The world today is at a cross-roads. The modern civilisation appears threatened from so many quarters and mankind is experiencing a deep and fundamental disquiet. The long-standing gloomy predictions of many prophets, from the medieval mystic Nostradamus, to the modern novelist George Orwell, lead us into the 1980's - long recognised as a decisive decade in the evolutionary journey of mankind, with a sense of reticence and caution. More so than ever before in modern history we seem to be rapidly approaching a major turning point, and many scholars feel that the destiny of our race is in the balance. The present lifestyle and values of modern man appear to be seriously threatened as his social, economic and political institutions shudder at the very roots. Everywhere changes seem imminent and inevitable.

People all around the globe are becoming fearful for the future and many have adopted a 'doomsday mentality', content to passively resign themselves to the inevitable. There is widespread disillusionment with our traditional saviours- for both religion and science seem increasingly impotent and incapable of fulfilling the deepest needs and aspirations of modern men and women. At the same time, many others feel a duty and responsibility towards our planetary society, and are seriously asking themselves: 'What does the world need now? I want to be part of the solution, not of the problem, but I don't know how or where to start.' Sensing stormy waters ahead, they are in search of real solutions to their own problems and those of the society at large.

How can these earnest seekers, who long to make a real, lasting and meaningful contribution to our confused and suffering humanity, realise their deepest desire? Who can guide them towards the creative fulfilment of those tender aspirations? Yoga stands as a lone beacon to light their way; and this is why thinking people in all countries and cultures are beginning to practise yoga in vast numbers.

Not all prophesies for the years ahead are full of gloom and woe. Swami Satyananda Saraswati has often expressed the opinion that the clouds which are gathering have a very definite silver lining. Where others foresee doom and destruction looming ahead, Swamiji insists that the human race is evolving relentlessly into the spiritual dimension of existence, and that the cracks which are menacing the foundations of our present materialistic cultures are no more serious than the labour pains endured by every mother in giving birth to new life. Swamiji considers the growing world thirst for yoga as the best measure of human evolution, and his mission is to satisfy this thirst.

Here a problem arises which must be solved quickly and efficiently. People are ready for yoga, and many more teachers are needed if the liberating science of yoga is to reach all those who seek it. There is a great shortage of yoga teachers in all countries and paradoxically, the gravest shortage is in India itself, the home of yoga for the last 5,000 years. While the science of yoga was once a part of every culture, India alone managed to preserve and nurture yoga as a living tradition up to the present day. Why then, are so few of our communities, towns and villages fortunate enough to have a member who possesses knowledge and experience of this great science, and is capable of imparting it to others?

In the last 15 years, the healing light of yoga has permeated every strata of western society. It has literally initiated a spiritual awakening amongst the western population. We have given a great gift to the world, yet our own children know nothing of our glorious yogic heritage. They know every cricketer, pop singer and movie star, yet the secrets of yoga have been lost to them.

In an attempt to rectify this situation, the Bihar School of Yoga, Monghyr, is conducting two teacher training courses this year. The first course, from 1st to 31st March, coincides with this issue of 'YOGA' and is being conducted in the English medium. The second course, from 1st to 30th June, will be conducted in the Hindi medium. All Indian citizens who are interested in broadening their horizons by learning to teach yoga are invited to participate in this unique experience.

To become a teacher of yoga, the prerequisites are fivefold. Firstly, you must be personally familiar with the yogic techniques. This develops as you practise yoga under the guidance of a yogic adept or guru, who progressively initiates you into the techniques and ensures that your experience and understanding of each one is full and correct. This experience can never be gained intellectually, no matter how many books or training manuals you read.

Secondly, you must develop a very special skill, that of a teacher. The role of a teacher is to effectively impart knowledge to others, and in yoga this process is a most subtle and sensitive one. It means leading the student towards the source of his own inner knowledge and intuition.

Thirdly, a yoga teacher must be firmly established in yoga. In the beginning, yoga comes to the aspirant as a series of practices which he incorporates into his daily life. These practices develop awareness and as you continue on the yogic path, a wonderful change begins to occur. There is a gradual, almost imperceptible reorientation in the daily life, and ultimately a whole new pattern emerges. All activities become spiritualized until you are living a totally yogic lifestyle, founded in an elevated state of consciousness. Externally there may appear to be no great change. You will still live in the same house and community, fulfil your family and social obligations, and continue in your present employment. Nevertheless, there will be a complete transformation of the inner awareness and your whole outlook and approach to life will be elevated. Personal problems are not so much removed, as transcended, and in their place arise creativity and dynamism.

This yogic lifestyle cannot develop overnight. It evolves over a period of time. However, the biggest single step in attaining it is to spend a period of time in an ashram environment, learning, working and living side by side with sannyasins and other yogic aspirants. In the ashram you don't merely read and think about higher spiritual life, but you will actually live it and taste it firsthand during the yoga teacher training course. Every yoga teacher must have this experience if he or she is to be a yoga teacher in the fullest sense.

The fourth requirement of a yoga teacher is a stable mind. A person who is deeply engrossed in his own personal problems cannot serve as a guide and transmitter of spiritual energy because there is just no room left in his own mind for others. In this sense, a yoga teacher has to be empty, otherwise he will find it very difficult to receive spiritual energy from higher sources and transmit it to those who are seeking the way out of darkness.

This does not mean that you do not have personal problems, but that you are able to see your problems in perspective and solve them efficiently and soundly. Many people today suffer because they are not able to do this. Their minds fluctuate wildly, and they make unsound decisions based upon irrational, emotional reactions. They do not know how to think correctly and so cannot hope to reach a sound solution. The mind of a yoga teacher has to be very clear, in order to understand the problems of others and to guide them properly towards higher life. Otherwise a blind man is leading another blind man, and inevitably both fall into a ditch.

Finally, a yoga teacher must be connected to a source of spiritual power. This means that he must have a guru or spiritual preceptor who is himself a master of yoga. When this link is established, the knowledge and energy necessary for dealing with the many diverse situations which arise in teaching yoga always come, and no difficulty ever proves insurmountable. The guru is essential, not only for your own spiritual evolution, but also to safeguard those to whom you will be teaching the precepts and practices of yoga.

By the guru's grace, you will become the transmitter of a mighty spiritual power into your community or area. The only limit upon the flow of energy which you draw and pass on to enrich the lives of other seekers is your own lack of strength, faith and determination.

We sincerely hope that all of you who can see the need for yogic instruction in your own community will accept this unique challenge and opportunity. The first yoga teacher training course is now in session, but it is still possible to join the second one in June. This chance to participate in a total experience of yoga under Swami Satyananda's personal direction and guidance may never come again. At the conclusion of the course, you will receive a certificate of recognition as a qualified yoga teacher from Bihar School of Yoga, and will return home with Swamiji's blessing to bring the message and the techniques of yoga to your own family and community.