Home / Articles / #7 February 2014 / Interview with Dharma Mittra “We are here on this planet to pay our karmas”

Interview with Dharma Mittra “We are here on this planet to pay our karmas”

Sri Dharma Mittra is a yoga teacher, and a student of Sri Swami Kailashananda (Swami Shivananda Saraswati lineage) He has been teaching since 1967, and is director of the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City. Dharma Mittra was born Carlos Augusto Vargason May 14, 1939, in Pirapora, Minas Gerais, Brazil. He started studying Yoga in 1958. In 1964, he left the Brazilian Air Force and moved to New York City, to study under his new guru, Sri Swami Kailashananda. After intensive study of Ashtanga (Patanjali) and Karma Yoga, he was accepted and initiated as a sannyasi. Dharma began teaching in 1967, after spending a decade as a full-time yogi and brahmachari (a celibate religious student who lives with his teacher and devotes himself to the practice of spiritual disciplines). A celebrated teacher at his guru's ashram, he left in 1975 and founded the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City. Dharma Mittra completed the Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures in 1984, after having meticulously photographed himself in 1300 Yoga postures, then cut and pasted the pictures to create the work. The Master Yoga Chart is hung in many ashrams and Yoga centers worldwide, as a teaching tool and inspiration for all students of Yoga. His more recent book, entitled Asanas: 608 Yoga Poses was published in 2003. In 2006, he released an instructional Yoga video series entitled Maha Sadhana: The Great Practice.

Interview with Dharma Mittra

What do you like to do in your spare time except for teaching, except for practicing yoga, what are your hobbies?

I have my hobbies too, I go to gym and I like to go around the silly China Town. Occasionally, when my son is here we go to play pool or billiards. Most of the time I stay at home and prepare things, improve my teacher training staff and prepare materials to share with the students. In reality I don’t need any knowledge from scriptures anymore, but I have to go through them in order to share with others. I don’t have much business, family, or anything. So, the only hobby is that I love to be alone. I have a TV but I rarely watch it. I prefer the computer more. I go through YouTube to see what all these yogis are doing out there. I don’t have anything special. Family... my two children are grown up already and I don’t worry about them. My wife understands it also, I barely go home, so, I have my partner but I don’t go there, just occasionally. I love to be alone here.

How did you start practicing yoga, why did you decide to go in for yoga?

Well, I was born In Brazil and past through lots of sufferings and a lack of health. My father was a farmer. I didn’t like to see the cruelty towards the animals. I always wanted to find out if there is really reincarnation karma. I was fourteen years old when I´ve read about reincarnation karma, I was really interested in that. One of my younger brothers had yoga books, as soon as I opened one book, it was describing the state of samadhi, really thrilling something, I was eager to find out if there is any God or intelligence that controls everything, and I was interested in yogi powers, the sidhis, that triggered me really. My entire life has changed after that book. Then, my dream was to find a yoga teacher; in Brazil we don’t have any. My brother came here in 1952 and found a yogi, and he said to me, Dharma, my little name was Carlos, come here, I found a guru. At that time I was in the Air force, for me the best thing in the world was to be in the Air force, I´ve spent there more than six years.

Why did you like it so much?

It is so nice and it is so comfortable. The government of Brazil pays very well to the army. It is a good position, nice uniform. But I didn’t care about it, that was like a knife in a heart and I quit Air force in order to come here and I found my guru. I was very sick at that time, I had some infection. I´ve started practicing yoga. All my time I was spending for practice, all the money I´ve made I paid for the classes. I was really interested in getting healthy, to return to my health again. I was very busy with the asanas.

How long did it take to get your health back?

About one year. I did some regeneration course where you change your nutrition to a strictly raw diet for one year. You take Ayurvedic herbs combined with some kriya yogas, and asanas. I had to follow teacher instructions in order to keep up with the course. I was keeping the diet for almost three years and one day I became totally healthy, all the problems disappeared. Then, I could get more serious about reincarnation and karma. One thing that I love the most is karma yoga, to give selfless work and to be with the guru.

It was your decision to go into karma yoga or it was your guru’s advice for you to do this?

In order to give initiation my guru tests the students. You have to show that you are serious, show some reverence, to play lots of karma yoga, a totally selfless action. Do it, because it has to be done. If my guru says I have to do karma yoga for hundred years I would do. But anyway, some students do not do karma yoga; they are not serious, so, they have to stay longer. I myself had to do it for almost three years. Then someone, who is in charge, sees if the disciple is ready to meet with the guru. I was fortunate, after three years he said to me, Dharma or Carlos, the guru said, get prepared to become a part of the family. Then, you receive a name and a rosary with is a private special mantra.

So, you’ve got your name Dharma after the initiation?

After initiation the guru sees the tendency of a disciple. Despite of me always being sloppy, I could never follow much of instructions, he gave me name “Dharma”, because it’s my goal to be right. Like here in the United States I love to pay taxes, abide with all the rules, and then you feel really comfortable. I loved karma yoga, I was initiated. And my name is Dharma Mittra. Mittra means a friend. Then he gave me a special mantra. If you want to get in contact psychically with the guru, just keep doing the mantra, constantly, that is the connection, it’s like a cell phone. Then you become a part of the family, you have a commitment with the guru and the guru has the commitment with the students. The guru is eager for his disciple to reach enlightment quickly and to leave him along. So, I had to work hard, in 1975 I felt: “I don’t need to be here in ashram anymore. Guru, give me a blessing, I am ready to go on my own”. He said: “All right, my son, you have my blessing”. And then I’ve opened a yoga studio in 1975.

Talking about karma yoga also, did it change you? Did it change your personality, those three years that you’ve spent doing karma yoga?

It changed. You don’t have much of the ego or diplomacy. You don’t feel like you are special. Doing karma yoga you become like a child, you don’t have that personality of an adult, full of diplomacy, of these attitudes. Like scriptures say: “A wise man acts like a child.” You become more childish, innocent, simple, and humble. Being a teacher sometimes I even feel embarrassed to speak as a teacher to students as students because I know that we are both the same. But out of ignorance of the students sometimes you have to address them like a teacher, show them a little more, show them that you are teaching. Real personality improves, becomes more innocent, more humble like a child, less ego.

Do you think it is important for our society, for our people to do more karma yoga, because nowadays it’s not a common practice?

The reason for this is that there are many spiritual organizations. They have occasional standards; they are using money of the organization to help themselves instead of spiritual things. It is very difficult to find a teacher who is really honest, who deserves to have karma yoga. Due to technology people become more restless, especially here in New York, people do not have much time for karma yoga, they have one or two hours, two minutes, sometimes they don’t have it at all. If you are in India or some other country you may have more time, but you have to find the right place, where you trust the teacher, like Shivananda organizations, they are great place to give karma yoga, Satchidananda, Integral Yoga. There are many organizations that are trustful. If you go there you will see many people working there selflessly.

Usually people come to yoga and then most of the time they do asanas. After some time they see that their asanas are good , their body becomes fit, flexible, they can do more difficult poses, and their ego pops up: “I’m better in the classroom”, or “I’m one of the best students”. I think it’s like an obstacle on the way to true yoga, to true self.

Yes. It is natural in the beginning, when a person is growing spiritually, to become a little egotistic about the practice. They have this natural feeling that comes from inside:” I am better than you”, “I can do this, and you can’t do it”. Some people stay in that for a long time. There are even teachers, who think they are better than other teachers, they think they are on the top, but in reality they are not. But gradually, may be in this life or after a while they are removing that, as soon as they start moving to their self-realization. They may be attached to it. When you are getting older you start losing all your poses. I’m nuts, I’ve got used to do all this thousand and two thousand poses every year, I could do this one, it depends on stamina, handstand, one hand, etc. The body is getting older, gets injured very quickly, easily, so you lose this gradually. Eventually it is not good, this ego. That is a lack of self-realization.

Do you help your students to cope with the ego, to change their attitude or you just leave them along to understand all those things on their own?

I see the way they are, the way they are approaching me. If they are approaching me with respect and are full of love, immediately I show the highest knowledge to them. Those who are interested only in postures, they don’t show much reverence, look like they are expecting too much of the fruit from their action, some people who don’t look at me as a teacher, they come here just for the class, they are not obedient, they don’t show much respect, I share with them only the knowledge of postures. I may give them some mantra, because they cannot see beyond that. I act according to their approach to me, their attitude. But if they asks:” Dharma, what is self?” it would be very good to tell them everything. “What about karma yoga?” There are those who are doing karma yoga and are not asking anything, I have here people like that; soon I’m going to approach them. “Hey, you, if you wish, I can give you a name, share with you what the guru gave to me, the mantra and the initiation.” So, it is according to their approach to me.

Does your attitude change with years, your attitude to yoga, to the aim of yoga, why are you practicing this?

I came to yoga for the first time because I was in pain, physically, spiritually. I was an abrupt catholic, I could never get the answers from a priest, I knew the Bible, but the priest did not help me, had not enough knowledge to explain me if there is reincarnation. If I die today, what then, will I go to hell forever? I could never agree with that. So, my approach was to relieve this pain a little bit. When my mother died, I thought, I won’t see her again; everything has to pass away… My approach was not a self-knowledge yet, but just to remove my pain and get healthy. Then I’ve started practicing. After karma yoga you remove all your selfishness, and then my approach has changed. You are interested in finding out the reality, self-realization, and God realization. Then I’ve changed completely, I was not interested in postures anymore. I did not even care about health, but I knew that I have to be healthy in order to develop concentration, meditation, but I was not attached to the postures anymore. So, it’s changed, my approach to yoga.

Now, what is your aim in yoga?

Now I see yoga is wonderful, especially Ashtanga. It is not a religion. All these techniques are so simple, in a very short time - one or three years - you can get a powerful, a very healthy body. I always concentrate on yama and niyama; this is what I concentrate most of my life, to be compassionate with that. Then, if you keep yama and niyama you get your spiritual power - this fever, fire to do anything fast, to do this, to shave your head, to help, to be obedient with the guru. If you go to niyama, you go to spiritual knowledge of what the body is, what the mind is. Gradually you gain physical, mental and spiritual power. It is not a religion. Let’s say if I believe in Jesus, with the highest type of meditation, concentration, good health, ready to enter the kingdom of God with yama, I can find Jesus immediately. So, if you look for self knowledge, for God realization you can do it through yoga.

What were the main obstacles on your pass?

The main obstacle was food, lack of self-control. I could not control my food. It was crazy. Especially when I left Brazil, I did not have any friends, no girlfriend, nobody at all. I felt lonely like crazy. Lack of discipline, and sometime you are so bad, you have no choice to eat, and watch TV, go to the movie. But gradually with years of suffering the mind becomes controlled by keeping yama properly. You will be able to eat the right food that helps, and gain the right knowledge. You understand that all this are the body and the mind sufferings, and gradually you become self-controlled. Then you are not disturbed by food anymore.

What did help you to overcome those disturbances?

I think the knowledge and influence of the guru, his example. I was living with my guru. Every time he came to New York, I attended him, cooked for him, and I could see the type of food he eats, the way he rests, the way he acts. I really had a great faith in him, I see him like a God. I tried to be obedient, I believe in his words. I’ve realized that his word was not just from him but it was based on the scriptures. This is the only reality. I’ve realized that this is the right way. That gave me strength, tremendous power to go through. So, the guru and the right knowledge that he suggested to me, Bhagavat Gita, self-knowledge, Yoga Pradipika, and “My son, do not cook the food too much, then your mind becomes sharp, you never get sick”. So, what helped me were the knowledge and the guru, and the scriptures.

What is the meaning of brahmacharya for you?

Brahmacharya, they say, is to conserve, to save sexual energy. But brahmacharya is an inner thing, it is inside of you. Let’s say, I may shave my head, never look at pretty ladies, never contact one - that is my celibacy. Or I may decide to rape yoga ladies, to bring one every night, so, I’m not respecting the ladies, I see them as objects of sex - this is a lack of self-knowledge. Because with self-knowledge you look at all these pretty ladies as your daughters, you don’t consider them as sex objects, you can never have a sexual thought towards anyone, unless you want. So, brahmacharya for me is also if you have a spouse, if you are married, meet your wife, when you are extremely sad or depressed, instead of taking drugs or drinking alcohol, and all those stupid things. That’s why God made Eve for Adam, this is why they meet each other, but they also have to conserve the energy as much as possible. If you are not married, you are not considered to have a sexual intercourse or something like that, unless you are planning to have children. If you are planning to have children, you have to get married and do it purposely. Otherwise according to some yoga rituals, like my guru has Shraddha, if you want to enjoy sex, but without having children, there is some penalty you have to pay, let’s say you need to drink one glass of urine and then you have to do one mantra, you have to do this and that, to compensate. I’m married, and before I got married I talked to my wife: “Do you know what the purpose of getting married is? It’s not just to play around, it is to have children.” Of course, when you are young you have passion, also you may be sad and miserable, but you always have to be respectful. So, brahmacharya also means: keep your spiritual practice well, treat your guest well, treat your pets well, be compassionate to all beings, fulfill your spiritual obligation and keep your thoughts free from sex or whatever. That varies. When you are teenager you have no choice, you are bombarded by this. So, it is different for everybody. But brahmacharya means an inner thing. You have to be inside and not outside. Choosing to be a yoga teacher is an inner thing. So, celibacy means to do everything to conserve sexual energy, because there is pure energy, if you save it, it turns into spiritual power, you have this tremendous force to face any situation, and your body is also changing the smell, if you save that energy.

Do you think it’s important for one’s practice?

Yes, it is important. I think one of the distractions in spiritual path is sex, then food, attachment. You have to control your food, you have to do asanas and do spiritual practice properly, if you don’t do pranayama and all there bandhas properly, it can excite your sexual energy, you start losing power, so you have to be guided properly. It is strongest of all the obstacles.

Do you think there can be success in yoga practice? And if yes, what is success for you in practice?

First, success in yoga means self-realization, or the ability without yoga techniques to settle the mind into silence. And then when the mind is settled into silence, the mind automatically has this samadhi, the mind is free from all the doubts, all doubts what so ever. The mind comes into the state of bliss, in other words, a personal self. When you remove all the doubts, you keep yama, niyama, you are able to overcome sex, because all the obstacles are removed, you have no doubts disturbing you, no cradling for food, you have a discipline, no attachment that disturbs you, and then the mind is staying in silence for a long time, no more doubts left, that’s the goal, the success.

What is the main condition on the way to success?

The condition in order to achieve success is yama and niyama. If you don’t keep yama, or it can be called differently in other religions like ahimsa, be extremely reverent towards all beings, because compassion is the first step of yoga path, to have the ability to place yourself on the other side and see that this is painful or whatever. Without compassion other things do not come. If you keep just compassion, all the other four cling to it. Because if I am really compassionate to you how can I steel from you? If I really love you, how can I doubt in you? You become serious about spiritual things. You have the power to follow the instructions of your teacher. If the guru says to me: “Dharma, fast for 30 days now and do this and that,” I have the power to seek the God at any cost. I can shave my head, I can cut my arm. Without following yama, you have all these plans in your head, but you don’t have power to put them into action. You have to rely on divine help, divine help right now is from your teacher, or if you can contact the other one here (inside) which is very rare, you would be able to master with the ego. You must get the knowledge of the no-self, the koshas, to find out what the annamaya kosha is, the physical body, the pranic body, the manamaya kosha , the thought body, the intelligence, and the bliss. You see, most people are identifying with them. When you know all this, what the bliss is? It is the condition of the mind too. When you know this you negate it, and then automatically you are ready to succeed. So, yama and niyama, these are the conditions.

Do you think that yoga practice can change one’s personality or it is the life itself that changes people?

It may change. I see sometimes people come from India, from Brazil, come here and then become successful. They have lots of students, and have mainly worshipers, lots of money and then they have power, they can have anything, a limousine, like one other guru. If they are not enlightened yet, their personality change, the ego, they become more diplomatic, they act like a God, and they are different from others. So, they may change according to the condition of the soul. Some souls are older souls. I’m not saying me, but since I was born I’m always very shy and humble, those are the qualities that come from the past of the older souls. They can change a little, not to the worst, to remove the ego. Those souls that are not spiritually involved they develop ego. Eventually they choose to go this way or that way, they can change their personality. If a practitioner gets more serious about karma yoga, surrendering the ego, seeking for enlightment and self-realization, his personality goes to one side, removing the entire ego. The personality becomes like a child. Those who are not seeking for enlightment but looking for power, want to be healthy, be respectful, they can go to the other side: more ego, more of this and that.

Can we say that yoga just helps to develop whatever you already have, and you can change it if you want?

Of course, you can change, like I’ve said before. If you practice yoga you have a tremendous amount of good health, you control your food, and then with practice of pranayama and yama you develop mental power. You can visualize business; you can achieve success in anything you like. Your spiritual power from keeping yama, compassion, gives you more inner strength. Now you can use it for anything you like. If you want to become a president you can become a president very fast. If you want to become a lawyer, you become the best lawyer in the world. If you use these powers playing the piano you become the best musician. You can also hurt someone too. You may become a dictator with all that power and you can hurt people. So, you have to control it. You have all the powers. You have to be careful to whom you should give the power.

Do you have students who use it not in the best way? They get these powers through practice and then they go and do some bad things and you know it? Do you have such people?

It is according to the condition of person’s soul, he may have this urge to do something. But then, gradually, he sees that he’s mistaken, and he keeps coming back. Let’s say, some students come here to do yoga, and are interested only in physical aspect, they keep coming for years. They don’t care about yoga thing. But then they see other people being so happy and never depressed. They are also bombarded by thoughts here, thoughts of realization, thoughts of looking for enlightment, thoughts of looking for compassion. Very soon after few years they start changing their mind. They start doing breathing. They come asking: “Dharma, can I do an hour of yoga service, karma yoga?” They start changing just being nearby, they start being influenced by that.

Are you a happy person?

Ok, there are two kinds of happiness. Since we have five senses, senses of perception, we use the mind and the senses to enjoy perceiving the world. But this is done by the real self that is extremely subtle, that makes everything alive. So, the personal self enjoys the pleasures of the world, according to your karma. Let’s say you are happy with the body you have, you have a family, nice job, you have everything you want, you are still young, you feel like doing the right things, and you bring more happiness, you do a little of meditation. All these are happiness of the mind. They have the beginning and the end.

Another kind of happiness is the one that lasts a little longer but still is a part of the mind. You get a little knowledge of what you really are inside. The real self is a portion of God. You don’t need any happiness from outside, it’s an exceeding bliss. When you have the knowledge, when you realize, and the yogis sometimes describe that: inside the right side of your heart there is a small cavity that is subtler than an atom, a portion of God is dwelling in every being. It’s like a microchip in the computer, intelligence and love. When you know that, a little bit of bliss and happiness start growing inside, it’s permanent. Not like food. You have food and meet with your boyfriend, it lasts for two or three hours and then it is finished. But you are still happy because you are going to repeat it again. When you are getting old there is no passion anymore, this happiness comes to an end. This happiness is from sensory objects, they last as long as the sensors are connected. For example, my happiness is to eat food, when I eat, I am happy. These are all levels of happiness. When you get the knowledge of the self, who you really are, that adds. If you keep yama, if you are keeping compassion, if you are always content, if you are following instructions of the guru properly, if you are paying the tax and do everything according to the laws, you feel secure and happier. If you have knowledge about the laws of karma, you realize that everything what is happening to you is your own creation from the past. Why are you in situation like this? It is exactly your creation from the past. When you know that, you get a little more of this peaceful feeling. This happiness is permanent. This lasts to the further stage, when the mind settles into silence, the samadhi they call it. But we should remember that your mind and body are not real things themselves, but a product of ignorance, the ego.

So, what is your state of happiness at the moment?

The state of happiness is the knowledge. First, we get the knowledge, and then we have to reflect upon it, and to realize the knowledge. After purification of the mind and the body, the realization of that comes automatically. And then there are no more doubts about what’s happening, what is going on in the world, about where you are going after this. That’s the success, enlightment. Enlightment, many people get confused with it. Enlightment is for the body, the mind and the self. But they say like that because there are one self of the other self. Enlightment is for the mind and the personal self, because the real self doesn’t need an enlightment, it is a spirit, a personal God. It is already light. What you have to remove is your own mind. When your mind is settled, all this disappear. What remains?

Do you have any recipe how to overcome suffering? All beings suffer. They don’t have this or don’t have that.

All our sufferings and pain are because of our lack of self knowledge. We have no choice. We were born with body, mind and senses. And we can only perceive, and the mind can only be aware with this consciousness that we have, it can only perceive very gross things. We cannot get any evidence of the spiritual things, the only choice we have is to believe, because our sixth sense is not opened yet. So, we have no choice but to use the pleasures of the world, the mind uses senses to enjoy the world, and people get attached to it, attached to the pleasures. And they have to suffer. Let’s say you are attached to food, very soon you can’t eat. You are attached to your friends, to your boyfriend, to your wife and your children, your pet. Everybody knows they are going to go soon. As they are getting old they go. But you are busy now or very young to think about it. If you have attachment to your job, you can lose your job. Others can be attached to the body. Some people have what you want but you don’t. Then you envy. If you don’t have knowledge about reincarnation and karma, you blame the God. Why does one have everything but I don’t? You feel miserable. We have a lack of knowledge, because all this pain is according to the laws of karma. Some pain we are carrying from the past. It’s your own creation from the past. Some people are born and go through lots of pain, they are subject of violence. You are born in a family there the parents are violent to you, or you are born in a country, like me, in north of Brazil. No even food to eat. Mainly people are not civilized, not much spiritual things are available and you suffer. This pain and suffering have their reason. It’s for purification of the mind, we are paying our karma from the past, due to our ignorance in the past. Younger souls can’t keep up with their religion properly, they go to church just because it makes sense, but they don’t what to get serious, to get self knowledge. All this is natural. That is why we are here on this planet - to pay our karmas.

And to suffer…

And to suffer. But who is suffering? The body and the mind. An ignorant person, and most people are ignorant of their supreme self, and they are suffering. The body hurts. When your children get hurt, you feel hurt, when you don’t have a car, you feel hurt. Some lose their discipline, self-control and then eat garbage. They get sick and suffer, they eat animals; they are always sick and feel bad.

Do you think that refusal of one desire can help in overcoming suffering or not? Some people interpret scriptures, especially Buddhists, that you can overcome suffering, when you refuse desire, do you think it is true? Or it is a misinterpretation?

Only knowledge of reality can help. When you know why you are suffering, you don’t suffer at all. Let’s say, someone attacked me in a street and broke one of my legs. If I knew that in my previous life I did something to someone and now I pay my debt, if I knew that:”Oh, that’s nice, I even deserve one more.” If you understand why you were born short when you want to become taller, if you really know the reason, you feel very happy. If you know everything, why you were born in your country and not here, you would know the reason why. Everything has its reason. It is the lack of knowledge of reality, laws of karma. You are really suffering if you believe in the body, in the mind. You know, this body and mind don’t last long. We are not body, we are not thoughts. Whatever you can perceive, we are not what we perceive. We are the perceiver. So, if you have the knowledge, you know what to eat, how to prevent everything automatically: pain, suffering. You have to find someone who can guide you properly spiritually, the one who has passed through all this, you have to listen, have to find spiritual precept.

And what is the rest of the question? To stop desiring? Remember, only the mind desire things. Scriptures say: “a yogi who did not renounce his desire can never be a yogi.” That’s to say, a yogi who identifies with the mind or senses has no choice but just to say: “I desire this or that”. You should realize that you are not the body or the mind. A real yogi is not identifying himself with the mind. I desire that this interview ends very quickly, I desire that someone comes here and offers me a ride home. Who desires that? The mind. I desire that one day a student rich enough would give me a penthouse or a big yoga center. That is the mind not you. The mind is the only one who desires. You see how important it is to know what you really are, not the body and the mind, not senses. This is why people suffer. It is very hard to overcome that, but if you keep yama and have deep compassion, something is triggering you inside: you know everything.

What do you value most in your life? What is the biggest value for you?

The most valuable thing in my life is compassion, to do everything to alleviate pain of suffering. For some reason my thought keeps going towards the animals because they are living the instincts. This is what I value the most. The most beautiful thing is that they always teach us. It is going to surrender the ego. It is the foundation for everything. If you keep just ahimsa properly, you develop a tremendous amount of psyche powers, the ability to find answers to everything. This is the secret of my success here in yoga.

Let’s imagine, you became all-mighty, you can do whatever you want, anything. What would you change in the world?

If I had the power all my efforts I would put, it is about ahimsa again, to stop the cruelty towards the animals on the planet. Sometimes I joke. If next life I became a Pope I would go to the Vatican and I would influence everybody. Please, no meat on Saturdays and Sundays. Then after another two years I would add three more days. Then after five years I would say “no more meat at all”. We have to update our compassion. Then everybody will find Jesus very fast. When you get it you will become healthy, compassioned, you will feel Jesus quickly. That is my hope. If I was the president here I would walk into the White House with yoga mat, being vegetarian, to change it, because I believe for one hundred percent that we are as civilized here in this planet as we treat the animals. This is how we can find it out about how civilized we are individually or the whole planet. It is the shame that we are eating animals; that is why we are having terrible violence here. That’s a lack of knowledge. Nobody follows ahimsa properly. Mainly they practice ahimsa towards their pets and the loved ones. The others are the food. They love their younger brothers and sisters. Let’s say I love only Americans, and the others are the enemies. You have to love even an enemy, even the worst enemy. You should love even the worst people on the planet, because they are in reality our brothers and sisters. If they are acting bad, don’t worry, there is a perfect reason why they are acting like that. Some people have bad karma. They have to pay; some bad guy has to be on the other side.

How would you explain when Ayurvedic doctors prescribe meat to their patients in India where ahimsa is in their religion, in their belief? Their doctors sometimes prescribe meat, not beef, mostly it is turkey. They did it in the ancient times and they do it now. They think that you need meat if you are suffering from some disease. How does it correspond with ahimsa?

Yes, that was many years ago. Now we are seven thousand years later. Many things have to be updated. For example, giving ghee, cow ghee, now you can see most of the yogis here do not use it anymore, I myself don’t touch ghee, cow’s ghee or animal’s fat. It is according to people keeping tradition. Today we have technology, we can get everything from the herbs, hemp, nut oil, flax oil, and we have tahini. We have all this divine things that replace the staff from the animals. I myself don’t touch animals since 1957, for more than 50 years. There are many people who think it’s out of date. But if someone wants to keep the tradition and it involves violence or killing the animals, then they are responsible for the consequences. For example, in some religions there are too much about sacrificing the animals, for this and this, but they cannot rich the highest. Their consciousness involves cruelty towards the animals. Ayurveda also emphasizes that some food has to be cooked. My master was an expert in Ayurveda, but at the same time he encouraged us not to eat cooked food. I like to steam Brussels sprouts; I eat cooked food every week, but very rarely. You may steam some food. But cooked or steamed food loses lots of useful things. You are killing It by cooking. Of course, some herbs have to be cooked for hours. It’s up to a person who is practicing that. Every Ayurvedic technique, even religion has different levels to fit all levels of people. I went to Spain the other day and encouraged some people there to become vegetarians. Five percent of them said: “Oh, no, we cannot change it, because it is our tradition. We have a holiday here to scarify animals.” You can see their health. When they are 50 years old, they are already full of karma. They don’t want to change the tradition. There are some people that eat meat but find excuses like an animal has to be eaten by a human in order to become a human next life.

What do you think about it?

I don’t think so. If you really have compassion you can’t do it. It’s like eating your son. If I touch the animal, it’s like my son. Someone told me: “You know, Dharma, Dalai Lama eats meat”. I can’t believe it. May be he ate some by accident, or someone brought to him, maybe he ate the cow, made a blessing for it to be born as a human being, if he believes in that it’s alright. Or may be a person out of compassion wanted to be born as a cow, to feed his family. Let’s say, I die in a village, my family is suffering there, no food. May I be born as an ox there, a cow, and sacrifice to become their food, to work in the field and then to become food. For a real yogi who has some or a little bit of self realization, it is impossible to eat meat.

I have no questions anymore. Thanks a lot.

You had a question earlier, saying that those who cannot stay with yoga should not be there. Those who cannot stay away from yoga should stay in yoga. It is according to the l level of people. If you are serious about yoga, you are looking for self-realization, stay. You don’t have to go into yoga just if you have pain, disturbing the class while you are getting in posture and disturbing the teacher. May be you should go to another treatment place.

Those who feel they cannot stay away from yoga they must do yoga. Only they have to practice, if you feel that you can stay away from it, stay away.

Those who cannot stay without yoga, for sure, will succeed first. It is wonderful. They should stay and go up to the end. Those who can’t stay in yoga if they came just occasionally…

The point here is that some think that yoga is not for everybody, yoga is for special people, for those who are ready to practice.

Esoterically speaking I agree. I gave the example before. Some people come here just because they are in pain, or they want to improve their posture and get healed by doing some kriya yoga, that’s all right. If they keep coming here constantly they will be able gradually to move ahead towards the end. If a student comes here and does not believe much in me, I give him just a mantra: “Go home and sing this mantra”. Yoga can fit all levels. Don’t give much of the spiritual path to fever students, just suggest them trying to be vegetarian, trying to keep the yama, do asanas of hatha yoga to get healthy, do them pranayama. But the other staff is according to their level. If they are not humble and respectful don’t do a lot of spiritual high staff because they are not getting it anyway.

So, you think that yoga path is for everybody.

Yes, everybody can try and benefit for their spirit, and for their health, of course. Because, like I said before, yoga is for mental, physical and spiritual. You can choose just physical if you like.


Sri Dharma Mittra's web-site: http://www.dharmayogacenter.com/