The President of India at Ganga Darshan

Welcome by Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati

The seed of this visit, Your Excellency, was sown forty-five years ago at Rishikesh when you met Swami Sivananda on the banks of the Ganges, a meeting which you have described vividly in your autobiography Wings of Fire. So naturally we are happy that you have come here as this is his place, created as a living tribute to him by his most dynamic and spiritually accomplished disciple Paramahamsa Satyananda, who, having renounced all of this, now lives at Rikhia in the state of Jharkhand.

Your Excellency, in the Treta Yuga Rishi Vishwamitra gave the Brahmastra to Lord Rama. Now, thousands of years later, in Kali Yuga, you have given the same gift to the people of this land. We therefore welcome you as the President of a great nation, as well as a rishi of the twentyfirst century. We are confident that your visit will generate new ideas in the field of both science and spirituality.

On behalf of all present, I thank Your Excellency for coming here today. I now request His Excellency to interact with the residents of Ganga Darshan and the children of Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal of Munger.

Address by His Excellency Dr. A.J.P. Abdul Kalam, President of the Republic of India

Namaskara, good morning to all of you, to Swami Dharmashakti, Swami Niranjanananda, Swami Satyasangananda and, of course, venerable Swami Sivananda, whom I always cherish in my memory.

Friends, what can I tell you? You are in Bihar Yoga Bharati, which creates a beautiful body and mind. I admire the great founders of this organization, and so I would like to thank the Almighty for giving the people of India such a beautiful place in which they can dream, think and transform themselves into enlightened citizens.

I want to tell you about an important incident that happened in my life in 1958. Some of you will have read about it in Wings of Fire. But for the young people here who have not come across the book, I thought I would repeat it.

When I was a young boy, I dreamt that I would fly. I had a fantastic teacher, Sivasubramania Iyer, who gave me the idea that I must take to science and do something connected with flight. So I went into aeronautical engineering and graduated in 1957, a long time ago.

I wanted to become a pilot. That was my dream. I applied to the Air Force and was asked to attend an interview with the Air Force Selection Board at Dehra Dhun. So I travelled all the way from my home in the island town of Rameshwaram, in the south of India, across the sea, from Mandabam to Chennai, from Chennai to Delhi, from Delhi to Dehra Dhun. It was the first time I had seen the whole of India, this beautiful land of different cultures.

The grown-ups and the swamis know what happened in the interview, but I'll describe it for the young people present. In four days you had to do all sorts of things: run,do gymnastics, attend interviews and group discussions. Out of twenty-five applicants, eight were to be selected. After four days of difficult tasks, nine were selected. I was the ninth, but they wanted only eight. I was told I had a good chance because normally one fellow would not pass the medical exam. However, for some reason, by God's grace, all the eight got through the medical, and so I was not selected.

I was very dejected, so I decided to take a bus to Delhi via Rishikesh and Haridwar. That was the route I selected. I started from Dehra Dhun in the early morning. When I arrived in Rishikesh, suddenly the beautiful vista of the Ganges appeared in front of me, that crystal clear water coming from the Himalayas. I felt like taking a bath, even though it was November. After bathing in the Ganges, I was putting on my dhoti, when I looked over at the opposite riverbank. There I saw the most beautiful, happy building.

Automatically I was attracted to that building, which was Swami Sivananda's ashram. Swami Sivananda was sitting on a pedestal giving satsang to hundreds of people. I was sitting in the very last row.

After his discourse on the Bhagavad Gita, normally he would randomly select two people from the crowd for an interview. I was one of the two selected. I don't know what made him select me. He called me to his chamber, then he looked at me and said in Tamil, “What's your name?” “Abdul Kalam,” I replied. “Why are you sad,“ he asked. This great one, this chosen one, this godly person, knew of my sorrow! I replied, “Swamiji, I will tell you the facts. I had come from an interview with the Air Force Selection Board and I was not selected to be a pilot.”

Swami Sivananda looked at me. I was such a small fellow in front of him. Then he opened the Bhagavad Gita at the eleventh chapter, Vishwaroopa darshan, in which Lord Krishna appears in front of Arjuna in all His forms. When Arjuna tells Krishna he is afraid of fighting in the Kurukshetra war, Krishna tells him, “Defeat the defeatist tendency.” That is a great message. Swami Sivananda asked me to repeat the statement “Defeat the defeatist tendency” three times. I repeated it three times and I was cheered up. He then gave me twenty of his books published in Tamil and English. It was such a great experience.

So, friends, I will never forget this incident in my life. I am now in the seventy-second orbit of the sun, which means my age is seventy-one. One orbit around the sun takes one year, so I have completed seventy-one orbits. Swami Sivananda's mantra: “Defeat the defeatist tendency” is always with me and that great philosophy and advice which Lord Krishna gave to Arjuna always comes to me whenever I'm in trouble.

I wish you all the best. God bless you.

Vote of thanks by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

It is an honour to express our gratitude to His Excellency, the President of the Republic of India, Dr. A.J.P. Abdul Kalam, for gracing Ganga Darshan Gurukul and the town of Munger with his august presence. This town has the unique distinctionof housing the first University of Yoga in the world, which is the culmination of the vision of His Holiness, Swami Sivananda Saraswati, carried forward by his illustrious disciple Paramahamsa Satyananda. I have had the opportunity to meet His Excellency in the past and know that he is well versed in the Indian spiritual lore and is ever striving to bring science and spirituality closer.

Today, on behalf of the citizens of Munger, the Bihar Yoga family and the children of Munger, I convey our gratitude to the President of the Republic of India for coming to Munger and extend an open invitation to visit Rikhiadham, the tapobhoomi, of Paramahamsa Satyananda in Jharkhand.