International Day of Yoga at SRSG

By Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

In 2014, 175 member nations of the United Nations adopted the proposal of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and designated the 21st of June as the International Day of Yoga. Swami Veda Bharati was with us here at the first annual event in 2015.

Swami Veda wrote about this day, giving it the context and scope it deserves. Here is an excerpt:
“Records of a dialogue between a Greek king and a Buddhist monk Bhikkhu Nagasena was also translated many centuries ago in a shorter version in Chinese.

Of these 179 qualities, we list only five qualities of the ocean. Allow me to translate the text…Enjoy!
So here are the five qualities of the ocean that are seen in the one practicing yoga and this is what the monk says to the Greek king:

  1. One who practices the sadhana of yoga has five qualities of the ocean.
  2. The ocean does not keep a dead body as such for long. So, the practitioner of yoga does not let abide in himself the defects like attraction, aversion, confusion, pride, self-adoration (address this to teachers of yoga), boasting (i.e. …that you are a great yogiraj when you are not even a disciple), jealousy, envy, malice, deceit, crookedness, roughness, bad moral conduct, affliction.
  3. Even though the ocean holds in itself pearls and many kinds of jewels, it keeps them concealed….
  4. The Ocean keeps an association with the largest of creatures. So should a sadhaka of yoga keep company with a great monk who has these qualities : one who desires very little, is contented, speaks with a steadiness, has pure conduct, is modest, soft-natured (gentle natured), deep, venerable, eloquent, zealous, rejecting vice, listener of the precepts of others, granting precepts to others, an expounder, guide to the right path, generating a sentiment of dedication in others by his homilies of dharma, and who is a benefactor.
  5. As the ocean receives the waters of all thousands of rivers as well as streams from the clouds, yet it does not break its boundaries, so a sadhaka of yoga receiving benefit, respect, prostrations, honours, yet should not break the boundaries of the precepts.
  6. As the ocean receives the waters of all thousands of rivers as well as streams from the clouds, yet it does not become all full [unable to receive more]….

[From] Milinda-panha-pali. 6 Opamma-katha-panha
2 samudda-vaggo, 10 samuddanga-panho

May these 179 qualities be seen as developed in you within this life. Be ambitious!”

I thought that without Swami Veda physically present the day would likely go flat. I was wrong. This is a brief summary of what happened here in Rishikesh on the 21st of June, 2016.

I enjoyed the beautiful gardens which have been created by Kirti Dixit at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) as I walked to where the day’s events would be taking place and thought how fortunate I have been to live and practice here under the guidance of Swamiji and in the company of other spiritual aspirants.

Upon entering the Meditation Hall, I was struck by an aura of peace in the room. The familiar recording of Swami Rama chanting “om” filled the hall. Meanwhile, the exquisite book that Shree Bhaskar created was flashing in slides on the big screen. This splendid book is entitled Masterstroke and contains profound quotes of Swami Veda superimposed over a full color photo for each page.  I stood there watching the screen as though for the first time. Every time I look at that book, I am swept away. As the words and photos of Swami Veda flashed once again before my eyes, I was reminded that yoga is not just a technique or a philosophy. It is an all-enveloping way of life inspired by one who lives it. Here are some of the words that struck a new chord --of that man who inspired us and made thousands upon thousands of us feel deeply loved.

“A crude stone must be cut to become a precious diamond. To crown a king, the gold nugget from the mine must go through fire.”

“I brought a hammer and chisel, placing them at my Guru’s feet I begged him to sculpt my mind into some beautiful form.”

“How do you stay happy looking, Swami? I try to keep away from six enemies: PASSION, ANGER, GREED, CONFUSION, FRENZY, SMALL-MINDEDNESS.”

“To improve oneself, one needs three approaches:  sankalpa (resolve) ever renewed and reinforced, self-observation, resulting self-correction.”

After diving once again into the silent echo of his words and his abiding presence, I immersed myself in a beautiful International Yoga Day program from our core ashram teachers. Sandeep Pandey kindly welcomed us with a brief meditation in breath awareness, asking us to remember the Guru. After “om” we chanted the Guru Vandana.

The gentle Pandit Harshanand served as the officiating priest. There was lamp-lighting and heartfelt chanting of traditional mantras that invoke the Guru presence. A blanket of peace and prayers of “shantih” for all filled the room as each one of us was invited into the eternal flame of peace that knows no boundaries and belongs to every culture worldwide.

The day unfolded in this rich vein and included a few brief but very good talks, a late morning yoga practicum, a video of Swami Veda being interviewed here by a Delhi TV station in Hindi for International Yoga Day, followed by lunch, afternoon tea, hatha yoga and an hour of silent meditation. It was indeed a full day, and I think many participants seemed to enjoy it, even the children who sat with unusually rapt attention through every presentation. Who said Swami Veda was not here?!

SRSG swamis present included Swami Tattwananda Bharati, Swami Prayagiri, and Swami Ramcharit, while Swami Ritavan Bharati, the ashram spiritual head, was remembered by Dr. Prakash Dixit, the next speaker.

Dr. Dixit gave an inspiring talk on the universality of yoga and graciously invited us to enjoy the day. He pointed out that yoga was not the property of India, that it existed in many cultures in various forms throughout the ages, but that here, in India, what we call “yoga” was codified by the sage Patanjali, giving humanity a roadmap to self-realization. He said “at SRSG, we welcome people of all nations, languages, religions and walks of life.”

He explained, “The word ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root meaning ‘to join’, ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. According to yogic scriptures, the practice of yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness.”

Dr. Dixit went on to say, “The science of Yoga has its origin thousands of years ago, long before the first religion or belief systems were born…Though yoga was being practiced in the pre-Vedic period, the great sage Maharishi Patañjali systematised and codified the then existing Yogic practices, its meaning and its related knowledge through Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras. After Patañjali, many sages and yoga masters contributed greatly for the preservation and development of the field through well documented practices and literature. Yoga has spread all over the world by the teachings of eminent Yoga masters from ancient times to the present date.”

The many flames on and near the altar, to me, felt like they carried the light of this and of other sacred worlds. Those of you who have witnessed this will likely nod your heads.

Next, Adhikari Bhoi spoke on the essence of yoga, explaining that it is not only exercise. “It is also about establishing health and harmony on all levels and in our lifestyles--- harmony with others, with nature and harmony within. “ His words smiled sweetly at us just like Adhikari does. It was brief yet inspiring.

Then Rabindra Sahu spoke about ashtanga yoga, the 8-fold path. His speech was vibrant and to the point, yet profoundly inspiring. He drew together the seamless whole that is yoga. “Whatever we teach,” he said, “we encourage people to go deep into meditation through those practices. But when you turn on the TV you see yoga on display as mere physical form. Only a few ashrams maintain the purity of yoga in its fullest scope,” he said. “Our ashram does. Yoga is Samadhi, as the sage Vyasa said. It is reiterated in the Himalayan Tradition.”

Rabindra’s words challenged us with “What is your philosophy? What is your goal?! For everything we do, ask ‘why do I eat, why do I work?’ If you don’t have a goal in yoga, then your destination is vague. ‘What is my approach to society, to other beings?’” This laid the purposeful foundation for his talk on the 8 rungs of yoga, beginning with the yamas and niyamas for emotional purification.

“It starts with ahimsa, non-violence, the first of the yamas,” He said.

In describing the rung of yoga called “pranayama” he said “pranayama gives a new dimension to this prana Shakti, not just breathing exercise.”

In discussing dharana or concentration, he said “any work, all innovations, all sciences require dharana, immense concentration.”

“Samadhi,” he said, “is a state. Everything has been degraded to a technique with little attention to your state of being.” He reiterated that yoga is not just about health. “The individual is not changing,” he said. “If all of us carry this light it will change ourselves and the world.”

“We spend a lot of time in gossip and in texting,” he said. If we spend even ¼ of that time discussing what is yoga, then great things will happen. Not to be sad about it but to do something about it, to start all over again. He talked about forming study groups----“kalyana mitras, friends on the noble path, who work together on the spiritual path. The Guru is the highest kalyana mitra. He expects nothing of us, only our growth.”

“You come with nothing and you leave with nothing. Swami Veda’s book Sadhana in Applied Spirituality is like a bible for how to live in the world.”

Every presenter gave their talk in both English and Hindi.

There were also people in the audience from other lands and language groups. Many of our staff attended along with their children. This was heartening to see. I hope that this tradition of inclusiveness finds its way into many of our events and practices.

(Photos taken by Jay Prakash Bahuguna)

Editor’s Note:

To read Swami Veda’s Message for International Day, June 21, please use this link: http://ahymsin.org/main/swami-veda-bharati/message-for-international-yoga-day-june-21.html

For more about ashtanga yoga, which Swami Rama called Raja Yoga, please see the book The Royal Path by Swami Rama. This book is available at a variety of bookstores. At Amazon, it is available as both a paperback book and in Kindle.

AUM: A Meditation in Sound by Swami Rama is available as a download at CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon.  It is available as a CD from Himalayan Yoga Publications Trust ([email protected] ), the online bookstore of The Meditation Center, and Amazon.

Sadhana in Applied Spirituality by Swami Veda Bharati can be read at this link: http://ahymsin.org/main/swami-veda-bharati/sadhana-in-applied-spirituality.html



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