Learning With a New Vision

Sannyasi Anandasagar, Bombay, on behalf of the students of BYB's pilot 4-month Certificate Course, September–December 1995.

We are gathered today to express our deep gratitude at the close of the first course of Bihar Yoga Bharati. We students are euphoric to be part of an historic happening. Bihar Yoga Bharati will become far more famous than Nalanda and Vikramshila of Bihar. They had Buddha and Buddhism as the mainstream. We have Swami Satyananda as the fountain-head and yoga as the nucleus. Krishna's teaching of yoga to Arjuna is analogous to Gurudev's teaching of yoga to Swami Niranjan. Just as Arjuna was nurtured and goaded by Krishna into supremacy over the war within and without, finally got his act together, and so became the drive leading to victory, likewise the 'Beacon of Light' does all the toiling and tilling behind the scenes, and when the time is ripe for the flowers to come to full bloom, then in elf-like fashion he takes a back seat and appears as a spectator to the show – hiding his impish smile and wearing a nonchalant look! Such is the essence of a truly great yogi. He is the epitome of yoga as taught in the Bhagavad Gita – this is precisely Gurudev's divine gift to humanity. Little wonder then what will be the future of Bihar Yoga Bharati!

The palatial structure of Bihar Yoga Bharati, so scientifically constructed with innumerable windows for cross ventilation, the enormous campus with lofty trees, plants, birds – why we even have cows and peacocks to boast of! – all this and much more befits the dignity of a truly great BYB. It is built on the alluvial soil of the banks of the meandering Ganges and the university throbs and pulsates with Guru's grace and benediction. Paramahamsaji may have left never to return but his spirit forever lives on.

For the study of languages, science, commerce, law and computers, the globe is flooded with universities, but Bihar Yoga Bharati is the very first yoga university in the world. The university is as unique as is the subject: YOGA. BYB does Bihar proud, does India proud and will do the world proud one day.

In the first batch were students from Ireland, Italy, Australia and different parts of India – people of different cultures, languages, backgrounds and walks of life. At first the students kept their distance and space, were apprehensive and clannish, then as the course got underway mixed and mingled, became friendly and finally friends. Came the yajna and we metamorphised into a large family. The yajna was the highlight of the course. Most of us had never and will never experience again anything as spiritual as a yajna. This ashram has no dearth of manpower yet we had the incredible fortune of being the chosen ones to serve at the Akhara. This, to my mind's eye, is the most auspicious service we have ever rendered. For we students those ten days were the most fulfilling and rewarding moment of our entire lives. Each one of us received so much on the subtle plane.

Now the time draws near to bid adieu and we feel a sense of loss and separation. Some of us might never meet again, but the flame, the yoga jyoti, that has kindled in our hearts we will carry with us as we continue to be part of the blossoming of BYB. A mother never forgets her children whether they leave home to work in Sydney, Ireland or Italy. Similarly, we shall always cherish memories of BYB as an endearing mother who gave us so much. She just gave and gave and we as her children just lapped it all up.

The academic side of the course was very satisfying with a wide range of studies, including yoga – practical and theoretical, ashram discipline, psychology, science, physiology, philosophy, all with yoga as their common denominator. It was truly a treat and a feast of knowledge. The entire ashram reverberated with the curiosity of knowing the vata, pitta, kapha ratio of their being. Some of us had studied something of some subjects, but we learnt with a new vision.

As Swami Savitananda said, “Today do your asanas as if you are learning them for the first time.” Come storms, fevers or broken ankles, she always came to the class ahead of time. She is a strict disciplinarian but behind that stern facade lies a very caring human being. She had a very tough time not only because she demands perfection and grace in asanas, she had to deal with a language barrier as well. We learnt trataka in Jyoti Mandir and ujjayi pranayama which should have a very gentle sound and be very soothing to the nerves. But the sounds were so magnified and audible, she was truly aghast. Next morning she admonished, “Your breathing was so laboured and loud, almost like one breathing his last,” and she demonstrated – “Ha, ha, ha, ha.”

Swami Sumitrananda with her perfect diction and hypnotic voice gave us the most peaceful yoga nidra one can conceive of. In her revision class she helped to settle our jumping prana shakti in prana mudra. She had a humorous way of explaining and drumming home a point. For the eye exercises she noted that some students used extended sideways vision!

All our teachers were very spiritual and dedicated and the manner of teaching was par excellence. Where do we find teachers of this quality of one-pointedness and inner beauty? Swami Vibhooti's lectures were like a bhajan. She commenced and closed every class with a beautiful quote, told us to put our pens away and close our eyes. “All of life is a journey, a spiritual journey. The path is uncharted, like a bird on wings. Those who are too goal-oriented miss the journey.” It was so etheric we were spaced out.

Swami Yogakanti daily, spontaneously, screamed, “Freeze”, and we really froze in horror to realize what our facial and body contortions were! She sat on the dais but spoke so coolly and casually I thought we were picnicking along the Ganges' banks. Swami Vigyanchaitanya was so sensitive that I worried about it and always carried an extra tissue 'lest pearls dropped from his eyes'. Swami Sureshwarananda said he belonged to the Dravidian race and spoke like a lion. Only later were we told that this was the first lecture he had delivered in his life! Sannyasi Yogasindhu spoke on the mind and we received lovely vibrations from him. With Dr Dharmavrat everyone got extremely interested in physiology, but when he finished we brooded over the loss, for then we really got stuck with the amoeba. Man proposes, God disposes. Swami Gyanbhikshu's diction was really something beyond beyond. He took us down a 'hazardous' journey and that's when the class roared with laughter. Unabashed, undeterred, he explained, “Guru's grace is everywhere.”

Last but not least came Swami Satyadharma with a bang and thunder. Her martinet disposition at once got those people who were wont to stroll in and out of class to perfect their ashwini and vajroli mudras. Her introductory lecture put us on the spot. “Just as when Columbus set sail believing the world to be flat, so are our lives flat,” she howled at us with her tender eyes and childlike smile. “Get up. Be aware. No one can emulate a saint of Guruji's stature, but at least we can try to build up our bank balance of prana and avoid squandering it with a big splash.” She had the chakras and the nadis as her part of the curriculum and with the help of the Ganges she washed away 75,000 nadis in each of us, including ida and pingala. Now only sushumna remains to be tackled. But why worry about the sleeping kundalini, we argue.

Academically, intellectually and on the manifest plane we received a great deal, and on the unmanifest dimension we received a thousand times more. Bihar Yoga Bharati, with the ashram as its backdrop, has little choice but to churn out beautiful people. Those who came to scoff remained to pray.

Finally a line on the sannyasins of the ashram who didn't come to the dais to teach. Their lives were so exemplary and inspirational. As Milton said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”