An Interview With Sri Prem Baba: A Man Of Love And Service
By Shirin Karimi Tararani
Have you ever met someone whose radiating love shakes you to the core and opens your heart? Well, Sri Prem Baba is such a man. Did I mention his name actually translates to father (Baba) of Love (Prem)? An esteemed, yet humble spiritual master hailing from Brazil, he has been devoted to spreading love and light with humanity ever since he first met his guru Maharaj Ji in India, becoming deeply fond of the spiritual path. Sometime after meeting his guru, he was recognized as a spiritual master of the Sachcha lineage, drawing some of his influence from that path. Although he has thousands of disciples spread out across countless countries, his presence is only recently beginning to surge in the West. He is having a tour coming up in California though, so that will soon change! What drew me most to his spiritual philosophy is its’ simplicity and relatability. You see, it all comes down to finding the deep-seated flame of love within each and every one of us so that we can wash away the ignorance, fear, and hatred that has washed upon humankind -- to be love messengers in our own right. If that doesn’t say enough, Sri Prem Baba’s mission is actually called the Awaken LOVE Movement! He believes that by utilizing ancient techniques such as meditation, silence, and inner-contemplation, we can access the inherent love within us. Without further ado, let me introduce you to this amazing father of Love, shall I? Even though I never met him personally, I had the great honor of asking him a few questions of my own, only to be amazed by his wisdom and authenticity; I could feel the love radiating through his words. To read more about the incredible, awakened Sri Prem Baba himself, check out what he shared with us.
We would be interested to learn more about your background. Did growing up in Brazil have any impact on where you are today? What was the turning point in your life that turned you towards the yoga path?
Being born in Brazil has undoubtedly influenced my journey and underscored my journey up until this point. Roots are greatly important in a tree’s development; they determine the tree’s size, for instance. My roots are Brazilian—and I consider this to be a positive influence because this allowed me to have a variety of diverse experiences and to get to know different spiritual and philosophical lines. I feel that eclecticism is one of Brazil’s rich gifts. In truth, I don’t consider myself as someone who works in a specific spiritual line. I bring things and share them with those who seek me out, and I give whatever I consider is the best thing for each individual.
I like to say that my religion is love because love is the one that guides me. And it was love that brought me to understand and deepen into yoga, not only as a traditional Hindu practice but as a form of communion with the Absolute. Any practice that establishes this union is yoga. The practice that led me to want to deepen into this millennial knowledge and to communicate with my spiritual master for the first time was kirtan—the repetition of divine names and devotional chants. When I chanted “Sita Rama” for the first time, I had a vision of an old man with a long white beard who told me to go to India when I turned 33.
What is the mission behind your global movement Awaken LOVE?
Awaken LOVE is a movement that aims to create a new way of living life. Ultimately, it has the purpose of awakening loving consciousness in humanity. This is our dream, our vision. We know that this can only come to pass through the consolidation of certain values and through unifying our forces. It’s a movement that takes place both internally and externally, starting with the cultivation of silence and self-observation. This then expresses itself in the world by allowing us to put our gifts and talents into service of a greater purpose.
We can do this in several ways. One example is through our self-knowledge courses, such as our Purpose and Prosperity program, live talks, workshops and retreats. Many of these are offered not only in Brazil, but in a variety of other countries around the world. We also work through activism surrounding education and sustainability. These projects include Project Bloom, which is a school initiative that we are running in the Brazilian city of Nazaré Paulista as well as the Alto Paraíso 2030 project that is working to transform the Brazilian city of Alto Paraíso into a model for others to follow through committing to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN.
What does yoga mean to you and why should we devote ourselves to the practice?
In the Hindu tradition, the Sanskrit word yoga describes a phenomenon of union between atma (the individual soul) and paramatma (the absolute, which is formless). When this union takes place, the soul achieves moksha, or freedom from suffering. It’s when the ego stops being in control and a higher consciousness manifests. Some call this phenomenon “illumination” or “enlightenment." I prefer to call it “the awakening of love,” because it’s the moment that the ego lets go of its’ command and makes way for altruism.
I try to be very careful with certain concepts, because the ego easily distorts them, and that which was once a path of union and liberation turns into a new form of separation and imprisonment. Instead, I prefer to say that yoga is synonymous with union. And this means union with everything—with oneself, with others, with everything that exists. Under this definition, any activity can turn into a yoga practice.
We are living in a time in which spirituality needs to be practiced within—or applied to—daily life through work, family life and romantic relationships. It isn’t about renouncing everything to become a monk, or sitting in a cave and meditating by yourself; to practice yoga is to keep your heart open, regardless of with whom you are relating. Ultimately, yoga is the realization of one’s life purpose, because the very reason we are here is to awaken love. Just as the sun exists in order to provide light and heat, the human exists in order to love.
How would you best explain your spiritual teachings? Do you draw from varying faiths and disciplines?
I have always been an explorer of consciousness. Ever since I was a child, I searched for answers to life’s greatest questions: Where did we come from? Where are we going? Who created the world? But I was skeptical for many years, so I began my journey with Science. I studied various lines of thought, but I quickly realized that science wasn’t giving me the answers I was seeking. So I traversed many paths and became familiar with a variety of traditions. I feel that this experience taught me about Unity and about the true meaning of the word religion, which is the reconnection between the individual soul and the universal soul, which is the Eternal that inhabits us.
Today, I say that my religion is love. I think that the best medicine is the one that works. It doesn’t matter which path you take; what really matters is that you get where you’re going. There are many paths, but the Truth is only one. My job is to expand this awareness throughout humanity. This is why I offer a variety of tools and methods. They make the work abundant and dynamic. In this work, there is no direct or exclusive connection with any religious belief or area of knowledge. We are based in spiritual principles and universal human values, and like this, we move between the worlds. I’ll say it again: the best medicine is the one that works. That means that though the medicine varies depending on the disease, in essence, there is only one remedy: Love.
What is your definition of a guru and do we all need one in order to reach our spiritual potential? Or do all of the answers we need lie within?
Guru is a word that has been lost in the West. Few understand what it really means. Somehow, it’s impossible to explain the meaning of this word with objective language. Taken literally, guru means “the one who dissipates the darkness.” It’s like a power that rescues us from the darkness and brings us to the light. Under this meaning, the guru is like a doorway to heaven. It is the simplest and quickest route for liberation from suffering or self-realization. The guru has already walked the path and only someone who knows the path can show us the path.
In the West, there are many misinterpretations of this word because many have had negative experiences with false gurus. This ends up creating mistrust and fear. People fear the abuse of power. But we must understand that these events are just stages. They serve to prepare us to meet our true guru.
In India, some see the guru or the spiritual master as a manifestation of divinity; others see the guru as representing God on Earth; others as a door through which to access divinity. For me, the guru is also a manifestation of the inner Self. Truly accepting the master in our hearts is to accept the divinity that inhabits us. Although the truth is one and the master manifests him- or herself through life—that is, through the inner world—the spiritual path is full of traps of the ego. And the master has the power to take us out of these traps, or sometimes even keep us from falling in them. Beyond this, there is the issue of spiritual lineage, or the succession of master to disciple. When the disciple is mature, she or he connects with the spiritual lineage, and thus begins to internally receive the necessary instructions to continue on the journey.
We noticed you have silent retreats. Is there something special about silence that has drawn you toward the practice?
Silence is the eloquence of existence. Everything that is beautiful and true comes from silence. The cultivation of silence is our best instrument for creating a better world because it creates a field wherein love can manifest, and this love is the main fragrance of the being—the internal life that inhabits us. This love I keep referring to goes far beyond sex or passion; it’s a sincere desire to see the other happy, without wanting anything in return. Silence opens the path for the experience of this real love, and for communion with the Self. It is the basis upon which consciousness expands.
The world has become extremely noisy. We, ourselves, have become noisy. We think compulsively, and we are always coming up with strategies to attract attention, to take advantage, to be the most important—in short, to be loved. This takes place because we have forgotten that the source of love that so many of us seek is inside of us. Silence is the bridge for the revelation of our inner world, where we can find the source of love and of everlasting happiness. What is more important than this?
What is next in line for you on your journey?
I feel that we are opening a new phase of work in which the teachings that I am transmitting are reaching a much larger number of people. Up until this point, my message has been spreading rapidly around the world, but now, it’s starting to spread much more quickly. The mission is to awaken love in everyone, everywhere. Without a doubt, part of this mission includes being more present in this part of the world.
If there was one message you could spread to the world that would outweigh the rest, what would it be?
Love is the universal solvent for all evil. It heals all illnesses and it allows suffering to transmute into well-being. This is why we need to awaken love. We have to free ourselves from the chains of hatred and fear. And this is only possible when we commit ourselves to the process of self-knowledge and to the path of self-realization.