What's read in 2019: Interview with Swami Satyananda Saraswati
This interview was held a lot, and has been read very much despite being so recent. In these times of restlessness and confusion generated by the growing adulteration of yoga, talking to Swami Satyananda Saraswati is like going to the living sources of this tradition in search of answers. And he's given them to us clearly and bluntly. It is an interview YogaenRed.
This Barcelonaborn born in 1955, who lived half a life in India and was a disciple of Swami Muktananda, is still very active in imparting these teachings of yoga and Hinduism that he knows and practices with coherence and depth. (See links to previous interviews below and web Advaitavidya).
Swami Satyananda's statements have no waste. We have divided them into keys:
1st key: Yoga today, alarming situation
Q: You are a leading witness to the evolution of yoga in Spain. We would like to know your assessment: in view of everything that is now offered by yoga, what is being lost?
A: In this civilization in which we live everything is marketed, and in yoga the same thing has happened. The most alarming thing is that is losing its roots. Obviously there are very valid teachings but others are completely disassociated from the mother, who is Hinduism. Yoga is a dharsan, a philosophical school, a traditional vision of Hinduism, and its goal is not the perfect posture; is samadhi, absorption.
Of course the teacher can help the student who has back pain or is nervous, but should be a guide to take it a little further. Yoga takes us to another state of consciousness, and sometimes this is canceled, does not present itself in any way, and stays in very beautiful exercises. In all the classic texts of yoga it is said that the postures themselves are not so important, and what does have it is the inner state, the inner silence that the healthy ones generate, that purify the body and balance the prana. This makes the mind more satony, more luminous, and from here you access states of fullness.
If we ignore all this, we have a very small yoga left, and it's a shame because we could get so much more. But Here it comes the responsibility of the trainers. There are many teacher trainers, but is your life yolk enough,have you had enough knowledge, have you immersed yourself in it? Because it's not what you know; is what you live.
This is not an assessment but an observation, what I see.
On the one hand, I'm glad that yoga has spread, but on the other hand it's a little sad to what extent has often lost its root and power when presented as an exercise. Today we come across many gyms that put yoga as if it were one more gymnastics. There is all this mix, some people with good faith and others with other interests.
2nd Key: The Responsibility of Trainers (and what it costs to hold a center)
Q: What can be done to improve this state of affairs?
A: I think those who do training have a great responsibility here, what happens is that in this civilization we are all in a hurry; someone does an intensive six-month course and is already a teacher. Not only this, but it sets up a center and it doesn't work because it doesn't have enough classes, the rents are expensive, you have to pay taxes... what are you going to do to support it? Invent a teacher course, which gives income. And we already have a person with relatively little experience explaining what he's heard, that is, as my master said, soup soup soup.
I think you have an important role in this: try through your medium, which reaches a lot of people, seeking this excellence from all of us who are teaching.
Teaching is a great responsibility, not an egoid act but something you offer, but not everyone lives it that way. If you teach something just to live off it... there must be something else, and that's where there's a great responsibility to teach what you know, what you've already digested, to teach it with power, with force.
Q: Should schools more insist on offering these values?
A: I think so. They should insist much more on the yamas and niyamas, and that the teacher is the expression of yoga... Because if he does not practice intensely, what will he share?; just the surface, the outermost part.
3rd Key: Meditation can lead to self-deception... if you don't follow a path
Q: Even meditation seems to have become "fashionable". Is any form of meditation, any purportedly meditative act valid?
A: If one does not follow a path, meditation may be a small moment of silence, but it is not part of something much larger. In traditional Hinduism, one follows a path, a teaching, a lineage. Here is a blessing, a power that you absorb, digitize and transform you.
Sometimes the Westerner doesn't mind having drawing teachers, driving... but having a spiritual master costs you more; it's a contradiction, because it's a very subtle world where self-deception, ego, can go away repeatedly and you think you're too high when you haven't even started the road.
We have to realize that, if we want to use meditation properly, this has to be part of something, it's not wholesale. There are different meditations, Zen, Mahayana Buddhism, Tantra, Radya yoga. And each has a shakti, a transformative power, and this power comes from the teachers who share it, from the lineage that accompanies it.
Sometimes I ask people who are in yoga which way they follow, and they tell me that spirituality in general. But it's just that spirituality in general does not exist; there are roads that lead to certain places, not always the same.
And then when we see the meditation that is marketed just to find you a little better or to be more productive... then we do already move away from what it should be. We meditate to self-indate the fullness of our essence, not to work better or to be less stressed. These are just by-products that should not be given so much importance.
Key 4: Meditate, much more than an anti-stress method
Q: She has recently given a seminar on meditation from yoga and tantra. Can you learn to meditate correctly in a few hours or on a weekend?
A: No, but if someone feels a connection to this process inside, it's the beginning. We all have to start at some point. Whether it's an hour or ten days, it would also be insufficient. Sometimes we want to learn... But meditation only teaches you itself over the years... and with the thousands of hours you've meditated.
That one feels a little better for sitting down does not change anything; you still have a very heavy character. Meditation wants to take you beyond this character.
Q: Tell us about that purification process...
A: It is a part of the meditative process, purifying, cleaning the psychic content of the person, but also, as it is purified, the observation of what one is remains. And what one is has nothing to do with our body or mind; it's fullness. The achievement of meditation is impressive... and we use it for something very small like finding ourselves something better.
It's a bit like yoga: we should put the word yoga and meditation back in their proper place.
Key: Teachers who irritate us and Hindu coherence
Q: But sometimes we are advised to simply sit in silence. A mind hanging in the void leads to something?
A: It can make you feel better. Uwe are always helping us to be in yourself; even the simple fact of observing your thoughts can help you get to know yourself. But this is not a path by itself. In the Shiva-sutras there is a phrase that says: "The guru is the medium". The teacher will teach you your infinitude and also that which prevents you from knowing your infinitude; your own mind is never going to show it to you. In the East it is so normal for a teacher to teach you, from freedom... Here we think of a teacher as if he were someone who takes possession of our life, and it is the opposite.
Q: It is said that yoga is not a religious path, and yet you approach it from Hinduism.
A: But it is that Hinduism is not a religion, but that its name is Sanata dharma, the eternal dharma. It comes from any sacred book, from any messiah or prophet, from any belief, or from having faith; is the observation of the cosmic order, Rita and this leads us to observe also who we are.
Hindu meditation is an integral part of Hinduism, it is its daughter, just as Buddhist meditation is the daughter of Buddhism. But it's like these Isms they irritate us... Yes, meditation is a Hindu spiritual practice, why not? And why can't I practice it, understand it, and deepen it if I feel it valid? Just like a Christian delves into the methods of Christian outreach. It's feeling part of something... To do it simply in my own way is often self-deception; the ego feels very satisfied but what fruit will this practice give?
Q: That's why you recommend sticking to traditional practices that derive from Hinduism...
A: If you feel this connection... Do you want to do real yoga? Well, stick to the Hindu yoga masters and the texts, because this is where all the sapience comes from, you don't need to go around a lot more.
6th Key: Neither agnostic yoga nor everything new is better
Q: So there is no such thing as agnostic yoga...
A: Yes, but you don't have to be called yoga. Yoga is a Hindu word; you take the word of this tradition and then you create something new. Do it, but don't usurp a word that has a very clear tradition and context. Yoga is a dharsan, an orthodox vision that accepts that of Vedic rishis as truthful, as a possibility of being experienced; so say Upanisads: yoga, through its ascesis, wants to reach this state. If we get yoga out of that context, it loses strength.
But it's true that we live in a Spain where the word religion irritates us; the word spirituality almost too, and tradition also... We are very irritable... But we have to start being a little more serious if we want to follow a real path. There are ancient paths of transformation and sapience, so why not let these pure waters wash us and help us? Why this pathological individuality that we are developing, as if the new were better?
Up to Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita tells Arjuna that he doesn't teach her anything new. Teachers of the Upanisads, thousands of years ago they recognized that they only convey what the ancients already said... My teachers never taught me anything that was new. I don't expect to teach anything new.
Q: Innovations have been rather in physical yoga, starting with the best-known Hindu teachers...
A: This gives more importance to the physical theme is born not in the West, but from a whole generation of Hindu teachers; some travel here and start to detach the deepest and most meditative part of Hatha yoga putting all the focus on posture and on an increasingly tough, stronger and more physical yoga in a way.
Forty years ago, when I started doing yoga, the classes were different, we did the asanas one at a time and we stayed in them; there were almost no sequences, you relaxed a little bit and you went back to the opposite ace to level... And this other concept came because of those teachers who changed it and also because the West was asking for a little more movement, as if it were gymnastics... And between one and the other, here we are.
Key 7: Yoga to resacralize life and transform the world
Q: How do you recommend bringing yoga to today's life, to everyday life?
A: This society has become so extraverted, so out, that well-used yoga would be like resacralizing our life, our food, our dreams, the way we treat others, animals, the environment, nature. If we lived with ahimsa, satya, asteya... the foundations of yoga, society could be very much transformed; first would come the transformation of oneself, but then it would be a very strong impact on everything else. That's the grandeur of traditional yoga.
This conversation can be a deep, respectful and divinity sharing in the other, or it can be a vulgar talk. What does it depend on? From our yogic state. If I get one with yoga, if I get up with yoga, if I get brighter, this light moves with me, I'm transforming and transforming what surrounds me. From yoga it would be the opportunity to resacralize this world from which we only look at the stains of the ground.
Q: Finally, what would you like to achieve with your teaching work?
A: I do not expect any achievement, but that we enjoy and that there may be a person who can recognize and value this profound teaching and enliven it within it. In my life I have felt a great fullness with this teaching, and if anyone can recognize this, for me it is the best that can happen to him. Just this.