Sunandaji brings Vedanta to SA youth: She shares the essence of Sanatana dharma, in a way that is real, understandable and sustainable.
“Hatha Yoga, which is the discipline of the body and breathing techniques, it’s conducive for the development of higher values. It works like soil, any form of discipline, you begin with physical discipline, its not not just exercise, you need to bring it into your actions, you need to bring that discipline into your emotions and your thinking too. Hatha yoga is a very good start but you’ll have to give it more nurturing and nourishing with the other disciplines of action, emotion and thought, and take it all the way to the top, to self realisation. You have to go through all the disciplines thereby purfying the psyche and realising the true Self. “
Read the full Interview with Sunandaji conducted by Leanne Glanville Great Hall at WITS on 26th July 2013
Q: How are you reaching the youth in South Africa and abroad?
A. “ Well, what Swamiji (my father) and myself have been doing is to present these ideas to a cross section of society. In fact he has been approaching the more dynamic people in the sense of engaging businesses and professionals and ofcourse the homemakers. As you know, we’ve been talking to the general public and in a way, locating in the universities like this, has attracted the youth. We also have the alumni, stationed in various cities including Gauteng, which are conducting classes. So that’s what we are doing at the moment, for the simple reason that anybody who is really interested in getting the full training needs to come to the academy in India.
There have been quite a few young people from SA who have come to do the three year full time course.”
Q: What principles of Vedanta are still valid in today’s world?
A: “We speak of eternal principles, sanatana dharma, foremost of which is that as a human you are essentially divine, that is your original nature. The fact that every individual is attracted to that divinity within shows this. What we understand is that every human is naturally attracted to being peaceful, being happy, being content… in other words no one can ever say they are excessively happy, “I cant take it anymore”. But, the reverse, if you are unhappy or agitated, you cannot take it, because that isn’t your natural state. You put up with stress and strain but you cant do it all the time, simply because it is not your natural state. The foremost value is to know who you are essentially. We know a lot about ourselves, but nobody knows who we are essentially. That is why we have the sanskrit word dharma, meaning “essential nature of all things”. Now there are not many takers because people are engaged, lost in this temptation that the world offers. So since they do not have the ability to stretch and understand what the truth of life is… that’s a good lot of people and they still need to live their lives and live it happily.
So the relative values, there are three in number, that’s why we call them the disciplines, yoga’s. When you use your physical body, not merely to loose yourself in this world but to achieve something higher, your actions are used not self-centeredly or selfishly but for a higher purpose, to reach the highest, perhaps someday. Then those actions would be considered as karma yoga, the path of action. This is one value, and even if you don’t hit the highest point, all throughout your life, if you practice right actions, you will experience two things. One is dynamism, productivity, efficiency in your actions as a result of which you will be prosperous, materially well off and at the same time you will experience peace and happiness. So this is one value anyone can relate to.
The second would be bhakti, the discipline of the mind. Everyone has emotions and we all have love but when love is centred on yourself or family members, it takes another turn, its called attachment. Its love plus selfishness. That emotion brings about agitations, worries and anxieties. In fact if you see society today, the divorce rate is so high. Its not that people hate each other but they love each other with selfishness. So when you love your partner, when you love your children the time comes when you can’t live together. The same emotion when purified benefits you immediate family connections. and that same purified emotions will take you to the highest. So when you use your emotion, not to get lost in selfishness and attachment, but to take to something highest its called bhakti yoga.
The third value is jnana yoga, knowledge. There is so much knowledge floating about it this world, especially spiritual knowledge. But people will take this knowledge and become scholarly. You can talk about the Gita, the Upanishads, all these great texts but it doesn’t give you that vision of the higher. When you
convert knowledge as a means to the higher, it becomes jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge. Take knowledge as an end in itself, you stay with that knowledge and it doesn’t benefit you further. You have knowledge but not wisdom, you can talk but you don’t live that life. So you could still have the highest knowledge but experience anxieties, worries, stress and strain. There is a big difference between knowledge and wisdom.
Adi Shankacharya says this about true knowledge, “Nitya anitya viveka vicharya.” He speaks of the ability to distinguish between real and unreal. This ability will help you in life. For example in your relationships to a person, spouse, colleagues, children. There is weather and there is climate. You can have good weather but a difficult climate. The climates may be very harsh, but the weather is good that day. You’ve got to be able to understand the difference between what is permanent and what is temporary. The whole world and all its experiences is temporary and that which is permanent is truth. So in the true sense Jnana, the path of knowledge, will lead you to the ability to distinguish between real and unreal.
So if you put it all together you have these three basic values that are eternal values.”
Q: How meaningful is Vedanta wisdom in everyday life?
A: “Everybody is looking for two things, success and prosperity. We are also looking for peace and contentment. If you analyse the world, particularly the broad division between the east and the west, you will find the west is dynamic, prosperous, everybody gravitates towards the west. But by their own admission they have lost their peace of mind. We see it in relationships breaking up, children leaving home early, depression, health issues, mental issues, agitations and break downs. So there is a big struggle, despite the fact that there is so much prosperity.
In the east, typically in a small village, in India perhaps, you’ll find it is so peaceful, people are so content, but then there in so action, its not dynamic, it’s a dead life. Nothing happening. They are very content with their few things, whatever they have…a small farm, a few animals, a small space to grow some vegetables. They live on their own and aren’t aware of what’s going on in the world out there. There’s no connection to the world whatsoever.
Now, you’ll find people have one not the other: either dynamic or peaceful but never together. An ideal life is to put the two together. This is what Vedanta teaches you, how to be dynamic wherever you are and to be peaceful irrespective of circumstances. And this dynamism comes by understanding the true value of action, how to act dynamically. This will help you be progressive and prosperous in life. At the same time, when you look to something higher, When you’re not satisfied with merely living this routine mundane life, you’re going to be more peaceful because your moving away from present vales and developing higher and higher values until you hit the “hundred mark” and realize your own Self. So Vedanta helps you in your day to daily living by giving you the knowledge on how to be dynamic in this world, prosperous, efficient and at the same time absolutely at peace with yourself.”
Q: As yoga teachers how can we participate in the dissemination of this Vedic knowledge?
A: “Well, if you’re referring to hatha yoga, which is the discipline of the body and breathing techniques, it’s conducive for the development of higher values. It works like soil, any form of discipline, you begin with physical discipline, its not not just exercise, you need to bring it into your actions, you need to bring that discipline into your emotions and your thinking too. Hatha yoga is a very good start but you’ll have to give it more nurturing and nourishing with the other disciplines of action, emotion and thought, and take it all the way to the top, to self realisation. You have to go through all the disciplines thereby purfying the psyche and realising the true Self.”