“Love is always realistic, in the sense that power rarely stays on top for ever. It is wiser to help our your neighbors so that when we need help, they will be happy to return the favor.”
These are the words of Prem Yogi, a musician, a masseur, a chef, and yes, a yogi. He’s speaking of why love, at times, seems antithetical to human nature.
“My view is that our true nature is love, and that most people are good and have love to give. Every now and then a Despot who grew up without much love will rise to power and represent a small minority of people. It is our job as the majority to show up and give love.”
Prem is a man who will repeat similar themes throughout his life’s work and words, one where his pursuits and their destinations lead him at times afar, and when doing so, he travels in a converted school bus.
He purchased the bus from a couple who no longer wanted it, divorced, they decided that it was her dream, but his work, required to keep it going. Prem took the project on and worked through the quirks of a vehicle made by a man who didn’t necessarily want to live in a school bus. “I can’t say that it was built to last or with the best methods,” Prem admits, “but he made up for his lack of technique with creativity. It is really quite beautiful and impressive what he was able to do.”
Built out of untreated pallet wood, Prem has slowly been fixing or replacing what elements might not always hang on after a trip down the highway.
“Let’s just say it’s not meant to go off-roading,” he discovered after a friend talked him into a trip to Anza-Borrego in search of wildflowers. “At all.”
Though he’d prefer not to camp somewhere in which the roads required him to rebuild his cabinetry, the trip wasn’t a total loss. “I met some people that asked me to officiate their wedding, after which I cooked them a wedding dinner, and gave them and their friends a private concert in my bus.”
Prem’s story today, though, is not complete without his background. Born in Aix en Provence, a city in the South of France, around half an hour from the coast, Prem is a dual citizen of the United States and France. After his parents’ divorce, his mother moved he and his brother to the US, but every summer he’d travel with his father, a French native, who owned an international adventure company.
“Once we landed in Europe to visit my dad for the summers, we would just as soon be on a plane to Egypt, the Cayman Islands, or to various other countries doing extreme sports and exotic activities,” he recalls. Think climbing glaciers, spelunking, scuba diving, “and all kinds of dangerous things you’d never see on a tourist hotel brochure. I was always fascinated with the spices and flavors of all the cuisine we tried while traveling in various countries, and that has certainly worked its way into my cooking.”
One aspect of Prem’s many dimensions is that he is a chef.
“My life as a chef was greatly influenced by traveling with my native French father during the summer,” says. He approaches cooking as he does all of the aspects of his life, as a way to share his time, love and appreciation of others by doing something exquisite for them. It’s the primary way he makes a living, currently working for a family as a private chef, but you’ll also find him pulling up in his bus to cater an event or just making vegan meals on the 20′ long stainless steel counter for friends at a festival.
Other times you’ll find him at those festivals playing music. Sometimes, both.
“Most of the time people hire me to do one thing or the other. Occasionally people will ask me to cater a wedding and then provide the music afterwards. I’ve done that a few times, and although it’s fun, it’s more the exception than the rule. It’s also exhausting to cook for that many people and then put on a whole performance afterwards!”
Prem Yogi is making music that you can’t exactly put your finger on, something you’re not likely hearing anything similar to today. He defines the style as Kirtan, a Sanskrit word essentially meaning the blending of music and storytelling which has a spiritual element as well.
“Kirtan is defined as a Hindu devotional group chanting,” he explains. “My style of music incorporates some of the Sanskrit mantras from that Kirtan tradition, and applies it to a more popular style of music that people will recognize if they grew up in America. My goal is to create a musical bridge uniting Western music and Eastern philosophy. The thing that I do differently is a style called call and response.” He sings a line, and the audience has the opportunity to sing it back. “From that point on, you can more easily access unity consciousness as we are all singing and joining are hearts and voices together as one. That’s what it’s all about for me. That state of consciousness is pure nectar and it makes life so rich! In that field of unity we all become family, and more than that even. We are united in spirit which runs deeper than blood. ”
Prem approaches his music as his adventure more than a specific level of success which needs to be obtained.
“Touring is the most fun adventure I know of as a human. There is a degree of freedom and liberty that you don’t get to experience when you’re stuck at home with a day job paying the same bills and eating in the same places all the time. But the kind of touring that I’m talking about is one or two shows a week, with nature stops to go to hot springs and camp in between.” He’s talking about traveling, and playing music on the way. He’s not interested in being signed to the concept of touring for months, or years even, straight. “That’s just slavery, and it’s brutal.” He recognizes that becoming a successful musician, on those terms, would mean turning his art into a job, and while he doesn’t seem to want to detract from musicians who make their living that way, it’s just not where he’s at today. “My intention of being a traveling troubadour is freedom from that kind of corporate grind. There is so much family and tribe of like minded souls to meet in the world. It’s really one big family once you get out there and dare to meet people.”
Not that he’s not interested in expanding the role music plays in his life. He’s ambitious enough to have started his own record label. He’s working on not only his music, but with a team focused on creating a way for artists to get more direct payments via cryptocurrency via social media. He’s not completely ready to share all of the details, but it sounds like it plays to the tune of “like a song, give a tip” in small doses, something that could give bands a fighting chance in the post-big label world.
“There’s a lot to do and I can’t do it alone, nor do I want to,” he admits. “I absolutely need a team to pull this off.”
Prem is also a masseur, though he admits to practicing that as a way of income as of late has fallen to the wayside of his cooking and making music. That may be a tragedy, as he describes one of his sessions.
“Over the years, I learned Western and Eastern massage,” he begins, recalling a thousand hours of classes and styles he’s attempted to master. He talks about how one massage is good for this, another better for that. What traditions work and when to try improving the wheel. “Most often times, it’s a mix of problems so I like to combine many styles into one 3-5 hour treatment and include sound healing, infra red heat, and energy medicine into the mix.” He describes them as a journey tailored to each person who finds themself on his table. “I put a sound lounge mat on the massage table and cover that with a jade bio mat. That way they get sound healing and healing heat from the warm jade mat during the massage. I call these sessions whole being resets, as I work on their bodies, minds, and spirits, from the muscles and into the chakras. A rather awakening journey to say the least!”
Of all of his talents though, and the way he blends them together, constantly combining a desire to give to others, his grandmothers’ influence, is perhaps his greatest contribution to this world.
“As I write this, I am just now learning that my French grandmother passed away,” he confides. “The last thing she wrote to me, in French, was, ‘I can tell you that real love is absolutely the result of forgetting oneself completely and thinking only on the happiness of others, which practically never happens.'”
Prem tells this story about her.
“My grandma asked me to choose three books from her book case one day. I forget what the other two were, but the one act that changed my life forever was reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Everything changed for me from that moment on. I learned that God is bliss, and that I can feel Him in meditation if I simply apply myself. The experience of God as bliss rather than the speculation of truth has changed everything for me. Before that, I was so thirsty for truth and answers. In that book I found all that I was looking for and so much more. I am so lucky to have been blessed by that book and the meditation techniques as taught by my guru Paramahansa Yogananda.” He pauses to thank his grandma profusely. “The meditation techniques are simple, and the bliss is as real as the warmth of the sun, but much more intense. Most Westerners don’t know what they are missing by ignoring the mystic traditions of the East. But there is much more peace and joy to be had that cannot be gained from material possessions or mere reading of books.”
He thinks back, deeply, some more on his life as a young boy.
“My mother sacrificed her life to give me and my brother higher education and a nice home. She worked 50-70 hours a week and often six days a week to support us financially and put us through school. She was quite strict with us regarding chores and grades. And she went all out for holidays and any celebrations. She was a great mom, and I miss her dearly. She passed away from breast cancer in 2004. Along with my mother’s great parenting, my step-dad raised my brother Julien and I as though we were his own sons. He taught us how to play baseball, basketball, football, came to all our games, chauffeured us around to and from games and school, made us dinner…
“I mean he was amazing! And he had a great sense of humor. He even wrestled with us and bought us more Christmas presents than I will ever be able to remember despite not being super rich. He must have saved all year for those Christmas mornings. I always thought that if you were to open up the dictionary and look up the word ‘good’ you would find his photo. He is the epitome of a good man. Selfless, even-minded, fair, strong, confident, generous, encouraging, loving, fun, playful, and powerful.”
Aside from Prem, this family life produced his brother, a sailor who’s traveled the world on a somewhat different path but continually adventurous all the same.
“My gramma only lived with us for a couple years. I never saw her meditate, but I think she does and she and I are kindred spirits. We have a lot of similar interests. It’s from her that I learned about massage therapy, as I was her practice subject while she was in massage school. My mother always said she was an angel. I do think I owe my gramma so much for giving me that book. She’s definitely one of my favorite people.”
Prem does not seem like your typical aspiring musician. He occasionally mentions the possibility of becoming “big,” though it’s often accompanied with hesitation, the rigors of managing a band, being here and there every other night, that sort of thing. He seems much more like a man floating through life with purpose, something somewhere between perfection and chaos, as though simply making others happy and soaking in the smiles that all creates is the ultimate goal.
“What I see for myself in the future is being a man in possession of full self control. To be free from habits, and only doing things that I want to do rather than doing things that I am compelled to do from habits or foolish beliefs. I see myself being driven by wisdom and will power, rather than by ignorance and habit.” He believes this will allow him to go after whatever dream he can conceive, and play it through to the end.
“This choice is usually one that not only benefits me, but everyone involved. More specifically, I see myself as healthy, powerful, grounded, happy, helpful, wise, blissful, and successful in all my endeavors. I see myself as a land owner, and as a person who inspires others hearts and minds with my music, and my writing, as well as transformational events. Most importantly I see myself as having a deeper and more profound relationship with my Maker and my true nature as a soul and few distractions as possible.
“My spiritual philosophy can be boiled down to love and service with an emphasis on meditation for the purpose of experiencing God as love, light, and bliss rather than a mere doctrine or belief. Everything I know I learned from Paramahansa Yogananda who extolled the value of Kriya Yoga, a technique that uses the breath and attention to withdraw energy from the body, into, and up the spine into the heart and spiritual eye to get in touch with God. He said that only love could replace him. So that pretty much sums it up: Love all, serve all. Know your soul as a reflection of God, help others as best you can, and meditate, meditate, meditate until you reach the goal! And what is the goal? Well, that would be to vibrate at the speed of light and merge into it as a part of that eternal light that infuses all the universe and beyond. So…the goal is light and bliss.”
To some it may seem, well, “out there.” A hippy playing music in a school bus, feeding his friends and rubbing their backs. A guy looking to take it easy and find whatever path he can that will lead him, and the people he meets, to some new state of consciousness, whatever that means. And what’s wrong with that? Prem does not come across as a show, some created persona to further his own ambitions. He comes across as genuine, a person living by a lesson his grandmother taught him, that to love is to love others first. To give of yourself and get drunk on the return that selflessness provides.
“Getting drunk on the name of God,” he believes, “is a phenomenon that has been seen all across the globe. It’s the simple combination of concentrating on the name of the Divine regardless of religion or sect, and repeating it to music, with an open heart in devotion to loving the infinite Beloved. When we focus on the various names of our Creator, it brings us in tune to the Now, and to God at the same time. When we do this with open hearts, we can feel that which we are focused on, in this case, love. Because God is love. And so, it’s less about dogma, religion and belief, and more about love, surrender, grace, and devotion. The name and the religious tradition doesn’t matter so much as does the sincere focus and devotion on the Divine in the Now. It is recommended to create a loving relationship with one aspect of God in order to create a more personal relationship with the Divine however.” He believes this is not just historical myth shared across cultures and civilizations miles and millennia apart, but fully real.
“This has been known to happen thousands of times all over the world throughout history, whether it is an apparition of the Virgin Mary, a vision of Many Buddhas, a vision of Krishna and so on. That is the story of so many saints who have dedicated their all to knowing God.”
His concepts are ancient, and yet still foreign, perhaps unbelievable to many an American these days. But he’s a living, breathing, if not “normal” in the traditional sense, then “regular” guy like the rest of us. He has plans to build a stage on the roof of his bus to play music on. He works out, gets a paycheck for being a chef, and doesn’t mind the concept of earning a good living. He drives to the beach to enjoy the breeze and take a swim. As much as meditation is integral to his life, he uses modern technology in his music.
Just another chef/masseur/musician trying to make the world a better place, something we could probably use a bit more of these days, considering the abundance of the other side of the coin that seems to be going around.
“When I look at these different things: cooking, massage, and music, they all have to do with my hands. And they all have to do with service, helping people, happiness, healing, and love. These are all different ways in which to express love. I noticed a long time ago that the secret to happiness was in helping others. And what better way to put a smile on people’s faces than by feeding them, massaging them, or singing to them? Or all three! Life is better when you make it a point to improve the lives of others in your own special ways. This is especially true in a society where people focus primarily on themselves and their own concerns.
“We only have a right to remember that we are infinite love. When that happens, anything is possible. All wealth, health, and freedom is ours. And that is available to anyone who seeks it and yearns for truth. There is a saying in India, that when the student is ready, the guru will appear. Until then, life can be a nest of trouble. With God, life is a nest of fun. That is what my guru used to say.”
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