On 3rd and 4th July, 1999, the first group of graduates in Master of Arts (Philosophy) from Bihar Yoga Bharati went to Rikhia to receive the blessings of Paramahamsa Satyananda. It was a momentous occasion for everyone as we were conscious that Swami Sivananda's vision, entrusted to his disciple Swami Satyananda and actualized by his disciple Swami Niranjanananda, was responsible for our gaining the honour of darshan that day. That it was to be darshan in the true sense of the word, a transcendental vision of reality, was intimated early in our journey.
We were travelling by car and Swami Niranjanananda took us by Mount Mandura, an ancient volcanic plug with strange markings as though a huge rope had encircled it. According to legend this was the very mountain used to churn the ocean of milk, releasing amrit, the divine nectar of immortality and vish, its counterpart, a poison so virulent that Lord Shiva drank it himself in order to protect creation. We began reflecting on the role of the divine in protecting and guiding the evolution of mankind, and this was to become the underlying experience of the journey.
Arriving in the Akhara, we saw the completed hospital, Amrit Kalash, and long lines of villagers being interviewed, examined and given expert medical advice and free medi-cation. A new satsang hall with residential quarters was being constructed by the gate and beyond the walls a lake for bathing and irrigation. On a nearby hillock an exquisite, tiny temple to Hanuman had been constructed and we were told Paramahamsaji went there each morning. The atmosphere was tranquil and dynamic with everyone fully engaged in their area of service.
In the satsang itself, Paramahamsa Satyananda spoke of his guru's vision of a yogic university as a healing agency, because investigating the truths of the scriptures and of one's own real self heals the psyche of mankind at its deepest level. He spoke of civilizations and cultures rising and falling in wave after wave, and how it is possible and necessary for us to rediscover and preserve their most essential truths. He reminded us that in the sixties he had diagnosed yoga as the need of the time, particularly at the level of asana, pranayama, relaxation and therapy. As the rate of change continues to accelerate in today's society, the need for mankind to be able to adapt, be flexible, and remain relaxed, alert and aware of their highest goals means that yoga remains the most essential tool for the turn of the millennium. Now the higher aspects of yoga must be recognized, the skills of pratyahara which enable detachment and a cool head when dealing with the external world, insight and penetration when looking within, coupled with the warmth of bhakti, love, compassion and understanding.
He spoke of how yoga at first deals with Prakriti, nature or the manifest aspects of creation. Here yoga is comprised of techniques for managing the chitta vrittis, the modifications of the mind. It is in this respect that yoga is the helpmate of modern man in dealing with stress and change. Beyond this, yoga deals with Purusha, consciousness, the imperishable unmanifest aspect. This means establishing oneself in the awareness of drashta, the witnessing self.
Tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam. While Paramahamsaji was referring to Rishi Patanjali's sutras, Swami Niranjana-nanda was sitting at his guru's feet and I became aware of the unity and understanding between them like a tangible golden aura. Mind dropped away and a lake of pure being opened up. The sensation was of purity and peace, of crystal waters sparkling with light. The consciousness of external surroun-dings dropped into the background while the consciousness of an ever-present love and bliss emanated throughout. It was as though attention had been directed from the film projected onto the backdrop of space/time and on to the stream of light emanating from the projector. As the proceedings continued, each graduate individually went forward, called by Swami Niranjanananda, to receive their degree from the hands of Swami Satyananda. The body moved forward of its own accord and allowed eye to eye contact with Paramahamsaji. He could be seen as the rishi from whom brahmi vritti, the energy connecting us to the source, was streaming out. Questions and insecurities of the heart dissolved before the compassion in his glance, replaced by a beautiful peace and lightness.
Swami Niranjanananda scooped us together again and accompanied us back to Munger. Once again we were involved in daily service, preparing for the Guru Poornima celebrations, getting ready for the next intake of students of BYB, etc. This is all expressing the adesh or insight given to us all; that the only worthwhile life is one of giving. Many of us have experienced such transcendental moments, either at unique times in our individual lives or at blessed events like Chandi Yajna. The thing is, we tend to 'forget' such experi-ences as we get caught up in the procession of daily life. It is the guru's grace, the compassion of Shiva, which enables us to remain constantly aware of the amrit, the divine essence or inner light, while managing the transitory feelings, thoughts and actions of our lives, wrapped up in the realm of space, time and object. The actual events and interactions must have varied for each one of us but the essential darshan was the same, inspiring us all to fulfil the adesh of the gurus; serve, love, give, purify, be good, do good, meditate, realize!