SRCM Preceptors of Sahaj Marg: Radheshyam Miryala MD
In our-day-to day lives, we seek guidance in many areas. We get advice on family matters from our elders, look to professional mentors to advance our careers, and even pay financial advisors, lawyers, personal trainers and life coaches. In general, as a society we feel very comfortable seeking counsel from lawyers, doctors, therapists and coaches to improve our quality of life. Do we approach our spiritual life and our spiritual goals with the same forethought and enthusiasm? Do we even need guidance in spirituality?
Early in my spiritual journey, I did not feel the need for any mentorship or guidance. I was reading books from all the great spiritual traditions and did not think anything more was necessary. Soon, however, I realized books would not give me any experiential knowledge. I tried meditation on my own, but found it difficult to sit quietly for more than a few minutes. Despite my best efforts to be a spiritual loner, I realized that I was not getting very far. After many years of unfulfilling isolated spiritual practice, I searched for a group of like-minded individuals to help me.
My initial findings were gloomy, as many groups required a financial commitment, which I could not afford – at the time I didn’t have two nickels to rub together. After a few months, by happenstance or divine intervention, I found my way into a practice of Sahaj Marg Heartfulness meditation, which was offered without charge. This group had a spiritual Guru and a group of spiritual trainers called ‘preceptors’ spread throughout the world. Initially I rejected the concept of a spiritual Guru and resisted the notion of becoming anyone’s disciple. However, as my practice deepened, I began to develop a connection with the Guru and later came to understand the need for a spiritual guide. I realized, contrary to my earlier beliefs, that to make significant spiritual strides, it is of paramount importance to follow someone who has gone the distance.
Most people who have achieved great success in any part of their life have a series of coaches and mentors to thank. If you want to casually play tennis on the weekends with a few friends, you may not need a coach. If you want to win Wimbledon, you definitely need coaches and trainers. Similarly, if you want to take your spiritual journey to greater heights, then a spiritual guide is of paramount importance. It is possible to meditate on your own, but a spiritual Guru can help you to win the Wimbledon of your spiritual journey!
In the Heartfulness spiritual tradition as taught by the Sahaj Marg Spirituality Foundation, the spiritual Guru imparts spiritual training through the transmission of ‘pranahuti’ (life force). To help the Guru spread this transmission, the Heartfulness system has established a network of ‘preceptors’. A preceptor is an individual who is permitted by the spiritual Guru to be a conduit of pranahuti. This is not an ability, but more of an opportunity to participate within the framework of the spiritual tradition. A preceptor does not have the ability to impart the transmission on his or her own accord but rather taps into the link that is established with the spiritual Guru and allows for the transmission to pass through him.
The main qualification for being a preceptor is having the willingness to volunteer for the work. The spiritual tradition of Sahaj Marg encourages the balance of the material and spiritual planes of existence, and this tenet also extends to the preceptor. The preceptor volunteers for the spiritual work, but must balance this with material responsibilities of family, health, employment, finances, etc. A preceptor does not receive any monetary remuneration; however, the spiritual benefit of participating in the system seems to be more than adequate compensation. This is a universally shared belief from all the preceptors that I have met.
A preceptor’s sole responsibility is to impart spiritual training through the use of pranahuti; however, the import of this role takes on a life of its own. The preceptor must rise to the position of one worthy of imparting spiritual training by behaving as a role model to others on the spiritual journey. Although preceptors are prone to carry the common list of human foibles, they must become examples of people who are constantly working to overcome their character deficiencies. The preceptor must attend to his or her own spiritual practice and must be an exemplar of one making efficient progress on the spiritual path. The preceptor must be well versed in the fundamentals of the practice and well-read in the SRCM Mission literature. The opportunity does not imply that the preceptor is a perfect person, but is certainly someone working on himself constantly to move towards human perfection.
The day-to-day role of a preceptor involves giving individual sittings and conducting group satsanghs. It also involves conducting Heartfulness workshops in the local community. The preceptor introduces new seekers to the practice, gives instruction on how to meditate, and gradually introduces other aspects of the practice. The preceptor supports the practice of established practitioners and encourages their growth. As spiritual growth and transformation can involve many hurdles, the preceptor also functions as a motivator. As change starts to take shape, questions may arise and the preceptor is available to clarify any doubts. By being intimately involved in someone’s spiritual journey, the role can also take on that of a friend and confidant.
The majority of seekers taking their introductory sittings may not feel the transmission initially. They may not understand the role of the preceptor or feel that any work is being done. For most new meditators, just the act of sitting quietly with eyes closed for 30-40 minutes is challenging enough. If you take an introductory meditation sitting with a preceptor, you know that someone else is sitting with you with their eyes closed for the duration of the meditation. Initially you may just spend the entire time fidgeting as all the aches and pains in your body come to the center of your attention. Gradually your body is able to sit comfortably for the duration of the meditation.
Initially, your mind may be inundated with thoughts that are a constant distraction, but gradually these thoughts dissipate and you may start to get absorbed in the meditation. In this initial phase of the practice, just the awareness that someone is sitting with you while you are meditating for 30-40 minutes encourages you to sit for the duration of the meditation. Eventually you may start to feel the work from the preceptor and experience the bliss of the transmission. The preceptor is involved from the beginning when the meditation is difficult and helps to get you to a place where you are able to feel transmission with ease. In essence, the preceptor helps to facilitate this transition from discomfort to bliss by being an educator, motivator, and friend!
Radheshyam Miryala MD