Report on the Seminar in Chamarande

Catherine Couvreur (Swami Animananda Saraswati), Paris

Situated outside of Paris, amidst the scenic splendour of a large, natural park is the site of Chamarande, a new Yogic University, which hosted Swami Satyananda Saraswati last September. Chamarande is a federation of yoga groups formed with the specific aim of promoting a new lifestyle in which ecology, biological agriculture, healthy diet, natural medicine, artistic expression, and of course yoga, are combined in a natural setting of rare beauty.

Gerard Blitz, the renowned organizer of the Zinal Conventions, has played a large part in the setting up of Chamarande as a center of culture and evolution. About a dozen organizations belonging to the F.N.E.Y. (National Federation of Yoga Teachers) and E.F.N.Y. (European Union of National Federations of Yoga) share the magnificent site of a 17th century castle surrounded by 700 hectares of forest and meadows with a slow, majestic river flowing through. Fruit trees of many varieties abound there and all the vegetables are organically grown in large, well tended gardens. Karma yoga is an important part of the community life, and everyone is requested to participate in gardening, kitchen work, and cleaning of rooms, lawns and halls.

Chamarande is a kind of big ashram, with no particular master, creed, or religion attached. It is open to all, and anyone can conduct a seminar here provided his aims and ideals coincide with the principles set up by its founders. The future of Chamarande has been clearly defined by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who has compared it with Shantiniketan, the University of Tagore, where classes are given under the trees and all kinds of arts and crafts are taught along with other subjects. In the same way, Chamarande will become a European University of Yoga where yoga teachers from all over the continent will, in the course of time, be able to come and be instructed in all the various scriptures by great scholars and masters. There will be a large library and research centre where people can investigate all aspects of yoga and tantra as well as the other spiritual sciences. But yoga will not be the only subject taught and practised. There should be a microcosm of activities such as arts and crafts, music and dance. Healing and yoga will become the central motif, the nucleus of all these activities.

Swamiji clearly visualized all this while we were having our Satsangs and lectures in the open air under the green trees, with birds flying overhead. On these occasions, we all felt that we, as students, and he, as a great master, belonged to an eternal present. Transmission was given over to us in this immemorial setting.

During the one week seminar, Swamiji wanted us to live with him as much as possible, in a relaxed way, He could often be seen in the park, in the hall, on the lawn, and we were able to stop and converse with him. We had two classes a day outside in different scenic places. Early in the morning Swami Amritananda conducted a class of meditation and in the afternoon Swami Yogamudrananda gave yoga nidra. We enjoyed two Satsangs per day with Swami Satyananda, translated by Swami Yogabhakti. During these Satsangs Swamiji showed that every question could be tackled in a way which revealed the permanent wisdom of yoga and tantra and their relevance to our everyday life. Swamiji also gave private interviews and mantra diksha to many of us.

The focus of the seminar on natural transmission confused many participants. The French people are used to asking a lot of questions and wanted to have analytical explanations about yoga. You get this type of course very easily in the west, as there are plenty of excellent, high standard yoga teachers. So, at the beginning they expected Swami Satyananda to be nothing more than a super yoga teacher. Soon, however, they realized that knowledge is not only learned with a pencil in hand, but that there is something more important than words passing through the lips. There is the unheard speech that goes directly to the heart and it is called transmission.

This treasure was disclosed to an eager audience of seventy yoga teachers. These will undoubtedly form the core of the French groups to come to Monghyr for further training in 1981. From now on the presence of Swamiji will be expected by a growing group of French yogis.

The seeds of this seminar have taken root within the heart of the participants and they are looking forward to meeting Swamiji again. The people who had the privilege of joining this seminar all say that it has been the changing point in their spiritual life. This unique experience has matured and enabled them to continue their practices at a new level, in a different light.