In ancient times, Munger is said to have been ruled by the great tantric yogi Karna, and the hill of Karna Chaura, now Ganga Darshan, was his seat. Munger has always been a spiritual place belonging to yogis, rishis, and munis. When I first came to Munger in 1956, I never foresaw that one day I would found an ashram there or teach and preach yoga. I wanted to live by myself and understand myself more. During this period from 1956 to 1963 I came to understand the vibrations that seemed to have remained there even after 5,000 years. On the desolate and deserted hillock, I sat for days, weeks and months, but I did not know exactly what it was that I was assimilating.
All I knew was that Karna was famous for his generosity and charity and used to give gold to everyone who came to him. But that was not my mission in life as I was neither a king nor an industrialist. More than that, I knew that in the age in which I was born, gold has no relevance to mankinds real eternal existence. Of course, wealth is necessary in order to exist, to give us an idea of security, but, after all, that security is just a delusion. Prosperity was not the ultimate solution to the peace of mankind.
Ultimately an idea dawned I would dispense yoga. After all, there are so many religions, each based on revelations directed from the topmost level. However, they have not been able to show man his inner being, the inner fountain of his experience. They have only touched on the external man, the social, modern, affluent man, not the effulgent and complete man, the poorna purusha. They teach and preach about it, but do not know how this innermost experience, which is the basis of all our experience, can be realised.
In 1963, recalling the teachings of my guru, Swami Sivananda, I came to a definite conclusion about the validity and necessity of yoga for people today. So I began experiments on other people and on myself. Since then yoga has gone around the world, crossing frontiers, breaking though the barriers of religion and political and philosophical ideology. Yoga is the one system of thought that has brought different communities together. Where churches, temples and mosques have failed, yoga has bought together a good cross section of humanity. Scientists and spiritual seekers, for instance, have been brought together. Today, if there is one word that rings around the globe, if there is one idea that is acceptable to all people having different philosophies, political thinking and national status it is just yoga.
Why should people accept yoga? Is it because a powerful king or ruler has given it to them? No! If religious movements have been taken around the world using guns, swords and armies, then yoga has been taken around the world in the hearts, minds and speech of swamis. It is these people who, having no home or family of their own, have carried this science from shore to shore. They exist for just one mission alone, which is to distribute the tool of peace yoga!
We have realised the futility of the material security we have been aspiring for, running after and dreaming of day in and day out. A choice has already been made. The West has seen the climax of material prosperity and has now realised the emptiness of these things. We have been chasing sensual pleasures, thinking perhaps therein could be found the fountain of joy, ananda. Shanti, peace, is the one thing more precious than gold or any type of prosperity. If Karnas age demanded gold, this age demands peace. In Munger today we do not distribute gold, but we offer the gift of yoga, the essence of spiritual life.
For me, yoga is very important, not only in relation to Indian culture, but also in relation to the needs of the whole world. Once a great religious leader asked me how yoga could be incorporated into the present world situation. I told him frankly that yoga commences when you are totally frustrated, when your mind is not under control and when you are undergoing constant bouts of depression, anger, jealousy, greed, anxiety, worry and passion. When the mind has lost its stable base, you try desperately to do something in order to find a way through, and that something is the beginning of yoga.
When you get angry, when you are assailed by passions and depressions, what do you do? You try to steady yourself. This effort to stabilise the mind is the first step of yoga. Therefore, please do not say that yoga only begins with yama and niyama. Frankly speaking, when you are unhappy, you begin yoga; when you are unwell, you begin yoga; when you do not sleep for nights and nights together on account of your psychosis and neurosis, you begin yoga; when your mind is filled with impurities and loses its sense of peace, it is at that time that yoga begins.
So please do not say that yoga is only for renunciates, for sannyasins. Why should there be yoga for sannyasins? Sannyasins have no feeling of insecurity, they have nothing to worry about. Their needs are very few and whether or not these needs are met, they can still manage. It is the people who have responsibilities, obligations, worries, anxious, sleepless nights and so on and so forth that need yoga.
It was with these people in mind that I took the message of yoga from Munger to the rest of the world. Going abroad as far as Latin American countries, travelling through province after province, city after city, I have journeyed practically throughout the world, not only by plane but also on horseback and by car. I found many signs that yoga used to be a very ancient universal world culture. India has been responsible for the preservation of this culture, but once it existed over the entire planet.
Yoga is going to be the culture of humanity and no power on earth can make yoga retrace its steps. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna tells Arjuna that yoga has been handed down from one generation to another generation of great souls and that is how the tradition was created. For a period of time it had to go underground, but it was not destroyed. The sannyasins had to go underground because for a long time people did not want yoga and believed it was just for swamis. People had all kinds of strange ideas regarding this great science, and that is how yoga absolutely lost touch with mans day-to-day spiritual and material existence.
However, with the advent of Swami Vivekananda, followed by Swami Ramatirtha, Swami Yogananda, Sri Aurobindo and Swami Sivananda, my guru, yoga has gone around the world bringing peace into the lives of millions. When I went to eastern and western countries, I found that everybody knew about yoga. It was not that I was carrying something new to them; they understood it well.
An awareness has developed throughout the world that yoga is a system of self-help which can be adopted according to individual and environmental needs. Many groups of people are now spreading the message of yoga and meditation around the world in an attempt to resurrect the inner balance necessary for the survival and evolution of the human race as a whole. It is becoming more apparent that yoga will become a universal culture. In time we envisage the re-emergence of a yogic culture which will influence future generations just as the technological culture has influenced our generation today.
Yoga is going to be a mighty force during the twenty-first century. Of course, this does not mean that there will be no hatred in the world and that everybody will become happy and free from problems and disease. Diversity is the nature of the world, and yoga cannot go against it. However, yoga will bring light to mans thinking processes and thereby improve the quality of his thoughts and perception, enabling him to understand his needs and problems.
Yoga will not replace the modern cultures, but it will make them more beautiful, more useful and more substantial. If we are fortunate to live in the twenty-first century, we will see that the destiny of nations and the philosophy of mankind will be regulated by the central philosophy of yoga. Yoga is the greatest gift that can be given to mankind today. It is the gift of peace.