and you can’t concentrate. This dance loosens up tense muscles. It facilitates concentration, focus, blood circulation. The rhythmic thumping of your toes stimulates the pineal gland. (link) It’s a very rhythmic dance with many different rhythms. You move to the rhythm, raise your hands and express an idea. We usually use the technique of mental projection and visualization at the time of the dance. We know the meaning of that mantra we are chanting, babanam kevalam (link) This means love is all there is. Everywhere is love that’s all you have to think about. Nothing more.
In fact, babalam kevalam has many, many tunes including a jazzy rhythm You can dance away a lot of bad feeling and negative vibrations that disturb the mind and prevent you from being happy. So we move and at that moment we forget all the negativity and feel ecstatic.
After dancing for about 30 minutes, we sit comfortably in meditation. There are six lessons in having to do with liberating the mind from dullness or negativity and elevating it to perfect equilibrium. Each person knows what chakra to concentrate on, its particular sound and color. The chakra is the keyhole in the door of the mind, and the mantra is the key. The mantra is determined by a person’s vibrations, age and past life. We have a conversation between the practitioner and the guide, the acharya—a qualified, competent teacher who will give you the postures. He or she shows you your chakra, its sound the mantra connected to it and the mantra’s meaning. That’s important. If you just repeat the mantra without knowing what it means, the result will be half-baked, While you think the mantra you coordinate it with your breathing and control your vital energy with your breath. We say, “As you think, so you’ll become.”
Everything starts in the mind. You and I want perfect happiness, and we become more conscious, more aware of that fact, and then it is clear: yes, I want perfect happiness. So you’d like to use all your energy, your time, and your resources to learn how to meditate, how to practice daily and how to discipline my mind and live properly. So that is what we do.
So getting back to your daily schedule, you have the dance and then you have meditation.
After that meditation then we do asena, yoga postures, stretching, movement. Asana (link) means postures of yoga for a particular length of time, massages the different organs of the body. It stimulates the body and energizes it, which also directly affects the mind. The mind can be disturbed or unable to move according to certain instincts or mental propensities. It can be dominated by anger, fear, jealousy, back biting, false sense of prestige. It can really disturb other people. But, through the practice of continuous meditation and expansion of mind, we can put our emotions under control. You become the master. Eventually you become the Buddha, the Christ, the guru. So it’s the practice of becoming perfect in this life.
And in this class is everyone doing the same postures?
Well, there’s general practice where everybody does the same movements, general postures anyone can do without difficulty, But the postures are also a medicine that’s prescribed according to individual needs, done comfortably and modified over time. There are almost a thousand postures. They are selected for particular issues in the body or mind.
So you would have for example yoga poses for someone with bad knees or something like that?
Yes, definitely. We prescribe different postures that will relieve certain complaints with the joints or the back, or trauma, or gas, or irregular menstruation.
Every day you do your routine, it’s like your daily food, water and air. It nourishes you. It makes you more positive so you can enjoy life to the fullest. It takes away the fear of death. Normally people have a fear of death, of the unknown. There’s all this insecurity.
But the daily practice makes the individual more confident, more secure, more in touch with the fact that everything that will happen to your life was planned before you were born. There’s a script written by that divine writer, the drama director, It’s interesting, but if you don’t know the script it can be full of suspense. As you go higher and higher and higher, you fall in love with the director. You become joyful, and you’re willing to accept whatever happens. You play the different roles you’re assigned, and you play them well because the director gives you everything you need. You enjoy yourself and lose the fear of what will happen in the end.
In your meditation class do you do some guided meditation? For example, a meditation on death?
In the initial stages of learning, it’s between you and the teacher. The teacher will walk you through the process of how to breathe, how to concentrate, how to relate to this outside world. How to open your body and how to focus on your sacred points, your chakras, and what your mantra means. That part of the process is suggested outside yourself. But when you do it on your own, you use autosuggestion.
We do counseling also for people who have some difficulty, emotional therapy or help with some types of addiction. We have professionals that we consult, doctors and natural practitioners who can give us advice.
Sounds perfect. Now getting down to more prosaic questions, people sign up to come and stay at your center how much does it cost?
Right now I’m working on a website which isn’t uploaded yet, but we can be reached via our Facebook page, Matayog Health and Wellness Center. The center manager calculates and suggests costs. It’s done in a very individualized way according to the needs of the person who’s coming. But if I’m not mistaken, the gym has fixed rates.
Okay, so the center is only partially open right now?
We’ve been there for a year and a half. There are still a lot of things that need to be done, but it’s running now. I’d like to make more accommodations because some people come from overseas. We don’t have enough rooms yet. It could take another year and a half, depending on how much Vitamin M comes into the pocket, but we’re getting there. I’m happy and excited.
You know I would have wanted to set it up in an area where it’s elevated and a more forested area. But there are advantages to having a convenient location. In the future it might be possible to move to an area where there is less pollution.
Like here in Tagaytay?
Or somewhere else in Cavite. I like more elevated places. Like near the sea or near a forest.