In August 2009, ten women from Bulgaria arrived at Ganga Darshan for a gurukul lifestyle course. Their age varied and they had different professions and experience of yoga. Only little had united them. Everyone had come with their own dreams, ideas and plans for life.
It was my first time in India and in the ashram. My first impression was, “This is my place. I want to live here.” Pavitra, another woman, said, “I want to go back to Bulgaria, to roast capsicum, to stock them for winter and to look after my grandchildren.”
I was startled. This vision was something which I was not able to understand, still the memory of roasted capsicum was also very dear to me. I grew up with the smell of roasted capsicum, an open fire and autumn. I looked at her and said, ‘’I know a place where this dream may come true.’’
It was the beginning of our journey together – with the ashram discipline, yoga classes and Swamiji’s promise that we may attain dynamic samadhi if we follow strictly all his instructions. The four months flew by in the blink of an eye and we had no idea how much we had received.
Back in Bulgaria, pure and fresh, we celebrated the first spring together. These women of different ages, different feelings and different talents were no longer that different. There was something invisible but very real which united us: Atmayoga, Durga, Murti, Nadamani, Pavitra, Premantra, Shantirupa, Sitasharan, Vedajyoti and myself. This alliance was not an idea or aim. It was trust, understanding and synchronicity.
With materials in hand, a little creativity and a lot of joy, as learnt in the ashram, we renovated a small flat and converted it into a beautiful yoga studio.
We had meetings, discussions and questions about the matters of life. We were like little kids hidden under the table, searching for the eternal answers of life. We were turning the pages of the ashram books, remembering Swamiji’s satsangs and when we were not able to find answers we drew pictures of our world with our own imagination.
The days flew by again like the blink of the eye and a few of us started to pack our suitcases, this time for the three-year sannyasa training, 2012–2014. Five set out and five remained to serve at the home front. The people in the rear provided all that was required for those who left. The sannyasa training was the second chapter of our journey together. This chapter enriched our small team with Premgiri, Shanti Devananda and later on Suryatirth.
On our return to Bulgaria, we opened the third chapter with a new big project – turning an abandoned country house into our spiritual home. When we opened the doors for the first time, we stumbled across cobwebs and dust – insects and years of abandonment had done a really good job! This did not discourage us. Our Accommodation Department began to work hard and everything flowed as if some higher force was doing the work instead of us. Soon everything was clean and tidy and on the stove ashram-type khichari was simmering.
We made one pooja room where we spent unforgettable evenings around a havan fire with the mantras learned at the ashram, the smell of incense and samagri, and the force of agni.
The whole environment changed very quickly. The garden was cleared and in summer we picked the first fruits. Pavitra’s dream came true. She began to prepare jams for winter for all of us.
On Guru Poornima, the whole house was decorated with flowers and we sang kirtan under the stars until late at night while Pavitra’s granddaughter was sleeping next to us.
This old country house became a place where we not only gathered but also had the opportunity to live what we had learnt in the ashram. Later guests started to come and joined our ‘daily ashram routine’. They had to clean the floor without mopping sticks and bring water from the spring. In this simple way, they came to know that yoga is not something one practises twice a week in a yoga studio but a way of life.
Mopping the floor by hand was not just cleaning but the spontaneous practice of crow walking. This exercise was the first introduction to yoga for guests who did not have any real interest in yoga. This practice combined with the instructions to be aware of movement, breath and feeling fascinated them so much that they came again and again.
The eternal question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ was answered around the fire with the reply received at the ashram, ‘to attain a sattwic mind’. We practised the yamas and niyamas, not as a code of conduct but as a powerful method to change the software of the mind. The SWAN meditation became the main tool in our effort to understand our own behaviour and the responses and reactions of others.
We tried to apply the methods of yoga in our life. We soon discovered that yoga truly worked and our small world became more beautiful and a better place to live in.
—Sannyasi Dharmajyoti, Bulgaria