―Tristan Laurillard, May 2015
Sujith Ravindran (India, 1972) assists men in reaching a higher level of "masculine maturity" by means of his workshops, retreats, books, podcasts, videos and one-on-one conversations. All of his work is donation-based (without a suggested donation amount,) and his books are free of copyright. His own spiritual quest began when he was only four, and he started guiding others from the age of sixteen.
I am introduced to Sujith by an acquaintance. Three weeks later we have a conversation during an eighty minute Skype call.
We start by talking about my personal life and view on men's work. Sujith is very interested in who I really am and want to become, rather than the things that I do. He expresses praise after nearly everything I say. I feel appreciated. What a warmth from this radiating, Bollywood-faced, generous man.
Turning the focus to him, I ask what he discusses in his workshops.
Sujith opposes the Western habit of sitting back and intellectualising things, and considers such behaviour chiefly responsible for stifling our native incredible greatness. He rather engages in 'practice' [a central word in his lingo,] a tradition that his own teachers also uphold; the lineage of wise men of which Sujith regards himself as a mere intermediary―and hence the absence of copyright.
Sujith sees a core of authentic intelligence, stamina and kindheartedness in all of us, and he wants to be instrumental in reclaiming these inborn qualities.
Adopted from Hindu mythology, Sujith considers 'Shiva' the exemplar Man and 'Shakti' his feminine equivalent. To attain that state, a total of seven stages must come into existence, each opened up by their own marked initiation. It is the third transition Sujith tries to deobstruct in his audience, the shift from an (in spiritual terms) adolescent man to a mature man.
His global following, reportedly thirteen thousand individuals in Holland, Germany and Belgium alone, has rendered a team of supposedly more than fifty volunteers. Things just unfolded that way, Sujith explains. Inspired men (mostly, as two-thirds of his events are for men only) offer to organise something in their own city, maintain his website, and publish audio recordings of his talks―roughly five hundred by now, he states. During his six to seven months tour through twelve countries every year, they pick him up from airports and offer him and his wife to be their guests in private residences.
We exchange a few words in Dutch. Sujith knows my home town, and shares with me that he has "been blessed" to support some noteworthy corporations and governmental bodies through "complete transformations."
I invite him to think of a topic he would want to discuss if he were given the opportunity to speak at a TED conference. He pauses for a moment and then knows exactly what he would want to talk about.
He explains that Western men have bottled up their masculine energy, partially as a result of the pressure of past generations of feminism, and partially out of shame of the now poor image of manhood ruined by the traumas caused by (again, in spiritual terms) adolescent men. But, suppressing our masculine force will never work. It needs to come out some way. And we must avoid its release through brute eruptions like war, gambling, addiction, sexual assault.
The masculine energy deserves to be nurtured. When unfolded gracefully, it makes man productive and creative; a powerful energy source. Bringing about this in the Western man requires tossing the pattern of endless refinement through intellectual processes, and, instead, embracing ongoing practices, rituals and ceremonies. Only then will society rediscover inspirational, strong, service-minded, heart-opened, mountain-like men, who transform societies and inspire humanity.
Sujith needs to go look for his laptop power chord in another room. In the background I see what beautiful view he has from his West Vancouver home.
Returning to the room, we get to the topic of men's peer groups. He has launched many, he says, both in Asia and in Europe. Sujith tells me that feminine work belongs inside society, but men's groups must take place on the edge of civilization. He voices three prerequisites for men's gatherings, drawn from Indian traditions:
He personally invites me to attend his upcoming retreat on the Sunshine Coast. We'll go camping near a facility that provides sanitation and vegetarian food. I have to pay for this facility, but Sujith's contribution is, as always, on a mere donation basis.
We are nearing the end of our conversation, and, when asked about any personal struggles he still has, I see that this man has no intention to be only a spotless mentor. Without any hesitation, he openly reveals his own sadness, vulnerability and emotional needs. He has his own teachers to turn to, and feels tremendous support from the few thousands men he works with.
The next time that I am in the neighbourhood, he says, I ought to give him a ring. We should get together for a cup of tea or a slice of pizza. Sujith says he wants to get to know me better, and that I have a vibrant, rich personality. A prolific interviewer. I could make a difference in people's lives, he feels. Possibly [also] become a facilitator, a servant for other men to step into their own fullness.
Over the next two days I read about a third of Sujith's book titled 'The Shiva Code.' And that is all I can do. This is dense stuff. It covers matters I have seen in works by other thinkers from India: detachment, wholeness, conditioning, non-judgement. I see kernels of valuable insights on every page, but have no idea what to do with mystical subjects such as transcendence and cosmic consciousness; these are unworldly notions that my brain is not used to absorbing, or does not want to.
Perhaps in the future I can pick up his work again. When I am more capable of translating these esoteric concepts into useful, concrete knowledge for normal daily life. Seemingly, today, in Sujith's seven transitions toward Shiva-hood, I am but one stage too low.