February 2015
Interview with Yogi Baba Adnan Cabuk

Turkish people are very spiritual and open to Eastern teachings’, Yogi Baba Adnan Cabuk has no doubt about that. With this interesting personality and the founder of first and the only yoga ashram in Turkey we meet at his place in Istanbul, Nishantashi district. “Namaste”- we greet each other and there comes the feeling of knowing each other for such a long time. Having put off my shoes I enter the little ashram, where the bright red walls are covered with portraits of spiritual teachers, holy paintings and photographs from various yoga camps. Yogi Baba kindly asks, what brought me, Lithuanian, here, serves me some yogi tea and we start our conversation.

Yogi Baba, what do you do here, in Istanbul, Nishantashi?
At the moment I’m teaching the classical spiritual form of yoga, which means, that in my teachings I include all branches of yoga – yama, niyama, pranayama, ratharaya, asana, meditations and etc. Hatha yoga is only part of it, it includes only asanas and pranayamas. But if we speak about classical yoga, it also includes ethical and philosophical aspects. Today most of the yoga studios teach hatha yoga, but they don’t touch the philosophy. Thus here, whoever comes to learn yoga, he must learn the philosophy of that, otherwise we would call ourselves sport teachers. Of course, we respect that, too, but if you want to do real yoga, you have to absorb the philosophy. Also I teach Kundalini practices, which are not really known here in Turkey. And there are many fake teachers today – they collect information about the subject from books, internet, then they teach it for money, but it’s not the original teaching. It is dangerous, it can harm people. I was fortunate to learn Kundalini from my master in India, and today I teach only students that I have chosen to. Why? It is supposed to be this way. You can’t teach the student, who is not ready psychologically, mentally and physically. In the teachings of Kundalini it is said that the person must practice at least 2 years of hatha yoga to start Kundalini. Hatha yoga cleans the physical body and energy channels, so you will be ready.

What was your spiritual path to becoming a yogi? How did you grow up and what were your first spiritual realizations?
My childhood was tough, hard and full of sicknesses. Father died early, we were living poorly… I was fighting with life since I was 10 years old. I always had to find my own ways to earn money, so that I could buy books for school. Until my university days in Academy of Arts (I was studying arts, I’m a painter) I have always worked and studied at the same time. I remember, when I was 10 years old, I went to a camp – it was a free camp for kids with no father, organized by the Red Cross organization. The camp was so exciting for me, it absolutely fit my life – swimming in a river, jumping into water, playing with the snakes, living in tents… I liked that so much that I said to myself – from this moment all my life I will travel. And I did. Every time I had a chance, I tried to travel. Thinking about the first moment of my spiritual awakening I refer to the Herman Hesse’s book ‘Siddharta’, which I read at the age of 22. It clicked something in me, opened some new realizations… Since that time I gifted this book to 50 people at least. Anyway, in that period I wasn’t really into spirituality, my life was very active – I was a hippie, traveling a lot, living in different places of the world. I lived in London, Sweden, United States, doing different jobs, working as a fashion coordinator, model, I even ran a nightclub in Beirut… My life was always adventurous and very colorful, I used to be a very bohemian person, and always I used to live in a center of the city. It could be small apartment, but it had to be in the heart of the city – I wasn’t the type of person to be far away and relaxed, I was the active one. And that time I realized that people so often used to come and ask me, ‘Have you been to India?’ I used to say ‘No, why?’, and they used to reply me that I am exactly the type of person who would go there and not come back. I was around 40 years old, when I first started doing yoga. It was in New York. I hurt my knees while doing aerobics, and my inner voice said – now you have to do yoga, it’s the right time. My inner voice always used to lead me in my life. It was my spiritual key since the early age and it would always tell me what is correct and what I should do. So I started yoga, and I realized, how powerful system it was. I was educating myself a lot in that, I was even about to start teaching people, but then I realized – this is not the kiddy stuff, I have to take it very seriously. You can hurt people, you can do it wrong, and I said to myself – I have to learn the real yoga. So I went to India, to the ashram of Swami Sivananda, and stayed there for intensive course. I got my certificate and got to know what is yoga about. But this was only the beginning, I had to find my guru. I searched, and I met… 3 of them! One of them was the master of Kundalini Guruji Dr. Ananth Atre, then I met Doctor Kurup, the healer, who taught me about holistic healing, and finally I met Sh. N. D. Shrimali, he was a big Tantra master in India. Shrimali doesn’t take any foreigners to teach, I was the only one. Fortune, I say, but probably I deserve it, because you can’t get it without paying the price, and I payed it. I spent one month at his door, he would not accept me, he played with me, I suffered a lot, but I knew that to get the real stuff you have to pay and I was ready for that. When I came back, my inner voice told me, ‘Now you realized, what a great system for humanity yoga is, so now go and spread yoga around, so that people would benefit from it’. It was 1997. I came back to Turkey. There were only 2 people teaching yoga at that time, but they didn’t use to spread the knowledge around. What I did was I went on television, newspapers, many magazines, I worked hard for 2 years, and the philosophy of yoga little by little was spreading around. I have educated and prepared around 100 teachers. We don’t give certificates to teachers so easily – they must pass the examination, grab the philosophy, to know ethics well. And even when I give them initiation, I tell them – you have to understand that you still haven’t become a yogi, but you became a good servant. If you do your service with love, you may become a real yogi.

You also built the yoga ashram in Taurus mountains, Alania. How did you come up with the idea to do this?
This is how I understood my path, my duty. When some gurus from India came there, they were surprised, they said it is the real ashram, it has the energy. And I didn’t do anything special, I was just doing what I was supposed to. I never had intentions to become famous, get more money and etc. My only intention was to do what is right at the moment, and that’s how the idea of building an ashram came up. Students that come to us, they purify themselves and get rid of many problems of their lives. They get peace, happiness, become healthier. And I don’t call it the ‘teaching’- I am not teaching, but sharing, because we all are teachers and students to each other, and we all are important. Maybe the only one difference between me and my students is that I’m only one step further, but still we are equal. Moreover, I am the reminder, but not the teacher. The real teacher only reminds the student his inner knowledge, which lay inside him.

In Lithuania we often discuss about the relation of Eastern spirituality and Christianity (our country is mainly Catholic), yoga is often rejected there. And what about Turkey? Aren’t there any conflicts about Islam and yoga here?
Of course, there are some conflicts about that. For many muslim people yoga system looks like a religion, and I always stress it is not. It is a scientific system, which talks about 3 levels of man – physical, mental and spiritual, how to develop them, bring into balance and be healthy and happy. I don’t go deeply into religious things in my classes. Anyway, I respect religion, and I think that God is everywhere – in the church, mosque, temple… And wherever I meet religious people, who pray with a good will, I go with them. There is only one religion, just different names. And whatever your religion is, you can always come and do yoga. It even helps you to understand your own religion better. Turkish people are very spiritual. I was teaching yoga in some other countries, and I realized, how open for spiritual knowledge Turks are! I have had many students. When I just started teaching yoga in my first 2 years, I had 200 students a week, I was doing 4-5 classes a day and working 6 days a week to meet the demand for that. Now we already have many teachers, which get their certificates from India or some European centers. And here, the government now decided to take control of yoga (current government has some Islamic tendencies), so they want to put yoga under the sport category. In Turkey, as you know, we have Sufism, a very beautiful, deep and elegant philosophy. If we talk about two great and knowledgeable Sufis – Rumi and Yunus – we will see interesting things. For example, Rumi was jnani and bhakti yogi. Rumi’s father was a master of religion, and Rumi was educated very well, he had lots of knowledge – that’s jnana yoga. Also he surrendered to God, which is bhakti yoga. Meanwhile Yunus was an ordinary person, he had no education, but he stayed in derga (Islamic ashram) with master and served him. He did his service very well, he surrendered, so he was bhakti and karma yogi. I was also studying the Sufi philosophy. I went to many dergas to find my teacher, and finally I met one, he was teaching me for few years. Now I teach my students about the philosophy of Sufism, too. With the permission of the sheikh (spiritual master) we even announced the brotherhood between his derga and my ashram. Yoga and Sufism have many things in common – they both want the same, to reach the level of Creator and merge in love with God. Just the practices are little different, but it’s about very similar things.

And what has yoga changed in your life personally? How it enriched your life?
It made me more tolerant, calm, understanding, surrendering and accepting that life is moving on. Losses are part of it and you have to accept them with honorably, not with anger. You have to love whatever comes to your life. Also, it brought me freedom. That’s what I’m now teaching my students – to be free from all the habits, traditions, knowledge, concepts, ideas, not to be attached to your mother, father, lover, child and etc. The only one attachment that you have is this moment. Everything else is past, and we don’t know if the future comes, so it doesn’t exist now. Yoga is the system that purifies, heals, elevates you and teaches to understand what life is about. It helps you to purify yourself, to grow, develop. Yoga is the path of enlightenment. It’s not a sport, a way to show-off and etc. It’s about understanding the secret of life. I realized that yoga is the only system in the world, which has discovered human being with all his 7 bodies, has understood it. Moreover, yoga has explained everything very scientifically and well. That’s why yoga is still for me in the first place. If I had found something better, I would have gone that way, but I didn’t. And trust me, I really did many things in my life.

Adrė Zakrauskaitė