Friday, July 15, 2011

18) Importance of 14th July for me-My Guru Purnima tribute to Gurudev Swami Sivananda

For everyone certain days are very important and unforgettable and for me the day 14th July is a very very important day in my life as that is that day in the year 1997 I started my formal yoga journey at the Sivananda Yoga Centre in  Chennai i.e 14 July 1997 . Co-incidentally that is also the day of the Maha Samadhi  of Gurudev Swami Sivananda and I see this as an amazing co-incidence .

Today i.e 15 July is the day of Guru Poornima and people world over pay respects to their respective Gurus on this day  .Previously I used to faithfully attend the Mahasamadhi Celebrations of Swami Sivananda as well as the Guru Poornima celebration at the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Chennai but I have stopped doing the same the last couple of years . After Completing my Sadhana Intensive Course ( SI ) in 2009,2010 I felt a big shift happening in me ( I have describe about it in my blog post No:17,16) and this shift automatically made me erase many of my past associations with the Sivananda Yoga Centre ,its staff , its students and its activities there . It was  not that I was upset /hurt with the Sivananda Yoga Centre or its staff or people or its activities,rather it was a feeling of  saturation/disconnect  with everything there after I completed my SI course for the second time in Jan 2010 . This is surprising considering the fact that I was a very active person with regard to the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Chennai right from 1997 .I was active in teaching there , doing workshops , organizing yoga retreats , organizing festivals , functions , get together s,working with Government people in issues related to the Centre , collecting donations , taking the foreign  staff there out  in and around Chennai etc etc and many activities that I can go on and on .I used to spend most of the time there to such an extent it appeared that it was my second home .Sometimes I used to wonder why am I doing so much work for this Organization and that too as a free service .I got the answer for the same when I went on a visit to the Sivananda Organization's Head Quarters in Val Morin ,Quebec ,Canada in 2006 .There I met some very devoted students of Swami Vishnu devananda( the founder of the Sivananda Yoga Veadnta Centres )  who had been his direct disciples for many years and still faithfully come to take part in the activities at the Val Morin Ashram and they said that Swami Vishnu devananda used to say to the people who came to work for him/ or for the Sivananda Organization  have some past debts that need to be cleared and once those debts are cleared they will leave on their own or situation will force them to go out and till then whether they like it or not they will be forced to work in one way or the other for the Organization . So some people stay for 1 month and leave , some for 1 year and leave and some like me work for around 10 years and leave and some continuing to work there for many years . So I too felt that I had lot of my past life debts to be repaid for Swami Vishnu devananda and once that was over , it was now freeing me and making me travel my own path .

What benefits I got from my association with the Sivananda Organization :
1)The greatest benefits I got from my association with the Sivananda Organization was the exposure to the most simplest and classically pure and undiluted hatha yoga & raja yoga teachings .There was no New Age stuff , short cut methods , reference to some dubious and mysterious texts to claim validity and all that Swami Vishnu devananda synthesized and put in to a simple and straightforward package of 5 Basic Points of Yoga and 12 Basic Postures and 2 Basic Pranayamas were nothing but a condensation of the teachings of his Guru Swami Sivananda and who relied completely on the classical yoga texts - Hatha Yoga Pradipika , Patanjai Yoga Sutras , Shiva Sahmita , Gherenda Samhita , Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads for all his teachings and writings .
2)With the simplified Sivananda format of Asana Sequence I not only had an opportunity to practice it easily but also to teach it to others in a more simplified way .This Sivananda format was very useful to help beginners get a grasp of Yoga and I had a wonderful time passing on the essence of classical yoga to many people through my yoga classes and workshops at the Sivananda Yoga Centre .Also in 2001 I was fortunate to do a 70 episode morning yoga tv show for a private TV channel here which had the program broadcast all over India and I presented the entire Asana Sequence as part of the Sivananda System of Asana practice in that program . This program exposed me to what it is to come on TV and where ever I went out I had people talking to me and asking are you the guy who comes on the Yoga TV program and it was a wonderful experience being sort of famous at that time .
3) In the Sivananda System , Yoga was not just an academic subject to be taught and listened to . It was to be a practical experience and the Sivananda Ashram schedule was designed in such a way that anyone who comes to it either for the Teachers Training Program or for Yoga Vacation must undergo a set program right from morning to late evening and that had 2 meditation sessions , 2 yoga asana sessions , some yoga theory  , karma yoga ,free time etc and it was a complete package of Karma , Bhakti , Jnana and Hatha Yoga .So whether u liked it or not , u have to get up early sit for the morning meditations , attend the morning yoga class , do some work allotted to you , have the simple food served there and then do the same routine in evening .So this was helping a person develop positive samskaras and here you did not discuss about yoga , you are actually practicing yoga day in and day out .
4) In the Sivananda System the courses that I did were TTC( Teachers Training Course )  in 1998 ,ATTC( Advanced Teachers Tarining Course )  in 2004 , and SI ( Sadhana Intensive ) in 2009, 2010 and they  were very terrific  .TTC was tough in that you are first time pushed in to an ashram schedule , and in ATTC you do not have that problem as you are used to an ashram schedule but it is very tough in that it is highly packed schedule with regard to Asana , pranayama and theory sessions .SI is intensive in its own way and I have mentioned about it in my earlier blog post No:17 .
But the beauty of these courses was that they were being done by a group of people world over at the same time together   - Indians , Amaericans , Germans , French , Italians , Isarelies , Arabs etc etc . These courses had people from the age 20 to 60 and it has a combination of men and women . Inspite of all these differences in language , culture ,age etc  we all lived like students in a University and we all found that we had the same problem ir-respective of which Country / Culture we belonged to .Swami Vishnu devnanda believed in Unity in Diversity and the TTC ,ATTC and SI courses was a demonstration of  this spirit .I heard that in Mid 80s during the height of Arab -Isareli conflict ,we had Arabs and  Jews sitting together and eating peacefully in the Ashram during the teachers training courses .This spirit of Unity in diversity does continue in the Sivananda Ashram world wide .
5) Being part of the Sivananda System made me aware of the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of India .I was very much ashamed that being born in Brahmin family( Brahmins were supposed to carry on the spiritual tradition of India )  I was unaware of many of the basic disciplines that need to be followed in a Hindu household like morning and evening prayers , prayers before meals , special mantras to be chanted when moving out of the house /journey , rituals to be done on auspicious occasions like Ganapathy Homa , Sudarshana Homa , Maha Mritunjaya Homa , Vishnu Sahasranama Puja , Lalitha Sahasranama Puja etc etc . It was only after being associated with the Sivananda Organization that I started to bring in many of these things in to my own day to day life .
6) Since the Sivananda Organization is a world wide Organization , I had the opportunity to meet , interact with many people from world over and get a much broader perspective about many things related to Yoga and other topics .I had the opportunity to take many of my Western Sivananda friends around my City , have them come for lunch at my house and many other such interesting things . Eventhough I went outside India for the first time in 2006 but before that itself  I had a big lot of  people from the Western world as my Sivananda friends and I was in regular touch with them .The Sivananda TTCs ,ATTCs and SIs helped me develop such a good network and in this respect I consider the Sivananda Ashrams to be a sort of Multi Cultural University .
7) My visit to the Sivananda Ashram in Quebec , Canada in 2006 as well as 2007 was the very best I can say .It exposed me to life outside India for the first time , more so as the way Ashrams are run outside India .It also helped me connect to many new friends and in fact my second visit in 2007 laid the first foundation of me going bit deeper in to my own Yoga Sadhana and taking the route of a Solitary Sadhak ( spiritual aspirant ) .

So like this I can go on and on regarding the benefits I had got due to my association with the Sivananda Organization and this one blog post will not be enough . The reason why I am writing this today is because today is Guru Poornima and today  one must thank one's Guru's for all the blessings they gave and continue to give in your life .I never choose Swami Sivananda as my guru , in fact it was Sri Krishnamacharya who was my first Yoga inspiration but then it was the grace of Swami Sivananda who pushed me to the path of Yoga on July 14 , 1997 on his Maha Samadhi day and till this day I feel that  it is his grace that is guiding me on the next steps in Yoga .

Today I am no longer interested in being part of the activities of the Sivananda Organization as I feel that I have reached a saturation limit in that and destiny wants me to move ahead and spend more time in my own solitude and sadhana and hence I do not have any guilt in not being part of any  Sivananda Ashram activity or being in communion with my regular Sivananda friends as I used to do it before .At the same time I continue to take inspirations from the teachings of Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnu devananda and try to live in the spirit of the teachings as much as I can .I feel that the best respect one can show for one's teachers/Gurus  is to try to live their teachings as much as one can in one's life and I am happy that my association with the Sivananda Organization for many years has only strengthened my faith in Yoga and in living a Yogic life .While I continue to pursue learning other styles of yoga like Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga etc , my spirit will always remain in the basic teachings of Swami Sivananda which is :

Once again on this auspicious Occasion of Guru Poornima I   thank Gurudev Swami Sivananda for kindling in me the spark of Yoga on July 14 - the day of his Maha Samadhi and hence I consider July 14 to be a very memorable day in my life . I consider this blog post to be as a form of gratitude to Gurudev Swami Sivananda and other Gurus who have guided me and who continue to guide me and I am very much thankful to all the Gurus for guiding me on the right path at the appropriate times and the spiritual bliss that I am enjoying right now  is due to sticking to the path of Yoga that would not have been possible had the grace of Swami Sivananda not acted on me on July 14 , 1997 .


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