The Master Teacher: Prem Sadasivananda
This week we get to learn more about Prem Sadasivananda, a classical scholar who is well-known for his lively and humorous talks and his unique ability to bring the ancient Yogic scriptures and texts to life in the modern world.
Sadasivananda began his path at the Sivananda Organization, where he served for over 24 years as a sannyasi, and served as the Director of the Sivananda Center in New York City from 2003 to 2014. Known for his skill at making Vedantic philosophy applicable to everyday life, he has taught hundreds of Advanced Yoga Teacher Training Courses for the Sivananda at their centers throughout the world. He has also created popular courses on Meditation, Positive Thinking, and Anger Management & Relationships, and his online course on the Bhagavad Gita attracts students the world over.
Long-time student Flor Villazan said, “Prem Sadasivananda is the embodiment of Love. Since I met Prem-ji I have come to realize the meaning of Love in so many ways. He delivers the teachings of Master Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda in a way that makes you able to feel their presence. Prem is a true teacher of Vedanta. It is an honor to be his student and his friend.”
Kathleen Kraft: What does your yoga practice look like every day?
Prem Sadasivananda: This is something I don't discuss publicly. In my tradition, one shares his or her practice, including the time devoted to it, with one's teacher and maybe the closest of the friend-yogis. It is sacred, but I will share some. In general my practice consists of: asana, pranayama, meditation, Sanskrit studies, memorizations and study of scriptures, worship of deities in the form of arati (waving lights).
Generally, it is the practice that gives me the energy to do my service and stay in a positive state of mind as well as increase the vibrational level of my thoughts. In this path, it is important to practice what one intends to teach. It is like one's personal sadhana (spiritual practice) provides the structure for the building of life and service. If and when our practice starts to deteriorate, we find that it becomes difficult to sustain the proper teaching level. Swami Vishnudevananda, my guru used to say: "Be a yoga practitioner and not a yoga preacher." It is important that we are able to walk our talk. A true task indeed!
The teaching others also works the other way round. It boosts our practice and also it shows where we may fall short in our practice.
KK: What are the most important qualities of the student/teacher relationship?
PS: One of honesty, boundary, giving and support. Purity and strong ethics should be emphasized. It is exceptionally difficult to be a guru—that’s one in a million—so only a very mature aspirant should take complete responsibility with their students. In the case of those of us who are still aspirants but more senior (like myself), we should teach what we practice and what we know, but the teaching should always reflect what the student needs. The principle should be: "Teach what one needs to learn rather than only what you like."
KK: Is there a sutra that guides you?
PS: I don't use the sutras as guidelines apart from the ones that teach about ahimsa, viveka (discrimination), and detachment. My favorite study books are the works of Swami Sivananda, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. They are highly instructional, practical, and inspirational.