Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

From Gurukulam Student to Pandit

by Rajini Prakash

Pierre Lefebvre was conferred the title of Pandit by Swami Veda Bharati and will now be known to his spiritual family as Pandit Priyadarshan. The term ‘Pandit’ denotes someone who is esteemed for his learning and wisdom and is proficient in Sanskrit. ‘Pandit’ may also be used to refer to one who is proficient in Vedic scriptures. The title Pandit is traditionally conferred on one by the Guru.

Reflecting on his journey so far, from the time he first came to Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) from Montreal, Quebec, until now, Pandit Priyadarshan says that he always intended to travel to India. Even from afar, the Himalayas seemed to beckon to him; little did Panditji know then that it was the gentle, irresistible call of the Guru that was urging him to travel to his spiritual home on this physical plane.

Finally, the opportunity came after Panditji, at the time known to everyone as Pierre, completed his Master’s Degree in classical guitar. Pierre first heard of the Gurukulam at SRSG from a friend, Dr. Sanjay Shastri, who is also an initiate in the Himalayan Tradition and a valuable member of the AHYMSIN Sangha. With great clarity, Pierre remembers the exact date and time he entered the Ashram, which was on 31 March 2005 at 1.30 pm. The primary aim was to study in the Gurukulam. But, as many in the Sangha will attest, the Guru may have other plans for you. After a year in the Gurukulam, Pierre was assigned duties through which he evolved as a seva sadhaka. Embracing his newly assigned role, Pierre developed the Manuscript Room, worked in the library, helped with the work in the newly established AHYMSIN Office, and started the TTP Office at SRSG, serving as its first Director. However, Pierre still longed to return to his Gurukulam studies. Swamiji, with his ever loving kindness, agreed. Pierre returned to studies, not as a student as he expected to be, but as a teacher.

Demonstrating a deep understanding of the Tradition, Pandit Priyadarshan says that there is no such thing as “completing” Gurukulam studies. “You could study forever,” says Panditji. “Is there an end to Gurukulam studies? There is always something to practice,something to learn, something to deepen, something to perfect. If you think that you have completed, then it is either an inability to assess yourself correctly or an incapacityto comprehend the vastness of the teachings of the Himalayan Tradition.”

Pandit Priyadarshan draws attention to Preya and Shreya as mentioned in the Upanishad, the distinction between doing what is pleasantand doing what is useful. There is a clear recognition that the Guru is leading where one should go rather than where one wants to go. Moving beyond the dichotomy of raga and dvesha, the attraction towards one and the dislike of another, is the challenge. To achieve this, one must not resist the guidance of the Guru; one must flow with the natural course of things and let oneself be carried along so that one arrives at the intended destination.

Recently, before he was conferred the title of Pandit, Pierre was in Canada when the Guru’s call came to serve; he simply set aside a growing practice as a teacher of yoga travelled immediately to SRSG. Speaking on service to the Guru, Pandit Priyadarshan says that it is something that should not be an effort, and should be as selfless as our samskaras and capacity allow. Only then can the service be sattvic in nature. If there is a thought that one stands to gain from it, then the thought needs to be examined; the source needs to be traced for the problem to be understood and addressed. One continues to work on oneself. It is a process of continuous improvement.

On arriving at SRSG, Pandit Priyadarshan gained Swamiji’s permission to arrange for the chanting of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra every morning at the ashram. The chanting of the powerful mantra along with the havan was performed for Swamiji’s good health and long life. All Sangha members and visitors at the Ashram were invited to participate. 

Swamiji has commended Pandit Priyadarshan for his clear Sanskrit pronunciation and fluent recital of Vedic mantras. Panditji mentions that Sanskrit alphabet is not as difficult as it may look at first, as it is a phonetic alphabet. Once the concepts ofsthana (the place in the mouth where sound is produced), karana (the manner in which the sound is produced) and prayatna (theeffortwith which the sound is produced) are understood, the pronunciation becomes much easier.

Over the years, Pandit Priyadarshan grew to share his experience and understanding of Hatha and Meditation practices, Indian Philosophies, Yoga Sutras and Sanskrit with the Gurukulam students and with his students in Canada. He set up a centre in St-Hyacinthe, Montreal, Quebec, and is the only person carrying forward the mission of Gurudeva in the area. Panditji has also been invited to teach at various centres in Montreal.

Pandit Priyadarshan was asked to share his experience of bringing the teachings of the Tradition to Montreal, Quebec. He said, “Having learned and studied about meditation and yoga only within the Himalayan Tradition and almost exclusively in India, it was at first quite a shock to come back to Canada and to witness how yoga was presented in the western part of the world.  My first and greatest surprise was that yoga and meditation were seen as two completely separate and unrelated things and that the word yoga is used as a synonym of the word asana, yoga here means doing physical yoga postures (every time people ask me if I DO yoga, I ask them what they mean by yoga).  I found out that yoga was a strange series of postures, following no logical sequence of activation and not being balanced by counter postures.  Most of the time, there was, at the best, a very light mention of diaphragmatic breathing and meditation.  Here, people think about yoga as physical exercise and go to yoga studios for it, and they think of meditation as a tool for stress management and they go to Buddhist centers for that!  There is no connection, no link between the two. 

“When I started teaching, I tried to remain faithful to the Tradition (that is all I know anyway!) and gave to others what I was taught by my teachers.  It took some time, but I slowly became known as a teacher who is teaching differently from the others who have been trained locally in yoga studios.  People have been hearing about me as someone who integrates the philosophy of yoga into classes and who refers to texts to support traditional teaching. They ask about the Himalayan Tradition, they want to know how this Himalayan yoga is different.  I invite them to join the full moon meditations, which many follow.  And I try to bring the point again and again that asana are a part of yoga but not all of it.  I now have about 120 people attending my different classes every week at the different centers where I go to teach. 

“Most of all, I'm known as the teacher who always does that strange posture that no other teacher anywhere around is doing... the crocodile!”

Years ago, in 2006, Swamiji had suggested that Pierre should indicate whenever he was ready to be an international teacher. Swamiji must have felt the time had come for Pierre to become an international travelling teacher and expressed his wish that Pierre should teach internationally. In 2014, Panditji made a beginning as a travelling teacher when he was invited to teach at The Meditation Center in Minneapolis.

Being deeply honoured by the trust placed in him by Swamiji, Pandit Priyadarshan tries to keep everything in perspective,adding with absolute conviction, “we always remain students.”

The Sangha continues to be enriched by such inspirational journeys. One observes with genuine admiration and deep appreciation of the journey of a sadhaka, who with an unwavering dedication and commitment to the spiritual path has invoked the grace of the Guru.

Warm congratulations to Pandit Priyadarshan.

Editor’s Note:

Pandit Priyadarshan (Pierre Lefebvre), RYT-500, is certified by both the Fédération Francophone de Yoga and Yoga Alliance. In addition to Sanskrit, he speaks French, English, and Hindi.

The website to the centre in St-Hyacinthe, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, is http://www.yogahimalaya.ca/

If you would like to contact Pandit Priyadarshan to teach at your centre, you can write him at [email protected]

To read Rishikesh in Saint-Hyacinthe, an article in Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, please use this link: http://www.lecourrier.qc.ca/archives/voyages/2013/09/05/rishikesh-a-saint-hyacinthe


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