Living like a monk for a year

Gagandeva (Guilherme Weishar) is a 30-year-old geophysicist
from Portugal who recently went to Ananda Ashram
in Germany for intensive spiritual training.

When I was 19 years old, my eyes opened to the important problems of modern society. This shook my worldview and ignited a flame within me, a deep desire to change society for the better. This set me on the path of seeking solutions to these problems, an alternative way of life to what was being offered to me away from mainstream culture. After a few years of navigating alternative lifestyles, I came across Ananda Marga at a wonderful festival called ZNA Gathering in Portugal. I was 27 years old at the time.

Practical spirituality

What fascinated me most was the rational approach to spirituality. The dadas (monks) who gave lectures and workshops were able to explain so many spiritual concepts, which I was also very interested in but had so much structure. I had been learning about spirituality in a very chaotic way, picking up bits and pieces from many different directions, as is so common in New Age culture. Ananda Marga offered me a very organised and structured approach to exploring my deeper self. I immediately fell in love with this philosophy and started attending all the retreats (seminars) in Portugal. I feel lucky that there is such a vibrant and active community in Portugal. At some point I learned about the mission of Ananda Marga: to uplift all of humanity without neglecting other beings and inanimate objects. This was the final piece of the puzzle I needed to put my life into spiritual service. Soon after, I moved to the Ananda Valley Master Unit (spiritual community) and volunteered for a year in the conservation department through a newly formed NGO, EcoAtivo.

Golden opportunity

During this year I deepened my inner self-knowledge and became quite solid in all practices. Then the opportunity arose to do an intensive spiritual training in Germany with Dada Madhuvidhiyananda. It is a training to become a full-time spiritual volunteer (LFT). Out of a deep inner realisation, I decided to do this training. And with the grace of my Guru Baba, I became an LFT at the age of 30.

What did I learn in this training?
When I look back at all that I have learnt in the last 2 months, I am amazed at how much I have been able to learn in this relatively short period of time. For our studies I have used 16 books, some I have read all the way through, others only a few chapters and still others only a few pages. All but 3 of the books were written by Shrii Shrii Anandamurtii. I also had the opportunity to explore many other topics such as Microvita, Yoga Psychology and PROUT.

We had daily classes with Dada Madhuvidhyananda. Most of our classes took place outdoors, e.g. walking through the beautiful countryside around Ananda Áshram. We were blessed with good weather for about 5 weeks, with many sunny days. Our Master Baba also gave many talks during walks outdoors, so it felt so ideal to recreate this kind of teaching. I really loved learning so much about all these fascinating subjects. I also believe that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. We did that almost every day. Dada called it “teach back”: short 20-minute sessions where we take turns repeating the previous lesson (i.e. we teach it to each other).

How did I develop mentally and spiritually?

During my time with Dada Madhuvidhyananda I have developed so many aspects of my being. In the spiritual realm, I have found that my ability to memorise has greatly improved. I suffer from dyslexia, so it is a challenge for me to remember word by word, letter by letter. Somehow through Sádhaná (spiritual practice) this has changed in me. I am now able to memorise even complex samskrta terminology with relative ease. I have also found that I have much more access to the memories stored in the deeper layers of the mind. It was in the spiritual realm that I felt the greatest development. During the training I practiced 3-4 hours of meditation most days. This is a big jump from my usual daily average of 1h30. I will do my best to keep this as my new standard.

Sádhana (spiritual practice), of course, consists not only of meditation, but also of asanas (yoga physical exercises), all-round cleanliness, service and spiritual study. Taken together, these practices create a suitable environment for rapid spiritual growth. As a result of this great improvement in my Sádhaná, I noticed more balance in my mind, purity of mind in general. It is very rare that I have toxic thoughts. But the greatest benefit is the closeness I feel to Baba, the Supreme Consciousness. The distance between the highest consciousness and me has shrunk. I feel so clearly that Baba is always with me. I only need to think of Him, and almost always I receive a blissful feeling of varying degrees.

In the physical realm, I feel more resistant, especially to the cold. I owe this to a particularly intense part of the training. I won’t go into too much detail because I think a veil of mystery is beneficial for those who are also interested in LFT training. I will only say that I have gone through physical hardships that I have had to overcome through intense sádhana (spiritual practice).

I will be an LFT for at least 1 year and live like a monk. Oh, I am full of joy, gratitude and drive. I believe that for anyone who has a longing to deepen their sádhana (spiritual practice), discover who they really are and serve others with greater power, the intensive spiritual training is a unique opportunity.

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