Bihar Yoga Bharati Convocation Address

Address by the Paramacharya and Chancellor at the first convocation of Bihar Yoga Bharati on November 12, 2002. Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

It is a moment of great happiness as today we have accomplished a chapter in the history of yoga. We are witnessing this particular moment in time after an interval of many thousands of years. There have been many convocations in India and around the world. However, what sets this convocation apart is that the education provided here and the degree you have received here is not in a subject which falls in the normal social and academic environment, but in a cultural, a spiritual and a yogic subject. This degree in yoga is cultural, spiritual and academic - all three. It is being awarded after a gap of many thousands of years to a group of students who have completed their education in the spiritual sciences. This event is historic in nature.

Although the beginning of Bihar Yoga Bharati is small and simple, remember that a giant tree comes from a small seed. Today we are witnessing the sprouting of this seed, and the planting has been successful. Even confirmation from Lord Indra has been received, in the form of rain. When a seed is planted, you need to give it some water, not so much that it floods the ground and destroys the seed, but enough to provide it with humidity, sustenance and nourishment. This is what has happened today.

What has been the history of yoga in this present age? In the sixties the word yoga was almost unknown in India or abroad. It was only in the early 1970s that yoga came to society and became popular with the public, albeit for reasons of physical health, or with ideas of managing one's stress levels, learning how to relax through the practices of yoga. Today yoga has definitely become an international subject in the sense that people from different walks of life, cultures, traditions and religions find solace and relief through yoga, whether physiological, psychological or spiritual.

The yogic wave

In the past there have been masters who have talked about yoga, but now yoga has emerged as a wave. In The First Wave, the writer Alvin Toffler spoke about the agrarian revolution which changed society. In The Second Wave, he talked about the industrial revolution which changed human life. In The Third Wave, he speaks of semi-autonomous societies, groups and cultures which will be self-sufficient and which will also have a strong psychological and mental character. And today, yoga is the fourth wave.

It is this yogic wave that will give an indication of what a human being can become. Whether you call that being a new man, or a superman, or a man of stable wisdom, sthitaprajna, the fact is that yoga opens up different possibilities for the individual to experience that creative nature within. This creative change that we feel, experience and attain within, eventually reflects in the betterment of human society and human civilization.

How can one progress in the material dimension, in the social environment, if there is no mastery, knowledge or understanding of one's own nature? Human civilization and human society has always aspired to achieve the best in life, but the greatest failure of human civilization has been in the ability to know oneself. This is not a philosophical question. It is not even a spiritual discovery. If you live in a house, you have to know what is in it; which utensils are in the kitchen, what the contents of the bedroom and sitting room are. Just as we are aware of each and every item in our house because we live there, so we have to be aware of each and every expression and experience of mind and senses and body because we live here, and that is something that has not been done so far. Our search for pleasure, for happiness, for satisfaction has been sensorial, sensual and external. We have negated those aspects of our nature that can be cultivated and developed to bring forth a different expression of personality.

This new expression of human personality and nature, a homogeneous, balanced approach, is the yogic approach. Yoga does not aspire to make one religious. Yoga has presented clear ideas in believing, in knowing and in teaching that spirituality is different from religious behaviour. Spirituality is a connection with the inner spirit. It is a connection between the spirit and the mind. It is a connection between the mind and matter. The ability to creatively use the faculties of the senses, the brain, the mind and the spirit is what makes one a yogi.

Becoming master of one's life

In this context a yogi is a complete being. We have been fortunate in our lifetime to have encountered the teachings of great yogis, the saints and savants of the age. In every tradition, in every culture, in every civilization, such people who have become masters, who have attained unity of body, mind and spirit have come forward to indicate a way by which we can make ourselves creative and more enlightened. This journey of yoga in the last forty years has been the turning point in the history of humanity. From being a subject confined to yogis and sadhus in remote corners of the mountains in isolation, yoga has become a science, idea and practice which is being applied more and more at different levels of society for the improvement of personalities, mentalities, attitudes and habits. The ultimate aim? Becoming master of one's own life.

God is a distant reality in the life of a person. Strive to realize it, yes! But also know that the vision of God or the vision of the Higher Self is only an outcome of having attained creativity inside. Just as a headache or hypertension are symptoms of a high stress level in the body, in the same way God-realization or the vision of God is also an outcome, a symptom, of a person who has become creative in all dimensions of life. Therefore, do not think of God-realization as being different from the effort we make to improve ourselves. If we say that God made man in His image, then definitely by looking at ourselves we will also discover who God is. It is no use saying, "I am God," because you are not God. In order to experience that godly nature there has to be a different quality within you. As long as gold contains impurities it cannot be an ornament. Only when the gold has been fired, the impurities removed and a shape given can that raw gold be appreciated. In the same way, we are the raw gold, we have not yet been fired; the impurities have not yet been removed. We are just a lump of gold in the ground; the jewellery is yet to be made.

This idea is expressed in Indian thought. A blind man wants to see the sun, but is seeing the sun the priority of a blind man? It may be his desire, his cherished aspiration, but not his need. His need is not to see the sun, but to have eyes.

If that blind man has eyes, he can look not only at the sun but at the entire creation and admire its beauty. In the same manner, God-realization can be our wish, our cherished desire, but not our need. Our need is to be able to manage the conflicts that disturb our peace and success. The moment we are able to manage our inner conflicts, confusions and complexes and develop truthfulness, honesty, integrity, humility, compassion and love, we will experience the divine nature.

This is the vision of yoga. Develop eyes. If we are blind, then our effort should be to ensure that we have sight. We are all blind, obsessed by our own egos. We are blind due to our own creations of ideas, concepts and beliefs. We build a house, but we close the windows and doors and we live inside the house in total isolation. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "In my house I want the windows and the doors to remain open so that the winds of different cultures and creeds can flow through my house." This is the statement of a person who aspires for openness, integrity and homogeneity in life. This is what we have to become. This was the inspiration given by our paramguru Swami Sivanandaji. The same inspiration and vision was carried forward by his competent disciples, one of them being our own guru, Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

Develop humility and compassion

In this journey of yoga, with the awarding of degrees to the successful candidates, we have taken a step in furthering that vision of the saints of India. This degree in yoga represents your inclination to live and believe in a lifestyle and idea which is transcendental and yogic. After all, you all had the opportunity to take up any profession, to go to any university in the country, to study any subject you wished. Why did you choose yoga? Whatever your reasons may be for choosing yoga, now that you have the degree and a growing understanding of what yoga is, the seed that has been planted in you will grow. In order for the seed to sprout, the seed has to die. In order for a yogi to emerge, the self-centred ego has to die.

Satyam vada - speak the truth, has no meaning if the ego is not dead. Dharmam chara - walk the righteous path, has no meaning if the ego is alive. As the recipient of the degree, now you have to ensure that you kill your ego gracefully. Killing the ego gracefully can happen by developing humility, integrity, serenity, honesty, truthfulness, love and compassion. Vidya dadati vinayam - knowledge gives humility. The way to overcome Ego is through humility. Nature provides the example. The tree which stands upright during a storm usually breaks in two and the blade of grass which bends in a storm can survive a thousand storms. It is humility and compassion that are used as instruments to develop a pure personality.

Today's Convocation Day of Bihar Yoga Bharati is Sankalpa day. You have received the degree. May it brighten up the space above your mantelpiece. But after you hang your degree on the wall, what will happen? Does it only remain a showpiece? No. You have to prove to be worthy of the degree before you die. If you can prove your worth before you die, you will inspire many others to recognize their worth. And that is the greatest service that you, as yoga practitioners, can do for others. Help people to recognize their worth, help people to recognize their inner strength, and to use these for the creation of a better life, a better society and a better community.

It was Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, our paramguru, who originally envisioned the idea of a yoga university for the benefit of humanity. Swami Satyananda then brought forth the sankalpa to fulfil his guru's wish through creating the Ganga Darshan complex, and with his ongoing blessings and guidance we can say that this sankalpa has truly come to fruition - the university is now firmly established. And the future remains bright and promising as BYB continues to mature and expand.

My heart is full because I have been looking forward to the first convocation of Bihar Yoga Bharati since its foundation. Today the successful MA and MSc candidates for 2000-2002 have received degrees from Bihar Yoga Bharati. In this convocation degrees have also been given by T.M Bhagalpur University to the 1998-2000 and 1999-2001 candidates. I am sure that the goodwill of everyone will continue to inspire you to live the yogic life and to walk the yogic path. It is with gratefulness to the inspirers of our tradition, Sri Swami Sivanandaji and Sri Swami Satyanandaji, that I wish you all the best and success in your life, and may you fulfil the aspiration of ancient India - Atma deepo bhava.