Resurgence of Yoga

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Convocation Speech at Sivananda Ashram, Paris in September 1981

Years ago I made a pronouncement that 'Yoga will emerge as a mighty culture. It will direct the course of human history.' Today, throughout the world, a great deal of discussion has already been initiated with regard to yoga. People of every faith are now talking about the possibility of introducing yoga into their existing cultures. At this critical time, all of you who have been authorised to teach yoga should understand your place in history, and direct your responsibilities.

Since yoga is a tool responsible for the transformation of consciousness, naturally every culture will be influenced by it. All the arts and sciences have been perceived and constructed by the higher qualities of the human mind. Therefore, if the quality of perception is upgraded, then the whole civilisation will also be upgraded.

A total science

In the early period, when yoga was first being introduced to the west, people thought it was just a few physical exercises. But when I emerged on the scene, I changed the entire view of yoga. At that time I told the western public that yoga was much more than body building and breathing exercises. In one of my first meetings with the eminent psychologists of France I said that yoga is a complete science for the whole personality. It covers every aspect of life, not merely psychic or physical, rational or therapeutic; every science that we have is integrally related to yoga.

This occurred in 1967, and from that time, yoga has been instrumental in bringing about a great spiritual awakening. The message of yoga has penetrated to every stratum of society. It has even reached through the iron curtain. So you can understand the impact yoga is having on the world today. Every culture will have to make a compromise with yoga. All the existing cultures and religions will be lost if they neglect yoga.

Within the last few years, as the scientists have gone ahead with their investigations, it has become very evident that yoga is a total science. Therefore, we must shed the idea that yoga is only related to a limited sphere of human life and culture. In the last 15 years or so, hundreds of thousands of people have come to the yogashrams to receive inspiration and to establish themselves on the higher path of yoga.

From 1968 up to now, I have been watching the ashrams grow. In fact, I am the guardian of the ashrams, and I have also noticed the high quality of tuition that they give. And whenever I see the yoga teachers who are trained at the ashrams, I am very happy to note that they have been able to assimilate my views.

Teaching yoga on a national scale

In the west many people have been thinking of teaching yoga on a national scale. In India we have already initiated this project. The Government of India has started yoga training in about 800 schools for central government employees. And out of 800 yoga teachers who have been selected recently to teach in these schools, the representation of those trained at the Munger ashram is the greatest.

In the industrial complexes

As well as this, we have also undertaken the teaching of yoga to coal miners all over India. In fact, the coal mining department in India, which is known as Coal India Ltd., has established an ashram which is run by five swamis from Munger. The heavy electricals and steel plants in the public sector have ashrams within the precincts run by us. We have also introduced a scheme whereby in the future all the public and private sector industries in India will have a provision in their statutes for the formation of a yoga institution, just as they have swimming pools and clubs there now. Another novel idea we have introduced to these big industries is holiday ashrams for their employees. These ashrams will be situated at health resorts, and when their employees go there on holidays, they will be given lessons on yoga along with other recreational activities.

In the prisons and jails

Over the last three years or so, yoga has slowly been introduced into the prisons and jails. Not only to improve the quality of crime, but we make it very clear that the prisoners are human beings. They have their own psychological and emotional problems, anxieties and worries. When someone is put in prison, you forget that he has his own problems. Criminals still have their own sexual problems; what are they going to do?

If you make them suppress these things, they will not come out reformed, but as improved criminals.

Therefore, in order to alleviate the psychosomatic or psycho-emotional symptoms of the prisoners, yoga is gradually being introduced into the jails. In fact, in one of the central jails in Maharashtra, a yoga teacher training course was conducted for the prisoners. And I happened to be the Chief Guest at the convocation ceremony for the distribution of the certificates. These prisoners who have become yoga teachers will be transferred to other jails where they will hold yoga seminars.

In the towns and villages

This is the way we have been trying to re-establish yoga in India, so far. Of course, yoga is not an absolute necessity here, because the majority of people in the villages live a life much more closely and intimately related to nature. They do not lead a life of stress and tension. For over fifty centuries the Indian mind has been formulated in a particular way to cope with the various vicissitudes. So, when these people ask me, 'Why should we practise yoga?' I cannot say for hypertension, heart attack, sciatica and diabetes, because they don't have these problems. They live a very different type of life. They don't know what insomnia is, what hypertension is, whereas in the western countries everyone knows very well.

Therefore, in India I tell the people to take up yoga as a higher human culture. I make them conscious of the real glory of yoga in the context of their own life and situation. I cannot tell them that yoga is for concentration of mind, because they already have that. Most Indians are very religious by faith, belief and temperament. I am not talking about the people living in big cities like Calcutta, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bombay or Madras. They are the representatives of the occidental culture. They are living in India, but they do not represent the Indian way of life.

A necessity in the Occident

In the Occident, yoga has become a necessity, because there everybody from a religious preacher down to a labourer is full of stress and strain. I have found in many European countries as well as in North and South America, that even the priests have psycho-emotional problems. They cannot sleep without the help of sedatives. Whatever the status of an individual, he is suffering hopelessly due to the stressful environment.

Therefore, I say that yoga is a necessity. And if yoga is a necessity then yoga teachers are also necessary. In the Occident, teaching yoga is not merely a profession for the sake of work. It is a profession for the sake of charity and compassion. All those who teach yoga must remember that they are teaching for the health, the welfare and the peace of many.

As you know, the practices of yoga go very deep in the transformation of the quality of mind and body both. Yoga teachers must understand that they are not only responsible for imparting intellectual knowledge. They should feel the responsibility of imparting the way to develop a higher quality of personality. They should not be satisfied only with teaching what is found in the textbooks. Yoga is first hand knowledge which must be transmitted through experience.

The schoolteachers must also start talking about yoga and they must initiate a free, frank and unbiased dialogue. The thousands of schoolteachers, who are responsible for the destiny of the nation, have to understand this, We have to decide how to work in such a way that yoga is able to reach as many people as possible in order to help them.

Plan for training future yoga teachers

Last September I attended an International Conference in Zinal, where yoga teachers from 48 countries were participating. I have been visiting this place for the last few years and I have tried my level best to put into their minds the necessity of developing the' status of yoga insofar as learning and teaching is concerned.

I know that there are many teacher training centres and I believe that these are all contributing something positive. But I would hesitate to expect outstanding results from them, because in order to achieve anything great, you must first have a plan. Aspirations have a place in life, but most important is a plan. And planning should be based on the pragmatic issues. Idealism is very good, but the plans have to be realistic.

Now, if you have to train large numbers for teaching yoga, you must take in the people from every sphere who are already acquainted with yoga. It is not necessary that they should be trained by you in the different aspects of yoga. Admit them first, and then teach them how to teach. So far as the techniques of yoga are concerned, let the people learn them from different teachers. But the important thing should be to establish a school or a training centre, where people are taught how to teach. And in such a training centre, the most effective methods of teaching must be imparted.

Then you must work out the details of the foundation of such a school. And you will find that in a few years, similar schools will spring up in other areas.

Maybe after this pilot project, the education department itself will start some more schools in other regions. If that happens, in the course of time, you can imagine the influence these teachers will have, not only on the masses but also on the prosperity of the nation. I think the schoolteachers in every country should participate in this movement. Thousands and thousands of teachers are the makers of the citizens of tomorrow. If all the teachers can equip themselves well with the process of teaching yoga, then you can definitely be sure of a posterity which carries positive and beneficial influences.