When Sri Swamiji came to Bihar during his wanderings, he realized its dormant potential. The shakti of Bihar is dormant spiritual energy. In the past, many great personalities have recognized the potential of Bihar. Buddhism and Jainism have their roots in Bihar. The tenth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Govinda Singh, hailed from Bihar. The entire movement to liberate India from British control started in Bihar. Whether in the past or in the present, many of the major movements that have shaped this country, and which in their own way have also influenced the global culture, have germinated in Bihar. The soil of Bihar is very rich, spiritual and vibrant and it was the energy of the land which said to Sri Swamiji, The next revolution is going to take place from here and it will be a silent yogic revolution.
In the course of time, Sri Swamiji established Bihar School of Yoga at Munger in l963. Bihar School of Yoga was to become the headquarters of the International Yoga Fellowship Movement. The school had humble origins. In the beginning there were about six of us living with Sri Swamiji in Munger, aspiring to be sannyasins, undergoing every kind of hardship with a lot of fun and joy, but with absolute discipline. Our only thought was obedience to the mandates of the guru without desiring personal fulfilment. We were the raw material and Sri Swamiji used every method possible to make us learn the concept of discipline and obedience. And he was successful. I am proud to belong to that generation who received training in discipline and obedience.
This became part of the sannyasa training at Bihar School of Yoga. Establishing an ashram is not difficult, but training people to understand a tradition, a concept, a process and a system, and to make them live it, is difficult, and that was the purpose of our training. Sri Swamiji exposed us to every conceivable kind of situation. One day he said, I want to prepare a team of sannyasins. I will dedicate a garland of 108 sannyasins for the fulfilment of my guru's mandate; but I don't want butter sannyasins, rather I want tempered steel sannyasins. With this sankalpa the first sannyasa course started in 1971 with 108 aspirants. In 1973, after the course was over, these sannyasins went to different parts of the country and different parts of the globe, and laid the foundations for the yoga work.
This was the sense of duty, commitment and vision which we imbibed, and it is one quality which I admire in people who claim to be sannyasins. Sannyasins without a sense of duty are not sannyasins. Sannyasins who think that society will recognize and respect them if they are independent, and that they will preach and teach, are only exploring their ambitions, desires, samskaras and karmas.
Sadhana does not purify or remove the samskaras and karmas of the aspirant. Sadhana can give a glimpse of what lies ahead, but purification has to take place through karma yoga. That is kartavya, that is seva, that is dharma responsibility, service and obligation. For the sannyasins trained by Sri Swamiji, karma yoga became the means to imbibe the sense of duty, commitment and yogic vision.
In the 1970s yoga took off as a movement around the globe. Bihar School of Yoga's objective was to coordinate the activities of yoga, to provide training in yoga and to provide facilities and an infrastructure where further research into yoga could be conducted. Many courses were conducted at Bihar School of Yoga to train teachers, to train sannyasins and also to propagate yoga by conducting outside programs. Specialized yoga training for industry and for different sections of society became part of the regular activities of Bihar School of Yoga.
In 1984, when Sri Swamiji knew that the infrastructure which he had created for the development and growth of yoga was complete, and a stage had been reached where things would continue to move according to their own momentum, he established another institution known as Sivananda Math to inspire people in the art of service, in memory of Swami Sivananda, his inspirer and our ideal.
Yoga is a process of personal development, a path for those who want relief from sickness and suffering, who want to attain peace and harmony, who want to experience expansion and transcendence. Through Sivananda Math, those associated with yoga can become aware of a different dimension, one of selfless involvement in society to help people in need. The concept of service and participation in the upliftment of human society by fulfilling people's immediate needs and making them self-reliant in life became the focus of Sivananda Math.
The teaching of Swami Sivananda had been, as Sri Swamiji has always emphasized, Give, give and give. One can give help to others as charity either as a short-term or a long-term benefit. Sri Swamiji expressed this thought to clarify the concept of giving: If a person is hungry don't give him fish to eat; rather teach him how to fish so he is never hungry. When a person is given food to eat, it is enough for only one meal, after which the hands will again be stretched out for more. But if you teach that person to survive in this changing environment and world with dignity, happiness and contentment, then that is real giving. In this form of giving, all the principles defined by Swami Sivananda came together: service, love, charity, compassion, understanding the suffering of others. In order to inspire the yoga practitioners and sannyasins to connect with other people and help them in times of need, Sivananda Math was created.
At the same time, in order to inspire research into yoga, Sri Swamiji established another institution which is known as the Yoga Research Foundation. Credit goes to the Yoga Research Foundation for inspiring and gathering together a team of qualified professionals and doctors who are able to do sound scientific research into different aspects of yoga.
While Sri Swamiji was travelling throughout the Indian subcontinent as a parivrajaka sannyasin, the inspiration came that he should establish a movement which would represent a world yogic family, and which would be comprised of people who were willing to live the yogic lifestyle, the spirit of yoga and follow the yogic precepts.
So, in 1956, he founded the International Yoga Fellowship Movement which had very humble beginnings. Sri Swamiji continued to travel carrying this message of yoga, giving programs and satsang, perfecting his own sadhana, meeting with people from every section of society and helping them not only in a spiritual and yogic way, but also in a physical and social way. The International Yoga Fellowship Movement began as a philosophical movement and later on, as people became more and more attached to the subject, philosophy and practice of yoga, a need was felt to establish a centre which would become the focal point for people to learn the principles and practices of yoga and spiritual life.
Bihar School of Yoga was established by Sri Swamiji in 1963 with two specific aims. The first was to train aspirants in the sannyasa tradition, and the second was to train aspiring individuals in the yogic tradition. When Sri Swamiji established Bihar School of Yoga, it was clear to him that if yoga was to be taken to human society as a science, as a lifestyle, as a belief and as the culture of humanity, this could only be achieved by people who had been exposed to the principles of yoga, who were devoted and dedicated to the cause of yoga and who had experienced spiritual discipline. These people were the sannyasins. So the sannyasa tradition and the yogic tradition merged together at Bihar School of Yoga.
Rigorous training for sannyasins started and, in the course of time, these sannyasins became the pioneers of research into the hidden, unknown, metaphysical and esoteric aspects of yoga. They had to know and understand the benefits of yoga in relation to human health, the human mind and human evolution. This combination of sannyasa and yoga made a major impression on the propagation of yoga in India and abroad.
This vision of Sri Swamiji gave a new dimension and meaning to the sannyasa tradition as well. In the '40s, '50s and '60s, sannyasa was believed to be a means of renouncing the material world, of giving up social responsibilities and adopting the lifestyle of a recluse. It was through the efforts of Sri Swamiji and other disciples of Swami Sivananda that sannyasins were later recognized as upholders of the tradition, as the preservers of vidya, spiritual knowledge.
Sri Swamiji declared that sannyasins are concerned with nothing in life except vidya. That is the main aim of sannyasa. Vidya in this age is associated, not with physical or mental yoga, but with holistic yoga, combining the lifestyle with the physical, mental and spiritual aspects, thus leading to the development of a balanced personality, to harmony between body, mind and spirit, and to restraint and wisdom in the management of the sensorial and sensual world.
This being the main thrust of the yogic teachings, many different courses, classes and activities were prepared and presented through the aegis of Bihar School of Yoga. People came and studied yoga, wrote articles and books on yoga from their experiences and understanding, and compiled scientific research documents. People gave their expertise in conducting specialized yoga programs for different industries and for individuals in different strata of society. Others lent their skills to different programs for managing the imbalances and distortions of the mind and personality. Many helped in the management of the yoga programs and activities of Bihar School of Yoga. Slowly, through the efforts of Sri Swamiji, the mystique of yoga was revealed as systematic, practical and scientific. Even today this is the main focus of Bihar School of Yoga and it will be maintained that way. It represents the aspiration and vision of a seer.
In 1984 Sri Swamiji established Sivananda Math, dedicated to the memory of Swami Sivananda. Sivananda Math aims to involve human participation in the development of humankind. It provides an outlet and a direction for yoga aspirants to express their positive and creative qualities and capacities for the welfare of all. It helps to connect one person with another. It shows care and concern for the down-trodden, deprived and weaker sections of humanity. Sivananda Math upholds the ideals of Swami Sivananda: Serve, Love, Give, Purify. All the activities of Sivananda Math revolve around these four principles.
Service is an art, loving is an art, giving is an art and purification is an art. Serve! Serving others with no expectations is the highest spiritual ideal as stated in all the ancient scriptures and traditions. Love! Loving everyone is the unconditional aspect of human personality, without expecting anything in return, without being obsessive and possessive. Give! Giving is an art as its purpose is to make people independent and free, not dependent on charity. Giving is not charity or assistance; giving should have the aim of making people self-reliant and able to stand on their own two feet. That wisdom, that knowledge, that realization has to come with giving. This leads to purification of the confined, restrictive, limiting tendencies of human nature. Purify! Purification is the first step to attaining realization. Without purification one cannot move forward. Sivananda Math is dedicated to these ideals of Swami Sivananda.
In the same year, in order to give a more practical, dynamic and scientific direction to yoga, Sri Swamiji created another institution known as the Yoga Research Foundation. The aim of this institution is to conduct and coordinate the yogic research performed by individuals, by professionals, by scientists and by different institutions, to compile and present this research as an alternative method to understanding the process of yoga, and to preserve the knowledge that evolves through research.
In 1988 Sri Swamiji renounced everything that he had created and left Munger as a wandering mendicant, ready and open for God to guide him into the next phase of life. After undergoing many revelations and experiences during his wanderings, he returned to Bihar and settled in Rikhia, a hamlet six kilometres from Deoghar. What happened there was not his planning. Something spontaneous and natural developed which today we recognize as the means to preserve the tradition of sannyasa, ascetics and Paramahamsas. At Rikhia an infrastructure developed around Sri Swamiji which is recognized as Paramahamsa Alakh Bara, whose aim is to uphold the ideals of sannyasa and sadhana, and to understand the ideals of vairagya and viveka, dispassion and discrimination. Here Sri Swamiji was guided, and is still guided, to perform certain vedic sadhanas which have paved the way for sannyasins to understand the sannyasa tradition and the components of sadhana involved in it, and to realize that one should never lose the inspiration and the focus in one's life.
Bihar Yoga Bharati is an extension of the work initiated by Bihar School of Yoga. This transition is a natural outcome as the aim of Bihar School of Yoga was to preserve and to regenerate the tradition of sannyasa and the pure knowledge of yoga in order to make people realize the different aspects, dimensions, principles and practices of yoga, to help attain restraint of the physical senses and harmony of the mental senses, indriya nigraha, ekagrata and atma samyam. Realization of the spiritual dimension of yoga has been the thrust of Bihar School of Yoga.
In order to make this understanding and knowledge accessible to different strata of society, and to inspire people to study, research and experience yoga as a way of life, Bihar Yoga Bharati came into existence. Bihar Yoga Bharati aims to make a connection with every individual's life in the physical, mental, spiritual and social dimensions, to encourage the process of learning and imbibing yoga through an academic system, and to award certificates, diplomas and master's degrees to those who achieve competence and are outstanding in yogic subjects.
The main purpose of Bihar Yoga Bharati is to initiate six different kinds of studies. Three are related with the principles, practices and applied aspects of yoga: they are Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Psychology and Applied Yogic Science. The other three areas of study are Indology, Ecology and Languages in order to go deep into the tradition and the scriptures to understand their practical and applied meaning.
So far Bihar Yoga Bharati has been successful in following the timetable it has created for itself. Courses in Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Psychology and Applied Yoga have been successfully implemented. This shows the level of competence and understanding of the sannyasins and the participants. The subjects are being fine-tuned by both teachers and students. Everything is flowing, the ideas are clear.
Yoga as an experience has touched the lives of many people within India and throughout the world. Many have found something in this structure of yoga which is applicable to them. Whether a professional or a novice, a tradesperson or an industrial worker, a member of a hierarchy or a member of a social club, a student or a householder, each one has found something in yoga which has satisfied their needs.
It is not important that they all practise yoga daily in their lives. After one has attained what one was looking for, there is no need to pursue it further because the desire has been fulfilled. However, the practice of yoga does not stop permanently. Although we do not eat chocolate every day, we enjoy its taste to the fullest whenever we do. It is the same with yoga. There are some people who practise yoga diligently for a month then stop, start again and once more benefit from the practice. While practising, they enjoy it too because it has not been imposed on them. In this way everybody has found something relevant in yoga.
There are a substantial number of yoga practitioners throughout the world. Yoga is very popular in Australia, in European countries and also in North and South America. In Scandinavian countries at least seventy percent of the population knows about yoga. Today yoga has also become popular in India. If we were to take the percentage of every country in which yoga is practised, the number of yoga practitioners around the world would be considerable.