We are all on this journey called life. Prema Das, a wonderful being that I’ve recently met in an ashram, has been on a spiritual journey for many years. One of his first spiritual awakenings happened when he was only 9 years old and had an out-of-body-experience (OBE) in the back of his father’s car.
In this interview Prema Das opens up about his OBE and other mystical experiences that followed afterwards. He shares how it has influenced his spiritual path.
Who are you?
Who am I? I guess that’s a lifelong quest! 🙂 My parents gave me the name ‘Peter’ which means Rock. It is also a Biblical name, Peter was a disciple of Jesus.
Nowadays everybody knows me as Prema Das, which means Servant of Love. Prema means divine love and a Das is a servant. This is my spiritual name.
The name was given to my by swami Tradandi Maharaj, together with a Tulsi mala in 2011 in an ashram of the lineage of Narayan Maharaj from Vrindavan, India. It is quite rare, normally it takes many years before a student receives a spiritual name.
I lost Hannah, my daughter a few years earlier in a car accident in 2007 and I was deeply in grief. After Hannah left her body I decided to leave my old life behind me and took renunciation. I went to the ashram in 2011. There I met swami Tradandi Maharaj. He said: “You’re so full of love, I want to give you your spiritual name”.
The swami said to me: “One thing to always remember is that you’re a servant, a das, it’s not your love, it’s divine love, so don’t get into ego Prema Das.”
When did your spiritual journey start?
In this lifetime? hahaha.
I was a young boy, about 9 years old and I had an out of body experience. We came back from Birmingham, which was about 3,5 hours away from home. My mother had made a kind of bed in the station wagon (estate car) and I was asleep at the booth behind the backseat.
The exhaust pipe at the rear of my father’s car was not properly engaged in the clasp, so fumes were coming in from underneath the car. I was asphyxiated with carbon monoxide poisoning.
I said to my father how do we say the Lord’s Prayer? Because I knew I was going, I knew something was happening and I was going deeper and deeper into this coma.
My dad was shaking me “Peter wake up, do as you’re told!” He was a navy man, very authoritarian and strict. He was ordering me to wake up.
At a certain moment I was looking down at my body from above.
Then the creatures came, guardian angels or voices. They looked like very bright lights. They were formless and didn’t have a body nor a gender. They said you can come with us towards the tunnel if you like with the light in the distance. The angels said you can come or you can go back to your body.
I said that I had to go back. “I have to do as I’m told, my father says I have to do as I’m told so.”
With that second I went back into my body and I started to wake up, coming out of the coma.
Then my mom took me upstairs and opened the bedroom window and left me there.
She didn’t call an ambulance, I should’ve had oxygen straight away because my body was full of carbon monoxide.
Due to the spiritual awakening accompanying this experience, I already knew at a very young age that we aren’t just this body, that we are something else, much more, than we realise. So that was my first spiritual realisation. I realised that there is far more than we might think. It was a great blessing for me.
What does Bob Marley mean to you?
When we were younger, my older brother was very much into Kung Fu and Karate. He used to be physically abusive towards me and he often kicked me.
Around that time Bob Marley came into my life. The first album I listened to was Rastaman Vibration. The lyrics were on the album, so I began learning the lyrics. That was incredible.
Bob Marley saved me so many times. Back then I was having a very difficult time with my brother. Also when I experienced difficulties with my parents I would listen to Bob Marley’s music and it would work like a mantra, like a transcendental experience.
Bob Marley is a guru to me. There’s one song, on this particular album: Who the cap fit?
“Man to man is so unjust, you don’t know who to trust. Your worst enemy could be your best friend, and your best friend your worst enemy. Some will eat and drink with you and then behind suss upon you. Only your friend knows your secrets, so only he can reveal it. Who the cap fit, let them wear it.”
So listened a lot to this kind of music.
“And for yourself you live in vain and for others you’ll live again in the kingdom of Jah.”
The song War is a speech based on words of highly Selassi. It’s so deep.
“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior, is finally and impermanently discredited and abandoned, there will be war. Until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation there will be war. Until the color of the man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes, me say war.”
I knew all of these songs by heart, every single on of them.
I wasn’t smoking. But I was completely transcendentally high on the lyrics as I was listening to his songs.
It’s a gradual process, when you read something in a book and you read that book again, you might learn something new.
It’s the same with his songs, there are so many lessons hidden in his songs. His lyrics tell everything you need to know. The depth and the beauty of his message can also come much later, when you’re ready or more receptive.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I was quite impetuous. I was very busy to get on to the next thing and not really taking time to reflect on what was going on, I was always busy with the next job.
When I was 19 I bought my first house, I was still an apprentice carpenter.
By the time I was 20 I was finishing my apprenticeship and I was already running a small business. I had my own clients as a self-employed carpenter. By that age I was busy working and I already renovated my first house.
I was continuously trying to push myself as far as I could go.
Now when I look back, it was great, it was my Karma Yoga. Without realising what I was doing, I was also very conscious.
I was trying to be very honest, trying to honour my integrity in dealings with other people. In return I often never had the same respect and I was always disappointed with how people behaved.
I just couldn’t understand why people would be so dishonest and so uncaring despite me always trying to remember to be honest and caring.
I had an accountant who was a Jungian psychologist and he said that those people have a different yardstick. We judge people how we think and act and expect others to do the same, but they don’t.
When we are open in our hearts we can also easily get very hurt or disappointed.
So my answer to your question would be to be more discerning in who I place my trust or faith in. And also to slow down and enjoy the journey and to not be so impetuous.
How do you stay calm and grounded in the present day situation?
I have a profound knowledge of my higher self and I’m always aware that whatever happens is always part of a divine plan. So I have no fear to take me in a different direction, I know I’m incredibly blessed.
Now that I’m in my fifties it’s much easier. I’ve been on my life journey to get to this point.
For me there is no other way. I will continue on my own journey. If that means I have to say goodbye, then that’s also going to happen.
If we are in a relationship and have a partner or a close friend, that person will always be close in our hearts, but that doesn’t necessarily require their physical presence. When they go, the love will still be there. That never changes.
Why is humility important?
To be humble is to have humility because your ego will be more in check and you’re not placing yourself above others. Then God can work with us and knead us, then we’re pliable like a pot, like soft clay. Then we can be moulded into this object of beauty, but if we’re stiff and hard and full of ego, we’re not gonna change. That is how I see it.
My father would always cut me down and make me feel small, like I wasn’t worthy, like I was stupid. I think he made me humble because of his behaviour towards me. He only mimicked his own father. Ancestral misguidance can be passed on from generation to generation.
“Be as humble as a blade of grass, as tolerant as a tree”. – Bhagavad Gita
Humility brings contentment. If you’re in a confrontational situation, let that other person be right or at least think that he’s right, so as to not cause discord. This is part of the Bhakti Vaishnavi training. It is part of the Hare Krishna teaching, to have humility and to be humble and humane. This is a sign of being closer to your divine intuition instead of being driven by ego.
What is the one that you’d change in life if you could?
Human consciousness, not everyone, but the masses. The way they behave towards each other.
My mission is to bring people towards the realisation of their higher self for as far as I am able to. That is Bhakti yoga. Just like Bob Marley, to help people to come to love. Love can change the world.
What is the relationship between food and spirituality?
Well, you are what you eat. So if you’re eating tamasic food, garlic, meat, and tamasic onions, then that is also going to affect who you are.
For me, personally, I definitely prefer a vegetarian diet. I do eat some dairy from time to time, but I don’t ever drink cow’s milk.
Being conscious of what you’re eating and how you’re eating is really important to me. Food not only affects our physical health but also our mental health.
So my advice would be to eat with consciousness, to choose healthy food and to cook it yourself with love. And to offer it as prasadum. Eat slowly, chew slowly, digest food nicely, enjoy the flavours, share it with others and offer it to God.
Then you’re eating prasadum which also helps your spiritual growth.
What is your favorite book? And why?:)
I was recently reading Autobiography of a Yogi. I didn’t get to finish it, I borrowed it from a friend when I was staying at the ashram, but when I left the ashram I returned the book, so I got to three quarters and I was really inspired by it.
Now I’m reading a book gifted by another friend, it’s called The Bhagavad Gita Revealed by Sat Shree. I was reading it on the ferry on my way back home to the UK. That is currently my favourite book.
The author is dissecting the Bhagavad Gita, chapter 1 to 6. He’s talking about Arjuna’s inner conflict and the war on the battlefield. I felt so connected to the author and after I’ve finished the book I’m going to find out a bit more about him. He’s in India now.
The Bhagavad Gita is another favourite of mine. but I don’t really read story books, I’ve never really been into that kind of reading.
I’ve had The Prophet since I was in my twenties. “God kneads you with his bear hands until you’re pliant. Speak to us of love. When love calls, yield to Him. Though his ways may be hard and the North winds may shatter you.”
So the book I’m currently reading is my favourite. Also The Prophet, The Bhagavad Gita and Autobiography of a Yogi. I really love spiritual books that are enhance our spiritual awakening.
I think a lot came when Hannah, my daughter, left her body after the car accident. I went through a massive grieving process, from that process came the realisation of the Self. That’s how I got where I am today.
It is so important to be truthful and to be in our integrity. To be compassionate and to remember that everybody is on their own journey and everybody has their own realisation. For everybody it’s a different process.
I guess the purpose in life is to become self-realised and I think that’s why we are here. The thing is, once you are self-realised, then you are responsible. To become self-realised is our soul journey, but when we have reached this goal what do we do next?
“They say, before enlightenment chopping wood, after enlightenment chopping wood.”
Ultimately we are here, to help and serve others, this is our constitutional position and therefore our purpose in Life. When we leave our body, which is the only thing we know for sure at some point, then we leave everything and everyone behind, the only thing we take with us is our spiritual growth and understanding. So therefore don’t waste your valuable time in this lifetime, and focus on selfless service to others in the name of karma yoga.
Bhakti yoga will bring you to the divine and then you will be free from the trappings of the material world.
“We are all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti ♡