Sample from the Winter 2012 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine
Yoga: The Art of Living
A 1971 Interview with Sri Gurudev, Alice Coltrane and Felix Cavaliere
In the early 1970s, Sri Gurudev often was interviewed on New York radio shows. This transcript is from one such show that was broadcast on WBAI on August 12th, 1971. During this show, Gurudev was joined in the interview by musicians Alice Coltrane and Felix Cavaliere (Aparna was the spiritual name given by Gurudev to Alice Coltrane, and Pallitha, was the name given to Felix Cavaliere, the lead singer of the band called The Rascals. The interview also included questions from callers; and, at one point, Gurudev took over the role of interviewer!
Guruprem [radio show host]: Today, I would like to ask Alice how Yoga and Eastern philosophy have affected your music. I know you were originally from Detroit and I don’t think you were exposed to Yoga in Detroit.
Alice/Aparna: I got involved with the East through John [musician John Coltrane, her late husband] because of his interest in India and Africa and many of the Eastern countries. I was influenced by his study and his research into religion. And that was the biggest help because he, having the gift of music, had to really go to other sources of inspiration. It had to come from the world, the things that God has given to all of us, all the cultures, all the races. He has given us some attributes and some talents and some gifts, and I think that John realized this. He also realized that the spirituality coming from the East, is an abundant quality, and this is what he wanted to do in his music—to make it more spiritual, more God-like. So India was really a main source of his spirituality.
Sri Gurudev: Did he ever visit India?
Alice/Aparna: No. He was invited by Ravi Shankar to come to spend two or three months there. He had bought a sitar and so many records—Ali Akbhar Khan, Vishnu Khan, some of their renditions. He was quite pleased with their work, and I think all of this really got him into it. He used to do Hatha Yoga, and he showed me a few things. You know, we didn’t have a Guru [then]. He didn’t have Swami Satchidananda.
Sri Gurudev: I heard that you had a lot of books from Swami Sivanandaji, my Master.
Alice/Aparna: Yes, so many books. And they were his best guide, and he was a guide for me. He really got me into it because my concept of religion was very limited. It was only what I had gotten from Western sources like the Christian church and what have you. It was just a little too limited, and I am really grateful to him because he got me into this.
Sri Gurudev: So what about your involvement later on?
Alice/Aparna: Well, after John’s death, I didn’t feel that I was making the right progress through meditation. You make so many mistakes without a guide. You might not have been practicing the Hatha exercises or the breathing correctly, things like this. So I needed a guide. I had a friend Vishnu (Bill Wood) from Detroit in those days. He had been studying Yoga with Swamiji [Satchidananda]. I asked him if I could come and hear a lecture, because I would love to see Swamiji and meet him and he told me about the Friday night lectures at the Universalist Church. So this particular Friday I went down there and the first time I saw him he just looked beautiful. That is the only thing that I could think. So I sat there and I listened to the lecture.
I decided to take a minute to step out and get some literature so I would be sure to have it after the lecture was over. I was reading this little biography of Swamiji’s life and work and I read the part where he had been initiated into monkhood by Swami Sivananda, which meant so much to me. It was such a beautiful surprise, in fact the kind that almost prevented me from hearing the rest of the lecture. I was so carried away by knowing that this is a real living concrete reality part of Swami Sivananda. So from that day on, I got more into coming to the Institute and taking classes. I got initiated last year and went to India with Swamiji for five weeks. I enjoyed it very much.
Guruprem: That must have been really something.
Alice/Aparna: It really was an experience. Swamiji, I want to thank him. You know how really wonderfully he treated us. He treated us like royalty. It seemed as if he picked the best places for us to stay, the best accommodations, the best places to see. We didn’t expect this because we knew that we were going to India and that the conditions might not be like those we were used to. But it was really very fine. We traveled and visited a lot of holy places and places like the Taj Mahal and places that we might never have seen. So it was really wonderful.
Guruprem: Felix, I know that you have been a follower of Swamiji for a long time. Can you tell us a little bit about how long you have been involved?…