LH: Welcome to talk Asia, I'm Lorraine Hahn. This week we're talking with one of the world's foremost authorities on the ancient traditions of yoga meditation. Swami Veda Bharati Maharaj has walked one of yoga's highest paths for most of his life. By the age of 13, he achieved a scholar's mastery of 20,000 yoga mantras as well as fluency in Sanskrit grammar. During his 52 years of teaching, he has established 30 study centers around the world. He's got students from virtually all faiths and cultural backgrounds and he says that the practical benefits of yoga are extraordinary both for mind and body.
Swamiji, welcome to TalkAsia.
SVB: It's all my pleasure.
LH: Thank you. Thank you very much for coming in. I want to talk to you about yourself personally a bit later in the show because there's so much to talk about as you know but first, let me talk to you about yoga. And just to get our viewers to have a better understanding about yoga, what in your opinion are the key benefits of studying yoga meditation?
SVB: The highest benefit, our ultimate goal is for one to know oneself. What are we? Beyond being about __, being an angry person or anxious person. Beyond being conditioned by our psychologies, is there something other than that which is my true self, which is a pure being of light, life and consciousness. And then to learn to operate from there in our body movement, in our daily business, in a very busy life. How to maintain an attunement of being that of something that is unconditioned and not touched by any of this. All the rest is just auxiliary to that one goal.
LH: Is it physical? Is it mental?
SVB: It is all of them but the whole point is that the spiritual guides the mental. Mental guides the physical and not the other way around. Most people go from the physical to the mental to the spiritual but this journey of yoga is right from the very core of your being and then from there to let it filter outwards to the rest of the world.
LH: Swamiji, can anybody do yoga? Maybe some people may have an impairment or disability?
SVB: It has nothing to do with impairments. The only impairment we recognize is very serious psychopathic conditions. During which, we do not give the normal systems that we give to other people. Otherwise, the youngest child is best. And the older people, even I have given lessons to dying people so that they can leave in peace. Just go there and let the consiousness be shifted so that they are not going through with fear and pain and suffering. So, any condition, any situation. And above all, I have a title of a lecture I normally give and that is Speak only when you are in silence. Eat only when you are fasting and Meditate on the run.
LH: That almost sounds like contradictions to me.
SVB: They're not contradictions. They're complimentary. They may sound more like Zen koans, but that is what the Zen Koans are made of or the Chinese traditions of Koans. The yoga tradition, all of that unites then. They are not contradictions. While you are looking with your eyes you are thinking with your mind so while you're driving, instead of counting all the transgressions of your neighbor, you could be counting the benefits that the Lord has bestowed on you and keeping a very contemplative, meditative state of mind.
LH: Swamiji, is there a difference though between somebody who meditates and let's say a meditation expert? Is there a difference ?
SVB: It depends on who wants to advertise oneself as a meditation expert. I don't advertise myself as a meditating expert. If I were a meditating expert, I would be a living Buddha.
LH: Who attends these training programs?
SVB: People from all walks of life. Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, scientists, professionals, housewives, very young people. I teach children from the age of 2 or 3.
LH: That must be interesting
SVB: Yes, that is the most interesting part. I can teach meditation to a 2 year old.
LH: And they can grasp the concept?
SVB: They do not need to grasp the concept. The states of mind are not taught. The states of mind are caught.
LH: So I presume with a child, then the innocence is there. Is that right Swamiji?
SVB: Their minds are not filled with all the cobwebs. All you have to do, what I do is, with a little child is I take meditation shawl and I hold the child like this and he catches the state of mind. Mothers can teach that. The best time to teach a meditation to a child is during 9 months of pregnancy.
LH: How do they do that Swamiji?
SVB: Whatever state of mind the mother maintains, passes into the child and then after that, what they have not completed, the work they have not completed during the 9 months, they can complete when they have the child suckling on the breasts. What does the mother do with her breathing during that time, what does she do with her mind at that time? The child catches that sentiment, that emotion. If the mother is breathing shallow, the child learns to breathe shallow. We teach the mothers to breathe deep and relax and pass on that state of mind to the child.
LH: Swamiji, what if about somebody, well maybe myself for example. I'm a busy person like many others here. If I don't have time enough to devote to yoga as much, how would you advise me?
SVB: You are a busy person, no doubt. But I'll tell you one thing; I'm more busy than you are.
LH: That is true, when you travel 9 months of the year.
SVB: 9 months of the year. And whatever little I have achieved. Half of it has been achieved sitting at American airports. There is plenty of time. There is time when you are waiting between appointments; there is time when you are standing at a stop waiting for your car to drive up. There is time when you are waiting for an airplane; we just don't recognize that we have time for ourselves.
LH: And during that time Swamiji, what should I do?
SVB: OK I think towards the end of this session, we are going to lead all our viewers through 4-5 minutes or whatever length of time we have available and I'll show them what they can do with that time. But that is just one step, very beginning step I'll lead them through and all of your viewers or a large number of them will feel an affect right there and then.
LH: I look forward to that Swamiji. We're going to take a short break, please stay with us. TalkAsia will be right back.
LH: Welcome back to TalkAsia, we're continuing our conversation with Swami Veda Bharati. He's one of the world's foremost scholars on yoga and meditation. Swami Jii, you mentioned about the various students that come to your meditation centers around the world, they could be Catholics; they could be old, young etc. Talk to me about the Asian cultures, are there particular Asian cultures that are more receptive for example to your teachings?
SVB: I have as yet not found any person in any culture, from any faith, cynics, scientists, skeptics who has not responded to my 5 minutes of meditation, who has not felt a change of the state of mind. But yes I do find that people of Asia respond, all people of Asia respond to it much more naturally.
LH: Why is that?
SVB: Because it has been ingrained for thousands of years. But I would not exclude all western people. People do not realize that in the west also there is a very, very strong meditative and contemplative tradition. And in fact, I have among my collection of three to four thousand hours of audiotapes of my course and lectures. I have something like 50 hours on meditation from the Bible.
LH: Let me take another e-mail question for you. This one is from Cheryl from Singapore. She asks, 'Which yoga mantra has a special meaning for you?' That's a tough one isn't it?
SVB: All right I'll tell you. There is one in the introduction to which, a question is asked. Do I have to go through all these exercises and learn 30 ways of mental exercises done in the corpse positions and 96 ways of controlling the breath rhythms and spend life after life after life doing all of these practices before I'll reach my goal? Or is there a shorter way?
LH: A faster way.
SVB: A faster way. A short cut. Yes, by surrendering to the awareness to the presence of God, to invoke the grace. You may spend hours, years, centuries, doing all kinds of practices and if grace has not been consort because you think you can do it all by yourself, then nothing will happen. So the sutra that deals with that grace, by practicing the presence of divinity, even here, even in this studio, now. That is the short cut and that is my favorite sutra in the very, very first chapter.
LH: I have never heard Sanskrit. Would you kindly share with me a very short version maybe of a sutra you just mentioned?
SVB: (Quotes in Sanskrit) 'One-way is practicing the presence of divinity'.
LH: Sounds beautiful. Sounds beautiful. Swamiji, in the Muslim religion for example, Arabic is used as the so-called best language to study Islam. Is there a language, a source language for let's say yoga?
SVB: OK the source language is Sanskrit. There are many texts in Pali also but if you are going to depend only on a language, then you will never go to that definition of meditation, which we call wordless prayer. Language remains an intellectual exercise. When I teach the Muslims to meditate, I use the sofee systems, and when I teach a Christian, I give a Christian phrase. Wherever you are, even now, if I was not keeping an interior silence, I would be talking like this.
LH: *laughs* ...very much, very much so.
SVB: Ok, so you can practice a state of silence, while speaking, our earlier reference to what seemed like a contradiction.
LH: Swamiji, I mentioned that you knew many, many dialects, many, many languages. Seven and a half, you memorized 4000 sutras I read, all this in a relatively short time. Is this because of meditation or are you just a very clever man?
SVB: No I'm not clever. I'm not clever. I am very stupid, I assure you. Those who are around me will tell you that, will confirm it. Among yogis, there are married people, there are initiates. A few, very few married people who still know the secrets of the tradition. My father taught me meditation and I sat with him for one hour of meditation at the age of four and a half. So he taught me the ways of using the mind. What is happening in the education system today is that children are made to cram, do rote learning. They are not taught to use the mind for the purpose of learning. We have certain methods in meditation by which one can look at something once and know it. It is very relaxed kind of concentration. We call it a practice known as 'yoga nidra' ('yogic sleep'). A conscious rest. Resting all the rest of the mind, and only that portion that is required, for that particular intent, for that particular intention.
LH: Last question before we take another break Swamiji. Was there any time in your life where your teachings and your beliefs were tested? That you really got angry and you really thought, this is not right.
SVB: I used to be very angry actually, earlier in my life. I used to be very angry, very quick to anger and then I read the autobiography of Gandhi, then that had a great impact. Then when my own spiritual guide and master Swami Rama of the Himalayas came onto the scene, he would deliberately try to make me angry and the moment that I would get excited he would say, " Stay Calm". So he trained me and then re-trained me. A wise man is he who, or a wise woman is she who, in the presence for the causes of agitation does not re-act with agitation. But that will not.happen if you repress, it will happen only if you evoke from within. That very positive place that is with us, with all times, just bringing it out, that is all it takes. Being aware.
LH: Understood. Swamiji, we're going to take another short break. We'll be right back. Stay with us, with Swamiji, here on TalkAsia. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
LH: This is TalkAsia we are in the final moments of our conversation with Swami Veda Bharati. Swamiji, now for the question of the week. This one is from Michele in Hong Kong. She would like to know, 'what does a Swami believe about life and death' .
SVB: I would say that I believe in the eternity of the life principle. Not after, not before. It has no beginning, it has no end. It is always ever the same, ever pure, ever wise, ever free. Names and conditions that we attribute to it and we call them bodies. The yogi learns to die consciously?
LH: What do you mean by that?
SVB: He does not die involuntarily. He says my work is done, time to migrate. And he knows the methods whereby together the conciousness, attune it to whatever his knowledge of divinity is and then go wherever he has to go.
LH: Swamiji, would you share with us, not only me but with my viewers. A few moments of how we could actually do this meditation.
SVB: Wherever you are, right now make no formal effort of any kind. Simply bring your awareness to the place where you are sitting. Be aware of yourself from head to toe. If your eyes close, let them close by themselves, lightly and simply relax your forehead.
Just relax your forehead, be still and bring your awareness to your breathing. Only bring the awareness to your breathing. Do nothing with your breath, only follow how the breath is flowing.
Pick a name of God or a name of the Buddha or Yahweh or the name of Jesus, in your language, according to your tradition. Exhaling, think in your mind that name without a break. Inhaling, think that name. Observe how the breaths, the mind and the name are flowing together as a single stream. Continue to feel the flow.
Maintaining the awareness of the flow. Gently open your eyes but continue to feel the flow even with your eyes open. Do you feel any change in the state of your mind? A little calmness?
SVB: See your voice has changed.
VB: Become calmer.
LH: Swamiji, thank you very much. I'll try and practice this as often as I can.
SVB: It can be done anytime, anywhere. Very, very first lesson, first few vowels of the alphabet of meditation we have started.
LH: Swamiji, thank you very much for your time and your teachings, Swamiji.
SVB: All my pleasure.
LH: Well, I've been speaking with Swami Veda Bharati, one of the world's foremost authorities on yoga meditation. Now, you can e-mail me a note if you'd like, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Now you know, I do read them. Keep watching our website cnn.com/talkasia for guest updates. I'm Lorraine Hahn, let's talk again, next week.
Copyright 2002 Swami Veda Bharati/CNN TV.