Interview with Richard Harrison
Q: Could you tell us about yourself?
A: I was born on 2 October 1954 (the day devoted to Guardian Angels by the Catholic church) in Mill Road Hospital, Liverpool to an unmarried mother and then adopted at twenty days old by a comfortable upper-middle class mercantile family in Liverpool. Both of my adoptive parents were distant, almost absent parents, and so growing up, I was really left in the care of a wonderful Irish nanny.
Aged eight, I was sent away to a preparatory school in North Yorkshire. The headmaster there was a sadistic pervert and today he would be locked up and they would throw away the key. I was happier than I can say when he died after I had been at the school for a couple of years. At thirteen, I was sent off to Harrow School, one of England’s famous public schools, but to my mind, it was “the prison on the hill”. At that thoroughly rotten place, it was not so much the masters as the older boys that one had to be wary of.
Eighteen year olds were given immense power over thirteen year olds and many of them used their power to devise a whole range of unpleasant punishments for the slightest misdemeanour. One such punishment was to have to lie down in an empty bath and have the ice cold water run in on top of one, another was being taken down to the running track and made to run round and round while a prefect on a bicycle with cane in hand, would whack you across the calves if you started to flag.
After eventual “release” from Harrow, I went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, where I read mediaeval history and after getting my degree in 1976, I spent the next eight years in my own personal wilderness, where I drifted into heroin addiction.
Discovering an interest in painting started to give some meaning to my existence, and when I was accepted onto the BA degree course at Chelsea Art College for September 1984, it gave me the motivation to check into a rehab and get myself off the drugs.
The rest is history, as they say, and I have been a professional painter ever since, having many solo and group exhibitions in London and abroad. My paintings mainly comprise two distinct groups. There are what I call the imaginary abstracted landscapes, and then there are the figurative works. The latter often revolve around mythological or biblical subjects and themes.
The Book of Revelation of St. John the Divine in The Bible has been a strong source of inspiration for me. There is a large crucifixion triptych of mine in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral and another crucifixion painting called “Golgotha” is in The Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great in London. In March of this year, I had a very successful exhibition at Albemarle/Pontone Gallery in London’s West End.
I have been married to Orsolya (Ursula), a wonderful and beautiful fellow Kriyavan lady from Eger in Hungary since 2011, and we currently live in an old warehouse in South London. We don’t have any children, though Orsolya would like to have a sausage dog one day.
Pointing to “Golgotha” in The Church of St. Bartholomew The Great, Smithfield, London. (August 2019)
Q: What led you to become a Kriyavan?
A: My wife Orsolya was initiated into Kriya in March 2008. Spending 10 years of my early life shut away in English boarding schools, where religion was rammed down our throats, led me to be instinctively rebellious towards organised religion. As a consequence of this, my faith in the existence of an all-powerful creator was somewhat shaky, yet at the same time I always longed for the sort of faith that I could see in other people. Orsolya clearly realised this, although I didn’t specifically discuss this with her.
In June 2011 we were in Budapest and we travelled by bus and taxi to the Ashram in Tattendorf, Austria. I did not realise it at the time, but she wanted to introduce me to Kriya Yoga and all of the Masters. We were welcomed into the Ashram and we were allowed to spend some quiet time alone in the main community room there. Orsolya encouraged me to go and kneel and press my head against Paramahamsa Hariharananda’s footstool. I felt a loud and powerful swooshing noise in my ears that took me aback.
Later on, after I had been initiated, I realised that this was the inner sound that Kriyavans are encouraged to try to listen to during the guided meditations. It was not long after that that I decided that I would like to be initiated, and so we both went to Tattendorf again in September 2011 for the annual initiation ceremony.
Crucifixion: at The End…A Beginning”. The Ambulatory, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
Q: So could you tell us about your initiation?
A: I was initiated by Claudia Ma. There were many people being initiated on that day and I was full of nervous anticipation and excitement as to how the process would unfold. The low platform at the front of the main community room at the ashram in Tattendorf was adorned with many vases of lovely flowers, baskets of fruits, small statuettes and incense burners. The large pictures of The Masters that hang on the wall behind the low platform were also garlanded with strings of beautiful flowers.
When Guruji came into the room, and took his seat on the platform, the prospective initiates, myself included, were invited to approach him. When I knelt before him, he smiled and tapped me on the head, and said “Hello England”. He immediately knew that I was British. I was hoping that I would be initiated by Guruji himself, but when it came to being called up for the initiation ceremony, another prospective initiate, who was more assertive than me, pushed in front of me and knelt before Guruji for initiation. There was a space in front of Claudia Ma and so I was happy to be initiated by her.
At the end of the ceremony, I felt a sense of peace and was very happy to have joined the band of Kriyavans, and I knew that from that moment onwards that Guruji and the other Masters would be keeping an eye on me and my journey as I was now one of their disciples. Guruji is an unbelievably powerful realised saint and yet at the same time, incredibly loving and humble.
Q: Do you think practising Kriya Yoga has benefitted you? And if so, in which ways?
A: Practising Kriya has undoubtedly benefitted me. It is a way to get in touch with God, The Masters, The Universe (God’s creation) and Mother Nature. If I am unsure about something and ask for guidance from God, Guruji and the other Masters, I may not immediately get an answer but I will receive an answer in the form of a strong thought or intuition perhaps during the next day or so. Such thoughts or intuitions often are in my mind when I first wake up in the morning.
Practising Kriya definitely helps to strengthen this inner voice, and helps me to listen to it better and to pay attention to it. I do not rationalise away my inner voice as much as I used to do before I was initiated into Kriya and began to meditate. The inner voice that whispers in my ear is the voice of God and practising Kriya has helped me to hear and pay attention to God’s direction. It have heard it said elsewhere that the letters G, O and D stand for Good Orderly Direction.
Q: Could you say something about your meditation practice?
A: Orsolya and I try to meditate most days and the meditations certainly help me to achieve a sense of balance and to feel centred and to feel less weighed down by everyday anxieties and stresses and strains. When I fail to meditate, for whatever reason, then some of the worries of being human in an uncertain world return. We don’t really care for group meditation, as we both find the presence of other human beings, with their fidgeting and coughing and over exaggerated breathing habits, rather distracting. We like to meditate in the evening and we meditate in the dark. It is more conducive to a deeper sense of relaxation and concentration.
I was given a mantra by Swami Achalananda when he was here in London to conduct a Kriya initiation weekend some years ago, in order to help me with my wandering mind during meditation. Repeating the mantra certainly helps me to re-focus and to stop my wandering thoughts.
Standing between “On A Day Like Today” (left) and “There Was Winter In My Heart” (right)” at Albemarle / Pontone Gallery, London W1 (March 2022)
Q: Have you visited any of our ashrams or been on Kriya Yoga retreats?
A: I have been to the ashram in Tattendorf three times now. The first two times in 2011 I have already mentioned. Then I went again in 2017 for the annual celebrations and I was fortunate enough to be able to talk with Guruji alone for a few minutes and he was willing to give me the benefit of his advice about a matter that had been troubling me. In October 2018, I attended a Kriya three-day silent retreat at The Friars Aylesford Priory in Kent at which Guruji was present. This old Carmelite monastery was a magical setting for a retreat but I did find the silent aspect of it all quite challenging. I was able to stay silent fairly easily when in the company of all the other Kriyavans, as none of them were talking either, but when I was alone with my wife Orsolya I started talking. She immediately told me to be quiet as it was a silent retreat!
Q: Have you been involved in any other Kriya activities? And if so, are there any occasions which spring to mind which were significant in some way, perhaps amusing or perhaps creating an inner change or major stepping stone – anything?
A: In September 2019, Orsolya and I went over to Budapest to attend the celebration evening of it being 25 years since Kriya was introduced into Hungary. Guruji was known to be gracing the evening with his presence, and so before flying to Budapest, I had written him a letter.
When Guruji arrived at the venue where the celebratory dinner was to take place, I was able to say hello to him as he passed by and he said to me, “I read your letter. You need to have acceptance, you need to have more patience, you need to be strong and you need to grow up”. I was taken aback by the last bit of his advice, as I was 65 at the time, but he was spot on in what he said to me! Although my arrogant self did not initially like Guruji’s advice, I have been trying to heed his advice ever since. It has engendered a good deal of mirth in Orsolya, and ever since then, when I am being difficult or annoying to her, she says to me, “What did The Master say to you in Budapest ?… you need to grow up!”
Standing next to “Endgame” in the studio at Camberwell, London (March 2020)
Q: What advice if any would you give new initiates?
A: The best advice I can give is to try to meditate as much as possible. Yes, it can seem boring and it can seem difficult, and it is often very hard to keep Mr. Mind at bay with his crazy wandering thoughts, but it is worth persisting, and with practice, meditation will be immensely rewarding.
Thank you Richard!