– First of all, I would like to welcome you here, Balakhilya das, and thank you that you kindly agreed to give this interview. We know that you are a person who not only teaches some spiritual truth, but also has been applying this in your practical life for a long time.
– First, let me thank you for inviting me here. I am very happy to come.
My personal life, my daily life… What is my schedule? Actually, I am following the ancient Vedic teachings of yoga. Specifically, we follow the teachings of bhakti yoga. So, accordingly, I rise very early in the morning. First thing I do is take a shower to kind of wake up, rejuvenate from the night sleep. Then I do my japa meditation which is chanting mantras on beads. I also incorporate in this time some simple hatha yoga techniques and a little of deep breathing techniques. Then, at a certain point I like to go out for a walk, get out in the fresh air, do a little pranayama, some deep breathing, and do more exercises in the outside. Also, at this time I do more japa meditation while I walk. This is all before I meet anybody; this is before I have any contact with other people.
Then, around 7.30, I meet with people. Usually I am at retreats, holding various retreats in many different countries. So, we all come together at around 7.30 to do our congregational morning program where we have group chanting; it is called sankirtan. Also, at that time we will listen to a lecture from my spiritual teacher, or we will study some scripture. Then we will finish that with another sankirtan, or group meditation. And all of this together takes us up to around 10 or 10.30 in the morning.
Then we will all gather for a very nice vegetarian breakfast. Vegetarianism is a part of the yoga teaching. We are all following this program.
After breakfast, there is a little free time. People can do whatever they would like to do: walk, relax, etc. Personally, I have to do my e-mails on the Internet at that point; I am communicating with a lot of people. So, I always do my e-mails at this time. Then I am often asked some personal questions. People have some personal questions they would like to ask. Some advice, maybe I can give them. So, I do that also.
Around two o’clock, we gather again for congregational chanting for about one hour. Then I give a class from the Bhagavad Gita or the Shrimad Bhagavatam, one of our scriptures. This is also for about another hour. And then – another sankirtan, a group chanting meditation. By the way, the sankirtan is always done with the accompaniment of musical instruments: guitars, drums. It can become quite lively; we would like to dance and sing. It is a very joyful experience.
After this afternoon program, we again gather together for our dinner, a very nice vegetarian dinner. After the dinner, there is some free time again. And then we are meeting again at around 6.30 p.m. to have another hour or so of chanting. Then again we study from a different scripture and end this program with the final chanting for the day. This is all going to bring us up to about 9 o’clock in the evening. That is our day. Then we go, relax a little bit, and go to sleep. So, we can rest and be prepared for an early rise the next morning
– You mentioned a vegetarian breakfast and a vegetarian dinner. So, how long have you been a vegetarian, and why do you think vegetarian diet is better than other diets?
– Yes, I follow a vegetarian diet for many years. I became a vegetarian in 1969. The main reason is because we follow the yoga teachings, as I said. In all the yoga philosophies, the vegetarian diet is the recommended diet. So, that is the most important. But also, it has been proved scientifically that it is the more healthy diet. And another reason is that when people follow a vegetarian diet, their consciousness changes, they are much more receptive to spiritual knowledge, spiritual truth, they are more inclined to engage in spiritual practices, they are more compassionate, less aggressive. It is beneficial materially, it is beneficial spiritually. And also karmically it is a lot better: you reduce a lot of unnecessary karma. You eliminate a lot of unnecessary karma by following a vegetarian diet; you are not involved in all the pain and suffering of killing animals, etc, etc. So, from every angle, whether it is physical, mental, or spiritual, it is a superior diet.
– You travel a lot and you meet a lot of people. What kind of people do you feel attracted to? Which qualities do you appreciate in a person?
– Well, I am attracted to people who have qualities that are more in a mode of goodness, as it is called; the people who live a cleaner lifestyle. They are not involved with all the mode of ignorance activities like the drinking and the smoking, drugs, illicit activities. This type of a lifestyle covers the consciousness, and the people are much less receptive to spiritual knowledge; they do not have the vision to see how they should act in relation to other people and how to act in relation to the environment. They cause a lot of trouble in the world for themselves and for other people; they are more covered, they are more dull. Therefore, I am not attracted to that kind of a lifestyle. I appreciate the people, I respect all people, but if you ask me what I am attracted to, I am attracted to people that are more clean living. If they are vegetarians, that is very good, although it is not the only people I am attracted to but the people who are actually trying to elevate themselves, do a little more with their life rather than to live just the gross animalistic lifestyle.
– What is real friendship? Many people want to have a friend, and they think that to help a friend is real friendship. But if a drug addict gives drugs to his friend, for example, is it real friendship?
– Well, we see things very differently than most people. We see the person as the spirit soul, the person inside the body, not the body that we see. So, if you want to help that person, then you have got to help that person spiritually, not only materially. In this way we actually see that if you want to help the person, you do not make it so they are actually degrading themselves. Like you gave the example of a drug addict… giving a person drugs is not helping them at all. That is being their enemy, that is not being their friend. So, a friend is one who has compassion for another person. He cares about another person, he wants to benefit the other person, he wants to see the person’s life improves, not become more degraded. That is a true friend.
The best thing you can do for another person is to help them spiritually: to somehow enlighten them spiritually, to do something which will make it so they see (more and more) that just gross material life is not beneficial, that they should actually look to a higher way of living, a higher goal in life. It’s even when you can bring them into the mode of goodness more: you encourage them to become a vegetarian, to live a cleaner lifestyle, to give up their illicit activities or their intoxications, etc., etc. That is helping that person. That is being their true friend. It is not always agreeing with what they do and supporting them in their nefarious activities. If you want to be a friend of somebody, you have to know who that person is and how to help them.
– I know that many people would like to avoid some conflicts between them and other people. But nowadays we see so many conflicts between people on a personal level, on a social level. Would you say a little bit why it is like this?
– Yes, there is always a conflict because people are unhappy within themselves. Number one, they are angry inside, they are dissatisfied, they are empty, they are lonely. So, therefore, when they relate to other people, they relate to them not in a warm, truly, friendly way, but oftentimes in a harsh way. Or, they also want to get something from the other person, they are trying to exploit the other person, etc. In the material consciousness that most people have, they see the other person as an object to enjoy, an object to exploit. Also, they see the world as something that they want to own, to enjoy, to possess, to get pleasure from.
But the other person is seeing it in the same way, therefore, there is a conflict on that angle as well. People are fighting over the property, which is actually not theirs but God’s. In true spiritual consciousness a person realizes: this is God’s property, and I have been allowed this certain amount by God Himself as my due or my allotment; I should be satisfied with this. I am not trying to get what somebody else has. I am not trying to exploit the other person (either physically or mentally), not trying to enjoy their body, not trying to enjoy their property for my own self interest. So, if I can rise above all of this material consciousness, then the conflict will greatly diminish.
Of course, if we all were on some pure platform, there would be no conflict. If we all worked in harmony together in our common interest of serving and pleasing God, we would be teammates, we would be engaged in a joined effort to please the Supreme Lord. But, of course, it is not like that. So, the more godless the society becomes, the more conflicts we will have. The more jealous we are, the more envious we are (which are not the symptoms of godliness), the more possessive we are, etc., etc., then the more conflicts.
The only solution is moving into a more spiritual consciousness, becoming purified of our material interest, our material lust and anger. This will actually bring about harmony and diminish the conflict.
– I know people who want to have a real happy family life, but it is not so easy. From your point of view, what is happy family life?
– Well, it all comes back to the same point again. A happy family is a family that is serving God together.
Really, our true identity is spirit soul. Our true identity is: I am the eternal servant of God. That is my eternal identity that never changes; that will never change. When I am acting in that capacity, then I am acting correctly. So, a family that is acting in this true identity; all (the mother, the father, the children) see each other as spirit souls, not just the material body. Each one has their role to play in the family: the father has his role, the mother has her role, the children have their roles. It is true enough, but it should be based on a spiritual role. What is our function? Our function is to please God. So, the whole family revolves around that common goal, and in this way the family becomes a very nice family.
The family can gather together like I mentioned. Early in the morning at our retreats, we gather together and engage in spiritual activities, or the individuals can engage in spiritual activities. So, that family should function; they should get up, they should engage in spiritual activities, both individually, but also congregationally. The group, the family comes together as one unit and starts the day like this. They eat together, they share the meal together. This is also quite important. They may go the separate ways during the day (to school, to work, to do whatever they do), but then they come back, and they gather again and share dinner together. They spend an evening together being engaged in the activities of the meditations, the chantings, the studying scriptures – these kinds of things.
In this way, it brings the family together as a spiritual unit. It is not just a fragmented family where each person is out (doing what they do), and when they come together, they argue and fight. This is no good. This is not a family as it should be. This is not taught in any scriptures. If you read in any true spiritual source of knowledge, you will find that what I have described is how the family should be structured.
It is possible to do. I know many, many families that are on this level, and the families are quite different than what we can call an ordinary family.
– Do you have some stressful situations in your life? How do you relieve stress? What would you advise people who think that vodka is the best remedy?
– (Laughing) You know, the world is full of stress. Everybody has stressful situations in their life, no matter who they are and what they do. But it depends on the internal environment, how we are stressful inside. The external stress is not necessarily the internal stress. And if I am stressed inside, then, even though I am in a peaceful situation externally, I am still stressed.
So, again, the same idea: work on your spiritual life, become peaceful inside in your relationship with God, live a lifestyle according to God’s instructions, to God’s plan, cooperate, harmonize with God’s system. The yoga teachings are like this. The bhakti yoga system teaches how to live in every way, how to live every our day, how to eat, how to sleep, all these different things, how to see the world.
When we become more and more purified from such a lifestyle, then we become more calm, peaceful inside. We see the stress in a different way; it is not so alarming, it is not so important to us. The things the most people see so important are not that important. We see the important things in life as spiritual things, not material things. Spiritual things, spiritual situations do not cause stress.
So, if there is stress, what can you do? You can turn to the source of relief and that is the Supreme Lord Himself. You can chant more, you can read scripture, you can relax, you can reflect on the higher truth, the reality of life, see the big picture, not being focused on the little immediate picture which is causing you so much pain and suffering. In this way you will be able to live a very easy life, truly easy life.
– The Internet comes into our life more and more. Do you think it is good or bad?
– It has a potential to be good, but, unfortunately, there is so much unnecessary garbage on the Internet that oftentimes it is bad. People have so much access to things they do not need to hear, to read, to ingest. The consciousness on the Internet, by and large, is very low. I am not saying in all situations, but by and large it is very low. And people are attracted to go down, not up. In general, people want to find the lowest company, they do not need the highest. So, many people are being degraded by the Internet. People become addicted to the Internet. Even very, very young kids spend many hours, every day being influenced by all of this garbage. It is, actually, garbage; there is no actual benefit. So, our spiritual lives are being damaged greatly. The consciousness is going lower and lower because of it.
Also, many people think if they see something on the Internet, it is true, but, actually, this is not correct. Many things on the Internet are absolutely not true. So, oftentimes it sets a direction in life or creates an interest in life that is detrimental and not beneficial.
– I know that you play the guitar well. Do you play some other musical instruments? Do you have some favorite musicians? What kind of music do you like?
– Actually, I do not play the guitar well. So, whoever said that, it is incorrect. I do play the guitar, but I play the guitar to support our congregational chantings. This is my main interest. I do not play other musical instruments. When I was young, I played a trumpet, but I have not played it many, many years. So, I do not play it any more.
My favorite musical artist… I do not have any because I do not listen to just everyday music. I do not have any real place for that in my life. I am attracted to music that is of spiritual nature, spiritual basis. That is pretty much my musical interest
– I know that young people almost do not read books nowadays. Do you read books? What books are you reading now, for example?
– Well, I do not read just novels, if that is what you are speaking of. Number one, I do not have time. Number two, I do not have interest in doing this. But every day I read scripture, as I mentioned. So, in this way I do read and gain from the reading. Once in a while, I watch the news, I read the news in the newspaper just to get an idea of what is going on in the world. And I try to incorporate this in some of my presentations to make very clear points.
What do you consider the most important event in your life?
– When I developed an interest in spiritual life. And then the most important event in my life was when I met my spiritual teacher.
Do you remember some story in your life that you have got a good lesson from?
– I have learnt many lessons from many events in my life. But I have learnt over the years. I cannot think of one specific event that changed my life. But over the years I’ve learnt more and more that a spiritual life or a spiritual pursuit is what is actually valuable. Oftentimes I have seen that gradually, and not necessarily so dynamically, all of the emphases and importance one puts on material gains, material goals, material success are so fleeting and temporary, and it does not actually satisfy a person. And that one should actually focus their life more and more in pleasing the Supreme Lord and their spiritual teacher.
– What does it mean to be an intelligent person? Many people think that it depends on education and the level of IQ and so on.
– Actually, again, go to our scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, where it specifically states that intelligence is the ability to see things as they are or to put things in the proper perspective. This is true intelligence; not your IQ, or intelligence quota, where you get some score. So many so-called very intelligent people do not see things correctly. They do not even see who they are. They think they are material body, they do not understand they are spirit soul, they do not understand they are part and parcel of the Supreme Soul, they do not understand that the purpose of the human form of life is to develop the relationship with God, and to actually develop their love for God. So, on a true understanding of intelligence, they are not intelligent. Whereas, a very simple man may actually see how to refer to the things. He may actually be able to understand: I am the child of God and I want to serve God, I want to please my Father, etc. Then that is an intelligent person.
– What would you suggest to people who do not want to waste their life? I know that many people are looking for the perfection in their life.
– I suggest everybody to endeavor in spiritual pursuit. Try to learn your identity, try to learn who you are, try to actually come to the realization: I am not this material body, the body is my vehicle which I am temporarily housed in, it is my facility to operate in this material world but it is not me; it is important but it is not myself, it is not the most important. And, as I said, if I use it as a tool in order to satisfy God, to serve God, then, yes, it is a wonderful thing, and, actually, we become spiritualized when we see it in this way. But I, as a spirit soul, need to actually become realized in this truth and then to operate on that platform. So, this is the first point to actually realize one’s true identity.
Then we realize that one’s position is always subordinate to God. I am not God, I can never become God, I will always be subordinate to God. There are a lot of philosophies out there that teach we are God. It is not true. We are individual parts and parcels of God, His children, so to speak, and, therefore, as His children, we should act with reverence, with respect and with love toward our Father.
– What would you like to wish to your viewers?
– Spiritual life, spiritual health, spiritual success.
-Ok. Thank you very much for your time, Balakhilya das. Thank you very much that you kindly agreed to give us this interview. Thank you.
– Thank you very much, and to everyone there: Namaste! Haribol!