Three Foundations of Bihar Yoga Bharati

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Bihar Yoga Bharati was established about twenty-five years ago. This was the first Yoga University in the world. Yoga Philosophy, Yoga Psychology, Applications of Yoga and Yoga Ecology were the four subjects taught.

Over a period of time, since it was not possible to meet the requirements prescribed by the University Grants Commission, the status of a university was given up, yet BYB has continued to work as an institution devoted to higher studies in yoga. Bihar Yoga Bharati has been involved in the propagation of yoga and inspires students to imbibe yoga vidya and has also been making the effort to take the experience of yoga to another level. During the foundation of Bihar Yoga Bharati, it was said that the institution was dedicated to the Indian rishi tradition, vedic lifestyle and the eternal culture of yoga. These continue to be its foundation even today.

Rishi tradition

What does ‘rishi tradition’ mean? Our rishis also adopted a certain way of life, but what was their basic intention? The awakening of positive qualities through exploration into life.

You must be familiar with the story when devas and asuras came together to churn the ocean which yielded many gems and divine riches. The intention of our rishi tradition is the very same – to awaken positive qualities by churning our own lives. That is why the rishi tradition has always been associated with research, exploration and a quest. Our rishis researched into life to discover the methods by which one could attain the highest state of consciousness and life.

To continually make discoveries in life, go deeper into the understanding of life and develop good qualities, live life with peace and understanding, carry out the activities of living with restraint and faith – this is our rishi tradition. Research into what? Research into the subtle elements of life’ – the mind, emotions, consciousness. Exploration into these areas and bringing them into an organized, balanced and measured form has been the work of our rishis. An exploration into the purpose of life, a search for truth – this has been Bihar Yoga Bharati’s first area of work. In short, study and research.

Vedic civilization

The second foundation of BYB is the vedic civilization. What is the foundation or basis of vedic civilization? Lifestyle. The foundation of modern lifestyle is desire. It is our wish, our desire to become someone, to do something and we set off on that path to make the attempt to become something. Whether it is medicine or engineering, we go into a profession. Apart from this external profession, there is no other basis for inner life.

You live with the family and go to work, there are only these two parts to your life, nothing else. When you are not at home, you are at work and when you are not at work, you are at home. This is your lifestyle today which is why there is tension, limitations are faced, you experience depression, fear, disappointment, anger, ambitions – all this has to be faced and you end up losing your balance and focus, you often become dissipated. This is the modern lifestyle.

We see the way in which people in cities live. In big cities and metropolises there are many conveniences, big buildings, more wealth, many opportunities, yet there is really nothing for man except loneliness. Whether it is Delhi or Mumbai, there is loneliness in people’s personal life and there is also a lot of dissipation and distraction. ‘What should I do? What shouldn't I do?’ It is difficult to make sense of things. Children shirk their responsibilities at every step and so do adults. Both are lost in dilemmas and delusion. This is the state of our lives all over the world today.

When we talk about vedic civilization and vedic lifestyle, we are not referring to some ancient lifestyle of ages gone by but to a systematic lifestyle in which there is understanding and balance of head, heart and hands. That is when life receives a positive direction. One is eager to undertake hard work and makes an effort to achieve goals with enthusiasm. Vedic lifestyle is a systematic and organized lifestyle in which there is awareness of oneself, one’s own duties and one’s duties to family and society. When we are able to work effectively and systematically for ourselves, and fulfil our social and familial duties diligently, then the family benefits and society flourishes.

In these modern times, it is necessary to adopt a vedic and yogic lifestyle in order to improve our lives. Recently a sannyasin from the ashram had travelled through four countries in South America. Before embarking on the journey, when I was asked what message did I have for people there, it was just one sentence: ‘Try to see the sunrise every morning’, that’s all. The sannyasin went there and shared this message that Swamiji would like everyone to make the effort to see the sunrise every morning. You won’t believe this but they went crazy about it – ‘We have to see the sunrise!’ This meant that one had to wake up early and people made the effort to wake up at six or five-thirty in the morning instead of at eight o’clock.

Some shared their experience that it was the first time they had seen the sunrise in forty years! Another person said that he has lived in the same town for forty years; he walks to work every day but after attending that seminar for the very first time he noticed the trees lining the road and how beautiful they were! For all these years, he had never noticed the trees or their beauty though he walked along that road every day.

This is an indication of how our intelligence and consciousness are swamped with tensions, troubles, fears and strife to such an extent that we are unable to connect with the beauty of nature around us. Just one sentence, ‘make the effort to see the sunrise’, made such a huge difference to their lives as if they had received a pronouncement from the scriptures. Now tell me, is this not yoga or is it something else?

This is neither asana, not pranayama, not mantra or meditation; it is an exercise to bring discipline into life. Instead of getting out of bed at eight-thirty or nine o’clock, make the effort to see the sunrise – isn't this a great achievement? If this brings joy to a person, all the better. After all, it is necessary to like or love whatever one does.

When I performed the panchagni sadhana, if my mind had not been engaged in it, I would not have been able to do it. I had to develop intense love for fire, for without that love I would not have been able to sit there for even five minutes. I said to the fire, ‘Twameva Maata cha Pitaa Twameva’ – you are my mother and father, you are my everything and so stay with me and stay with me lovingly. Neither will I oppose you and nor should you be aggressive towards me.

Understanding and love developed between us. In the experience of this mutual love, temperatures of over eighty degrees went unnoticed. I mean to say that unless there is total absorption in something, nothing is attained.

In lifestyle it becomes necessary to discover the workings of the mind, for restraint and discipline do not begin with the body but start with the mind. Someone smokes cigarettes and says, “I want to stop smoking from today.” Will the body stop or is it the mind which has to want to stop? First it is the mind. Which is why lifestyle is directly connected to mental behaviour. To make your daily routine and lifestyle positive, uplifting, creative and simple there has to be union between three elements: intelligence, emotion and action. When these three are in unison, harmony and divinity will follow. As long as these three are separate from each other, one will be engulfed by strife and dissipation. This is why vedic lifestyle is the second foundation of Bihar Yoga Bharati.

Yogic culture

The third foundation of Bihar Yoga Bharati is yogic culture. Yogic culture implies the attempt and effort to adopt a yogic attitude and approach to life. If someone is able to live according to yogic attitudes, what will their life be like? Someone whose life is imbued with the best behaviour and character. When we look at the lives of great saints, that is what we see. If one has to speak about Swami Vivekananda, it is his behaviour and character that one will talk about. One will not talk about the clothes he wore or the kind of food he ate but his character, the work he did and the philosophy he followed.

In the same manner, when you make the effort to know more about others, it is their character and behaviour that you will ask about. If they are soft-hearted, you will be attracted to them, if they have a hard, harsh nature, you will stay away. One who adopts the yogic culture has exemplary character and behaviour.

Our guru, Sri Swami Satyananda, said that people only express harsh emotions in life. Anger is harsh, arrogance, envy, hatred are all harsh emotions. All the negative, limiting and tamasic states are harsh and it is these harsh emotions which also make the pranas hard and rigid. Sri Swamiji used to say that it is these harsh emotions which have to be softened. Love, compassion, mercy, empathy – these are tender emotions.

One always wants to drop the harshness and move towards tenderness in life. Nobody wants to be harsh, one ends up becoming like that due to harsh conditions. When one’s wishes are not fulfilled, the mind and heart become hard. So what is to be done? If we try and bring a yogic attitude into our lives, then we move away from the harshness and closer to tenderness, softness and the gentle emotions in life and this is where life finds its completion. These are our Guruji’s words.

Residential training

These are the three foundations, goals and aims. The first is the rishi tradition which means becoming aware of oneself and searching for truth within oneself, in nature, in the entire creation. The second is vedic lifestyle, an organized and systematic emotional, mental and behavioural existence, living with restraint and having a direction in life. The third is yogic culture through which we make the attempt to attain the best character and excellent behaviour.

When will it be possible to imbibe these three things? When Bihar Yoga Bharati was established, there was no provision for day scholars where students could come, study and then go home, like it is in other colleges and universities. The residential facility is something which was decided upon by Sri Swamiji himself. He used to say that if yoga is to be imbibed in the right manner, it has to be a fully residential training and not something where you go and attend a yoga class for one hour and then go out for a smoke.

In the absence of discipline, there will be no perfection in yoga. Keeping this principle in mind, Sri Swamiji gave the instruction not to have any day scholars at Bihar Yoga Bharati but to only have residential participants who could spend three or four months in an ashram environment and imbibe new samskaras, discover new ways of seeing and thinking – and that is exactly what happened.

When there are many pots and pans in a kitchen, there will also be a lot of noise made by the utensils being picked up and put down – yet the purpose of these things can only be realized in a kitchen. They are needed for boiling water, cooking dal and rice. Similarly, when someone is new to ashram life, of course many difficulties arise – mummy is not close by, there is no fridge at hand full of goodies that you can open whenever you feel like having a snack.

Gradually when one settles in and becomes accustomed to the lifestyle, one starts to like and enjoy it. One feels, ‘Oh, wow! I can do this!’ Until today one was dependent on mummy to do things but now, one can do them for oneself – from washing clothes to everything else. Initially there was resistance to it, for sure, yet over time one gets used to it and then one also starts to like the independence. Sri Swamiji had intentionally given this instruction to impart yoga training in such a residential setting. It is only then that people can begin to understand yoga as a sadhana and as a mental attitude.

That is the reason why I am saying this to all the citizens of Munger, especially to the children, that you should be proud. Whenever you have the opportunity to go and live outside you will experience for yourself the difference between the life there and what we live here. Yes, though we may only have two dry rotis for dinner and we may not have sumptuous feasts that can be enjoyed in grand homes yet the samskaras, sanyam and the potential which we have here cannot be found in big cities.

In the cities, people have become accustomed to many addictions. Where there is wealth, indulgence follows, yet where there is no wealth to be had, people are always engaged in good work. One should only have enough money so that one is not lacking in one’s needs and one should also have the faith that one’s goals can be attained. If these two aspects are a part of our life and we can maintain a positive and creative outlook in our behaviour, samskaras, attitude and philosophy, then that will be a great achievement for us and that will be the identity of our ‘City of Yoga’ in the future.

30 June 2019, Ganga Darshan