"I had sufficient knowledge of Vedanta. I thought. I would be teaching people that, because Vedanta is my tradition; yoga is not. While wandering all over the Indian subcontinent, I found that Vedanta was not something I had to teach the people. Yoga was what the people needed."
On a thin strip of land considered uninhabitable and a meeting place for thieves, Swamiji began the foundations of an ashram. This simple beginning was to grow into a respected international yogic institution, housing a growing number of sannyasins and students who came from near and far to imbibe Swamiji's integral method of teaching and training.
In the first few years of its establishment, the ashram seemed to grow very slowly. There were not so many classes at that time and students came mainly during holidays and in certain months of the year. The living conditions were much simpler than today. No private rooms. Everyone slept together on straw and blankets in the main sadhana hall. Food was also simpler and complaints fewer!
During this period Swamiji used to do a lot of higher sadhana in an underground room at the east end of the ashram. Here he would stay, often for months on end without meeting anyone. One of his oldest disciples, who looked after his needs at the time, tells how she walked into his underground room one morning and found Swamiji levitating up to the ceiling. She said that she called to him many times. He did not answer her, but each time she called his name his body came down a little lower until it touched the ground.
It was during this period of sadhana that Swamiji had several visions of Shakti. At first he saw her in the form of a beautiful young girl, full of sadness. She stood outside his window for a long time with her head down, and when he tried to speak to her, she wouldn't look up. He gazed at her for some minutes before realising that she was supernatural. He then understood the condition of women and their common aspiration for spiritual evolution and divine guidance. Later on, he saw Shakti in the form of a serpent upon his bed. But when he called someone to remove it, the serpent disappeared and couldn't be found anywhere.
These experiences were an important turning point in Swamiji's life and in the growth of his mission. Thereafter he decided to free himself from all restrictions regarding women and to initiate females into the Sannyasa Order and give them the same training and facilities as males. So, to the horror and disrespect of many traditionalists, the ashram became the training ground for female and male sannyasins and students alike. Here such an atmosphere was created that people could live, work and learn together.
By 1968 when the ashram in Munger was already well established, Swamiji made his first world tour, visiting many countries in Asia, Europe and America. After this trip Swamiji realised that people were ready for yoga everywhere and that only yoga could offer them a solution to their problems. So he began to broaden his approach, and to interpret the teachings in a more modern light which could be easily accepted by the people of all nations.
At the end of 1968, immediately after his return to Munger, Swamiji organised the first international teachers training course, so that the systematic teachings of yoga could continue. This was a nine month course, and it was attended by over a hundred aspirants whom Swamiji had met on his world tour. The classes were all taught by Swamiji himself and the course had a powerful impact on the students, many of whom are still teaching yoga today and have established yoga schools and centres.
Following the nine month course, Swamiji decided to train a large number of sannyasins to further spread the teachings of yoga 'from shore to shore and from door to door'. In his parivrajaka days when Swamiji was in Cape Camorin, he had had a vision in which he saw hundreds of young people swimming towards him. And they were of different races and nationalities; some were black, some brown, some red, yellow or white. He could see all of their faces very distinctly. At the onset of the three year sannyasa course in 1970, Swamiji saw many of the same faces which he had seen years earlier in his vision.
For this sannyasa course Swamiji had decided to work mainly with young people rather then old. After all, he thought, if they are already tired and retired, what use will they be to me? He wanted those who could run fast and go far. He wanted sannyasins of all nationalities, backgrounds and religions. And so they came, 108 in all, from villages and towns throughout India as well as from distant countries.
This course was definitely one to break all the limitations and concepts of the mind. There were periods of intense sadhana when the intending sannyasins sat for twelve hours a day or more in the main hall practising pranayama. Classes were led by Swamiji himself, and it was said by all that he was very strict. During the three hour long practice sessions, no one dared to move any part of the body, not even an eyelid. The diet was also very austere - dalia, dalia and dalia, three times a day, without salt; no coffee, tea or sugar. These were years of intensive spiritual growth and austerity aimed at purifying the total being and establishing a new basis for the mind. Now, looking back on it, we can say that this was the beginning of the new sannyasa order.
In 1973 the three year sannyasa course culminated in the memorable Golden Jubilee International Yoga Convention, which was held at BSY to celebrate Swamiji's 50th birthday anniversary. Thousands of devotees and yoga minded people thronged to Munger from all parts of India and around the world in order to pay tribute to this simple sadhu who had become a widely known and respected leader of the yogic renaissance. The convention was an enormous success, with Swamiji conducting the kriya yoga course himself - for the last time. After that he handed over all the teaching work.
In following years, Swamiji taught mainly through his disciples - that is, he transmitted his teachings. On a one-to-one basis, a pupil received more than mere technique. He absorbed a deeper understanding of the integral system of yoga for day-to-day living. BSY teaching is therefore unique. It is experiential, a transmission. Swamiji guided the teachers; he showed them discipline and how to relate to the needs of the student.
Sadhaks and sannyasins now worked side by side, in one spirit, with one goal, and that was to serve the guru. In the fulfilment of one's work, every objective both personal and spiritual could be attained. And every ashram member from the youngest to the oldest worked hard with a will to serve and to know divinity through the practice of selfless service. Karma yoga became the means of sacrifice and surrender of the ego in order to realise oneness with the guru and with God.
Between 1973 and 1983 sannyasins and students alike were completely absorbed in the fervour of karma yoga. And it was never a superficial form of sadhana. It was all-encompassing and the ashram members developed very rapidly through it. Even the visitors were immediately taken by the spirit of karma yoga and without any hesitation joined in.
In 1978 construction of Ganga-Darshan started. Swamiji began to travel more, in India as well as overseas, because of the growing interest and demand for yoga everywhere. When Ganga-Darshan was sufficiently established, teaching began in full earnest. There was more room for classes, residential students, and people. As well as ongoing individual instruction, classes became larger and regular therapy and general sadhana courses were established on a monthly basis.
In 1980 Swamiji began Teacher Training Courses for Indian nationals only, because Mother India herself had a deplorable lack of yoga teachers in ratio to her population. From India's villages and cities came men and women, young and old people, from all walks of life but with one aim in mind. To spread the benefits of yoga to all who were interested, whether to family members, village, community or teeming metropolis.
In the years that followed, thousands of Indian aspirants have been trained in yogic techniques that Swamiji has formulated over many years of experience and deliberation. Swamiji studied little known and popular tantric texts, practised many of these techniques and then adapted them to suit the needs of modern man.
Swamiji also reinterpreted the vedic system of ashrams and from the vanaprashtha ashrama has arisen the initiation of dedicated householders into Karma Sannyasa. Many aspirants from Teacher Training Courses have taken this special diksha to more effectively teach and spread yoga under Swamiji's guidance and blessings.
Since the inception of Ganga-Darshan, the development has flowed more towards an international teaching centre than a sannyas training ashram. Here the whole science of yoga is taught. It is systematic and integral- a yoga of harmony. Although hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, and gyana yogas are imbibed here, all lessons do not take place in the classrooms. Formal training has been kept to a minimum, except where special courses are concerned. Many lessons take place on a more subtle level with Swamiji using day-to-day situations, expertly conjured up, to help expand our minds and consciousness.
From this year, Swamiji has progressively handed over more and more programs, seminars, satsangs, etc., including the responsibility and presidency of Ganga-Darshan itself, to his sannyasins. This leaves Swamiji freer to act as international inspirer and powerhouse for the spiritual energy that flows down through sannyasins and disciples, to all the spiritual aspirants. A recent example was the national and international Intensive Kriya Yoga Courses, which attracted many old and new spiritual aspirants. The electrifying power transmitted through these courses was like a promise of mankind's future spiritual growth on a universal scale.
As the seeds of Swamiji's many tours come to fruition, more people are descending upon this yogic energy centre, this Ganga-Darshan. Their needs for physical, mental, and emotional yogic therapy are being formulated with individual courses on specific conditions. The plight of modern man in this tense world of technology, fear and pleasure is also being met with special courses to be devised on: Relaxation for Executives and Officers, A Yogic Lifestyle for Modern Women, Yoga in Business Management, Yoga for the Armed Forces, (Yoga for Sick Sannyasins and Silly Sadhaks - How to achieve samadhi while sticking envelopes), Yoga on Campus, Village Yoga in Technical Society, and even more, as man's acute needs are recognised. Traditional sadhana courses will continue, scaled to the aptitude of the sadhak; and sannyas training will always be available for the sincere aspirant with his highest of goals and personal sacrifice.
"I want to tell you that yoga teachers and yoga institutions must assess the reality which society faces from time to time. The effects of the culture upon the minds of the people is not always the same. The impact of the technological culture, the impact of prosperity and education, differ from decade to decade. The practices of yoga, not only for health of the people but also their minds, should be properly treated and understood, so that they can think on the important issues confronting them with greater clarity and less fear."
As galaxies are swallowed up into black holes, as 'star wars' proliferate in the minds and on the computer consoles of modern man, an ever expanding beacon of light shines from an isolated corner of one of earth's most ancient continents. A sparkling star within the planet earth herself.