I greet all of you including those who have joined me live from so many countries across the world on this occasion of the curtain raiser for the International Yoga Day 2016.
35 years ago, when I used to speak about Yoga to people in India and those outside India, people would think Yoga was something about practices performed by people who would applyBhasma (sacred ash) and had their hairs tied in matted locks. They would picture someone standing on one foot by the banks of the River Ganga and thought that Yoga was actually meant for such individuals only, and not for everyone. This was the feeling people had about Yoga in those days.
Today, I shall share the secret behind why I named this movement and organization as 'The Art of Living' 35 years ago. People then used to think of Yoga as something that was not meant for the common man and could only be learnt by few distinguished or qualified individuals. They would think that only someone who was a renunciate or a saint was allowed to practice Yoga. Yoga was not thought to be practiced and understood by a worldly person. This was a huge misconception in those times. This is why I chose to call this movement as The Art of Living – a unique skill or art to lead a happy and fulfilled life. When people heard about 'The Art of Living', they naturally became very curious to find out what it was all about, and many wanted to explore and go deeper into it. When a few people would come to meet me, I would guide them in practices of Yoga, Pranayama and meditation. As and when people started to get an experience of Yoga, Pranayama and meditation, their beliefs and notions about Yoga began to change. Thousands of youth joined this movement and became teachers for this across the world.
Many other spiritual and religious organizations across the world have also taken up this cause and contributed to it. Many teachers of Yoga have worked tirelessly through these past decades because of which the misconceptions surrounding Yoga and its practices have almost disappeared. This is a great achievement.
Yoga is that which can shake up and awaken the entire world. It also brings the union of the soul with God.
Last year, when the International Yoga Day (IYD) was officially declared, many programmes were held across the world, and close to one-third of the World’s population participated in these programmes in different countries with great enthusiasm. In earlier days, we had heard a saying that the sun would never set on the British Empire. But today, we can proudly declare that the Sun never sets on Yoga. We have seen this happening: from Japan to Argentina; from Norway to Australia and Cape Town in Africa, Yoga and Indian Spirituality are being honoured and appreciated everywhere. People everywhere are experiencing the multi-fold benefits of these practices.
When we think of Yoga, we understand it in a slightly limited way, as meaning only a few Asanas (specific body stretches or postures), like standing upside down on the head; or rigorously moving the stomach and abdomen. This alone is not what Yoga is. Yoga is that which can shake up and awaken the entire world. Yoga is that which unites the individual with the greater consciousness, the larger universal reality. Yoga brings the union of the soul with God. God is not seated somewhere high up in the heavens. God will not suddenly and miraculously appear before you one day, saying, “My dear one! I am very pleased with you. Ask for a boon you want and I shall grant it”. This happens only in TV serials. God is that all-pervading supreme energy that is hidden deep within us all. The art of awakening that divine energy is Yoga.
Our respected Prime Minister said that 'Yoga is the unique skill of going from Aham (Me) Brahmasmi (I am the Brahman or God is within me) toVasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The world is one family)'.
This is really a very deep thought. Yoga does not mean having the realization of Aham Brahmasmi and then renouncing the world and staying in some far away cave in the Himalayas. Yoga is the journey of realizing that 'God resides within me (Aham Brahmasmi)' to Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (we are all one). Realizing oneness with everyone and striving to wipe the tears and bring a smile on every face - this is Yoga in the truest sense. This is Vasudaiva Kutumbakam.
Realizing oneness with everyone and striving to wipe the tears and bring a smile on every face - this is Yoga in the truest sense.
I remember a story from the Mahabharata. Lord Krishna was standing before a mirror and adorning himself. He took quite a long time to do so. So, while Lord Krishna was doing this, his charioteer who was waiting outside, grew restless as to what was taking the Lord so long. He finally entered Lord Krishna’s chamber and asked Him, “O Lord! Where do you wish to travel to today?”
Lord Krishna said to him, “I am planning to go meet Duryodhana today. Duryodhana is only impressed by outward looks and appearances. He does not yet have the ability to look within (himself or others). So I am taking care to dress myself finely and properly, since I have to go meet a prince”.
This is just like when we have to go for an important corporate meeting, we ensure to dress ourselves properly in a three-piece suit and comb our hair and attend to how we look. So in the same way, Lord Krishna prepared Himself for meeting Duryodhana.
His charioteer then said, “O Lord, why do you need to take so much trouble to go all the way to meet him? There can be no comparison between him and you. If you simply snap your fingers, Duryodhana will come fall at your feet in an instant. Then he will have to do whatever you ask him to. Why take so much trouble then to go meet him instead?” This incident happened at the time when Lord Krishna had decided to go as an ambassador of peace. Lord Krishna said, “My dear, darkness never travels towards the Light. It is Light that travels to the darkness to illumine it”.
When people would ask me, “Gurudev, why are you traveling to Iraq?” I told them, “Would people from Iraq be able to travel to India to learn and imbibe its spiritual wisdom? The kind of crisis and stressful situation that Iraq is in at present, it is we who should take this knowledge to the people there”.
India has been blessed with such profound Spiritual knowledge and traditions. Lord Krishna has shown by example that one must travel to help wherever there is a need and necessity to do so. Wherever there is a need for love and knowledge, it is we who will have to travel there and provide it. Such is the greatness of India’s spirituality.
And why is this so? It is because of our values of oneness and love, and considering the whole world as our own. The voice for Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam was first sounded here in India.