Stepping out of the taxi, sweaty, dirty and grateful to be here, I am washed by a sense of heritage, finding myself in a place full of history and grace.
Nestled high in the foothills of the Himalayas (I may have stolen that line from their leaflet), located on the banks of the holy river Ganges. All the buildings face out, over the holy river, allowing you to sit atop the balconies and rooftops watching the sunrise and passers-by, deep in thought and contemplation. Each morning, as the temperature slowly rises, the fog gently draws back to reveal a mountainous stage fit for the lineage of the great Himalayan Masters. At dusk it’s as if the fog returns, closing the curtain to contain and protect the magic of the mountains and all their rich secrets and traditions.
Where am I? The name of this place is, Sadhana Mandir Ashram. It was established by H. H Swami Rama in 1966 to maintain the unbroken traditions of the Himalayan Sages, including his own. A set of bricks and mortar, built to house and make available a rich tapestry of Yoga, Philosophy and Scientific traditions, with literary scriptures and materials that reach back over 5,000 years.
Swami Rama, the founder, was an Internationally acclaimed Guru, Yogi, humanitarian, author, teacher, father, friend, and is regarded the world over as a generous and kind-hearted man. Image of the late Swami Rama included above.
Why am I here? To attend a course called Conscious Living, based on a book of the same title wrttien by Swami Rama himself. An author of over 45 books, he dedicated his life to bridging the Philosophies of the East with the Science of the West. The course, taught by a disciple of the Guru is taught over three days and delves into the history of the Himalayan Traditions and the specific philosophies of Swami Rama, as well as a plethora of practical’s leading you through the meditations, asana practices and gland cleaning rituals of the late Guru.
To say the course was illuminating, is an understatement. Stepping my toes into these teachings, the outsider (quite literally) of the class, as the only white international among the group of 8! I got close and personnel with the ins and outs of not only the theory’s and practices, but far more interesting was the thoughts, questions and real-life application of these in the lives of everyday middle-class Indian nationals.
Swami Rama famously wrote:
You are the architect of your life and you decide your destiny
The course gave an eloquent step by step guide of how to do exactly this! To architect your life for the best possible results. It covered everything from diet, sex, relationships, family values, provided a philosophical framework to follow, including Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga, an overview of the chakras, sheaths, the unpacking of the Bhagavad Gita and more. And all in a very easy, warm and welcoming tone that anyone, who had some background of these ideas, could follow and more importantly, with practice and determination, could actually apply.
I can’t quite believe I’m going to write this, but it was a self-help workshop like no other and yes, I’ve attended a few. The big differences, from my experience, were in cultural heritage of the subject matter and attendees. The fact you need to believe you have a spirit to apply the teachings. And finally, that you need to have faith in something. It doesn’t need to be God, the Divine, Hinduism or even Buddhism. But you do need to have faith in something, to have even the desire to take part in the devotional practices and follow the concept of Ataman (inner Self).
I don’t believe in God. For me, I have complete faith in the Universe: in the power of our universal energies, and specifically that we all have the same infinite source of energy and potential inside of us. It’s simply a question of having enough courage to believe in ourselves. Enough perseverance to keep trying, even when we suffer and get knocked down. And finally, enough faith to trust in the timing of our lives and to surrender to it all.
With any course, or learning, for me it’s vital to truly listen. To respect the teachings and then take away what intuitively works for me. On this occasion I learnt the intimate realities and hardships facing a few Indian nationals. I shared in their thoughts and vulnerabilities. We swapped experiences, stories and understandings of the literatures, all humbled by each other’s openness and warmth.
It was a very real few days, with much time to reflect. Sure, some of the comments on the West raised my eyebrow and even frustrated me slightly, but then my ideals of the East are at times as damming and blunt. It’s a matter of context and growth. This was a time for me to observe with grace and learn.
Overall, my time at the Ashram (which I’m not sure I mentioned was in silence, when not in lessons), the course, my interactions with the staff, teachers and time spent in silence made certain things clear to me. I love Yoga, not only its practice, but its rich philosophy and practical anatomical teachings. Not only for what it teaches me every single day, but for the tools it gives me to connect and inspire others daily. I’m not on a path to seek Samadhi (enlightenment), that’s not what my journey is all about. I am a teacher and forever a student.
So surely if, like the teachings, you believe (like me) we all contain the same mass of energy and potential, then surely, each of us is our own Guru! Sometimes we may simply need to listen, persevere and surrender to the Guru within and the infinite potential inside us….
Life is a manuscript, and the author of that manuscript is that which you are. …The beginning and the ending of this manuscript are missing.
You do not consciously know from where you have come; you do not know where you will go
For more information on the Ashram, their courses and history, please visit http://sadhanamandir.org or email them direct at firstname.lastname@example.org
Huge love and light