The Sanskrit scholar, who has travelled around the world more than 20 times to spread his devotion of Krishna, was in Raglan on Saturday to give a workshop on the female mystics in the Vedas, teaching those of today what could be learned from the female saints of ancient India.
“I have great compassion for ladies in modern society,” says Prem, who spoke to the Raglan Chronicle before his class.
“They have so many roles and responsibilities and that causes a great deal of suffering and unhappiness.
“Women in the 50s were much more happier when roles were defined.”
The teachings of bhakti yoga support modern studies that show “stability of home life is very important”, he says.
“Some despot” who went out and killed hundreds of people “probably didn’t have a good relationship with his mother”.
The 48-year-old was born in England and has lived in India for 25 years, where he teaches Vedic subjects to international students at an ashram in Vrindavan, a town that has 5000 temples and where, according to Hinduism, Lord Krishna spent his childhood days.
He found his path early, meditating before he even knew the word for it, and studying the Bhagavad Gita, “the main spiritual, philosophical text of Hinduism”, at the age of 15.
He met his spiritual teacher, Narayan Gosvami, in England, who said “why don’t you come to India?”
There, Prem learned languages – Hindu, Bengali and Sanskrit – and became a translator for his spiritual master, joining him on world tours – 22 times in 11 years – of his teachings.
“So it was quite an education … 24 hours a day, seven days a week of total emersion for many years, living as a monk in India, sleeping on the floor, with a vow of poverty, no money.
“It was wonderful, it opened up many opportunities.
“Here you have a person who has renounced everything, career and education, but I found myself having the most wonderful education and seeing the world – what people want money for. When you focus on your development to God everything comes to you without any effort.”
Prem’s spiritual master died five years ago, aged 90, but Prem has continued his work, “not being a master but a servant of the servant of the servant of Krishna”.
It’s not such an unusual life, he says, of his devotion, his path to self-enlightenment and his world tours without selfies or general sight-seeing.
Prem says his is the “real world”, and “demand is so great that I can’t keep up with the engagements all around the world”.
Yes, the world can be seen as a bleak place, what with climate change, the growing gap between the rich and poor, and much conflict.
There has been “break down in the natural order of life, a dive in morality and ethics”. But “we dwell in the absolute reality, and share with others the possibility to rise”.
“Every moment of life is the unfolding of the karma, of the destiny of each person, each experiencing the reaction of their own deeds in their life and previous lives. It is the way it is meant to be … the suffering of life has a therapeutic effect. We become sober, inquisitive, why is this happening to me?
“There has to be some disruption now and then to evolve to fullest potential.”