Tribute to a Great Visionary - From all the Associates of Bihar Yoga Bharati

This year on 8th September, the birthday of Swami Sivananda, Bihar Yoga Bharati will celebrate its fourth Foundation Day. Just as Ananda Kutir in Swami Sivananda's day gave birth to the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy, Bihar School of Yoga became the catalyst for Bihar Yoga Bharati in 1994.

Swami Sivananda had seen the urgent need for imparting systematic higher training in yoga to seekers of truth and, more particularly, to those who might be called upon to deliver this message to the people not only of an awakened and liberated India, but of the whole world at large. He said that education is a training for life, not merely for the attainment of a professional status. This training must become an integral process which ensures the development of the whole personality, not just the intellect. Education of the intellect alone is injurious to the progress of humanity. It produces selfish people who have no sympathy for the poor or respect for life.

Education is not a process of stuffing the student with intellectual information. The ultimate aim of education is to draw out the higher faculties already within each individual. He often emphasized that real education can only be imbibed through simple living and high thinking. Teachers and professors should be spiritual minded. They should perform spiritual practices and meditation regularly. They should lead a spiritual life, and be worthy of emulation, so that the students can draw inspiration from their lives. The principle and professors of colleges should be guided by realized and learned sannyasins and yogis, so that real education can be imparted to the students. Colleges and universities should be sanctuaries of light, knowledge, discipline and culture, not mere cramming institutions.

Swami Sivananda had envisioned the application of these principles in a College of Yoga and Vedanta to be established at Rishikesh on the banks of the Ganga with the sole object of making mankind spiritually vibrant. It was to be a center for the generation of spiritual energy whose currents would reach kindred souls all over the globe. They would be initiated in all the processes of self-realization by a combination of teachings and practices of all schools of yoga and vedanta. After the training the students would become potent instruments of good, carrying spiritual power with them and revitalizing the society wherever they went. It was also the aim of the college to make its students competent to establish similar centers of learning in different parts of the world, so that the teaching received from the parent institution would permeate everywhere. These centers would purify the world and make it an abode of true bliss.

The working of the college was envisioned in three departments or faculties: (i) Shastra Jnana (theoretical studies), (ii) Sadhana (practice) and (iii) Abhyasa Yoga (research and intensive meditation). Besides work in the above mentioned faculties, combined work would be done every day by the residents of the college, according to long established and well founded methods for the creation of a spiritual vibration. At fixed hours of the day, group activities would be conducted such as: (i) karma yoga, (ii) naam sankirtan, and (iii) meditation for the enlightenment and purification of humanity.

Although the college did not materialize as such, from this idea the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy grew. As though in response to the wish of Swami Sivananda, scholars well versed in the philosophy and scriptural texts of India joined the academy. Distinguished visiting scholars were invited to take classes during the periods of their stay. In answer to the question of a visiting professor, as to the purpose of a yoga university, Swami Sivananda replied: “There is a great difference between other universities and the yoga university. The purpose of other universities is to provide a job oriented education, whereas the yoga university prepares students to become the torch bearers of the society.”

Those who felt that the university had few students and fewer buildings of its own, expressed their feelings to Swami Sivananda and got the following answer: “This is not a university like others in the world. People are not trained here to become clerks, advocates and scientists. That there are even a dozen students earnestly endeavoring to realize the truth in the yoga university is a great achievement. That qualifies it to become the greatest university in the world. The yoga university has a great future. Indian culture was born from such universities, which were called ashramas in those days. The seed has been sown; the Lord will look to its success. Students will come from all over the world.”

Today the seed of Swami Sivananda's vision, which was nourished by Swami Satyananda's silent and dedicated effort to provide an infrastructure and receptive atmosphere, has sprouted into the tender sapling of Bihar Yoga Bharati (BYB), an Institute of Advanced Studies in Yogic Science. This sapling is sure to grow into a huge banyan tree under the alert and careful eye of Paramacharya Niranjanananda Saraswati whose creativity, inspiration and loving touch pervade the entire atmosphere. Students from both hemispheres have started coming to imbibe yoga, not only as a practical discipline, but as a scientific way of life, a sublime philosophy and an age old heritage of the Indian culture.

The Bihar School of Yoga, a world renowned institute established in Munger in 1964 on the banks of the Ganga by Swami Satyananda has been transformed into a seat of higher yogic learning for the regeneration of humanity. Now the campus has become a world community, humming with students of different cultures, creeds and nationalities. The days are filled with study and practice of yoga and meditation, karma yoga, chanting and singing of mantras, and participation in community activities.

The first course conducted by BYB was a four month Certificate Course in Yogic Studies from September to December 1995 from which 31 students passed. In 1996, BYB conducted a one year Diploma Course in Yogic Studies from January to December from which 13 students passed, and three four month Certificate Courses in Yogic Studies: (i) from February to May which 23 students passed, and (ii) from September to December which 34 students passed in Hindi medium and 30 students passed in English medium.

This year, the fifth Yoga Certificate Course was conducted from February to May from which 51 students passed in Hindi medium. The second Yoga Diploma course began in August with 24 students. The sixth Yoga Certificate course will be conducted from October 1997 to January 1998 in which over 80 students have already enrolled. The students, both male and female, attending these courses have come from a wide diversity of backgrounds throughout India as well as many countries abroad, including: America, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Colombia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nepal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Yugoslavia.

The aim of the Certificate and Diploma Courses is to provide a background in yogic philosophy, physiology and psychology, along with basic training in asana, pranayama, mudra, shatkarma, pratyahara, dharana and ashram lifestyle. The ashram lifestyle is based upon the ancient gurukul system and all participants maintain the same discipline as ashram residents. In the Diploma Course special emphasis is given to the theoretical aspects of yoga, so that students passing through it may qualify for higher studies in yoga at the post-graduate level.

In 1996, BYB received affiliation from TM Bhagalpur University for conducting two year post-graduate courses in three faculties of (i) Humanities, (ii) Social Sciences and (iii) Science. Following this, the first MA course in Yoga Philosophy (Faculty of Humanities) began in January 1997 with 16 students. The first MA/MSc course in Yoga Psychology (Faculty of Social Sciences) started in August 1997 with 13 students. The second MA course in Yoga Philosophy will start from November 1997 and the first MSc course in Applied Yogic Science (Faculty of Science) will begin in January 1998.

In addition to the permanent faculty members and sannyasins of BSY, renowned scholars and professors of L.N. Mithila University, Darbanga; Benaras Hindu University, Varanasi; Ravenshaw College, Cuttak; T.M. Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur; as well as from Australia, Sweden, Germany and other countries, are regular visiting faculty members.

Although young in years, the Bihar Yoga Bharati is rapidly developing into the Yoga University which Swami Sivananda had visualized. Therefore, on this fourth Foundation Day of BYB the faculty and associates of BYB wish to offer the highest tribute to Paramguru Swami Sivananda for sharing his inspiration, vision and illumination in the field of education and yoga, which is enabling this dream of a Yoga University to come true.