Yoga Scotland: Could you start by telling our readers something about your background?
Erkin: I was born and grew up in Kyrgyzstan, a small country in central Asia. After emigrating to the west nearly two decades ago, I have journeyed to become the current global citizen. I have lived between Central Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East with extensive travels around the world. I have built my career as a successful entrepreneur.
From a successful entrepreneur, I have matured to be a successful human being. I have moved throughout my life from external experiences to the summit of inner experience. Today at the centre of my life is the life of meditator. I have taken interest and developed various other curiosities in arts and fitness, continuing with business and philanthropy, and yet in the centre of everything is my inner home of meditation.
Yoga Scotland: How would you describe your life before you began to practice yoga and meditation?
Erkin: I would rather emphasise that since I have ventured into yoga and meditation, I have stepped on the intensified quest for self-fulfilment and realisation. Since the beginning of my journey into meditation, the question “who am I” has become the most important question of my life, which previously did not stand in the same level of intensity.
Yoga Scotland: How did you first discover yoga and what do you remember of those early experiences?
Erkin: I have discovered yoga twice. Once in the west and the other in India. First was around external experiences and second pouring into the inner. A number years in the west was a very useful introduction into yoga. I was transitioning from Chinese practices into the Indian practice of yoga, it was a transition into a slower practice, into a more static practice. Even though yoga in the west was mainly a rigid exercise, it gave me a glimpse, a flavour of what yoga may be, but it did not discover the ultimate ideas of yoga deeply, until I met my Raja yoga teacher, which has opened the doors for me to the world of inner experiences.
Yoga Scotland: What influence has yoga had on your life and work?
Erkin: It gives me a central place of balance, a platform of stability, a foundation, that no matter what may be going on in your life, in your work, you develop solid foundations to which you can always return in the various turbulence of life. It has given me an experience of freedom from all concerns. It has led me deeply into becoming a whole person through inner experiences. I have fulfilled my inner world. I have completed a journey from external fulfilment to internal fulfilment. This has made me total. This is everything.
Yoga Scotland: Can you tell us about your encounter with Rajesh Singh?
Erkin: After years of visiting yoga schools in North America, while on vacation I went to a morning yoga class led by an Indian man called Rajesh Singh. As the class started, I was most surprised by how his style was completely easy-going and the most unstructured yoga practice I have ever encountered. I even asked myself at the beginning of the practice: What is this? Because he didn’t seem to be bothered about being perfectly aligned, following proper lines, he would take breaks very often during the class. It was so easy-going that you could never actually feel that you were doing physical exercise because it was not important to keep your legs perfectly straight, to keep your feet perfectly aligned, none of that good – looking posturing was important. The practice was more about an easy-going pace, just to have a relaxing time, with a bit of stretching, even if imperfect. I said to myself: “This is ridiculous, this is not yoga, I have to quit this class, this is nothing like what I have known”. But I decided to give it a bit more time. I was on vacation, I had the time, so I said why not. And the more we practised during the class the more natural it felt. The more the style went deeper into my being in a very natural way that by the end of the class I felt true, in my natural state, without trying. By the end of the class, I was very impressed with the teacher, it felt that it was a true practice.
Rajesh Singh introduced me to Raja Yoga. There are several mainstream flows of yoga, of which Raja Yoga is the one primarily focusing on the way of meditation as a way to experiencing one’s own fulfilment. Raja yoga is based on the yoga sutras of Patanjali.
The reason it appealed to me is that Raja Yoga’s main subject of interest is about uncovering one’s own potential, it is a practice to discover oneself. In that, I was essentially connected with my absolute belief in oneself, that the mystery of existence, that the meaning of existence, that ultimate answers, they‘re all to be found within oneself. Raja yoga is about self. If I ever had any belief it was the only belief in self, in that Raja yoga and myself have met perfectly.
I found Rajesh to be an extraordinarily rare yoga teacher, as in many years since I met him, I‘ve encountered various other yoga teachers from India. None of them carried the profoundness of understanding, the ability to apply the principles and practices in real life. He also guarded me against potential dangers that this yoga could inflict, because Raja yoga and its main focus of meditation is an internal practice, and the philosophical part is deeply entwined with the psychology of a human being.
It is a very sophisticated and intelligent method and if it is misunderstood, If it is improperly practised, one can get carried away. So there are many pitfalls and risks that are standing there on the way of a yogi who has ventured into this ultimate stage of yoga, which is non-physical, internal experiences.
The yoga sutras that deal with intellectual interpretation and understanding can be quite sophisticated and it is important to have a teacher that is always able to return from the most sophisticated heights to something very simple. It is incredibly significant to stay connected with the basic foundations of the human being and not get carried away in the complex realms of human psychology.
The other yoga teachers that I have met from India, they have imagined various complex metaphysical ideas and journeys and have themselves become quite complicated, and Rajesh, unlike any other teachers from India, has always been able to come back away from complications, in the direction of letting go of these complications, no matter how profound they might be, no matter how attractive, no matter how powerful they may seem. He always let go of any special powers, of any ideas of special powers, to shrug off these complexities and to stay very uncomplicated:” let go of this also, let go of that also”, no matter how profound an experience of meditation may be, this is also not important, let go of that also and come to what is really your own, that it is not about the energy of this, the idea of that.
Shrugging off all the complexities and going back to the basic foundation is very important and is the extraordinary guidance of a real teacher even if it may sound simplistic: this simplicity is the most unappreciated asset.
Rajesh also recognized as a teacher that it’s possible the student someday may excel even the teacher’s capabilities and that the teacher should not envy the student, that the teacher should let student reach the stars, in that he was very humble and dedicated to the success of students. Yoga, the way yoga to him, was more significant than any ambition of his own.
Yoga Scotland: What led you to write your book of poetry, All Here?
Erkin: I started by writing occasional poems, reflecting my view of the world, responding to life events or simply a spontaneous inner call to express myself. I have expressed these poems particularly after reaching my enlightenment. I knew they would be useful for the seekers of absolute contentment. This has motivated me to group these poems, these writings to make them widely accessible. Presenting a clear perspective on what is meditation, on what is enlightenment, on what is freedom – these are the virtues of happiness. It is simply being human. I am perfectly confident it contains useful tips, essential knowledge. In contrast with other books on life and meditation that are lengthy in explanations, All Here is a new way of presenting ideas in a very concise way through short poems that are more reader-friendly than lengthy elaborative textbooks. I invite you to explore it for yourself
Yoga Scotland: How do you now see your life unfolding?
Erkin: I see it as happiness forever.
Yoga Scotland: This is probably a difficult question, but what is the most important thing that your practice has taught you that you’d like to pass on?
Erkin: To be yourself all the time and if you forget what is it to be yourself, ask the question ‘Who are you?’. I promise you, you are bliss itself.