Interview with Gert Mampaey
Q: Which are the different or more common practices of Siddha Yoga?
A: The common practices of Siddha Yoga are Meditation, Chanting, Seva and study. This is called Sadhana, spiritual practice or discipline, both physical and mental.
Q: A lot of people, when they hear the word “Meditation”, they think about a strange and severe discipline. Can you tell me more about the ways of meditation? Do you have some special proceedings or exercise to prepare the meditation techniques?
A: Meditation for me comes naturally, it is spontaneous; there are no rituals or ceremonies I have to do. All I have to do is sit down
and close my eyes and meditate on myself with the awareness that "I am Shiva." This is called “Siddha Meditation”.
Q: Often people argue that their religion or spiritual practice is the only way to connect to God. What are your thoughts?
A: Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. However, this type of thinking is dangerous and destructive. The Middle East is a prime example of religious thoughts and ideals clashing together. Millions of people have lost their lives in so-called “Holy Wars”. There are many ways to connect to God --the fastest way is by turning within. The Bible says, "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." The secret place is the heart. If you are looking to connect with God, you can find him in your heart.
Q: Why is it so essential that we cultivate relationships between ourselves and people on the outside?
A: It is very important. Do you remember the story of Cain and Abel?
Have you ever wondered why Cain killed his brother, Abel? According to the Bible, God rejected or turned down Cain’s offering. Cain became angry and killed his brother. Cain thought he had a relationship with God. We all have been rejected or abandoned in some shape, form or fashion, and rejection hurts. When there is no relationship or communication we become angry and hurt those around us in the form of abusive words, or even death; so yes, relationships are very important to cultivate.
Q: You also meditate on the chakras. What is their importance?
A: The importance of the chakras is to raise the Kundalini (Life-Force) from the Muladhara-Chakra (base of the spine) to the Sahasrara (the crown of the head). It is in these chakras, when meditating on a person, can experience various qualities of love, bliss, joy and different planes of consciousness are also experienced.
Q: How do you meditate on the chakras--can you tell me about your experiences?
A: There are several ways to meditate on the chakras: sitting down, laying down, or standing up. I prefer meditating on the chakras sitting down. First, I visualize each chakra along the spine. You have to have a general idea on where the chakras are located on the spine. Note: the chakras are in the astral body. When I visualize the chakras, I begin to chant the seed letters in each chakra starting with the muladhara up to ajna, lam, vam, ram, yam, ham and OM. In this way the chakras are activated one by one. I will tell you about one of my experiences: one day while I was meditating on the chakras I found myself standing on the top of a giant lotus flower, and all of a sudden it began to move very fast rising up like an elevator. It stopped at the Ajna Chakra where I was able to look out into the universe as if I was looking through a telescope. Everything was blue and the colors were very bright. After a minute of observing the universe, the telescope(Third-Eye) closed and the giant lotus flower began to slowly descend back to the Muladhara Chakra.
Q: How often do you practice Yoga, and do you have a favorite part of the day?
A: I practice Yoga every day; the Guru Gita says: "Constantly meditate on the gurus form and always repeat the guru mantra”. I do not have a favorite part of the day; every day is really a good day for me to grow closer with the guru. An hour of meditation or chanting can carry me through the day.
Q: Is practicing Yoga difficult on death row? We know for instance that there is a lot of noise there. Are there any restrictions?
A: Yes, it's difficult; something is always going on, and it is very noisy here. You have some inmates who start fires and the entire section is full of unbearable smoke. Many times I had to cut my meditation short because of the smoke, or sometimes the guards may have to use gas on an inmate, and it becomes airborne. Guru Mayi said: "The mortal enemy of self is restlessness"; a lot of drama on death row is due to inmates being restless. That is why I advocate meditation, but there are no restrictions by the prison administration.
Q: Has Yoga made your life on death row more bearable?
A: Yes, it has; Siddha Yoga is a blessing, and had it not been for Siddha Yoga, I probably would be crazy right now. I’m able to bear a lot because of Yoga. It’s made life more bearable for other inmates as well.
Q: Do you talk to other inmates about Yoga? Have you already been able to convince others to start practicing Yoga? Do fellow inmates practice Yoga?
A: I love to speak with other inmates about Yoga. There are some brothers who are starting to practice Yoga. It is a blessing to see that. I share my experience of Siddha Yoga with them. The majority of inmates do not practice Yoga.
Q: A lot of Yogis prefer to perform the practice with a community of seekers. I suppose this is not different in Siddha Yoga. Is it possible to exercise together with other inmates?
A: In Siddha Yoga we have Satsang; it means keeping the company of truth. Everybody loves the truth. So we seek out the truth at the Ashram and other Siddha Yoga centers. It is possible to exercise outside on the recreation yard together. We are divided by a fence, but we are still able to work out together.
Q: Do you think it is possible to organize a Yoga Club in the community?
A: I believe it is possible to have a vibrant Yoga community on death row, especially when you understand the benefits of meditation and chanting and the peace and love it would create among the inmates and officers.
Q: Did Yoga-especially Siddha Yoga-Change your life, your way of thinking, and your relationship to others or to the world?
A: That is correct, because of Siddha Yoga I now see the world and everybody in it as the play of consciousness. We are an expression of God. In Siddha Yoga we are taught to see God in each other. The world is God-you are God-everybody is God. I can say that because my veil of maya is gone. So my relationship with people is good.
Q: What is the difference between Christianity and Siddha Yoga meditation?
A: Brother there is no difference; God is one, everything is one. If you look closely, you will see that Christianity and Siddha Yoga are the same. In Siddha Yoga we have a Guru; the Christians have a guru, and his name is Jesus. In Siddha Yoga we chant the name of God. So you see there is no difference, in essence the two are one.
Q: Many Christians may reject the idea of Jesus being a guru. Can you explain --what makes Jesus a guru?
A: In the Vivekachudamani, the Crest Jewel of Discrimination, it describes a true Guru. It says: "The Guru is deeply versed in the sacred scriptures, pure, untouched by selfish desire, the highest knower of Brahman (God). The Guru abides firmly in Brahman and is calm like a flame that has consumed all of its fuel. The Guru is an ocean of unconditional Love, a friend of all people who humbly present themselves before him." This is a beautiful description of the guru.
Q: What does the word Guru mean?
A: In his book "From the Finite to the Infinite”, Swami Muktananda explains what the word guru means. He said: "‘Gu’ means "The one who destroys the darkness of ignorance, which has enveloped one’s heart" and 'ru' means "The inner light, the divine light". The guru puts his disciples in contact with the divine light. This is the guru as the cosmic principle". The rejection of Jesus as a guru only shows a lack of understanding.
Q: A lot of people, who are interested in practicing Yoga, ask if Yoga has something to do with religion. Can you practice Yoga being a Christian or Muslim? And what is the relationship between Yoga and religion?
A: Yoga is the foundation of all religions; there are many Muslims, Christians, and Jews who practice Yoga. The word religion is from the latin word "Religare" which means "To bind together”. People are trying to bind themselves back to God, and so they practice Yoga knowing that it will give them the experience of God.
Q: Pete, you say there are many ways to connect with God and you recommend the way by turning within. How can the Yogic experience be helpful with that?
A: The experience is helpful because it destroys all doubt what man thought he knew about God. There are many ways to connect with God,
but in the end you will have to turn within.
Q: Some people, especially in the western world-have placed God in heaven. That is a comfortable situation, because they feel free to act as
they choose. What is your point of view on that?
A: Die to meet God in heaven? Not understanding that the very God they speak of dwells within the heart. There are people who sincerely preach
about God-but they believe God is other than themselves. This thinking is what keeps man disconnected from God. When man understands that God
dwells in the heart, he will not be worried about dying and going to heaven.
Q: "Oneness" is an important word in Siddha Yoga, and yet, people see many different things and persons and still don't see God in it. How can you explain that?
A: There is only one word that can explain that and that is maya, it is the force that projects multiplicity and separation from God.
In the Guru Gita verse 10, it says "Maya-the creator of the world, the veiled knowledge, born of ignorance-resides in the body. He whose light(True Self) arises is known by the word,"Guru”, knowledge means to know, to be aware. It also means light. As long as the veil is covering the light, man will never see or experience Oneness.
Q: In some religions, the community and the experience of unity is a way to come closer to God. Does the community also play an important role in Siddha Yoga?
A: Community is very important in Siddha Yoga. Those who pray and meditate together stay together. Jesus said “A house divided against itself will not stand!”, and if the community is divided amongst itself, then it's impossible to experience the love and unity that comes from the community. That's why in Siddha Yoga we have Satang where everybody comes together to chant, meditate, and to read the scriptures.
Q: How can we help you and the fellow inmates in developing Yoga?
A: You can help me and my fellow inmates by purchasing this book along with other projects dealing with Yoga. A percentage from the proceeds of the book will go towards getting more books printed up and this way we will be able to send every inmate a free book. Not only in Texas, but across America. This book is a Spiritual blue-print for inner peace and love.