An Interview with a Monk: Change is a Process. Happiness is not a Location…
“If you are seeking, seek us with joy; for we live in the kingdom of joy.
Do not give your heart to anything else but to the love of those who are clear joy.
Do not stray into the neighborhood of despair; for there are hopes: they are real, they exist – Do not go in the direction of darkness – I tell you: suns exist.” Rumi
As a social media fan, I enjoy the connections and exchanges I have with many of the remarkable people I meet on social network sites. Whether on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Triiibes, Problogger community, Plaxo, YouTube or a slew of other smaller sites, I often reach out and connect with fabulous folk across the global village we call the internet.
Recently, I decided to work on a series of get-to-know-you interviews, where I ask the same/similar set of questions, of some of these remarkable people; men and women who cherish the interactions they have with others and share their gift of communication by joining the social media conversation – each in his/her own unique way. The goal is to share insights and stories from others and put a real person behind a blog image we see.
“If the Universe is the Answer…What is the Question?” Leon Lederman
Frankly, I think that everyone who makes the concerted effort to join a network site, link in with others, face friends from past and present, tweet, digg, stumble or blog their thoughts, fears or good fortune is remarkable. My interviews are with remarkable people just like You, You, and You… Our first guest, Sadhvi Siddhali Shree, has been practicing yoga and meditation since she was 17 years old, served her country in Iraq and recently took the vows of monkhood in 2008. We connected on problogger community and I was struck by her warmth and sincerity in addressing spiritual topics and her own journey. Join the conversation or send me an email if you’d like me to add your story to the series…
“In order to change the world, we must first change ourselves.” – Acharya Shree Yogeesh
Tell us a bit about your background – Who are you?
Sadhvi Siddhali Shree a 25 year old initiated monk, once served as an Army Medic Sergeant in OIF III, Tikrit, Iraq in 2005, and holds a Bachelors Degree in Communications.
Siddhali Shree began her spiritual search at 17 and met her teacher in 2004. Her hunger to learn and grow on the path led her to become a fully initiated monk in 2008. Sadhvi Siddhali Shree (Sanskrit name translates to “Shining in the Row of Liberated Souls”) is the new name she received from her spiritual teacher, Acharya Shree Yogeesh, on the day of her initiation as a monk. The prefix, Sadhvi, is a title, which means “spiritual aspirant.”
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Siddhali Shree moved, after her initiation into monk hood, to a small village called Windom, Texas; about an hour North East of Dallas. Moving from a large city populated in the millions, to a small village with a population of 250 was a very interesting switch. After some adjustment, Siddhali Shree learned to love the idyllic setting and slow pace of Windom and now prefers living in the peaceful countryside rather than return to the frenetic pace of living in the city. She understands the yogic tenet that happiness is not a location and remains “happy wherever I go…”
When did you make this important change in your life?
Siddhali Shree started her spiritual journey at a young age; prompted by an inner urge to learn more about the spiritual path and selfless service. She met her spiritual teacher, Acharya Shree Yogeesh, in March 2004, got deployed to Iraq in September 2004 through December 2005 when she returned to the USA. She enrolled in college, graduated from California State University, Long Beach, in May 2008, and became a monk September 2008. The whirlwind pace of her relatively new role has not relented and Siddhali Shree has embraced her responsibilities with passion and good cheer.
“All meaningful and lasting change starts first in your imagination and then works its way out. Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein
Why did you choose the path you now follow?
I became a spiritual monk because I knew this will be one of my life’s purpose. I’ve always envisioned myself helping, inspiring, and motivating others to grow spiritually. While I know it’s not necessary to become a monk in order to teach and help others, for me, it was something I needed to do. Dedicating my life completely to something, and withdrawing from daily mundane society, was a huge step for my personal path because most people don’t have the courage to do it or even want to. I know that by becoming a monk I will not earn millions of dollars or even have a family, but in my case, these things are not important to me… What is important is for me to improve myself, grow, and help others do the same.
How do you live your life, manage your space and your worldview?
I live my life by doing my best to practice nonviolence in my actions, speech, and thoughts. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but it’s something I try to live by every moment of the day.
Through the principle of nonviolence, we learn to feel oneness with all living beings. When we are in complete oneness with something, how can we be angry, revengeful, greedy or jealous? By living nonviolently, I am trying to increase my higher qualities of love, compassion, calmness, and peace.
My view of the world is always changing; changing for the better that is. I’ve realized that when we start to understand ourselves better, our real self – soul, then we begin to understand and know others, too. I’m not referring to the outer self, but the inner self.
Once people start to work on themselves and remove the layers of illusion that cover their thinking, then there will peace in this world. People are trapped under negativity and ignorance; yet, underneath is a precious and pure soul.
When there is anger, ego and greed, peace can never prevail. Like my spiritual teacher says, “When you change yourself, you change the world.” If people become more peaceful, the world will be peaceful.
What else do you do while living life as a monk?
Aside from living the monk lifestyle, which includes daily meditation, spiritual practices, and practicing constant awareness, I am the Spiritual Retreat Director for Siddhayatan Spiritual Retreat, located in Dallas, Texas. It is a newly established retreat center that has future plans to become a pilgrimage site, monastery, and fully established ashram. Part of my responsibilities includes teaching students, spiritual counseling, doing healing and motivational work, and handling administrative duties at the retreat.
I recently launched, in September 2009, a spiritual blog, Hidden Treasures of the Soul,which offers spiritual wisdom and insight from a monk’s perspective of the spiritual path.
“Those tender words we said to one another are stored in the secret heart of heaven.
One day, like the rain, they will fall and spread, and their mystery will grow green over the world.” Rumi
1.What motivates you to get out of bed?
Each day on the spiritual path is another opportunity to practice my sadhana (spiritual practices), to grow spiritually, meditate, and learn some soul awakening teachings from my teacher.
2. What makes you happy/laugh?
Happiness is an emotion to me, and is very temporary, so I will use the word contentment. What makes me content is seeing my own spiritual growth and meeting those who wish to do the same.
3. What makes you sad/mad?
Like happiness, sadness is an emotion, too. However, hearing bad news like finding out someone in the family is sick or has died gets me sad for a few moments. Then, I remind myself that getting sick can be a person’s karma and death is natural; then I am back to my calm and content state.
When there is understanding and realization, being happy or sad happens less. When we lead a spiritual life, we are less likely to get attached. We learn balance, our awareness level increases beyond the duality of happiness and sadness and we can become neutral and peaceful.
“A man may be the greatest philosopher in the world but a child in RELIGION. When a man has developed a high state of spirituality he can understand that the kingdom of heaven is within him.” Swami Vivekananda
4. What would you do differently with your life if you had the power? With the world if you had the choice?
With regards to how my life has turned out, I wouldn’t change a thing; experiences lead people to make certain choices, and so I am happy where I am. Reflecting on my past, I would’ve become a vegetarian as a child. As for the present, I take one day at a time on my spiritual path. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, so everyday I just work on myself, which leads to a better and changed me somehow, someway.
For the world, if I had the power, I would like everyone to practice vegetarianism and stop the slaughter of animals. If the world was vegetarian, or at least the leaders of the world were, there would definitely be more peace and rationality.
5. What guiding principle(s) do you follow to make your life meaningful?
I live by several principles, but they are mainly rooted in nonviolence – to live nonviolently in my thoughts, actions, and speech. Anger, greed, ego, killing animals or bugs are forms of violence. To live each moment in the constant awareness of not hurting or killing any living form is a challenging principal to live by, but it is probably the most important principle to live by for the spiritual seeker.
6. What word(s) of advice would you give to others today?
The only person we have the power to change is our self. Become aware of negative habits and begin to slowly improve yourself. Change does not happen overnight; it is a gradual process. Inspiration and motivation help promote change, but deep down, one needs to have the will-power to change. If you decide to change, always remind yourself, that no matter the ups and downs, you will stick to the goal and bring about positive change.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mahatma Gandhi
7. How would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered for being just a simple person that had the heart and determination to change herself, and inspire others.
8. Happiness is…..?
Happiness is temporary. By practicing meditation, finding things you love to do and are passionate for, improving your life, and knowing your soul’s calling, you will experience lasting peace which everyone has the potential to experience. All it takes is self-effort… YOU CAN DO IT!
“God is the highest form of the soul… God is omnipotent. God is bliss…” Acharya Shree Yogeesh
Sadhvi Siddhali Shree lives at the Siddhayatan Spiritual Retreat Center and writes a beautiful Spiritual Blog, Hidden Treasures of the Soul, which you can read by also clicking on this link You may reach her on Twitter: @SiddhaliShree
What are your thoughts on the subject? Stay a while and share your feedback with us. Thank You!
Glowing Meditation ~ Google Images
Setting Sun ~ Google Images
Sadhvi Siddhali Shree ~ via same
Behind the Mask ~ Google Images
Meditation Mandala ~ Google Images
Reflected Pathway ~ Keith Laban
Chinese Happiness Symbol ~ Google Images
Reflections:Sunny Meditation ~ Google Images
Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©