Interview with Veeresh by Navajata & Sanman
Veeresh, why should someone change if they are perfect just the way they are?
I think that spiritually you can come up with a concept like “you are perfect just the way you are and there is no need to change”. I was in Brazil and there was a Satsang Master who tells people: “There is nothing to do, just go to zero point”. He’s very popular because it’s so appealing. I could see how people can basically pour sugar over what upsets them and say there’s nothing to do. In one way you can appreciate it, but if you look at their life, they are a mess. Sexually they are dysfunctional, they have no relationships, they are not happy with their job and they don’t know where they are going in life.
Yes, you are perfect just the way you are. But if you want to develop, if you want to reach your full potential, which is your responsibility in this life, you have to do some things to change your life, to improve yourself, to be more aware, to learn more. I get very upset when I hear again and again “there’s nothing to do, just the way you are is enough”. I see that as a poor excuse for trying to justify yourself.
What motivates people to change?
What motivated me to change was social pressure. I had a group of people who were concerned about me and they kept insisting that there was something better than addiction. I would never have changed my life by myself. I needed other people to tell me: “Hey, stop destroying yourself, there’s a greater potential than drugs in your life.” I call that social pressure. People care about what you’re doing. They tell you: “Change! Stop doing what you’re doing, it’s destructive.” I like social pressure, it got me to change and that’s what we are doing here. We’re using social pressure.
People want to change, but given the opportunity, they find it difficult. Why is this?
Well, these are what I see as basically infantile personalities, they hope that mummy and daddy will wipe their asses and their lives will be easy. People are scared to change. It’s like upsetting a whole comfort modality in their lives – “I’m comfortable, don’t upset me, why should I have to change my house? Why should I have to improve my relationship? Why should I have to look at my sexuality?” People are afraid to do all these things. One of their big fears is: “Don’t make me look at what I’m avoiding.” And that’s what all the groups are about. People come here, they pay a lot of money to do groups and when they are given the opportunity to change, they come up with the same fears: “If I change, who the hell will I be afterwards?”
For others a big fear is that they would like to maintain the enlightened, orgiastic state all the time, and they can’t. You see people get into a Satori state in the group, and they want to maintain it, they want to hold onto it forever.People limit themselves for many reasons: I don’t want to grow up; I don’t want to take responsibility for who I am; I expect my parents to take care of me; I won’t be able to handle responsibility.
How does the Humaniversity support people to change?
I mentioned earlier – we are one of the few places I’ve heard of where you find such intensity and focus on you and what you do. I know there are other places you can go to and you don’t get this pressure to look at yourself. You can do whatever you do and nobody will lay their trip on you and say: “Hey listen, change that!” We are unique.There are not a lot of places that care about what you do after the group situation. We say: “You’ve been in a group, you’ve learned this and we want you to be able to apply it in your daily life.” And that makes us very special.
You sometimes talk about “change agents”. What is this?
This is a concept that I learned in New York. If you come here and you learn how to hug and how to fulfil yourself, and you go outside and you start hugging other people, then you’ve become a change agent. If you learn how to confront others with your truth, you go out and do it at home. What you learn here you apply in society. That’s how the Humaniversity creates change agents.
Dr. Ramirez thought that the only way you can change people is to put them into limit situations and confront them over and over. Under stress, they would always exhibit the same negative behaviour, and at some point he could convince them that instead of banging their heads against the wall, they could use the door. Can you comment?
Ramirez was a Puerto Rican doctor influential in the treatment of drug addicts within the Therapeutic Community setting. He found out that if you don’t continue to confront addicts, they will revert to their old behaviour. For a while they will give you exactly what you want to hear, but only continual confrontation will eventually get them to look at who they are. He understood that drug addicts are really manipulating. Before nobody had ever said anything like: “What about six months later, nine months later?” With limit situations he took away all the escapes that you have of not looking at yourself.
That was unique. In psychoanalysis for instance a person can talk about something. The analyst would just be very objective and not interfere. Ramirez did the opposite. He would listen to what you had to say and then he said: “Well, let’s do something about it, let’s change it now.” That was very disturbing for everybody, but it was very powerful.I hated the encounters that we had to go through in Phoenix House, it was over and over about the same issues. If there was one guilt session, there would be twenty guilt sessions to follow. If it was one marathon, there would be many marathons. You were constantly being confronted about your self-destructive behaviour patterns. He always gave the addict the choice to see what he was doing and how he was avoiding himself.
Once I was so angry at the commune. I had a loaf of bread in the kitchen and I just threw it in a garbage can. Then we had a big general meeting. They wanted to know who had done it. Who was trying to destroy the community by throwing away food. I was feeling so guilty, but I didn’t say anything. You wouldn’t believe how this loaf of bread with their social pressure drove me crazy. Every time that we had a general meeting they would say: “And what about that guy who threw that loaf of bread away?!” I would be sitting there, feeling guilty. And then one day, seven months later, I was Coordinator then, we had another guilt session: “Is there anybody who’s got any guilt?” Finally I said: “Yes, I have some guilt. I’m the one who threw that loaf of bread away”. Wow! The whole commune was exhilarated! Because I was in a high position. And what a relief it was too, that I didn’t have to lie anymore and feel guilty. I got shot down, but I didn’t care. I was happy that it was out, I didn’t have to lie.
And that’s an example of how limit situation works. Over and over again, bringing up issues that weren’t just hitting me, they were hitting everybody. I tried to avoid it, and then I finally wanted to change it. I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and walk around and confront other people about changing when in myself I hadn’t changed. That’s an example of change.
What are the ingredients for change?
What initiates change is often shock. If I go to the dentist, he pokes around in my mouth, and says: “If you don’t use the interdental brushes your teeth are going to fall out”; I get really shocked. And then, for about three weeks I am using interdental brushes like crazy. Shock is a great eye opener.Love is the balance. You can’t just demand change and scream at somebody if the person doesn’t feel loved. But when you feel you are loved then you are willing to change, no matter what’s being said. It’s another way of initiating change. You care about the person and you love the person, you take responsibility and you try to give them the best you can, and the other appreciates it.
The third way is awareness. I was told that if I crossed my legs all the time when I sit down, the alignment of my backbone will be distorted. A little later, Premdip jumps on me and says: “Stop crossing your legs because your backbone will get twisted”. I suddenly understood what she was saying. This was about ten years ago. I’ve never crossed my legs since. I decided to change because I understood what it was about. And when I understood I automatically decided that I have to do something about it.
Shock, love and awareness are the ingredients for change. Awareness is the result of all three. You see that something in your life needs to happen because you’re not happy. And then you just start to do it. You don’t need pressure from anybody. The awareness factor is the most important thing. You see it, you understand it.We’re an awareness school trying to get people to see. And once they see, any change can happen within them, but in the beginning they need social pressure. Then they start to say: “I understand”.
You often said that the only thing that changes is your awareness of yourself. Does that mean you can go on shooting heroin as long as you are aware about it?
No, that would be destructive. I heard Osho say: “There’s no need to change anything, just become aware. The more you become aware, change will just come about naturally”. Unless that awareness is there, you just do cosmetic changes on the outside. The internal change happens because you understand, you know.You can modify your body, you can learn to express your emotions, you can really learn to change your attitude. You can have many changes on the outside, but the final change is: I understand, I got it, I know, I see. I’m not getting what I need. I have to do something about it. Awareness stimulates everything else.
The last question. If somebody comes up to you and says: Veeresh, I want to change. What do you say to him?
I used to have a joke. Somebody comes to you and says: “I want to grow!” And you look at them and you say: “How tall? How wide? How far?” – If I see that the person really wants to change – I suggest things that they can learn. On the other hand you might have the best program in the world but if a person comes to you and doesn’t want it, nothing will help.I’ve seen that. People come all the way here, they have a great opportunity to drop their addiction and no matter what you say it doesn’t work. I’ve been in and out of so many programs, and at the end I realized that I had manipulated and told everybody exactly what they wanted to hear. I wasn’t ready to change.It’s not the drugs, it’s people. How they make it a self-destructive trip.
If somebody comes and they want to change, you say: “What is it you want to change? You want to change your image, your relationship? Do you want to change your sexuality?” I always encourage that. If the motivation is there and they come in with that, then that’s good. Convincing people that it’s good for them to change is a hard one. They think: If I change people might expect that I take on more responsibility. So nobody wants to grow up. I worked with this resistance often. I figured that halfway during the group people get it, they start to see that change is not so bad. Letting go is not so bad, being who you are is good.