Rakesh Nair


Rakesh fullI was born and grew up mostly in Malaysia and some period of childhood in Thailand. My great-grandparents who settled here in Malaysia were from the state of Kerala in India. As a child I love reading and I was very reflective and inquisitive about philosophical subjects. I was always trying to learn and understand about life, God, death, self, happiness and started to explore various materials on spirituality.

I love nature and animals. I love being in the company of trees. As a young boy compassion was probably the strongest emotion that I vividly remembered. I would even take all the time to save little ants from drowning in the toilet bowl! I decided to become a vegetarian around the age of 11 years old although due to some resistance it was intermittent until the age of 15 years old, after which it become my lifestyle till today. In those younger years, I was drawn to chanting mantras, kirtans and shlokas which I had self-taught myself (no one in my family knows).

At the age of 15 years old my life took a new direction. On 27 August, 1995 I stumbled upon the Bhagavad Gita – an ancient spiritual text that transformed and awaken me to a whole new spiritual world. I became more aware of the yoga teachings. I started studying various different philosophies and spiritual literatures very seriously, that included Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Buddhism. I did not like the idea of demanding submission and faith based in some beliefs in old books or spiritual personality which is why monotheistic religions did not appeal to me although I was familiar with their tenets. Without addressing proper philosophical enquiry and respecting the need for well-grounded logics, independent reasoning, individual choice and a path to validate through personal experience, then accepting something has no meaning to me. I felt strongly that spirituality is not about following something or someone. Life is a journey of learning and being spiritual is about living with an intention to seek, learn, explore and understand one’s own self and life as whole.

In headstandGradually I became acquainted with the Advaita Vedanta philosophy and particularly the message propounded by the 8th century philosopher-saint Adi Shankara impressed me most. When I was 20 years old I became active in the Sivananda Ashram of Divine Life Society. I started studying many works of Swami Sivananda on Vedanta and Yoga. At the same time I was experimenting and practicing different types of yoga (Bhakti yoga, Hatha yoga, Jnana yoga, Karma yoga, Asthanga yoga and Tantra Kriya yoga). However I was most drawn to Jnana yoga. Yoga was my lifestyle. I also started to engage in a lot of social service activities as Karma Yogi. Soon I was also teaching Hatha yoga (asanas and pranayama) to the public at the ashram.

Teaching yoga - posture and philosophy

Teaching yoga – posture and philosophy

I started realising that the knowledge of Vedanta and Yoga are also psychological in nature and that they can play an important role in a person’s personal development or I would say inner development. This inner side of us directly affects our experience of the world. It shapes our actions and responds to the outside world. Therefore the solution to feeling good and happy about ourselves and life lies within us, in our inner life.

It was here, I developed weekly classes for personal development based on Yoga and Vedanta for teenagers and young adults. This would be my first effort to bridge ancient wisdom to a modern context and deliver it a way that youths would understand. I also developed personal development retreats for youths. I knew that I had a natural flair and the knowledge and abilities to help people in this area of inner change and growth for bringing peace and happiness in daily life. I knew in future I want to help people around the world in the same way so that we are all empowered with the right knowledge of life and living.

As a yogic seeker traveling the Himalayas

As a seeker traveling the Himalayas

After completing my higher education in Computer Science with a major in Software Engineering, I went on to work for the Central Bank of Malaysia for some years. However I wasn’t happy there. I felt I had some other purpose and I still had many doubts about life that kept troubling me. I was seeking clarity and personal experience of something more profound. One day as I was browsing the internet, I stumbled upon the Bhagavad Gita with the commentary by Swami Chinmayananda. I was very much delighted to read his commentary.

In India as a student of philosophy and spirituality

In India as a student of philosophy and spirituality

I really liked Swami Chinmayananda’s rational and systematic approach of expounding the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. It became a motivation for me to take action to fulfil a desire I have been contemplating for many years already – that is to completely dedicate myself some years to study Vedic teachings – Yoga and Vedanta from its source – the original Hindu scriptures. Finally I decided to resign from my corporate job and went to live in India. I had visited India a few times before but this time was different – I left everything behind and totally embraced an unknown future.

I plunged into deep study of spirituality, philosophy, Sanskrit and particularly the Advaita Vedanta philosophy and the yoga practices. I had various teachers in India. Upon arrival, I attended an intensive Vedanta course at the Sandeepany Institute of Chinmaya Mission, Mumbai under the guidance the resident teacher Swami Advaitananda. He was a very gentle and soft-spoken teacher. The course was run in the ancient gurukula education system. There I had the opportunity to study in-depth dozens of Vedantic texts. These included the prakarana-granthas authored by Adi Sankara, Vidyaranya and others, the Upanishads, as well as a few Bhakti literatures. I was also trained in Vedic chanting and Sanskrit language by different teachers. The strict and focused nature of the routine there accelerated my education very quickly and but more so it also challenged and kindled my inner personality – through which I gathered new understanding of myself.

With Swami Advaitananda in Mumbai

With Swami Advaitananda in Mumbai

Nevertheless after over a year, I start seeing myself reaching a stage where I was now seeking something else, and therefore I sorted permission from the teacher and moved on my own. I was already well-grounded in theories propounded in the Advaita Vedanta philosophy, thanks to the early start from my younger days up to this study course at the institute. But I was still feeling an intense dissatisfaction within myself as doubts on the nature of the true Self, the path and the value of life still continued to linger on me.

Throughout my journey I met many people including scholars and masters. I always learnt something from each one of them. For example, when I was in Bangalore, I met Dr. R.L. Kashyap, who had produced a monumental translation work on the Vedas. It was a deeply insightful experience having a conversion with him. There are many others but it will be too many to talk about here. People from different groups introduced me to various teachings – such as those of Osho, Ramesh Balsekar, Jiddu Krishnamurthi and Aurobindo. I even took lessons in a Buddhist method of meditation.

Swami Chidananda

Swami Chidananda

Later I arrived in Varanasi and went to study with my second teacher, Swami Chidananda. He was then the Rajghat Education Centre Director of the Krishnamurthi Foundation India based in Varanasi. Today he is based in his own ashram in Himachal Pradesh. Swami Chidananda is a highly respected Advaita Vedanta scholar, intellectual and author, whose lectures on spirituality and philosophy moved audiences with resounding clarity. It was my great fortune that he compassionately taught me one on one. My study routine itself was unique. I would spend most of my time studying and pondering over the Bhagavad Gita and the commentaries of Adi Shankara and others and bringing to him only questions for clarification. It went on like that for months.

On the bank of Ganga river

On the bank of Ganga river

At times, when I am not studying I would go for walks or simply sit on the banks of the river Ganga, and sometimes meditating. The burden of my doubts started to loosen until one day I found myself at peace and all my troubling doubts vanished. I was about 30 years old by then and after 15 years of seeking, for the first time I felt a shift within and I saw life and spirituality as a whole in a new light. This alone was everything that I ever wanted coming here to India. I truly felt a burden lifted. I am thankful that I came to India. I am eternally grateful to Swami Chidananda and all my teachers before. My entire motivation to continue to stay in India also changed.

During my stay in Varanasi, I was introduced to Sanjeev Kumar and Prithviraj Singh, both Sanskrit teachers from the Samskrita Bharati. They were really kind-hearted people and teachers with the highest level of sincerity and enthusiasm. I had been learning Sanskrit ever since I came to India but under the personal tutorship of Prithviraj, I was able to speak the language within a few weeks.

With Jagannatha Acharya on the bank of Kaveri river

With Jagannatha Acharya on the bank of Kaveri river

Later I journeyed south to attend various courses in Karnataka and Kerala. There was also a brief stay at the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. There I met Dr. Sampadananda Mishra who was the Director of Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture. He was a Sanskrit researcher and the author of the book ‘The Wonder that is Sanskrit’. He generously hosted me and spent a few hours every day teaching me about the science of sound, mantras and poetical metres. Learning first-hand from a teacher of such great calibre gave me access to a new area of knowledge within a short span of time.

Then I went to live in the city of Mysore, where I met my next teacher, Jagannatha Acharya. He was a sadhu (ascetic) from Nepal and a great scholar in the Vishishtadvaita School of philosophy. He lived an austere life. I was very touched by his remarkable personality that radiated a child-like joy, sincerity, love and humility. I went to him daily to study the Panini sutras for an advanced level of Sanskrit grammar. We also discussed a lot about Vedic philosophy. Yet I must say that simply by watching his character one can learn a lot.

After completing all my studies in Mysore, I travelled further south to the foothills of Arunachala to spend my remaining days in India, in meditation at the Sri Ramana Ashram. This is a very special place for me. Although the teachings of different teachers have influenced my life, today my personal spiritual guide and inspiration comes significantly from the teachings of two masters – Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj and Sri Ramana Maharashi.

Teaching Hatha yoga

Teaching Hatha yoga

Personal consultation

Personal consultation

Thereafter I returned home to my family in Malaysia. I started giving various classes namely on Hatha yoga, Sanskrit, Bhagavad Gita, meditation and Vedanta philosophy. I organised workshops on personal development and retreat on holistic wellness. I gave many personal consultations and created group life-coaching classes. I also developed based on my research a powerful personal development and life-coaching training program that can be use in classes, workshop and retreat. Similarly I also developed a training program for total wellness.

Teaching Sanskrit

Teaching Sanskrit

I pursued and completed my Masters Degree (M.A.) in Sanskrit literature which includes Vedic scriptures and philosophies from the Karnataka State University in India. I also completed an Ayurveda and Yoga Wellness Counsellor Course. A lot of Ayurvedic practices are incorporated into my lifestyle today.

Conducting meditation workshop

Conducting meditation workshop

My life is not without the problems, challenges, setbacks and difficulties that many people go through in life. Yet, the knowledge that I have gained over the years always helped to bring me back on track. I had a vision of what I want to do in life but for a brief period I got distracted and started to use my time in various other projects and involvements. The successes that I gained in other places never gave me the satisfaction that I got when I helped someone to find inner peace and to be happy again. Therefore I know I will keep contributing in this area until I die for this is where my heart is.

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