Interview with Premananda
The nature of enlightenment
In zen they refer to this idea of “before enlightenment washing dishes, afer enlightenment washing dishes.” In other words outwardly nothing changes but inside there are profound changes. What is enlightenment?
When we are born there is a peace in us that gradually changes as we get older creating a sense of separation, an ‘I’ that is separate from the ‘us’. This can lead to suffering and often from this people are led to a spiritual path which can lead them to ‘awakening’ or ‘enlightenment’. This enlightenment is really no more than a realisation of that which we lost or ‘forgot’ as a child. It is like going home rather than a new discovery. When we reach this point of awakening or realisation there is a sense of freedom, we become less concerned with preoccupations of the past and present and the ‘worries’ of daily life. So while outwardly nothing changes, inside there is a profoundly different experience of life and what happens around us.
The path to enlightenment. From a personal perspective and experience with the teachers in the film what is your advice for people looking to travel this path
3 steps which can help on the path to enlightenment. First, stop talking! Stick to the essentials; stop all the daily chatter that we fill our lives with. This helps to quieten the mind in the first place. From here we can go to the second stage which is a spiritual practice, whether it be meditation, chanting, yoga, tai chi – whatever suits your temperament. This helps to further quieten the mind, helps us relax be at one with ourselves and our environment and starts to open us up to the more profound questions such as ‘Who am I?’ At this point we may need a true spiritual master as opposed to a teacher and often as the saying goes “when the student is ready the master appears”. If you are looking for a master and think you have found someone it is a good idea to take part in some of their activities to see if they resonate with you and from there you can decide whether to follow their path.
East and west
The DVD covers Indian masters but now there are also many western masters – do you think western students go with western masters, do cultural similarities help the spiritual process.
30 years ago when I started on the path there was little choice. Krishanmurti was westernised although an Indian by birth and Gurjiev was Russian, but generally there were very few spiritual masters and the vast majority of spiritual seekers travelled East to India, Japan, Tibet or Thailand. In 20 years there has been a big change and many westerners who have immersed themselves in these disciplines have come back with profound teachings to share. Also the technology revolution has made the path to spiritual awakening more accessible both in terms of people being able to research spiritual masters online and even participate in their activities – I run a satsang every Monday where people can join in, experience Satsang and ask questions. It has also allowed masters to bring themselves to a wider audience through websites, web broadcasts and networking. It was interesting to note at a conference in Moscow where 7 ‘masters’ were taking part in a conference that the best attended was the talk by the Indian master, so I think some of the Eastern mysticism still has a powerful attraction, although there are certainly cultural issues for people to overcome which may slow down a person’s spiritual journey. My DVD on western masters should be ready by spring 2010
What is Satsang?
Sats means truth and Sang means meeting, so satsang is a meeting in truth where, with the help of a teacher who knows this truth, we should be able to see that there are other possible ways of being. Satsang helps to open people up these possibilities, and once they are open I can give guidance.
What are the benefits of Satsang
Lots of people who come to Satsang have had spontaneous awakenings or moments of insight, maybe in the supermarket, and satsang can be a good place for them to put these experiences into perspective and understand them better.
What do you hope to achieve when you run a satsang meeting
In satsang I try to plant this seed that there is another way and once people are more experienced to help to guide them by answering their questions. We use questions and answers as these can be illuminating for the people asking them and also others in the satsang – my job is to shake the balloon of funny ideas – to give answers that make people think in a different way.
Do you refer to a moment when ‘enlightenment’ arrived? Or is it a process of gradually attaining awakening?
The actual moment of realisation is instantaneous. One minute you are not awake and the next you are. But the process to reach that point can be over many years and can follow the path we talked about earlier.
If you attain ‘enlightenment’ what next? How does daily experience differ, does what we do matter at all in this state?
When you find your own nature, awaken so to speak, there is a deep contentment, there is no more searching necessary and we become very peaceful inside. My own path led me to wanting to share this with other people so I have been travelling for 12 years giving talks, interviews, now writing books and sharing satsang.
How did you enjoy your time in Spain and what did you take away from it?
Spain was very interesting with some lovely groups of people – in the groups there was a mix of nationalities – 50% Spanish and 50% mix of other countries. We formed a community here in Germany 5 years ago which is also a mixed nationality group and I felt there might be an interest in a similar community in Spain. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who would like to develop this project. To find a suitable venue, an old hotel or farm, and to start a community based on what we have done here in Germany. People can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This post is also available in: Spanish