Aron O’Dowd talks Kriya Yoga with David Green, December 2020
ARON: Hello and welcome everyone! Today I am interviewing David Green, a devoted Kriyavan and author of “The Invisible Hand”. David was instrumental in setting up Kriya Yoga UK in 1999.
Hello and welcome David, how are you doing today?
DAVID: Hi Aron, good to hear from you, all is good.
ARON: Fantastic. David, when did you discover Kriya Yoga?
DAVID: I took initiation 22 years ago in December 1998 when I went to the Miami ashram to meet Paramahamsa Baba Hariharananda (Gurudev). Although my practice has varied, one thing I can say is that I never missed a day of Kriya.
ARON: Wow. And did you know anything about Gurudev before you went?
DAVID: No, not really and I had never heard of Kriya Yoga. I was in finance. I had an intense career and I wasn’t interested in spirituality or interested in yoga or meditation. Then in my early thirties I was burnt out and stressed, something many of us go through. A friend of mine Mark had introduced me to meditation and healing a few years before. Later he was travelling around India searching for his guru. He was directed to go to Miami to meet Gurudev. I had already started meditating a little and then I took the flight a few months later to meet Gurudev.
ARON: And when you were on the flight thinking of meeting him, what was going through your head?
DAVID: I had previously met Mother Meera and Mother Amma, but the main thing that attracted me was that you could go and meet face to face with Gurudev on your own and ask your own questions. So that was what I was really after. Direct contact. Kriya Yoga was not on my radar.
ARON: So, when you arrived for your initiation you probably felt, wow, this must be amazing, being in the energy of a master like this.
DAVID: Well, as I said, it was all reasonably new to me but when I met with Baba (Gurudev), he was smiling at me, welcoming me, assuring me he would teach me. He told me “you know the world but I will teach you how to meditate”. What I really felt was the love, this comforting unconditional love pouring towards me as he spoke to me. An extraordinary feeling. A sense of peace, joy and knowing, with a familiar sense of being with someone I knew but had never met before. And he told me to ‘ask more questions, ask more questions’ which I did each day for two weeks. I had never felt such unconditional love and feeling of acceptance. I asked him ‘what was the purpose of life’ and he replied ‘you are only born to be realised, you are only born to know the truth of life’ and he said, ‘everything you do is for self-realisation’. And at that point I thought, I have no idea what he is talking about. It was alien to my conditioning and upbringing, but the connection continued and I went back and forth over four years and then a few months later we set up the London centre and started programmes there.
ARON: Setting up the London centre, can you tell us how that came about?
DAVID: Well, after learning Kriya in December 1998, in January 1999, I took ten friends from London for initiation in France. The swami did the whole programme in French and English and then afterwards he said ‘hey, let’s do a programme in London’. So, we did a programme in London in March 1999. It was very close to where Baba Hariharananda had actually been in London in the early 1970s when he went to London for the first time. In Euston. Baba had told me when he went to London for the first time he arrived by boat from Belgium without a visa. Baba told me he chose a friendly looking customs officer who was surprised Baba had arrived without a visa. Baba explained that the customs officer was his visa! He was given entry and some people from the boat became curious of Baba and went with the person meeting baba to London. Baba initiated them all that night. It was by chance the hall we chose was close to Euston also. For the first programme, we had 49 initiates. I remember this because Baba said that 49 breaths are for the material world and the 50th breath is the short breath, the breath to liberation! We then did another programme the following month and several more that year.
ARON: So, you were just initiated and three months later setting up programmes in London! Wow, that’s super speedy.
DAVID: It just happened. I wasn’t thinking, I just said OK I’ll do it and I just set it up. And my close friend Mark, who spent six years with the Miami ashram, he obviously helped and it just happened. When we look at our life and proceed intuitively and naturally then everything flows easily through us. My business experience helped and we all need some ability and skills acquired through hard work to do anything well, but when divine action moves through us and it’s meant to be the green light is on for go!
ARON: Yes, that’s what Kriya yoga teaches us. When we see the green light on the magic happens.
DAVID: Yes and I always say to people, if you practise Kriya daily, regardless of what the mind is doing, just practise it, it’s like a magic pill. If we don’t practise, we don’t get any return. I came from quite a disciplined background (boarding school and finance), so for me practising, even thirty minutes a day, when I worked huge hours was a no brainer because it gave me some peace away from the daily bedlam of life. So, all I did and do today is practise daily and often feel the practice is being done through me. After five years it became a habit and the mind accepted like brushing our teeth that Kriya is a necessary integral part of life. I also found that the mind liked peace too! And then as work became less I had more time and then I practised more. But if we keep skipping meditation with excuses then like anything in life, if we don’t give something beneficial like Kriya a chance, it can’t have a long term positive effect on us.
ARON: And through practising it every day did you see positive effects happening in practising Kriya?
DAVID: Yes. Kriya showed me that some invisible energy is ever present around us. Intangible yet tangible through subtle experiences. Baba said we have 108 main body parts and for each one of these we have an invisible body part. Many people get divine experiences of different kinds. Some people see light, some people feel vibration, some people hear the OM sound, some people get nothing but feel peace, some people get heat, some people smell flowers etc. Regardless of our experience or non-experience, I often think “So what? It’s irrelevant. I don’t know anything.” To reach the state of going beyond everything is more interesting to me! Once I asked Baba why I was feeling more peaceful and yet other times even more restless than usual. He replied: “God is in the restlessness and God is in the calmness! Clear?” In other words, it doesn’t matter! This gave me comfort. When I feel restless I separate out that the mind or body is restless and not ME. Witnessing is a first step to detach. Kriya became my private time out. Even for thirty minutes, if I got up very early in the morning I just did it religiously. And slowly in time we get calmer. When I went to Miami I met two laid back kriyavans who had been practising about twenty years and they were really relaxed and calm. And I thought I would like to be calmer too like them! When we practise it helps us to find more peace, but this takes time. I have always ignored the mind even if it’s chattering away when I practise. Some days it’s going, some days it’s not, some days we have beautiful meditations, for some months no experiences and we may ask “why am I doing this?” But continue. Spiritual growth is really like a marathon, keep going. No-one remembers the person that ran really fast at the beginning and then they gave up because they never finished.
ARON: I think that is so true, life is a marathon and Kriya yoga helps us get past the difficulties that life presents and brings us every day.
DAVID: I think it’s not just Kriya yoga. I think the beauty is we have got a living master in Paramahamsa Prajnananandaji (Guruji) and many of us were lucky to meet Gurudev. Many people met him years before me. The biggest lesson I have learnt from him is keep smiling, keep going. These gurus are always smiling, they work huge hours, they are always giving, they are always forgiving. Baba said to me once: “Don’t be downhearted. Life is not a broken dream. Proceed to Infinity North!” And I have learnt from many instances first-hand from Prajnananandaji. For example, if we feel a little agitated or there is a bad situation, don’t throw oil on the fire, or if we are feeling a little unhappy, don’t quickly reply by text or email, just sit, be still and prayerful. Don’t react. And when we have to make decisions, then he always advises to sleep on it, sleep on it again, until we keep getting the same answer. If we are unsure just take our time. So many good practical tips. Kriya Yoga is not just a technique. It’s the living teaching of this lineage of gurus on how to live. That’s the important thing.
ARON: I think that is so true David. You wrote the book ‘The Invisible Hand’, with your stories about your own life and stories about what Baba Hariharananda and Guruji taught you. Can you tell us about how that book came about?
DAVID: Well, Guruji said to me, it is good if you share your experiences. He said many people have ambitions in life or want to do good in the world but many don’t know how to approach it. They should understand we need some discipline. When the word discipline is mentioned, for some people alarm bells ring! But really discipline is doing what we know is good for us. So, if we know meditation is good for us we should do it! If we know eating healthily is good for us then we should do it. If we know exercise is good for us then we should do it. But often we delay and delay and delay. If we can’t do the basics for ourselves can we truly help others? So, with the dynamic attitude of doing what is good and not delaying positive actions, then everything is possible. We can surely then help many others through example or practically. I think this is what these gurus show us. We can achieve anything. The flow of divinity ensures the work is done through us. Gurudev also told me that “there is no separation between the material world and the spiritual world. He said everything is spiritual!” So, everything we are doing is Kriya (the soul is doing the work) even if we forget. If we are employing people then we are taking care of them. If we help somebody in the smallest way, whether we carry a bag for someone or whether we phone a friend in need or smile at a stranger, we are spreading joy. In these difficult times small acts change the world. If every person in the world helped just one person there would be few problems in the world. And this is the other thing about our gurus, they are spreading love and joy. They empathise with so many people who have difficulties in their lives. It’s too easy to take life too seriously. Instead, we should contemplate doing the opposite and smile, trying our best to follow our gurus to spread love and joy as much as we can.
ARON: And that’s the secret, spreading love and joy. If there was one story from your book about Paramahamsa Hariharananda, what would it be?
DAVID: When I met Baba, it was the feeling that he knew me and I knew him. I can’t really explain it but it was this special feeling, this special bond, which I had never felt before. He smiled at me with full love and acceptance. Of course, we have strong bonds with our parents, families and our friends, but there was something special about him. And really I was quite a dogmatic person with my background and career. I was not a person who was just going to believe some person is some master or meditation is good for you. I wanted to see through my own experience. The continuation of Baba’s teachings, through Prajnananandaji, exemplifies what life is about. For me all gurus, religious teachers, famous saints, the message is identical. Do good in the world. Think good. Be kind and loving to others and ourselves. Try not to do harm to others, if we do harm, apologise. If we even think things of others this can be hurtful to them astrally. And we can be religious if we want to, we can call it spirituality if we want to, but ultimately it is the simple things that count. Spirituality is not complex at all.
ARON: How do we still the mind? The mind has a particularly powerful effect on us. We believe it is us. We believe its imaginations and re-living of events, often negative from the past, or we worry about the future. There are different teachings on how to still the mind. We can ignore the mind totally unless it comes up with something positive. We can rule the mind. We can flood the mind with positive thoughts when we have negative thoughts, or just ignore them. And if we ignore them then eventually they go because with no-one to interact with, the thoughts just dissolve. I think the more we practise Kriya Yoga, the more the mind and body are purified and we can get the stillness inside that many of us have experienced even for milliseconds. And then we get encouragement. We think, “aha, now I know what peace is, now I know what inner joy is!” So, I would say to everybody, keep going, don’t give up, be kind to yourself, be kind to others.
ARON: When did you meet Prajnananandaji?
DAVID: I met him in 1999 at the Paris programme. From the moment we spoke there was a strong joyful connection.
ARON: What crossed your mind when you first met him?
DAVID: He was humorous. At the first lecture having only just met him I was sitting at the back with my eyes closed and he called out “Hey, Mr London, why is a butterfly called a butterfly?” That was the first question he asked me, and of course I didn’t know the answer! He also asked me why we use knives and forks in the West. I replied, “it’s easier than using chopsticks!” It’s hard to explain isn’t it, when sometimes we meet people and feel some strong affinity with them. And I have met him many times over the years, in different circumstances, and I have just found the way he approaches life, the way he gives to others, the way he serves the world, which is what Baba Hariharananda did as well, is the real teaching for all of us. He is the most impressive and most intelligent person I ever met. Ever humble, ever joyful, ever patient, ever loving and ever helpful to others. And very funny! And I would like to say, I think in the work sense, even before practising Kriya, I slept at night because I always thought let’s give a great service to our clients, let’s do better than anybody else, let’s treat others as we want to be treated. So, I think it’s the attitude that counts rather than what we do for a living and if we are charging someone for a service, we should do it in a positive way and help people as much as we can.
ARON: And probably the teachings of the gurus and Kriya has kind of rolled into your business and personal life as well?
DAVID: Yes definitely. We all have our own experiences. We can’t compare experiences and we don’t know where we are spiritually. All of our gurus have said that if we practise Kriya then it accelerates the path to reveal our divinity within us. Yoganandaji, Baba, Guruji and others have all said that we don’t really know what happiness is and that the joy of samadhi is indescribable and beyond the senses. If we keep chasing life then will our desires ever end? We may make spiritual growth our goal but let’s start with the basics. I definitely now know what calmness is, I know what restlessness is as well, I know what stress is, that many of us go through. I would describe Kriya Yoga meditation as the superfood for the mind with physical health benefits too.
ARON: I was reading through your book, David, and the story that comes to mind about Paramahamsa Prajnanananda where he rang someone up at midnight when they were really sick and by talking to the person on the phone they were healed when the doctors said they couldn’t do anything. I was just amazed how the power of a) the individual and b) how the sense and the soul can actually do this amazing stuff and you probably discovered that through your own experiences in writing the book as well.
DAVID: The person is a beautiful disciple in India called Sruti Ma. She is like an angel and she gave me permission to share this story. Funnily enough when I met Baba, at the time I was doing some healing and he said to me ‘do healing on me!’ So, there I was doing healing on a great guru! Very funny. He asked what I was doing and told me to do certain mantras and breathing techniques. It was really hilarious. And then a year later, I rarely did healing again.
ARON: David, you spent 300 days in silence a few years ago and did a TEDx talk in silence. Tell us a little about this experience?
DAVID: Baba spent 12 years in silence and seclusion and when the opportunity came to me I thought it would be an interesting experiment to exit from daily life, away from family and friends, news and the internet and not to speak. I had no idea how long I would last. I went through difficulties, unhappiness and also great joy and as the experience deepened I felt much more the flow of divinity inside and more and more that I was this divine nature and not the mind or body. I witnessed that when we are still and content inside – in our divine nature, then we can only be kind, we can only be humble, we can only be loving, we can only be joyful. There are really only two things that cause unhappiness. Our body and our mind. If the body hurts, we feel unhappy. If the mind hurts, we feel unhappy. And when I went away into silence for 300 days, there were other things that I realised apart from the fact we talk too much and unnecessarily! If we allow others to upset us or annoy us then we are giving away our own power. It is nothing to do with them if we react. If they feel agitated towards us, there may be a reason and maybe we can resolve that but if we get agitated it is down to us, it is down to our mind. But if we are really detached in a loving way then nobody can affect us. Guruji says “success is in our hands” and the more we meditate, the longer we meditate, the more and more we are in our natural state of being. I think Kriya helps us to slowly unravel what our true nature is which is to be calm, peaceful and happy.
ARON: That is the essence of Kriya. We look up to the guru and that’s what they are teaching us, but also we are our own guru at the same time. And through our own practice we develop that state that we look up to.
DAVID: You are looking up to the guru and I am looking within at the guru! What is the difference between guru and disciple? Can there be any separation? The guru is making us realise that we are 100% them and they are 100% us. So, it is realising that there is no separation. Prajnananandaji was asked recently ‘will I see you again?’ He replied, ‘I am seeing everything through you.’ So apart from physical separation how can there be any invisible separation? The more we are in tune with the invisible Hariharananda and the invisible Babaji, or any saint or sage, the universe or God, the more awareness and consciousness manifests. If we close our eyes and think of them, then we will feel their essence, feel that vibration, that is within us. It is natural of course for us to be attracted to the physical guru. But saying there is no separation and realising it, even if we get it for a split second, of course are two different things. And slowly in time we get more experience and we get more feeling and we get more trust. I am not a big reader of the scriptures, but one of my favourite quotes is ‘a doubting person is always in trouble’ which is in the Bhagavad Gita. Guruji says a ‘confident person has confidence in himself and also has confidence in God’, even if they don’t realise they have confidence in God. So, the more confidence we have, the less chance fear manifests and if we have goals to achieve and also to serve the world, then these will materialise much more. Acceptance and trust are two key qualities to develop. Trusting that everything is as it should be is a big leap even when events seem not to be going the way we want.
ARON: I understand now why you called the book The Invisible Hand. What you just said, the guru is in us and they are invisible even though they are not physically here. A story comes to mind, I was travelling to the Tattendorf ashram a couple of years ago. It was the first time I actually went travelling by myself, with my visual impairment. And my mum turned to one of Guruji’s books, looked at Baba’s picture and she said, ‘look after him while he is travelling’ and that’s what happened. And I do believe that everyone in Kriya is being taken care of and many have similar experiences.
DAVID: Lovely! Yes I think it comes to everybody and our gurus are not just helping people practising Kriya yoga. They are helping many people. Our gurus are not limited to just helping Kriyavans.
ARON: You wouldn’t think that. But that makes sense because they are looking after everyone.
DAVID: Gurus are beyond technique and beyond religion. That is my understanding and belief. They are beyond this world. And really Kriya is a teaching tool for many of us and it becomes a way of life. I love that we can choose the path(s) that suits us best individually as yoga has so many branches: Jnani (Wisdom); Bhakti (Devotion); Raja (Meditation) and Karma (Action). We can learn about the science of breath, sattvic food and Ayurveda is interlinked with yoga to keep balance in our health. Some of us are attracted to read scriptures, some enjoy chanting. We might read a few lines from a text now and again and sometimes some inner meaning comes. Take your pick but the key seems to be the action is less important than having consciousness in every action. But really it is as Gurudev says: “an ounce of practice is worth tons of theory”. He once asked if we would go for an operation with the doctor who has read books but has never performed the operation or would we go to the person who has performed the operation? Studying and reading can be good food for the mind, but ultimately the Kriya practice manifests our inner change as well as our outer change.
ARON: Yes, I totally agree, our two eyes are the window of how we see the world externally and spending time with the gurus in their physical form, you probably saw that in bucket loads as well as your own experiences, in some ways.
DAVID: Yes and regarding how we see the world, Prajnananandaji points out that we have a choice to look at the world with a critical eye and see negatives everywhere or we can see good everywhere. He also observes that nobody is 100% bad and nobody 100% good. We all have our faults but beating ourselves up doesn’t help much. Unconditional love for ourselves and others reflects our view on the world. He also teaches that often MYOB is the best policy! When I reflect on these practical teachings and observations it reaffirms my belief that the spiritual path is not supposed to be difficult!
ARON: Did you go to India David?
DAVID: Yes I have been to India quite a few times. India doesn’t suit me so well because I don’t like spicy food and have a stiff body! I was drawn to our gurus rather than India. I have however been fortunate also to have seen the school, Balashram, develop from scratch.
ARON: I think people like to go to India because it is the home of spirituality, it is the home of Kriya yoga and when they get there it changes their whole experience. But I think our home is our ashram.
DAVID: Inside of us is the ashram. Ashram means a place of peace and refuge so if our mind is still, then we are in our ashram. If we are not, then we are not in our asrama we are in srama which means restlessness.
ARON: I love that.
DAVID: You know Gurudev would laugh at monks or brahmacharis and ask them if they think God is in India? As you say sometimes we feel a natural affinity with a country and for sure I loved being in the Himalayas.
ARON: Ha! David, if you could share any teaching or story of what the gurus and Kriya have taught you, what would it be?
DAVID: Well, let me think. Cultivate more patience. Be more forgiving. Practise Kriya more. Judge less. Love more. Accept more. Be grateful. And most importantly be the witness. Of course, the list goes on but that’s it, in a nutshell. And I think the other lesson is when we read about the lives of our gurus in the lineage, many of them had difficult lives. It wasn’t all plain sailing, even if they were realised masters. They had responsibilities, children and some had poor physical health, but they were more detached from life, because they knew their purpose and their true divine nature. So, if we can learn from that, this same divine nature is equally inside all of us. Everyone is a guru and you know that the breakdown of gu and ru in Sanskrit means ‘invisible’ and ‘visible’. For me the spiritual guru comes in the physical form to reveal the invisible hand behind us and to help us remember our true nature within, which is to be joyful, peaceful, happy. And to realise that true happiness comes from inside us and is not external. We know that external joy is impermanent and is often based on, ‘someone made me happy today, someone did something nice for me today’, well that runs out. And that’s very nice and of course we like to experience that, but the real inner love, inner joy is inside all of us, regardless.
ARON: In helping Kriya UK develop in the early days, you have probably seen it develop and blossom into the way it is now, do you feel happy that you were part of that project, to get it where it is now?
DAVID: I really don’t think about these things. It was just done through me spontaneously. I happened to be the vehicle at the time for the work and many helped. Hagen is now the centre leader doing a great job. Michael before him did some amazing stuff organising many treks to raise money for Balashram and Bertie before him. To realise that all activity is being done through us is the essence of Kriya Yoga. I can say however that being given the blessing to republish and re-edit Matri Vani by Anandamayi Ma (who was close to Gurudev) was a special gift and inspiration. But as usual we can do nothing alone as others are needed to help. So, when life becomes tough, as it is now for many people, then feeling that we have been put in a situation for our spiritual growth can help a lot. Faith in ourselves, God and gurus is helpful. I really don’t identify with anything I did in my life or think I achieved anything. Without the help of gurus, God and others how can we achieve anything? The manifestation of divinity is spontaneity.
ARON: I think right now with COVID-19 and everything we are experiencing in the world, it gives us a massive opportunity to deepen our practice of our own meditation, even if it is Kriya yoga or some other practice. We get to develop and become that awesome spiritual individual that we are inside. So, David, as we start to wrap up here, if there was something or a story you could impart that would, you know like a funny story that you always like to share, what would it be?
DAVID: Once I was travelling with Prajnanananda in Asia to see some monks. We were lost, in the middle of nowhere, and nobody spoke English. Two well dressed women walking past asked if they could help. They directed me where to go and I left Guruji there to wait for me. I still couldn’t find where to go after much searching. When I went back to him the women had returned. They took us to the place personally. Afterwards Guruji told me that the women were concerned and asked him “Where is David, we are worried about him and if he is still lost.” I asked him how did they know my name! He replied, “I don’t know I didn’t tell them!” So, at any moment wherever we are God sends us a guide who knows us and what we need.
ARON: Fantastic. David, thank you for taking some time out and giving us a little bit of your wisdom & stories. Thank you.
DAVID: It’s been a pleasure Aron.