A Colonel's Trip to Ganga-Darshan

Col. O.P. Kohli, Calcutta

Recently I decided to visit Bihar School of Yoga, Munger and spend a few days at the new hilltop ashram Ganga Darshan. Besides the warm welcome received upon arrival, I noticed that the whole place was fragrant with Swami Satyananda's physical presence. I saw a lot of activity in progress. The weather was pleasant as the rains had just set in and, of course, Ganga was ever attractive.

To get into the ashram routine, I went to bed early that night and had a luxurious sleep after the day long road journey. Next morning, after the morning therapy class and breakfast, I had the pleasure of meeting with Swamiji who, with his inimitable approach, at once put me at ease. This helped me immensely in settling down to the routine of Ganga Darshan. As if everything was to happen during my short stay, the next day the operation 'kitchen shift' was executed. This naturally led to a lot of karma yoga besides simplification of the food, which raised a few eyebrows amongst the TTC students. However, all complaints soon died down once the kitchen got going again in full swing at Ganga-Darshan. This was an important landmark in the history of Ganga Darshan as they were preparing for the big celebration of Guru Poornima and all the cooking and serving was to be done at the new ashram.

Then there was karma yoga in the garden, as well as hectic building activity going on by contract. One day when the labourers' tools were being used for gardening, the swami in-charge of construction lost his temper with the karma yogis because the paid labourers were bereft of their implements. This practical lesson was followed by a yoga nidra session and further anecdotes by the teacher until dinner commenced.

The office is another area providing facilities for karma yoga, particularly the writing and checking of addresses for the despatch of the Yoga and Yoga Vidya magazines. There always seemed to be many volunteers on hand there as well as full timers to check and allocate the work.

The following morning, some of my friends in the army came up to meet Swamiji. It was an interesting session wherein he advised the simple soldiers to be practical karma yogis.

The day's lunch had an attraction of chillies besides the previous meal's rotis (perfectly fit for human consumption) not going to waste. This was followed by coffee instead of the usual tea at two p.m., of course with the strict discipline of no second helping till the first was given to all. It was quite an interesting experience to watch people cooking in the temporary kitchen outside along with the silent preparation for Guru Poornima.

With no dairy products, breakfast at 6:30a.m., simple vegetarian lunch at 10a.m., afternoon tea at 1p.m. and evening meal at 5p.m., one really has to be mentally prepared to make the best of one's stay at Ganga Darshan. Of course, the fare is not as drab as it appears from the timings and simplicity. There are always compensations like chillies, salt, achar, chutney, mangos, etc. to make each meal a feast for a casual visitor. So much so, I was fortunate to have halwa for breakfast on the day I was leaving, as if a special party had been arranged for me.

Meanwhile my lessons in asana, pranayama and meditation were going ahead and I was having very interesting discussions with the Doctor Swamis and others. There was also oneness with nature, plants and birds, in the ideal environment being created by Bihar School of Yoga, which has to be experienced to be believed.

This was my maiden experience of ashram life, and I cherish every moment of my stay there. It has also helped me immensely in combating physical, mental and emotional tensions. While I was looking forward to the relief of tensions, meditational experience (about which I had no idea) ended as a special plus point for me.

At Ganga Darshan the whole atmosphere is permeated by laughing, joking sannyasins, young and old, all living in the spirit of the Lord under the holy guidance of Swamiji. I was on a different feeling level from the moment I arrived and was hoping that my stay there would not come to an end. But for washing of clothes, there was never a dull moment. The Teacher Training Course lectures added more interest to my stay.

You can count your experiences for whatever they are worth. Learn to wash and clean and come to Mother-earth. Learn to share everything and look after yourself. Learn to develop physical awareness before proceeding to mental and spiritual awareness. For me it was like benefiting from an endless fountain of dedication, love and spirit.

If ever you decide to visit Bihar School of Yoga, do plan to spend 10 to 15 days there at least. Don't forget to buy some BSY publications soon after getting there. The ashram life refreshes you besides limbering you up physically and holding you at ease mentally and emotionally, relaxing your mind for the present as well as for the future.

Bihar School of Yoga is in this world yet out of this world. In fact, I did not see Munger at all the whole time I was there. So don't get discouraged because of Munger being high on the crime list. BSY inmates and visitors are treated with all respect and are the safest in this very district. Ganga is most beautiful and takes a complete turn there. Ganga Darshan is a must for all times. There are all kinds of activities going on to complete this monumental development. It is a challenging task but the spirit of Swamiji is always there, permeating every undertaking.

Finally, let me confess that before my visit to Ganga Darshan I thought I had managed a solution to 99% of my problems, but the remaining 1% was still causing me 99% worries. After my visit I found the weight of 99% worries (which were still lingering because of my not being able to tackle the remainder of my 1% problems) disappearing because of this experience which helped me to realise the way life is to be viewed. In my last meeting with Swamiji, before taking leave from Ganga Darshan, he uttered the following words, which still ring in my ears today: 'Happiness is more important than life.'