During my yoga training in Paramanand Ashram, one of the most beautiful things I realized was that we are all part of the ocean, rather than just drops seeking it. During my entire journey, where I enjoyed all the challenging moments, dear Dr. Omanandji (Guruji) always guided me, mostly indirectly, but I felt his blessings and best wishes always with me.
Dr. Omanandji guides meditation yoga, Chidshakti Prakriya (a consciousness awakening technique), and yoga therapy for small to large gatherings in India and all over the world. He is a great model for all his students on how to be a direct yogi: Full of compassion, peace, and love, as well as showing how to be indifferent to all manner of events, both positive and negative. As an amateur storyteller, I always think that learning about the lifestyles and perceptions of inspiring people helps us to move increasingly closer to ourselves, because we need to see that “it is possible.” I hope that this interview will give you the inspiration and power you need to get up and walk toward your true “self” on the path of yoga.
Beginning with your first step on the path of yoga, would you briefly tell us your life story?
When I was six years old, there was a yoga school just opposite my house. As a child, I used to go and play there. My parents were really very kind, and they never stopped me. They were very happy that I was going to such a good place that gave a healthy cultural experience to my life. From there it started like a miracle. One after another, I had so many experiences at the school. The school used to teach gymnastics, followed by how to shoot an arrow with your eyes closed. You could shoot the arrow just using sound. Then there was one-poleyoga. There would be a wooden poleon which we would do our yoga, making padmasana on top of the pole and sitting like that. We used to do these kinds of things because it was a very good traditional school, like an ashram. We also used to do traditional Indian wrestling as small kids, and then we would do pushups, up and down. So many exercises and the sun salutations, sometimes 300 to 400 a day. It was a blessing that I learned so many things from many various teachers, masters and even senior masters, who were very disciplined and strong.
In Ujjain, on the bank of the holy river Kshipra, once every 12 years there is a very large spiritual festival called “Kumbh Mela” that is attended by millions of people. It is the biggest festival in the entire region. I used to go there and meet many Sadhus, Saints, Yogis, and Masters, and I would try to learn their teachings with curiosity.
I started learning to swim in the holy river Kshipra. This ancient river has existed for thousands of years, and I was learning in very deep water. My swimming teacher respected Asgarali and had a very kind hearted and powerful personality. He taught me to swim by jumping straight into the deepest water and took the fear from me. By going deeper like this, my swimming turned into floating. I started meditating while floating in matsyasana (the fish pose) and padmatsyasana (the lotus-fish pose). By keeping the whole body still, it would float freely in the river. After this, I started getting deep experiences of meditation. It is often very difficult to explain these experiences in words.
Did your family have any effect on your deep interest in yoga and meditation?
I saw many inspiring examples in my family. My mother, my grandmother, my father, and my grandfather were all very deeply into devotion, yoga, and spirituality. There was always an atmosphere of spirituality in our family. Often, many yogis would come and stay in our house. My grandfather was very good at Ayurveda pulse reading, and I learned pulse reading from him. He told me many inspiring stories. As a child, I wanted to know more and more and be better.
In Ujjain, where I received all my education, there is an ashram called Maharishi Sandi Pani Ashram. In this ashram, Lord Krishna took his studies from his guru some five thousand years ago. This guru’s name was Maharishi Sindhi Panthi.I used to go there, and sometimes I would sit there for many hours.
My education continued, and I completed a doctorate program in Yoga Philosophy and Meditation. In a close family, often your wishes cannot be fulfilled, and to obey your elders is an important part of a traditional Indian family. When my elder brothers wanted to set up a business, my father allowed them to start a small one. Meanwhile, my father wanted me to devote my time to his business, so I started following him. In Indian tradition, we normally do not go against the wishes of our parents, so I started helping my father. Despite this, my mind was always on yoga and meditation, as well as other philosophical matters.
After completing my college studies, I settled into my father’s business, which was doing well. My brothers started their business shortly afterwards, so my father said to me, “Now, help your brothers as well.” I started helping both them and my father, but my mind was still not entirely there. My heart was always here, in the field of spirituality and meditation. My daily routine continued, but what ruled me deeply inside was yoga and meditation.
How did you decide to dedicate yourself completely to yoga?
I used to visit many temples and other places of worship. I scientifically analyzed why people get so much energy while sitting in a temple, mosque, or church. Basically, their structures were built such that while sitting there, people became aware of their inner vibrations and energy, which would come back as echoes. When these vibrations come back, and if you become silent, you will become more and more silent. Or if you are calm, more calmness will come back at you, so you would feel increasingly calmer. This process continues, and the deeper we go, the deeper the experience we receive. Whenever there were holidays, I would visit these places.
As time went by, my research into the fields of yoga, meditation, and spirituality increased. My mother was initiated by Swami Ji in 1968. Whenever Swami Ji would come to Ujjain, I would go and listen to him at the Ujjain Ashram. I started visiting him when I was eight or nine years old; I was very interested in listening to his stories and puzzles. I was always curious about the saints: What they do, how they live, why people follow them, what they eat, what secret differences they have in their lives, what their attraction is, what powers they have, how they give good things to others, why people cry and visit to Swami Ji, why they feel happy after the meeting, why people become saints, why they have something unavailable to ordinary people… These questions automatically came out in a child’s mind, maybe because of my previous births’ seed.
Day by day, my understanding became increasingly clearer. I could live this kind of life, which was more peaceful, more pleasant, and could help others. In 2003, I told Swami Ji that I wanted renunciation from the world and family to become a saint and serve society. But Swami Ji said, “No, it’s not required of you. You are already like a saint, and changing the color of your clothes is really not needed. You can just continue serving society. I see that you will serve humanity and society much better than any other saints will. Stay on this way, and it will become stronger and better.” I started following the path, guided by Swami Ji.
Inspired by Swami Ji, I went on to serve the Hindu University of America as president. Then, Swami Ji chose me to serve in the proposed Paramanand Yoga University at Indore near Ujjain, the place of Lord Krishna’s Ashram. I am fortunate that Swami Ji gave me this karma yoga. I am delighted that I dedicated my life to yoga and meditation. I get inspiration from Swami Ji, who has given the messages of yoga and Vedanta for 56 years.
I travelled to almost 48 countries and saw so many different things in every country, but the mind was always the same. The mind has the same properties that we can find in just about every country. There may be different cultures, societies, feelings, tolerance, colors, loves, and hatreds, but still the mind remains the same. Every mind has some degree of ego, jealousy, insecurity, and fear of so many things. So, I started analyzing the minds of others during my travels. These journeys gave me very good experience and caused me to interact with so many people from different countries, ages, cultures, interests, perceptions, ideology, and so on.
After travelling to so many countries and meeting different kinds of people, I found that the mind is the same everywhere, but with different impressions, beliefs, ideologies, cultures, castes, creeds, and so on. Often people have layers of suppression, repression, fear, anxiety, or depression in their lives. Whenever I met people with such problems, I started guiding them through some yogic and meditation techniques. They would feel better purity and perfection in their lives. Better results from my guidance turned me toward deeper yoga and meditation.
I used to experiment with yoga and meditation myself, as well as with my students. With each new experiment, I would often experience surprise that whatever I taught, I would later find in the books and shloakas (verses). It was a big transformation for me to start teaching the things that were already in my life at birth. In 2002, while I was in the USA, I had very deep, divine experiences that were beyond any expression of words, and this was completely by the grace of Swami Ji. In the USA one day, Swami Ji told me, “Now you are complete, or as we call it in yoga, you are enlightened.” I said, “Swami Ji, whatever has happened, it is all from your blessings.”
In 2006, I retired at the age of 45 to dedicate my life to yoga. My yoga teaching is from Swami Ji’s lineage, which is 1,400 years old. Adi Shankracharya established this lineage, so this 1,400-year-old lineage is with us in the Paramanand Institute of Yoga Sciences and Research. So, with my experiences, I’m trying to build a bridge between western expectations and eastern yoga philosophy.
How would you define the mission of the Paramanand Institute?
Our mission is: “Asato ma sad gamaya / Tamaso ma jyotr gamaya / Mrtyom ma amrtam gamaya.” This Sanskrit shloaka is more than 10,000 years old. The English translation is, “Let our Ignorance be replaced with The Knowledge / Let our Darkness give way to The Light, and / Let our Death be transformed into Immortality.”
All of the above are possible in yoga. What we try to give to our students is a modern way of teaching and a modern program structure that is suitable for western as well as eastern students. Students can easily understand that they have to practice certain durations of asanas, pranayama, meditation, deeper silence, observance, and pratyahara. With these kinds of structures, students learn the deeper practical yoga. Students learn the essence and scientific basis of shloakas, asanas, pranayama, and meditation. What we are teaching in the ashram is really helping people with the grace of Swami Ji. He himself is an enlightened master, and he has such purity and perfection in his life that it has transformed the lives of millions of people.
What are the main values and qualities that you aim to build up in the yoga teachers of the future?
The mission of Paramanand is very clear. Our teachers deeply learn yoga here. They should not only teach on the physical level. They should not only teach asanas. Asana is only a drop in the ocean of yoga. Our teaching gives importance to asanas, as well as other aspects of yoga. At Paramanand, teachers connect themselves from their inner energy to the physical, mental, and emotional levels, resulting in higher level awakening experience. The highest level of awareness comes with the practice of yoga. Yoga teachers who come and learn from our ashram must have these qualities. Our teachings balance all aspects of yoga to attain total health and healing. These are the basic aspects that our yoga teachers will easily convey to their students, but they must first experience it all themselves.
Students who come here to train as yoga teachers must themselves experience the big challenges in their life, on the physical, mental, spiritual, confidence, and conscious levels. After this, students experience a transformation. If teachers are full of happiness and bliss, they will pass these onto their students. If teachers are full of confusion, their confusion will be conveyed to the students. If teachers are full of anxiety, stress, tension, and depression, it will affect their students. In Paramanand Ashram, we put all our efforts into making our teachers free from tension and anxiety. They should experience an inner center of energy, so that their students can also feel that higher level of bliss.
How would you define the concept of yoga?
In layman’s terms, yoga is the “State of Complete Health” that can be achieved using various yogic techniques. All over the world, everyone wants to be physically fit, fine, and perfect. But before one can be physically fit, fine, and healthy, one has to understand how the physical world is dependent on the mental level and the invisible level. Our scientists confirm that behind every moving thing, there is something stationery, and behind every visible thing, there is something invisible. Yoga says that the physical body cannot function without something invisible that is controlling and directing the body.
How does yoga describe matter and antimatter. Who controls whom?
Senses direct our body, and
Our senses are directed by the Mind.
The Mind is directed by the Intellect, and
The Intellect is guided by The Energy (The consciousness)
If somebody is beautiful or handsome, but becomes sick or unstable or has an unhealthy mind, we cannot call that person healthy! I know of some film actresses who were very beautiful but committed suicide. Their lives were full of trouble, problems, stress, depression, anxiety, and fear. Many successful industrialists and businessmen have come into my life, and their problem was that they were very successful outside but unsuccessful inside.
What yoga gives: Yoga gives the balance in life. Yoga brings balance to the outside and inside. It brings a harmony between the two. Outside is the physical body, and inside is the mind. When the mind and the body are balanced, then life becomes balanced. We say, “Balancing is yoga.” When that balance comes to your life, you experience a higher level of bliss. If the mind is full of conflicts, unbearable and crowded thoughts, agitations, and irritations, life becomes tense and stressful.
A recent survey astonishingly said that nowadays more than 80% of children are stressed. Why cannot we teach them yoga? Yoga will teach children stress-free living. Yoga and its teachings have been available in India, and people were not stressed at all. In India 200 years ago, there were no hospitals. Hospitals were not required because people lived a healthy life. From childhood, children were taught to understand their minds, and they lived the correct yogic life. Every moment was used as a meditative moment with awareness.
You lived in the USA for many years and visited many European countries for yoga and meditation events. What is the general perception of yoga in western countries, according to your observations?
Especially in the western world, the entire awareness starts with physical fitness. As we see in many gyms all over the world, people are more interested in shaping up their bodies. With physical fitness, they start feeling their youth, because yoga has these powers and properties. These are special qualities to yoga, so if people practice yoga, they feel younger and more energetic. Practicing yoga also does not leave you exhausted and spent. On the contrary, it leaves you more energized. When you swim, run, jog, or work out at the gym, however, you feel exhausted afterwards. In yoga, when you meditate, your energy level shoots up.
The east has always emphasized the mental side of yoga. It was not only a healthy way of living but also a lifestyle in India. In childhood, one has to learn the disciplined yogic way of living, the movements, relationships, talking, and behavior. Those disciplines start with yama and nyama, which we talk about in yoga. Yoga gives balance to life. Yoga brings the balance and harmony between outside and inside. Outside is the physical body, and inside is the mind. When the mind and the body are balanced, life itself becomes balanced. We say, “Balancing is yoga,” so when that balance comes into your life, you experience a higher level of bliss. If the mind is full of negative thoughts and emotions, life becomes tense and stressful. Asanas, breathing techniques (Pranayama), Mudras, Bandhas, concentration, and meditation are a few of the many yogic techniques based on thorough science. Through these techniques, we overcome our minds’ imbalances and conflicts. A deeper peace emerges within and balance occurs. The clustered thoughts start decreasing.
In the west, yoga first started as a trend. Now, people are more interested in learning the deeper, more authentic yoga. The mind will quest for deeper knowledge, and once the stage comes, your mind attains quietness, calmness, and relaxation. This quietness comes from the true understanding and learning of yoga, which the west has started to accept. In yoga, the most powerful technique for the mind is meditation. Meditation is “Dhyana” in Sanskrit. This Dhyana went to China thousands of years ago as Chan. From China, Chan went to Korea and became Dhan. From Korea, Dhan went to Japan, where it became Zen. Eastern countries were already deeper in yoga and meditation, according to their own concepts. The west has started accepting meditation and yoga with an open mind because its base is completely scientific. Still, there is a big gap in terms of understanding and culture between east and west. The west is still trying to teach yoga on a physical level, whereas the original basis of yoga is on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
We try to educate people about the real meaning of authentic yoga, which is mentioned in original Sanskrit scriptures that are thousands of years old. All over the world, yoga could really heal people and bring happiness into their lives if it is practiced correctly. Yoga is a complete science. In mathematics, one plus one is two. Similarly, whenever you practice yoga with full awareness, the results are exactly the same as in mathematics. Nobody can hinder its powerful results if it is practiced properly under the guidance of a proven master.
Many people hold off practicing yoga because they think they are not flexible, fit, or young enough. What would you recommend to them?
When we are born, we are not born with our own choices, particularly as regards family. We arrive as destined, and our bodies’ shapes, sizes, structures, and abilities are all gifted. Modern science calls it “DNA.” If somebody has stiffness in the body from birth, or if somebody has got a torso bigger than his legs, or if somebody’s legs are shorter than the torso, then he or she cannot do certain poses. In yoga, we are not trying to make people gymnasts. People should not fear stiffness, etc. The more important aspect of yoga is to start practicing yoga asanas, yogic lifestyle, Pranayama, and meditation. Everybody can do Pranayama, because it is the science of breathing. Even sick people can do it; healthy people can do it, young or old. Everybody can do it, and meditation is open to everybody as well.
People may feel bad if they cannot do certain poses or postures. They may feel they are not fit enough for yoga. Everyone can do the original yoga we are talking about. They are not here to compete—they are here for inner awakening, inner development, total health, and total balance. You should not feel bad about not making your poses like a gymnast or an Olympic champion. Yoga is also an inner practice and a self-practice. All individuals have their own choices, likes, and dislikes, so they should respect their own bodies. The first thing we teach in Paramanand Yoga is that you should respect your own body first, and you should trust “The Self” before beginning. Then you will trust others, and then you will trust the world. Then you will enjoy the world with this trust. Otherwise, your entire life will pass through doubts until one day, your life ends. Life is not about doubt—life is a blessing. You should enjoy this blessing, and that blessing should come with yoga, irrespective of physical limitations. You should practice regular yoga to bring more bliss into your life.
You are the Chairman of The International Association of Indian Yoga and Therapy. Could you briefly tell us about the aims of the association?
The name “Indian yoga” does not imply that it is only for Indians. Indian yoga is the authentic yoga that originated in India. Now, many people have started claiming the techniques in their own names, although it was given to us by yogis thousands of years ago. The International Association of Indian Yoga and Therapy is very important for yoga inspirers.
The Main aims of the Association are:
(1) To liberate yoga and its techniques from patents for the benefit and wellness of all. Yoga is not an asset of any individual or company that can be patented or copyrighted. Yoga—and its various streams, techniques, asana, etc.—were invented, discovered, researched, demonstrated, and gifted by the Seers/Rishis/Mahrishis since time unknown for the benefit of humanity. Yoga is the most important and priceless knowledge. The ancient Seers never claimed yoga or its various paths to be their patented property, but recently some individuals and companies started patenting yogic techniques to reap selfish profits.
(2) To promote bringing yoga asana to the Olympics and other international games. We all know that gymnastics is a form of yoga asana, and this is already part of the Olympic games.
(3) To pursue the governments of various countries to award accreditation equivalent to a doctor to qualified yoga teachers. A doctor treats diseases and receives respect, honor, prestige, money, and recognition from society. If a qualified yoga teacher treats diseases, why should he not get recognition from society?
(4) To promote reestablishing the original yoga and authentic yoga. Many individuals and companies have started marketing yoga in their own flavors, which deviate widely from the original yoga (Arsh padhati).
(5) To provide recognition and accreditation to various courses, teachers, schools, institutes, and universities, according to the original scriptures (Shashtras).
Our yoga teachers from all over the world have started teaching Chidshakti Prakriya, and we are now inviting all people to come and learn these techniques. It is a very powerful technique that one should learn from the right teachers.
Finally, what would you tell people living in the jungle of the big cities that are always busy, tired, or anxious?
They should start by practicing self-awakening for one minute every hour. They can spare a minute every hour, which is only 24 minutes a day. It is a very powerful technique that we call Chidshakti Prakriya (Consciousness Awakening Technique), and it has been gifted by Swami Ji after thousands of years of research. In only 24 minutes, you reenergize yourself and can head toward the deepest possible peace, pleasure, and power. You reenergize yourself to reawake, so your tension, stress, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and other business all disappear. They decline, and the highest level of your life will begin, increasing your happiness and quality of life. This can be a really important message to all people who live stressful lives in the big cities. Big-city people can spare 24 minutes a day to fully utilize the remaining 23 hours and 36 minutes. It is a very high quality of life.