Press Interview in Bogotá with Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Q. This festival is about yoga and health. Does yoga really help to bring about a state of good health?

A. Although people were very sceptical about yoga in the beginning, now the whole picture has completely changed. In recent years scientific studies have revealed that yoga does work. The effects of yoga have been studied and tests have shown the influence of the practices on the human mind and body. Besides this, the number of yoga schools opening every day throughout the world is a positive indication that everywhere people are improving their physical and mental health through yoga.

Q. Do the practices of yoga affect the body directly or do they influence the body through the mind?

A. The science of yoga works from both ends. For example, the practices of hatha yoga improve the physical health and this influence is transferred to the mental body. The practices of raja yoga improve the mind and this influence is transferred to the physical body. Therefore, the processes of yoga, in general, are somo-psychic and psychosomatic both.

Q. What do you recommend to a person who is suffering from mental and physical illness?

A. For those people, my personal advice is to devote a few minutes every day to the practice of yoga postures and a little time to yogic relaxation.

Q. According to yoga, what is the human race suffering from?

A. The main illness today is mental disturbance, which simultaneously affects man's physical condition. Human beings have no control over the behaviour of their own minds. As such, the mind guides them to very unhappy experiences such as worry, anxiety, fear, neurosis, anger, greed, frustration and depression.

Q. Can you say when this sickness started?

A. Well, sickness has always been with man, but in the last few centuries it has accelerated and become much more acute.

Q. Do you think that human beings are born good or bad?

A. The essential nature of every human being is sacred and positive. But as he is exposed to various environments and situations in life, he forgets his nature for the time being and acts in a negative way.

Q. When we are dealing with the outside world, should we face it straight on, or try to escape from it by going inside? What is the yogic approach?

A. The external circumstances of life have to be faced through a mind that has been made more capable by the practices of yoga and meditation. The path of meditation is not a path of escape. It is a method of processing the mind and giving it precision and quality. With this transformed quality of mind, you can face any difficult situation in life, not only with peace and tranquility, but with greater humility and possibilities.

Q. What does yoga say about higher forces?

A. Yoga is a science which believes in the eternal existence of two forces, matter and energy. When these forces interact, the whole creation comes into being, not only on this planet, but everywhere in the universe.

Q. What do you think the world is heading towards now, with so much talk of impending wars, violence and disaster?

A. You have read history and you know there have always been wars and there will be wars in the future as well. But at the same time, the consciousness of man is heading towards higher life. Throughout the whole world, man is becoming more and more aware of his spiritual nature. As such, in spite of the wars, conflicts, death and destruction that are taking place and shall take place in the future, the horizon of man has silver linings.

Q. What do you think about psychic healing?

A. Psychic healing is one of the powers of the mind. A mind which has been purified by yogic practices is capable of sending positive healing forces for the curing of oneself and others.

Q. Does yoga agree with parapsychology?

A. Yes, parapsychology is one of the faculties of yoga.

Q. In ancient times yogis always travelled by foot. Why is it that nowadays they go by car, train and plane all over the world?

A. The saints and sages have always moved amongst the people on foot. That is the tradition. In India this is called parivrajaka. For a certain period, the renunciates lead a homeless life, wandering from place to place. I have also done this from 1956 to 1963. During that period I visited practically every part of India, Burma, Ceylon, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, mostly on foot. But since 1968 I have been carrying the message of yoga to all parts of India and the world. Now I have to reach a greater number of people, so I travel by car, train and plane.

Q. Are there ever any objections to yoga by the people of different countries?

A. In all the countries we have been to, there has been no objection to our entry, to our moving in this way, to our teaching yoga, to our giving mantra or sannyasa diksha to the citizens, as long as we don't talk politics. We can speak in socialist countries on how yoga should be practised by politicians, and they don't object to that. But discussion of political conflicts and differences in other countries creates a real problem.

Q. Do you think if politicians practised yoga, they would eventually leave politics, or would they begin to improve the political situation?

A. When a politician, businessman, housewife, school teacher, or a factory worker practises yoga, it is not necessary to leave his profession. In the course of time, as he develops a better frame of mind, a greater insight into life, the quality of his work improves. He will become a superior politician with greater insight, a more efficient businessman capable of making intuitive decisions, a teacher or professor with direct and powerful expression, a housewife able to manage the affairs of the family and the children.

Q. Can you give an example of such people who are practising yoga in the world today?

A. Yehudi Menuhin, the great violinist, practises yoga. Mrs Indira Gandhi, the most powerful Prime Minister of India, practises yoga. The Duke Of Windsor practises yoga. The Queen of England practises yoga, and George Harrison, father of the pop tradition, practises yoga. In fact, there are many great people who are practising yoga in the world today.

Q. What is the highest guidance a guru can give?

A. Love, and to show you the inner path and explain the realities.

Q. Is it tiresome to be a guru?

A. It is tiresome for many, but for me it is not, because I don't feel that I am a guru. My relationship with everybody I come across is in the form of friend, guide and philosopher. This is a very relaxing relationship which gives me joy and contentment, so that when I die, I can write on a piece of paper that I died in peace.

Q. What is the reason why yoga is so popular in the west?

A. Technology is very popular in the orient, and yoga is very popular in the west. This is because western people did not have the spiritual traditions of yoga and eastern people did not have the technological sciences. Man needs both. Therefore, the west is adopting yoga and the east is adopting technology. This is how we are trying to complete our lopsided personalities.

Q. What is the greatest difficulty that you have encountered in bringing yoga to the western world?

A. No difficulties, it has been very easy. Because western people are craving for peace and spiritual knowledge, and eastern countries are craving for technological culture and knowledge. Therefore, the scientific men of the west have no difficulty in exporting their technological culture to the east, and I am also having no difficulty in exporting the spiritual culture to the west.

Q. Does this exportation from east to west allow for distortion of the facts?

A. When exported to the west, the yogic teachings will be distorted by a few insincere people. But, in general, the majority who are craving for spiritual life will definitely realize the distortion in the teachings very soon, and they will again try to discover the real form of yoga. Of course, this is already happening here.

Q. Do you think that religious teachings can bring the same advantages that yoga brings?

A. Religion cannot be practised with a dissipated mind or an infirm body. Therefore, yoga will have to be practised by people who sincerely want to follow their own religion. Thereby, they will attain peace of mind, concentration and a prayerful mood.

Q. What do you think about Christ and his teachings?

A. The same as the Christians think. The teachings of Christ were meant to bring man face to face with the supreme reality, to bring him closer to spiritual experience.

Q. What is your religion?

A. Since I became a swami I have had no religion of my own, but I was born a Hindu. When I took sannyasa, I ceased to belong to any religion or sect. A swami must have respect and adoration for every faith, rishi, scripture and religion. Therefore I am a Roman Catholic with the Roman Catholics, a Muslim with the Muslims and a Hindu with the Hindus, but unto myself I am nothing.

Q. According to you, what should the purpose of practising a religion be?

A. The purpose of practising a religion is to open the closed doors of the mind and realize the higher consciousness.

Q. What are your personal requirements?

A. I have to take care of this body for the time being. However, I have no family, no bank account, no number.

Q. If you are totally dedicated to spiritual life, how do you maintain yourself?

A. My material needs are very few. I need something to eat to maintain the body, and that I get very easily. I only wear two pieces of cloth and I can manage with them for a few years. When you have minimum needs, you have minimum dependence.

Q. Do you ever experience that hilarious type of laughter?

A. No, I can only express myself in jubilance. I can laugh with you, but happiness is something more than that. Happiness is an experience of the mind, not merely the expression of the emotions. It is an inner experience or feeling. If you want me to join you in joy and jubilance, I can always do that. But laughter is not necessarily an indication of jubilance.

Q. Is the love match accepted in yoga? How have you experienced love?

A. You see, I have received so much love from people, and I have given love to so many people, that I don't really need just one person to give me love or to take my love. I have very much love in me and I also receive very much love, but I know that I cannot receive from one person and give to one person only.
As such, love is not anti-yoga. On the other hand, yoga improves the quality and the quantity of love so much that you are able to give to many people, not only your girlfriend or boyfriend. Well, all are my girlfriends and boyfriends.

Q. Is there any rule that prevents you from getting married if you ever want to?

A. No, I can marry any time. My religion will not excommunicate me. Man is born free, and his religion cannot bind him. I became a swami by my own free will and decision. If I think that married life would be a better way for me to realize the higher values of life, I can always do it. There is no religious rule that forbids me.

Q. Does that mean you have never thought that marriage would be the best thing in life for you?

A. I have thought about which way would bring the best expression to life, marriage or sannyasa. Ultimately, I came to the decision that I don't really need marriage as such, because there is no fun in it.

Q. How many hours do you sleep?

A. Whenever I get time I can sleep. But generally I sleep for about 3 to 4 hours.

Q. What is a normal day for you?

A. For me every day is different. The time is also different. Here, it is 10 o'clock; in Spain it is 1.30. So, if I were in Spain, this would be my lunchtime. If I were in India, it would be past midnight and I would be sleeping now.

Q. In yoga, is one meant to practise discipline or sacrifice?

A. Discipline is imposed, and sacrifice is spontaneous from within. Yoga is a discipline but the disciple practises it as a sacrifice. Discipline is a social institution, and sacrifice is internal and spontaneous.

Q. Could you explain a little bit about the new psychic race?

A. Today people are practising yoga throughout the world and as a result, they are becoming more spiritual. Their minds and consciousness are changing. In time, these people should influence the future generations, so that they are based on spiritual concepts, rather than materialism. That race, known as the psychic race, will flourish in the Aquarian age.