THREE: The (almost) Performer
Yogi Prakash Shankar Vyas (better known by his students as “Guruji”) is an internationally recognised Kriya Yogi and spiritual master from Varanasi, India, who was initiated and authorised to pass on the science of Kriya Yoga by Yogiraj Sri Satya Charan Lahiri (the grandson of Mahayogi Lahiri Mahasaya) in 1986.
In 2007 Guruji moved from Varanasi, India, to Gisborne, Australia, with his family – his wife Vandana, and his son, Puneet.
Guruji lives and teaches in a rural suburb of Melbourne. A sign by the letterbox tells you that you have arrived at “Kashi Kriya Yoga Centre”, and then there is the Buddha statue in the front garden. It is a place where you can learn yoga in a small studio where ten people (max.) can squeeze in per session. I’m pretty sure the neighbours have no idea that they live close to a spiritual master.
We made yoga centre flyers to put in the local library and a few local shops. One of the things it says on the flyer is, “Regular practice of yoga increases self-awareness and concentration. It promotes peace of mind, good health, and love and respect for nature. The Kashi Kriya Yoga Centre provides an environment for physical and spiritual development.”
It also explains that Guruji’s Hatha Yoga classes are typically comprised of three parts:
1. Hatha Yoga (physical exercises)
2. Pranayama (breathing exercises)
3. Raja Yoga (practice of Pranayama and meditation)
There is no secretary, no ashram and no organisation. Guruji’s wife and a few disciples volunteer to help with the organisation of yoga classes and new people who apply for Kriya in the spirit of Guru Seva (lit. service to Guru). There have been no marketing or promotion campaigns since Guruji arrived. The yoga centre was listed in the phone book for the first year, but that was dropped since living expenses take precedence over business expenses right now. Guruji says that in time people will come to know by word of mouth, and that this is the best way anyway.
Guruji teaches four yoga classes a week and gives initiation in Kriya Yoga a few times a year. As a spiritual master living as a “householder”, Guruji has the same physical needs as everyone else. From what I gather, it is not always easy, and although you might imagine that a spiritual master would not have any struggles in life, that would be a superficial preconception of the conditioned mind. He is the most extraordinary example and I can observe how physical circumstances never throw Guruji off balance. He hides all that he does as a spiritual master, and it really makes you wonder what he’s really doing when he’s out there gardening – because every now and again we hear amazing stories of what happened to this person or that. And he never asks for anything in return.
He knows that people have to understand everything in their own time, and by themselves.
I realise that to “make it” as an independent artist is a tough call. Piracy and file-sharing are rife, even amongst people who would label themselves as “honest”. And this is why the survival of the music industry is at stake. Musicians don’t necessarily hanker after being signed to a label anymore – you have to do everything yourself. Apparently most bands these days make their money not from the music itself, but from so-called “merch” (merchandise like T-shirts and key rings), and have to accept this as a reality of their art, to enable them to continue performing and recording. Hmm. Why do I have this nagging feeling that “merch” is not going to work for me?!
Writing songs takes time but doesn’t cost a cent, whilst recording original music takes time, energy, and costs thousands of dollars. I don’t have a lot of business acumen, but I can’t help thinking that if there are to be more good times in the studio it would be great to recoup my costs at the very least through sales. (Either that or I’d have to get signed by a label, hint, hint, if you are the CEO at EMI ☺)
In order to sell albums I will have to perform again. Goodness, I might even have to do a proper “album launch”! I nearly got to this point before my life-path took me to India and brought about a major detour in order to write Footsteps to Freedom. And now here we go again, face-to-face with ancient childhood dreams of becoming a singer. Gulp. Back to that cliff edge I was talking about last time. Despite myself, memories are haunting me of the old self-consciousness which doesn’t exactly go hand-in-hand with performing! My mind is whirring with, “Me, a performer? You have to be kidding! I have a family and a household, and am committed to a twice-daily yoga practice! I work part-time and don’t have hours on end to practise every day!” The list of objections goes on and on, but you get the picture.
On the other hand, if I don’t even try to share my songs or make the effort to “put myself out there” and perform, I will probably regret it for the rest of my life. It’s time to remember that “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” (Ambrose Redmoon)
I did manage to shut out the excuses for about five minutes one day in July, and offered to play at a charity-fundraising dinner in October. Soon I’ll have to start thinking seriously about that “album launch” in November too…
The second of the four themes around which I will base the blog will be: BODY, MIND & SOUL.
To give you a sample of the topics based on stories and talks by Guruji: The connection between the parts of the body, such as the brain and the heart, and yoga & meditation; the mind; peace; Pure Self, and Soul.