December 7, 2015
I meet Swami Satyânanda Saraswatî to chat a while and for a cup of tea. On my way to the appointment, I am thinking about everything I would like to ask him and I am feeling slightly nervous because he is a monk and his long spiritual baggage. While I could barely correct some of my mistakes (while new ones are appearing), I am just about to meet someone who has spent long time studying in depth the knowledge of who he really is; and I feel great respect for this meeting.
But Swami Satyânanda Saraswatî speaks to me pleasantly, without judgements and with full humility about the self-delusion that we live our lives. And I end up delighted in the conversation, the tone, the message… Maybe is Swami Satyânanda Saraswatî's luminosity, transparency and energy; maybe is the presence in itself (possible to grasp), or the knowledge of who he truly is; all of this makes his words sound like wisdom. The knowledge of someone which has lived and who is been able to transcend this self-deception to become who he is now: a being that just is.
At present leads spiritual retreats, meditations and study and practice groups of the Hindu tradition in Catalonia and other parts of the world. He is the author of “Hinduism”, where explains the world-view essence and the Hindu tradition.
The words of Swami Satyânanda Saraswatî are a gift. I wish you will be overjoyed as much as me.
What is a Swami?
Swami is an expression that shows respect. The word often connotes a monk, someone who is devoted to contemplation and inner quest.
It also means, ‘master of one’s self’, ‘king of one’s self’, is it not?
Yes, it is one of the meanings. ‘Master of one’s self’ does not mean mastering the individual that we believe to be (body, mind, intellect...) but somebody who has recognised that which is before the temporal individuality.
It is possible to master one’s self when the limited “I” stops to be important
And, what is before the individual?
The reality always present in all things.
Can it be possible to master one’s self?
It is possible to master one’s self when the limited “I” stops to be important. So, you spontaneously establish yourself in the free consciousness always present in us.
But, in a world of laws, States… it sounds complicated to be king of one’s self
We talk about an individual recognition. Someone who has achieved inner freedom. Somebody, who in the worst-case scenario or in captivity, would be absolutely free; it is to recognise in oneself that which is transcendent and always free.
And, in which moment of your life have you felt the necessity to study in depth this freedom?
I guess since I was little. My adolescence was quite turbulent. I saw myself in a non-sense world, surrounded by people that were producers and consumers. Some said that they succeeded because they grew rich and others failed because did not have much. It seemed to me a completely absurd world. Till, one day I red ‘Bhagavad Gita’, a Hindu crucial text. Its teaching about our essence, that neither die nor born, that is unaffected by any change and is always free, struck me so much. For the first time, at fifteen years old, I was reading something that made real sense. Shortly afterwards, I began to meditate, to practice yoga, I became vegetarian, and at twenty years old I went to India.
What did you feel for wanting to do all this?
I felt that I wanted to grow and deepen my knowledge and that I needed a teacher. I went to very spacious meditation rooms and I noticed in myself the need for a guide. We were in the year 76, in Spain, they were few books on this subject, and I knew nobody with deep knowledge on this path.
Your heart was guiding you to India …
Yes. My heart and a strong feeling that told me that I had to go to the East, and India was echoing to me. The land travel was very rewarding. At that time, lot of Hippies were going there and back. The journey was beautiful: to cross Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan with these so special cities like Herat and Kandahar… I met very interesting people and places of much peace and beauty. Upon my arrival to India, I felt as if I had come back home.
And how we must begin listening to ourselves in order to realise where we have to go?
With fewer wishes and achievements. Just being. Being here and now. Observe. We always want to achieve, and that which we are, we are already that. Regarding the mind, it is easier to obtain something in the future and to say: “in a few years time, I will get this”, than to notice what we are already here and now. The mind never lives in the present. Therefore, It is necessary to stop the time, to stop the mind, in order to grasp this immediate experience of recognition.
Just being. Being here and now. Observe. We always want to achieve, and that which we are, we are already that
And how I stop the time and the mind?
Being aware of that which is before the mind; that which knows that the mind is happy, sad, afflicted, or full of joy; that which has never changed. To realise, that we are already this. It is to go beyond duality and to recognise our own essence. It is very subtle. When we want to achieve many things, it does not work; because there is an ego reinforcing itself. It is the calm, lovely and as well intense observation of what we already are. Observing.
To observe, what?
Observing that between thought and thought there is one moment of full emptiness and total fullness; and the meaningless of the ‘I’; to observe and to go into this moment. Who I am in this instant? If we can grasp it and enter into this space, we will find a huge silence, an infinitude that we will have to get used to. This is the door towards what we are.
But, right now in this table, who are we?
There is a manifested part in us, “the individual”, Cristina, Satyananda. This part of us that acts, talks, understands, enjoys, suffers, lives and dies. But, at the same time, there is in us something absolutely transcendent, always present, always completed. The one, who in himself recognises those two aspects, is a complete person. If we live just the most external part, when any situation does not happen as we had expected, we feel badly and we suffer. Otherwise, if we are conscious of our inner fullness, we live with some disregard everything that occurs externally. Like a performance, a game, a dance…
And one person that wakes up at seven morning, dress his/her children, makes breakfast, pays his/her mortgage, works, etc. … From where does he/she begin?
Just don’t start anything. He/she just need to realise that which already is. We need to find little moments of stillness in the middle of our daily tasks, short instants of silence, though they are ten minutes. Just to sit down and do nothing, to stop wishing to get somewhere. Just by observation of what we are. If we can, to watch the space beyond the mind, to recognise that inside of our inner-self there is a constant silence, to become subtly aware of it.
...if we are conscious of our inner fullness, we live with some disregard everything that occurs externally. Like a performance, a game, a dance…
It sounds as beautiful as complicate at the same time
There is a very beautiful story. Sage Nàrada ask Vishnu: “O Lord, who is the closest devout person to you? And Vishnu replied him: Go to this small village of the earth and have a look. There is an old man in that house. He is my most relevant devout person.” Nàrada came down to the earth, went to the village and looked for the house. He saw that this man woke up at five morning, took care of her sick wife, milked the cows, woke up his children, made the breakfast for them, he took them to school. Worked in the fields and made lunch. He again took care of his wife and kept working in the fields till the evening. Nàrada did not see any sign neither of grandeur nor devotion, he said to himself: “He does not make neither yoga nor meditation. I see neither images nor deities at home, how that can be?“ Nàrada thought that Vishnu was wrong and asked him again. Vishnu responded him: “Come back and look carefully, he is my closest devout person!” Nàrada came back to the earth and saw, when he woke up in the morning, how he went out and looking at the sky, repeated: “Narayana, Narayana, Narayana” (Narayana is a name of the divinity, of the Absolute) and he promptly started his daily tasks till well into the night when, exhausted, looked again at the sky and again repeated with emotion: “Narayana, Narayana, Narayana” with a strong feeling of devotion and fulfilment.
This person had an attitude that always went with him. Besides being submerged in his tasks he kept the recognition of the essence. Then, it is not about to do a lot of things or to force us to do less. It is about of the recognition of what we are, without the tendency wish to obtain. We don’t have to achieve anything. That is the most difficult for the mind.
Why we always wish, look for, wait…
Yes. We must observe without searching. With a passive observation but active at the same time. Gaining presence. Observing us with presence.
Why is so difficult to observe ourselves and to be present?
This is the great game. The Hindu mythology explains that is the same Absolute the one that plays to forget itself that plays to reconnect again. The power of the Absolute is enormous and has many ways to show distractions.
We say so easily that we must observe ourselves, and it seems to be very easy, but it is not at all. The mind is a thought behind another, a distraction, an emotion…
Once Rama asked his master Vasishtha: “how long it will take me to realise what I am?”
Vasishtha replied him: “In the blink of an eye”, one moment, just one moment.
But, even though can be one instant, often we see people who meditate during lot of years, make yoga, are vegetarian, read scriptures, are purified…; everything to arrive at this moment of recognition.
And be able to reach there or not, on what depend?
Depends mainly, of the intensity of our purpose. Many of us are saying: “I want to be free”. Maybe we want to be free, but often we are fully attached to our limitations. Then, which wish of freedom do we have? We easily say that and it sounds very beautiful. This is what happens in the spiritual path. Many people think that they are in the spiritual path, but they have such heavy ballast from their “individuality”, consequently nothing happens or just a little in their process. The mind of the “individual” is always in duality. This recognition of what we talk, is in reality such as death, we realise that we are not the limited “individual”. We die internally and symbolically. We can distinguish that in reality our essence is transcendent. This is the great liberation.
Like when you are a baby, you don’t know who you are and you are not afraid?
In a certain sense the children live a more free condition. It is very beautiful to regard the babies, it seems that they are inside a sea of consciousness. The individual is not yet, but also the knowledge. It is like when we are in a profound dream and we feel in peace. In the profound dream there is just rest. It is a dark space, but we have a rest from all ideas. As here is not conscience of “I” nor are here conscience of “the other”. Because of, when the consciousness is manifested in itself is through a dual manner: “I” and “the other” (aham-idam).
In the dream state with dreams we experiment the world inside us, there is also the “I” (the notion of individuality) and “the other” (the universe or the external reality). However, in the profound dream state there is not knowledge. The baby is in a very expanded state but almost without knowledge. The sage, the wise person, is like a little child but with all the wisdom, in other words, he knows who he is.
And how do we acquire this knowledge? Reading lot of books, meditating, learning from wise people?
The knowledge we are discussing emerges from oneself, is not the knowledge of others. It is the knowledge of what you are. Traditionally is acquired following one path, one teaching. Why?, because, the mind is attached to our body, our ideas, our impressions, our impulses. Hinduism follows a master, a path, and an instruction that, little by little, is opening you to the Reality. And this Reality is increasingly becoming more clear and present. You must follow the master and the guidelines of the path until you are there established. For some people it may be two months and for others the task of a whole life. Sometimes, this recognition might come at the moment of death and death becomes, then, a great moment.
And how do you know that you are on the path?
First, do you follow a path? Do you follow an instruction? Do you follow a teacher? You know that you are on the path because, little by little, you feel more completed and less affected and dependent by what is external.
You know that you are on the path because, little by little, you feel more completed and less affected and dependent by what is external
Usually the human beings rely on many things: on what the others feel about us, on the success of our relationships, on having certain things… Then when you become more and more independent of all this, does it meant that you are on the right path. When there is a satisfaction and joy that does not come from outside but from inside, it means that the path is correct. Even though, sometimes on the path there are also phases of crisis, phases of movement, of inner change. However, in general, you feel more joy, more fullness… And, above all, fewer desires, that means more freedom.
Nowadays there is a lot of movement in this direction, isn't? Many people are looking for their path.
Yes. If one looks at the post-war generation, for instance, generally it was the wish to create wealth again and financial strength, because during the post-war was lot of scarcity. This was the target to many people and had resulted in an economic boom. At present, many young people have not live any shortage; then, if I am not lucking anything and I am not happy, what is going on? I have everything and also they offer me the last generation of telephones, I can make pictures, register videos, and even then I am not happy, I don’t feel complete. And what most of the people do? They keep getting more things or doing more bizarre things; they do bungee jumping and free-fall… And each time they look for something different that can entertain them trying to cover this emptiness. Nevertheless, provided we are a little aware, we will say: “Maybe what I am looking for is not something external to me, possibly what I want is to discover my inner self”. This is very important moment in our life. A moment of existential crisis that can change the way we look into things. If that is not possible, we will always have to move madly outward. There is who is looking for to have relationships, children, more money, greater social power… and a thousand other things. All is the same research, everybody is looking for joy and plenitude, but we will never find it externally. We can find pleasure, but not the permanent joy. Many people can have reached this point where they cannot find the fullness in anything external and are in this exploration. But to what extent we would like to remove from us all the false identifications that we carry? Because we have lot and of every hue! That really will depend of our intensity and our will to reach the bottom line. It is important to note that nowadays there is a trend and a big market of pseudo-spirituality, however it is also true that there are people willing to know themselves more deeply.
Probably you talk with many afflicted people or people that suffer.
Everybody is afflicted. Even the happiest. It is included in the condition from our identification with anything finite: as long as we hold on to the limitations and the finiteness, there is anguish.
Well, maybe it is the way to recognise happiness.
Correct. What do we do? We look for pleasure and joy and we try to avoid that which creates pain and suffering. But pain always comes to us in one way or another. We live in a changeable world, where everything is transitory and ephemeral. We cannot cling to anything. The mind would like if certain things do not change, like the person who I love, I like that way, but two years later he/she is not the same, has changed, and I suffer. We constantly find that we have these endless expectations. Anything that has name and shape is a sea of change. And we should live in this sea of change looking for in ourselves the external reality that never changes.
And when you find yourself in front of somebody that suffers, you would not like to be a magician and to release him/her from his/her pain?
Yes, of course. But even in this person’s anguish there is room to non-suffering. And if he/she is able to take that into consideration, can find this space and all his/her torment can become relative.
When we enquire the meaning of the suffering, we see that in many cases the reason is in our expectations and ourselves. We can transform this attitude. Most of the time, suffering is our own construction. There are people that cling to anguish and cannot just let it go. We could live without suffering or with the minimum suffering. But to change attitude has to come up from inside.
Most of the time, suffering is our own construction. There are people that cling to anguish and cannot just let it go
It is said that when you suffer, physically you secrete hormones that can become attached to you.
Yes. This is like that mother that suffers if you leave Spain, suffers if you live in Spain, suffers because you work too much and also suffers if you don’t find any work. Whatever you do always suffers. Often, this person has solidified the anguish; it is there her identification and becomes part of her character. We have to awaken to go beyond and to live in a more expansive way. But, it has to be the person’s will. Without that is very difficult.
We must be responsible…
Yes. Certainly, our master can show us a fruit, but who eats it is each of us. It has to exist between us this will to change and to transcend the limitations.
And the gratitude, how it can help us?
When you see more this manifested plan as what it really is, if you see it like the dance of the conciousness, like a free expression of joy, the gratitude will emerge more. Sometimes, looking at the sky, a tree, a little bird, you may end up crying of gratefulness, of such perfection everywhere; the gratitude for the huge perfection in everything and that always exist. Look at your body, its functioning; when you observe it with gratefulness is very exciting. We can send this gratitude to others, gratefulness to our parents, to our brothers, to those people who have accompanied us in our life. When we are in front a meal, we are in front the effort from who has planted the seeds, who has watered and harvested, of the rain, the sun, and the wind. We must recover the feeling of gratitude and the sacredness of life. There is nowadays a severe limitation that leads us to live as if we were just isolated entities.
We must recover the feeling of gratitude and the sacredness of life
Well, we thank when there is a monetary exchange!
Correct! Unfortunately we live in an economic world. It is a total reductionism of human beings. The contemporary man must recover the cosmovision, should again consecrate his life. Consecrate the details of life: how we take care of our children, how we take them to the school, how we talk with our employees and how we act in each moment. Consecrate all activities. In that case, life changes. That is this inner change. That is to tell us: “I don’t want to live like the television or the radio say, I don’t believe it!” Allowing a space and making this change.
I am grateful for chatting with you this time! Before I say goodbye, however, I would like that you explain me something about the book you have written.
The title of the book is “The Hinduism”, it has also been published in Spanish. It is an introduction to the Hindu tradition. The Vedas, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Bhagavad Gita, the Dharma Shastras, the sacredness of life, the samskaras or rites of passage, the pilgrimage, the temple and the pilgrimage, the Hindu festivities, are some chapters of the book.
The book exposes the essence of the Hindu cosmovision. This is a book that makes me happy about the process that has meant to me writing it.
You have written a book, and have you already planted the tree?
Yes, some, in India. I have planted trees in several ashrams where I lived. Here in Catalonia I will plant one!