In Quest of the Divine

Sunday Times of India, 7.11.93

If the purpose of life is to find the Divine, then the Bihar School of Yoga at Munger provides the right ambience. Located on a large hill overlooking the Ganga, it is veritably a seat for spiritual learning and practice. Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati, the founder of this school, was supposed to have attained his enlightenment at a God-forsaken place in Munger, supposedly the citadel of daanvira Kama of the epic Mahabharata.

Having had his spiritual education under the tutelage of Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh for over twelve years, Paramahamsa Satyananda, who had taken to a parivrajaka life and traveled extensively in different parts of the Indian sub-continent, came to Munger in 1956, "not with the idea of founding an ashram, of creating a tradition or of teaching and preaching, but to live by myself and understand myself more.

"During this period from 1956 to 1963 I came to understand the vibrations that seemed to have remained in the place even after five thousand years. On the desolate, deserted and barren hillock of Kama Chowra, I sat for days, weeks and months but did not know exactly what it was that I was assimilating.

"All that I knew was that Maharaja Kama was a man who used to give gold in charity.... I thought that this seat that I occupy is not really for me. If Kama gave gold, I cannot give even a morsel of food, because I have nothing but two dhotis which are all my wealth".

In 1963, his mission seemed to unfold before him; that he must be the instrument in heralding the dawn of the psychic age, that he could achieve it by spreading the message of yoga, i.e. the message of peace. "If Kama's age demanded gold, this age demands peace - shanti inside, shanti outside and shanti everywhere. The one who is able to distribute shanti, the way of peace, is the Kama of today, and I think I should not be modest but say openly that I now sit on his throne and that to offer peace has been my desire."

Fired by this desire to spread the message of peace "From door to door to door and shore to shore", Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati founded the International Yoga Fellowship movement with a view to creating a global fraternity of yoga. The Bihar School of Yoga (BSY) came into existence the same year, though on a modest scale. Apparently, Paramahamsaji built the original institution almost single handed.

But as Paramahamsaji began to spread within and outside the country, and more and more devotees began to flock to Munger, it became a pressing necessity to create a larger institution.

A lot of his disciples pooled the resources and made a bid to acquire the hilly terrain which had supposedly housed Mir Quasim, whose valour and stiff resistance to the British forces is part of the folklore in the region.

No wonder some people, instigated by the then Member of Parliament from the area, strongly opposed the move. Their apparent contention was that a historical monument must not be allowed to be tampered with. Many also made insinuations that the foreigners might be Christian missionaries on the sly. Some even pointed accusing fingers at them as spies and drug peddlers.