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Published by
The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre
51 Felsham Road,
London, SW15 1AZ
England. Tel: 0181 780 0160
e-mail: YogaLife@sivananda.org
Headquarters
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp
Eighth Avenue, Val Morin, Quebec,
Canada, JOT 2RO. Tel: 819-322-3226
e-mail: hq@sivananda.org
The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, founded by Swami Vishnu-devananda is
a non-profit organization whose purpose is to propagate the teachings of Yoga and Vedanta
as a means of achieving physical, mental and spiritual well-being and Self-realization.
The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres has its Headquarters in Val Morin, Quebec, Canada,
with centres and ashrams located around the world (see page 58/59 for addresses).
WORDS OF PEACE 4
Swami Sivananda speaks on this very simple, straightforward,
yet difficult-to-obtain quality.
A QUESTION OF SUFFERING 6
Swami Vishnu-devananda examines the cause of suffering,
with some pragmatic suggestions.
SIVANANDA ASHRAM PRISON PROJECT UPDATE 29
MOUNT RUSHMORE SYNDROME 37
Eco-psychologist Allen D. Kanner discusses the modern outlook
- when Narcissism rules the earth.
SANTOSH 40
Contentment, the most misunderstood niyama of Raja Yoga is
analysed by Swami Saradananda.
SHAPING YOGA TEACHERS THE SIVANANDA WAY 42
Jody Tyler gives an amusing insight into the Teachers’
Training Course.
MAKING THE BODY ALL EYES 45
Phillip B. Zarrilli on kalarippayatu, the martial/meditation
art of Kerala.
THOUGHTS ON A YOGIC LIFE 47
by Swami Durgananda
”INTO THE 21ST CENTURY” 10
Elizabeth Nathaniels summarises the multi-faith, multi-cultural,
multi-national event which emphasised practical peace on an
individual level, rather than merely an absence of war.
MAY PEACE PREVAIL ON EARTH 12
Masami Kondo of the World Peace Prayer Society speaks on the
power of positive thought.
SIVANANDA SONGBOOK 15
“If You Want to Have Peace in the World” –words and the song
that was especially written for “Into the 21st Century.”
PEACE CHILD 16
Miranda Warner interviews Eirwen Harbottle regarding her
extraordinary efforts with children, on behalf of peace.
DEVELOPING OUR SPIRITUAL EYES 18
Rabbi Joseph Gelberman on transforming grief, terror and
horror into goodness and joy in life.
ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI:
SAINT OF PEACE AND TOLERANCE 20
by Rolph Fernandes
THE NATIVE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE 22
Regent Garihwa Sioui, Secretary General of the Northern
American-Indian nations on a wider definition of peace
– not just among humanity. “We can’t have global peace
if we are abusing another part of creation.”
BEARING WITNESS FOR PEACE 24
Roshi Bernie Glassman, co-founder of the Zen Peacemaker
Order, on the need for healing and experience of unity.
AMERICAN PEACE PILGRIMAGE
IN A MOBILE ASHRAM 30
A modern journey, but the goal is the same since time
immemorial – to see “God” to find inner peace.
PLANET EARTH PASSPORT
Excerpts from Swami Vishnu-devananda’s boundary-breaking
document, that has recently been re-issued. 32
SIVANANDA WORLD MILLENNIUM PEACE PILGRIMAGE 33
Photo highlights of “Into the 21st Century” Peace Festival ... and
schedule for the year 2000, as the “mission continues”.
”INTO THE 21ST CENTURY” PEACE FESTIVAL
1957
W I N T E R 2 0 0 0
3
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
Om Peace Paz Paix
Om Shalom Salam Frieden
Blessed Self,
The eternal prayer of humanity is: “Lord grant us peace.” Yet, as much as we pray and talk about it, peace continues to elude most of
us. Of course, peace means different things to different people. To some peace means nuclear disarmament, to others it is an end to
hostilities in any of the many other troubled spots of the world. Still others are sure that peace would come if government budgets
were sufficient to provide proper schools, hospitals, programs for the aged and handicapped. For some peace means financial security.
The first week of August presented an extraordinary experience. Peace advocates and spiritual aspirants from many traditions gathered
at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp in Quebec. They lived together in peace, acknowledging their differences, but trying to find
solutions that they could carry home with them and share with their communities and friends. Yet even while this enthusiastic group
of citizens of the world were happily waving flags, praying for peace, and basking in the sunlight of Canada’s beautiful Laurentian
Mountains, what were their fellow citizens doing? Even within a few miles, how many people were being robbed, humiliated,
murdered? How many children abused and beaten by frustrated parents? How many people were dealing with the pain of facing
their own minds by dulling them with drugs and alcohol? Was hatred not rampant in the world during that week? Where were anger
and greed? For there to be peace in the world, each person must go within to find that “peace that passeth all understanding.” Lust,
anger, greed, hatred, jealousy, envy and fear cannot be banished by public declaration, laws or treaties.
As long as we hate and fear each other there can be no peace. To abolish these negative qualities, which are part of all of us, the
teachings of Yoga can be of great value to the modern world. Through the scientifically designed techniques of Yoga, one learns to
watch, control, and be able to deal with his/her own mind. Negative emotions and energies are channeled into positive directions.
One learns to identify with the divine nature rather than with the apparent, emotional qualities.
Peace is not an accident. It can only be accomplished by working at it on a daily basis. This was the message of ‘Into the 21st Century’
Peace Festival. We have dedicated this issue of Yoga Life to giving a report of that event.
Yours,
OM Namah Sivaya
Dear Friends,
This past summer, I attended ‘Into the 21st Century’, a moving and impressive Festival for
World Peace hosted by the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp. African drum and Andian flute
music moved the spirit. Interesting and informative talks moved the mind. Hindu homas and
native American sunrise rites opened the heart.
I had the karma yoga of setting up and taking down the translation equipment; this had the very
pleasant result of enabling me to attend all of the programs. I must admit that I initially approached
the Festival with some trepidation as I did not want to be bombarded with activist cant targeting
this or that global hot spot and urging us to write our Member of Parliament and to donate
generously to the committee to free some unfortunate people from tyranny. The unspoken theme of
‘Into the 21st Century’ was in fact the opposite: “Reform yourself and let the rest of the world reform
itself”, one of my favourite of all of Swami Sivananda’s injunctions. The underlying message was that
you can’t create peace in the world or any part of it unless you have peace in yourself.
Much of the Festival was devoted to giving people the incentive and a variety of tools with which to
develop inner peace, each in their own way and each according to their ability and their need.
Another re-occurring theme was that a person could best contribute to world peace not by becoming
a political activist but by becoming personally involved in resolving a local need, providing his or her
own labor rather than making political demands that merely urge someone else to fix the problem.
Yes, there were presentations and references to global peace issues but they too promoted the
application of one’s skills and interests to long-term, low-key and interactive projects. Projects that
could change perceptions so that there would be less need to make the type of political changes that
usually result in deaths, injuries, dislocation and alienation.
The Festival fully reflected the teachings of Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-devananda and
showed how those teachings had direct application to issues of personal and international
significance. Swamiji’s teachings elevate the consciousness, open new perspectives on situations of
concern and point to new and more useful approaches to resolving those situations.
Many participants commented on the overall good feeling that the Festival engendered. My own
perspective on the Festival is that it was a five-star success. The speakers were professional in approach
and personal in their message. From the exuberance of Rabbi Gelberman to the disciplined compassion
of Zen Roshi Bernie Glassman and the sophistication of Mrs. Eirwen Harbottle representing the Centre
of International Peacekeeping. Their messages inspired all who attended and helped to focus our
energies.
All the speakers were approachable throughout the week of the Festival with meal times being a
particularly good time for speaking with them at length. Organizationally, everything seemed smooth;
this was due to the constant attention of Shambhavi of the Yoga Camp and Jyoti from Montreal. Staff
were open, approachable and enthusiastic. The food was excellent, the grounds were well maintained
and even the weather cooperated. All in all, one of the most outstanding events that I’ve attended in
years. - Sankara, Ottawa
LET T ER TO T HE EDI TOR
LET T ER F ROM T HE EDI TOR
Swami Saradananda, Editor
MAY PEACE PREVAIL ON EARTH
4
M
any people are working
today for the promotion of
world peace without
having peace in
themselves. Their loud propaganda, big
talk and lectures cause more confusion,
conflict and discord. If you want to
have peace in the world, you must first
find the peace within your own heart.
A proper understanding of the
essential unity of religions is the most
effective and powerful factor in
bringing about peace in this world. It
will remove all superficial differences
and conflicts, which create
restlessness, discord and quarrels.
If everyone turns to the Supreme Peace
within, there will be peace everywhere.
A glorious new era of peace, amity, love
and prosperity can be ushered in , only
if the youth of the day is educated in
the methods of self-culture. Educate
the moral conscience of the public. This
will bring lasting world-peace.
You can elevate others only if you
have elevated yourself. This world can
be saved only by those who have
already saved themselves. A prisoner
cannot liberate other prisoners. One
realised sage can do more for the
promotion of peace than a thousand
missionaries preaching and disputing,
day in and day out.
“There will be not war,
if all people practice
truthfulness, universal
love, purity, mercy,
contentment, self-
sacrifice, self-restraint
and tolerance. Non-
violence is the key to
peace.”
Peace is the happy, natural state of
humanity. It is our birthright. War is
our disgrace.
Peace is a state of quiet. It is freedom
from disturbance, anxiety, agitation,
riot or violence. It is harmony, silence,
calm, repose, rest. Specifically, it is the
absence or cessation of war.
All over the world, great conferences
are held for bringing about universal
peace, universal brotherhood and
universal religion. It is the vanity of
humanity that goads us to reform
society without first reforming ourself.
Vanity rules the world. When two
vain people meet, there is friction and
quarrel. In the case of social reform,
self-styled enlightened people started
interfering with the customs and
manners of others, in an effort to
civilise them. Society lost its
moorings, and the reformers could not
offer new, sound ones. Masses of
people drifted away into chaos. How
can blind people lead other blind
people?
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Sivananda:
Words of PEACE
5
No piece of paper called a treaty can
establish peace in this world. The way
of peace is very simple and straight; it
is the way of Love and Truth.
Money cannot give you peace. You
can purchase many things, but you
cannot purchase peace. You can buy
soft beds, but you cannot buy sleep.
You can buy good foods, but you
cannot buy good appetite. You can
buy good tonics, but you cannot buy
good health. You can buy good books,
but you cannot buy wisdom.
Perfect peace cannot be promoted by
anybody who does not have perfect
peace in himself. No political ‘ism’ can
ever solve the problem and bring
about real peace. Each new ‘ism’
creates only more problems and more
quarrels.
Ethics should be put into practice by
all. This alone will contribute to peace,
universal love, unity, proper
understanding and world harmony.
Everlasting peace can be found only
within your own Atman or Self, or
God.
World-peace is possible when all the
people of the world wake up to the
facts governing universal life and
when there is a heart-to-heart feeling
of goodness, love and oneness among
the inhabitants of the world.
Peace, to be lasting and constructive,
must be achieved through God. There
can be no peace without God. God is
Peace. Root yourself in peace or God.
Now you are fit to radiate peace.
SI VANANDA: WORDS OF PEACE
“Love alone can bring peace to
the world. Therefore love all.
Only if everyone practices the
religion of love, can there be
peace in the world.”
6
M
any religions incorporate the
idea that a person must suffer
and be punished. For example
there is the idea of hell and
purgatory in the Catholic faith. Yoga
philosophy teaches the law of karma,
whereby each person suffers as a result of his
own bad actions. However, people truly
suffer by virtue of their own ignorance, their
inability to understand who they are and
why they exist. It seems that a person’s bad
actions result from this ignorance. Each
person appears to have come into existence
from a state of total ignorance and must
suffer. We suffer until we find the truth. Why
is this?
Swami Vishnu-devananda: Ignorance is
itself an illusion. Pain itself is an illusion. There
is neither ignorance nor pain. A simple
example: you went to bed last night and had
a nice sleep. Before sleep, you had a dream. Let
us assume you dreamt of a tiger attacking you
in the forest. So what did you say? Oh, it’s a
dream. I can sleep, I can forget about this. You
didn’t do this, did you? No, in the dream you
started running for your life. And how long
did you run? Until you woke from the dream.
When you woke up what happened? The tiger
was gone, the pain was gone. Ah, it’s an
illusion. Now you can laugh, but not during
the dream. Well, we’re all dreaming - a cosmic
dream. She’s my wife. He’s my husband. It’s a
dream. Who’s the wife? Who’s the husband?
Everyday you walk on the street; you see
hundreds of thousands of people. One person
you meet like in a dream. Oh, it’s the dream
girl you’ve been looking for. Ah, this is the
person I must have. From that moment
something has changed. From that moment
onwards he has to bring flowers: “I love you
honey” and bow to her and laugh when she
laughs. She has to cry when he cries, and he
is repeating the mantra “I love you honey, I
love you honey” - how many times he has to
repeat this mantra?
It’s just a dream, a cosmic play, you know.
Then next day your wife runs away with
another man and you start crying. And
suppose she ran off with some money, lots of
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
As long as you identify with the body there
is a karma reaction... This law applies
everywhere. Nothing happens without a
cause. Look at this plant. It came from a
cause. There are two things: a cause and
effect. Sometimes we cannot see the cause,
but we can always see the effect. Here the
effect is this beautiful plant and these
flowers. But we do not know who planted
the cause, though we know somebody must
have done that. Cause and effect are one
and the same.
Suffering
A Question of
S WA M I V I S H N U - D E V A N A N D A S P E A K S
7
money, you’ll cry more, not for her, for the
money. Then, just suppose she had an
accident and her lover is killed. Before you
used to cry when she had suffering, now
when she is suffering you laugh. The person is
the same. Your dream has changed. Now the
mantra has changed from “I love you honey”
to “Go to hell honey”. This is also a dream.
From the cosmic point there is no suffering,
no pain, only illusion. You identify with this
perishable body; that is the ignorance which
you mentioned.
As long as you identify with the body there
is a karma reaction. Just as in physics, every
action has an equal and opposite reaction.
This law applies everywhere. A rocket goes up
because it has an opposite thrust. If I throw a
ball, the ball will bounce on me. If I give a glass
of water to some one who is dying, sacrifice
my comfort, then I will get water when I am
in the most difficult situation. Or suppose I
stole water from some one who needs water.
I drank, made him suffer, then sometime I
won’t be able to drink, even if the water is in
my hand. Nothing happens without a cause.
Look at this plant. It came from a cause. There
are two things: a cause and effect. Sometimes
w e
cannot see
the cause, but we can always see the effect.
Here the effect is this beautiful plant and
these flowers. But we do not know who
planted the cause, though we know
somebody must have done that.
Cause and effect are one and the same.
Depends upon which point you are starting
from. Take an example. This glass is round.
Now tell me, which is the beginning of this
round glass? Let us assume there must be
some beginning. So I say, this is the beginning,
then where is the end? The beginning and end
are the same spot? Depending on how you are
looking. If you look clockwise the beginning
becomes the end, and if you’re looking
counter-clockwise the end becomes the
beginning. So what is called cause and effect
is only a matter of which came first,
depending on how you are interpreting it.
Cause contains effect, and effect contains
cause. The seed contains the tree. And the tree
contains the seed. The tree’s the future cause.
It is all how you look at it, you know. That’s
why we can never solve the problem of this
universe by merely asking questions. Why God
created this world? If He created it, when did
He create it? Then what was He doing before
He created it? The questions can go on and on.
The important thing is to understand that
nothing comes without a cause. The seed of
your existence, there must be a cause. Why are
you all born in the country where everything
is in plenty? Why were you not born in
Bangladesh or Rwanda or Ethiopia? Where
millions and millions of babies are starving
and dying.
The parents cannot even cry for their dying
babies. They know their babies are going to die
in a few days or few weeks. They’re all like
skeletons. I’ve seen it in Bangladesh. India
refused to give food to these people - about
10 million refugees in a small area. There is no
water, no electricity, no food. Children are
dead and dying, their bodies are lying with
filth and flies everywhere. Some are dead,
some are just dying, and their parents around
them are not crying. There are no tears
because there’s no
water to bring them even tears. But here the
baby gets all the attention, why? God is
interested?
If God created, why did God create so
many millions of souls to suffer while some
children are born in a castle with a silver
spoon in the mouth? What is the cause
behind it? If God is the cause then we have to
blame God for everything. But God is
impartial, like the sun. The sun shines equally
in all conditions. The sun shines on the rich
man’s swimming pool and in a gutter full of
filth. It makes no difference between the
swimming pool and the gutter water. It shines
equally. It is the same with Supreme Grace;
the grace is everywhere. It is shining in all of
our hearts. But we close our eyes and pretend
we haven’t seen Him. Not only pretending, we
believe He is not even in us. We believe that
God is somewhere else punishing you and
rewarding you. That cannot be a God who
just punishes us because we don’t praise Him.
He is a super dictator then! Read the
question again.
“Many religions incorporate the idea that
people must suffer, be punished e.g. the idea
of hell, purgatory in the Catholic faith.”
Swamiji: Okay, stop there. Many religions
believe in hell and heaven. The question is:
who is responsible for the hell and heaven?
Suppose I create a robot, Mr. Roboti. Who do
you blame if the robot killed someone? The
creator is it not? And suppose the robot
continues going around killing everybody
then you think that the man who created this
must be a monster. So, God created Hitler. God
created Jesus also. What is the difference
between one creation and another? So does
the blame go to God? And suppose you’re not
able to behave properly and you’re sent to hell
forever! Forever means how long? Infinite
future you’re going to suffer because you live
for one hundred years. Of the hundred years,
fifty years you spend in sleeping. Childhood is
gone like a dream. And then old age comes,
sitting in the wheelchair with intravenous
feeding and senility, you can’t even say your
own name. In between a few years called
youthful life the hormones are very high, the
blood pressure shoots up, that’s called life.
Because, in this short life span you can’t be
very good and learn all of these ethical and
moral lessons, so you’re punished forever? Is it
fair that God should do that? Then, if I don’t
worship Him, he’s going to send me to hell.
That’s like a dictator. He has every power in His
hand. So that’s not the right answer. God did
not create anything. He Himself manifests,
that is the difference. Now, the conclusion of
this. Why people suffer. Suffering is just
another illusion like a dream. This is called
maya in Sanskrit, but your real nature is sat,
chit and ananda, existence absolute,
knowledge absolute and bliss absolute. There is
no ignorance in you because you are
knowledge – each person is an image of God.
But you have forgotten this image and you
start identifying with the dream.
I’ll give a simple example for you to
understand how this illusion works. I’m sure
all of you have seen at least one movie in your
life. Some movies are frightening. For example
several years ago I was in London. At that time
“The Exorcist” was playing. I wanted to see
how they make these films because when I
was young my uncle was a mantravadi, a real
exorcist. In my home every new moon night
Suffering is just another illusion like a dream. This is
called maya in Sanskrit, but your real nature is sat,
chit and ananda, existence absolute, knowledge
absolute and bliss absolute. There is no ignorance in
you because you are knowledge – each person is an
image of God. But you have forgotten this image and
you start identifying with the dream.
8
my uncle chanted various mantras; he himself
had control over various spirits. Suddenly an
ordinary housewife becomes wild; it takes 5 to
10 people to hold her. She becomes so hungry
that she eats 12-15 people’s food in a few
minutes. I couldn’t understand all these
things; I was young. I knew that food only
goes in one direction - through the mouth
and into the stomach, then through the small
intestine, colon etc. When she comes back, she
becomes a normal housewife. And after 15
minutes she will go and eat her normal dinner.
That’s the thing that puzzled me. What
happened to the food? Where did it disappear
to? Lots of times I saw these things in my
childhood. There’s no way to explain it
scientifically or logically.
When I heard that this film is creating a
sensation, I just wanted to know how do they
do it. So we all jumped into a taxi and went to
see it. One girl, she’s from California, she said
Swamiji I would like to come only if you’re
going. I don’t want to see that alone. I asked
her: what are you afraid of that. You’re not a
hillbilly, you know films are made in
Hollywood studios. The film is all light and
shadow, you know that it’s an illusion. So she
said, “Yes Swamiji it’s an
illusion”. When we got into
the theatre she sat next
to me. The light went off
and suddenly the
screen becomes alive,
people are throwing
up pea soup, the
bed starts rocking
and so forth.
And this girl
starts screaming. So I hit her with my
elbow. She closed her eyes and said “It’s an
illusion, it’s an illusion.” Then she opened her
eyes and screamed again. She is an educated
person. She knows everything intellectually
but still she cannot disassociate from the
illusion. She becomes part of the illusion.
So also this universe is an illusion! We are
playing this part. We are part of the cosmic
illusion called maya. If an ordinary movie can
create so much problem, how much illusion
the cosmic maya can create. That’s why
Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: “Oh Arjuna,
this cosmic illusion, is very difficult to conquer.
Only he who surrenders to me, I will take him
across.” You’ve got no power. Just like a person
who’s crying in the dream. Only one way you
can make him happy is by waking him up.
Only God can wake us up from this cosmic
dream. Our mind is also the maya, the
individual maya and Siva is the Self. And so
the mind plays every day, projecting different
things. You project a girl and you say she is
your wife. You play with that thought and you
play the husband. And the children come and
you say oh, these are my children and you play
with that thought. And so we just continue
playing, never trying to identify with the Self.
That is the difference between a God-realized
soul and an ordinary person. That is all; there
is nothing else. A God-realized person can also
have this dream, but he is not participating; he
is witnessing it, watching everything.
So God has got two aspects: static and
kinetic. Siva and Shakti are God in
manifestation and its inherent nature. You
can’t say why God creates or illusion exists,
because that ‘why’ question exists only in your
mind. When you wake up from the dream
there is no question. So when you wake up to
the fourth state, your dream vanishes, your
pain disappears. You realise, “I was never born,
never created, I never existed. I’m always in the
transcendental state. I’m always in that
supreme state”.
So there is no ignorance nor hell nor
heaven. Hell and heaven are only in your
understanding.
Another simple example, I’ll just tell you
our story. Bren and I both flew from Tel Aviv
to Cairo over the Suez Canal. I had lots of
ammunition with me – that’s called marigold
flowers. We filed a flight plan to Nicosia.
When we had gone 50 miles off, suddenly we
changed course. Suddenly the voice came,
“please turn back onto your original course,
you’re in danger of being shot.” And I said,
“Please make for us a new flight plan to Egypt
via Suez Canal. The Israelis said, “you can’t fly
there directly, you’ll be shot.” So I said, “Many
people died in the name of war, we two people
are prepared to die in the name of peace.”
Then I turned my radio off. So they send up
a small jet which flew very close to our plane
so that we could see the pilot. It was the
closest that I have ever flown with another
plane. I can see this Israeli military plane
telling me, “Turn back, turn back.”
By that time we were close to the Suez
Canal. Then there was a sudden explosion and
the plane started going up and down and I
lost control, “Oh my God, we have been shot,
Bren let us meditate.” I thought the plane was
going to disintegrate, but after a few minutes
it steadied. The pilot gave us a jet blast, then
he was gone.
We were over the Suez Canal. We dropped
leaflets and flowers. We ‘bombed’ them and
then crossed to the other side. We saw the
soldiers on both sides living in the desert, in
foxholes. It’s so boring, and suddenly a
beautiful colored plane came and started
throwing leaflets and they ran to pick them up.
Then we crossed into Egypt. They could
have shot us; flights would not have been
allowed over the Suez Canal. We had about
100 miles to reach Cairo, and when we were
50 or 60 miles from Cairo we called in the
usual pattern. “Please give us landing
instructions”. There was an uproar. “Who gave
you per mission, you’re not allowed to come
here”. Then there were 3 or 4 jets, circling
around like in an old movie, like the wagon
train with the Indians riding around. We told
them, “Please call your jets back; please give us
permission.” At last they agreed. As soon as we
landed we gave them flowers and tried to give
them the peace leaflets. But they wouldn’t
take anything. They immediately brought a
jeep, asked us to get in. There were soldiers
standing at attention everywhere. My God,
what a reception we got!
Then we saw pictures of Gadafi and Assad
of Syria. What happened is that we came at
the wrong time, literally. Assad’s and Gadafi’s
planes both were coming - and Sadat from
Egypt was there to meet them. So the
reception was not for us.
We were blindfolded and
driven somewhere for about
one hour. They brought us
into a small reception
room and removed the
blindfolds. Then they
separated the two of us
and started the
interrogation. The first
question was: “Where were you in Israel,
whom did you see?” I said I met many people.
The night before we had about 400 people
coming for the lecture.
“Who did you meet?” Officials he means.
“I tried to meet Golda Meir; she was the
premier, but she was busy. At the time, the defence
minister was Moshe Dayan, but he was busy too.”
Then he said, “We told you not to come here.”
“Yes, you told us, but I got another
command from another dimension.” And of
course they’re all taking notes and he is writing
every bit of who I met - everything. And they
asked a question about Bren Jacobson.
“Do you trust him?”
“Sure I trust him.”
“Do you know that he is a Jew.”
“Yes, I know.”
In the Planet Earth Passport there are
symbols of all religions including a cross and
the Star of David. The symbol of Islam was also
there. They asked me why and I said, “I believe
in all religions; everything is the same.”
It took 2-3 hours. Then he asked me to
sign at the bottom. And I just signed it without
reading.
“Don’t you want to read it? Because you
will be prosecuted tomorrow. Please read
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Our real nature is sat, chit and ananda, existence absolute,
knowledge absolute and bliss absolute. There is no
ignorance in you because you are knowledge – each person
is an image of God. But you have forgotten this image and
you start identifying with the dream.
9
everything.”
I said, “I said the truth; whatever you feel is
your problem.” And then they took me back to
my cell. I was there by myself and they put a
bright light in the room and they brought
food. After another 2 or 3 hours, Bren came.
Again they blindfolded us and they brought us
to another room.
All the windows were closed. We did not
know how long we are going to be there in
this Egyptian jail. But for us it’s not a problem,
we are Yogis you know. They are bringing
vegetarian food; we can meditate and do our
asanas and pranayama. Bren started to do his
Surya Namaskar and I began reading my
books etc. I knew the place must be bugged,
so I started quoting from the Koran.
The next day they took our photographs
and fingerprints. Then told us, “We found that
you have come for a peace mission and for 3
days you will be guest of the Egyptian
government. And after 3 days you can go.” So
they took us to the Nile Valley and the Hilton.
We had a nice lunch on the boat. They arranged
everything specially in the officer’s club. First
time they took a Jew to the officer’s club.
Then they took us to the Pyramids and we
had a camel ride. We got the official treatment
with big limousines and escort, but in the
evening they brought us back to our jail. We
had the time to meditate and do sadhana. We
were very happy. On the last day they came to
take us on a museum trip. Very beautiful
ancient treasures are stored there and after
seeing the museum they said, “Swamiji, since
you are leaving tomorrow we want you to see
our Egyptian culture. We want to take you to
a nightclub.
I said, “I’m a Swami I don’t go to
nightclubs.” But he insisted. So we got into the
limousine and they brought us to the best
nightclub. I had never seen a nightclub before.
They gave us the best seats and the menu.
“Please order anything you want.” For
vegetarians there was orange juice only. And
they ordered everything at the government’s
expense. By the time the show came my eyes
were filled with smoke and I couldn’t breathe.
I preferred to go back to my jail. There I have
fresh air and I can do whatever I want. Here
the air is killing us, it’s hell for us. But, they’re
enjoying; they’re getting everything free.
Reluctantly they took us back
about 3
o’clock.
The next day they tried to test us again,
whether we are spies or not. They took us out
for shopping and gave us fresh mango juice.
They brought us to one place and we saw
some Americans who had been at the night
club the previous night. Naturally Bren was
happy to see other Americans. So he started
talking and I knew, this is a setup. They want
to see if we are going to pass any message to
them. So many times they tested us.
Finally they brought us to our airplane. It
was fueled and everyone came to see the
peace plane including military officials. Before
that they took us to a place where they were
making military vehicles. No Jew had ever
been allowed to a military guarded place. But
Bren and I went without fear. What I’m trying
to say is two things. Pleasure becomes pain;
that nightclub was the most painful place I’ve
ever been. But for the jailers and others the
nightclub was heaven. So one person’s heaven
is another one’s prison, and vice versa.
The second is that we went to Egypt with
love without visas or passports. They treated
even a Jew like an honored guest. He was
shown everywhere including that military
armory. This happened actually. Now do you
understand?
There is no one who can hate you if you go
with love. Wherever I go with love and flowers
I get the same in return. But how can you stop
the problem in Ireland? By killing each other
you’ll never stop the problem. Only by love.
Love thy neighbor as thyself.
So we can make peace in the universe. Before
that we must make peace within us. That’s the
purpose of this visit. Religion says hell and
heaven exist. The same hell is another’s heaven.
I’ll tell you a small story and conclude. The story
is about some people who went to see how
people are living in heaven and
hell. They went to hell first.
People were sitting at a table
and food is served. But their
hands are tied to long
wooden spoons so they can’t
bend their arms. They are
struggling to feed
themselves and keep spilling
the food on the floor; before
long all the food is gone, and
they are all starving and
suffering. So they went to
heaven to see how they live
there. There they have
golden tables and golden
chairs and they have
golden spoons tied to their
arms just like in hell. Oh my
God, how are they going to eat? But they
are enjoying the food. How? They are feeding
each other.
When you think of others’ happiness then
that’s heaven. But if you think of yourself - my
happiness, my power, my this thing - that’s called
hell. There’s no hell or heaven - you create that, you
see. When there is love you can feed each other. So
let’s feed each other. “Love Thy Neighbor as
Thyself” and I conclude with that
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
In the Planet Earth Passport there are symbols of
all religions including a cross and the Star of David. The symbol
of Islam was also there. They asked me why and I said,
“I believe in all religions; everything is the same.”
10
H
ow can we change into a more
peaceful society, prevent the
violence of war, or begin to tackle
some of the acute local and
global social problems of today?
Sceptics might smile at the idea of a group
of well-meaning people concentrating on
such awesome questions at a Yoga Peace
Festival. However, the Sivananda Yoga org -
anisation may well have embraced an idea
whose time has come. At the end of the 21st
century, there is a great deal of focus on
world peace - from the United Nations’
designation of the year 2000 as the International
Year for a Culture of Peace to the convening of
the largest ever international gathering on the
causes and solutions to war held at the Hague
earlier this year. For the Sivananda Yoga
organisation, it is significant that l999 saw the
graduation of the ten thousandth yoga teacher
from the Teachers’ Training Course which Swami
Vishnu-devananda established as his fund -
amental building block for peace, exactly thirty
years ago, in 1969.
Perhaps we should also remind our sceptics
that praying for peace is not a useless activity.
Modern scientific experiments are now proving
the existence of many aspects of ancient
spiritual knowledge. These range from demon -
strations of the power of thought on plants and
people, to the healing effect of certain sounds
and music.
‘Physician heal thyself’ became the dominant
response of the week-long investigation into
these issues. Attended by nearly two hundred
part icipants from all over the world, this was the
central tenet of invited speakers, from Roshe
Bernie Glassman of the New York Zen
Community to Franciscan Rolph Fernandes of
Montreal. Other speakers included Palestinian
UN meditator, Mohammed Ramadan, Rabbi
Joseph Gelberman of New York; Masami Kondo
of the World Peace Prayer Society, Japan, Eirwen
Harbottle representing the Generals for Peace
from Britain, Soeur Nicole Fournier of
L’Accueil Bonneau, Montreal and French-born
natural health author, Daniele Starenkyj.
Most maintained that tools for world peace
could only be developed by building
individual, inner peace first.
Swami Vishnu-devananda’s favourite
analogy used to be that
of trying to change
fabric from cotton to silk.
You have to do so by
changing it thread by
thread until the whole
piece has been trans -
formed. So the fabric of
society could be changed by individuals
developing their own inner peace until the
whole of society is changed. Certainly, Swamiji’s
life’s work for peace was enlivened by
imaginative public demon strations, ranging from
flying over the Berlin Wall in l983 to ‘bombing’
Northern Ireland with flowers in l971 –
along with Peter Sellers in a Peter Max-
painted Piper Apache plane.
The Festival began with a beautiful
Native American sunrise ceremony and
ended with a memorable, relaxed and
diverse multifaith ceremony in which the
children won the day. Indeed, in the
tradition of Gandhi, and of yoga, the whole
event was multifaith
– an element which
provided a sharp and
poignant edge and
gave much food for
thought. For instance,
contrasting to our
western Christian idea of
Paradise Lost was the all-pervading Native
American sense that paradise was found - it is
here and now. This is the paradise of our earth,
our matrix of being, whose fecundity and beauty
are to be enjoyed, protected and revered. By
contrast, Rolph Fernandes with his com -
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Into The 21
st
Century
Peace Festival
- a summing up, by Elizabeth Nathaniels
Swami Vishnu-devananda would have loved it - this summer’s Peace Festival.
Held at the Sivananda Yoga Camp in Val Morin, outside Montreal, the Festival carried
forward his vision with aplomb, a sense of abundance, loving welcome and joy. It was
a feast of ceremonies from different faiths, of multinational goodwill, a renewal of
good yoga practice, a stimulus to the mind and re-awakening of the spirit.
Elizabeth Nathaniels
Roshe Bernie Glassman Bob Bourdon Bren Jacobson Harlina Churn Dial Sant Venugopal
Panel discussion with invited guest speakers and workshop leaders.
“There was a feeling of oneness.”
- Kathleen Regan, New York
“The conference speakers represented a
good cross-section of life experience and
spiritual disciplines.”
- Benoit Gauthier, Quebec
11
passionate poem: “How Can I Speak of Peace”
expressed the lost paradise of a war-scarred child
in Sarajevo. Participants were reminded and
stimulated by the playful,
yet underlying seriousness
of the religious stories told
by the swamis and the voluptuous riot of colour
and form in the South Indian sculpture in the
newly-built Subramanya/Ayyappa temple. Senior
acharyas moderated the programme. Among
some of the difficulties faced was the very real
clash between two groups whose members had
suffered grievously. The underlying question
was there: did different religions cause
conflict? Not so, it was claimed. It was rather
that people used diverse beliefs as an excuse
for violence.
Representing
the victims of
in justice and
war were both
Jewish and Arab
participants. Palestinian Mohammed
Ramadan who shared his people’s
agony in the Middle East, made a
strong case for forgiveness. This, he
claimed, is an important, if not essential
element for attaining inner peace. He
pointed out that true forgiveness is not
to do with repentance or forgetting, but should
be experienced as a deep and profound spiritual
‘letting go’ of the hurt.
As for peacemaking in everyday life, the
quietly charismatic New York Zen master, Bernie
Glassman advocated starting simply with
whatever ingredients there were to hand.
Becoming over -
whelmed was not
helpful but rather
simply starting from
where we are, with
whatever we have was his advice – a
central theme of his best-selling book:
Zen: Instructions to the Cook.
Cultivate joy, rather than dwelling on anguish
suggested the ebullient 88-year old, broad-
minded Rabbi Joseph Gelberman. Although
remembering tragedies from the Holocaust to
Kosovo was a part of our humanity, nevertheless,
“to forgive the past and look forward toward the
future with joy and excitement” was more
important. In fact, Rabbi Gelberman claimed that
the proper exercise of religion and of peace was
attained by seeking joy, rather than happiness.
Happiness involved outside material things. Joy
meant the development of inner peace, which for
him – the personification of benevolence –
exploded daily into a gratitude for life. He ended
his presentation by leading participants in a
stately song and dance to Shalom.
There was much to feed the mind. And as for
body and spirit there were walks, canoe trips,
yoga asanas, delicious feasts as well as the many
forms of worship, meditation, music and dance.
Indeed, dance and music were integral to the
event. Mali-born drummer YaYa Diallo author of
The Healing Drum vividly demonstrated a more
in-depth understanding of African music than
that of pure entertainment. His wife,
founder/director of the Imani Dance Company,
Harlina Churn Diallo also demonstrated the
way in which she is encouraging Afro-
American children to take pride in the culture
of their ancestors.
The poignant and innocent tones of ancient
South American pipes
played by Jorge Alfano of the
Sacred Sounds Institute, the
sonorous meditative ragas of
the renowned Indian flautist,
Sachdev and ‘spiritual pop’
music of the newly-formed
London Sivananda Centre’s Prem
group all played their part in
enlivening the event.
The warm and generous welcome we
received will long remain with us. The
Sivananda Yoga Centres continue to emanate
an affection, a sense of family and the
satisfaction of Satsang – keeping company
with the wise, or at least, fellow-travellers, on
the spiritual path. Furthermore, we were
welcomed to a warm, light and plant-filled
lodge, all gleaming wood and white-plastered
straw bales, with grass on the roof – very
ecologically correct. We were given magnificent
vegetarian feasts. We were treated to the stage
set – designed by the London Centre – all large
fat peace doves and gargantuan daisies, not to
mention a cut-out of Swamiji’s peace plane. The
London Centre provided their own peace music
for the festival (now on CD and Tape), with the
words largely of Swami Sivananda himself.
Participants certainly left the Ashram with a
feeling of joy. The experience of the week-long
festival was perhaps best expressed in the words
and music of one of Prem’s songs “If you want to
have peace in the world, you must have peace in
your heart.” As for the power of positive thinking
and meditation, perhaps Masami Kondo should
have the last word when she asks: “Do you know
what links us closest and fastest?” And the
answer: “Thought waves. Thought waves are
faster than sound or light. What we emit as
thought instantly reaches everybody around the
globe. To know this really helps us to understand
the significance of praying for world peace.”
“I NTO THE 21ST CENT URY” PEACE FEST I VAL
Rolph Fernandes Eirwen Harbottle Swami Chaitanyananda Rabbi Joseph Gelberman Daniele Starenkyj Mohammed Ramadan Yolanda Rivera Ramadan Masami Kondo
“The highlight for me was the reunion
with people that I’ve known over the
years and met in various Sivananda
Yoga Centers and Ashrams.”
- Bhavani, New York
“The speakers emphasized practical
peace on an individual level instead of
talking about the absence of war.”
- Narayani, New Mexico
“I came for a Yoga vacation -
asanas and satsang. The speakers
brought home the theme of the
Festival - that peace starts within
yourself. All this was a bonus to my
stay at the Ashram.”
- Damian, London, England
llo
Jorge Alfano
Left: Meditative Ragas
by G.S. Sachdev
Above: African Music and
Dance by YaYa Diallo and
Harlina Churn Diallo
“I like the international
atmosphere and getting to meet
people from different countries”
- Claude, New York
12
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
F
irst of all I would like to thank everybody
here at the Sivananda Yoga Camp for
inviting us. As I heard the wonderful
stories about your teacher, Swami
Vishnu-devananda, I recognized his joyful,
happy spirit. It is easy to imagine him sitting
here, because what the teacher transmits is
carried on by the disciples. As soon as I came
here I really felt like a part of the family, so
thank you very much.
Of all the hospitalities I have experienced,
this is one of the most exciting. It is a great joy
to be able to sit here above the message ‘May
Peace Prevail on Earth.’ The mission of our
organization is to spread this simple message
and prayer around the world. As an
organization we are not very big. We have
members and supporters around the world
from all nationalities, religions and different
backgrounds who simply incorporate this
message into their own traditions.
This was the idea of the founder of the
World Peace Prayer Society, Japanese poet and
philosopher Masahisa Goi. After the Second
World War he witnessed the devastation and
wanted to turn that mood around. Because the
Japanese people had experienced the tragedy of
the nuclear bomb he felt he had the mission to
turn this tragedy into a positive message and
advocate world peace.
That is how it started, and now this message
is spread through our Peace Pole Project.
Now there are 100,000 or more peace poles
around the world in almost every country. It is
not that our staff go around the world and
plant them everywhere. But those who see it
and feel it is a good idea will take it back to their
community and incorporate it into their own
activities. As I said during the dedication
ceremony, that was a most beautiful and
original peace pole that we planted today on
the peace trail.
Another main activity that we do is the
World Peace Prayer Ceremony. I hope that
everybody had a chance to participate in that
ceremony this afternoon. It was rather long but
if you think that we could visit all the countries
one by one and connect with the people there
in just one hour it is not so bad.
Personally I have had many wonderful
experiences through this World Peace Prayer
Ceremony and I would like to share a few of
them with you. Once, when we were doing this
ceremony in Central Park, an Israeli mother and
son came. The mother insisted that her son
carry the flag of Israel. So we fetched it, gave it
to him and he proudly raised it. We all prayed,
and the mother was happy. When we went into
the circle, as we did today, you never know
which flag you will carry because it just comes
around. Coincidentally, or not, the mother was
given the Palestinian flag. She raised it, but I
could see in her face that she was a bit stiff and
didn’t know how to feel or say the prayer. I was
wondering how she was feeling. Anyway she
did it. What was most moving was that a few
days later the mother called me and asked “did
you notice that I carried the Palestinian flag”. I
said “yes I noticed”. She said that it really
changed something. She felt it was a very
important thing that she had done this with her
son. I was very happy to hear this.
A similar story involved an Iranian
gentleman. He came up to me in tears after a
ceremony and said that at first there were
some countries that he hated. But as he
prayed something started to change and
he really felt he could make friends with
these countries. So the ceremony is all
about touching the heart and really sharing
this love for peace. It is awakening what is
already within us; it is just a matter of
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
May Peace
Prevail On Earth
The keynote address of the “Into the 21
st
Century” Peace Festival
at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp in August,1999 was given
by Masami Kondo of the World Peace Prayer Society.
Masami Kondo with the newly planted Peace Pole at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga
Camp. The pole was lovingly carved in three pieces by Native American craftsmen
Roger Echaquan and Bob Bourdon. The pole itself represents the connection
between heaven and earth. The larger ‘puzzle piece’ represents the five continents.
The top (miniature) puzzle represents the future generations. All parts were ritually
assembled during the Peace Pole dedication. (see Winter ‘99 issue of YogaLife for
the description of how the tree itself was chosen and cut.)
13
awakening that peace consciousness, and I
was very happy to be able to share that with
you today.
We also have activities for children. I feel
it is very important that we reach the
children with the idea of peace and praying
for world peace and oneness of humanity.
But I want to go a little further to describe to
you a deeper spiritual meaning behind our
movement because I think it is very similar to
yours and I want to share it.
The idea of world peace is easier to think
of nowadays because of advanced
technology. We see what is happening in
other parts of the world instantly by TV or
satellite. On the Internet you get information
from all over the world with just the touch of
a key. The world is getting smaller and we all
know that what is happening in another part
of the world is effecting us and everybody
else. But do you know what it is that links us
closest and fastest?
Thought waves. Thought waves are faster
than sound or light. What we
emit as thought instantly reaches
everybody around the globe. To
know this really helps us to
understand the significance of
praying for world peace.
When you turn on the switch,
there is light. And when you turn
on the radio you get the sound.
Likewise although thought
waves are invisible, they are
around us. They are encircling
the globe constantly. They are affecting us
and actually penetrating us through our
brains and the body cells. Whether you
know it or not, we are being activated by
thought waves, our own, and those
circumambulating the globe.
Similar thought waves attract each other.
If you are omitting negative, rough, angry or
sad waves, in effect you are creating a layer
of negative thoughts (heavy and dark). On
the other hand light, bright waves, such as a
prayer for world peace, link with the good
will and happy thoughts of people around
the world. The world is layer over layer of
different types of thoughts. Unfortunately
there are a large amount of negative, dark
thought waves surrounding the world. Once
you are in this whirlpool of dark thoughts it
is very hard to get out of it. For example, you
may know that you are very hot tempered
and you want to change yourself. When you
are feeling calm you say I will never lose my
temper again. But the next minute somebody
says something and you are angry. It is not as
easy as you think to get out of this cycle.
This can also be said for nations. The idea
that peace can only be achieved by balance
of military power, when you really look at it,
is ridiculous. Why doesn’t everybody drop
their weapons and shake hands? But this idea
has already been set in motion. If one country
builds more weapons, so does another. And
“I NTO THE 21ST CENT URY” PEACE FEST I VAL
Above: The stage, where
the evening programs
took place.
Right: The World Peace
Prayer Ceremony with
the flags symbolising the
nations of the earth.
What is a Peace Pole
Peace Poles are handcrafted
monuments erected the world over
as an international symbol of
peace. Their purpose is to spread
the message and prayer “May
Peace Prevail on Earth” and act as
a constant reminder for us to
visualize and pray for world peace.
To date, more than 100,000 Peace
Poles have been dedicated in more
than 160 countries around the
world. Peace Poles can be found in
town squares, city halls, school,
places of worship, parks and
gardens — any place where the
spirit of peace is embraced by
people of good will. Some of the
extraordinary locations include the
Pyramids in Egypt, the Magnetic
North Pole in Canada, Gorky Park
in Moscow, in front of the Peace
Pagoda in London’s Battersea Park.
They are promoting healing of
conflict in places like Sarajevo,
Hiroshima and on the Allenby
Bridge between Israel and Jordan.
Mayors around the world have
planted Peace Poles to dedicate
their cities and towns to world
peace. Both political leaders, such
as former U.S. President Jimmy
Carter, and religious leaders, such
as Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa
and the Dalai Lama, have dedicated
Peace Poles.
For more information, contact:
The World Peace Prayer Society
800 Third Avenue, 37
th
floor
New York, NY 10022
Peacepal@worldpeace.org
14
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
this has been going on
for decades. Although
we know deep inside
that this is not the
way; it is very hard
to get out of it.
The whole idea of
trying to join hearts
with people in the
prayer ‘May Peace
Prevail on Earth’ is to
activate bright
thought waves. In -
volving as many
people as possible
around the globe to
energize this brighter,
lighter wave helps to
purify negative waves.
Unless we thoroughly
purify this negative
layer it is hard to attain
world peace. That is why
we pray daily, not just at
festivities or special occasions. Our
members pray daily for world peace trying to
emit positive energy wherever we are. The
more people join in, the more effective this
movement will be.
Some people may think, “yes I understand
that it is very important. But I have too many
personal matters to worry about. Really world
peace is too broad a matter for me” This is not
true because you can attain world peace and
individual peace at the same time. Actually
you can achieve personal peace faster by
praying for world peace.
If you pray for peace on earth you receive
great benefit from using your own physical
vessel to transmit this large light: ‘May Peace
Prevail on Earth’. So really world peace is not
something that you should leave until later
after you have achieved personal peace
because you do both at the same time.
If you have money to donate or if you are
in a position to influence decisions of the
government that is fine. But prayer is
something that anybody can do - any age,
any status, what -
ever condition
you are in. In fact
this is the most
wonderful thing
you can do for the
world. Our vision is
to hold hands with
people like your -
selves, with each
one of us playing an
indis pensable part in
world peace.
In closing I want to
read a poem which
was written by one of
the members of the
World Peace Prayer
Society. He was very
young but he had
muscular dystrophy. With
this disease after a while
you cannot write and
eventually you die. This
young boy passed at the age of
14, but he was a firm believer that whatever
condition he was in he was part icipating in the
creation of world peace by praying.
He wrote peace messages every day. When
his hand no longer worked he prayed in his
mind until the last minute. So this was a poem
that this boy wrote, and I would like to share
it with you:
A burning candle, just one candle
lives more majestically than a human being.
A burning candle gives all of itself
to everyone. It works, sweats and melts its
own body, drop by drop. Though its life is
short, though its body will finally disappear,
a candle never worries, never gets angry,
never complains. It only continues
to give light to everyone.
Oh candle I want to live like you!
I like the way you live. I long to be a candle.
So let us all be a candle for world peace
and create a wonderful world in the new
millennium
“If you wish to liberate the
spiritual energy that resides
in your heart and body, so
that you can live in a free
and joyous way at all times,
you must reject thoughts
that tie down your heart —
such as dark depression,
anger, fear and anxiety. To let
spiritual energy grow in your
heart and let it manifest its
power fully, you constantly
need thoughts of gratitude,
admiration and cheerfulness.”
from The Golden Key to
Happiness by Masami Saionji,
chairperson of the World Peace
Prayer Society
/. '.
'. . ·.
/. '.
'. . ·.
Available on CD and tape
With a strong base of
melody, it combines guitars,
percussion and harmonic
vocals with lyrics taken from
Swami Sivananda’s book
Bliss Divine, creating a
magical and inspiring
listening experience
For further details please contact:
The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre
51 Felsham Rd, London SW15 1AZ
Tel: 0181-780 0160 Fax: 0181-780 0128
E-mail: siva@dial.pipex.com
Website: www.sivananda.org/boutique.htm
Prem: Divine Love
CD: £8.95
Tape: £6.95
A wonderful musical
message of peace
15
Peace in
the World
SI VANANDA SONGBOOK
Peace in
the World
If you want to have peace in the world
You have to have peace in your heart
If you want to feel love in your life
You have to feel love in your heart
If we all try to love one another
There won’t be any reason for war
See the goodness and light in each other
See the beauty of life in us all
It is hatred that separates man from man,
Nation from nation
All of life is the family of God
So love all God’s creation
There’s no religion higher than love
To bring us all together
Embrace all in the warmth of your heart,
With a love, a love that lasts forever
To have peace in the world
There must be peace in your heart
It’s hard to find peace in the world
When we have no peace in our hearts
We feel that we are different to all
We feel that we are apart
But if you look within yourself now
And feel this peace from within
You will rise above all these boundaries
And let the whole world in
It is hatred that separates man.....
To have peace in the world
There must be peace in your heart
From “May Peace Prevail on Earth” album by Prem
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16
Miranda: What exactly is ‘Peace Child’?
Eirwen Harbottle: ‘Peace Child’ started off as
a musical. In the 70s, there was a great gulf
between the ‘Peaceniks’ on one side and the
‘Establishment’ on the other. A lot of young
people wanted to talk about the nuclear
issue; they were frightened. Psychological
research had found that young people
around the world did not believe that they
were going to die naturally in their beds.
Many thought they were going to be blown
up in some huge nuclear explosion.
My husband and I wanted to look at this
whole matter of disarmament, and arms in
particular. We had read a story about how
children brought peace to the world, and
we had seen a most beautiful oratorio in
Coventry Cathedral. To cut a long story
short, we suggested that it should come
together as a kids’ musical, and my son-in-
law and daughter David and Rose
(Wilcomb) should actually do the work.
And so ‘Peace Child’ began.
A lot of what young people said was
incorporated into the play. The script was
always being altered. After a rehearsal,
David would drive kids home and they’d say:
“You know, we wouldn’t say that! We’d say
this!” And he would alter the script.
The first production of ‘Peace Child’ was
in London’s Albert Hall in 1981. The second
was in Washington DC at the Kennedy
Center; ‘Peace Child’ worked with the Duke
Ellington School for the Arts. It was a
phenomenal success; there wasn’t a single
seat available. The Russian ambassador was
there; it was absolutely incredible. Then
‘Peace Child’ continued with different
groups, different cities, different peace
groups. Rather like a bush fire, it went
straight across the United States from east
to west.
David and Rosie lived in the States for
over eight years doing this, mostly in
Washington. They also spent a lot of time in
California. In the Year of Youth, 1985, David
took a group of American kids to Moscow
where he had organized a joint production
of ‘Peace Child’ with Russian kids. This was
during the Cold War when people in
America were encouraged to think that this
was the “evil empire” on the other side of
the world. Anyone found talking to the
Russians was
thought to be a
communist, and
must be a spy and
a traitor. For the
Russians, it was
a b s o l u t e l y
incredible to see a
group of Am erican
children, from the
‘evil side’, because
they thought the
same as Americ ans
thought about
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Peace Child
Eirwen Harbottle is the inspirer and promoter of Peace Child. With her husband, the late Brigadier
Michael Harbottle, she was associated with the formation of the International Peace Academy. Together
they worked for the British Council for Aid to Refugees and the World Disarmament Campaign (U.K.).
In 1983 they founded the Centre for International Peace Building, of which she is now director.
Eirwen also acts as co-ordinator of the worldwide Consultative Association of Retired Generals
and Admirals – a group created by her husband.
As a speaker at the recent “Into the 21st Century” Peace Festival in Val Morin, Quebec,
Eirwen Harbottle was interviewed by Miranda Warner for YOGALife.
By Eirwen Harbottle
Miranda Warner
Eirwen Harbottle
“Soon the kids were talking, singing
and dancing together about peace
and how they could bring peace to
the world. How could they live in
harmony, in joy, with mutual respect?
It was an extra ordinary event.”
17
them. Soon the kids were talking, singing and dancing together
about peace and how they could bring peace to the world, how they
could live in harmony, in joy, with mutual respect. It was an extra -
ordinary event. There was a black singer from Washington. She
wasn’t professional, but she had a sweet, sweet voice. She sang with
one of the ballad singers from a pop group.They sang a number
which had especially been written for ‘Peace Child.’ It was “I have a
Vision, I have a Dream.” It was about Martin Luther King Jnr’s vision
for peace. This went out over the television; 120 million Russian people
heard this song by a black American and a young Russian singer.
Incredible effect it had on them!
Then David got the pop singers to go to the United States with a
group of kids from Russia to take part in ‘Peace Child’. The band
played the music and the singer’s wife was the storyteller. They
started in Vancouver; then they went down to California and worked
their way across to the East Coast. In time the story switched from
concentrating on disarmament to looking at the state of the planet,
which of course included disarmament.
David sent out a letter through the international network, asking,
“What do you think about the state of the planet, the environment?”
He got two thousand letters back from young people saying, “Where
have the birds gone? Why can’t we swim in the river?”
Sometimes even, “Where has the river gone? It’s dried up. What’s
happening?” And he got an editorial team of young people together
and they extracted the main
points from those two
thousand letters. Using
poetry, pictures and all the
things that came out of those
two-thousand letters they put
together a gorgeous book
called, ‘The Children’s State of
the Planet Handbook.’ This was
ready for the Rio Conference in
1995. David took these books to
Rio and Dr Noel Brown, Head of
the UN Environment Program,
said, “ My gosh! This is a beautiful
book. You know, we’ve got Agenda
21. It’s forty chapters, six hundred
pages and who on earth is going
to read all that? Could you get
your children to do the same
thing for Agenda 21?”
There were four UN Agencies:
UNESCA, UNICEF, UNDP and
UNEP who asked the world’s
children to reinterpret Agenda
21. Ten thousand kids were in -
volved; it was an extraord -
inary ach ievement. Two
hundred schools and youth
groups were given
chapters and asked: “What
does it say? What’s really
im portant?” And back
came a lot of stuff, poetry,
pictures and all the rest
of it, looking at the state
of the rainforests, the
climate, everything that
is mentioned in
Agenda 21. Then
began a huge editorial process by young people between 13 and 23.
They extracted what they felt was the best of what had been submitted.
Then they arranged it under a different groupings like: The Human
Condition, The Natural Condition, things like that. They rearranged the
material in a way that was attractive, logical and very understandable.
Then they sent the draft to all the groups who had been working on it.
Of course, a lot of comments came back saying we’d like it this way or
that way. Then the UN Agencies came in and said “Don’t forget this or
that,” or, “That’s not quite correct.” Eventually it was finalized, published
and it has sold over 300,000 copies and been translated into 18
different languages. During the recent Peace Festival, YaYa Diallo was
talking about the absence of fish, how we are killing the planet and how
we’re cutting down all the trees; this is what the children are talking
about.
So that’s how ‘Peace Child’ has grown. From a stage production to
writing books. If anyone wants to do it, the play is there to be done. It’s
an inspiration to gather young people and perform it. People ask, “When
is Peace Child coming to my city?” And we say: “It’s not coming to your
city unless you want to perform it! It’s YOUR tool. YOU get YOUR kids to
show their vision of how they want to see their lives in twenty-five
years”. Every time it’s put on a different way because each group has
different dreams, a different way of thinking how to go about achieving
their dreams. The basic story is about getting from now to then (in the
future).
There’s quite a large selection of songs and
music now that are applicable to anyone
anywhere. We don’t say: “Oh, you can only
use these songs.” If you want to write another
song yourself, do so. It’s your vision; that’s the
message we want to put across. So we don’t
charge royalties for putting this on, like an
ordinary play. It’s a tool, that anyone can
use. I think that’s the best way of
describing it.
It’s the most exciting thing I could
dream of being involved with
because we have young people
from all over the world who come
to England, to the headquarters of
Peace Child. They come from
Africa, Asia, Europe, America,
Japan – you name the country,
there’s likely to be a young
repre sentative. It’s rather like
the dancing that Harlina
and Ya Ya have been
teaching us. To throw
your whole body and
soul into what you are
doing is an amazing
discipline, isn’t it? To get
your feet, your heart and
your chest doing
different things at the
same time is an enormous
discipline. But once you’ve
done it, you’re so pleased
with the freedom that you
have to reach out to
others
“I NTO THE 21ST CENT URY” PEACE FEST I VAL
18
E
veryone knows about the Ten
Commandments. In these ten
passages God is saying to us,
in effect, “You are all my
children, and this is how I would like
you to behave toward me and toward
each other. These aren’t difficult
rules... If you think about each of
them, you’ll see that they make a lot
of sense.”
This is God’s message, given at
Sinai: You are my children, and I love
you. And I am waiting to hear the
same from you.”
Everything is possible when you
are in God-consciousness. To achieve
this consciousness we must move
toward true vision, a concept which
forms the basic philosophy of
Kabbalah.
Contrary to popular belief, there is
nothing in Kabbalah that is so
mystical that no one can understand
it. As Isaac said, what we seek is
merely hidden from our physical eyes.
We need the third eye, the eye of
spirit, to see it. With these eyes, Kabbalah is
crystal clear. For example, suppose you’ve lost
a diamond in a dark room. You know it’s
there, but you can’t see it. Now suppose
someone hands you a bright flashlight. With
its intense light you can easily see the
diamond, for it was there all along.
To study Kabbalistic principles isn’t hard.
You can begin to grasp the Kabbalistic mental
makeup, which is visible to the eye of spirit.
This mental makeup can be expressed as the
practice of these nine rungs leading upward
toward God-consciousness:
1
To be one with the Self and the spirit,
the Shekinah within.
2
To forgive the past and look forward to -
ward the future with joy and excitement.
3
To open the mind, letting the soul fly
into unknown space.
4
To be aware of the emanations of God;
“the Tree of Life” interacting within
each of us.
5
To consider our true mission in life and
to be totally alive in that mission.
6
To be ready once again to hear the
message given at Sinai.
7
To learn the art and science of living
spiritually – healthy in body, mind
and soul.
8
To experience genuine love and know
the differences between pleasure,
happiness and joy.
9
To reunite the divided self in order to
know the glory of the oneness of spirit.
There is a song from the Broadway
musical ‘Godspell’ that says we pray
daily for three things: “To see Thee
more clearly; to love Thee more
dearly; and to follow Thee more
nearly, day by day.” This prayer is
100% Kabbalah.
In Hebrew, the first part of this
prayer – to see Thee more clearly - is
called hozeh (vision). The second
part – to love Thee more dearly – is
called ahava ( to love God). To follow
Thee more nearly is a beautiful
mystical concept called dveikut,
which means to cleave unto the Lord,
to become one with God. Let’s
examine these three concepts in
greater depth.
At one time or another, all clear-
thinking people have had a direct
experience of God in their lives.
They have to; whether it is in
contem plating how trees and
flowers grow or in holding a
newborn baby, there comes a moment when
we just know God is there, right in front of us.
We each experience this moment, because it
is true all the time. The trick is holding onto
that vision all the time, seeing God in front of
us all the time. That is hozeh.
There is a beautiful story in the Midrash liter -
ature that illustrates the second principle, ahava.
There were two brothers, both farmers,
who lived in the Holy Land. They worked at
tilling the soil together. One brother was
married and had a large family. The other
brother was single. Every year, they would
divide the harvest equally between them.
One year, after dividing the harvest, the
bachelor brother said to himself, “Something
is wrong here. I have taken exactly half of the
harvest and I don’t need that much. I have no
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Rabbi Joseph Gelberman, speaking at
‘Into the 21st Century’ Peace Festival
in Quebec
Developing Our
Spiritual Eyes
By Rabbi Joseph Gelberman
19
wife or children. My brother needs more
than I do.” That night he couldn’t sleep. He
got up in the middle of the night, loaded his
wagon and drove to the other side of the
mountain to where his brother lived. He
quietly left a portion of the harvest there and
returned home.
The married brother couldn’t sleep that
night either. He said to himself, “Sure I have a
family and I need more now, but my brother
is alone. When he gets old, who will take care
of him? When my children grow up they can
work and help their parents, but my brother
will have no one to help. He needs protection
for his old age”.
So he got up in the middle of the night,
loaded his wagon and drove to his brother’s
house. He quietly left a portion of the harvest
and returned home.
The next morning each brother awoke and
found that he still had his half of the harvest.
Puzzled, they again loaded their wagons and
secretly left part of their harvest in each
other’s granaries on the second night.
They again awoke to find the same
amount of harvest in their granaries. So they
again loaded their wagons and left a portion
of their harvests. Again the amount of grain
was unchanged.
Then, on the fourth night, the two
brothers met on the road in the middle of the
mountain. As they saw each other they
understood what had happened. They got off
their wagons and embraced and kissed each
other. According to the Midrashic sages, God
saw this genuine love between brothers and
said, “This is the place where I want my
temple to be built.”
To love Thee more dearly
means exactly
that: to care. To
love means to
care, not only
here and now
but with eyes
toward the
future.
The third concept,
dveikut, is at once
the most simple
and the most
complex. To
become one with
God means simply to be at peace within, as is
achieved through such practices as
meditation, where we become quiet and
listen to what God wants us to do.
Yet there is more to it than that. Kabbalah
teaches us to have the courage to leave the
known security and move into the unknown.
It is with such courage that we learn to truly
“cleave unto the Lord.”
Before we move on I should like to say a
word about reincarnation. The great
Kabbalists believed in reincarnation. They
were careful not to fall into the same traps
they had known in previous lifetimes.
I sometimes wonder why my modern
colleagues have such a hard time accepting
this concept. Go to any funeral today, Jewish
or non-Jewish, and you will hear the same
thing: the body is laid to rest but the soul
goes up. Goes up to where? Does it simply
disappear? Why? Can one learn all one needs
to learn in order to cleave unto the Lord in
just one lifetime? I don’t think so.
It makes a certain kind of sense that the
soul continues and returns to live another
lifetime, perhaps countless lifetimes. Into
each earth-life we are born once, but this
birth is repeated again and again. To grow in
spiritual understanding through each
lifetime is the voyage and purpose of life. The
purpose of this cycle is purification and
perfection, the growing nearer to God with
each turn of the upward spiral. Reincarnation
is one of the basic teachings of Kabbalah.
In the book of Genesis, each day as God
created the universe He said, “Kitov” (it is
good). The Kabbalist sees God’s repeated
pronouncement as proof that the universe
is good.
These lessons proved immensely valuable
to me as a young immigrant in America. I had
left my wife and child in Hungary, expecting
they would join me later in this country. I
later learned they were killed in the
Holocaust, along with my parents, most of
my brothers and sisters, my uncles and aunts,
most of the people I had known as a child. At
that time I couldn’t see how anyone could
say, “It is good.”
Yet meditation brought me an answer. I
heard God say, “I still insist, Kitov. The overall
picture of life is good. There is enough beauty,
goodness and joy in life. Now it’s up to you
to concentrate on it.”
This Kabbalistic teaching helped me
overcome the terror, the horror, the pain of
the Holocaust. I still feel my grief. On Yom
Kippur, I practically fall apart during the
memorial service. But knowing that God said
“Ki Tov!” helps me to transform that grief to
purpose. For the sake of God, for the sake of
humanity, and for my own sake. My soul still
has things to do in this life
“But knowing that God said “It is
Good!” helps me to transform my
grief to purpose. For the sake of
God, for the sake of humanity, and
for my own sake. My soul still has
things to do in this life.”
Rabbi Joseph Gelberman was born and educated as a rabbi in
Hungary. A graduate of the City University of New York and
Yeshiva University, he presently serves as rabbi of The New
Synagogue and is president of The New
Seminary in New York City. Through his
teachings and ministry, Rabbi Gelberman
has dedicated his life to furthering
understanding and co-operation among the
world’s faiths. He is a long-time friend and
colleague of Swami Vishnu-devananda.
This article an excerpt from Rabbi
Gelberman’s book Kabbalah As I See It.
ABOUT RABBI JOSEPH GELBERMAN
“I NTO THE 21ST CENT URY” PEACE FEST I VAL
20
B
ecause of my training and life as a
Franciscan friar for forty two years, I
cannot think of inter-faith activities
without my reference to this great
saint of all times – St. Francis of Assisi. St.
Francis lived during the time of the terrible
war which we refer to as the ‘Crusades’. He
was a man of non-violence and so naturally,
did not agree with the way in which things
had turned. He was no journalist nor TV star,
as those things did not exist, but he could not
see the situation continue as it was and so he
took it upon himself to do something.
At a time when the war was raging, Francis
took the occasion of a few days’ truce and,
with a companion, crossed the borders from
the ‘Christian’ side over to the Muslims. This
was in the year 1219 in Damietta near the
Nile River (some 350 miles from where the U.N.
troops were stationed in the Gulf War).
Crossing of borders during a war, was this
not the same thing that Swami Vishnu-
devananda did? St. Francis’ meeting with the
Sultan, in spite of often having been beaten
up by soldiers, changed something in the soul
of the Sultan. These two men became friends.
Francis wrote in his instructions to the friars,
the way in which the friar who ‘inspired by
the Holy Spirit’ should live among Muslims
and people of other faiths. He advocates
service and humility and of course, love and
respect. He never mentioned that the friars
should try to convert anyone.
For these reasons we look to St. Francis as a
model of dialogue for all Christians. Francis
had a brotherly affection for all of God’s
creations. He considered not only the
humans and the animals as sisters and
brothers but also the elements, the sun and
the wind as brothers, the moon and stars and
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
St. Francis of Assisi
Saint of
Peace and
Tolerance
By Rolph Fernandes
St Francis preaching to
the birds: a detail from
a 14th century stained
glass window.
When the war was raging, Francis took the
occasion of a few days’ truce and crossed the
borders from the ‘Christian’ side over to the
Muslims. Crossing of borders during a war,
was this not the same thing that Swami
Vishnu-devananda did?
21
water as sisters. He had a special love for brother Sun and also for ‘our
Sister, Mother Earth’ because the Sun, he considered as a symbol,
image of God and the Earth because she not only supports us, but she
sustains us by the food and the medicine, plants, flowers etc.
When we consider life on earth, and the perspective of St. Francis, we
see that there is so much for us to learn from his spirituality in our
work towards peace. As part of the living creatures on this planet, so
much of our very existence depends on things we take for granted.
Making peace is essential to our existence and also we owe this to the
children for the millennium to come. Each human being has the duty
to perform some small action to link and bridge
gaps for peace. The earth and the elements
have for too long been witnesses to human
violence. We can by our peace allow the
earth, the fire, air and water to be
witnesses to our comings, our gathering
for peace.
Swami Vishnu-devananda’s ashram,
thanks to the efforts of Swamiji, has
been a meeting place for peace
gatherings. It has set an example for
North America. I hope and pray that
these efforts began here may spread
all over the continent. One of the
most important human values is
that of respect. To enter into dialogue with people of other cultures
and religions, demands that we can be able to give the ‘other’ a chance
to express while we respectfully listen. This aspect is elementary in
sincere dialogue and is an essential step in building understanding,
acceptance, which leads to peace. During the Peace Assembly
organized by the Ashram in Val Morin, we were able to witness and
to take part in this process. I
must extend my gratitude to
the organizers for this oppor -
tunity which was given to us. I
must also express how we
appreciated the efforts which
were used to create this week
of peace.
Coming together for an evening of
prayers offered for peace by people
of different traditions is wonderful.
Coming to gether to even sit in
silence may also be excellent, but
there is yet another store-house of
grace to be able to take the time to
live, work, eat and sleep under the
same roof for a longer period of
days and for even a week. There
was a tradition held by the Native
Americans of the past. It was the
‘meeting place’. In those days
Indians of different tribes came
together in a neutral territory and
spent time sharing in peace. This
was of vital importance for the
mutual understanding, for sharing
and celebration of life. In modern
terms, we may say that they took
the time to ‘hang out together’.
‘Hanging out’ may seen at first to
be just a waste of time but for
many it is a means of ‘being with’
the other to express, to share friendship and it may also be an essential
part of growth. We may ask ourselves, ‘who do we ‘hang out’ or
associate with the most and why?’
Is it possible then in this world where people of a variety of races and
religions live and work in such close city areas (like they were in
Sarajevo) that in spite of their proximity, they are still strangers? For
this to change, I wonder if coming together in a space like an ashram
is not an essential factor contributing to peace and growth and mutual
understanding between peoples.
St. Francis said that we are all brothers and sisters. Vedanta tells us that
we are all One. I pray for the day when both the readers and writers
can live this eternally! In the meantime we must do as in the beautiful
song which was composed and sung during the festival:
‘Pray for the world. Pray for our lives. Pray for the children.
Pray for Peace, Love and Harmony’.
From the song ‘Pray’, written and sung by Shakti Ray on the album ‘May Peace Prevail on Earth’.
“I NTO THE 21ST CENT URY” PEACE FEST I VAL
Rolph Fernandes
is a native of Trinidad who
migrated to Montreal in
1956, joined the Franciscans
in 1957 and was appointed as
the Inter-faith officer of the
Order. He initiated the Inter-
faith Peace Prayer in the Spirit
of Assisi in Montreal in 1987.
A member of the Montreal
Inter-Faith Council, Rolph
visited India on several
occasions and spent a year in
Shantivanam Ashram with
Fr. Bede Griffiths.
A participant of many Inter-
faith conferences, he con -
tinues to work in Interfaith
dialogue. Rolph has retired
from the Franciscan
community for health reasons
St. Francis
of Assisi
“The Children of Peace”
How can I talk about peace when I remember the boy
crying in Sarajevo. His eyes filled with hate
“The soldiers” he said, “killed my father.
And my mother: they raped”
“How can you talk about peace when the marks
of their guns are still on my feet?”
How can I, when we have taken away peace
from the children?
How can I talk of peace when an African child dies
for she has no food to eat.
How can I talk of peace?
How can I when in China a child of nine is in prison....
his only ‘crime’ is because of his Buddhism
How can I talk about peace when in New York a child with AIDS
is thrown out in the streets.
How can I when we have taken away the peace of the children?
How can I talk about peace?
Om Shanti, Om Shanti, Oh Shanti, Om
– Rolph Fernandes, Val Morin, 8th August 1999
I was asked to say a few words of peace and while
reflecting on it, an image, a memory came back to
me. I was in Sarajevo a few years ago attending an
International Congress for Peace, when a child of
about 12 years old asked (with his eyes filled with
hate) “why do you want to make peace?” I wrote
this for today:
“I wonder if coming
together in a space like an
ashram is not an essential
factor con tributing to
peace and growth and
mutual understanding
between peoples.”
22
G
arihwa began with a Mi’kmag song to thank the Great
Spirit in the four directions and inviting the
grandparents from the four directions to come and
join the occasion. Thanks is given to them for allowing
us to live our role, and to have such an important place like all
the other creatures in the great circle of life. The Native
American nations do not have a book or written religion;
everything has been learned from the Great Spirit and passed
down from generation to generation. They believe that the
creator has placed them in an ecological zone and a cultural
area, providing everything needed to survive and to be happy.
In the beginning there was no earth – only an ocean and a
world of celestial people living in the sky. One day a woman who
was pregnant was looking for medicine. She was distracted by a bear which
had made a hole at the foot of the tree to eat some roots, causing her to fall
out of the sky towards the ocean. As she fell she was caught by a flock of
geese who put her on the back of a giant turtle who was coming out of the
water. On seeing the pregnant woman, the animals convened their first
counsel to decide what to do with this celestial creature that was before
them. The counsel lasted a very, very long time after which they decided that
someone must dive into the water and bring back earth from the very bottom
of the sea. The best divers tried, the otter, the beaver, the seals, but none of
them were successful.
All of a sudden a tiny voice was heard, a voice that had never expressed
itself before – the toad. The animals told the toad “Don’t even
think about it, you can’t do this”. But he answered,
“You’ve all tried and nobody was successful so
don’t laugh at me; I am the last one to
try”. The toad jumped in the water
and sank like a rock. Every body
waited and waited. Then
they saw bubbles, “That’s
it, he died, we should
not have let him go”.
All of a sudden, he
came up and
spat out a bit of
earth that he
had taken from the bottom of the ocean. All the animals were
happy and applauded. They had learned a good lesson - never tell
anybody that he wasn’t important - everyone is important. The
animals started spreading the earth on the back of the turtle, so
that the straw and the sweet-grass would start to grow. So the
pregnant woman was able to give birth in acceptable conditions,
giving birth to twins. One of the twins came out through the
natural channel, but the other came out under the armpit and the
mother died. However the twins‚ grandmother took them and
taught them to organize the world as we know it today. One made
rivers going one way, taking all the sense of gravity from the earth.
The other made waterfalls in very violent rivers that had gravity.
One made maple syrup that came directly from the tree; the other
one just did with maple water. One put all the wild animals in grottoes; the
other left them free. The twins would fight but grandmother was always
there to break them up. She directed them on how to create the world. One
of the brothers wanted it to be difficult, and one wanted it to be simple. That’s
why today we say that we were placed here by the creator and we received
everything that we need to be happy and to survive. That is the creation
story from the Huron nation, but the story is the same in all our nations.
There is a story about the Great Lakes areas - Erie, Huron and Ontario, the
St. Lawrence River and the Rockies. We say the Rocky Mountains are the
spine of mother earth, and the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River are the
heart and the arteries of mother earth. It is the richest region and the most
diversified area in the world. That’s where America takes its
wealth from. We had a prophet whose name was
the Great Pacifier. He came to teach us
how humans could live in
harmonious confe deration.
When the first Europeans
arrived in America, they
found that the native
people had sys -
tems of govern -
ing that re -
quired con -
sensus in
order to
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
The Great Circle of Peace
Talk by Regent Garihwa Sioui, meaning Good Captain or The Captain of Noble Affairs,
Secretary General of the Northern American-Indian nations.
Regent Garihwa
Sioui of the
Wendat/Wyandot
Nation
23
resolve problems about humans, animals and the environment. There was no
chief to whom a mandate was given. The women had the function of teaching
health, agriculture, and were also responsible for all the departments that
would affect the life of the community. Men were responsible for hunting,
international relations and diplomacy, and war. The wars we inherited –
mostly those being fought in Europe that were trans ported to the new world.
Nations became allied with the French or the English. Since we had never
developed arms of mass destruction and did not have an immune system
that was strong enough to resist the sicknesses that came from other
continents, our people became martyrs for peace on this continent.
Our history as peace-makers dates from 1701 when Kondiaronk, of the
same heritage as the Great Pacifier, made peace in Montreal for all the North
American Indian nations. Others included Pontiac, who fought and gave his
life for his people, and Tecumseh a Shawnee who was allied with the English
against the Americans trying to expand further north in 1812. After that there
were the Metis, composed of the Europeans and the Indian nations, many of
whom died or were deported to the west side of the Mississippi in an exodus
called the Trail of Tears. That’s why we have families from Illinois who are in
Oklahoma. Oklahoma became the dumping ground of all Indian nations –
they were marched through the winter, into the Oklahoma state. The arms
that were used for mass destruction in the First World War were tested on
the Indian nations there. That’s why that we like to think that we helped save
the world a second time. The first time was when we shared our joy, our food,
our medicine, with the first Europeans; the second time was the First World
War. The third time was at the beginning of the Second World War, because
it was here that the world learnt the democratic principles that they now
know. That is why we Indians are not bitter; we know the contributions that
our peoples have given to the world. There is also another episode in our
contribution to world peace. There was an old man from this area who with
many other natives created the North American-Indian
nation government. In 1947-48, this man, Jules Sioui,
secretary of the nation at that time, presented the
secret of world peace to the General Assembly of the
United Nations. At that time the only intervention a
country could do to another sovereign state, was to
declare war. That was an international right. We
proposed that states
should abdicate a
certain amount of
sovereignity to the profit of
a world-wide organisation,
which would be the mandate to
establish peace and regional conflicts. It
was too early at that time but we are living it
at the present time.
As nations who have always been orientated or driven by
peace, we have developed peace instruments. For us peace is something that
we cherish but something that we must also nourish. It’s very hard to talk
about peace and to understand peace without invoking its contrary, which is
war. Peace is health, war is sickness. In our belief we don’t have a word for
the devil or hell. If we had to describe something terrible like hell, it would be
to describe war. That’s why our shamans, our prophets and our elders, always
taught us in healing. Earlier we offered tobacco. We learnt from the creator
that tobacco was given to us not to smoke as a cigarette, but for transporting
our wishes, our intentions, our prayers, up towards the Great Spirit. And we
can purify ourselves with those herbs. We purify ourselves with sweet-grass
and sage. We even ask the wind to smoke when it’s a storm. We say to the
wind, “sit down, smoke with us and rest”. When we completed a treaty, since
we had no writing, we would write literally in the sky, by smoking it and
conclude the peace. We have many peace objects: the eagle feather, in which
there is great importance and truth; the talking stick, which ensures peace in
a counsel, ensuring that everyone will have their turn, their right to speak,
and also the power of being heard. It’s a great power to have words and to
say them, but the talking stick is the one that gives it to us. We have the drum;
and we have the wampum. (Holding up a strand of shells): This is the first
wampum and it’s called the path, a three-strand wampum. This comes from
the secret society of priests or initiates that has preserved and kept rituals
that would have been lost if they hadn’t been there. These were things that
were unknown to the white people, that are starting to come to light today.
This wampum is from a shell that comes from the Atlantic ocean; it’s a small
shell that has turned. This type of wampum is the oldest wampum in
existence; this one is an exact replica of the original, made under the
supervision of the elders. It’s a wampum that was used in the counsels.
We have the teachings of the creator: the different ceremonies (such as
the sweat-lodge), how to use tobacco, the drum, medicinal plants, how to say
thank you for the creation of the world. Everything that we have learnt from
the Great Spirit is in this three-strand wampum. The small strand represents
the children: all the children in a family, but also all the children of the world.
The middle strand is women: grandmothers, cousins, aunts, sisters. And that
last one is men - and we are all bound together spiritually and equally. The
wampum invokes a social and a moral code; we learn how to respect
children, so that they are not abused. It also teaches us how to respect
women, women’s role, the role and responsibilities of men and also the
respect for other humans. It also teaches us our spiritual place in the great
circle of life; that if we abuse one element of creation, we break the circle.
And if we break the circle it is guaranteed that we will abuse our brothers,
sisters, children and wives. It also teaches us that in countries where there is
pollution there is abuse, and where there is abuse there will always be war. In
a country where there are no more wolves and no more bears, there will be
war. And in countries where there are no free rivers, there will be war. And the
elders also teach us that once the earth cannot support the pollution
anymore, there will be great ecological disasters - and we are almost there.
That is why we must return to the old teachings of the creator. Because the
creator never gave anything explicitly to one human. It’s like tobacco, it was
given to us here in North America but it was given to us so we would share
it. Tobacco abuse is not
good. If we learnt how
to res pect these
sacred things, we
could learn how
to take care of
peace and to
conserve it.
We always pray to
the four directions. The
east is vision, represented
by the colour red. Vision is an ideal; it’s a primary objective - it is like
a direction guide. We thank the spirit of the east for giving us our
vision every morning. And we thank the south for
giving us heat, clearness, the colour yellow,
comprehension and intellig ence. We thank the
spirit of the west, which is represented by the
colour black or dark blue. That is the direction of
expression: maturity, beauty and truth. We thank the north for giving us
purity, force and spiritual guidance. And we thank our grandparents who are
at the north. The four grandparents that are there are the common ancestors
of all of humanity. We thank the Great Spirit, our grandmother, and the earth.
Those are the four directions. The elders also teach us the four qualities we
must develop: respect, honesty, love and sharing. The elders tell us that
love is the base of everything – especially in troubled times when respect
is not enough.
The use of the eagle feather was given to us by the creator. When we have
the eagle feather we are forced to tell the truth. Not only do we have to tell
the truth; we are not allowed to lie. And we must have the courage to speak
for those that are voiceless: the animals, the trees, the mountains, the rivers.
That’s why not only should we tell the truth and not tell lies, but have the
courage to speak the truth.
When we talk about peace we have to have a wider definition of peace,
it’s not just peace amongst humanity. In the word peace there is respect. In
the great circle of peace is everything that surrounds us. We can’t have global
peace if we are abusing another part of creation. And the fate of the world
will be decided in the next little while
“I NTO THE 21ST CENT URY” PEACE FEST I VAL
When we talk about peace we have to have a
wider definition of peace, it’s not just peace
amongst humanity. In the word peace there is
respect. In the great circle of peace is
everything that surrounds us.
24
M
y name is Bernie. I was born in
Brooklyn, New York, a little over sixty
years ago, into a Jewish tradition - but
my parents and family were quite left
wing, socialists, so religion wasn’t a strong part of
my upbringing. At the age of ten, something
compelled me to look for God, so I started to read
and explore. Then when I was at college, I read
about Buddhism, in particular Zen Buddhism. There
was one page on Zen Buddhism and it felt like my
life so I started to meditate and practice on my
own. A few years later I went to Israel to experience
living there, but came back. That’s when I met my
Zen teacher who was at that time a young monk.
That was 1963. By 1970 I had ordained into the Zen
tradition. My root teaching is in the Japanese Soto-
Zen tradition, which emphasizes daily life as the
learning place.
In 1980 I went back to New York to start a Zen
community there. I’d had an experience in which I
felt the hungry spirits of the earth and I had made
a vow to feed them. I think that was one of the
most important moments of my life because it put
me on a track of wanting to work with people in all
aspects of life and to learn how to make the meal
that’s appropriate in each of those aspects of life,
using the ingredients that are present now, instead
of waiting for future ingredients to come. So using
the ingredients that I had, I tried to find a way to
feed all these hungry spirits of which there are so
many. When I moved to New York I decided to work
in different areas. I made my center an interfaith
center; we had a Rabbi, a Catholic priest, Buddhist
services, Jewish services, and Christian services – I
was hoping to build a mystical city of practice. It
didn’t quite work. I also wanted to work in areas of
right-livelihood and social action so we formed a
broad base, a Mandala, in the area that we were
living. We worked with people who were homeless
– there was inadequate housing, childcare, jobs –
and we helped to bring those who wanted to, out
of homelessness. I liked that life, but most don’t.
Then AIDS became a major issue, so we built
housing and a clinic for people with HIV. That was
in a place called Yonkers, which at that time had
the highest rate of homelessness and of AIDS in the
United States. Someone else is now in charge of
that centre and it has about a hundred and fifty
people working in connection with it.
After that was established I felt that I needed to do
something else in my life. I needed to take another
step. Before this I had a practice of bringing people
who were going to work in homelessness to live on
the streets, so that they could taste the experience
of living on the streets first-hand, though not of
homelessness as they knew they would go back
home. This way they could learn from the people
that they were going to work for and to serve. That
was very important. For me it was a combination of
the two methods in which I was trained: the Rinsi
method of having stories where you could bite into
what you were trying to understand, (who am I?
what is life? stories you can’t study, but only
experience) and the Soto tradition of using daily life
as the training vessel for the monks.
I called it ‘plunges‚’ using the word plunge to
mean putting ourselves into a situation where our
intellect is of no value. We are thrown into
something that we don’t understand and the only
way is to experience it. I think meditation is a
plunge into the wholeness of life. When we try to
understand it, it is not a plunge, but to do it, is. To
live on the streets is a plunge.
I wanted to know what to do next and I decided
to do a week-long retreat – I felt the place I wanted
to go would be the center of the United States in
some sense so I chose the White House. I did it as
a birthday present to myself and I invited some
people to join me for my party – we just sat there.
I was born on 18th January and if you look at the
papers from this day in 1994, you’ll see that it was
the coldest day in Washington for fifty years! We
sat outside in a circle covered in snow, but at night
we slept indoors in a homeless shelter that’s only a
few blocks from the White House. It is the largest
shelter in the United States; it has one to two
thousand beds. It was run by a friend of mine,
Mitch Snider, who actually committed suicide
there. We slept in this dining hall which is about
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
BearingWitness
forPeace
by Bernie Glassman
Bernie Glassman
25
twice
the size
of this
room and we
went out at
nights to bring
blankets to people
who were outside.
Many people used to die in
Washington from the cold,
but the shelter eliminated this
by taking care. Though there are
people who still want to live outside
despite it being so cold, because our
shelter system is so bad. I asked the people
who were with me, as something to think about
as we sat, about what they personally were going
to do to work towards eliminating rejection, AIDS,
homelessness and other issues. That was what I
was asking myself, so twice a day we would sit in a
circle and share our feelings about this. At the end
of the retreat I felt I should start a Zen Peacemaker
Order. The Zen tradition in the United States had no
place for people who wanted to do social action.
There wasn’t a container and those who were
doing it were looked at as strange – why are you
doing such a thing? When I came home and spoke
with my wife, we decided to co-found it as
partners, and it expanded to become a peacemaker
community with a few different families. This is
happening around the world. There are religious
leaders getting together and talking about who
would like to have a container that includes many
traditions. Not something that excludes or replaces,
but a place where people from different spiritual
traditions who are interested in social action can
have pure relationships, discussions and work
together.
There are so
many places all
around the world like
the group I had formed in
Yonkers – social action groups that
have a spiritual base – and many are not
speaking to other groups and are therefore
feeling quite isolated. We thought that we would
like to build a network between these groups, so
that we could meet together, learn from each other,
honor each other and empower each other, and
that is happening.
We also decided to start a school. Since there
were all of these beautiful villages and training
centers in the Zen Peacemaker Order, we realized
we could create a curriculum where people could
do internships in the places that already exist. So if
you want to work in the area of homelessness,
hospice work, contemplative care, prison work,
conflict resolution, mental illness, or drug addiction
we have so many groups already doing this work
around the world. We were able create a program
where one could do a plunge into the different
works and see how the work is done differently in
different places: hospice work here, in Poland, in
Russia, in Africa, in Asia - then one would come
back and share one’s experience. The emphasis is
on the experience, learning from what’s been done
and what new ideas came to you out of the
experience. The thing that ties us together are three
tenets that we feel were very important for the
work we are doing.
Basically the first one is a willingness to plunge
into the unknown. So in doing work you don’t say
“know the answer to your problem” but you start
off by saying “don’t know”.
The second is bearing witness, being ready to
bear witness to the joys and sufferings of the
world, to be there; so when you see a homeless
person you don’t walk to the other side of the
street. There is nobody that goes on the streets with
me that can pass a homeless person and not look
at them, because one of the first things that you
find when you live on the streets is that people
don’t look at you – they turn away. You can’t live
through that experience and then turn your eyes
away yourself. Just last week, my wife and I were
in San Francisco.
There was a homeless
woman and we stopped –
my wife gave her a dollar and
asked her name and how are you
doing? And she said “you know,
nobody has ever asked me my name”. I
never pass a homeless person without
asking these questions. This little acknowledge -
ment and love is more than money.
The third tenet is doing something about it –
we call that healing. Healing of oneself and of the
world. These are the three guiding principles and
we use them even in our meetings. We may think
we have things all worked out beforehand but
when we have a meeting the first thing we start
with is not knowing. We forget all of our rules and
everything we’ve said; we bear witness to what is
happening. And for the healing, if it means
changing our rules, then we do it.
The retreat we do in Auschwitz-Birkenau is the
best example I can give of these tenets. The first
time we did this, seven years ago, I was
overwhelmed by the souls and the place – it is
beyond description. I felt I had to bear witness and
do a retreat. It ended up being about 150 people
from many countries and traditions. I wanted this
variety of life: people in Germany whose parents
had been SS and had run the camps, survivors of
the camps. The first thing that happens when you
come to Auschwitz is that you do get plunged into
not knowing. Whatever you thought you knew, or
whatever you thought you would feel – believe me
it is more overwhelming than that. It is a place that
is beyond what you can fathom; you can’t believe
that such a thing could happen. Of course because
there were so many different types of people,
almost anything that anybody did was an affront
to somebody else. During the day we would sit on
the selection site, which is where people were
chosen to go either into slave labor or to the gas
chambers. Children and the elderly usually went
directly to the gas chambers, but if they looked like
they could work they would go into slave labor.
While we sat we chanted the names of people who
had died there. In between sittings we would do
services at the crematorium and at the gas
chambers. To begin with, each tradition would have
its own service and people would join the one they
wanted, then once a day we would have an
interfaith service. Early in the morning we would
meet in small groups of eight to ten, to share what
was going on.
There was a rabbi, who is also a Buddhist, who
comes every year and whose type of teaching
involves dance and song from the Jewish tradition.
One evening when we met, the rabbi started to sing
and to dance. People knew I had organised the
retreat and from the beginning people had come to
me to complain about what other people were
doing – laughing, crying – whatever somebody was
“I NTO THE 21ST CENT URY” PEACE FEST I VAL
The first thing that happens when you come to
Auschwitz is that you do get plunged into not
knowing. Whatever you thought you knew, or
whatever you thought you would feel – believe me it
is more overwhelming than that. It is a place that is
beyond what you can fathom; you can’t believe that
such a thing could happen.
26
doing it was an affront to somebody else. So when
the rabbi started to dance it was an affront to so
many people. Some Orthodox people were there
and said but this is what we do. But not everybody
does that. What I said to the people was that this
place, Auschwitz-Birkenau, is the place that was
meant to get rid of differences. This place was built
to kill all of those who weren’t Aryans, who weren’t
of that one type. To kill the Jews, Catholics, gypsies,
gays – to kill everybody who was different.
Whereas our retreat was to recognise the diversity
of each of us, and we bore witness to that for five
days, with the million souls, remembering them.
What happened in that retreat, which was a
surprise for all of us, was that a healing arose and
we became one people. So we would like the
interfaith peace order to be houses of one
people – places where there is some
thought given, where as a result of what
we are doing, we become one people
without differences. So those three tenets
were really very alive at Auschwitz.
During the first year I felt I had to do
this and we didn’t know whether we
would continue. I’d like to share some of
the issues that came up because it
demonstrates what can happen when one
does something like this, not just in
Auschwitz but anywhere. We have a list of
twenty or thirty places where we’ve been
asked to do these retreats now: in Ireland,
Israel, the United States, Japanese camps.
In putting the retreat together we worked
for two years involving local groups. On the first
day of that first year there were about thirty people
from Poland who had really wanted to come, but
during the first couple of nights they were up all
night talking, saying why are we here, this is not
our business? This is for the Jews and the Germans,
we have nothing to do with this – they just came
into our country. But by the third or fourth day they
were saying, this is about us. By the end of the
retreat people were asking whether we would do
the retreat again next year, so I said only if the Poles
became the host. We’d help them to organize it but
they would have to host it. As a result they became
involved in a lot of social action programs and
various other things, whereas until that time they
had always complained that they could not do
anything because the Germans and the Russians
were in charge. The second year the big issue came
from the Germans – they felt so guilty. We had
name-tags with our name and country on and the
Germans all took them off. They were ashamed and
embarrassed to say that they came from Germany.
There were a lot of tears and they couldn’t really
talk to us. So, the third year I asked the Germans
and the Poles to host the retreat together. So each
year a new issue arises and we’ll keep moving with
the ingredients, looking at how to heal ourselves
and then others. That’s a little overview but what I
really wanted to do was to get questions from you,
because we’ve never met each other. I have no idea
what you are interested in, and I would love to
speak to you about your issues. But I felt I had to
give you a little taste of who I am.
Questions:
Q: You mentioned that in the concentration camps
you have created a healing process amongst those
who have been either victimised or presented
themselves in shame of what has been done. Is the
sort of healing procedure you are talking about
indigenous healing? Is it people on the same level
healing each other?
Bernie: I don’t think so. That is certainly part of it,
but I really don’t know where this healing is coming
from. I feel it is different in different places. I hate
to say it’s just this and here is the method. When
we go to Auschwitz-Birkenhau I feel that the
healing is coming from the place itself. There are
places that have energy that heal, and I know it’s
funny to say that Auschwitz could be such a place,
but my own personal feeling is that it is, because
I’m sure that for all of us involved it had a healing
effect. The word for peace in Hebrew is shalom and
the root is shalem, which means to make whole. I
think remembering is making whole. To re-member
means to take the members of the body and put
them back together again. At Auschwitz we did a
lot of making whole again so the remembering was
a big part of the healing process, as was the bearing
witness, the needing to stay together with all these
differences. When people go there, it is so
horrendous that they don’t want to stay. But we
have to stay for five days, which is bad enough, and
we have to sit there with people that we don’t like.
But for me the strongest healing aspect is the place
itself. What I feel is that if we start with not
knowing and bear witness then the healing will
arise. It’s almost our job to look at it and say how
did it arise this time? And not to necessarily try to
bring that to the next place. That’s the principle that
I use in my social action work.
Q: What would you say is the fine line that gets one
to go from the fear of the plunge to taking the
plunge? Where does courage come from? Are we
born with it, is it experience, is it achieved by
developmental needs?
Bernie: I ask myself that each time I look at a pool
and I ask myself am I going to jump in or not? I
don’t care how you prepare for it, but there will be
a plunge with that thin line again. You are going to
face that question over and over – you may answer
it this time but the next time you walk past
someone with cholera you are going to be at that
thin line again. I don’t know the answer. I think we
can keep expanding our boundaries but we are
always going to be at some boundary. I think that
if you practice, whatever practice you are doing, it’s
going to open up. I’m a funny person – I look for
those places, that’s how I try to grow. What parts of
me am I afraid of? I feel that the part of myself that
I am rejecting is the part of society that I am
rejecting. I try to find out how to go past that. I had
an experience in Switzerland. There’s an
area in Zurich called the Letten – it was an
experiment by the government, it’s been
shut down now – it was the largest
gathering place for addicts. There is a river
that feeds into Lake Zurich and the Letten is
on the banks of this river, two blocks away
from one of the richest areas in the world –
the banks of Zurich. Before they shut it
down they were giving out 16,000 needles
each day. Can you imagine that?
I went there once. A friend asked my wife
and I if we would like to see the area. You
have to walk down to the river and along
the river bank. Up above – two blocks away
from where the world banks are, which are
laundering addict money – were Swiss
police. The police were keeping the addicts
down below almost like shepherds with
their sheep. It was an area about the size of
a football field, packed with people
shooting up. We had to force our way
through people. As we walked, there were
people stoned out, in drug ecstasies, people
swimming in the river. And the dealers selling the
drugs had knives, guns and money – they were
angry with strangers walking through. For me, this
was such a metaphor for our society. The dealers
were making money from the addicts, but so were
the banks two blocks away. The banks were actually
making more money. Dealers from all around the
world came. They actually closed it because it was
getting bigger and bigger and out-of-hand.
A lot of the messengers didn’t even know where
they were. They’d been sent from all parts of the
world, from places where the drugs come from,
given tickets, flew, were picked up by a limousine,
driven to the Letten to sell their stuff and then
limousined back home. They had to build extra
prisons when they closed the area, because all of
these people. My wife was petrified. The man we
were with said would you like to walk back through
it, or another way to the car and she said, “No, let’s
not walk back through it” It was one of those thin
lines and I felt I had to sit there to find out what
was going on, to bear witness to it. I knew if I could
do this, something would arise and I would have a
better understanding of what to do. Or not a better
understanding, but I would do something that
made more sense. So I’m not looking for
Our retreat was to
recognise the diversity of each of us,
and we bore witness to that for five
days, with the million souls,
remembering them.
27
BEARI NG WI T NESS F OR PEACE
understandings, but I’m looking to plunge into
experience and I know from my previous
experiences that this forces me into directions that
are healthier for myself and for others.
Q: I was wondering whether you would share with us
some of the methods or practices used during the
retreat at Auschwitz, that were successful at dealing
with the very sensitive conflicts between the
polarised groups of people that were present at the
retreat? Or put more simply how did you get these
groups who were having conflicts with each other, to
feel love towards each other by the end of the retreat?
Bernie: Again, I don’t know if I did anything. I think
the biggest thing was that we bore witness to each
other. We stayed in that conflict; we sat together in
a circle; we didn’t run from each other; we lived
with each other for those five days – that was the
biggest part. Each morning we had small groups
and did counsel work. In this each person talks, you
can’t do cross-talking, you’re not answering
somebody; and each person is speaking from their
heart, and we are all supposed to listen from our
heart. When we talk we talk from our heart about
what we feel; we’re not responding to what
somebody else has said – that’s the basic principle
of the counsel. We do this each morning and we’ve
found over the years that this is very important. In
the evening we have a big group like this, and that
was also very important, more the first year than
last year – the dynamics are changing, and we are
looking at how to do things differently. First is to
bring the differences into the same mandala.
Normally we don’t do that. It’s not that we think,
and say we’re not going to bring differences in, but
because of the very nature of how we set things up,
it excludes so many. We put a lot of energy into
thinking about how we can bring people of
different persuasions together. First it’s to bring
them to the same place, and second it’s to bear
witness to the differences, and to share them. To
hear somebody say “I can’t stand the fact that
somebody is laughing here on these grounds – this
is not a place to laugh”. And to just listen, not
answer it – just to hear that this person is in pain
because somebody is laughing. Another person is
in pain because nobody is laughing. We heard all of
these things and we stayed together. I think that
those are the things that we did that are not always
done: bringing so many differences together,
sitting with them for so long, and then sharing our
feelings about our pain and suffering, what was
hurting or disturbing us, getting us angry, and just
listening to it all.
Q: I loved your book Instructions to the Cook. It’s
one of the best things I’ve ever read – a kind of guide
for everyday living and right livelihood. Are you
going to be developing any ideas from that at all,
tomorrow perhaps, or whenever?
Bernie: Yes, I guess in the workshop. We’ll make
some meals. As it says in the title it’s not the giving
of recipes, but learning how to be a cook. Then each
of us can make our own meals with our own
recipes with our own ingredients, because we all
have our own ingredients. It is a cook book – it’s
cooking the supreme meal, which is your life.
Swami Mahedevananda: In the beginning you
mentioned that when you first went to Auschwitz,
you were overwhelmed by a feeling of the hunger of
the souls. I was intrigued by that and was wondering
if that was the initiative that led to your compassion.
Could you say something about that?
Bernie: The experience I had of the hungry spirits
was way before that, in the years before I was a
teacher, and that formed this direction of my life. At
Auschwitz certainly I could also feel all the souls. It
was an immediate feeling – I don’t think anyone
can walk on Birkenau and not feel those souls –
crying to be remembered, so that they could go
home. As you read Holocaust literature, the theme
is to remember the story, don’t forget me. There
was one man who was very young, and whose
father was very old, and he wanted to give his food
to his father, but his father said “No, you have to
eat it, because somebody has to live, to tell our
story”. That’s in a book by Berta Lome – one of the
survivors. You could feel all that, before I read all
these books, just walking in Birkenau. I went there
by accident about seven years ago. A student of
mine, who was a disaster of the Vietnam War,
becoming homeless after the war and an addict for
many years, now looks after casualties of war,
though he’ll never be fully healed and he still can’t
sleep at night. He was going on a walk organized by
a Japanese-Buddhist group that walks for peace. It
was a nine-month walk from Auschwitz to
Hiroshima and they were going to walk through
Vietnam. So I went to Auschwitz to do a lay
ordination for him and we did it at a crematorium.
I was so overwhelmed that all this work followed.
Swami Mahadevananda: We had a similar
experience when Swamiji flew over the Berlin Wall.
We went to an area just on the American/English
side of the wall, a place called Templedrome, and
there we celebrated puja because both Swamiji and
Marilyn Rossner, who is a reputed clairvoyant from
Montreal, said that there were people still fighting
against each other there from the Second World
War. It was in the heart of Berlin. One side was the
bunker where Hitler took his life. The whole area was
flattened during the war. Swamiji said we had to
pray. So possibly when there are good people with
good hearts they can go to a place where people
have suffered, and pass positive energy that helps
the spirits to leave the place. I heard about a similar
incident in the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh. One
night, as Swami Sivananda started to chant Jaya
Ganesha, he came to the point of Hare Rama and
went on, chanting Hare Rama Hare Rama Hare
Rama, for five minutes, ten minutes, one hour, two
hours, then all night. Everybody was saying what is
going on? In the morning he said thank God, the air
is very clear. Everybody laughed, everybody was very
happy. Highly spiritual people feel a certain
presence and due to their own personality, their own
saintliness, their own positive approach, they are
able to change and release positive energy that will
overcome negative energy. In the end, positive
overcomes negative. So bearing witness means
being there as a human being, in a positive way, and
praying with one’s own being – trying to release the
suffering that is still there - that takes a lot of
courage. Because it’s not a place that you can joke
about: there was death, millions of people died,
suffered and were tortured – it is still there. That can
be released with powerful positive energy. But this is
not easy – it takes a lot of energy from positive
people. That’s what we felt in west Berlin, next to the
Wall. We could touch the Wall. What Swami
Sivananda said on that particular night, was that a
lot of souls were released. An Ashram is a place
where the earthbound spirits or suffering souls
come – the chanting, prayers and positive vibrations
are like fresh water in the desert for them. When you
really concentrate hard some of them are released
from their suffering. In a place like Auschwitz there’s
a very negative energy, but the positive energy can
be released.
Bernie: Coming back to my student, in former
Yugoslavia, as he and some friends were walking,
together with a lot of anti-war people, they walked
by a group of soldiers. There was a man on guard
with his bicycle; everyone wanted to walk the other
way. But Claude went up, introduced himself and
said “how are you? How are you sleeping at night?”,
and then the man knew that Claude was also a
soldier. He said “I’m not sleeping so well.” Claude
was a gunner on a helicopter; by his eighteenth
birthday he had killed 200 men, women and
children – they took body counts in Vietnam. Not
only that, but when they went out in the morning
they would do lotteries on who would kill the most.
He had a nervous breakdown, then wound up on
the streets doing drugs. When I did the lay
ordination I gave Claude a mala. The soldier saw the
mala and said “what is that?” Claude explained, and
he said “I’ll trade it for your rifle”. The soldier said “I
can’t do that”. Claude said “I’ll trade it for the bullet
in the chamber”, and he said “I can do that”. So for
the rest of his walk Claude had a bullet in his pocket
and the soldier had a mala. That’s what can happen.
Q: When talking about this man who was in
Vietnam and who couldn’t sleep at night, you chose
the words “he will never be healed”. I thought that
was very interesting and it made me think about
the limitations of people to heal themselves,
especially if they’ve been in horrific circumstances.
I’m sure you think about this as well when you deal
with the homeless. At what point do you say I can’t
do any more? Or better yet, how do you come to
terms with that?
Bernie: I never say I can’t do, any more. You can
always do more. I don’t have any expectations of
what will happen, but I always do my best. That’s
one of the principles in that book Instructions to
the Cook: use the ingredients you have and make
the best meal you can. And if it’s not so tasty, it’s
not so tasty. Make another meal, use the
ingredients you have, make the best meal you can,
and serve it. If you don’t make the meal, nobody is
going to come and eat. So make the meal. If you
look in the refrigerator and say oh I don’t have the
28
right ingredients, so I’m not going to make the
meal, it’s of no value. See what you have and make
the best meal you can. I don’t think about an end.
Q: In your work with the Auschwitz counsels did
you ever have to deal with people who denied the
holocaust or who minimised it saying not so
many people?
Bernie: Yes. We had principles of no cross-talk. We
listened to everyone and we listened from the
heart. The issue was more that we had children
whose parents were saying “It doesn’t exist”. We
had people who came, from Germany generally,
whose parents had told them “What are you doing
going there? That’s all a lie. It was built after the
war, nothing ever happened there”. They shared this
with us. Then they went home and talked with their
parents about what they saw. The other kind of
denial that is very common is that people would
come and talk about their work somewhere else –
they couldn’t talk about what was happening to
them there. In this situation we do try to insist that
you talk about what’s happening here. There are
some documentaries, made by Polish, English,
Germans, in which a lot of these people are talking,
some for the very first time, about what had
happened to them. There was a woman who came
from Holland and she talked for the first time about
her experience when she was a little child. Her
parents told her that they were going to leave and
that she was going to go with some friends – her
father told her that they couldn’t go together,
because Germans were going to be coming. They
thought of hiding and the father told his daughter,
aged about eight, “we can’t hide because you’ll be
too loud – we’ll be back soon”. The SS came and she
never saw her parents again, so she was left with
her father saying “you can’t be with me because
you are too loud”. The Auschwitz retreat was the
first time she had ever talked about it, and it was so
important for her. So almost everybody that comes
has some kind of denial – then the place opens you
up. Only if you stay there – I don’t think that
happens if you just visit and run. That’s why
bearing witness is so important, it’s our meditation.
You can’t just sit for a second and say oh I’ve tasted
it – you’ve got to sit.
Q: Thinking “love thy neighbor as thyself” what do
you do about friends, relatives, associates who either
irk you, bother you or take your energy away when
they are around you – how do you deal with this?
Bernie: I just accept it. I don’t expect everybody to
love me. Again, those are ingredients and I try to do
my best meal. I don’t have any pat answers as to
what to do. There’s a practice in Japan in which
every morning the monks in the monastery go out
with big bowls and people put things into the
bowls. The practice is one of accepting what is
given and you wear a hat so you can’t see who is
giving it to you. The bigger practice is when people
give you anger or throw water on you. You have to
accept everything; it doesn’t mean to just ignore
them – you can’t do that. You have to say, what do
I do with this? You’ve got new ingredients to make
new meals. Use them, change your menu. I’m not
saying it’s not difficult to have people not loving
you or showing anger to you, it is difficult.
Q: After the Vietnam War, there was a lot of talk
about how to heal veterans who felt they were to
blame and out of that came a lot of healing for
victims and survivors of abuse. One of the very first
principles of that is that blaming the victim is a way
to keep people in their suffering situation and in
their exploited situation. Have you been able to work
with that?
Bernie: I would say that most of us are involved in
this blaming issue. I think that the society we are in
creates oppressors and creates victims. It’s like
Claude walking down and seeing a soldier, and
everybody else leaving and blaming that soldier.
Claude killed two hundred people and he really
thought he was doing it for his country and for
democracy, and then he was torn apart by what he
had done. So now he goes and talks with people –
he does as much work with oppressors as with
victims – because it’s the whole system that has to
change. How are we creating these oppressors? I’m
not trying to say one work is better than another –
you have to work with it and blaming is one of the
big issues. For many people in the second year of
Auschwitz, the big issue that came up for them was
“the other” and how everybody creates an “other”
and blames that. I certainly agree with you, we
can’t be blaming.
Swami Saradananda: When you were speaking I
was thinking of an experience that we had, just
after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Our own
teacher Swami Vishnu-devananda had to go to
East Germany; after that he took us to Tel-Aviv. He
was giving some programs in Tel-Aviv and one day
he said we are going to Calcillia. There was one
village on the West Bank, where the Interfada was
going on. We all got in the car and Swamiji took
books and flowers and we drove there. He said we
are going to go there and chant for peace. When we
got out of the car, everyone was shaking. I remember
Swamiji just walking down the street and people
just looking at us in amazement. One by one they
started coming up to us and asking us questions.
Swamiji sent me back to the car to get some
magazines. I was walking, thinking any minute
someone is going to shoot me in the back. As I was
walking some Palestinian women came up to me.
They said they were afraid to walk up to the group,
but since I was a woman alone they felt that they
could approach me. They said they just wanted
someone to talk to them, to hear about what was
happening and so I took them to Swamiji. They just
sat there and talked for a long time. It was a really
beautiful experience for all of us just being there
with Swamiji. At one point he started talking to one
man – he didn’t speak any English – it was just
talking by eyes. I think that everyone who was there,
thirty or forty people, will never forget it. It was such
a heart-opening experience, and it’s only a person
who really has no fear for himself, who really sees
the oneness in all, who is able to do something like
that. I think that is what we are really trying for,
through all of our practice, to experience that
oneness. It was a very beautiful practical
experience.
Bernie: It seems to me a natural unfolding as you
practice, if you really see the oneness of all. If my
hand bleeds I can’t just sit and watch it bleed – I do
something. I can’t say I don’t have the right things,
the right band-aids. I have what I have, so I could
take out my handkerchief, or take off my shirt, or
hold it in my mouth – but I do something because
it is me. So as our practice unfolds, and everything
is me, it’s natural and we don’t have to think about
it. If there’s something bleeding we take care of it,
if there’s something hurting I don’t just ignore it. I
may not have the proper things to take care of the
hurt; I may not understand why I am hurting, but I
do something about it with whatever I have – it just
seems very natural
29
I a
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Hello!
I have received “The Complete
Illustrated Book of Yoga” that you
people were so generous in sending
to me. I am very grateful and wish to
convey my heartfelt thanks.
I was amazed when I started reading
the book and discovered that I am
48 years old and have been
breathing incorrectly all my life. I
smoked for 33 years and have not
smoked for 2 years. I was concerned
because I couldn’t seem to really see
any improvement in the amount of
air I inhaled and exhaled. Then I read
about using the diaphragm to fill the
lungs and empty them. ... I am just
at the beginning of an interesting
journey, which is where I know that
reading your book and applying what
fits to my life is going to take me.
– F.R., Florence, Arizona
Letters from Prisoners
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is L.C. I am presently
incarcerated for drug abuse. I practice my sadhana daily but need more
information about yoga. It is my belief that yoga will help me win my struggle over my inner demons. Thank you for time and help. - Golden State
Correctional Facility, California Blessed Self On Friday Bliss Divine arrived, it is a treasure of heaven. I do not think I have ever recognized anything written with such urgency and love before. In my first reading from the book directly I was given the most loving re-
introduction to Jesus. This has filled me with joy.
– E.A.R., Rustburg, Virginia
PR I S ON PR OJ E C T
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: ea
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- M
. T. R
eid
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ester, PA
Prison Project Update... Prison Project Update...
W
e are well passed
the 1,000 mark in
letters received.
Our Prison Web
page has been extended and
includes many inspiring letters.
The rate of incoming mail has
increased dramatically and
more help is needed to deal with this. If
you would like to share in this work, we
would be glad to hear from you. Below is
an account of a visit I made to one of our
prisoners and samples of some of the
many letters we have received from
inmates touched by the project.
In the spring I had opportunity to visit a
few of the prisoners involved in the Prison
Project in Virginia. This prison is the last
prison stop for these inmates before
release. Nothing may be brought inside;
after much persuasion the guard agreed
to pass on a folder containing photo -
copies of some of Swami Sivananda’s
essays.
After being frisked we were led into a
large room dotted with tables and chairs,
filled with a deafening din. We spent two
hours with Emilio, one of the most serious
people in the Prison Project. Since Emilio
rarely has visitors, he was as
excited as a child. This meeting
was extremely important for
both of us. Over the years, he
had written over 1,000 letters to
various organizations, including
Bharat Gajjar in Delaware, who
introduced him to the
Sivananda teachings. When we
mentioned the din, he replied that was
only one quarter of the noise in his
dormitory! To overcome this dis -
advantage, he rises at 4am for sadhana.
When the weather permits, he does
asanas outside on the courtyard track,
under menacing guns pointed from
watchtowers. Beside his bed Emilio has an
altar with pictures of Master, Swamiji and
Krishna. Since our visit Emilio has
intensified his sadhana ardently studying
Bliss Divine, Bhagavad Gita and YOGALife.
He writes to me weekly. He is hoping to be
paroled this fall and I ask anyone reading
this to please say a prayer for him. When
released, he is planning to spend some
time at the Yoga Ranch.
– Swami Padmapadananda
Coordinator, Sivananda Yoga Prison Project
Any donations towards the prison
project are gratefully received. Please
send them to: Sivananda Prison Project
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch
P.O. Box 195, Budd Road,
Woodbourne, NY 12788
Swami Padma padananda
30
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Pilgrimage
A pilgrimage involves challenges. It can be physically
demanding, logistically difficult, materially challenging, and
psychologically annihilating. One must let go of
expectations and comfort zones, learning to journey in
the moment and respond appropriately when
everything around is changing. Pilgrimage is an intricate
business of receiving and giving. Receiving blessings from
Mother Nature, earth, air, sun, water, atmosphere, local
people, and other travellers. A pilgrim who is open and
ready, is nourished abundantly by all encounters, gaining
the chance to commune with God, through the
medium of a beautiful landscape, a chance encounter
or a perfect moment when there is no thought. The
idea behind the Mobile Ashram was to go on a Peace
Pilgrimage through America with a spiritual destination
and routine. Following is an account of an idea that
turned into a 10,000 mile odyssey, beginning with a
donated 1987 RV (mobile home).
Preparations
The vehicle carried a 100 gallon diesel tank, large water
tank, generator, kitchen, and an airplane-size bathroom.
It was self contained. Every little space in the RV was
used, in tune with the yogic principles of ‘simple living
and high thinking’ ‘adapt, adjust, accommodate’ Bunk
beds were installed to sleep eight adults – plenty of
opportunities to practice tapas (austerities performed
in order to control the mind and senses ). From the
tiny kitchen we produced wonderful ayurvedic meals
twice a day – important for creating good energy and
keeping the mind positive. This trip was about peace –
including peace of body and mind. We attempted to
maintain a sattvic, yogic lifestyle. A long trip can cause
ungroundedness, anxiety, instability, and separation with
reality. We could not afford to have this happen. We
were dealing not only with motion, but our emotions
as well. Living in close quarters all day long with a group
of people is challenging. Each pilgrim was asked to have
a topic of study, maintain a general attitude of
friendship, avoid personal conflicts and tune to a
common wavelength. The Shanti Bus was to be a
model community, traveling through the world, bringing
light and love – exposed and yet shielded from
negative influences. Painted beige, the Shanti Bus bore
the words, in royal blue, ”Yoga for Peace – Health is
wealth, Peace of mind is happiness, Yoga shows the way.
– Swami Vishnu-devananda.”
The Itinerary
The pilgrimage began at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga
Farm in Grass Valley, California. Our idea was to retrace
Swami Vishnu-devananda’s footsteps in North America,
visit Sivananda Yoga Centers, past and present, and
integrate other spiritual places including Yellowstone
National Park, The Black Hills and Mount Rushmore;
Val Morin, Quebec (Into the 21st Century. Peace
Festival), a Benedictine Monastery in Denver, Colorado;
Canyon lands in Utah; and the Grand Canyon. In total,
we covered almost 10,000 miles in five weeks.
A challenging trip, it offered plenty of opportunities for
tapas, was inspiring, eye-opening and purifying. All feel
acutely that the Peace Pilgrimage continues. In the
words of Master Sivananda, We are here as passing
pilgrims. Our destination is God. Our quest is for the
lost inheritance, the forgotten heritage. Our central aim
in life is the coming into a conscious realization of our
oneness with God. Life has no meaning as a separate
life. It has meaning only when it becomes full or whole.
Life is a voyage in the infinite ocean of time where
scenes are perpetually changing. Life is a journey from
impurity to purity, from hatred to cosmic love.
American Peace Pilgrimage
F
rom time immemorial
pilgrims have made journeys to
places that carry holy vibrations.
Nicknamed ‘the flying swami’, Swami Vishnu-
devananda was a tireless peace missionary
and pilgrim. For an ordinary mind, continuous
traveling could be the result of restlessness or
an incapacity to commit to one thing. For a
yogi, pilgrimage involves an inner spiritual
seeking an attempt to see God, not mere
sightseeing or vacationing. Those dedicated to
uplifting humanity and bringing peace to the
world, have a completely different reason for
traveling: Swamiji went on pilgrimages to bless
the places where he went, not resting even
when his body was wearing out.
The Shanti Bus ‘Pilgrims’
31
July 16
We are getting used to the logistics of living in a small
space, cooking, satsangs, asanas and pranayama. On the
first day, traveling through the beautiful landscape of
Oregon, we discover the RV world - so many people
touring America by RV, many from Europe. On the second
day, we cross ‘the bridge of the Gods’‚ and come to
Washington state. We have a mineral hot spring bath, pass
Mount Saint Helens (volcano), have a mystical view of
Mount Rainier and end with a satsang organized by Kathy,
a graduate of the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’‚ Training
Course.
July 18
We tour Seattle, driving our big RV through the downtown
streets - nerve wracking - then on to Vancouver. We sleep
well, but get up with the RV floor soaking wet because of
a broken pipe. This morning instead of Vancouver
sightseeing, we are here doing asanas, laundry and fixing
the pipes with the help of a good neighbor. Very often,
when we are driving, people show the ‘sign for Peace’ and
pump horns at us. Tonight there is satsang at Janaki’s
house, a devotee who hosted both Swami Vishnu-
devananda and Swami Venkatesananda.
July 20th
We skip Glacier National Park and cut down to
Yellowstone National Park; it is magnificent. We spend two
days in this immense park visiting various formations of
terrain, white crust terraces, vast blue and orange fields
of living bacteria surviving in waters of different
temperatures, mud volcano, geysers of different sizes
especially the huge Old Faithful, a variety of hot springs,
bubbling pools, rivers and forests, canyons and cascades,
and a huge lake. We see elk and bison, and hear a bear
near to our RV at night. This pilgrimage allows us to see
the marvels of the many names and forms of nature. We
realize how immense this country is, and how beautiful.
July 24
We arrive in Chicago after an incredible visit to the Black
Hills of South Dakota, sacred to Native Americans. After
the Jewel Cave, incredibly deep and mysterious, more than
100 miles long, filled with crystal formations, we visit a huge
Native American memorial to Chief Crazy Horse. Killedin battle
long ago, he represents the invincible native spirit. About
500 ft high, it is sculpted directly on the mountain rock, as
large as the presidents’ heads of Mount Rushmore, which
we also visit. Everyone gets a Native American name: Windcave,
Fireworks, Dreamvision, Peacekeeper and Snakepower.
July 26
Chicago: we visit the Hindu temple, Vedanta Society, Bahai
temple, Sears Tower and the Art Institute where Swami
Vivekananda gave his lecture to the Parliament of Religions
in 1893. Nice satsang at Chicago Sivananda Yoga Center.
July 29
The RV breaks down 2 hours outside of New York City, so
it stays over at a garage. We rent a little car, and all 7 of
us pack in. In New York, we visit the United Nations. Evening
in the New York Sivananda Yoga Center - inspiring puja for
Guru Purnima. We squeeze back into the rental car, pick up
our RV and drive to the Yoga Ranch for a half day break.
July 30 - August 9
A warm welcome at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp - a
wonderful week at “Into the 21st Century” Peace Festival..
Re-inspired by the ideal of living in peace by following the
teachings of Yoga and Vedanta, we renew our connection
with the spirit of our teacher, Swami Vishnu-devananda, and
his instruction to chant Om Namo Narayanaya for World
Peace. The week is intense, with generous day-long
programs of lectures, rituals of different nations and
religions, and uplifting musical programs. It is colorful, rich,
positive, light and deep at the same time.
August 9
On the return trip, Bren Jacobson, who flew with Swamiji in
his Peace Plane in 1970, is with us. Now, almost 30 years
later, he and son Jess are helping to pilot the Shanti Bus. In
Toronto we visit a powerful Ganesha Hindu temple outside
of the city, established by the Sankaracharya of Kanchi.
The shrines are beautiful, and we are immersed in the
vibrations of Holy India.
August 10
An intense day with the contemplation of one of the jewels
of the world, Niagara Falls, followed by a twelve-hour
drive to the Vivekananda Monastery in Ganges, Michigan.
We spend the day in sadhana during the solar eclipse.
August 15
In Colorado‚s Rocky Mountains, our host at the
Snowmass Benedictine Trappist Monastery is Father
Thephane. His 49 years as a monk has given him a shining
spirit. Next to the monastery is the world famous ski
resort and new age town, Aspen, where we witness the
making of a sand mandala by three Tibetan monks – an
exquisite work. After Colorado, comes marvelous Utah,
land of canyons - Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Glenn
Canyon with its special formations of red rocks, and
finally the Grand Canyon itself. The Shanti Bus is starting
to feel fatigued.... maintaining a moving Ashram amongst
the distractions of the world is a difficult task. At
satsang we are inspired by the simple words of “Peace
Pilgrim” the American woman who walked 25,000 miles
across the country seven times.
August 18
Our last night in a RV campground in a little desert town in
Arizona is hot and humid.
August 19
We planned to be in Los Angeles around 2pm but fifteen
minutes after leaving the camp ground, the transmission
goes out. This trip is possible by the grace of God; if we
lose that awareness, we are tested.
August 21
Finally the Shanti Bus reaches home (Yoga Farm) safely, one
day late. The journey was extraordinary and full of
grace. Participants had good darshan of God and the
Divine Mother in Her countless beautiful manifestations.
“I NTO THE 21ST CENT URY” PEACE FEST I VAL
The Journey
Journal 1999
For program and dates of other Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center Peace Pilgrimages for 2000, see pp
29/32 and www.sivananda.org/peace.htm or write to: peace@sivananda.org
inaMobile Ashram
32
PL ANET EART H PASSPORT EXCERPT S
G
u
i
d
e
t
o
M
e
d
i
t
a
t
i
o
n
1
.
R
egularity of tim
e, place and practice are m
ost im
portant. R
egularity
conditions the m
ind to slow
dow
n its activities w
ith a m
inim
um
of
delay.
2
. The m
ost effective tim
es are daw
n and dusk, w
hen the atm
osphere is
charged w
ith special spiritual force. In these quiet hours, the m
ind is clear
and unruffled by activities of the day.
3
.
H
ave a place for m
editation, free from
other vibrations and
associations. Pow
erful vibrations w
ill be lodged in the room
and, in
tim
es of stress, you can sit and experience com
fort and relief.
4
.
Sit in a com
fortable cross-legged position, w
ith spine and neck held
erect but not tense. This helps to steady the m
ind, and encourages
concentration. 5
.
B
efore beginning, com
m
and the m
ind to be quiet for a specific
length of tim
e. Forget the past, present and future. B
egin w
ith a
prayer.
6
.
C
onsciously regulate the breath. B
egin w
ith five m
inutes of deep
abdom
inal breathing to bring oxygen to the brain. Then slow
the breath
dow
n to an im
perceptible rate.
7
.
Focus on an uplifting object or sym
bol. If using a M
antra, repeat it
m
entally, and co-ordinate it w
ith the breath. If you do not have a
personal M
antra, O
M
m
ay be used.
8
.
B
egin the practice of m
editation w
ith tw
enty m
inute periods;
gradually increase to one hour.
If you m
editate daily, you w
ill be able to face life w
ith peace and spiritual
strength. M
editation is the m
ost pow
erful m
ental and nerve
tonic. It opens the door to intuitive know
ledge and
realm
s of eternal bliss. The m
ind becom
es calm
and steady.
Thought Power
for Inner Peace - World Peace
Thought is a living force. Caused by the vibration of
psychic vital energy on the mental substance it is the
most subtle and irresistible power that exists in the
universe.
The stronger the thought, the more effective it is in
accomplishing its work. You can move the world through
thought-force. The powerful thoughts of great sages and
rishis of yore are still recorded in the Akasic records.
As you think, so you become. Be careful of your thoughts.
Whatever you send out of your mind, comes back to you.
If your mind is full of hatred for another, hate will come
back to you. If you love others, love will come back to
you.
A negative thought harms the thinker by doing injury to
his mental body. Secondly, it attacks the person or
persons against whom it is directed. And lastly, it radiates
out, poisons the general mental environment, and
promotes negativity in the world.
Thought can be used for positive or negative purposes.
Promote your own inner peace, as well as world peace,
by radiating out loving thoughts.
Control your Thoughts
through Meditation
Meditation is really thought control. It is an
indescribable experience which removes all pains,
sufferings and sorrow. Meditation destroys the causes
of all sorrow. It gives a vision of unity and induces a
sense of oneness. Meditation helps the aspirant to soar
high into the realm of eternal bliss, everlasting peace
and undying joy. Just as you grow jasmine and roses,
so also you should cultivate thoughts of love, mercy,
kindness, purity, and other virtues in the vast garden of
your heart through meditation.
Sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Repeat 'OM'
mentally. Quieten the mind and withdraw it from
worldly objects. Relax the muscles and nerves. Ease the
brain. Still the bubbling mind. Silence the thoughts.
Plunge deep into the innermost recess of your heart
and enjoy the great Silence. Mysterious is this Silence.
Enter into it. Know that Silence. Become that Silence.
Hear the sound of soundless OM in Silence and attain
peace. This is the "Peace that Passeth all
Understanding".
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
33
Humanity is potentially on the brink of a
great catastrophe. Yet Israelis and
Palestinians are fighting, Catholics and
Protestants continue to fight. Hindus
and Muslims. Serbs and Albanians.
Russians and Chechens are fighting.
All think that they are right and that
their way is the only answer.
The International Sivananda Yoga
Vedanta Centres has organized a
Millenium World Peace Pilgrimage to
attract the attention of all those who
want to follow dharma, who want to live
in peace.
It began in August, 1999 with ‘Into the
21st Century’ Peace Festival. The
Sivananda World Millennium Peace
Pilgrimage is a series of pragmatic
events designed to give participants the
inner tools for realizing the freedom of
the limitless sky above and the good
earth below. Events are designed to help
the individual realize the true fellowship
of humanity.
January 1
Sri Ganesha Homam and
Interfaith Activities
Sivananda Yoga Centre,
Blue Mountains, Australia
Sri Hrishikesha Bhattar, highly respected
priest from the Sri Venkateswara Temple in
Tirupati, South India, will conduct a Ganesha
Homam at 6 a.m. on New Year’s morning.
The worship of Sri Ganesha, the remover of
obstacles will precede a series of Interfaith
activities reminding us that “the Paths are
Many, but Truth is One”.
February 6-12
Yoga-Peace Symposium
Sivananda Yoga Dhanwanthari
Ashram, Neyyar Dam, Kerala,
South India
A symposium accompanied by a Yoga
Teachers’ Sadhana week. Graduates of all
Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Courses
world-wide are invited to attend.
Speakers will include:
Dr. Amit Goswami
Dr. Uma Krishnamurthi
Lakshmi Shankar
Sachdev and others
I
n 1969 Swami Vishnu-
devananda had a vision of the
world being destroyed by fire.
People were running in all directions
trying to get shelter. He ‘saw’ that
national boundaries, such as those of
France-Spain-Germany, USA-Canada,
India-Pakistan are only mental
creations. Birds fly over without a
passport and human beings should be as free. Realizing that
humanity must learn to live together, Swamiji embarked on ‘peace missions’ around the
world. He flew over such trouble spots as the Suez Canal and Belfast, dropping flowers and
leaflets calling for peace. In the 21st century, with our increased nuclear potential there will
be no victor, no vanquished.
I
n
t
o

t
h
e

2
1
s
t

C
e
n
t
u
r
y
T
h
e

P
e
a
c
e

M
i
s
s
i
o
n

c
o
n
t
i
n
u
e
s
.
.
.
...and Swami Vishnu-devananda’s Peace Mission continues....
P E A C E P R O G R A M S W O R L D W I D E
The International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres
S I V A N A N D A
MILLENNIUM
WORLD PEACE
P I L G R I M A G E
34
April 16-29
Easter Peace Symposium
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat,
Nassau, Bahamas
Speakers include:
Dr. Yvonne Kason: How extraordinary
experiences change ordinary life, Dr. James
Mullaney: Search for Intelligent Life in the
Universe, Synn Kune Luh: Awakening of
Consciousness, David Oates: Revelation in
Reverse Speech Research
April 20-30
Peace Festival/Easter Retreat
at Gaunts House, Dorset
Organised by Sivananda Yoga
Centre, London
Yoga and Meditation, International Interfaith
Multicultural Programmes
Gospel Choir, Dr Robert Svoboda, Sunrise at
Stonehenge, Tibetan Peace Choir, Native
American Traditions, Celtic Music, Vandana
Shiva, Ranchor Prime, African Dance and
Drumming with YaYa and Harlina Diallo,
Classical Indian Dance with Uma Sharma,
Druid Traditions, Nigel Shaw, Sant Venugopalji,
P. Unnikrishnan, Sivashakti, Caroline Arewa
April 28-May 8
Pilgrimage to Machu Pichu
Experience the magnificence of South
America’s Andean Mountains – trek to the
‘Lost City’ via the ancient Inca Trail. Silence
and the beauty of nature will be our
excellent companions. The walk takes 4-5
days. Travel light of luggage and full of
enthusiasm to experience the sacred. Native
guides and an anthropologist will
accompany us. The walk will be combined
with our yoga practice: meditation, mantra
repetition and kirtan.
Organised by Montevideo Sivananda Center
May 1-7
Peace Retreats in Eastern
Europe
Krakow, Poland and Dresden, Germany.
Classical Yoga Teachings for Inner Peace.
The yogic message of Universal Peace.
Spiritual music; prayers for World Peace.
May 24-30
Unity in Diversity Festival
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm,
Grass Valley, California
Speakers include Eric Weiss, cosmologist;
Dr Amit Goswami, quantum physicist;
Fernandes Rolph, Franciscan monk;
Ligia Dantes, Zen teacher; John Dobson,
astronomer and vedantin.
May 26-29
Peace Camp
Just outside of Kathmandu, Nepal
June 1-28
Kailas /Mansrovar Yatra
A pilgrimage to the centre of the earth.
Mount Kailas (Lord of the Snows) abode of
the gods, the world’s most sacred mountain,
the ultimate place of spiritual power. One
who circumnambulates the abode of Lord
Siva with perfect devotion and concentrated
mind finds all prayers for world peace
magnified.
June 4-25
West Coast USA Peace
Pilgrimage in a Mobile
Ashram
Itinarary includes Lake Tahoe and the Sierra
Nevada, the National Parks of Yosemite,
Sequoia and Death Valley, the Arizona Grand
Canyon and the Sivananda Centres and
Ashrams of California. Starting immediately
after the Teachers’ Training Course, the
American Pilgrimage continues (see report
on pp 26). Open to all, places limited.
Contact Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm.
July 30 - August 6
Sowing Seeds for the
Future:
Making Peace for the
Children of the World
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp
Val Morin, Quebec, Canada
Ceremonies, music, talks and workshops to
celebrate the Spirit of Peace in the World for
future generations. Speakers from diverse
spiritual and cultural traditions will share
their insight and enlightenment with the
aim of developing greater understanding,
love, and respect for one another as we
work towards a peaceful future.
August 24-27
Yoga, Music and
Peace Festival
Sivananda Seminarhaus
– Tyrol, Austria
Four exceptional days
-Talks on religion, spirituality and holistic
health methods
-Introduction to yoga and vedanta: open to
beginners
-Concert and workshops with world
renowned Indian artists.
September 8-10
Peace Pilgrimage of Delhi
Participants will offer prayers for peace at
the Ayyappa Temple, Bahai Lotus Shrine,
Buddhist Vihara, Christian Sacred Heart
Cathedral, Digambar Jain Temple, Hanuman
Mandir, Moslem Jamma Masid (opposite
Red Fort), Lakshmi-Narayan Temple, Sikh
Gurudwara Sisgani, Sufi shrine of Nizam-
ud-in Ankias, Parsi (Zoroastrian) Anjuman
Dharmasala, Raj Ghat (cremation site of
Mahatma Gandhi), Jewish Synagogue and
Catturpur Temple.
Oct 9-15
Gangotri Peace Camp
Meditations for Peace in Swamiji’s cave:
hear the Silence: see the Silence: smell taste
and touch the Silence. That Silence is God.
That Silence is the Peace that passeth all
understanding. Close your eyes and become
One with that Silence.
November 9-11
Samadhi Celebrations
Sivananda Kutir, Uttarkashi
To mark the seventh anniversary of the
maha-samadhi of Swami Vishnu-
devananda, special pujas and bandara for
local sadhus will be attended by all
Executive Board Members of the Sivananda
Yoga Vedanta Centres.
December 15-January 14,
2001
Sadhana Camp
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp, Val
Morin, Quebec, Canada
Finale of the Sivananda World Millennium
Peace Pilgrimage – celebrate Christmas, the
New Year and the anniversary of Swamiji’s
birth. You are invited to join for a week, a
weekend or a month of meditation,
chanting and prayers for world peace.
...and Swami Vishnu-devananda’s Peace Mission continues....
35
Exhilarating moments in the World Peace Prayer ceremony,
when the group of 200 flag-bearing participants gathered
around the ‘earth’ flag, calling upon every nation of the world to
find peace (below and right)
YaYa Diallo and his wife
Harlina Churn Diallo,
electrified participants with
powerful vibrant drumming
and dance performances.
”I come from a culture that
works, worships, lives and
breathes to the beat of a
drum”— the Festival vibrated
to the rhythms and sounds
of Africa
The Peace Pole, carried in
procession, embodying a
lasting symbol for peace
Images of the ‘Into the
21st Century’ Peace Festival
held this summer at Sivanand
Ashram Yoga Camp, Quebec
The highly charged and inspiring ‘planting’ of the Pea
by its creators Bob Bourdon of the Mi’kmag and
Metis/Illinois Nations and Roger Echacuan of the Ati
Nation
36
Rolph Fernandes, an embodiment of
peace and compassion, talking of his
own spirit ual journey during one of the
afternoon workshops
Representatives of various spiritual traditions offer
prayers and messages in a moving and spiritually
uplifting closing ceremony
Jorge Alfano, conducting the Inca
Spiritual Wheel ceremony, a stunning
and powerful sunrise ritual, awaken -
ing the connection with Mother
Earth, Father Sun and the Four Winds
da
ace Pole
kamekw
37
Domination of nature
At the core of Mount Rushmore Syndrome is the belief that
humanity is superior to all else on the planet. This notion is so deeply
ingrained in the Western psyche that for many it is self-evident and
irrefutable. Yet it is worth recalling that thousands of indigenous
cultures, both past and present, have not held this view. It is not ‘natural’
for human societies to assume they are above nature. Even within the
Judeo-Christian tradition, as many environmentalists have pointed out,
a hierarchy has existed consisting of God, angels, humans, animals,
plants, and inanimate objects. Modern science has continued this
tradition, but with God and the angels removed.
The obsession with human superiority is reflected in a common
discussion found in scientific textbooks and the popular media, a
discussion that has become a kind of short story or parable. The story
begins with the
identification of a
characteristic that
qualitatively dist -
inguishes homo-
sapiens from all
other species. Common candidates include intelligence, creativity,
culture, self-awareness, technology, and adaptive flexibility. The
significance of this characteristic is then traced throughout human pre-
history and history, with an emphasis on how it has been responsible for
human ascendancy on the planet. By the end of the story, the impression
is given that this feature confers far more than an adaptive advantage.
It makes human beings more worthwhile, more intrinsically valuable,
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Mount Rushmore
Syndrome
When Narcissism Rules the Earth
by Allen D. Kanner, Ph.D.
Allen D. Kanner proposes a theory in which the urban-industrial
society’s stance towards the natural world is likened to the mythical
Narcissus who became so absorbed by his reflection in a pool of water
that he fell in love with himself and, forgetting the greater universe
around him, pined away. Kanner draws a parallel between the myth
and the western attitude that humans are superior to nature, destined
to dominate it, and entitled to exploit its resources. Kanner terms this
the ‘Mount Rushmore Syndrome’. An impressive monument, Mount
Rushmore features the heads of four American presidents carved out
of the South Dakota hills - a symbol of human domination over
nature. As with Narcissus there is the danger that one can become so
absorbed by the sculpture that the trees, the hills, the cliffs and even
the surrounding sky are all reduced to a backdrop for human grandeur
without thought for the social and ecological disintegration of the
society that such self-absorption may cause.
The following discussion of Mount Rushmore Syndrome emerges
from a new field, ecopsychology, that is concerned with the
psychological processes that bring people closer to, or alienate them
from, the natural world. Although there are many historical, political,
and economic trends that contribute to this global tragedy, a
narcissistic thread runs through them all.
Students of the Sivananda
Yoga Centres pose in front
of Mount Rushmore
during the recent Shanti
Bus Peace Pilgrimage
38
than all other forms of life. The parable concludes that as the only species
with high intelligence, self-awareness or advanced culture and
technology, in its own unbiased opinion humanity is inherently superior
to all the rest.
The grandiosity does not stop here. Implicit, and sometimes explicit,
in these stories is the sense that the purpose of the planet, the apex of
four and a half billion years of evolution, has been the creation of the
human race. The destinies of the Earth and of the human species have
converged and are now one and the same.
Of course, this is bad evolutionary theory. Every species that now
exists is the current endpoint of its own evolutionary path; there is no
“crown of creation.” Scientists do not believe that evolution has a
purpose or goal.
Denial of responsibility
Other forms of grandiosity are evident in Mount Rushmore Syndrome.
There is the tendency among narcissistic individuals to deny their
responsibility when things go awry and instead to
blame others. In these instances they can become
paranoid and accuse other
peopl e
of intentionally harming them or their projects. In the
San Francisco Bay Area where I live, in the last fifteen
years we have experienced an earthquake, a major
fire, and several winters of flooding. Before these
catastrophes occurred, people knowingly built homes
and communities on fault lines and in the middle of
fire zones and flood plains. When the inevitable
disasters happened, the media reported on the
“cruelty and wrath of nature” and bemoaned “its
imperviousness to human concerns”.
True to narcissistic form, there was little media
discussion of whether people ought not live in certain
areas, thereby respecting the land and its concerns.
Earthquakes, fires, and floods all contribute to the
overall ecological health of the region. Instead, people
feel victimized and angry, and redouble their efforts to construct homes
that will withstand future ‘attacks’ from the natural world.
Ecophilosopher Karen Warren has described the fallacious reasoning,
or ‘logic of domination’, that is characteristic of narcissistic thinking.
According to this logic, superiority justifies domination. If humans deem
themselves to be more intelligent or creative or self-aware than the rest
of nature, they are justified in mastering it. In the logic of domination,
superiority does not imply responsibility, compassion or appreciation of
the other.
Following the logic of domination, humanity’s ability to create
powerful technology is often used as proof of its innate superiority,
which in turn justifies its attempts to conquer the world. In fact, a whole
philosophy or Utopian vision has emerged based on the belief that
paradise can be constructed through the proper application of science
and engineering, an ideal that flies under the banner of ‘technological
progress’ .
The narcissistic mind-set that underlies technological progress spawns
a type of technology that upsets the ecological balance of the planet. It is
no coincidence that the more powerful the inventions of urban-industrial
society, the more pollution and environmental damage they generate.
These inventions are based on the premise that nature can be fully
controlled and tamed. Each time such technology backfires, modern
science and industry propose even more drastic attempts at control. Now
we have bioengineeering as the next miraculous ‘solution’ to world
hunger, even though this gene-altering technology could reek far more
environmental havoc than the chemical pollutants that are its
predecessor. This is akin to a dictator approaching every national problem
by further subjugating the populace.
Elsewhere, I have discussed an alternative called technological
wisdom, that is based on co-operation with the natural world.
Technological wisdom recognizes that people are always in a
two-way relationship with their inventions that they can
neither fully control nor predict. It includes a healthy
respect for technology’s ability to remodel its creators
in directions the creators did not intend. The
contrasting idea that technology is neutral, that
its effect is entirely a consequence of the manner
in which people use it, is an example of human
hubris.
When guided by technological wisdom, each major
invention is introduced slowly, on a modest scale, to
determine its spiritual, psychological, political, and
environmental effects. Such an approach would
certainly lead to creative new technologies, but ones
different from those that emerge from an urgent desire
to conquer the cosmos.
Alienation and entitlement
Mount Rushmore Syndrome involves another hallmark of narcissism,
which is an emotional distance or cool detachment from others that is
often hidden by a charming or polite exterior. Such distance is the
inevitable result of a need to feel superior and to dominate. It is difficult
to feel close to those whom one disdains and wishes to manipulate.
Similarly, the alienation from nature that Westerners so often report
is a direct result of narcissistic arrogance. It is challenging to feel
simultaneously superior and in charge of the natural world yet
connected and ‘at one’ with it. In other words, narcissism breeds
alienation.
Human beings are totally dependent on the Earth. If you doubt this,
try holding your breath for twenty minutes. Complete autonomy and
self sufficiency is an illusion, but one of great import to the false self.
There are many ways to engulf the Earth and deny any dependency
on it. One way is to turn land into property and then ‘take credit’ for its
beauty and bounty. The natural world is thus subsumed through the act
of ownership. Another is to remake nature through technology and,
forgetting for the moment where the ‘raw materials’ came from,
pretend that the built environment has freed one from dependency on
the Earth. Living in a city with relatively little direct contact with the
natural world helps to maintain this illusion of autonomy.
When people subsume their environment, they reduce it to
something less than they are (resources, property, etc.) and
therefore become less identified with it. Ironically, the act of
engulfment leads to further distance and alienation.
The destinies of the Earth and of the human
species have converged and are now one
and the same.
Of course, this is bad evolutionary theory. Every
species that now exists is the current endpoint
of its own evolutionary path; there is no
“crown of creation.” Scientists do not believe
that evolution has a purpose or goal.
MOUNT RUSHMORE SYNDROME
39
Narcissistic individuals are well-known for their sense of
entitlement, their belief that the universe owes them pleasure and
gratification with little effort put forth on their part. We can certainly
see from the previous discussion that most Westerners feel entitled to
exploit the natural world as fully as possible. Now I would like to focus
on an aspect of modern life that has a huge impact developmentally
and emotionally, yet receives scant attention in mainstream
psychology: corporate advertising.
Corporate advertising and consumption
First World consumer habits are responsible for vast amounts of
environmental destruction. These habits are generated in large part by
the enormous amount of advertising produced by corporate marketing
departments, with most of us being exposed to up to 3,000 ads a day.
Commercials are psychologically quite sophisticated, manipulating
human desire, weakness, need, and fantasy all in the direction of greater
consumption.
Advertisers narcissistically wound their audiences by convincing
them that they are inadequate or inferior if they do not purchase an
unending array of new products. The typical consumer alternates
between feeling momentarily satisfied when a purchase is made and
used, but relatively quickly slipping back to a state of dissatisfaction and
material want as new products are advertised and the novelty of the old
wears off. This state of dissatisfaction is absolutely necessary if
corporations are to keep people in a buying state of mind.
Since love, companionship, esteem, peace of mind, spiritual
equanimity, and other non-materialistic requirements of the psyche
and soul cannot be met exclusively through consuming, the return to
consumerism is thus guaranteed.
Advertising encourages people from a very young age to neglect
and even disdain those parts of themselves that require non-
materialistic nourishment. When advertisers claim that people’s
greatest needs can be fully met by purchasing the right products, they
convince people to misinterpret the more subtle stirrings of the psyche
as an urge to go to the mall.
Beyond Rushmore
Mount Rushmore Syndrome is
especially toxic for the planet when it
occurs among the rich, for on a per
capita basis their consumer habits lead
them to use up the Earth’s resources far
more extensively than their poorer counterparts. The wealthiest people
in the world, the corporate elite, pose the greatest threat to the Earth’s
viability. These individuals are acting very much like that avaricious
narcissist of old, King Midas, who turned everything he touched into
gold (or in today’s language, into marketable products). Soon his entire
environment was valuable beyond belief and completely unlivable.
Moving beyond the Mount Rushmore Syndrome means tearing our
gaze away from the image carved on the rocks and paying attention to
the trees, the hills, the cliffs and the sky that surrounds us. Perhaps what
we encounter may be painful and may make it more difficult to
participate in mainstream society. To deepen our connection to nature in
this day and age is to share in both its beauty and tragedy. Encounters
with the natural world often promote feelings of interconnection and
belonging that soften narcissistic defenses.
Ecopsychology proposes a broad but humble picture of the human
condition, one in which the planet has provided our species a home but
not a throne. When we see past our own reflection, we realize we are not
alone. The mountain is still there
A longer version of this article first appeared the The Humanistic
Psychologist, 1999, volume 26, nos. 1 and 2.
YOGALi f e Summer ‘ 99
Alan Kanner is a practicing ecopsychologist in Berkeley, California and
co-author, with Theodore Roszak and Mary Gomer, of Ecopsychology:
Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind.
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S I V A N A N D A Y O G A
V E D A N T A C E N T E R S
40
W
hen I was a child, my mother would often
admonish me to try to find contentment in
my life. As I grew older, the word
‘contentment’ itself began to repel me,
bringing to mind the image of fat cows lazily chewing
their grass in a sun-drenched field, with nothing else in
the world to do and nothing to think about. It was
difficult for me to understand why my otherwise
energetic mother would want to encourage me to give
up all my driving ambitions to ‘make something’ of
myself. My mind equated the words ‘fat,’ ‘lazy’ and
‘contented’; I couldn’t understand her wishing me to be
any of these things.
I felt a burning desire to see everything and do
everything and learn as much as I could. Even when I
started practicing yoga seriously, when I was around 21
years old, I saw it as an energetic means to know the
world as well as all that is beyond it. For me the goal
was to reach that state of Satchidananda
(existence, knowledge, bliss absolute). It seemed
some high and distant goal that I must exert
very hard to achieve.
Then I embarked on a diligent study of Raja
Yoga. To my surprise I found right there in the
second of the eight limbs, under niyamas,
the contentment (Santosh) that my
mother had been telling me about. How
was I to reconcile this with my ideal of
constant and energetic striving? After
much deliberation the real meaning
and spiritual value of Santosh started
to clarify itself in my mind.
I came to understand that my mind
was always restless on account of
greed: greed for new
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
SANTOSH
Contentment
By Swami Saradananda
The Most Misunderstood Niyama of Raja Yoga
41
SANTOSH
experiences, new tastes in food or new acquisitions that I didn’t
really need. On account of this, I could feel myself being burned
by an internal fire that was consuming my prana slowly but
surely. Although I was diligently doing my yoga practice, I
frequently found myself exhausted without knowing why. Often
I found that that I put out more energy into obtaining things
than I received in return. It was not unusual to find myself
dissatisfied with my own behavior and that of others. The relish
with which I surrounded myself with things didn’t seem to last.
Santosh came as a powerful antidote for the poison of greed. It
seemed like I had been for a long, hard walk in the hot sun and was
suddenly refreshed by a delicious plunge
in the Ganga. Then I read in a book by
Swami Sivananda that ‘There are
four sentinels who guard the
domain of Moksha (liberation).
They are Shanti (peace), Santosha,
Satsanga (company of the wise)
and Vichara (right inquiry). By
encouraging myself to befriend one
of these guards, I found myself in
the company of his colleagues. My life
and sadhana took an upward turn.
The wonder is that although we all know that contentment is a
virtue that gives peace of mind, few of us try to develop it. It seems
that the increasing speed of modern life has caused many of us to
lose our powers of discrimination. Our understanding gets clouded,
intellect perverted and memory gets confused by greed, as well as
its accompanying passion. On account of this we find it increasingly
difficult to develop the basic virtue of contentment - or even
understand it.
As a yoga teacher, I have found that many people actually fear
contentment, as I did. They worry that it will make them lethargic and
lazy. Without it they see themselves as exerting and energetic.
However, contentment can never make anyone idle. It is a sattvic
virtue that propels the individual towards peace. It gives strength of
mind and checks unnecessary and selfish exertions. It calms the mind
and opens the inner eye of intuition. The contented person is able to
work energetically and peacefully, with a one-pointed mind. All the
dissipated rays of the mind are collected and available for use.
Santosh means never looking back, being content in the present
and striving to improve the future. As I began to develop this
virtue, I realised how much time and energy I had wasted in
reprimanding myself for mistakes that I had made last year, last
week or yesterday. Some days a vast portion of my energy would
be consumed by the thought that I shouldn’t have done
something, or I should have done it in a different way. It seemed
that I regretted so much and, instead of learning from my mistakes
and moving on, I was letting them devour me.
Through my daily meditation and introspection, I began to
intuitively understand that past is past; no one can change it. Even
one split second after an action has taken place, it cannot be
undone. Once something is said,
it can never be unsaid.
Even the present, that
fleeting instant when the
future becomes the past,
cannot be changed. By the
time you realise what is
happening, it has happened
and is in the past. But I found
that this was not a depressing
train of thought. In fact the understanding and
practice of Santosh was quite a liberating experience. It helped me to
learn the true meaning of contentment. It showed me a practical
method to stop wasting precious energy on which I could not
change. It enabled me to focus on positive improvements in my life,
on how I could best use my energies.
More and more I began to realise that by my present effort, I could
change the future. I could do so with increased vigour because my
energy was not being drained.
This is, of course, an understanding and acceptance of the law of
Karma. The knowledge that I myself was the author and creator of
my present situation taught me how I could guide my future. It gave
me solace, peace and strength. It helped me to solve my own
difficulties and problems in life. I began to understand that Santosh
is bliss, the divine nectar that brings peace and happiness in life.
Loka Somasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May the Whole World Attain Peace and Happiness
“Past is past; no one can change it. Even one
split second after an action has taken place,
it cannot be undone. Once something is said,
it can never be unsaid.”
A senior disciple of Swami
Vishnu-devananda, Swami
Saradananda is a member of the
executive board of the Sivananda
Yoga Vedanta Centres. She
supervises the centres in London
and north India – and is the
editor of YogaLife magazine.
42
T
he early morning sounds of
nature are interrupted by the
resonating church-like bell
signalling to the yoga camp
guests, staff and one hundred and
forty plus teacher training students
that 5.30am has come and it is
time to get up. The moon is still
visible, the dew caresses the
ground, and the sun peeks over the
tip of a far-off peak of the
Laurentian Mountains. Many greet
the day from tent openings
situated within the six hundred
acres of forest, lush gardens and
community gathering spots.
Others merge from rooms in the
dormitory and lodge. Laurie, an
elementary school teacher from
Vancouver enrolled in the month
long Teachers’ Training Course
(TTC), rings the bell again at
5.45am. Gradually the rugged
barn-like yoga hall silently fills. By
6.00am the morning meditation
has begun. The orange-draped
swamis are seated on the platform
facing students, guests and staff. A
gentle breeze dances its way
through the window into the
awareness of some, while others
notice the chickadees’ serenade.
Like passing clouds, a steady
stream of thoughts waltzes through each
mind – I’m tired. Where’s Martha? I’m
starved. Twenty two days left. In moments
of awareness, the mind is brought back to
one’s breath and to a mantra. Individuals
slip into their own realities while diving
deeper into the Self. The meditation falls
gently into chanting in Sanskrit and the
chanting flows into readings written by
Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-
devananda. The time passes quickly,
announcements are made, and shared
tribute is offered to Jesus, Moses, Buddha,
Sivananda, Vishnu-devananda, and other
universal teachers. At 7.45am, Laurie rings
the bell indicating it is almost time for
asanas. The English, French, German and
Spanish classes are held outdoors in various
locations throughout the Camp. The air is
crisp and fresh, the flowers are vibrantly
colorful, and a huge cumulus cloud makes
the shape of a grizzly bear standing on his
hind legs. The translators, each with radiant
smiles, orchestrate the familiar sequence of
movement – pranayama (breathing
exercises), sun salute, asanas, and final
relaxation. The sun blasts down, an
adjustment is offered, a demonstration is
shared. The inner body is nurtured and
awakened. Asanas are a love affair with the
movement of energy, the movement of the
body, the connection with a creator and the
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Shaping Yoga Teachers
the Sivananda Way
By Jody Tyler
Siromani
Awareness of the body
disappears along with
all sense of time and
space. One’s heightened
involvement becomes a
communion with that
which never changes
- the soul.
43
stilling of the mind. It is the ultimate in holy
retreat. Awareness of the body disappears
along with all sense of time and space. One’s
heightened involvement becomes a
communion with that which never changes
-the soul. As the mind begins to reconnect
with its body and the eyes slowly open, the
air smells sweeter, colors are even more
vibrant, and appreciation prevails - for the
class, for the transformed sensations, and
for brunch. Soups, salads, rice, casseroles,
tea and cookies. All vegetarian, all organic
and mostly all delicious. Enough, always, for
an army of seekers. The food is fresh and
prepared in selfless service by the loving
hands of guests, students, staff and culinary
guru, Ben. While Laurie’s ‘karma’ yoga is bell
ringing, others are assigned work in the
kitchen, chopping, serving, or washing
dishes. An enormous circle is formed around
the dining room, hands are held, and a
blessing of the food is enthusiastically sung.
The view from the large picnic tables is
panoramic. The mountains and ever-
revealing sky provide an inspiring backdrop.
Friendships are sealed through lively
conversation - laughter, tears, hearty
hugs. For many the bonds become
rooted, tested and strengthened
during meals and karma yoga. At
11.00amsharp, a crew of twenty
pile into a pickup truck headed
for the mountain top to help
complete a timber staircase that
winds its way back down to main Camp.
Some scrub floors, windows and toilets.
Others tend to gardens, work in reception or
complete a variety of other chores. Karma
yoga is at the heart of the Camp and a
foundation of the Sivananda philosophy. By
offering selfless service one discovers
limitless opportunities to learn a skill while
observing and tweaking one’s own
attitudes. Chris, a TTC student from London
says, “The real challenge for me is to
maintain a positive attitude - to stay open
and connected to what I’m doing and to the
people I’m with. For me, an hour of hard
work everyday is a real test because every
button gets pushed.” Laurie rings the bell
at 11.45am. Time to take a quick refreshing
swim, fill the water jug and get back to the
yoga hall for lessons from the Bhagavad
Gita. Swami Durgananda has a mischievous
smile and a twinkle in her eyes. The scholar-
turned-comedienne pokes fun at our
intense and full schedule, comparing it to a
spa and assuring us that we’ll be missing it
when we get home. Obviously sensitive to
the energy level of her audience, she fills the
room with fun, laughter and sincerity. It is a
much-recognized and appreciated break
from the fierce note-taking of previous
days. With the timing of a pro, she
communicates the lessons to be learned.
She shares a bit of herself and why she loves
the Gita so much. “It’s about a war that
every person alive fights at one time or
another. It is the dynamic tension between
the higher self and the lower self. The
answers are all in this book.” A quick
shower, a nap and a trip to the laundry
room. Hassles, joys, sorrows, frustration, all
there for the taking. At 1.45pmLaurie rings
the bell. The hour break leads into the
2.00pm lecture given by Swami
Swaroopananda. “Today we are going to talk
about the three Gunas. Rajas consists of
restless creative energy. Sattva consists of
invigorated yet peaceful energy. Tamas is
lazy and resistant to change and is attached
to illusion. We all bring to any situation all
three of these qualities in varying degrees.
Each veils the truth. Are you with me?” His
lecture is dense and intellectual. He wastes
no time. His love for learning and
knowledge is profound and his standard, as
a teacher, is inspiring and demanding. Most
realize that he teaches the Advanced
Teachers’ Training Course and is a key
motivator for taking the additional month-
long program. “The rajasic student is willing
to discuss any subject without personal
experience. Rajasic religions claim “My God
is best, my religion is best, and my belief is
best”; much like believing the tulips to be
supreme over all other flowers in the
garden. The sattvic student wants spiritual
experience, not only theories. The sattvic
religions appreciate beauty in all religions.
The tamasic student makes the teacher’s life
miserable, loving to argue only for the sake
of argument. The tamasic person’s religious
life is impure and destructive.” Laurie runs to
ring the 3.45pm bell in preparation for the
4.00pm asana class. Today two students in
each group of six teach the class. Some
teach with notes in hand, some with
unusually hushed voices, still others with
long explanations. All are eager to be their
own personal best, which means, in the
Sivananda tradition, consciously putting
one’s ego aside, acknowledging one’s
teachers and serving as their instrument.
This cornerstone creates an environment
free of competition and openness to
feedback, whether from a peer or from
Swami Sivadasananda, the asana teacher
for this TTC. He is extremely focused, yet
childlike and whimsical. He loves to laugh
and enjoys poking fun at himself. He is a
skilled yogi and teacher. “You all are gaining
experience as teachers and are much more
confident today. Can you feel it? The benefit
of yoga comes from breathing, relaxing, and
experiencing the proper position of the
asana. Remember to teach mostly with
words, and make very few adjustments -
especially with beginners. Let me show you.”
He wishes to demonstrate the form of an
advanced position and finds that he is not
able to extend as fully as he would like. He
asks a volunteer to go into the pose. By
permitting himself to be seen as imperfect
in the process, humility, a subtle and
powerful value of the Sivananda yoga
practice, is conveyed. The dinner bell has
echoed. Another feast, no doubt. A crowd
gathers around Swami Sivadasananda,
each hoping to have a question answered or
a comment heard. Others make their way
down the path, through the huge
evergreens, into the clearing that leads to
the lodge where dinner is served. The
musicians gather around the piano to sing
Broadway favorites. The food line moves
fast. It is difficult not to overeat. The
boutique is filled with browsers searching
through CDs, spiritual books, clothing from
India and assorted Sivananda yoga wear.
The adjacent snack shop has remedies for a
sweet tooth, as well as fruits, chips and
smoothies. The after-dinner line is long and
the two couches are already occupied. An
art portfolio is shared. An original poem is
recited. A tearful teenager is consoled by a
caring friend, a foot is massaged over an
arm of the couch and a carefree child
chants joyfully. The Sivananda community
is a collage of people from all over the
world. It is ageless, heart-centered, hard
working and remarkably simple. This
community was the vision of Swami
Sivananda, an Indian medical doctor who
devoted his life to the teachings of classical
yoga. He established his first Ashram in
Rishikesh, India in 1924. Twenty-five years
later he inspired Swami Vishnu-devananda,
his disciple, to go to the United States and
Canada, exposing the western mind to yoga.
Wasting no time and with no money, Swami
Vishnu-devananda convinced a Canadian
bank to loan him enough to purchase six
hundred acres of land north of Montreal, in
the Laurentian mountains. This is now the
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp at Val Morin.
Swami Vishnu-devananda was the force
behind centers opening in Montreal, New
York, the Bahamas and most major cities
throughout the western world. He was a
holy man, a writer, adventurer, innovator,
SHAPI NG YOGA TEACHERS T HE SI VANANDA WAY
Hassles, joys, sorrows, frustration,
all there for the taking.
44
thinker and teacher. He was charismatic, drawing people to him
world wide and from all walks of life. Swamis and yoga
teachers still pay tribute to him daily. Having left his body in
1993, his guiding influence continues through the leadership
of the executive board (consisting of swamis he trained) and
the Teachers’ Training Course, offered annually in India, the
United States (California and New York) Canada, the Bahamas
and Austria. This July’s 1999 graduating class contained the
10,000th student to earn the Sivananda Yoga teaching
certificate, a life affirming
milestone that holds more
personal significance, for
many, than other dis -
tinguished credentials. Laurie
rings the 7.45pm bell.
Tonight has been designated
a silent meditation walk. A
large group gathers at the
entrance to the Camp.
Gayatri announces that she
will be leading the walk and
that all should focus the
mind on the breath and the
mantra during the next hour.
She begins the trek down the
steep road that leads to
the bridge that leads to
the mountain lake. Most
move together and
resist the temptation
to talk. From silence
much is noticed -
crisp fresh air, sweet
fragrant honeysuckle,
blossoms bursting with color, steam rising from the winding river,
the hollow call of a loon perhaps welcoming uninvited guests who
have appeared at her doorstep. The group is seated on the bank of
the lake meditating. Then the chanting begins. The reflection of the
mountains in the water dims as dusk wins. Gayatri leads the group
back to Camp. The pace is slow. People engage in varied discussions.
It’s late and morning comes early. The group winds down their
conversation and wanders off
to bed. It has been a full day. Tomorrow will be the same but
different. It holds a promise of more of a good thing, more of a
worthwhile, fun and wise way of life. Except for the croaking frog
and the occasional mosquito buzz, all is quiet. The stars shine bright
which means a sunny day tomorrow. In a flash, the morning bell
rings and it’s time to begin again
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
July 1999’s graduating class honored the
10,000th Sivananda Yoga teacher.
Swami Vishnu-devananda was a holy man, a
writer, adventurer, innovator, thinker and teacher.
He was charismatic, drawing people to him
world-wide and from all walks of life.
45
I
n the well-known Bhagavad-Gita
section of the Mahabharata, Krishna
elaborates a view of duty and action
intended to convince Arjuna that, as a
member of the warrior caste, he must
overcome all his doubts and take up arms
even against his relatives. As anyone
familiar with India's epics knows, martial
arts have existed on the South Asian
subcontinent since antiquity. Both epics are
filled with scenes describing how the
princely heroes obtain and use their
humanly or divinely acquired skills and
powers to defeat their enemies: by training
in martial techniques under the tutelage of
great gurus like the brahmin master Drona,
by practicing austerities and meditation
techniques which give access to subtle
powers, and/or by receiving a divine gift or
boon. The ideal heroic warrior is the
"unsurpassable" Arjuna. He was trained
both in martial techniques as well as
practicing severe austerities to obtain
access to single-point focus and subtle
powers. Along with Manipuri thang-ta,
Kerala's kalarippayattu is one of two
complete systems of martial practice still
extant and practiced in South Asia today.
For the past twenty three years I have
trained, practiced, and taught this fluid,
dynamic, and powerful form of martial art
which is based on both a yogic
understanding of the body and bodymind,
as well as on Ayurveda's complementary
understanding of them as well. Primarily
under the tutelage of Gurukkal
Govindankutty Nayar of the CVN Kalari,
Thiruvananthapuram, and C.Mohammed
Sherif of Kannur, I have learned and
absorbed a style of traditional
kalarippayattu which emphasizes, like
Arjuna, the active, energetic means of
disciplining and "harnessing" (yuj, the root
of yoga) both one's body and mind, i.e., I
have learned and absorbed kalarippayattu
as a form of moving meditation. As
comparative religions scholar Mircea Eliade
explains, "One always finds a form of yoga
whenever there is a question of
experiencing the sacred or arriving at
complete mastery of oneself..." Drawing on
both the antique systems of Tamil
(Dravidian) martial culture, as well as the
Sanskritic Dhanur Vedic tradition,
kalarippayattu had emerged with its
distinctive basic forms and traditions by
the 12th century A.D. Like the
ancient warriors trained in
Dhanur Veda, the kalarippayattu
practitioner who has mastered
the basic psychophysiological
forms of his discipline thereby
concentrates his "mind,
eyes, and inner vision,"
thereby "conquering
even the god of
d e a t h . "
Through the psychophysiological forms of
daily practice, the martial artist grad -
ually discovers and controls the inner
energy/breath (prana-vayu), gains mental
power (manasakti), manifests one-point
focus and complete doubtlessness,
discovers and raises the inner
energy/power of kundalini sakti, and is able
to channel and use this energy and power
for healing in massage therapies, or for
harming an opponent in combat. As in
traditional yoga practice, knowledge of the
bodymind begins with the physical or gross
body (sthula-sarira), discovered
through exercises and massage.
The exercises include a vast array
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Practicing kalarippayattu,
the martial/meditation art of
Kerala, South India
MAKING THE BODY ALL EYES
N N
By Phillip B. Zarrilli
46
N
N
N
N
of poses, steps, jumps, kicks, and leg movements performed in
increasingly complex combinations back and forth across the floor of
the training space (a kalari or pit dug in the earth). Collectively these
exercises are considered a "body art". Individual body exercise
sequences (meippayattu) are taught one by one, and every student
masters basic forms before moving on to more complex and difficult
sequences. Most important is mastery of the basic poses (vadivu),
named after animals and comparable to basic asanas of yoga, and
mastery of steps (cuvadu) by which one moves into and out of the
poses. The body exercise sequences are linked combinations of basic
body movements including poses, steps, kicks, a variety of jumps and
turns, and coordinated hand/arm movements performed in
increasingly complex and swift succession back and forth across the
kalari. Gurukkal P.K. Balan explained to me the importance of the
animal poses: "When any animal fights, it uses its whole body. This
must also be true in kalarippayattu. For example, the horse is an animal
which concentrates all its powers centrally, and it can run fast by
jumping up. The same pause, preparation for jumping, and forward
movement that are in a horse are in the 'horse pose' in kalarippayattu."
The vigorous practice of basic exercises, combined with the complete
system of full-body massage given with the master's feet as well as
hands, renders the body supple, flexible, balanced, and controlled. In
daily practice, "the sweat of the students are the water to wash the
kalari floor!" Chirakkal T. Balakrishnan describes the results of
practicing one form (pakarcakkal) as "like a bee circling a flower. While
doing this sequence a person first moves forward and back, and then
again forward and back. It should be done like a spider weaving its
web!" Repetitious practice
of these outer forms eventually renders
the external body flexible
(meivalakkam), and, as one
master said, "flowing like a
river." As master Achuthan
Gurukkal explained, "one-
point focus is developed by
constant practice of correct
form in exercises." "Correct
form" includes directing
one's external focus to a specific point at
the opposite end of the training space,
and eventually internalizing that focus
so that it becomes "internal" as well as
external. Once the physical eye is
steadied, the student begins to discover
the "inner eye" of practice, a state of
inner connection to practice. Behind
the fluid grace of the gymnastic forms is the strength and power of
movement which can, when necessary, be applied with lightning-fast
speed and precision in potentially deadly attacks, or for healing.
"Hidden" within all the preliminary exercises and basic poses are
complex combinations of offensive and defensive applications which
are eventually learned through constant practice. Students are
eventually introduced to weapons’ training, beginning with the long-
staff, and continuing with a short stick, daggers, swords and shields,
spears, maces, and then empty-hand combat. Eventually a student
should begin to manifest physical, mental, and behavioral signs
resulting from practice. At first the exercises are "that which is
external." But like hatha yoga, daily practice of the forms leads to
extraordinary physical control, and eventually inward – the exercises
become "that which is internal." One master explained that "first are
the outer forms, then the inner secrets." Exercises and weapons’ forms
are repeated until the student sufficiently embodies the "inner life"
(bhava) of the technique, i.e., until the correct form gets "inside" the
student's bodymind. Once the forms are "effortless," one experiences
the "inner action" behind the external form. Even though
kalarippayattu "from the outside" looks very much like a dynamic and
very physically demanding physical form of training/practice, as my
primary teacher, Gurukkal Govindankutty Nayar explained,
"kalarippayattu is 80% mental and only the remainder is physical." The
80% mental is further developed through a variety of forms of
meditation including everything from simple vratam – sitting and
focusing one's mind on a deity, name chanting, or focusing on one's
own breath – to more complex forms of moving or stationary
meditation. Ideally, the practice of kalarippayattu gives physical health
as well as balancing the body's three humors. The mental calm
resulting from practice gives one "mental courage" (manodhairyam),
i.e., the power to face anything that is dangerous to my health or
mind. In Kerala, there is a folk expression which summarizes the
martial art's ideal state of accomplishment – a state where
the "body becomes all eyes." In this state the bodymind
responds intuitively to the sensory environment. It is the
animal-bodymind in which there is unmediated,
uncensored, immediate responsivity to stimuli.
Like Brahma, the "thousand-eyed," the
practitioner who is accomplished can "see"
everywhere around him, and respond. In my own
teaching and practice of kalarippayattu, I emphasize all
of these traditional elements and concepts which inform
this unique, yoga/Ayurveda-based system of bodymind work
from Kerala, India. I invite you to consider taking this training as
a complement to the practice of yoga and Ayurveda either
in one of my intensive workshops or weekly training
(in London or at my West Wales
kalari/studio). As I complete writing this
short essay, I hope to open my own
traditional kalari in Llanarth, West Wales
during this year where traditional
training and massage will take place on
an earth floor
MAKI NG T HE BODY AL L EYES
Like the ancient warriors trained in Dhanur
Veda, the kalarippayattu practitioner who has
mastered the basic psychophysiological forms of
his discipline thereby concentrates his "mind,
eyes, and inner vision," thereby "conquering
even the god of death."
N
N
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Contact information:
P. Zarrilli
57B Herne Hill Rd., London SE24 0AX
Tel: 0171-326 5196
Tyn-y-parc, Llanarth SA4 70PB
Tel: 01545-580376
email: P.Zarrilli@surrey.ac.uk
47
Detachment - true and false
I
f we do not practice meditation, no
change will come. We will remain with
our mind, dwelling in the past and in
the future. There will be a lot of
tension because we are not doing
anything about our mind. When we go on
a yoga vacation, we leave our home with
just one suitcase feeling as free as a bird.
When we return, our whole life comes
back to us as soon as we put the key in the
door. We look in our cupboards, at our
ties, shirts and shoes. We decide to put
everything into a big bag and give it to the Red Cross. Then, as soon
as the next pay check comes, we go up and down the shopping mall
with our credit card in hand and come
back home laden with many bags.
Of course, this is not the way to
change. Reduce wants and desires
slowly. If we have twenty shirts, reduce
the number to eighteen, then to sixteen.
Detachment has to go along with our own inner experience. If our
mind and heart are not practicing detachment and dispassion, our
credit card will not be able to handle it. Real detachment is still having
the objects but with a feeling of indifference towards them. We must
not change too much externally. Whatever life presents to us, we
should try to accept. This is real detachment. If we can do something
about it, we should do it; but if nothing can be done, we must accept
what we have. The same applies to our body. If the body does not have
the same curves that we see in the magazines, and we’ve tried all the
diets, then we have to accept it as it is. God wants us to be that way.
We should not be happy about it but then nor should we be unhappy.
We should just feel content. Giving up material things is relatively easy.
But to be natural and free, to be oneself, is the highest detachment.
Swami Vishnu-devananda trained yoga teachers, first in their personal
practice and secondly in sharing yoga with others. When you stand in
front of a yoga class you are really sharing yourself. You worry about
what people will say. It is a very high training in detachment. Maybe
some of you work in companies and have to give talks. But at work,
you can hide behind a role. Just being yourself is more difficult.
Practice with your friends and colleagues, be honest and don’t make
any show. Detach yourself from false identification. If you are
practicing this in your sadhana you will advance well in your evolution.
You will have to reflect daily on your actions. First try to simplify your
life and move towards a purer life style. The next step is to detach
yourself from your ego-identification. This means you continue with
what you are doing, you do your best, but you don’t identify yourself
with the actions. Be yourself, full of love, patience and respect.
Swami Sivananda says that viveka (discrimination) and vairagya
(detachment) are the two main sadhanas, those which you will
continue to practice until the end of your life. This is because the
mind is constantly moving, the ego is going through new
experiences and is waiting at every moment to catch you.
Accepting the Teacher
For someone starting on the spiritual path, it is absolutely necessary
to have a teacher, otherwise we will not find our way through the
forest of life. The teacher can come in disguise, he is not always
apparent. When I met Swami Vishnu-devananda, I thought: “well, I
have seen better ones”. I was arrogant and ignorant. I had already seen
many teachers. The day I met Swamiji, he was very tired. He had just
returned to California from India, suffering from jetlag. He gave a
lecture that same day which did not impress me. But afterwards, when
I saw how he was dealing with people on a personal level, with such
love, this I will never forget. It was very simple. Swamiji put the
microphone aside and spoke to the students and staff : “How are you
all? You want some pizza and ice-cream?” The way he said it melted
the heart. It was so personal and at the same time not too personal, it
was pure love. There was no barrier in the way Swamiji treated
students. After the pizza and the ice-cream, everyone sat together on
the floor chatting away. It was like a family. It was that love which
really caught me, not the knowledge. That true love, that honesty
without games, that purity, this is what we need in the guru. He gives
you the inspiration and impetus to carry on. The ego is always ready
to come out and grab you. Dishonesty
is waiting at every corner. It is because
of that love that I decided to stay with
Swami Vishnu-devananda. I went to him
and said, “I would like to stay here.” He
looked at me and said, “Welcome to the
family!” He gave me a big hug, like only a
mother or father can give.
Sharing the Experience
Swamiji had a vision in 1969. Such a vision is not a dream, nor is it a
desire. Saints can project their vision into the future. Swamiji was a
visionary. He saw that the whole world was going to be on fire. Now,
there are some parts of this world which are literally on fire. Even if, in
our part of the world, we are all right, it is an illusion to think, “Oh, if
we are OK and not on fire, the rest of the world will not be on fire
either.” Swamiji reflected: “What can I do ? What can one man do ?”
He remembered his guru, Swami Sivananda who used to sit by the
River Ganges meditating, doing asanas and pranayama, and radiating
joy. People would say, “How do you create this joy?” Swami Sivananda
would reply, “Come and stay with me.” Swami Vishnu-devananda also
wanted to know who this man was, this man who said, “An ounce of
practice is better than tons of theory!” He soon saw that the Master
was only teaching what he was practicing. The Master was in effect
teaching what we now call our Yoga Teachers’ Training Course, which
at that time Master called the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy. After
going through this training, one acquired a thorough understanding
of yoga, as one does now in our current four-week course. Swamiji
remembered what his Master did, and this was how the present Yoga
Teachers’ Training Course started. It has a pure motive: to bring peace
to each individual. Once you are peaceful, your husband or wife is
peaceful, your children are peaceful. When the family is peaceful you
can work peacefully, without greed, anger and jealousy; there will be a
peaceful environment. The peace spreads from person to person, like
cells dividing and multiplying. One person can touch thousands of
people. This was one of Swamiji’s greatest ideas for promoting peace
in the world.
If we teach yoga with this motive, we will carry spirituality within.
Spirituality means we do not think only of ourselves, but of others. This
motive to carry on the peace of the world in the midst of fire is most
important. Nobody will recognize your work. Swamiji used to call it the
highest yoga: ‘Bear insult, bear injury.’ We learn to serve others without
being attached to the fruit of our actions. This way we find peace. The
Peace Movement is to give, purely and simply
YOGALi f e Wi nt er 2000
Swami Durgananda
Whatever life presents to us, we should
try to accept. This is real detachment.
Thoughts on a Yogic Life