An Interview with Gopala dasi from Adelaide
Q: Namaste, have you always lived a yoga lifestyle? If not, was there anything which drew you towards living a yoga lifestyle?
Gopala dasi: No I haven’t but even as a child I had unanswered questions about different things I experienced in life. For example when I was a child I used to think “? How come mum loves me but not the child that lived next door?” Selective love where you only care about some people but not about others didn’t feel quite right. Also where I grew up in New Zealand the countryside is lush and green and is dotted with frolicking white lambs and one day after my family drove home from a relative’s farm, as we sat down to dinner of roast lamb I felt like something was not right. The lambs looked so innocent and free running around playing in the fields and now we are eating one!
Later as a young adult, when I was staying at a friend’s farm, one of the people went out to shoot a rabbit for dinner; from that point on I became a vegetarian. I thought I would not kill an animal to eat it so why let someone else do it for me? From there I started reading about healthy eating and began to eat more natural foods.
I first came across hatha yoga when I was about 20 years old but at the time I never followed through with it. I had done a lot of travelling overseas but experienced a deep sense that there had to be some kind of meaningful purpose to life. I used to wonder, “Was life really just getting up, going to work, watching TV, going to bed and doing it all over again the next day?” I could see that there were some good things in life, but I could also see there were some painful things too. I looked around and started to think, “What is the purpose of life?” I saw relationships break up and the pain that it caused and along with my questions from childhood the feeling that “there had to be more to life than this” just grew. That was the beginning of my search for answers to these questions.
I met some people who introduced me to a yoga lifestyle, and as I began to live a yoga lifestyle I experienced at the very core of my being that finally I had a true and meaningful purpose in my life. I regularly practiced the chanting of sacred mantras with friends and on japa beads on my own. I developed an underlying sense of happiness and despite the ups and downs, the pains and pleasure that we all experience in our lives, I felt a deep sense of peace to carry me through. In this journey I found out who I am, what my relationship with others is, what I am here for, and began to try to reestablish my loving relationship with the Supreme.
Q: When you first started living a yoga lifestyle was there anything that was difficult, in terms of living it?
Gopala dasi: No, it was a natural progression, a totally natural flow. I found that practicing hatha yoga asanas was easy to add to my life as I had always liked physical exercises and engaging in other yoga practices like japa and kirtan were fulfilling and easy to apply too.
I was simply not interested in the kind of lifestyle I had been living before so it was a natural progression. Different experiences made me realize that this life is short and that it needs to be meaningful. I could see how all living beings are spiritual beings in different material forms and with this understanding I felt kinder to both animals and humans.
Q: Can you apply a yoga lifestyle to all areas of your life?
Gopala dasi: Yes, it can be applied to all areas of my life and relationships and living more in harmony with nature. For example, rising early in the morning when the atmosphere is more conducive to doing meditation. Early japa meditation practice is very helpful to keep my focus and leaves me feeling enlivened. It is a perfect way to begin each day! Eating fresh vegetarian food helps me to think clearer and regularly practicing yoga asanas helps me feel more energetic and full of vitality.
Q: What were some of those first benefits you experienced? And the benefits now?
Gopala dasi: The things I just mentioned but also when I first started living a yoga lifestyle I also began to learn and gain an understanding of yoga philosophy and I found when I applied it to my life it was very helpful.
By applying a yoga lifestyle to all areas of my life I have found that I still feel as fit, strong, flexible and have the same energy levels as I did 30 years ago. My body feels really young, it doesn’t actually feel any different than it has ever felt. The yoga lifestyle has just come naturally. In addition to my daily japa meditation and regularly practicing kirtan meditation each week I also swim and do several hatha yoga classes. I am not feeling any aging at all…its motivating. I have vitality, energy, and happiness. However, the main benefits I have from living a yoga lifestyle is the sense of brotherhood and compassion I have with other living beings, and peace of mind, a sense of purpose and meaning in my life, as well as the knowledge and thus the ability to cope with difficulties, small or large, and even painful experiences such as the death of a loved one. Living a yoga lifestyle has made such a huge difference to me.
Q: What is the most fun part of living a yoga lifestyle?
Gopala dasi: Kirtan, I love kirtan. When I am listening to the sacred mantras and singing them too it gives me a taste of the happiness I was searching for.
Q: When you started living a yoga lifestyle was there anyone else who benefitted from it too?
Gopala dasi: My family and of course other living beings!
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your yoga lifestyle?
Gopala dasi: Living my own yoga journey and sharing what I have been given to help others to live their own yoga journey too.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Gopala dasi: Yes, I hope by sharing some of my yoga journey others feel encouraged to take the step and begin their yoga journey too.