Airport Press Conference
These questions were answered on October 7th 1977 by Swami Satyananda Saraswati upon his arrival in Sydney. They were also broadcast throughout Australia by TV, radio and press.
Question: Is this your first trip to Australia?
Swamiji: No, the third one.
Question: When were your other trips?
Swamiji: 1968 and 1969.
Question: What brought you here?
Swamiji: This conference- the yoga conference of the International Yoga Fellowship.
Question: How did you first come to yoga?
Swamiji: I was born with yoga. I did not accept yoga as a different way of life.
Question: How important is it when practising yoga to maintain a positive mental attitude?
Swamiji: Even if one doesn't have a positive mental attitude, he will develop it through the practice of yoga. It is not the positive mental attitude that is necessary for yoga, it is yoga that is necessary for the positive mental attitude.
Question: What is the main message of yoga? What is the main purpose of yoga?
Swamiji: Better control of the mind and creativity.
Question: How can yoga increase knowledge of oneself?
Swamiji: By practice, by emulating it, by living it.
Question: How do you live it, though?
Swamiji: There are methods of yoga, technical and practical, which you have to practise every day for some time so that you can develop the body and the mind, and bring about coordination between both.
Question: Our lifestyle is making us suffer more, and trust each other less. How can yoga change that situation?
Swamiji: Yoga is going to change that situation. The present picture is very dark, because the people who come to yoga arrive in very confused states of mind. Now that they have taken to yoga, in the course of time, their minds will evolve. As such all will change, and unity will come between man and man.
Question: Are there many world leaders, top politicians who practise yoga?
Swamiji: There certainly are. Of course I don't know every one, but as far as I can say top leaders all over the world are aware of yoga. And even those who are not practising are convinced of the effective role of yoga in the mental make-up of man.
Question: Is yoga a religion?
Swamiji: No, it is a science, definitely it is a science. Of course, ultimately a man's particular religion may accept yoga in the background of his own culture.
Question: But it does have spiritual overtones, doesn't it?
Swamiji: Certainly, when the mind evolves, it becomes spiritual.
Question: But there is no conflict between yoga and established religions?
Swamiji: There certainly should not be, just as there is no conflict between biology and Christianity. One is a science, the other a religion. As science is necessary for man, religion is also necessary.
Question: How can yoga be applied in everyday Western life, say, for a businessman?
Swamiji: Just by practising. He must find some time for the practice of yoga, either in the morning or in the evening, as it may be convenient for him.
Question: What can it do for him?
Swamiji: Here in Australia we have, I personally have a very good teaching facility. So let him first learn and then practise regularly for half an hour to one hour in the morning. Within a short time he will experience for himself the physical and mental well-being, which result from yoga practices.
Question: But it really sounds as though yoga has a lot to do with the state of mind.
Swamiji: I think man is mind, the body only carries it.
Question: When you said, 'yoga can make a man more creative', what did you mean by that?
Swamiji: The limitations of the mind must be removed. The mind has limitations. You see, in everyday society there are limited minds, there are unlimited minds, there are potential minds.
Question: So you mean that if a man did yoga very well and he wasn't very good at mathematics, he could become a mathematician?
Swamiji: Certainly he could become a brilliant mathematician; he could become a brilliant scientist, a great swami, a very great…
Question: A composer of music?
Swamiji: That too.
Question: Can you demonstrate some of your energy-producing techniques?
Swamiji: Yes. What techniques do you want me to demonstrate here? All of these swamis who are here in Sydney can demonstrate, teach and perform.
Question: Have you got any exercise that you can draw on at any time during the day, in any circumstances, to produce the energy you need?
Swamiji: I will get one of your Australian swamis here to demonstrate vajrasana and shashankasana. (Swami Purnananda demonstrated.) This is a most important pose. It checks nervous depressions, if practised every day. Depression is one of the major maladies of today. (Swami Purnananda stayed in the position and the interview proceeded.)
Question: What is yoga?
Swamiji: Yoga is a system of harmonizing the mind and the body together, and blending their activities.
Question: How can the energy-producing techniques be applied in daily life?
Swamiji: The techniques should be practised every day by one who wishes to.
Question: But if you want to draw on them in a moment of anxiety to produce the energy that you need; what sort of exercise could you do anywhere?
Swamiji: Oh, well, there are various exercises, but this particular exercise is one of the best.
Question: What is he doing now, this gentleman?
Swamiji: He is doing a yoga posture known as shashankasana. This checks the possibility of nervous depression coming over us due to overstrain and stress in our daily life.
Question: Well, what is it about this particular posture that gives him relief?
Swamiji: Well, in this particular posture, first of all, the adrenal glands are activated. Thereby more blood is sent to the extremities of the brain, making a difference in the oxygen conduction, which increases in the practice. The heart also becomes active in order to check the depression.
Question: Swamiji, outside today one of your followers was a crippled boy in a wheelchair. What can yoga do for him?
Swamiji: Oh, we can teach him asanas, we can teach him all kinds of yoga. In Australia, especially, we can manage it.
Question: But can you make him well again? Can he get out of that wheelchair and walk?
Swamiji: Well, if he cooperates he will be all right. It is the patient who has to cooperate.
Question: How many followers of yoga are there throughout the world? Can you put an estimate on it?
Swamiji: Oh, there'd be millions. Yoga is a very popular science all over the world. I think there are very few people in the world who do not know about yoga.
Question: Do you think yoga has any political aspirations?
Swamiji: No, I don't think so, because yoga brings about an evolution of the mind, thereby transcending political ambitions. Political ambitions belong to the lower category of evolution, not the higher category of evolution.
Question: How can yoga be taught to all people internationally?
Swamiji: Oh, as a science, you can teach it in the schools, in the public institutions. You should have academies for it. That's what you can do.
Question: Would you say that yoga is more of a physical thing than a mental thing?
Swamiji: No, it is a physical thing as well as a mental thing. After all, when yoga has to cater to the needs of the human being, it should cater to his physical as well as his mental needs.
Question: It has a very definite ritual about it. Is it a religious thing? I mean, are you a religious man?
Swamiji: I have a religion, but yoga doesn't have a religion. Yoga is a science. Even as I study a science like biology, anatomy or physiology, likewise I can study yoga also.
Question: But what about the ritual that goes with it? Is that absolutely necessary?
Swamiji: Not at all. Rituals depend on individuals.
Question: For instance, the colour of the clothes that you are wearing- why do you wear that particular colour?
Swamiji: This particular colour is the colour of a swami; it is the colour of a sannyasin. It means that we are dedicated to a purpose which concerns, which involves, the evolution of the inner personality.
Question: Do you get any physical vibration from that colour?
Swamiji: Definitely. Purity, strength, and an undaunted will to live.
Question: Swamiji, why have you shaved your head?
Swamiji: I have shaved my head in order to facilitate meditation, to be more receptive at
the time of communion with the inner self.
Question: How does shaving the head help you to do this?
Swamiji: This concerns the science of magnetism. When you have no hair, then you receive a greater amount of cosmic energy in the brain. During the period of meditation this cosmic energy helps you to maintain the height of consciousness.
Question: One of the greatest problems facing our society is hypertension, stress and heart attacks. What help can yoga be in this?
Swamiji: I personally believe and I have experienced that for stress and strain there is no better remedy than yoga.
Question: Well you know, an average businessman mightn't like to wear the gear, shave his head and that sort of thing. How can he get into yoga in a way that's acceptable to him?
Swamiji: He has to remain a businessman. But he must practice certain postures and other techniques while at home, and then he'll get rid of his problems.
Question: Would you like to estimate how much it's going to increase his efficiency?
Swamiji: Well, if depends on how much practice he does. If the businessmen, executives and administrators devote some of their time to the practice of yoga, even if they don't develop efficiency, they can go a long way towards preventing stress, strain, nervous breakdowns, hypertension and so on.
Question: Do you think that we would have a better world if there were a movement amongst politicians to practise yoga?
Swamiji: Well, I believe that politicians must practise yoga. Thereby their consciousness will evolve, and they will be able to look at the problems of the world from a broader and more powerful angle.
Question: Which is more important, the mind of the body?
Swamiji: Both are important for each other. The mind is important, but the body carries it. (Swami Purnananda, who had remained in shashankasana all this time, was then asked to sit up.)
Question: How do you feel now?
Swami Purnananda: Quite relaxed.
Question: How did you feel before?
Swami Purnananda: Not quite so relaxed.
Question: Tell me, how much travelling around the world do you do?
Swamiji: Almost every month, sometimes to South America, Europe, Africa, Australia, India, others…
Question: Who pays for your fares?
Swamiji: The world pays for my fares. I've got hundreds of thousands of good friends all over the world.
Question: You don't have any financial problems?
Swamiji: I have no financial problems. I have no personal bank account anywhere in the world. I don't own a penny. I have no money. I have no property.
Question: So when people want you to go somewhere they just send you a ticket?
Swamiji: Yes. From the other angle I'm a beggar. I have no bank account of my own; I have no personal property of my own; I have no relative.
Question: You have no wife.
Swamiji: No, not at all, never. I don't need one.
Question: Why do you not need a wife?
Swamiji: Well, I don't need one, that is all. It is my personal mind. A wife is not the need of everyone. A wife is a social compulsion. Society has created a tradition, so everybody is following it. Tomorrow society will change, and then maybe many people would not like to have one.
Question: What about the economic problems some countries have, unemployment and so on. Can yoga be of some help in solving these sorts of problems, mass problems?
Swamiji: I can tell you very frankly that I don't know much about economics, but I know that yoga can bring about a change in the mind, and then man can find the way for himself.
Question: You don't think there is any conflict between yoga and traditional ethics?
Swamiji: No. Ethics has its own and yoga has its own. There cannot be any contradiction.
Question: I mean yoga, for example, wouldn't encourage people to drop out of normal day to day life and lead a life of tranquillity, but without working.
Swamiji: No. Yoga believes in hard work, a disciplined mind and alertness of personality. Everything should be creative and not destructive. Yoga believes in the evolution of the human mind, the human body, one's career and everything. So naturally it is never in disagreement with any religion or science.
Question: Swamiji, is the physical fitness aspect important with regard to yoga?
Swamiji: No, not necessary. Even if one is physically unfit and takes to yoga, he becomes fit. Fitness is not important for yoga, but yoga is important for fitness.
Question: There are no strict rules about diet that come into yoga, are there?
Swamiji: No, not at all.
Question: How about if one of your devotees is a diabetic, and he can't eat a lot of rice?
Swamiji: He will eat something else which is good for him. He is not restricted. You see, yoga is also for sick people, and therefore the restrictions will apply according to the sickness. Yoga is also for people who meditate long hours on inner communion or awareness of the inner soul. There can be some restrictions then, because long hours of meditation can bring down the inner temperature of the body. If you eat a heavy diet when the inner temperature of the body is brought down, it will impair your digestive system.
Question: For the people who are listening here today who may doubt what you have been saying, would you suggest a quick little exercise that they could do right now which would convince them that yoga can bring about some changes?
Swamiji: (To swamis) Some of you could practise surya namaskara here.
Question: No, this is for radio, so I want you to tell people something they could do right now to demonstrate the power of yoga.
Swamiji: Well, first of all they should practise an exercise known as surya namaskara. After that they should quietly sit down, close their eyes and concentrate on their normal and natural breath flowing through the nostrils for as long as they can mange. This is the exercise with which meditation begins.
Question: How long should they do that for?
Swamiji: Well, they can start with five minutes, and work up to fifteen minutes.
Question: And what should someone who is a complete novice feel after that?
Swamiji: After that he will feel totally relaxed, as if he has come out of a mental crisis.