Serving His Neighbours

Swami Arundhati Saraswati, Canada

Paramahamsa Satyananda, who established Bihar School of Yoga in Munger, now lives in Rikhia, about 100 miles south-east of Munger. He settled there more than ten years ago, with just a small hut, and today his Akhara has many beautiful gardens and buildings, including a hospital clinic.

After a period of intense sadhana, in which he saw and spoke to no one, Paramahamsaji's insights led him to again actively pursue the difficult path of seva. He had the realization that his seva should benefit his neighbours, the surrounding villagers, so he started to see people again during November and December each year. At this time everyone is invited to come and join in the celebration of Sita Kalyanam and to bring an offering not of money but of articles for distribution to the local villagers.

Paramahamsaji's popularity is bringing people to Rikhia from all over the world, which is an experience in itself for the locals. Better than television, even if they had it! During Sita Kalyanam some set up stands selling tea and food along the road outside the Akhara premises. The local children help and in this way also have the opportunity to interact with the many different nationalities. So Paramahamsaji is providing the local people not only with an opportunity to earn some money, but at the same time he is giving livelihoods to the very needy and disabled in the communities that he has chosen to help.

Through the programs, which include yajna and pooja, first class performances of music and dance by renowned artistes, and chanting of Ramayana, Paramahamsaji is also reinforcing and showing the villagers their cultural wealth and spiritual heritage. It has become rare to see even one yajna performed in India, so to see nine yajnas performed in nine days was a real event.

Paramahamsaji is serving his neighbours, physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically as well. The children learn very quickly how to count in English and how to ask which country you are from. This exposure will certainly have some effect in the long run for these children who are from one of the poorest areas in the poorest state in India. Moreover, when you remember the shining faces of the locals who came for the programs, especially the children and their singing, you know they have enjoyed themselves.

My personal experience of Sita Kalyanam was one of complete saturation – and in a foreign language as well. For days I awoke to the sound of the yoginis' chanting in my consciousness. The level of creative energy was also high during that time. At Rikhia I was given the idea for a personal mantra to practise each day and it gave me great peace of mind. A lot of creative ideas for many areas of work also arose. It was a time to meet many people, both new and old faces. I am looking forward to doing it again but with greater insight and more awareness of my role in the whole pageant.

Watching the expression of the guru-disciple relationship between Paramahamsaji and Swami Niranjan was a beautiful and interesting experience. The two worked together masterfully to see that all the necessary explanations were in both English and Hindi. Swami Niranjan was completely focused on the progression of the program, moving it along according to his guru's wish. But both were still able to observe the whole event in a playful way. Paramahamsaji interacted on a one on one basis with everyone, even if it was just to hand them a gift.

What I learned from Sita Kalyanam is that we should come first and foremost as disciples, rather than for the entertainment. Sita Kalyanam is for the locals and we are allowed to participate as visitors. If we come to participate in this celebration in any way, we should be there for whatever the guru needs and not just to be entertained.