What The Heart Says - Satsangs With Isaac Shapiro

September 12, 2007
Uma Ranganathan

Having crawled a major part of the way through a kilometre long traffic jam on the autobahn we finally arrive at Ottobrunn, a small town founded in the fifties, which lies south east of Munich. Tilmann, Shasha (who’s visiting from Paris) and I make our way to a large spacious building in the town square, where on the first floor a satsang is being held in a large airy room. There are more people attending the meeting than the hall can comfortably accommodate, with several people squatting on the floor, some perched on a table at the end of the hall and others up in the mezzanine which is also equipped with a few light aluminium frame chairs. On the podium in the main hall sits a portly looking man with a friendly face, framed by a head full of crinkly brown hair flecked with white and chin embellished by a tidy looking beard. Dressed in a casual green sweater pulled over a pair of dark brown trousers, he listens intently to the older man occupying the chair facing him. The man seems rather in distress and elaborates on his problems. After a quiet hearing Shapiro reckons that the root of his distress lies in his lack of patience. The man heartily agrees. “Every day I pray to god to give me patience,” he says, “And I tell him please! Give it to me NOW!” The audience dissolves into laughter and so does Isaac.

Questions are put to Isaac and generally to the group, about how to live in the moment, about how to introduce the element of self awareness at the work place. “At work you need to be aggressive, the climate calls for it. You can’t survive being nice to people,” says a woman. Self awareness is not about being “nice.” It is about paying attention to all that is going on inside yourself and also to the other person. Patiently, Isaac expounds on his experience of living in the moment, about what it means, about how living in the private world in one’s head, being trapped in thought and ideas, is what creates conflict in the world. He goes on to suggest that we focus on the process of awareness instead of perpetually focussing on problems which arise out of our lack of awareness. He talks about how our conditioning forces us into a groove from which we find it difficult to exit so as to act with intelligence.

We are caught in all kinds of patterns without knowing it, Isaac says, and being constantly trapped in patterns and habits which we are unaware of, is what makes us unhappy, nervous and difficult to be around. To go beyond these habits we need to become aware of them, to notice the way we behave. The attention we start to pay to our own thought process eventually helps us to dissociate ourselves from it and from all that we believe ourselves to be. It enables us to identify with the essence in us rather than with the patterns which take over our minds and which normally define us.

Isaac Shapiro, born in 1950 in Johannesburg, South Africa, claims to have had his first glimpse of truth and of unconditional love at the age of 19. His desire to further explore this aspect of life led him initially to a kibbutz in Israel where he spent a year. Later he found himself in a small organic farm on an island in Denmark after which he travelled to New Zealand where he started a commune in order to go even deeper into the questions he felt he needed to investigate. Through the years Isaac dabbled in a variety of techniques to do with self awareness, including biofeedback but it was in Hawaii that he got his first clue as to what the whole experiment was all really about. His contact with the Kahunas in Hawaii and with others who worked with communication based on energy movements, helped him to realise that the key to self awareness and to studying the mind was the realisation that true awareness develops when we focus on attention itself.

Sent on by a friend to a teacher in Lucknow, who went by the name of Papaji, Isaac further learned how to stop focussing on the thought process and to bring his attention round to the flow of awareness itself. Within a year of experimenting in this direction he had found the way to himself. Recognised by Papaji as a teacher in his own right, Isaac started holding satsangs all over the world. People who attend his meetings and who come into contact with the man claim to find a profound sense of peace within themselves and to gain access to a deeper awareness in his presence, the way individuals claim to have done in the presence of sages like Ramana Maharshi who seemed able to bestow on their disciples or those who came to meet them, peace and a sense of joy by virtue of their own deep inner stillness.

Isaac maintains that truth is “your own heart speaking to itself. It’s the true tantra. It is deeper than intimacy. Intimacy still assumes the other. This is like making love. It is an inner kiss. In the heart, in your own heart.”

Having wandered through various fields from special education to environmental conservation, Uma has been working these last fifteen years or so as a psychotherapist, mainly in India. Along with friends and colleagues, she conducts workshops and sessions in self awareness and is looking for people who are interested in creating an environment in which people actually listen to each other. Her book “Bombay to Eternity – memoirs of a laidback Rebel” was published in 2004 by Penguin India.
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September 12, 2007
02:00 PM


interesting thoughts, again:)

made me wonder about the milk seller in the bazaar from way back;)

the guy had a long day at work...ostensibly not very well read...working in a small store front hardly 6x10 ft...busy cleaning pots and utensils...storing and selling milk and yogurt...always smiling...don't know any other personal details...but as i recall him now....he always appeared at peace with himself...saw him occasionally after i had moved...greyer...but the core remained the same...wonder now how he found peace!

maybe education (and reading) and accumulated odd experiences makes us the misfit?

September 13, 2007
03:55 AM

Temporal, I definitely think the kind of education which most of us are subjected to, dilutes our brain power. I too have come across people who are illiterate, have never been to school but sound wiser and behave accordingly in their own lives. So cheers for individuals like the milk seller!

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