Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Children Coming Home

by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

The Yoga Youth and Children’s Retreat at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama has resumed - if indeed it ever ended. The candles were lit for pujas on both the first and the last days when the sacred presence was invited in, creating an enclosure, a circle of light. An outing to Vashistha Cave highlighted the last day’s events. New Year’s Eve was celebrated with dancing around a huge bonfire after a hundred farewells with hugs.

The nights were cold but the brilliant sun shined in these children from daybreak until the stars showed themselves. Then, snug in their beds and twinkling in their sleep back up at the stars. During the Children’s retreat, the days were full and began early.

Over the years, so much has been given, yet still, as the perennial beginner on this path, I seem to rise and fall, rise and fall, remembering, then forgetting, and remembering again. Yet this thought remains:

योऽसावादित्ये पुरुष: सोऽसावहम्।
yo'sāvāditye puruṣaḥ so'sāvaham.
That one who is in the sun, that one indeed I am!

----Yajur-veda 40.17

Swami Veda Bharati taught us this in 1970. Swami Veda Bharati, in his early form as Dr. Usharbudh Arya, drew us all close like so many fingers on one hand. The idea of family was integral to who he was and is.

Coming Home

At the close of last year’s children’s retreat, Swamiji asked that this retreat convene every year. So instead of waiting 3 years we once again celebrated what it was to be children alive in these verdant hills and pathways. At the very first Yoga Youth and Children’s Retreat here the Guru presence was pervasive. Last year, this continued, and Swami Veda was yet among us in form. This year again though Swami Veda was not physically here, that legacy of love continued and showed itself in many ways. Friendships unfolded as the rollicking play of the ashram children expanded to include many new friends. Some commented that they felt like Swamiji was among us.

Here is just a bit of what I observed. Streams of children played together like they knew one another forever, even though these were the first meetings for many of them. This year most of the participants were from India, so Hindi was prevalent though many spoke English. A preteen girl from Switzerland and a 4-year-old boy from Wisconsin, to cite just two of the children, joined in the play like old timers even though it was the first time here for both of them and neither knew Hindi. The 4-year-old was quite shy but by the end of his first day I saw him running and frolicking happily with other children of all ages onto the next fun adventure. The older ashram children could often be seen together with the new Swiss girl, who, if I hadn’t known she was had just arrived, seemed like an integral part of this close knit circle of friends. Swami Rama’s truth “Love all. Exclude none” was everywhere. Not once did I see a child sitting off on the sidelines, crying or seeming to feel left out.

A True Cornucopia

Laughter, volleyball and soccer dotted the dots between engaging activities. There were classes on the Bhagavad Gita, the brain and its functions and on the yamas and niyamas

Children were given systematic training in sitting postures and diaphragmatic, smooth breathing. There were also classes in stretching, hatha yoga, joints and glands combined with brain gym and Sanskrit prayers. There were hands on workshops in asana drawing, mandala-making, origami, and Japanese calligraphy. Dr. Prabhu and Ahimsa Ishaya also tested a number of the children in the lab, mainly those who were present nearly the whole time.

There were indigenous games of India like Kabadi, chakra games and breathing games, to name a few.

There was a fire offering one evening by the children of Bhagabandev’s Nava Prabhat in Orissa.  There were snack times throughout the day---so lovingly provided--- 2-minute meditations and good meals.

They worked together at karma yoga, thereby claiming the retreat as their own.

Swami Radha and, on occasion, Swami Prayag Giri met with the children in the afternoons, offering elaborate snacks made by Tejaswini. Swami Ma Radha told stories about Swami Rama from Living with the Himalayan Masters. Surendra also told some engaging spiritual stories.

Kirtan Night

The kirtan night included kirtans led Ramprakash Das and Gita Bhoi. Others also made the evening great. A young girl named Prachi led a very wholehearted kirtan.  The students from Orissa chanted sacred songs. Another young lady offered a Tibetan chant. One stout-hearted little fellow sang the whole Hanuman Chalisa from beginning to end!  It would be difficult to tell you about all of the kirtans, bhajans and chants that lit up the evening. In addition, Jagadananda Das got up and spoke lovingly to the children about the beauty and importance of singing kirtan.


Christmas was quiet.  Ma Tureeya Bharati told some stories about Jesus on Christmas Eve. Ma Tureeya, a practicing Christian nun and the spiritual guide of Jeevandhara Sadhana Kutir in Rishikesh, has also taken sanyasa vows in the Himalayan Tradition with Swami Veda

On Christmas day, quite a few people went to Christmas services at the Roman Catholic Church in Lakshman Jhula and reported that they really enjoyed the mass.

The Talent Show

One night there was a Talent Show. This section is entirely based on the joyful accounts given to me by Sofia Foteina. Everyone was thrilled. There were some outstanding Indian dance performances from 2 different groups of young ladies—one with girls who live at SRSG and the other with girls who are friends of the ashram. Some of the children also recited excerpts from sacred texts and sang songs. There was a tumbling demonstration and a play based on the idea of “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” These are just a few of the grand performances.

The boys from Orissa did a display of yoga asanas including making a 4-tier tower of themselves, and when two Orissa boys had made a fantastic human bicycle of themselves, their hands, feet and arms interlinked, and they called little Pragnya, daughter of Pandit Harshanand and Kusum, into action. Suddenly Pragnya was on top of their human bicycle. Somehow, the bicycle really worked like a real bicycle though it was made of boys not metal.

The children did it by themselves - the entire program, including the role of mc – and ended the program by inviting the audience members to join them dancing Diwali style.

“The best part was that none of the children seemed to care if it was perfect---although they were perfect before the eyes of the audience. Nothing could be better than what they did,” said Sofia. “The important thing for them was to be happy and make the audience happy which they did!”

The Parent Groups

Sofia also kindly gave this account of work that she and Namita Sinha of Bangalore did with the parents.

“Parents are the child’s first teachers and also the ongoing teachers”, Sofia said. “In the classes with parents, Namita and I addressed the actions of parents in their everyday lives and tried to make parents more sensitive to the spiritual teachings. The problems begin when the spiritual dimension is absent.” Sofia continued, “We discussed meditation and how to introduce it to children, which is always through our own examples. Rather than telling them that meditation is a good habit, they could see a parent or parents meditating. This is how they learn, by seeing their parents doing it”.

“Children are well prepared for meditation if we give them time to live and play in nature, and also by giving them opportunities to be creative,” said Sofia. “We also discussed the yamas and niyamas. For example, regarding ahimsa, we talked about not punishing or hitting children. Also scolding them or talking about their mistakes should take place only when we are not angry”, she said.

Sofia explained that “self discipline helps children to grow. This again is always by our example.” The parents all seemed to want to keep in touch with one another. “On the last day, we exchanged email addresses so that we could have follow up Skype meetings once a month and feel together in our efforts”, said Sofia.

Inspiring Musical Performances

There were 2 evenings of Indian classical music as well as daytime master classes from these very accomplished international musicians.

One evening Aditi Sharma Garg, who also performed at last year’s Yoga Youth and Children’s Retreat, offered a splendid concert of Dhrupad with her brother Arush, sister Ila and Pandit Santosh Sharma on the Indian drum called pakhawaj. This also showcased a performance by the retreat children of what they had learned from Aditi. She and her family are so much a part of our ashram family, and beginning with her father, the late great Shri Datt Sharma, they have come here year after year to offer dhrupad concerts that feel as if they are born of Hiranyagarbha, the sacred Golden Womb.

Another night featured Shivananda Sharma and the children of the C.J. Maa Music School of Rishikesh that was founded by Swami Maa Chetan Jyoti in the hopes of developing Hindustani music skills in local children who could otherwise not afford musical training. Shivananda Sharma, the school’s director, has been treating us to concerts by bringing these children to SRSG to provide us with wonderful concerts.

Shivananda also gave workshops in Indian Music to retreat children. Shivananda’s music students once again performed in top form, both in instrumentals and vocals. They have grown musically in leaps and bounds and their familiar faces are well loved by the SRSG community. Ashish Kukreti, who, as a child, studied with Shivananda, now assists in teaching these children classical Indian vocal music and is now a profound vocalist in his own right. Much to our delight, he and Shivananda responded to requests from the audience to sing one classical song together for us.

Retreat Prime Movers

Apoorva Pal, Nalini Behari, Namita Sinha and Rabindra Sahu played vital roles in the planning and execution of this event. They worked hard in the months leading up to the retreat and during the retreat as well. Apoorva and Nalini were unable to be physically present, but Namita and Rabindra were on site and providing leadership and coordination to the retreat.

There were many terrific activities for the children lovingly led by a cohesive team of volunteers that included Borim Hwang of Korea, Yuko Metsugi of Japan, and some of our ashram children, to name just a few. Sofia Foteina and Namita Sinha led the parents in discussions on spiritual parenting. Several of the gurukulam students and ashram residents participated. Among the Gurukulam students, Rosa of Italy, Adam of Poland and Eric of Denmark worked tirelessly with the children. Rahul also shared his boundless joy and played a lot with the children. Brenda and Laxmi graciously served meals.

SRSG resident Lea Sellinger could not be physically present, but also contributed to the planning.

The Grand Finale

On New Year’s Eve, there was an extraordinary celebration after the puja. Soyung, our Korean gurukulam student, suggested that we hug someone. Soon everyone, old and young alike, were laughing and hugging one another. Swami Radha told me that even one shy boy ran up to her and gave her a big hug! There was so much genuine caring and affection and a deluge of pure fun and friendship.

Also, many people worked much of the day making momos for a special dinner which everyone greatly appreciated. Borim led this activity with lots of support from gurukulam students and friends.

At last, we welcomed in the New Year, dancing and laughing around the huge bonfire cast against a starlit sky. Oh, wonder of wonders!

Pictures courtesy of Jay Prakash Bahuguna



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