Kapur: Swami Satyananda is the disciple of the renowned Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh. In 1964, he founded the Bihar School of Yoga with a view to taking the message of Yoga all over the world and carrying out scientific research into tantric and yogic texts. The message of Swami Satyananda has been distilled in a number of books such as 'Teachings of Swami Satyananda'. 'Yoga Nidra', 'Meditations from the Tantras', and many others. Swamiji, three years ago you came to Bangalore and gave your blessings to this town for the establishment of a yoga nucleus for South India, and after a period of just three years you are here again presiding over the First South India Yoga Convention. I hope you are satisfied with the response you have received from aspirants in this part of the country.
Swamiji: I am very much satisfied with the enthusiasm with which people have accepted the yoga sadhana in this city. In the last three years the yoga movement has spread with great speed, not only in Bangalore but also in the neighbouring states.
Kapur: In this connection, some questions come to our minds. It has been said that in the past, yoga was available only to those who actually sought after it, and also there are stories that gurus put the aspirant to a variety of tests before accepting him as a disciple. But now the yogis are going into the world to spread the message using the most modern audio-visual aids to inspire people. Some people say that it is bad, that we are demeaning yoga and diluting it. What are your comments on this?
Swamiji: Well, I think with some higher aspects of yoga such as samadhi and kundalini yoga, it is necessary to test the disciple. But yoga has many more things to contribute to the welfare of humanity in the form of therapy, relaxation and developing creative intelligence, and I think for that it is not necessary that he should be tested.
Kapur: Your mission has centres all over the world now and the popularity of yoga is increasing, not only in India, but in many other countries. It is surprising, but we feel there is much more dedicated interest in the West than in India, its original homeland. Why is this so? Are Westerners more advanced spiritually?
Swamiji: I do not necessarily agree. There is another point to make here, and that is the picture of yoga in the West is very clear and well-organised, as the Westerners are a well organised community, but in India the interest in yoga is far greater than in Western countries, only the picture here is not clear, for as you know, we are not a people who belong to statistics.
Kapur: Swamiji, in your own writings you have called yoga "The Culture of Tomorrow", and Sri Aurobindo has talked of yoga as "helping in the evolution of a new man." What does this mean? Are we looking for a new species coming up?
Swamiji: Manifestation of a new type of awareness throughout the world is to come. Yoga is definitely going to be a very mighty world culture. It will direct the destiny of mankind and all other systems of society. Even today, it is yoga that has brought religions, political ideologies, economic systems and societies under one canopy.
Kapur: We are told that yoga can help in the treatment of physical and mental illnesses. A number of researches have shown us the usefulness of yoga in the treatment of blood pressure, arthritis, asthma etc. I am a psychiatrist and I am especially interested in knowing how yoga can help in mental illness?
Swamiji: When you practise yoga you are transforming your nature and at the same time you are improving the quality of your mind. Through the practices of hatha yoga you are trying to balance the influxes of the nervous systems, which of course affects our mental behaviour. There is also a very integral system in the hatha yoga philosophy called the balancing or compensation in the granthis (knots) which we would say are endocrines. Through the practices of hatha yoga, raja yoga and bhakti yoga there is always a possibility of bringing about a state of mind or emotion, a biological process, through which the mental disorder descended from any of these sources can be eradicated.
Kapur: So yoga can even influence the biochemical imbalances which occur in the brain?
Swamiji: Oh, sure! Even through the practice of pranayama, by a process of concentration, and by creating a change in the brain wave patterns.
Kapur: Swamiji, you mentioned just now different types of yoga-raj a yoga, hatha yoga, bhakti yoga etc. Would you say different types of people are suited to different kinds of yoga or can anybody practise any of these?
Swamiji: For spiritual purposes, the temperament is most important for the selection of yoga: dynamic temperament for karma yoga, emotional for bhakti, mystic or psychic for raja yoga, rational for gyana yoga, but when we task about therapy we have to understand what the illness is like. If it results on account of indolence and lethargy then karma yoga; if it is due to emotional imbalance, then bhakti yoga.
Kapur: Now that so many books have been written about yoga, would you still say that it is essential to have a guru for learning yoga, or can people learn yoga without a guru?
Swamiji: It is a matter of simple common sense. Books do guide us but we need a teacher also, not only in yoga but in every field of science. There are so many things which can only be revealed by a guru because he knows the disciple. Books don't know the disciples.
Kapur: This 'guru' is probably different from the teachers in schools and colleges. The relationship is different, is it not so Swamiji?
Swamiji: When you study yoga as a subject, an ordinary teacher is all right, but if you aspire for higher experience you need a man who can instil or transmit experience.
Kapur: How important is the belief in God or deities for learning yoga? Can an atheist benefit from yoga?
Swamiji: For yoga, it is not important whether you believe or you do not. Even an atheist can start yoga, but after some time he begins to believe in a higher form of consciousness. He may not call it 'God' but he may call it 'higher awareness', which is not individual but cosmic. All right; what is in a name?
Kapur: We have been talking about some of the common questions which come to peoples' minds. In your travels you must have come across people having very great misconceptions about yoga. Could you mention some of them?
Swamiji: Oh, lots of misconceptions! Some think yoga is Hindu Dharma; others think yoga is tantric and occult. Yet others think that yoga is a sort of witchcraft. Some religions think it is a science of Satan. There are misconceptions, but I think it does not really matter because the thinking people of science, and Sanskrit scholars, know yoga and understand it very well.
Kapur: So, one final question Swamiji. What do you think yoga has to offer on a practical level to people who are listening now, who have jobs, live in the world and whose time is limited?
Swamiji: Yoga has to offer health, peace of mind freedom from tension, and the possibility of a higher quality of mind. For that they must set apart at least thirty minutes from their life and invest it in the practices of yoga for mental and spiritual well being.