Guru From Holy City Of Vrindavan Coming To Teach Sutras
Dr. Satya Narayana Dasa grew up in a traditional farming village in India, but left to attend high school in Delhi. While retaining a love of the rich spiritual culture of his country, he went on to achieve more mainstream success, first earning several engineering degrees, and then working as a software engineer in India and the States. According to his website, “In spite of his successful career in the U.S., he felt an increasing yearning for the roots of his own spiritual culture. Eventually he left his job and career in order to wholeheartedly pursue his inner quest for truth.”
Now that’s our kind of teacher. Dr. Dasa returned to India to study Sanskrit and the original Vedic scriptures. Moving to the holy village of Vrindavan, Dr. Dasa found his teachers and learned all six systems of Indian philosophy. He established the Jiva Institute of Vaishnava Studies to preserve and teach this ancient wisdom, and publishes books and lectures all over the world, and is on the faculty of several universities in the States and in Europe.
Next Tuesday, September 22, Dr. Dasa will teach the first two chapters of the Yoga Sutras at the Iyengar Institute of New York. He spoke to YogaCity NYC's Lisa Dawn Angerame about believing in the concepts behind this ancient text while living in the modern world.
Lisa Dawn Angerame: How would you describe your overarching philosophy?
Dr. Dasa: I am a follower of Bhakti Yoga, as taught by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It says that God has a spiritual form and that he possesses three types of potencies: intrinsic, intermediary, and extrinsic.
The material world is a manifestation of His extrinsic potency. We, the individual beings, are part of His intermediary potency, and His own abode, where He personally resides with His associates, is a manifestation of His intrinsic potency.
We are conditioned in this material world because of material desires that arise from our ignorance about our own inner-self and God. Thus we seek pleasure only in material objects, relations and possessions. This can be brought to an end, by acquiring love for God and His creation and by following the path of Bhakti Yoga.
LDA: How do the Yoga Sutras fit into the Bhakti path for you?
Dr. Dasa: These are two separate paths. So really speaking they do not fit, but if you consider isvara-pranidhana—devotion to God in spiritual form—then they can be linked to Bhakti.
LDA: What does yoga mean?
Dr. Dasa: The word yoga has various meanings, according to the context. In Ayurveda it means an herbal composition. In astronomy it means a specific constellation. In mathematics it means to add numbers. In philosophical books it is used in the sense of "a process or means" to achieve a goal.
People in India usually understand it to mean "a union." In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna defines it to mean equanimity of mind, but he also uses it to refer to different yoga processes, such as Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga.
LDA: That is some list! And what does it mean in the context of the Yoga Sutras?
Dr. Dasa: In the Yoga Sutras, yoga means to disassociate your mind from all thought processes. Thus, it means just the opposite of the popular meaning of "union."
LDA: When you teach the Yoga Sutra course here in the city, how will you go about condensing two books into four hours?
Dr. Dasa: That is my plan! I can teach it in one day, or one month, or one year. I know the subject. I can condense or expand it according to the time available.
LDA: Impressive. Describe the process of yoga according to the Sutras.
Dr. Dasa: The Sutras present a very scientific concept of our present state of conditioning, and it presents a very systematic process of overcoming it. This must be understood by approaching a realized master, otherwise one only gets occupied in the external aspects of the yoga system—asana, pranayama, pratyhara. These are all external in the system of yoga.
LDA: What do the Sutras teach?
Dr. Dasa: They teach us to deal with stress and desire. First, if you can learn that you are not the mind or body and learn to disassociate yourself from them, then you can be free of stress. Or, if you learn to be aware of the present moment, then you feel no stress. Stress is mostly about future. The Sutras teach you to meditate, which helps you learn to be in the present moment.
LD: And desire?
Dr. Dasa: Desires come from samskaras, impressions left on the mind. They are related to raga, attachment, and dvesa, aversion, both products of avidya, spiritual ignorance. Having knowledge of the Self makes one free of avidya, and, consequently, of raga and dvesa. Thus, one becomes free of desires. This needs guidance from an expert teacher, and practice. It is not just a matter of theoretical understanding. Understanding is the beginning.
Dr. Dasa will be at the Iyengar Institute on September 22nd.