Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Interview with Swami Gyan Dharma


1.      When, and how, did you discover Yoga?
I was in my early twenties and living in Copenhagen.  At that time, I did not know anything about Yoga, but I was looking for a way forward in my self studies none the less. I had been trying to come to grips with the; “who am I?” question for some years, mostly through the study of western psychology.  However I was increasingly feeling something was missing from the psychology approach.  I felt that what I was looking for was more than just a rearrangement of thoughts and emotions.
On my daily commute I used to pass this tiny little bookshop, in one of those old alleyways in inner Copenhagen. Every time I passed I would look, but just in passing, not really consciously noticing the books that were on display in the window. But something must have registered, and little by little, my interest was awakened by a book called the Bhagavad Gita.  In those days you did not see those kind of books in many places, they where rare, now of course everybody knows them.  At that time very few people knew about eastern spirituality.  So one grey rainy afternoon I walked into the shop, under the magnetic influence of the Bhagavad Gita, and purchased it.  Once I started reading, I never put it down until I had read it from cover to cover.  I knew intuitively that I had stumbled across a philosophical outlook on life that made sense to me. It felt very deeply that in contained a profoundly deep insight into the truth of life and death.
The word Yoga is repeated again and again in the Gita, and we are encouraged to follow the path of Yoga as a means of realizing deeper truths for ourselves.  It contained a promise of a practical method towards a higher kind of self knowledge. Soon after that I enrolled in my first Yoga class.  Now 35 years later I am still working away, with all the tools Yoga offers, to realize fully, the bigger version of who I am.

2.     Can you describe your Yoga practice (what aspect of yoga most touches your heart)?
Swami Gyan Dharma leading kirtan in the Sadhana Hall
These days, as I have been doing all these years, I do a little of every kind of Yoga everyday. A little asana, a little pranayama, and my daily morning and evening meditation practice.  However, I have developed a particular fondness for chanting, and chanting now forms a big part of my daily practice. Chanting opens up the heart, it connects us spiritually to everything around us.  It slowly but surely it stills the inner mental noise and streamlines the mind bringing it to one points.

3.     Can you describe how yoga affects your daily life?
It not so much that Yoga affects my daily life, now these days, Yoga is my daily life, I don't have any other life apart from that.

4.     Has there been a moment in your years of Yoga that stands out (or a peak experience & how did you integrate this experience?
There have been many moments of realization.  This happens when we practice for 35 years. However I think that what stands out as the highlight of my involvement with Yoga, is the years I spent living with my Guru, Swami Satyananda, in Munger.  It was during those years that the foundation of the whole of my spiritual life was created. There is great beauty in living with a teacher, not many things in life can compare to that.

5.     Is there a text/ book that you find inspiring?
Well as I mentioned earlier, the Bhagavad Gita is a book of great beauty, we can all benefit from the wisdom it contains.  The Yoga Vasishtha is another book of great depth and wisdom.  It is imbued with a wonderful sense of humour and contains lots of eccentric stories which illustrate the pitfalls and the highlights of spiritual practice.

6.     Can you tell us about a favorite retreat of retreat centre?
My favourite retreat centre is Mandala Yoga Ashram in Wales, a place I visit regularly. It is no doubt a gem in the spiritual landscape of Great Britain.  It is a special pleasure for me to spend time there, teaching and learning.

7.     Could you share one of your favorite quotes?
My favourite quote is from Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.  When asked about how to realize your innermost nature, he used to say: If you want to find water, you dig one hole 50 meters deep, not 50 holes one meter deep! I have taken this approach to spiritual practice.

8.     If you could practice/study with any yogi (dead or alive), who would you choose and why?
Swami Gyan Dharma (& Nishcam) in Munger
I have been lucky to live and study with Swami Satyananda; I spend many years with him in Munger.  He was the catalyst that led to my involvement with spiritual life; he was the inspiration that kept me going through thick and thin.  I never had any interest in spiritual teachers, prior to meeting Swamiji, and now, these days I keep living with him, an ever present guiding light deep inside myself.

Hari Om Tat Sat.

A Reflection on Chanting

By Digambara 


With a background in music, I never imagined that moving to Mandala Yoga Ashram would actually bring me closer to its essence. Chanting is an integral part of ashram life, and it has reconnected me with a sense of devotion; a quality I thought I had lost, especially in relation to music. Devotion was present when I first struck a note; I would lose myself in the world of sound, immersed in the awe that it inspired, feeling that it arose from something beyond me. Though unarticulated and unconscious, the seed of devotion is what first inspired me to make music. This pure motivation is what became obscured; insecurity and egoic striving for complexity and originality consumed it. Yet, through chanting, a conscious return and reconnection with music, as a gateway to devotion, is taking place. And this time, it is consciously establishing itself as a means of union and being. It acts as a mirror to the motives of my body and mind.  Now-ness is expressed in its movement; it can carry me in its presence if I let it. And, it is not what sounds I make but how I make them that connect me with devotion and awe.