Learning from the Himalayas

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The Anaadi Foundation organised its Himalayan weekly Yatras to the Valley of Flowers, Hemkund and Badrinath, between September 14-20. It is also organising a Tapovan Tapasya, a trek and retreat, at Gomukh and Tapovan between September 20-27 and the Dravya Guna Yatra, an Introduction to Himalayan herbs, from September 28-October 1, and Scaling Heights – the Himalayan Leadership programme for Corporate Professionals from October 2-7.

The white capped peaks of
the Himalayas in the higher reaches of North India, have for centuries stolen
the thunder from the living. The orange and purple flowers dotting verdant land
overlooking thundering rivers, have always waited in humble attendance as
mankind looked outwards to the high summits. Wild bulls, boars and even the
leeches know who is king here. As one seeker put it, it is actually very
difficult to meditate in the Himalayas – to look inwards when all one yearns is
to look outwards.

Every mountain range in
the world invokes a deep connect with nature. But the Himalayas are special.
Founders of Anaadi Foundation - Adinarayanan and
Smrithi - have tried to get people to be touched and inspired in environs that
have always mesmerised the world. Says Smrithi – “Every mountain range has its
unique appeal but the Himalayas surpass many of these. For thousands of years,
rishis, sadhus, yogis, sadhakas and rajans have been visiting the Himalayas not
just for mental peace but for a complete transformation. Many of the temples
that you will find in the Kedar region are consecrated by the Pancha Pandavas.
So a trek to the Himalayas is not just an adventure travel but an opportunity
to come face to face with one's own limitation and transcend them. In the
plains when you do yogic practices there is a certain experience. When you do
the same in the Himalayan regions, the experience and the benefit is enhanced
multi fold. So everything can be experienced in an enhanced manner in the
Himalayas.”

Every program at Anaadi Foundation is designed based
on the needs of the people they come in touch with. “Some people are capable of
experiencing deeper states just by sitting in one place. Some will need other
tools that are go beyond their will and the yatra is one such opportunity. It
is our blessing that through us hundreds of people get the darshan of the
Himalayas and the temples every year,” says Smrithi.

Yatra for them is a journey that liberates. “The
very word Yatra means a journey that liberates just as Mantra and Yantra are
tools for liberation. What happens in a Yatra especially that involves a
rigorous journey on foot with limited access to resources - the physical,
emotional and cognitive processes start transforming. We usually say that a
walk up to Tunganath is like perfoming a lakh ‘kapalabhatis’ (a shatkriya which literally translates as
illuminating the brain) in a go and that too in a non-harmful way. One feels
physically rejuvenated and the body is not the same after returning. That is
why we initiate people into yogic practices a month before the yatra so that
they don't just experience the physical beauty of the kshetra but also draw spiritual benefits. Else all attention would
be gone just managing limb aches.”

Psychologically, mundane problems fade, and a common
experience of the yatris, “is that problems that seemed big before the yatra
start looking small. The yatra takes them away from the routine context and
secondly the grandeur of the Himalayas and the emotional experience that it brings
makes one forget those mundane problems that they keep chewing in their heads.”

The Himalayas are also vulnerable. As Smrithi puts
it, everything there is very fragile, despite the image of grandeur and
invulnerability the mountains exude. Uttarakhand has been declared as the
herbal state with the presence of numerous medicinal and aromatic plants
(MAPS). But with an increase in human activity and modernization, there is a
rapid decline in these herbs. The Dravya Guna Yatra has been designed to given a
glimpse into some of the rare Himalayan herbs and their Ayurvedic benefits. The
Himalayan region has about 5000 vascular plants of which 800 have been found to
have value. There are many more to be discovered. Only a very few people have
knowledge about them and more researchers are needed to uncover as many of
these herbs as possible.

 “The
Himalayas offer a deep ecological perspective. Everything is so fragile there
and thereby the need for conservation is much more. The yatris become aware of
the impact of human activity on such fragile ecosystems.”

The sustainability activities of Anaadi Foundation
are carried out at the Center for Research in Ecology and Sustainable
Technologies (CREST). In tune with the UN's Sustainability Development Goals,
the center integrates various aspects of sustainability including Sustainable
Health, Self-Reliant Agriculture, Natural Buildings, Alternate Energy, Waste
Management and Chemical free living. The national and international visits are
designed to given the participants a glimpse of various sustainable models and
how they can be adapted and adopted to contextual needs.

Quietude is a word that comes uppermost to one’s
mind in experiencing the Himalayas. Adinarayan has practiced Mouna Tapasya
periodically as do other seekers visiting this land. “The Mouna Tapasya
undertaken periodically by Shri Adinarayanan serve several purposes. In the
constant chatter and hustle bustle of daily life, we accumulate a lot of what
one call baggage. If the system has to be cleansed, Mouna tapasya is a great
tool. A sadhana is gentle but tapasya is rigourous - tapah is fire. The
fundamental quality of fire is to transform and that is what Mouna Tapasya is
largely about. At Anaadi Foundation, mouna
tapasya
is also a means to first person research into consciousness. Yogic
practices have significant benefits but they have to be constantly fine-tuned
to reach that level of perfection. Just as a laboratory is used to fine tune
the results of an experiment, mouna
tapasya
can be used to fine tune yogic experiments.

Engineers and educationists, Adinarayanan and
Smrithi have worked hard to promote Indic knowledge Systems among the youth,
and in the Yatras they combine a love for the outdoors with knowledge of our shastras
and traditions. “One thing that connected us well with students when we were
educators was the fact that we could patiently answer the questions that they
had about all aspects of life - technical and non-technical. We have always
felt that these questions have the potential to transform into a quest that can
take them deeper. When young people find a mentor who is non-judgemental, who
can accept their limitations as much as their strengths and who has walked the
path, they are willing to enagage with them. Prescriptions don't work well with
young people. Hence at our home and at Anaadi Foundation we have created a
platform for self-exploration especially for young people. They are gradually
guided into deeper aspects of life and at the moment we are able to offer them
personalized attention and care. That is how the members of Anaadi Foundation,
who were our past students, got associated with us. Each one pursues their
Swadharma and we have a platform for that. They work with themselves, tinker,
fine tune and arrive at insights on their purpose in life and carry forward
that work. That is how we have these people working on Education, Well-being,
Culture and Sustainability,” says Smrithi.

They have explored the Siddhar Parambarai, or the
tradition of the Siddhars. And to them each of the Siddhas hold great appeal
and offer great benefit to youngsters. “Each of the siddhas (within the 18 and
outside) have explored several dimensions of human endeavour and can benefit
humanity greatly. Since we are close to Palani and living with the blessings of
Lord Murugan, Bogar is very close to our heart. He is a visionary who made the deity’s
benefit available for many many years. Knowledge of Tamil is key to decoding
the Siddha literature. We do find good number of people in and around Palani
with knowledge of siddha works. We are interacting with them closely to see how
Siddha literature can benefit modern people,” she adds.

Both of them were Professors of Computer Science at
Amrita University for more than a decade. Their interactions with students were
deep both in and outside the classroom. “Outside the classroom, we observed
that most people we interacted with came to us for solving life problems than
computer science problems. As faculty, we evolved tools that would be helpful
for enhancing the learning potential of students. These tools blended asana,
pranayama, dharana and dhyana with modern concepts of time management and
cognitive abilities. At some point, there were a group of our students who left
their high-paying jobs and even potential US university admissions to stay with
us for a deeper sadhana.”

Founders Adinarayanan and Smrithi

When the numbers increased of people wanting to
contribute to society, they formed the Anaadi Foundation in 2015 on Guru
Purnima day. At the Foundation since most of the ashramites are technologists,
they combine technology, science and spirituality to promote and popularize
Indic Knowledge Systems

Having spent their early lives as techies, the
couple speaks the language that the younger generation can understand.
Ofcourse, modern science is headed in a certain direction with researchers all
over the world doing excellent work in science and technology, they say, but the
scientific community is hesitant to embrace the Indian sciences because of
various reasons. “One of the reasons could be that we do not have enough number
of (critical mass) of Indians who can talk both the languages - modern and
traditional. Interdisciplinary research, systematic publication and
data-oriented approach will be needed to ensure that Indian knowledge systems
are adopted. We will also need institutions- schools and colleges that promote
the study and research of these sciences so that an interest is created in
today's children to pursue Indian knowledge systems. It is only a question of
time and history will have to be rewritten once there is a critical mass of
people and their research talking about it.”

Modern neurocognitive sciences and Yogic Sciences
are tied to Anaadi’s goals. “Neuroscience looks at experience from a third
person perspective while yoga looks at it from a first person perspective. Both
these perspective when put together can generate powerful outcomes. At Anaadi
Foundation, in collaboration with other research groups, we are studying the
neuro-cognitive benefits of Yoga. At the same time we are also look at the
insights that yogic literature that can inform neuroscience research.”

The Anaadi Foundation emphasises that shastras are
core to the Hindu way of live and Gnana, Bhakti and Kriya all are needed for a
fulfilling life. “If one has to decode the experiences that one gains through
the yogic path, the knowledge of the shastras is important. Just as research
happens from theory to practice and practice to theory, shastras and our daily life
are closely tied. The fundamental aspect of Indic teaching is that it
encourages us to see everything as interconnected ecosystem - the microcosm and
macrocosm and lead life based on the purushartha- goals of human life. What
strikes us about the modern way of life is our consumption patterns- food,
objects and even ideas and thoughts. When guided by the Purushartha, we lead an
enjoyable life that has a purpose and is also aligned with the larger goal of
life- moksha. The very way we look at material objects and consume them changes
with this framework.”

All of these lessons will be tied in when managers
climb up Himalayas, learning to manage expectations, abilities ofcourse with an
eye on the goal.