An Interview with Charan Anand – A Man of the People

Jun 26, 2023 writer, Marcia Newman, speaks with Charan Anand, a lifelong advocate of inner peace as taught by Prem Rawat and Prem’s father and teacher, Shri Maharaji. For more than seven decades, Charan Anand, now 92, has met with thousands of people all over the world who are interested in learning more about the experience of Self-Knowledge that Prem Rawat freely offers. The following interview is a rare opportunity for readers to learn more about Charan Anand’s simple beginnings, his extraordinary experiences and unique perspective on the value of practicing Self-Knowledge. Thank you, Charan Anand, for joining us today. Congratulations on recently celebrating your 92nd birthday!

Charan Anand: Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity to share my feelings. Though my body is 92 years old, inside I feel ageless. Let’s start with today. How are you doing in Aventura, Florida, and what are you enjoying these days?

Charan Anand: I’m feeling so happy (laughing) and having a really wonderful time. I enjoy practicing Knowledge and listening to Prem’s message. I enjoy the outdoor fresh air and do my little bit of exercise daily. When I can, I still enjoy playing golf.  Great to hear you’re doing well. Let’s jump in! Today, how would you explain Self-Knowledge to someone who is curious about it?

Charan Anand:  It’s very simple. Prem Rawat teaches a daily practice referred to as “Knowledge” or “knowledge of the self.” It is a natural method for turning one’s attention within and feeling the peace that’s already there. For me, it is a directly enjoyable experience. How would you describe your relationship with Prem Rawat?

Charan Anand: I love and respect him as my teacher and hold him close to my heart as my dearest friend. You’ve been featured in Nic Askew’s Soul Biographies series. In this gorgeous video, you mentioned that you were raised in a loving Indian family within a small community. Tell us about your younger self.

Charan Anand: I was born in the small village of Sudar Pura (near Kotpuli) in Rajasthan, India. It was surrounded by beautiful countryside between two small mountains. My father was a remarkably caring, kind and generous human being. When I was eight years old, there was a terrible drought in our region and the village farmers took loans to stay afloat. My father, who ran a carpentry business, provided his credit-worthiness as collateral to support their loans. As the drought persisted and the lenders applied pressure, my father made the decision to travel beyond our village with his crew to make extra money to help pay off the loans. I was taken out of school to help cook for the traveling men, as well as help with the carpentry.

For this reason, I only completed two years of formal education. However, I did learn to cook really well, a skill that has been very useful throughout the years. As I grew older, I wanted to develop my skills in the fine art of carpentry. So, I contacted a relative living in Delhi who was very advanced in his carpentry skills. He invited me to stay with him in Delhi. I was around 17 years old. Is that where you first heard about the message of practical peace as taught by Shri Maharaji (Prem Rawat’s father)?

Charan Anand: Yes, I went to Delhi to stay with my relative, Prahlad, who had Knowledge. One day, he invited me to go listen to a person named Om Prakash Ji, who was speaking on behalf of his teacher, Shri Maharaji. Om Prakash was a close student of Shri Maharaji and was asked to convey his teacher’s message. He would always speak from his heart. His talks were very inspiring to me. He emphasized that you need to know a practical way to get in touch with the peace that lies within.

This was around 1948. Om Prakash had permission from Shri Maharaji to show the techniques of Self-Knowledge. But when I asked him, he said “No, it’s better to take more time… If Knowledge is what you really want, you will have it.”

He encouraged me to listen more and to see Shri Maharaji in person. Om Prakash Ji stated “I’ve shared with you about my experience of Shri Maharaji and his gift of Knowledge. But now I want you to meet him and feel your own connection.” When did you actually meet Shri Maharaji? What do you remember about him at that time?

Charan Anand: One day I finally saw a photo of Shri Maharaji. That night my longing to see him became so intense. In fact, I had a dream of Shri Maharaji coming into Delhi on a beautiful chariot. The sky was filled with light. The next morning, someone informed me that Shri Maharaji had arrived in Delhi, which I was extremely happy to hear. I was invited to go listen to him. When I first saw him, I was taken by how radiant, beautiful and regal he looked. My dream had become real.

His message of peace was simple, direct and deeply touching. At the event, to those who stepped forward and sincerely asked him for Knowledge, he said, “Okay.” At that time, I didn’t have the courage to stand up in front of other people and express my longing. I thought maybe Om Prakash Ji would ask on my behalf or at least introduce me to Shri Maharaji (laughing). Clearly, you eventually did find the courage to ask Shri Maharaji to receive the techniques of Self-Knowledge.

Charan Anand: Shri Maharaji’s talks went on for three days. At night, I couldn’t sleep because of an intense feeling – a longing. In my dreams, I was asking to receive this gift of Knowledge.

The morning after Shri Maharaji’s events concluded, I was on my way to my workplace when I met Prahlad, who told me that Om Prakash Ji wanted to take me to visit Shri Maharaji at a residence in Delhi. When we arrived, Shri Maharaji asked Om Prakash who I was.

Om Prakash informed Shri Maharaji that I had been listening and that I was an aspirant (someone aspiring to receive Knowledge). Shri Maharaji looked at me and asked, “How old are you?”

I replied, “I’m 18.”

Shri Maharaji inquired, “Why do you need Knowledge at this time in your life? You’re young, go enjoy.”

From a sincere and deep place, I heard myself reply to Shri Maharaji, “Yes, I am having a wonderful life. But without Knowledge I feel that life would be empty. I feel there is more to life. So, I humbly request that I may receive your Knowledge.”

I felt so comfortable in his presence and answered his questions from my heart.

Shri Maharaji then beautifully leaned forward toward me and said “Okay.” He then asked Om Prakash Ji to show me the techniques and I was blessed to receive this beautiful gift of Knowledge that day.

CharanAnand_Europe Younger – Europe 1974

Charan Anand – Europe 1974 I’ve learned that more than 50 people in your childhood village, many of them your relatives, eventually received Knowledge. Is that true?

Charan Anand: Yes. My older brother became interested and also received Knowledge. He told everybody, “It’s a beautiful gift, go for it.”

I also had a deep wish to invite Shri Maharaji to my village. He went there twice. One time it was during the rainy season and his bus got stuck in the mud. Shri Maharaji got off the bus and started walking barefoot towards the village. One of the organizers got upset and started criticizing me for arranging an event in such an inaccessible location. I remember how Shri Maharaji responded. He turned to the critical organizer and said, “Don’t say that. If he invites me from the heart, I will go anywhere. Whoever invites me from their heart, I will go.”

Even though I was feeling so bad about the situation, Shri Maharaji comforted me. What a kind and dedicated teacher! Was it soon after that village event that Shri Maharaji asked you to assist with carrying his message?

Charan Anand: One day I had the opportunity to speak with Shri Maharaji privately.

He asked me, “Where do you live?”
“In Delhi”
“What do you do?”
“I have a carpentry business.”
“What do you think about Knowledge?”
I replied, “It’s the most wonderful thing in my life.”
“Do you think this Knowledge should be made available to other human beings?”
“Absolutely,” I replied.
“Then who is going to do it?”
“Shri Maharaji, you and your students together.”
“Then who are you? Aren’t you one of my students?”
“Is carpentry more important than helping me in my work?”
I said, “Definitely not.”
He then said, “So what is the delay?”
I said, “No delay.”

Nonetheless, it took me some time to take care of my family responsibilities. Unfortunately, my father had passed away and my mother’s vision had deteriorated. My younger brother and his wife were able to take over the care of our mother.

When I started to assist Shri Maharaji, he said to family members, “This person is going to help me a lot with carrying my message.”

That was September 1957, three months before Prem was born.

CharanAnand_Europe Younger – Europe 1974

Charan Anand speaking in Leicester,UK – 1971 You then journeyed throughout India with another traveling mahatma (instructor) named Ramanand, staying with various householders. What was that like for you?

Charan Anand: Yes, we went to new cities, starting with Jaipur. There were some locations where you could stay for free. I would go and announce the event and people would come and listen. Some would get inspired and then invite us to their home for dinner. Slowly, slowly, slowly, that’s how it all started. Eventually, we ended up in Mumbai. There was not a single person who had Knowledge at that time. Now, with Prem’s global events, there is so much happening in India and everywhere!

During that early time, I took my very first flight, which took Shri Maharaji and me from Mumbai to Delhi. He asked me to have the breakfast that was being served on the plane. Since he was not taking it and I had never been in an airplane before, I expressed hesitation. Shri Maharaji insisted that I should eat. After we arrived in Delhi and I was sitting with him in his room, he said to me, “Do you know why I asked you to eat on the plane?”

I replied, “No.”

Then Shri Maharaji explained, “In the future, you will travel to the West to introduce Knowledge to people; that is why I wanted you to become accustomed to air travel.”

I was elated as well as amazed when I heard this. I humbly asked him, “Shri Maharaji, how will it be possible for me to go to the western countries if I cannot speak English?”

He replied, “Know that when the trust and effort are there, anything is possible.”

That episode inspired me to learn English. Later when Prem Rawat sent me to England in 1969, I knew that Shri Maharaji’s prediction had become true in my life. As it turned out, I’ve continued to travel throughout the world with his message from that time until the pandemic in 2020. Amazing! Looking back to July 1966, Charan Anand, you were helping at an event in Alwar, Rajasthan with Shri Maharaji. This was the last time that you would have seen him. Shri Maharaji passed away within a few days, at the age of 66. What do you remember about that time?

Charan Anand: Yes, I was already in Alwar, helping to prepare for the event. We had even invited the Governor of Alwar, who was planning to attend. Shri Maharaji arrived in Alwar. Later that evening, he spoke to Ramanand and myself and said he was not feeling well. Shri Maharaji asked us to convey his message, love and blessings to everyone in attendance. Bihari Singh asked Shri Maharaji, “Would you like to go to your home in Dehradun?”

Shri Maharaji replied, “No, I want to go to Delhi.”

Bihari drove Shri Maharaji to Shakti Nagar, his house in Delhi. Shri Maharaji wanted to be alone and not talk with anyone. He sat practicing Knowledge all day, not stopping to eat or drink. This is how he chose to leave his body peacefully.

For me, this is remarkable. Shri Maharaji loved his family and he loved his students. People were always coming to visit him. But when that time came for him to leave his body, he did not want to see anyone. This remains very inspiring to me. It highlights what was shared in the Bhagavad Gita when Arjuna asks Krishna, “What is the nature of a person who is really connected to the inner experience?”

Krishna replies, “That person is like a turtle. He can crawl outside and around with his limbs. Yet, when his shell gets hit, he can withdraw his limbs inside. The person who is connected to the inner experience can withdraw his attention from the world and turn within himself.”

Shri Maharaji knew what was most precious to him – that joy within. Thank you for sharing about your experiences with Shri Maharaji. What do you find especially compelling about the way Prem Rawat communicates his message of peace?

Charan Anand: The first time I saw Prem, he was three months old. When I first held him, I had such a powerful feeling gazing at his serene, radiant face. A few days later, while being held by his father, Shri Maharaji said, “The one who is going to take my message around the world is in my arms.”

When Prem was four years old, I would see him in Dehradun sitting still outside under the veranda, absorbed within himself. He would do that every morning. I was both amazed and inspired. He would then come and knock at my bedroom door in the guesthouse and tell me to wake and practice Knowledge. I would smile in return and ask him, “Please practice with me.” He would then sit with me as I practiced.

During that period, one elderly gentleman came to see Shri Maharaji and he asked me to speak with him. We started our conversation during which Sant Ji (Prem) came, sat on my lap, and observed what was going on. The gentleman, who was learned, started arguing with me citing various references from books he had read. At one point, Sant Ji interrupted and asked the gentleman, “How old are you?”

“75” was his reply.

“Have you found the peace you are looking for?”

“No, not yet.”

Then Sant Ji admonished, “Don’t argue with Charan Anand. He is speaking from his experience of Knowledge and not his readings. Don’t waste your time. You are already old enough. Ask Shri Maharaji for the gift of Knowledge which will help you feel your own inner experience of peace.”

After saying that, Sant Ji asked me to come away with him for a few moments. When I returned, I found the gentleman reflecting quietly.

He asked me, “Who was that boy?”

I told him, “He is Shri Maharaji’s youngest son.”

The gentleman said, “I have met so many people in my life, but no one made me speechless like he did. His question was so direct, and I had to agree that I hadn’t found peace through my readings.”

Shortly thereafter, he asked Shri Maharaji and received the gift of Knowledge. Even at such a young age, it was very inspiring to witness how gifted Prem was in helping others connect with their own true self.

Shri Maharaji always spoke about Sant Ji with so much love, admiration and confidence. He truly knew who Prem was.

Therefore, he sent him to an English school to gain a good command of the language. From time to time he would declare, “The one who is going to spread Knowledge around the world is here among us.”

One day a pundit asked Shri Maharaji, “Why don’t you send Sant Ji to Sanskrit school instead of an English school?”

Shri Maharaji asked, “Why does he need to learn Sanskrit?”

The pundit said, “Then he will be able to read our ancient scriptures.”

Shri Maharaji replied, “He doesn’t need to read scriptures. When he speaks, new texts will be written.”

Another time, when I was with him in Mumbai, Shri Maharaji asked me to write a letter to his wife, Mata Ji, to express his concern that he could not attend the Guru Puja festival that year. He wished Sant Ji (Prem) to sit in his chair and for all his students to celebrate the festival with him.

Later on, when he was only seven years old, Prem arranged an event in Dehradun for Shri Maharaji, who was traveling at the time in Punjab. Prem sent an invitation to Shri Maharaji through a messenger.

When the message was delivered, Shri Maharaji said, “I don’t need to be there because Sant Ji is there and he will take care of everything.”

The messenger replied, “Sant Ji has asked me to personally convey his request.”

Shri Maharaji reflected for a moment and felt so moved, he said, “I must go. I don’t want to hurt Sant Ji’s feelings because I love him so dearly!” He canceled his schedule and left in the middle of the night for Dehradun.

Shri Maharaji was highly impressed with the way Prem had organized the event. Such was the care and attention to every detail, that for subsequent events, the organizers in India tried to follow his example. Prem had invited his schoolteachers as well as many prominent people from the city. It was held in a beautiful park on a summer evening. The moon was full and the environment was so pleasant. During his talk, Shri Maharaji called Sant Ji to the stage to speak. I still remember the essence of Prem’s message, delivered both in English and Hindi, to the people of India that night.

Young Prem said, “How long are you going to depend on foreign aid? You have plenty of resources to develop your country. All you have to do is educate your people and work together. Other nations have developed their countries; you also can do it. But do not forget the Knowledge and our ancient wisdom. Material developments alone cannot bring true satisfaction and happiness in human life. You have to combine Knowledge of the inner self with modern technology.”

While Prem was speaking, I was looking from Shri Maharaji to his son, and I found Shri Maharaji exhibiting so much admiration and delight. It was very inspiring for me to watch seven-year-old Sant Ji speaking in both English and Hindi with great confidence, clarity and ease in front of Shri Maharaji and the audience. My eyes were filled with tears of joy. After Prem finished talking, Shri Maharaji took a garland from his own neck, placed it on Prem and spoke of him proudly.

Shri Maharaji said, “His body is small, but his soul is great. He is undoubtedly going to make this Knowledge available to the people of the world. I admire him, not because he is my son, but because of his great wisdom and ability.”

Life is so precious. Life is sublime.
Let’s appreciate this gift, while we have the time.

Charan Anand

Charan Anand: Prem was only eight years old when his father and teacher passed away. There was so much grief and confusion in his family and all the people around him. At that tender age, naturally, Prem mourned deeply as well. Yet, on one clear night during that period, Prem expressed to me, “I feel Shri Maharaji’s presence around us, to see if we’re lost in our sorrow or remembering how dear the propagation of Knowledge was to him.”

I was stunned that such a young child had the inner strength to rise above the intense sadness of the moment and remain in touch with something so essential to his father. The next day, July 31, 1966, right in front of my eyes, I witnessed him speak to thousands of weeping mourners, saying, “Don’t cry. You don’t have to cry. That which you loved about Shri Maharaji will always be with you. Nobody can take that from you.”

While continuing to speak, Prem was transforming tears into joy, confusion into clarity, despair into hope. I’ll never forget those powerful moments. It was such a turning point for those of us present. Prem touched our hearts deeply and helped us to recognize him as our living master. Prem never let me feel any abrupt transition because I could feel the same love and presence.

Months later, in November 1966, a big event was organized for Prem in Delhi. Originally, it had been planned for Shri Maharaji. The mayor of Delhi came to welcome Prem Rawat. This took place just before his ninth birthday. The mayor expressed his astonishment with Prem’s speaking ability and marveled, “If he can touch people’s hearts so profoundly at such a tender age, then what will he be able to do when he grows older?”

From that time, onward, during school holidays, Prem spoke in different parts of India to thousands of people. Within a few years, he took his message to the rest of the world. Often, I had witnessed Shri Maharaji, his eyes filled with tears, expressing his deep longing that the gift of Knowledge be made available throughout the world.

From my feeling, when a master expresses his wishes from his heart to do something, it will happen sooner or later. It is as though those wishes are assimilated in the atmosphere until the right person comes along to pick them up and make them real. When that person starts doing it, all natural resources come to help fulfill those wishes. I see that happening now through Prem Rawat’s efforts and with those who support his message of peace throughout the world.

From my feeling, when a master expresses his wishes from his heart to do something,
it will happen sooner or later.

Charan Anand
Incredible. Thank you. In 1969, Prem asked you to carry his message to the West, first to England and then the United States. That must have been quite a culture shock for you!

Charan Anand: Yes. I had already been introduced to groups of young Western people who had come to India seeking something more in life. At that time, their lifestyle was peculiar to me. They seemed to be fine with sleeping in the park, smoking marijuana and living as hippies. Many shared their personal stories with me. I learned about their good fortune to be educated, raised in a stable family environment and given so much. Yet, they still expressed not feeling fully happy. These young, traveling Westerners came to India to learn more about India’s ancient wisdom. Some, with whom I still remain in touch, are now seniors and are still actively involved in supporting Prem’s beautiful message of peace.

When Prem decided to send me to England, he said, “Let’s find out how much English you know.”

He spoke a few words in English and asked me to translate into Hindi. This I did correctly.

He smiled and said to me, “Perfect. You know enough. People will feel what you are saying, rather than getting lost in the words.”

His advice about how I should act once I arrive in the West was neither to criticize nor to support what individuals do in their personal lives. “If you criticize them, they will never come back. If you support them, the authorities might arrest you and throw you out of England. So don’t get into that. Simply convey my message. Whoever is interested, show them the techniques of Self-Knowledge and inspire them to practice. That alone will bring real joy and transformation to them.”

Prem was 11 years old at the time.

Prem Rawat (L) with Bihari Singh and Charan Anand (R) in Toronto, Canada – 1971 How, if at all, was the mindset of people in the West different in 1971 than it is today? What, if anything, has changed from your perspective?

Charan Anand: So many changes in this world! Yet, no matter what year it is, many who listen to Prem Rawat find it very inspiring. It’s a timeless message. It is about discovering one’s own thirst for contentment. No one is here to persuade anyone. With all the technology and changes in this world, there is no substitute for the knowledge of the self. Yes, it’s important to learn about science, technology and receive a full education. Yet we also need to receive the ancient teachings that help us live with peace, dignity and prosperity.

Regardless of his age, Prem speaks directly from his heart with confidence. When Prem was 13, he came to Los Angeles and someone asked him, “Tell us what happens after death.”

He smiled and said, “I don’t know, I’m still alive. Don’t worry, you’ll get there and then you won’t be able to tell anybody what happens. I’m not here in America to talk about all these things. I do know one thing. Life is precious. Live it happily and consciously.”

Charan Anand with Prem Rawat in Boulder, Colorado – 1971

During that tour in various cities throughout America, people continued to ask so many questions. He finally said, “Why are you asking me all of these questions? I’m only 13. I don’t have these questions; I have clarity because my master put me in touch with my heart through the gift of Knowledge. Why don’t you ask me for that and find your own answers?”

I think Kabir (15th century Indian poet-saint) would agree, ‘You talk about what you read and I talk about what I experience.’ It’s my understanding that you have read most of the scriptures in the world. What would you say they have in common?

Charan Anand: From my understanding of all the scriptures that I have read, they all speak of the same inner experience of peace in the different languages and modes of expression of their time. Prem echoes a similar ancient message and shows a practical way to get in touch with it. He talks about what our hearts really long for. He says, “If you want my help with that, I can help you.” That is his gift. What do you say to people who assume that what Prem is offering is “religious” or “spiritual”?

Charan Anand: In my own experience, this Knowledge is neither religious nor spiritual. It is a direct experience of inner peace. Is our breath religious or spiritual? It stands on its own. For example, when you eat, you don’t talk. When you drink, you don’t talk. You simply enjoy that experience of eating and drinking. Same thing with this inner experience, it’s there to be enjoyed. It’s a very natural process.

Prem reminds me about the basic, fundamental needs in life, including our need for peace. I admire how he brings a freshness and simplicity into this topic. It allows him to reach all types of people across the world. A wonderful example is Prem’s address (14 minutes) to a student-organized Nordic Peace Conference in Oslo, Norway. In your lifelong global experiences, what has been people’s biggest reservation about what Prem is offering? And what would you like to say to them to ease whatever concerns they might have?

Charan Anand: Many people read about different teachings from the past and present. They want to compare Prem to others regarding what he says and how he lives. Holding on to these concepts can interfere with experiencing true joy in one’s life. Children know how to be open. They approach life in a very simple way. When they are hungry, they eat. When they are tired, they sleep. Likewise, when you feel the need for peace within, it’s best to listen to Prem with a child-like heart. Yes, it’s good to ask your questions. Then there is a time to go beyond your questions and concepts in order to feel personal peace.

When listening to Prem, it’s best to take a simple approach from one’s heart.

Charan Anand Do you have any thoughts about your own aging process? Any longevity tips?

Charan Anand: Aging has not really worried me. A long time ago, Prem said, “When we focus on the body, we feel our age. When we focus on the inner feeling, we feel ageless.” He has showed me that which is timeless and I like to focus on that.

At the same time, my body is my home. I must take care of it, too. There’s that saying, “After 60, if you don’t wake up with some aches and pains and stiffness, that means you’re dead.” Of course, I wake up with some of those aches. I just turned 92 on May 2, 2023. Yet, I make my effort with staying healthy. It’s important to me. Like a house or a car, it needs maintenance. I try to eat well, exercise daily and get good sleep. There are many ways to exercise. You have to find your own ways that are pleasurable. For me, I enjoy playing golf, yoga, walking in the fresh air, listening to music and singing.

In earlier years, I enjoyed golf as a form of exercise, and I organized charity golf tournaments to support The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF) – Food for People Program. The Food for People (FFP) program provides nutritious meals, clean water, and educational opportunities to impoverished communities.

I know one day everything will be left behind and I want to be connected to that feeling of peace.

Charan Anand

Also, practicing Knowledge daily is very important to me. It takes me deeper within myself. As Prem has instructed, “Give Knowledge a fair chance.” I know one day everything will be left behind and I want to be connected to that feeling of peace.

One day Shri Maharaji sent me a letter of guidance. His first sentence to me was “Take care of your health.” Secondly, “Enjoy practicing Knowledge.” Thirdly, “Listen to my message and keep helping.”

I’m so grateful that I feel healthy and happy. I’m so thankful to Prem for all that he has provided me. Thankfully, I can still take care of myself. So, please take care of yourself. Thank you so much, Charan Anand Ji, for all that you have given and continue to give. Your story of loyalty to inner peace is remarkable. Your kindness that you’ve shown to so many human beings around the world will always remain appreciated.

Charan Anand: It was a privilege to share with you my blissful journey. I am forever grateful to Shri Maharaji for the wonderful life enjoyed with him, and now with Prem. I hold them in my heart with deep love and utmost respect.

Charan Anand in Malibu, California – 2017

If you would like to message an appreciation to Charan Anand, contact: [email protected]

Marcia Newman wishes to thank Larry Lefkowitz, David Shimberg, Mitch Ditkoff and Henry Reif for their collaborative efforts in making this special interview with Charan Anand Ji available.

Lead photo – Charan Anand speaking in Montpellier, France – 1985

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