A Muslim Brother’s encounter & experience with Sahaja Yoga!
“Despite my best efforts and my stubborn/resolute mind, my attention kept going towards Shri Mataji’s photograph. It was here that I finally took my realization and sat in deep meditation. I felt very strong vibrations on the palms of my hands.”
Mikhail Usmanov [Name Changed] Bhaiya’s encounter with HH Shri Mataji and Sahaja Yoga
The Pre-Sahaja Yoga life
I would start with my pre-Sahaja Yoga life; I was born into a conservative Muslim family in Eastern Europe. Although I wasn’t an orthodox five-time Namazi, and yes, I would occasionally drink and smoke, yet every matter that concerned God was of immense importance to me. Somewhere deep down inside, I wasn’t very happy with the way things were going on around the world, especially in the realm of religion.
Religious extremism, stories of Jihad and terrorism would make me extremely restless and seek answers deeper within, to such a point, where I got very frustrated. Early morning one day in 2006, I got up to pray at 5 am and mustered all my faith to pray to God. I reached out with the following prayer,
“Oh God! Show me the right path. Give me the knowledge of the Truth because only You can do it!”
Little did I know, that my prayers would be answered so soon, as I was to get my “Self-Realization” in the matter of the next few days.
Much earlier in 2001, I met a Ukrainian friend with whom I had a shared business. I was only 19 at the time and was staying in Belgium those days. During one of our discussions, I asked him about his opinion and thoughts on God and Religion. He roughly said, “I am sure there is no God and all this creation is the result of some chemical process happening with the Sun, Moon and our existence”.
Given my disposition in matters pertaining to God, I had a sudden surge of anger and even questioned how he could even talk like this? I could not stand people even thinking like this in matters pertaining to God and belief, let alone openly question the very existence of God. I warned him to never speak these thoughts before me in the future as I thought he did not deserve to talk about God. He backed off; later he moved to Ukraine.
Back to the future, around 2007, I was in Ukraine as well. I desired to talk to this same friend of mine and contacted him; we decided to meet. During our meeting, he happened to mention that he was into a meditation practice called “Sahaja Yoga”.
He insisted that I take what he called “Self-Realization”. I was hesitant to say the least and asked him not to make me such offers given my Islamic background. He mentioned that Sahaja Yoga was good for Muslims too. He added that since taking to Sahaja Yoga he had realized that Prophet Mohammed was an expression of God and that Fatima, Ali, Hassan, Hussein were all to be revered and recognized in our daily lives.
Given his background as an atheist, I found this turnaround in him pretty incredible. The fact that he even knew these names surprised me. In my sub-conscious mind I appreciated the palpable “change” in him brought about by the practice of Sahaja Yoga. I approved of his practice and with a “holier-than-thou attitude” said something like, “I don’t know what kind of Yoga you do but please continue doing it”.
For a conservative Muslim, I saying so was a big deal as I thought what this friend of mine was doing was better than him being an atheist. My friend continued to narrate his journey and reflecting back to the meeting where he had expressed his atheistic views, credited me and my displeasure as the starting point for him to begin believing in a Higher Power; he broadly stated that, “You used to talk about Allah, and indeed you were right because I have started believing in him now”.
Again, while in a state of denial, I had gotten deeply curious about Sahaja Yoga, enquiring with him further about this practice. While he started by mentioning that “Sahaja Yoga was founded by Shri Mataji” and She was “his” Guru, he stressed that I “take my Self-Realization” from him asking me to pray to Allah and seek answers, but simultaneously just keep my eyes hooked on to Shree Mataji’s photograph. I questioned him on why he was asking me to look at Her photograph. My friend was treading carefully with me and was cautious in sharing much details about our Holy Mother keeping in mind my background and temperament. He altered his proposal and suggested that I only pray to Allah and not look at the photo if I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I agreed to this plan and began following instructions praying to Allah and trying very hard to not look at the photograph.
That said, despite my best efforts and my stubborn/resolute mind, my attention kept going towards Shri Mataji’s photograph. It was here that I finally got my Self-Realisation and sat in deep meditation. I felt very strong vibrations on the palms of my hands.
Not the first time I had felt cool vibrations in my palms!
This, however, was not the first time I had felt cool vibrations in my palms. I had felt these vibrations earlier as well sometimes in Mosques, and sometimes even at home and to my wonder even when all doors and windows were closed (later after coming to Sahaja Yoga, I realized that Param Chaitanya was indeed helping me connect the dots). So, let me say that I wasn’t really “impressed”. But the aspect of the entire event that impressed me was the silence, the way my mind was cleansed and the way I felt – completely at peace and joyful inside.
Fast forward 6 months later
Fast forward 6 months later or so and my Ukranian friend and I met again, when he invited me to come for a Sahaja Yoga Meditation program where he was the coordinator. While I was hesitant in the beginning, the curiosity to see an erstwhile atheist “co-ordinate” a meditation program to connect with God drew me to this session. The overwhelming presence of old people and women was noticeable at this congregation. The setting was not quite what I had imagined, almost a little bit strange for what was supposed to be a “worshipping place”, at least in my mind.
Even for someone so skeptical, it was very hard to ignore the shine on the face of individuals present there – they all looked blissful and brimming with immense joy. At this event, one of Shri Mataji’s recorded lectures was played, which I listened to attentively and found very impressive. I could feel that this Motherly figure was a very strong person, who really knew what she was saying. But what overawed me was that her lecture covered areas that, quite mystically, I had I had been wondering about those days.
A few years passed
Then a few years passed and I didn’t see this friend until 2009. It was around the month of December and I was planning to be in Belgium to celebrate the New Year with my friends. I asked him on his plans for the New Year. My friend said he was going to Rome to attend a Sahaja Yoga Puja. That got me to ask him what was this thing that he called the “Puja”. He didn’t elaborate much but suggested that even I could join him as Belgium wasn’t too far from Rome. With many questions on my mind, the first of which was whether Shri Mataji would be coming, I sub-consciously began to consider going. I had been thinking of meeting Shri Mataji sometime and asking her a few questions on what she said about Mohammed Saheb, so I could get my doubts clarified first hand. Looking back, I think I was so naïve. To my friend, I was non-committal on coming along for the Puja asking him to call me when he would be in Rome.
When I reached Belgium and my friend promptly called me from Rome to know my plans; while I had decided in all this time that I wouldn’t go, I somehow blurted a YES. I bought my flight tickets (Belgium->Prague->Rome) that evening and right after I fell ill; I had bloodshot eyes and was running high fever (40 C/104 F). All my friends saw me struggling to walk and were critical of my plans to take the flight. However, some innate force within me was pushing me to go no matter what!
A memory of one of my Aunts
If I needed any inspiration, a memory of one of my Aunts, a very saintly person who was immensely dear to me, came to my rescue. I recalled one occasion when my Aunt had fallen sick just before going to Mecca for Haj. I was a child then and I remembered she had piously explained that Allah was cleansing her, preparing her for the Haj and she had proceeded with her trip. The believer within me likened my sudden illness to Shri Mataji cleansing me before the Puja.
I took the flight with a lot of resolve; however, things only got worse and my condition deteriorated further during the flight.
Coincidentally behind my seat some Russian Sahaja Yogis were sitting; I could identify them as their diction included words like Puja, Shri Mataji, etc. I turned around to confirm the obvious: if they were going to the Puja. I took out Shri Mataji’s photo from my pocket and showed it to them (My friend had given me a photo of Shri Mataji, which I could never take out from my pocket. Each time I would put my hand in my pocket and I would think, “Oh! I again forgot to leave this photo at home”.
This way the photo had been in my pocket for close to two months). They were a little taken aback seeing my state; I mentioned to them that I wasn’t a Sahaja Yogi but had been invited by my friend to attend the Puja and that I was running high fever. They gave me several ‘bandhans’ and I began feeling much better from inside. For close to two hours during the flight they spoke about Sahaja Yoga. They also offered me to come directly to their hotel and that they would make some arrangements for me. Although I couldn’t understand their love for a perfect stranger, I deeply appreciated their warmth and said I would come the next morning.
Next morning when I got up, my eyes were stuck due to sickness. I had to use my palm’s force to open my eyes. While the fever was still there, I felt amazing inside. Because I could not even stand up on my own, I called my Ukranian friend and requested him if he could come and pick me up. My friend very kindly came down with a few Russian Sahaja Yogis and picked me up from my hotel. The Puja was being held a little far from the city. After reaching the Puja destination, we parked our car and walked around 200 meters. Most amazingly, while I had been struggling to stand until some minutes back, here I had walked this far. Not just that, to my own amazement by the time I reached the Puja destination, I was feeling completely fine.
I began feeling like a child who was being led to somewhere very nice by his Mother with a box of surprises that weren’t done yet: Already feeling very elevated spiritually and I remember this moment very photographically, the next 2 steps into the Puja venue immersed me what at best I could describe as an ocean of vibrations. I felt a deep sense of joy, which I had never felt before, a sense of joy, which had left me overwhelmed and at a loss of words. I immediately communicated my prayers to Allah asking Him to explain this phenomenon as it was continuing to unfold and as He and ONLY He you could give such a feeling.
There were around 5000 Yogis for the Puja.
In my state of bewilderment yet absolute bliss, I convinced myself to just sit and try to figure this out for myself. I asked my friend to proceed with his duties as a volunteer. Then again, right again (!), another surreal spontaneous phenomenon happened. From one particular direction, specifically a room, I could feel an avalanche of energy, of vibrations turning course towards me; my mind had now become a witness with no pre-conceived notions, only spontaneity at its disposal; in this state I concluded this tornado of vibrations was coming from Shri Mataji Herself. In some time, my friend returned and I asked him if Shri Mataji was sitting in that direction, in a room in that direction. Yes was the answer though with a puzzled look he asked back, “How do you know!”
“If only people from one particular religion, as each one of them claim, go to Heaven, then why did God create the rest of humanity?”.
I would ask the people supposedly in the know of my religion during my pre-Sahaja life [I was indeed very curious to know God and always found the teachings of my religion I was born into very deep and enlightening. But I wanted to know more, go further and realize/understand things better, deeper].
And they would respond to my inquisitiveness with displeasure, often anger, which I couldn’t reconcile as these were very fundamental questions pertaining to understanding and feeling the power of God within you.
Some of these questions were,
- “my religion is only 1400 years old, where did the souls go before the advent of my religion?” and
- “Why do we pray in a particular direction?”
My curiosity to know answers to these questions only rendered the persons before me irate, to say the least. My own father wouldn’t like it and suggested that such doubts were akin to doubting the teachings themselves. But deep inside, I just wanted to know the Truth because I knew God would never hide the Truth. Personally, as I said earlier, I found the teachings of my religious texts very deep but found the behavior of a lot of followers exactly opposite to the teachings. And that made me certain that things were not ideal, the way they ought to have been.
And that is why these wars, Jihad, and terrorism left me extremely restless inside.
British musician Cat Stevens’ words resonated within me and would play in a loop in my head; I paraphrase,
“Thank You, Allah, that I got to know Islam first and Muslims later. If I would have known Muslims first then and then got to know Islam, I wouldn’t have been a Muslim today!”
Although only a handful of people subscribed to such views, I would still be deeply disappointed with man-made issues like Sunnis declaring Shias as non-Muslims. Such issues would haunt me because I could see that this was against what Prophet Mohammed had said.
The Prophet had said that one was not allowed to declare who is a Muslim and who is not; only Allah knew who is a True Muslim.
Even the religious leaders would declare Shias as non-Muslims. I would reason to myself that at the most the religious leaders could perhaps have said that the Shias were a little bit deviated and that they would come back on track, if they were genuinely concerned co-religionists. But I found no one saying that all Muslims, irrespective of their finer beliefs, were brothers at the end of the day. I still hope one day they realize this essence and live and let live happily like brothers.
And as a seeker, I didn’t mind all this churning in my soul and never shied away from questioning something that seemed out of whack although it caused me some personal distress. Well, the churn and stress were all worth it and had come to fruition when I was sitting in Rome at this Sahaja event experiencing this undeniable divine feeling within. And since that moment on, Sahaja Yoga became central to my life.
I had realized that my original intent of meeting Shri Mataji to ask a few questions was very naïve. Suddenly, after this indescribable, incomprehensible and first in-person encounter with Shri Mataji, I had no questions anymore, strangely so for a rational mind, as I had had no exchange any of words or ideas with Her. But my mind had dissolved in my spirit and the unabated flow of the “divine cool breeze”, the “rooh” or the “Paramchaitanya” had addressed all my queries. In between all this, deep down, I had realized (in other words “I became certain”) that Shri Mataji had something to do with this blissful cool breeze.
Two days later…
Two days later, I returned to Belgium and met my old friends, who were excited about the upcoming New Year celebrations. But little did they know that I had had a change of plans; I had come back from Rome completely rebooted, absolutely contented within and no want to celebrate anything. Instead, I left for Ukraine to find out more about Sahaja Yoga and Shri Mataji. I found that I still couldn’t do a Namaskar to Shri Mataji and in all honesty, I was scared to do it. I made a decision that I would not do Namaskar but would go to meditation programs and understand more about the philosophy of Sahaja Yoga.
I became a regular to Sahaja Yoga programs and listened to Shri Mataji’s speeches frequently. Like is the case with all Sahaja Yogis, every speech of Mother took me deeper and closer to Sahaja Yoga’s philosophy. Every time I would be in deep contemplation with some questions on my mind, by some serendipity, I would get my answer in the very next speech I heard.
By now, I had understood who was Prophet Mohammed, Jesus, and Krishna. I would introspect, “Could my understanding be right?”. Yes was the answer from the cool vibrations, the Paramchaitanya, I felt on my palms when I would seek answers from the divine in meditation.
I learned about the “shoe beat” technique, which I would try at home only to conclude that it really worked.
My first “foot soak” brought me so much joy, as it cleared my energy centers unmistakably. Taking “mantras” gave me the feeling of empowerment, which made me experience the divinity within and gave me the confidence to make my divinity work to solve my problems. So one thing in Sahaja Yoga life led to another and then, one fine early morning, I simply woke up and bowed down to Shri Mataji in all humility, thanking Her for everything. It gave me immense inner comfort and happiness with the cool breeze all around me. This is what I had been looking for all my life.
In another week or so, I was already on my first trip to Belapur Health Center (Vashi). I stayed in Vashi for over a month and it was here that I learned about all the finer details of Sahaja Yoga – deities, mantras, and chakras. Today, I am one of the most frequent visitors to this place and all Sahaja Yoga Doctors know me very well. Sahaja Yoga is still a well-kept secret from my family but I often remember my Aunt (the one whom I remembered most during my illness while on my way to Rome) and feel that ONLY she in my family would have understood and appreciated my Sahaja Yoga life today. I have occasionally brought my son (who is around 6 years old now) to Sahaja Yoga events.
His already pre-conditioned mind (due to the influence of rigid religious views at home) has begun to question, “Will Allah be happy if we come to this place, Papa?”. I would tell him that Allah is always with us. I wish someday my children can become Sahaja Yogis too without any strings attached. And I pray that I could bring a lot more Muslim brothers to take their Self-Realisation because I know when Muslims take to Sahaja Yoga they will actually be the most devoted and the strongest Sahaja Yogis and instruments of the Divine.
Thanks to Shri Mataji, today I know that the real meaning of “Jihad” is to meditate, foot soak and to overcome one’s own inner negative tendencies. And this realization resonates with Prophet Mohammed’s guidance [paraphrased], “The most difficult Jihad is to kill your own negativities. That’s the real Jihad. Taking a weapon and killing someone is easy. To correct oneself and be righteous and innocent is the most difficult!”
My Divine Mother, Shri Mataji, came into my life at a time when I was considering going to wage “Jihad” against the Russian state in Chechnya…not ONLY did SHE save my life, But She also gave it a new, refreshing and Divine meaning. What a turnaround, I always think to myself!
Mikhail Usmanov [Name changed] Bhaiya has been a Sahaja Yogi for 8–9 years and enjoys collectivity, Sahaja events and his secret trips to India (particularly Vashi). Each time he returns home from Vashi his Mother tells him, “Son, I don’t know but your face is always shining when you come back from India!”
To which his response is a smile with profound gratitude towards Mother for all the blessings She has bestowed upon him.
English Link Story Part 1:
STORY 4(Part 1):“Despite my best efforts and my stubborn/resolute mind, my attention kept going towards Shri Mataji’s…
English Link Story Part 2:
STORY 4(Part 2): Continued from last week……………“Shri Mataji came into my life at a time when I was considering going to…