Amsterdam based Nik Mimpen’s sadhana includes daily Sandhya (puja), along with pranayam, meditation and yogasana. In India, he has spent time in Patnem, the south of Goa, where he first joined a month yoga teacher training and later met a Vedacharya, with whom he learnt the basics of Ayurveda, Marma, Yogashastra a received Upanayan sanskaar.
He also spent some time around Vashist near Manali, stayed near Rishikesh and went on a yatra to Kedarnath. In his later travels he spent time at Coimbatore at the Isha Yoga Center and also in Pondicherry near Sri Aurobindo’s ashram.
He started his journey with yoga four years ago with a teacher training programme in Sri Kali Ashram, after which he spent 6-9 months learning with a Vedacharya undergoing sanskaars and initiation.
Based in Amsterdam, Nik did an online course in Ayurveda with Dr David Frawley, and also a course in Advaita Vedanta through a shishya of Swami Dayananda His initiation into chanting was a Bhagavad Gita chanting course by Kavailya Dhama. Nik’s fascination for ancient Indian sciences led him to read books on different Vedic subjects including Yoga, Vedanta, Ayurveda and Jyotish. His yoga training includes a slow accessible hatha series, called TriDosha Balancing series.
Nik was a recipient of Indica Yoga’s scholarship for Vedic chanting with Shantala Sriramaiah recently. In this interview he shares his love for India’s Vedic culture.
What inspired you to apply for the chanting course? How did you learn about it?
I participated in a Vedic chanting course of vedastudies.com to learn Rig Veda mantras. At the end of this course, Hari Kiran ji, Founder Indic Academy, gave a short intro on the projects that he has initiated. Because of my resonance with him and his work, I signed up for the newsletter of Indic Academy. When I saw the announcement of the scholarship and the possibility to study more with Shantala ji, I immediately applied for it.
What areas of Indian culture are you interested in which opened you up to chanting?
I am curious about life in its totality. At one point this curiosity led me to join a breathing /pranayam session in Amsterdam. This turned out to be a profound experience for me, which led me to India in search of the root of authentic teachings in yogic science. This led me to more profound experiences in India, which changed my life to a state wherein my interest only goes towards purifying and transforming myself guided by Vedic knowledge. So literally every aspect of it I find fascinating because of its profundity and congruence throughout. In this phase I am drawn towards chanting by an intuitive pull, the desire to work on my Vishuddha chakra and the wish to develop my voice apparatus better and as a tool to learn how to use it properly, since I grew up without Sanskrit.
The chants you learnt are millennia old. What are your impressions of these ancient sounds? Do you feel any changes in your state of mind and body?
I find it difficult to connect these chants to any time frame. To me it seems timeless wisdom that is available always for rishis and seers amongst us.
Vedic chants takes my body, mind and energy system to higher frequencies while keeping balance. Personally, it has been a tool I have been using on a daily base for the last couple of years to cleanse, balance and align my internal systems, just as I do with taking bath for my external body.
What were the challenges - voice training, pronunciation, shruti and tempo, that you think were most difficult?
For me the biggest challenge is the complete use of the voice apparatus. I have to retrain it to be able to make all the subtle differences in sound. Additionally, for my mind it is a challenge to practice by reading the transliteration. I notice that I find it easier just to listen and repeat to the teacher.
Vedic chanting takes years to perfect and the body of work is vast. Even if you do learn a few works it is often difficult to extrapolate to the rest. How will you take your learning forward?
This is indeed a challenge with my western / outward structured mind. To know everything, we tend to turn outward to understand everything. For me “yat pinde tat brahmande” is a gentle reminder to just focus what is inside of me and by that the rest will be unveiled.
I will take my learning forward by just keep moving in balance. One step at the time I will see what is available to me and if it resonates with me.
Did this course inspire you to learn more about India. Would you like to visit again?
I have spent most of my time in India in the last couple of years. I am sure, whenever possibilities arise again, I will be back to bathe in the culture.
Are there places in your country where one can experiment Indian culture- cuisine, dance, yoga studios, Ayurveda etc.?
In the Netherlands and in Amsterdam especially, there are a lot of opportunities to explore and experiment with any culture and especially yoga at this point in time. People need to bring balance in their lives and they seem to notice the benefits of yoga asana mainly. I noticed that, last year, people were more open towards Ayurveda as well, in an attempt to understand and gain control over their own body, mind and immune system.
I want to make the remark that a lot of the teachings that are available here are not anchored in authentic lineages and stay superficial. This is why I am delighted to see that Indic Academy is making use of both modern day technology and traditional culture to make authentic teachings more easily available for people living outside of India.
Do you find any commonalities between our two cultures.
Both our cultures are in search of truth and are using scientific methods and technology for this. Western culture does this by looking outside, therefore using the senses and technologies that enhance them. Vedic / yogic culture does this by looking inside, therefore going beyond the senses and uses technologies like yantra and mantra.
The only real difference seems to be that the former is artificial, non-sustainable and limited while the latter is organic, sustainable and unlimited.