The Land of a Thousand Suns

Swami Vashishthananda Saraswati, Canada

In the Puranas, whenever a great deva like Lakshmi, Saraswati, Shiva or Vishnu appears to the rishis, yogis and devotees, it is described as like the rising of a thousand suns. My experience of Rikhia is always like that. After descending from the train and boarding a trekker to the Akhara, I always practise stage one of antar mouna, awareness of the whole environment, and allow all experiences to manifest spontaneously and clearly. Usually the first voices I hear from all sides as we ride through the gorgeous countryside of Jharkhand are greeting me with "Namo Narayana", prompted by the geru we wear. Especially the voices of children ring out loud and clear, full of vigour, joy and sincere love and good will. What magic Sri Swamiji has wrought with that simple device of yoga and tantra - the mantra. Everywhere, those who can see will encounter signposts of the working of Sri Swamiji at so many levels of experience. These little voices coming from all directions all the way to the Akhara awaken in me the inner vision of so many little suns burning brightly and ready to expand in time to the fullness of the sun, the poorna.

There are larger suns all converging on the Akhara from around the world. The acharyas, swamis and teachers of Satyananda Yoga, the students of BYB, and countless devotees of Sri Swamiji. All these suns combined are nothing as compared to the sun that shines at the Akhara, but each is shining by the same light that illumines that central sun. Next, as the car pulls to the gates of the Akhara, the heat and light intensifies, fuelled by the intense devotion of those blessed by living and serving close to Sri Swamiji. The love that radiates between me and all these beautiful souls is usually completely overwhelming, and only hugging them all individually as we meet allows me to keep my feet on the ground. I have come to the heart of my home. Now comes the important question of how to approach Sri Swamiji. He is in constant sadhana, he is allowing us to share in his sadhana for a little while. So first of all I do not wish to disturb him in the least way. But there is no need to worry since the two major suns leading the way to the central sun are ever watchful under the guidance of that central sun, and are masters at devising means for each of the thousands of little suns to have a face to face moment with that central sun. They are major suns because they can bear the intensity of the central sun better than all of us and allow the functioning of all of Sri Swamiji's impulses and visions to manifest in the outer world. You know of whom I speak - Swami Satsangi and of course Swami Niranjan. Approach the one or the other depending on your preference for a female or male devata, or be safe like me and approach both. There is no difference as there is none between Shiva and Shakti.

Both managed to create the opportunity for each of us to have that face to face darshan of Sri Swamiji, and this year they even moved it from the public sphere of the ongoing ceremonies to the almost private setting of the little garden in the inner Akhara. What a masterful way to give each of the thousands of guests of Sri Swamiji an absolutely equal opportunity for such an encounter. None were excluded, all had equal time and none were discriminated as high or special in some hierarchy, whether social or organizational. Of course, equal here does not mean that the experience of each merely becomes average. No! This equality is spiritual and indicates that all are worthy of the highest respect.

When Swami Niranjan gave me my place in the midst of the senior swamis, by senior I mean our average age is 65, I had arrived at the beach where I could sunbathe in the warmth of these gentle suns and get ready for the only holiday worth taking in this or any other life, the combined Rajasooya Yajna, Sat Chandi Maha Yajna and Sita Kalyanam. Now to the main event of the session. I started the day with Gayatri, seated in our enclosure facing the sun rising in the east at about 6.30. One by one other swamis and kanya kumaris arrived to seat themselves near me, all intent on the arrival of Swami Niranjan at 6.50. By this time there was already a hustle and bustle to prepare for the perpetual flow of yajna akshat. Bags and bags of beautiful and useful items that Sri Swamiji seems to have selected with each individual recipient in view.

One definition of yoga is "the maximum utilization of time and space". Can one not say that Sri Swamiji has always achieved that? But all of it cannot work without the help of every link in the chain from giver to recipient. All the links worked perfectly throughout the eventful days. Ceaselessly, the conductor of the symphony, Swami Niranjan, also a peerless drummer and keeper of time and rhythm, performed his function by means of almost imperceptible signals, except to those for whom they were meant. Ceaseless streams of small written messages flow to and from the conductor, permitting him almost instant awareness and control of events throughout the whole complex in and around the Akhara, and well into the rest of India, indeed the world via the many telephone links along which he constantly interacts with devotees. All this is masterly management skill. One may wonder what this great skill has to do with yoga and spirituality. Remember that "maximum utilization of time and space" is a defining factor of a yogi, as Sri Swamiji has of course proved to those who have known him for many years. But the important thing to consider is that this managing is not done through some automaton-like links but with human beings, each of whom is trying his or her very best to make the experiences of each and every guest of Sri Swamiji's uplifting and beneficial. They modify the signals from the conductor through their devotion, love and compassion into caring interaction, which is the sensitive intent of the conductor who cannot be present everywhere at all times to personally ensure that all are respected equally as Sri Swamiji would wish.

As more and more kanyas arrive and assume their posts, another note is struck in the symphony. Immediately plunged into their positions and duties usually filled by experienced swamis, sannyasins, students and devotees, these little girls function with confidence, full authority, and almost no prompting from adults. It is as if their latent powers suddenly manifested because they were placed in a situation of total confidence and support on the part of Sri Swamiji. Of course this confidence could be felt by everyone very soon as events developed. Indeed, as Swami Niranjan pointed out, we were witnessing a miracle. Shakti, as potential power, had become actual power in these girls through the blessing of Devi and Sri Swamiji and the goodwill of each and everyone present.

Everywhere is felt the presence of Swami Satsangi, who is often almost invisible except when she is rocking on her seat deeply immersed in the essence of some ongoing kirtans while at the same time emitting peace and bliss to everyone. She is devi for many of us. She does her functions as a mother would and only a good mother could. As Sri Swamiji has said, "She is the foundation of my vision in the Akhara and Rikhia."

These were the secret underpinnings of the Rajasooya Yajna. The ongoing Sat Chandi was, as usual, performed with extreme care, precision and clarity of mantras by the learned pandits from Varanasi. They tended the spiritual hearth and continually stoked the fires of spiritual awakening in all who attended. That is their calling and they performed so as to reawaken the visions of maha-yajnas of hoary antiquity as witnessed by the Puranas. Not a speck of Kali Yuga remained in the confines of the Akhara.

To end I must mention something of an exceptional high point of my experience this year. As we senior swamis, otherwise known as the old guys or the old school, perambulated the yoga peetha, Swami Srimukhananda, a constant figure at all the Sita Kalyanams in Rikhia, bent down to have his head blessed by the kanyas who were standing guard around the peetha and started a procedure which many of us followed thereafter. At first hesitant to see all these old swamis bend their heads before them, the kanyas soon performed their function with love, humour, dignity and gentleness. These blessings of the kanyas, their gentle touch on my head, was the most real and intimate encounter with Shakti herself that I have ever experienced.