Sannyasi Agnijyoti (Maria Teresa Copete), Colombia: Sri Swamiji first came to Colombia in 1971. Then in 1972, Swami Niranjan arrived. After he had been in Colombia for a few months, the news came from India that Swami Satyananda is conducting a World Yoga Convention in 1973 in Munger, Bihar, India. And we were in Colombia, South America. They were a world apart. Nevertheless, we were committed to work for the mission of Swami Satyananda to take yoga from shore to shore and door to door. We started thinking about how to do that. Apart from Swami Niranjan, Swami Amritananda and Swami Agnimitrananda were there, and Ignacio the translator. But there was a space in the car.
I was in high school at that time and Ignacio said to me, “Swami Amritananda said you are coming on the tour. We are going to do a Colombian tour by car.” Colombia is in the Andes, a very mountainous area, and they were going to do the tour by car. I said, “How can I go on a tour? I have to go to school. My parents will never allow it.” But things had to happen and Swami Amritananda said, “You go ask your parents.” I went and asked, and my mum thought, ‘Maybe this is something good for her’, and she made all the arrangements in the school. So there I was, going on a tour with three Indian swamis, Ignacio and myself, by car, to spread the word of yoga from shore to shore and door to door.
Remember this is 1973 and we are inviting people in the whole of Colombia, while travelling by road, to come to a yoga convention in India. When you think of it now, it was kind of crazy, but then it was the guru’s mission, and we did it. We took a jeep, which somebody lent to us, printed some papers about the convention in India and started the tour. My mother had some connections with priests and nuns and convents, as she had two sisters who were nuns and one brother who was a priest. She called all the nunneries and said, “My daughter is coming on a tour with these Indian people and they are spreading the word of yoga.” Yoga had never been heard of, nobody knew what it was. Anyhow, we were on a mission and we took off.
We had also asked the students at the Satyananda ashram at that time to help us with their contacts. Some people said, “Yes, I have an aunt who lives in the southern part of Colombia.”
We said, “Please call her and ask if she will organize a lecture with her friends.” In this way, someone organized a lecture at a school, at a friend’s house, and other places. We would be on the road from four in the morning. In places we had no contacts, if we saw a sign ‘school’, we would knock and say, “Hello, good morning. We are on a tour spreading yoga with three Indian people from India, and we would like to give the students a talk on yoga.” Surprisingly, they said, “Oh welcome. Can you give us ten minutes? We will fixeverything for you.” That was the way we did it.
Once, while Swami Amritananda was giving the lecture and Ignacio was translating, Swami Niranjan, who was twelve or thirteen at that time, started drawing hearts on a piece of paper: “Ignacio loves Maria Teresa; Maria Teresa loves Ignacio.” This went on for a month. Then one day, we were in a hotel, and he said, “You know” – beware of the ‘you know’ – “You know, if you and Ignacio would get married, you would do great work for yoga.” I did not pay much attention then, but to make the story short, we’ve been married for forty-seven years and we have been working for yoga.
This is what it was like forty-fiveyears ago when nobody knew what yoga was. This was the way we started spreading the word, sowing the seed. We were told, “Just go and sow the seeds wherever you can.” In the remotest places we would give the leafletand say, “There is going to be a convention in India in October 1973, from this date to that date, and we have come to invite you to it.” Twenty-seven people from Colombia came for the convention.
Those were the most beautiful days of doing Sri Swamiji’s work. After that convention, Sri Swamiji came to Colombia in 1975 and conducted a convention. In 1980, he conducted a second convention. The work continued and has continued non-stop for forty-seven years.
—23 October 2019, Munger Yoga Symposium