Radio: Thousands of people from all over Australia and from overseas countries have arrived in Sydney for the Twentieth World Convention of the International Yoga Fellowship Movement. The man they have all come to see and learn from is Satyananda Paramahamsa, a highly enlightened soul living in the physical body to help earthly beings through his spiritual wisdom.
Satyananda Paramahamsa, the spiritual leader of a yoga movement which will have cataclysmic effects on the world, is not an ordinary man.
Swamiji: I would emphasize that I am an ordinary man. I can understand the difficulties, the tensions and the problems of this world. Having shared peoples' joys and sorrows, I am able to commune with them. I am one with man.
Radio: What are the special qualities which can be developed through yoga?
Swamiji: Creativity, alertness, and awareness of the higher stages of human life, the states of mind which ordinary man cannot experience. In these spiritual and yogic states of mind one is in tune with the greater areas of his personality, where communion with peace and bliss is experienced.
Radio: It is very difficult to understand the full meaning of what you are saying.
Swamiji: You see, man in the east as well as in the west is limited by his perceptions and cognitions. His area of knowledge is limited and that is why he is not able to understand the possibility of a higher state of consciousness. By the process of yoga and meditation one is able to transcend the limitations of the ordinary mind. Thereby he is able to have a greater cosmic awareness.
Radio: Do you have a distinct purpose, a mission in life?
Swamiji: I have certainly become aware of the purpose of my life. At the same time I have a definite mission which is twofold. The first is to become a means of alleviating the deepest rooted sufferings of mankind, and the second is to be one with the highest existent reality.
Radio: I understand that you were born in 1923 in a small town at the foot of the Himalayas in northern India. What sort of family were you born into? Was it expected that you would become a teacher?
Swamiji: My family was an ordinary family of farmers and landlords, and I had a formal education. But when I was young I had some spontaneous spiritual experiences through which I became aware of something else which I just couldn't understand then. I was completely unaware of the sensations of the body. I never knew that I had a body at that time, although I could see it. This first happened when I was barely five years old. It was not a permanent state of affairs, but it did come and go. So my family began to consult medical experts to find out whether the cause was a physical disease. Eventually a saint who came to our town advised my parents that their child should be given a spiritual education.
Radio: When you grew older were you like the other children?
Swamiji: Oh yes. I had many, many good friends. I was very good at sports and hunting. I was a poet and an artist. I was interested in everybody, in every science, but at the same time the spiritual experience came to me spontaneously now and then to make me aware that there was an infinite space within me.
Radio: If you had grown up in the western world, people would have been convinced that you had some kind of illness.
Swamiji: Yes, but if I could have been investigated scientifically at that time, perhaps my brain waves, the alpha intensity, would have proved that this condition is not an illness, but a higher state of mind. I personally know that even in the west the scientists can make a definite distinction between sleep and meditation, between mental sickness and higher spiritual states by measuring the brain waves through scientific means.
Radio: After your normal school education, you had twelve years of spiritual education with a guru. Were those difficult years for you?
Swamiji: I had no difficulty. I lived with my guru for a full twelve years and had every type of spiritual education from him. Of course, I led a life of austerity, self-discipline and self-imposed poverty, as you have in Christianity also. Most of my time I spent in studying the literature of eastern as well as western religions.
Radio: Usually young people of that age would have their minds fixed on many worldly desires.
Swamiji: Well, I tried my level best to fix my mind on the worldly life. I thought that if I did not think about it, perhaps it would be dormant somewhere within me and cause suppression or a kind of split in my personality. But in spite of my best efforts to push myself into that particular life, I could not stay there.
Radio: But that's incredible, really, because in this society most would-be ascetics are trying to do the opposite. They would be saying: 'I've got all these sex - drives, but I'm going to force myself to ignore them, and concentrate my mind on more spiritual things'. Whereas you were trying to channel your mind into physical things so that it would be the other way round.
Swamiji: Right. You see, I was more keen about spiritual evolution. Nevertheless I have lived a full life, a complete life. I have the knowledge of total experience, of every state of enjoyment; I have not left anything untouched. At the same time I believe today, as I did years ago, that these things were not part of my desires, they were not part of my ambitions.
Radio: By meditation and mental control can you get the fulfilment and the pleasure that people get from eating wonderful food, indulging in sexual behaviour or whatever?
Swamiji: Pleasure is pleasure; it is only the degree of experience that differs. Pleasure is only the continuity of food, of sex, of many other things. What the mind gets is a kind of experience, a kind of sensation, a kind of reaction in the brain and its nerves. It is experienced by individuals in different degrees of enjoyment. But the pleasure derived from food is qualitatively not different from the enjoyment derived from sex- qualitatively. There is only a difference in quantity.
Radio: Is the life of an ascetic, a recluse, difficult?
Swamiji: No. I believe that the life which people in the world are leading is more difficult. The people of every technologically advanced western country face problems of a mental quality: tensions, schizophrenia, stresses, mental diseases and imbalances. They have a lot of problems which they have to work out, and it is for this purpose they have called me to conduct this yoga convention.
Radio: After learning from your teacher in India for twelve years you went on a long pilgrimage in which you covered the entire Indian subcontinent. What did you want to achieve by doing this?
Swamiji: To see the people in the world and their difficulties, to discover how I could understand, serve and love them.
Radio: After living such a sheltered life, were you distressed or surprised by the amount of problems that ordinary people were facing?
Swamiji: No. Even during those twelve years when I lived with my guru I was in touch with people of all continents, because my master, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, was a very famous man. People from all over the world used to come to him and I used to meet them. I was, in a way, aware of the distress of mankind. But later when I was moving all over the continent and all over the world, I lived with the people and shared their joys as well as their sorrows.
Radio: Did this practical experience change your view of life?
Swamiji: Well, I had to know how I could free people from their problems, how I could help them.
Radio: Is that why you spent three years in total isolation?
Swamiji: Yes, I retired and met no one for three years. During this period I established the highest state of consciousness, which we call cosmic consciousness. By remaining in the deepest state of meditation for long hours without being aware of your own existence or of time, space and objectivity - just being in complete awareness of the totality, this state is stabilized. I was in this state for months and years. At the same time I was reflecting, and investigating the mind as to the origin of such things as passion, hatred, jealousy, and nervous depression. Why does a man feel depression in his mind? What is pain? What is distress? I witnessed these and all kinds of things that man has been suffering from. I wanted to discover the exact nature of those things. For that purpose I retired for a few years.
Radio: How did you go about discovering the causes of what had puzzled mankind for thousands of years, the pain, the distress and nervous tension?
Swamiji: Through reflection you can visualize, you can recognize, you can become aware of the processes of the mind by raising your level of awareness a little higher.
Radio: I hear the words that you're saying, but I can't visualize it in my mind.
Swamiji: It is not possible now, but when you are able to evolve your mind to the psychic field you will understand. Just as the scientists are able to visualize on a scientific basis the laser waves and the electromagnetic fields which cannot usually be seen by the naked eye, likewise, the yogic scientist, the yogic thinker, visualizes an idea in the intuitive field or the psychic field.
Radio: When you are reflecting on the basic problems of man in this meditative way, are you alone or do other spiritual entities come in and give advice, help and support?
Swamiji: Well, personally speaking, I believe that these spiritual entities are really my own higher faculties, which did help me.
Radio: What are these other spiritual entities which you see as your own higher faculties? How do they present themselves to you?
Swamiji: Each individual has dormant faculties. At a particular stage of development they manifest themselves. They come in the form of voices, in the form of visions, 'angels' as you call them in religion, and as sudden intuitive flashes. So since I am a master of the pen, I can write things spontaneously for hours together, because these divine, these higher and spiritual faculties also guide my pen, they guide my speech, and my emotions as well.
Radio: Do you see these as part of yourself, and not as an outside element?
Swamiji: The mind is very powerful. It can duplicate itself. You can see it in the form of a ghost, you can see it in the form of an angel, you can see it in the form of an object. The mind has infinite potentiality. It can create matter.
Radio: Do you believe it can create matter, or just create the hallucination that appears as matter?
Swamiji: It can create the hallucination too, but the more powerful mind can create matter.
Radio: After, spending three years in seclusion, did you feel any strain, frustration or worry that it had been two or three years since you had spoken to anybody?
Swamiji: Well, frankly speaking, my life has been missing only one thing. I have never had an experience of pain or frustration, disappointment or discontent. I have tried a number of times to impose these things on myself just to have an experience of them.
Radio: And you can't do it?
Swamiji: No, because I think that somehow or other I have transcended them.
Radio: I understand that in your younger life you did not believe in God, but you subsequently changed your mind. Why did you do this? What persuaded you?
Swamiji: I used to particularly study philosophy, Indian and western, including dialectical materialism. So I thought that God and religion were all rubbish, that they were created by some political brains or social thinkers. I refused to believe in God and the spirit, incarnation, ethics and morality. When I came to my guru I was an atheist. I thought that in meditation you could only experience shoonyata, that is, void, and nothing else, a blank. That was my ultimate philosophy. But my master said, 'No, meditation is not nothing, it is a totality of experience, it is a complete experience', and he used the word 'divine'. He also told me that I must have love, devotion and faith in God.
Radio: Did you believe him when he said that?
Swamiji: I heard him, but didn't believe. I accepted it, but didn't believe. For fully six years I was fighting with him.
Radio: What was it that changed your mind?
Swamiji: I had visions, I heard voices, I had instructions, and I knew that my guru was right, and that I had been wrong during those years. After this mystical experience, how could I, a puny person, deny without having the knowledge of the totality? There had to be a God, a creator, higher things in life, even though I may not have seen them.
Radio: Some people in western society say that the same spiritual insights can be achieved by means of LSD and hallucinogenic drugs.
Swamiji: Well, to those people I would say 'No', but not because I am a fanatic of the spiritual life and yoga. Drugs do alter the state of consciousness, however, they do not change the consciousness. You see, making a little impact on consciousness is different from the evolution of consciousness. I am aiming at the evolution of consciousness, not at inflicting a little change in consciousness. The mind and consciousness are two different things. All these drugs do change the mental perception of external experience, but the spiritual experiences cannot be brought about by them at any cost.
Radio: From the moment you thought that your guru was right, that God existed, that the ultimate experience was not just a blank, was not just a void- from that point on, has your faith ever been shaken?
Swamiji: Never. That was realization for me.
Radio: How did it happen?
Swamiji: Suddenly, like a flash, overnight. For hours together I could not sleep. I was only aware of one idea, 'God, love, God, faith'.
Radio: Would you say that yoga is a religion in itself, or a means of using the religion you have?
Swamiji: Yoga is not a religion, but a person who has a religion, who has faith in God, may use yoga for successful devotion, for a more successful spiritual life, and for disciplining his body and mind.
Radio: Do you think that yoga is a way for the world to achieve harmony and understanding?
Swamiji: I have come to the conclusion that the people of the world who have been working for creativity and also enjoyment will have to come to yoga in order to lead a better, fuller and more satisfying life, because yoga is not negation, it is acceptance.
Radio: What about Christianity?
Swamiji: It is the yogic aspect of Christianity that has to be more predominant, more effulgent and, more expressive. After all, Christianity is not anti-yoga, and yoga is not anti-Christian.
Radio: What do you think that yoga has to offer on a practical level to the people who are listening right now, to the people who have jobs, who live in the world and who are unable to spare much time for devotion and study?
Swamiji: Those who are really keen to benefit themselves by yoga must set apart half an hour to one hour for themselves every morning, take to a few yogasanas postures a few pranayama exercises, and then the practices of concentration and meditation. This will help to bring them nearer to themselves. Man is very far from himself today. He doesn't know where he is. Through yoga practices he will relax and become aware of his own self again.