Bihar's Flag of Pride

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The world observed International Day of Yoga on 21 June and this is a great achievement for India because without any opposition 177 countries agreed to accept this proposal. On the day itself, more than 199 countries came forward and participated in this yoga program with great enthusiasm. People came forward, not just in small numbers or to have their face appear on television, but with true hope and inspiration. What our Prime Minister said about the whole world coming together under the shelter of yoga is undoubtedly true.

This story begins 53 years ago, because when the ashram was established here in Munger and the first world yoga convention was held in 1963, Sri Swamiji made a declaration that 'yoga will emerge as a world culture'. At that time the people who heard this laughed because in those days hardly anyone knew anything about yoga. When I came to Munger and joined the ashram almost as many years ago, the idea prevalent in society about yoga was that this was something meant only for sadhus and sannyasins. What do householders have to do with observing austerities and such practices in order to have a vision of the divine? What can householders gain from all this? In such an environment those many years ago Sri Swamiji declared that yoga would emerge as a world culture and 53 years later it has been proved true!

When the International Day of Yoga was announced the question that arose in my mind was what should be the goal of this Yoga Day. Yoga is a part of our culture and so should become an inseparable element in our lives. After deciding upon this goal and with this intention of adopting yoga as a lifestyle we started planning and preparing the program that would be carried out in Munger.

This took the form of a capsule of practices that one can easily incorporate into one's daily routine. After all, half an hour of asana practice in the morning and fifteen minutes of concentration and relaxation practices at night is not difficult to do. The morning practice energizes you and takes care of your physical health and well being, while the practices in the evening bring relief from stress and help you relax. If you practise these two capsules on a regular basis, your social life will be easily regulated, as the main cause for unhappiness and lack of success in life is mental stress that hampers thinking and intellectual capacities.

Contemplation is not possible when there is tension and stress; there is only worry and anxiety and it is not possible to transform the worry into positive and fruitful thoughts and action. The effects of stress and tension are strong and the morning and evening yoga capsules have been prepared with the intention of finding a means to alleviate these problems. If you are able to follow these practices with regularity, it is you who stands to gain. You will attain good health, peace of mind, and overcome the weakness of your mental faculties. Keeping this goal in mind, we planned a program that would extend from the ashram courtyard and flow into compounds and rooftops of your homes and into your lives. And what was the message that was sent out into the world from here? Adopt yoga as a lifestyle and live it in your daily lives! So this is what was planned and conducted here.

Many people said to me that the date was drawing near; what was being arranged, what were the plans? They had no idea that we had already set things in motion but it was all done in a quiet manner. People presumed that just like during the convention there would be a massive set-up and we would have a grand program. Well, it was certainly a grand program but done in a simple, unassuming and effective way.

Not only in Munger but even Suryagadha and several other places in the country as well as overseas, wherever there were teachers and practitioners from our tradition, many programs were conducted on the occasion of the first International Day of Yoga. If we count just the number of people in Munger city and the Munger district who participated, it will exceed the number of people who practised yoga on Rajpath in Delhi. They practised in their homes along with their family and friends and some of you might have seen the photograph that appeared in the newspaper of one of our Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal girls. She was conducting a yoga session with about twelve people and she was all of eight or nine years of age!

People from every age and group played a role, assuming responsibility for the programs here – eminent citizens of Munger, the youth, our associates, children, mothers, fathers – each one contributed according to their capacity towards making this historic event a reality.

Now there is only one job left: to compile a record of all the sessions and camps that were conducted as part of the celebrations of this special day. It will not only provide everyone with a record of what happened but also inspire us to make an effort to improve upon these achievements and build upon them each year.

It is a matter of real importance that the world culture and the international community have accepted our culture of yoga. If this is sustained and continues, it will have an impact in the coming decades with a positive transformation in the mental, emotional and spiritual life of humankind. People will strive together in order to bring about peace, happiness and prosperity in society. It is for this that I extend my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you.

On that day I was absent from Munger and the reason for this was that I went and sat beside my Guru's samadhi that morning. I told him that what he had declared 53 years ago has reached a special stage of fruition today. So while the whole world was engaged in practising yoga, I was sitting beside my Guru and telling him all about what was taking place as part of the International Day of Yoga, for that was the feeling and sentiment in my heart. At about 12 o'clock or so, I left and returned to Munger. That was how I celebrated that day.

Munger held a beautiful program and in Paduka Darshan we had a gathering of almost 600 people who live within the Fort area. That was a good number too! This was possible because of you, not because of me; it was your effort. And I salute you all for raising Bihar's flag of pride to new heights here!

—24 June 2015, Ganga Darshan