In this previously unpublished interview between Sri Dharma and Adam Frei—the Program Manager & Director of Dharma Yoga "Life of a Yogi" Training Programs—Dharma discusses how he deals with getting older, fear of death and more. Check it out below:
Adam Frei: You always seem so content. What's the secret to being always content?
Dharma Mittra: This quality of contentment is derived from the realization of the Laws of Karma and that there is reincarnation. Also, at least for me, acceptance of the fact that: “There is nothing else to be known or done.” Aging gracefully comes also from being moderate in eating (stick mainly to vegetables!), sleeping, enjoying indulgences and working. Finally, always seeing my Self in others.
AF: A lot of people when they get older become depressed. They often seem like they’re fearful, as well. What advice do you share with students as they’re getting older?
DM: I have many older disciples: students who became teachers. They become old, come to me and say: “Oh, I feel so depressed Dharma!” I recommend to them: “You have to realize the knowledge that you have about reincarnation and karma. You have really to be sure that you realize that you are not the body at least.” Most people have all this knowledge already, but they are not realized – they are not 100% sure. So, when they are getting old, they start feeling depressed.
There are things they used to be able to do that they can’t do anymore, favorite foods that if they eat them now can make them feel sick, no more this, no more that, you understand? If one is attached to these things, having to give them up or lose them can cause some suffering.
Part of coping with difficulties is to have established good habits so that no matter what, you can do what has to be done. I can be even sick and not feeling good, but come 12 o’clock each day, something triggers deep inside and “boom”: I have to teach no matter what. So, the body must be trained to react automatically, reflexively. The body learns that at that time under those conditions, it must adjust in a certain way no matter what. That also involves a little bit of your firmness that you learn and cultivate through regular practice.
Diet overall is very important. Don’t eat before you have to teach a yoga class or need to do something of that nature. If I eat, I notice that I act totally different if I eat something spicy or anything like that. You learn through all this that we have to really realize the Laws of Karma.
Realize also: be happy when you’re getting older. You’re getting closer to a new body, so don’t be attached. Enjoy everything, but don’t be attached to weather, to family, etc. There is something I was doing for a long time that I am not able to do at present. There is a reflection in the consciousness the first few days after a loss like this as though you are missing what you can no longer do, but deep inside with your all your knowledge, you recognize that you are now free from disturbance due to the loss.
So, that’s how things are or become as you age. You have to eat properly, acquire the knowledge and realize especially reincarnation and the Laws of Karma. The Yogi who has the knowledge or at least who believes about the other Self, they are not affected by old age or by anything. Of course, you may see only the dark side of things when you are sick, but deep inside, you can always see the brilliant light shining on the other side. The secret is really to eat the right food and to realize the knowledge. Get deep into the Koshas (the five-fold sheath obscuring the True Self) and Self Knowledge.
AF: You said to me also one time: “If you’re not afraid to die, nothing scares you.” No fear.
DM: I think what I said was this: “If someday you find yourself scheduled to face a firing squad or to be beheaded the next morning, be sure and wake before that time and do one full hour of Calming Breathing. After an hour of this breathing: no fear. You may even calmly say to the firing squad: ‘Okay, shoot!’” Especially after one hour of breathing – Calming Breathing, you are ready to face anything. And then, if you really keep your attention firmly on the Almighty One, you’re already in the bliss.
No one is ever going to have any evidence that the Almighty One exists (of course, everything is evidence itself – the ever-expanding Maya or illusion of creation), so, when you rest your mind there (on the Supreme Self), deep inside, you are already one with Him. So, from deep inside, there is no pain and suffering.
On some level, you’re still aware of the pain and suffering, and there, you’re screaming, too. But, deep inside, you already passed through that pain and suffering; everything’s already past. What I concentrate on all the time is the conditions – the Gunas busy with the Gunas. Whatever you see moving, acting, responding or changing is according to a previous condition. This is presently your condition, and you have no choice but to do and act exactly like “this”.
From God’s standpoint, everything is perfect and nothing can be moved, changed or altered. We have this impression that we are changing things all the time – “altering our fate” so to speak. But, the conditions are as they are as a result of all the other conditions they are interacting with and responding to.
For example, when I walk down the sidewalk here in New York City, I see some people always walking right towards me on the wrong side of the sidewalk. They say you should be in the right lane – stay always to the right, but someone who was walking “against the stream” is now turning in place after doing the wrong thing, and then is acting angry and rolling their eyes. Suddenly, I feel like responding to this. But then I remember the conditions. According to this person’s conditions, i.e.: stupidity, lack of knowledge, ignorance and poor diet, he has no choice but to act like that. So, it’s perfect.
This is how you see God anyway – everything’s moving perfectly; everything’s looking for bliss and joy. With this knowledge and conviction, you act always nice and you’re always happy.