Aditya Gait is a member of Ananda Sangha helping to build a “Kriya Yoga Community” in the countryside outside of Pune, India. He trained as a medical doctor before joining Ananda and is now beginning a medical clinic to serve the needs of local villagers and community members. Aditya is a brahmachari member of the Ananda Renunciate Order and, in addition to his medical service, is actively engaged in the development of Ananda’s retreat and residential community.
The following is Part One of a two part interview conducted with Aditya in early July, 2010. At that time, he had recently purchased a shipping container from Mumbai and had placed it on a small parcel of land adjacent to our community with the intention of converting it into a small clinic. In this first part of the interview, Aditya tells of his early interest in medicine and of his coming to Ananda. In the second part, he will speak of his plans for the clinic.
Jaya: For the past year, you have been working as a medical doctor with local villagers, traveling here and there to see patients. I see you have now bought a shipping container with plans to convert it into a small medical clinic. How is it going?
Aditya: Swamiji has asked me that exact same question, at least seven or eight times, since we first came to Pune. It’s practically his first question whenever he sees me. I’ve been answering, “It’s going well,” but when he last came, I told him, “Swamiji, so many things are going on. I’m unable to focus all my attention on the clinic though I have been seeing patients.” He said, “I understand, but it would be nice if you can do something with the clinic which at the same time does not take all your time.”
J: Have you always wanted to be a doctor?
A: Yes. I was always interested in general medicine but never in surgery. After my internship, I applied for residency training at a hospital in New Delhi known for its program in community medicine. They told me, “Those seats are full, but we have one seat in rural surgery.” It was a pilot program combining general surgery, orthopedics, obstetrics, and all of the surgical things needed by a rural doctor. I had never been particularly attracted to specializing in those subjects but when they put that tag “rural” in front of it, I was interested. My sister is a psychiatrist and my father is a military physician and I thought, “I will be the surgeon,” and we could all serve together.
J: What was it about rural medicine that attracted you?
A: When in medical school in Pune, I was aiming to be an oncologist or a neurologist, but when I went for my internship in New Delhi, I saw that most of my patients had come from the rural areas. That made me ponder, “Why are so many people coming from the rural areas? Instead, we should be going there.”
When someone was ill, the whole family would have to come into the city, often causing major complications because of the delay. I soon realized what was required and decided to serve in the rural areas. That didn’t go down well with my family but I was very content inside because I knew that if I was to serve as a doctor, this was the way it had to be.
J: Did you enjoy your service as a doctor as you had expected?
A: Yes, but when I saw patients I would think, “Why is this happening to them?” I would see people with chronic illnesses which had no cure and I would ponder about why it was so. In pediatric surgery, I saw small babies being operated upon and wondered, “Why is this happening to them?” It was hard to understand. You know, such difficult things are equally bad news for a doctor as for a patient.
I thought about karma and why things happen, but I couldn’t explain this to my patients in a way that would help them. Very few were receptive and once they are physically well, patients don’t come back. I found that disappointing because I wanted to give them so much more. Some days I was happy and some days wasn’t when unable to save somebody. Things eventually came to a point where I couldn’t go on like that.
All the while, I was desperately asking God for help and I eventually came to realize I needed to learn higher things than what I was then studying. I believed in prayer but I just didn’t know how it worked. I believed also in miracles like we read about in the lives of saints and I thought it would be good to learn those things too. But, who do you learn it from?
It was then that I read Autobiography of a Yogi. It answered almost all my questions. I was very certain Yogananda had been with me before. When he spoke of reincarnation, I thought, “He has been my guru!” From then on, I was always questioning and asking, “What does he want from me?”
J: Is that when you came to know about Ananda?
A: I came to know of Ananda just before starting my residency, and wrote a letter to Swamiji, telling him I was a doctor, of my interest in serving people and that I wanted to learn Kriya Yoga. I asked him to please tell me what I can do. I left my phone number and email address but didn’t hear back. When his reply didn’t come, I thought, “Master wants me to continue in medicine.” I thought this because I got my residency seat at the hospital under very miraculous conditions, I must say.
My application was already five months late and the seat was available only because somebody else had become ill and had left it. I was told, “Be at the hospital at nine o’clock in the morning and the head of the department will interview you.”
The next day, on my way to the hospital, I was entering the Delhi Metro when a beggar called out to me. I had only ten minutes but I thought I could give him two, so I said, “What’s your problem?” I could see he had rashes all over his hands and he was blind. He said, “Can you please tell me where the President of India sits? I have to meet him.” This was a surprising question but I could see he was completely stable and not insane. I said, “That’s a very unusual request. How are you going to meet him?” The fellow said, “He told me I can come see him at any time,” and he pulled out of his pocket a picture. There was the President, Mr. Kalam with that beggar! He had met him in Lucknow and the President had told him to come see him if he had any problem. I asked him what his problem was and he said he needed Rs.2500 because he had been ill and spent everything he had on the clinic and private hospitals. “I don’t have money. I have not eaten for two days and my family has not eaten, so today if he can give me some money, I can go back home.” His request was so simple. He would ask the President to give him some money.
That was the ninth day of Ram Nomi, so everything was closed. I thought, “If I leave him like this he will definitely not reach anywhere. Because I’m educated and a doctor, maybe the guards would let me get near the President’s office.”
Only the day before I had been reading in Swamiji’s book, The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, the passage where Krishna says to Arjuna, “Oh Arjuna, as long as you think you can plan this and manage that, I will watch. But the day you offer your life completely to Me, I will take complete charge of it.”
I was so thrilled when I read that line and I was thinking how nice it would be if God takes all charge. So, I said to God, “I’m taking this course for You and I want to help this man for You. Because You have put him in front of me, You must take care of my interview. I’m going with him.” So I went with the beggar and it was a very long day. At the President’s office we had problems and didn’t meet Mr. Kalam. Then I took him to an NGO but they could not help. I took him to a charitable person who also could not help. In the end, I had to pay him what money I had. He needed Rs.2500 and I had only Rs.1600, so I gave him that much.
It was 3:30 in the afternoon when I left him and I was wondering what must have happened about the interview. I thought, “Let me go and check.” I reached the hospital and knocked at that surgeon’s office but nobody answered. I peeped in and his secretary was sitting there. “Mam, is Dr. Khanduri there?” “Please wait,” she said.
I was sitting outside and eventually saw him coming along the corridor. I thought he might scold me as I stood to meet him. I said, “Sir, I am Aditya. You asked me to come for the interview today.” “Oh my God!” he said, “I’m so sorry. I made you wait so long!” He hadn’t come to the hospital the whole day! I didn’t want to tell him the whole story so I just said, “It’s fine, sir.” He said, “I had to interview you. Anyway, you know what? You are the only person.” He asked for my mobile and called someone, “This is the only guy and he wants the seat.” I was through.
So the seat at the hospital was a precious gift and I didn’t want to leave it. I thought, “I should become a doctor. Maybe it’s not my good karma to meditate in this life,” but finally, things came to a point where I knew I wanted to heal people but not in that way.
J: Eventually, you decided to come to Ananda.
A: Yes, I finished one month short of two years in the residency program and then I came to the ashram. Obviously, my friends and family were not happy with me. They said, “It’s just one more year,” but I knew I had to come. Swamiji met me and said, “Do you have any questions?” I said, “No.” And he said, “Are you sure?” and I said “Yes.” And he said “Sure?” I thought, “There must be something,” and said, “Swamiji, I had this question a few days back when I was doing my residency. Everything was good. My teachers were good. My college was good. I was happy but I just felt it was incomplete so I came to seek God.” And he said, “Man’s highest responsibility is to find God and I think you have done the right thing by coming here.” I was so relieved, but the very next thing he said to me was, “What do you think of a rural clinic?” I had given up my stethoscope, my books, everything, but I said, “OK.” So this blue container is the result of all those things. I want to fill it back up with books and a stethoscope.
Part 2 of this interview will appear next week.