Interview with Agustín Pániker: "We must integrate spirituality into everyday life"

It is in charge of the editorial Kairos, which publishes the best authors on Yoga, spirituality and traditions. It is a great expert on religions, brilliant writer and lecturer, in love with the India and cultivator of a genuine secular spirituality.

Agustin Paniker

Thus presents itself: "my link with india is familiar, emotional, blood... I am a grandson of an Indian immigrant who arrived at the beginning of the century to Barcelona and was married to a Catalan. Therefore, my father and my uncle, Raimon Pániker (philosopher and writer) and Salvador Paniker (philosopher and founder of Kairos), were Indians average half Catalan; I'm already only a quarter... But I have always maintained a lot the link with India, which is not only the country of my ancestors, but for various reasons I fell for it. It has become my second home. Now I'm processed I Indian citizenship also".

You've created even the founding Raimuni Paniker Trust in Kerala...
Exact, that you have the name of my grandfather because he came to Europe thanks to a scholarship to study at the University of Madras (now Chennai), I was a great student. And along with my aunt, her daughter, and my cousins decided we should return just the India what it had given us. And create a foundation for 15 years that scholarship to boys and girls from the South of India, which is where he was originally my family, so they can pursue higher education. We help about 150-180 children, in Kerala, which is where my grandfather was born.

On the other hand, my children are born in the India, a child and a child adopted. Therefore, close the circle: back to india in some way.

How you are you preferring to India as an editor and writer?
From my first trips already I loved the India; It is a country that impacts much, in the good and in the bad sense, because going all together. I loved the culture, the people, civilization, philosophy, religion, the spirituality. I was already working in Kairos, but became it a little in the focus of my academic knowledge. I've written books on Jainism, on the sikhs, on history, thought, society, philosophy, the India policy. I give many lectures, courses, linked to their traditions, spirituality...

And then my role as editor at Kairos, that my father founded and in which I have more than 30 years. It is almost a bridge between East and West (we do have it in the genes), an encounter between a more contemplative dimension or spiritual and other more rational and scientific. I have published many authors and spiritual teachers of the India.

Of all the books that have passed through your hands as a Publisher and intellectual, what you seleccionarías to take to a desert island?
Wow, that is very difficult. I am interested in many traditions and not only of the India: as editor I have published books on zen Buddhism, Tibetan, taismo... Of course, I know better the Indic tradition and intractable parts for me. But if I had to choose a work that me more touch me in a sense and find very representative of India in all its facets is the Mahabharata, the great epic which contains everything: novels, short stories, poetry, the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most important pieces of mysticism, philosophy, ethics, up to codes of laws, there are inside. We have published a short version by Narayan, who was a great writer.

You're a great scholar of religions, but you're not "affiliated" with any. Why have they failed to seduce you?
All I'm interested in. In fact, my latest book is called Shitala dream, and it is a journey more anthropological and journalistic world of religions. It is the first book in which I talk in Mexico, Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and the Camino de Santiago... Excited to the religious and spiritual, single phenomenon that I have received a very secular education and do not profess or I adhere to a religion. And why I consider myself a very spiritual person, perhaps not in the conventional sense of the term, but if I find that there are many people who are in tune with that spiritual feeling and mood of calm and inner growth interested without being Christians or Buddhists. Perhaps I feel closer to these two great traditions of Hinduism or Buddhism, but actually one can cultivate this spiritual dimension to the margin of the ritual and even contemplative traditions.

How do you cultivate your spirituality?
Especially through music. I'm self-taught, but I play the piano - already small composed small symphonies-, and I am excited to enjoy the experience of artistic joy, either listening to or playing. There I can transcend my little I and my context and connect. A sensitivity is spirituality, and who has it and who has less, almost like musical ear. I also do a little Yoga to cultivate the dimension psychophysics, breathing... But I also cultivate the spirituality of a more contemplative mode, in nature, in a simple way. Therefore, there are many paths...

You can also enjoy the intellectual pleasure...
Of course, reading and writing my books. The concentration in writing is a type of meditation. Be ruled out as the source of all evil mind; just put it on your website, know your limits, cultivate it. I see that with real scientists, have a sensitivity that is very similar to the spiritual, to that of the artist or philosopher. It is an investigation in the latest, the same concern. The spiritual dimension is a common denominator of human beings.

How does it help that spiritual dimension to live in this present complicated, neurotic?
We must integrate this spiritual dimension in everyday life. I know that it is not easy, because there are fundamental needs that cover, but I don't see that this is incompatible with an attitude of life. For that the traditions of wisdom help (and also can annoy much if one gets little adult way, and many have a sectarian tendency to isolate yourself, shut yourself in). Great exercise is to be self-critical, to open and integrate this spirituality and take it with discernment to everyday life. I believe that it's essential today for our personal relationships, at work, in politics... that would be very good.

They say that crises lead to large changes in consciousness.
Yes, only that I am more pessimistic at the political and social level. I think that there are some very strong inertia and hardly we can change that. I advocate the transformation of oneself, but not in a selfish way, I isolate and beyond to give them. No, not; transforming us a little each one, we will transform a bit more society somehow.

In Yoga there is a perpetual debate: respect for tradition, where do you take it?
I think that all traditions, when they are very incrustradas in a culture and a time certain and leave their place of origin, will inevitably have to transform. How much? It is the big question. Up to what point can Westernize Yoga or Buddhism? We must try to not lose the essence, origin and underlying universalism. But there must be a work of adaptation.

Yoga, or any other tradition, has to adapt to our contemporary society, to our idiosyncrasy and ways, but without that is stale. This each interpret it differently, but so has always been in all traditions.

By the way that you have heard it said once the currency is know to combine local, one's own, with the universal, and that these two trends have to be antagonistic.
I believe that true pluralism, the true opening, can accept a tradition of universalism and particularism of that tradition, and not to reduce them to a single formula. From my point of view I think that society would be better if it accepted the seemingly contradictory terms. Modernity has several faces; actually there is an exercise of analysis and criticism and see the good and bad that has something, and everything goes in the same package. And the same thing happens with the traditions: instead of reducing it to are with me or against me, trying to accept both positions.

In that the India has a great experience; Jainism is characterized by philosophical pluralism. Or the middle of the Buddhism way: accept the two ends.

What you would recommend to someone it goes to the reunion of the India?
Love my people; It sounds a bit cliché but it is the truth. And the rural India excites me. Therefore would recommend that it soon escaped city which reaches (Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Chetnay, Bangalore, Chennai) and go to the deep India, of the villages, which only speaks English. And you can see daily and deep spirituality of the people, which is not that of the major ashrams, or of the great Yogis and gurus.

Agustín Pániker is currently immersed in the completion of a book "very complex, controversial addition" which has spent eight years writing about the caste society. "I have it almost finished". His best-known books are The dream of Shitala, Sikhs, Jainism, Indika.

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By • 25 Feb, 2013 • section: Interview