Ganga Darshan has two meanings. One is vision of Ganga and the other is vision of prana shakti or pingala nadi. Ganga represents pingala, Yamuna represents ida, Saraswati represents sushumna, and for yoga, control, vision or knowledge of pingala nadi is essential. I will tell you a small story. One day when Hanumanji woke up from his sleep, he felt hungry. He did not see anything to eat except the sun. So he swallowed the sun, and at once, the three worlds became dark. This means that Hanuman stopped the flow of his prana completely. To stop pingala nadi completely is to have control over prana. A yogi must have control over prana. If you do not have control over prana, you cannot have control over the elements or the life process. So I named the ashram Ganga Darshan with these two ideas in mind, and it grew by itself.
To transform the dilapidated palace of Karna into the seven-story Ganga Darshan took a massive effort. The swamis recall what it was like: What had once been an area of attraction for the whole district had fallen into such neglect that only brambles and thorns remained as witnesses to its former glory. The estate which had once covered hectares of beautiful parks and gardens was now reduced to a rugged hill. The old palace, where once kings and generals sported, had become a centre of corruption. In fact, nobody dared to go there after 4 p.m..
Some swamis shifted here along with chowkies, chairs and bedding on 26 January 1978, Republic Day. On the first night the swamis spent at the new ashram site, they were too frightened to sleep. Sri Swamiji said, "Just do kirtan, there is no need to be frightened." And they did such a powerful kirtan that all the negative vibrations melted away. Everyone soon felt calm and quiet. From this experience we realized that kirtan, chanting of Om and mantras do change the vibrations of the mind and heart, and frighten away the negative elements from the atmosphere.
Sri Swamiji said that the swamis and students had to sleep in different places, but no one dared to sleep at the main gate. By morning we found that we had all brought our chowkies together at one spot. After some days Sri Swamiji came to visit Ganga Darshan and walked through the broken-down buildings, rooms and halls. After that everybody felt at ease to sleep anywhere. At that time there was no electricity, but in a few days we had a temporary connection. There was no source or facilities for water on the hill either, so we had to go for water to a nearby well. For a bath we went to the pond and for the toilet we went outside in the fields with one mug of water. The water connection was needed for construction and gardening. After one month we had our first small pump. There was no telephone either. When we had to consult Sri Swamiji at the old ashram we went by bicycle. However, within a short time we obtained a telephone connection.
We started cleaning the buildings and surrounding land. Many repairs were made and doors and windows fixed on the old buildings. Many times we had to face foxes, vicious dogs, snakes and scorpions, but they never harmed us. Sri Swamiji always said not to kill anything because animals are not an enemy of man; only fear is the enemy of man. So we became free from fear. We prepared some plots for vegetables and planted eggplant, cabbage, corn and peas. We also started planting trees – mango, lichi, jackfruit, bael, guava, ashoka and papaya.
Sri Swamiji would come to Ganga Darshan two or three times a day. In the early morning he would bring all the sannyasins with him. He would keep them busy in the garden, clearing new plots or removing huge piles of bricks and rocks from one spot to another. After that there would be an enormous nashta and he would encourage everyone to eat as much as they liked.
The new ashram meant a large-scale plan, so we printed an appeal asking for help from people in the form of donations of money, materials or work. At this time many people were starting to come for satsang with Sri Swamiji in the old building or the garden. They enjoyed working with the swamis in the garden. We prepared many little straw kutirs in the midst of the garden and Sri Swamiji often spent mornings and evenings quietly sitting there, or giving satsang to whoever came. Three months later construction began.
First we needed an area for taking classes. At that time classes were conducted outside, sometimes in the garden or at the rifle range. The first building to be constructed was the sadhana hall. The site selected for this was the ancient Karna Chaura platform. After that came the boundary wall, and then Sri Swamiji's kutir.
In July 1978, Sri Swamiji decided to celebrate Guru Poornima at Ganga Darshan. The local people of Munger were invited. Guru Pooja was conducted in the half-finished sadhana hall, with swamis chanting from early morning. For three to four hours there was a constant stream of people flowing in and out to pay their respects and receive Sri Swamiji's blessings. This was the first time in hundreds of years that so many people had collected for a program at this place. Thousands attended the evening program and the whole hill was covered with people. They were sitting on the branches of trees, on broken parapets and the roof of the old building. In the evening program, Sri Swamiji spoke about the history of Ganga Darshan and future plans. He said there would be sadhana halls, accommodation for students and patients, a research centre and a library.
Although we had to face many difficulties and obstacles, we never gave up because we realized that yoga had to arrive here. Sri Swamiji used to say that if you want to be a saint or realized person, you don't have to do sadhana or go to Gangotri, you just have to face the difficulties. We even received instructions from the local government officials to stop all construction, and not to dig more than six inches into the ground. Swamiji said at that time, "I can move the ashram anywhere, but the people of Bihar should think about their future. If I remove the ashram not even one swami would come here ever again." After two years the local people realized that all was a misunderstanding. They started coming to Ganga Darshan for classes and construction was resumed.
The bulk of the construction began in 1980. The boundary wall, kutir, sadhana hall and motor room were finished. The old palatial bungalow, however, was crumbling rapidly. Half of the roof over the main halls had already fallen in and we were banned from climbing on to the roof to have darshan of the Ganga. This year also saw the foundation of the Well House and Yoga Arogya and a lot of earth-cutting to shape the hill and make the ground level for construction and plantations.
Hunting for material and contractors, labourers, management, marketing, stores and supervision began to play an increasingly large part in our daily lives. The work of the construction department perhaps started here. Marketing became the most challenging job. Sannyasins looked all over the country for the best materials. They went to Patna, Pakur, Jamshedpur, Kota, Kolkata and Delhi, and to the teak forests to purchase and load the trees for our doors and windows. Full-time labourers are difficult to find in Munger, as most of them are also cultivators. However, even from the opposite bank of the Ganga they came to work – in all seasons. Each morning they arrived at 8 am and worked till 5 p.m. in the blazing sun.
At the foot of the hill a large well was blasted for pumping water, drinking and gardening purposes. Nearby, the Well House, a small two-story house was built with eight rooms, two halls and verandas, to house the pump. This was followed by the construction of three large residential buildings. The first was Yoga Arogya, with two floors and over sixty rooms. It was the first major construction. Next was the Kitchen Building. The third building, Shakti Vihar, was actually constructed to house the old BSY Press on the bottom floor, with over thirty residential rooms for female sannyasins and visitors on the second floor. These buildings were completed between 1980 and 1983.
On Guru Poornima, which was celebrated at Ganga Darshan in July 1982, Swamiji laid the foundation stone for the main seven-story building at the top of the hill, where the dilapidated palatial bungalow had stood. Demolishing and dismantling what was left of it required an army of destruction labourers and months of work. A number of tractors were engaged to move the steel, timber and brickbats.
We worked day in and day out; no, it was not work but karma yoga. We worked for the sake of working and not for its fruits. People often say that sannyasa is escapism. They should come and see Ganga Darshan – see the sannyasins working, experiencing the same problems as themselves, solving those same problems in various ways but with one main difference – detachment. People are coming. They are arriving in droves from all points of the globe to construct or reconstruct their inner building.