by guest author Swami Karma Karuna, Anahata Yoga Retreat
There are some parts of the world that once visited get into your heart and won’t let go. India is such a place.
A country of mysterious paradoxes; where civilizations and times intermix, a magical place which attracts people from all over the world with the richness of the land, its lush beauty and exotic architecture, its ability to overload your senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells and tastes.
From the richest to the poorest, nowhere in the world, can be found such a multifaceted, diverse culture with varied spiritual beliefs and so many differing expressions, all part of the one country.
I find myself drawn back year after year.
Sometimes when I am leaving India, I can’t wait for the orderly, seemingly more predictable and timely world of my Western heritage, but back home, I soon begin to wonder where the colour and life are, where are the smiles, the soul of life that feels so present in India?
Whilst in India, I am reminded that the world has many expressions and it keeps my eyes open and every part of me expanding.
Within the peace of the ashram, I reconnect with my inner depths during a dedicated time of yoga and meditation, chanting ancient mantras, experiencing first hand the timeless teachings of the great yogis. I fill up my cup, which can get empty in the “busyness” of the modern world.
In the same way, we have to bring our car in for a tune up at the garage, the ashram is a place to tune up the mind and body and make sure it is running at an optimal level. The word ashram, literally translates as “place of work” and it is that also, a place to work on oneself, which sometimes takes the form of physical or external work. Despite that it is not always easy, going to the deeper layers of myself something inexplicable happens.
Often people think that I am going on a holiday and tell me to have a great time away, but it is not quite like sitting on the beach in Fiji.
Swamiji once said to me in relation to my wish for a holiday:
“Every day is a Holi day when one has the right attitude.”
I am finally starting to understand this. If my mind is balanced, everything around me seems balanced. When my own vision is impaired with negativity, past patterns or dramas, well guess what? Drama and negativity abound…
So I go on my yearly “Holi..day” to India, and get a mental tune up, receive an extraordinary opportunity to enrich myself in an incredibly powerful and transformative process.
I always leave feeling lighter in body and mind, abundant with experiences, inspiration and the rejuvenation that comes from a REALLY good holiday, a holiday not just for the body, but one for the spirit. On top of all that, something else is overflowing from me… it is like a flooding river of love.
Giving, giving and more giving is the example I receive whilst residing in the ashram.
During my yearly pilgrimage in, which I am part of offering yoga and meditation courses to international groups, I see how one and all receive useful gifts at both the physical and more subtle levels; books and CDs for inspiration, wise words from the Swamijis, the laughter, song and dance of the ashram children and powerful practices for self transformation. There is a flourishing feeling of abundance and one can not help but be touched by this giving bug.
When we receive the opportunity to work within Sivananda Math, a social and charitable institution founded by Swami Satyananda, the desire to give gets fulfilled.
Swami Satyananda’s philosophy was simple:
“Feed man and God will be fed.”
He said that:
“The entire Rikhia community is my ashram. Each household is my household. Their pains and pleasures are my own. Their poverty is my poverty and their happiness is my happiness.”
In the same way that each and every person who visits the ashram leaves with a full suitcase and heart, Sivananda Math cares for the weaker and underprivileged sections of society, filling them up, making all those in need part of the extended family.
Every family member should be taken care of, so activities include: distribution of scholarships, the digging of tube-wells, construction of houses for the needy and gifts of clothing, bicycles, sewing machines, rickshaws, farm animals, food etc.
Farmers are assisted in ploughing and watering their fields, a medical clinic serves the local area and children receive English lessons, education and much more. To take part in some of these projects opens a new door within as the essence of yoga unfolds.
Yoga is so much more than standing on my head.
One of the newest projects at Rikhia Ashram is the Annapoorna kitchen, which is fulfilling the sankalpa or wish of Swami Satyananda to feed 2,000-4,000 children in the surrounding area on a daily basis.
During our sadhana courses we often have the opportunity to participate in preparing the meals and serving the children, widowers and elders. On special occasions such as Diwali, the festival of lights, related to Lakshmi, the energy of prosperity and abundance; the villagers receive a feast and a new outfit to wear.
Giving expands the heart chakra and takes one out from the little “I” or confined ego.
The word yoga literally means union, yet we live in a world of division, duality, war, competition and ego oriented actions. Being a part of giving to others, helps me to connect in a practical way with the “world as one family”.
Swami Sivananda said:
“Through the practice of selfless service alone, you can develop positive qualities such as tolerance, mercy, kindness, love, patience, self-restraint, which are necessary for the practice of yoga. How can a cave-dweller in seclusion practice tolerance, mercy and cosmic love? The practice of seva generates, waters and nourishes the positive qualities within.”
In that light I feel so very grateful to have the opportunity to grow myself whilst helping others and I look forward to my next journey of mind blowing, heart opening, awakening experiences that await me in India.