This is an edited transcription of an interview with Swami Prajnanananda Giri for the
"PhenomeNews" radio program in Detroit, USA, in December 1996.
Interviewer: Swamiji, you have quite a diverse background. You were born in India, and you were a professor in Economics before you started the spiritual path. At what moment did you realize that being a professor wasn’t what you wanted to do?
Swamiji: Actually, I have been spiritual since childhood. From when I was young, I began searching for a master who could guide me in the path of love, truth, and spirituality. Eventually, I found my master, under whom I studied, meditated, and tried to realize the truth of all religions — the truth of life, the love, the basic principle of life — by practicing the technique of Kriya Yoga that he taught me. So it was not an accident; rather, my search was a spontaneous and continuous way through which I exercised the impetus to find my master and to find my way to walk that path.
Interviewer: How did you know that your master was your master when you found him?
Swamiji: It is very interesting. I used to visit many masters, really searching out who was truly my guide. So when I met my true master, I was able to judge, through the course of my association with him, that he was the real guide who could help me to develop myself and proceed in the path of love and spirituality. So, finding my master was a careful choice that was made in accordance with the love and blessings of God.
Interviewer: Swamiji, why would someone need a master, a guru? Could they not meditate on their own?
Swamiji: We learn everything from somebody — a teacher, a guide. When you learned to read and write, did you not have a guide who taught you? Similarly, in the path of spirituality, it is better to have a guide who can lead you. Even Jesus had a guide — John the Baptist. Jesus guided his twelve disciples and many more. In every spiritual path, in every religion, there is the need for a guide. A guide knows the goal; a guide has reached the goal. The guide says, “This is the goal; come with me; I can take you.”
Interviewer: What is the difference between a "master," a "guru" and a "swami"?
Swamiji: “Guru” is a Sanskrit word that actually means “one who is a realized master.” A guru is the master who has realized the truth, especially one who has realized the truth by following the yogic path and who has obtained the pulseless and breathless state ofnirvikalpa samadhi. The Bible says, “Every day I die,” which means that “every day I go to that state when there is no pulse, no breath.” A master is one who has thorough control over his mind, his breath, and in fact, over all systems of his body. He is constantly conscious of his inner Self and God. In the Indian language, there is “guru” and there is “acharya.” An acharya is a teacher, but a guru is the master, the realized one, the enlightened one. Teachers may be many, but masters are few. A swami may be a master, a teacher, or a student.
Interviewer: Did your guru know Paramahamsa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi?
Swamiji: My master was a student of Paramahamsa Yogananda. Paramahamsa Yogananadaji and my master were both students and disciples of Swami Shriyukteshwar. Later on, my master learned some higher Kriya Yoga techniques from Paramahamsa Yogananadaji.
Interviewer: Swamiji, is your guru still alive?
Swamiji: Yes, he is eighty-nine years young and has traveled all over the world: America, Europe, Australia, and South America. Even now his brain is efficient, perfect, and working with all physical capabilities. He has strength of body, mind, and spirit, and he is still guiding people. He achieved the state without a pulse, without breath, where a doctor declared that he was clinically dead. But, after a while, he came back. It is a rare opportunity to see a master who has thorough control over all the activities of the body. He is traveling around the world so people can contact him, learn about yoga, and see a man who has obtained this state, with this type of brain, even if he is nearly ninety years old.
Interviewer: And now you follow the same teachings as your master?
Swamiji: Yes, for the last sixteen years I have practiced the same technique, and for the last five or six years I have been teaching this technique to people: first in India, now in the West: in America and also in Europe.
Interviewer: There is a peacefulness in your eyes, a centeredness about you. Do you attribute this to your master’s teachings?
Swamiji: The technique that we practice and teach is a technique based on breath control. Breath regulates human life. When one is angry, there is one type of breathing; when one is full of emotion, there is another type of breathing. When one is full of fear — anxiety — the breathing is different. Suppose a candle is burning. If there is wind, the flame will be disturbed. Yet, when there is no wind, the air is still there. So, the flame is very steady, one-pointed. Similarly, if you understand how to regulate the breath, you can regulate the mind.
People do not realize the value of breath. Yogic scripture says that human life is determined by how many breaths we take. One who is angry or emotional breathes perhaps twenty to twenty-five times a minute. An average human breathes about fifteen times a minute, and those who practice meditation can breathe even less frequently. This does not occur through effort, but rather through a little bit of inner awareness. When the breath is restless, the mind is restless. Through meditation, the breath becomes very slow. Breath awareness leads to God awareness. God is breathing. When you know the technique for regulating the breath, and how to perceive the presence of God, Who is full of love, in every breath; then life will be peaceful, loving, and calm. In fact, you can regulate life and acquire constant calm and peace. Such a state can be continuously experienced as a result of meditation and daily practice.
Interviewer: Is there any significance in eating certain foods to maintain this state of calmness?
Swamiji: The Bible says that the kingdom of heaven is not a question of eating and drinking. A weak person cannot eat everything; a strong person can eat and digest everything. The Bible and the Bhagavad Gita say that food should be moderate. God has created every type of food; you should take food in moderation, in moderate quantity. A balanced diet taken in a regulated way, at regulated intervals, will give you good health. If you are a vegetarian — good. But if you inwardly want non-vegetarian food, and you force yourself to be vegetarian, this is not good. When you practice meditation and can hear your inner conscience, you will know what to eat.
Interviewer: Are there any mystical teachings or studying that a person has to do, such as read the scriptures or the Vedic texts, to learn Kriya Yoga?
Swamiji: I generally say, "If you are a Christian, read the Bible; if you are a Hindu, you may read the Bhagavad Gita; if you are a Muslim, you should read the Koran," and through meditation and the teachings of Kriya Yoga you will understand your own scripture better. You will realize that what a particular “son of God” or “prophet” or “master” is teaching is common to all teachings; there is no difference. We all are children of God, and we should perceive God’s love. There is no difference in anything. So, it is best to avoid insisting, “Read only this!” Read any scripture that you love, but try not to read too much. Read a little and through meditation apply what you read to your daily life. Application is more essential than reading, because spirituality is beyond intellectual development. You must have both theory and practice in the application of scripture in your daily life. This will help you lead a life of love, purity, and truth.
Interviewer: Are there any “blocks” that a person has to remove? Suppose someone already has a belief system?
Swamiji: Kriya Yoga does not present any obstacles to a set of beliefs; rather, Kriya makes those beliefs stronger. We live in this world, but our beliefs are not strong. We believe in many things, but we do not believe in our own Self. We do not believe in our breath, which circulates day and night and gives us life. Belief is love. Love is belief.
Interviewer: Can this be taught in a weekend or does it take longer?
Swamiji: When learning the technique, first we help the student perceive light, sound, and pulsation–vibration. Then, we teach the technique. You will hear the sound, an inner voice. If you read the Bible, John 1:1 says, “In the beginning there was the word, and the word was with God, and that word is God.” You can hear the inner voice of God in Kriya Yoga. You can also see light, the light of the third eye, the divine light. Matthew 6:22 says, “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.” One can see this divine light. So, before teaching Kriya Yoga, we help the student perceive light, sound, and pulsation in the whole body. Then we teach Kriya Yoga. You should come to at least two or three guided meditations to perfect the technique; then you can practice at home. Later, if a student has doubts, he or she can contact us and ask. Also, in Kriya Yoga there are no dangerous missteps or side effects. In some other yogic techniques, if the practitioner performs the technique incorrectly, there may be some difficulties, but Kriya Yoga is free from this kind of hardship. If an individual practices with teachers two or three times the first weekend, he or she can later practice the technique at home. But initiation is just an introduction into the practice of Kriya Yoga.
Interviewer: Do you have to perform it daily in order to maintain it? How long do you meditate each day?
Swamiji: Yes. Just as every day we eat food to maintain the body, we should similarly meditate daily, giving time for our inner Self, for God. Ten or fifteen minutes every day are enough. There is no need to meditate too much.
For example, I work every day, nearly eighteen to nineteen hours. Through continuous meditation, we can be aware of God, the soul, the spirit within, so that even while working — while I am talking to you — I am conscious of Him, Who is talking through this mouth, as I am not a mere machine. So, I can tell you that I am meditating twenty-four hours a day. In this modern world, people have much less time. The techniques can be done in ten minutes a day, if done with concentration and love.
In God’s world everything is possible. The truth is within you, and you must learn to perceive it. Those who practice Kriya Yoga can perceive sound, vibration, and light of different color every day. Every substance has light, every substance is just a condensed form of light. So every human being is radiating light, and in every human being there is light. Jesus said, "I am the light of God. I am the light of the world.” Jesus is not the man of flesh and blood. Jesus is within you. You must learn to see that light. If you concentrate inwardly and practice the Kriya Yoga technique, you can see the light. If you practice Kriya Yoga, you can experience many colors of light coming and going within yourself. It is always there.
Interviewer: Did Jesus do Kriya?
Swamiji: Jesus practiced a technique like Kriya Yoga. We do not know whether Jesus actually performed Kriya or not, but I have thoroughly studied and meditated upon the teachings of Jesus, and I understand that what he was teaching was quite similar to the technique of Kriya Yoga. If you practice Kriya Yoga daily, you will enjoy good health, a calm mind, a strong intellect, and intelligence. At the same time you will be conscious of your inner Self and the supreme spirit, God.
If you read the Bible, Genesis 1:27, 2:7, and 5:1, you will find that God made us in His image, and He is breathing the breath of life through the nostrils of every living being. So we are alive and we are the Soul. The breath of humans is the breath of God. Without breath there is death. We are alive by the love of God, and breath is the love of God. If you perceive God’s love through every breath, your life will be full of love. Those who practice meditation feel it. So Kriya Yoga causes all-around development. If you practice Hatha Yoga, you will acquire good health. Raja Yoga teaches breathing techniques that will improve your concentration. Kriya Yoga aims at simultaneous development of body, mind, intellect, and soul awareness.
Interviewer: Swamiji, is there an easy technique that you could give to our listeners, where they could experience a little of this breathing technique, or at least calming?
Swamiji: Thank you for your question. I’ll be happy to describe a simple technique that anybody can practice at any time. It is the practice of watching the breath. Breath is going in and coming out day and night. The yogis say a normal average human being breathes 21,600 times over a 24-hour period. We should be a little bit conscious of each breath going in and coming out. We should make each breath a little longer, and in every breath feel that breathing is the love of God. Without breath we will die. Mentally perceive that every breath is the love of God, that He is breathing — God is breathing. Through this practice you will experience calm. You can do it in any easy posture, sitting on a chair, waiting in the railway station, or in the airport, working in the office. Or even while talking to friends. I am talking to you, but I am conscious of the breath. It is very easy technique to do; at the same time, it is beneficial. Students can learn the complete technique, which will cause all-around development. It is a very easy, simple technique. Anybody can practice above the age of thirteen.
Interviewer: Could someone do these techniques if they were bedridden, if they were very ill?
Swamiji: Yes. One should perceive God’s presence at all times, no matter in which stage or what age you are — old or young — no matter. To love God there is no question of time, no question of age; meditation is for all. Anybody can practice it, even if on a bed. In addition, if you know the technique, what to do and how to do it, you can be free from many diseases. If you can perceive constant calm, you not be disturbed even if there is some pain of the body. You can be free of the pain. It depends upon the depth of practice, and how much you practice with love.
Interviewer: What do you recommend for people who are trying to meditate but can’t turn off the mind?
Swamiji: The real meaning of meditation is to go beyond mind. Many people think that they are practicing meditation, but if they ask their own conscience, they can easily know that their minds are playing a trick. If you learn the Kriya Yoga technique, you can easily tune the mind away from the restless world to the peaceful inner world. It is possible. The technique is essential. If you sit in the car with eyes closed and folded hands and you say, “O car, please run,” the car will not run. There is a technique to driving the car. Similarly meditation is a technique by which you can drive your restless mind to a calm, peaceful state. It is possible through Kriya technique. Everyone should learn it. It is a scientific technique, that is why you need a guide, a teacher. It is not possible to learn it by reading books. It is very easy to learn directly in a short time.
Interviewer: Swamiji, I noticed that you have a red dot on your forehead. What is the third eye, and what does the red dot signify?
Swamiji: Beautiful question. If you remember, I quoted the Bible previously — Matthew 6:26: “If your eye will be single, your whole body will be full of light.” How do you make the eye single? God has given us two eyes, and two eyes create duality. We always see good and bad, winter and summer, friend and foe, but in everything there is one unity. That unity is the third eye — represented by the red dot, which is within you. The third eye symbolizes the soul, the spirit within. We must concentrate and meditate inside. In the Gospels, Jesus said: "One should carry his cross and follow me!" Which cross should people carry? This cross is a junction-point of the spine and the brain. Behind the midpoint of the eyebrows, inside, there is the cross. "You should carry your own cross and follow me" means you should go inside and follow Christ, who is within you. Christ is immortal. Christ is not dead. Christ consciousness is within you. Monk yogis usually apply a red dot in between the eyebrows symbolizing the perception of the third eye. The third eye is the eye of Christ consciousness, God consciousness, and soul consciousness. Hindus may call it Krishna consciousness. Also, if you look at the sun in the sky when the sun is rising, it is a red round point, a ball. The same sun, the soul sun is within us. The red dot is a physical mark to help us remember that the soul sun is within us. Because of the soul sun, there is light and life within us.
Interviewer: What is the significance of the color orange or peach that you are wearing?
Swamiji: It has many meanings. The monks in India, those who have renounced the so-called family life or worldly life, put on this colored cloth. It symbolizes fire. Fire burns everything. This color is a reminder that a monk should always be aware of spirit, not just the body. The body is burned with fire, and the yogi is always conscious of truth, the spirit within. That is the spiritual fire. To maintain the fire, there should be oxygen. Without oxygen the candle will not burn. To maintain the inner fire — the holy fire — we need oxygen, the breath. Because of the breath, the body stays warm. The fire is warm, so the whole body is warm. We do not perceive the fire of God, which is within us, but with every breath we should love that fire. This is life. These are the activities of the body. This is Kriya Yoga.
Interviewer: Swamiji, you have been doing this, you said, for sixteen years. How have you seen spirituality change in that time; how have you seen people’s interest in that side of our nature change or grow?
Swamiji: It is a beautiful question. This world is growing so fast, in the sense that “world” means “the consciousness of people.” People are growing more spiritual day by day. They are leaning towards inner peace, inner and outer harmony. This is what I feel, what I perceive. I saw it in India. I saw it Europe. I see it here in America. More and more people are seeking love, peace, and truth. It is my conviction, my understanding, and my perception that people are growing more spiritual day by day.
Interviewer: Swamiji, if we practice Kriya Yoga, can we extend the practice into the world to see a vision of world peace, to see things coming together in unity, to hold a different vision of the world?
Swamiji: God is the unity, and we are the multiplicity. There is one God, and we are His children. One spirit abides in all of us. We breathe the same air, the same breath, and the same power of God. Those who meditate, who practice Kriya Yoga, when they perceive the Truth within, they can perceive truth outside in every human being. We are not born to quarrel, to fight, to riot, or to bring war, but to bring peace — peace in our inner life, peace in daily life, and that peace can radiate everywhere. The world is peaceful. But, when people do not understand that they have deviated from their real nature, they quarrel. Daily, human life is filled with troubles, unhappiness, and worries. But when people meditate, go a little inside, they can see that we are born to love. This is possible and it can bring peace everywhere. First you must find peace in yourself; then you can radiate peace to others. If you have money in the pocket, you can give it to others, so earn the money first.
In the material world people are busy earning and spending money. Similarly, people should be aware of spiritual money, spiritual wealth. Through meditation they can earn peace and distribute the spiritual wealth. So this is possible, to perceive peace within and without.
Interviewer: 2000 years ago Jesus was born, and the year 2000 is going to happen. It seems to me like something magical is going to happen.
Swamiji: You are thinking of 2004 years after Jesus’ birth, but it is God’s creation. God loves creation. God loves every human being equally. God has no partiality. God wants every child of His to be more beautiful, and I believe every day more and more beautiful people, and more and more beauty, harmony, and love will exist. If change happens 2004 years after Jesus’ birth, it will be a more beautiful world, full of love, not chaos.
Interviewer: Swamiji, with Christmas coming up, how do you celebrate that holiday?
Swamiji: For the last two years, I have been in Vienna for Christmas, so we celebrated Christmas and the New Year with eight days of intensive meditation on Jesus, focusing on perceiving the Christ consciousness and the love of Jesus within the Self. We spent days reading from the Bible and meditating on the true meaning of the passages. Although Jesus was technically born in Bethlehem, Jesus should also be born within you. If Christ consciousness is not born within you, celebrating Christmas by just gathering together and greeting each other is not the real Christmas. The real Christmas is to feel Jesus being born within you and your body, to perceive Christ within you, to perceive love of Christ. This we celebrate.
We celebrate from December 24th until January 1st. Many people are not aware of why they celebrate the 1st of January, the New Year. Do you know why? My understanding is that on the eighth day after the birth of Jesus, he was presented in the temple. He was born the night of the 24th, and on the 1st of January, the eighth day afterward, he was presented in the temple, and named Jesus. Jesus means “the Savior,” and Jesus is the Christ consciousness within you. If you perceive him, then you are saved. You will perceive constant peace and love. By naming the child “Jesus,” a new era of perceiving truth and love started. This is the New Year according to my understanding.
The New Year should bring a new life to you — a life in God, a life in truth, a life in purity, a life of love, a life in Jesus, a life in Christmas. You should treat every day as the New Year; you should not wait another 365 or 366 days for the New Year to arrive again. Every moment the world is changing. Every day is new, every moment is new, and every breath is new. God is changing your cells and every part of the body continuously. God is making you new. The objective is to perceive the newness, to perceive that the newness in every moment is the New Year. So I love God in every moment, and every moment is the New Year to me. I do not wait.
Interviewer: Thank you very much, Swamiji, for being on the program today!