Raja Choudhury answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
That's a profound question because as you can imagine on the path to especially Kundalini awakening and Shakti and the work I've done, I've had many gurus and teachers. They've all been guides and friends and teachers but some of them in particular have been amazing mentors in my life. When I think about somebody doing it completely selflessly for me, that changed my life... I had the good fortune of studying architecture in England. I was studying architecture and I had taken some time off and I was 25 and I came back to do my master’s in architecture.
I had a wonderful professor. I was very interested in logic and science. I was agnostic, I didn't have a religious bone in my body. I'd read some philosophy, Lao Tzu, I did martial arts and stuff like that, but nothing major.
I had a wonderful professor called Gordon Pask, DSC… doctor, doctor… he was a double doctor and he was a Cambridge DSC, double PhD, of cybernetics of all things. Yet he was teaching at architecture school… I was at the school called the Architectural Association. He was completely insane. He wore a bow tie every day. He was a little man about five foot tall. He wore a monocle and he was right out of some Victorian novel, like a Sherlock Holmes book. He liked me, I liked him, but we used to drink together. Like all great intellectuals he was a complete alcoholic. He and I would drink together. I said I was looking for a place to live and he had this attic in his house at 48 North Street in Clapham in London. He said, "Come and take the attic. My wife would love to have you there." Of course, I didn't know but she didn't want to have anybody there, but I was invited by Gordon like he always did; he invited everybody.
I moved into this attic and I was living upstairs with her five cats and me up there. His wife was equally eccentric. I started living there and he became this kind of friend of mine. I was paying literally no rent. The agreement was that I would help him out. I didn't know what that would require, but we started having dinners every evening and we'd light candles and drink wine and it was a very civilized two years of my life. He introduced me to philosophy. First of all, I'd been completely stressed out before that trying to make money, trying to live, and then I was 25 and I came to live with him and suddenly I didn't have to worry about anything. I had a place to live, I had a philosopher-mentor-poet guiding me while I was studying, finishing my architecture degree, and I had his lovely wife who was feeding me. She cooked every night. I became this kind of... it's kind of like “Breakfast with Morrie.” It was kind of this New York story in London, and I'm there.
Every evening, I would imagine five out of seven evenings, he and I would spend hours talking. He introduced me to Socrates and Plato and the music of the spheres and cybernetics and artificial intelligence and the mysteries of Buddhism. He had books on everything. Slowly, slowly, as he got more and more drunk every evening, I would access all this amazing information, spend time in his libraries, and then I'd carry him to bed. It was a profoundly humbling experience because I became a caregiver. Once in a while he'd get so drunk that he'd fall down and soil himself and hurt his head. I would clean him up, I'd bathe him. I became a caregiver, and I'd never cared for anyone in my entire life. Even my parents have completely spoiled us. I was never one to look after somebody else.
So these two years, I discovered philosophy, I discovered Western philosophy, especially Kant and Heidegger and all these amazing... quantum physics. In that two years, I learned more about Western philosophy, about quantum physics, about science and nature, mathematics, than ever in my life. A hunger grew in me for knowledge and wisdom. Suddenly I went from agnostic, atheist, materialist, living in the world trying to make it, to philosopher, facing life and death as friends. Because Gordon during that time was also dying. I knew it and he had only... I remember that I went to architectural school and he was very active in making sure that... I was the first student at my school, the Architecture Association, to use computers and computer-generated graphics and digital analysis to make a program. This is now 1992. Nobody had done it before. I was a pioneer, a rebel, in everything.
He stood by me even while the school... I remember one of the architects described my work as “computer-obstructed design,” rather than CAD, and he argued with him. I remember the day of the final jury where I had to present to the whole school, all the heads of department... I took him to the school. He was going to sit in on that jury, that panel, and he couldn't climb up the stairs so I had to carry him two floors up to the jury room. A little guy, but it was such a profound experience. He fought for me, he got me an honors degree, and I came out of that and I owed him my life.
Here he was, he didn't take anything from me, he didn't want anything from me. He just gave and gave and gave. I remember a year later he died just in hospital… There was a wonderful moment I had with him while I was living there. Because he took everything. He had done mescaline, he had done LSD, he had done cocaine, he had done everything. He was an explorer, he was a freak of nature, a genius, he wrote plays and musicals, a complete Renaissance man. I remember he opened a little zipped big that he showed me, a little leather bag, and he took it out, and in that was a syringe and a vial and it was morphine. He said... no, it was even worse. It was arsenic. It was poison. He said, "When death comes, I am ready. I will take it on my terms."
I admired that. That was like heroic of him. But when death did come, he didn't want to go. He clung to life until the last moment and then he... What I learned about philosophy at that point was that one has to die in this life to everything in order to live fully. And that took me five years, six, seven years later towards Tantra and Hermeticism and Kundalini and philosophies that one has to die a spiritual death in order to be reborn... a physical death, a mental death, in order to be reborn into a spiritual life.
I am ever grateful to Gordon Pask for the wonderful mentorship and love... and unconditional love and feeding and knowledge he gave me for those two years that changed my life and led me to this point now with all of you.
Raja Choudhury aims to disrupt human consciousness and awaken each of us to our true evolutionary potential using his deep knowledge of Kundalini Shakti, Tantra, and Kriya Yoga. In a personal quest of over 20 years, Raja has comparatively explored most of the great (and some unknown) wisdom traditions of the world and has experienced many teachings and transformative methodologies firsthand. He now wants to share this magical adventure and discoveries with everyone.
Raja’s own shift occurred in 2006 when he underwent a dramatic Kundalini awakening that rewired his system and opened up a new universe of potential. Raja initially started life as an architect from London’s Architectural Association and then went on to become a Webby-winning digital creative director in New York where this awakening occurred. He then created numerous documentary films on wisdom and consciousness, including Spirituality in the Modern World with Ken Wilber and Traleg Rinpoche; Yoga: Aligning to the Source; and acclaimed films on many great spiritual teachers. In 2014 he was awarded India’s prestigious National Film Award for his film, The Quantum Indians. He’s currently making a film for PBS on Swami Vivekananda called First Guru. Raja gave a TED talk, “Indian Wisdom for Today’s World,” in 2012 and a TEDx talk, “Yoga: India’s Open Source Gift to the World,” in 2015. His talks on Kundalini, Shiva, the Third Eye, and meditation are very popular on YouTube.
In his own spiritual quest, he was initiated first into Kriya Yoga in 1998 and went on to take deep initiations into Raja Yoga, advanced Kriya Yoga, and then finally, and most importantly, Sri Vidya and Kula Tantra, from Guruji Amritananda of Devipuram. Raja is currently exploring the deep non-dualism of the ancient Trika School.
Raja also practices Aikido and Qigong and is a passionate student of neuroscience, history, comparative mysticism, esoteric traditions, and the mind. His teachings are a syncretic blend of Eastern and Western ideas. In the past year, he has initiated over 800 people into the magic of Kundalini awakening, and shares his Shakti energy with them and the world via the Internet and regular workshops and retreats. Raja, who is married to Jagriti and has a 10-year-old daughter, Noor, and a cocker spaniel named Max, lives between New Delhi and New York.
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This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 11: Yoga of Healing and Awakening Summit