The World Yoga Convention was an experience that has made a huge impact on my psyche at many different levels. Organized under an adept and world-renowned yoga master, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, I witnessed more than a convention; it was a modern-day miracle. Firstly, Munger, which is in the back of beyond, where there is no convention centre, or even a three-star hotel, had 30,000 delegates: 15,000 from fifty-six countries from all over the world. All the states of India were represented and there were local Biharis too.
The speakers were eminent people who had successfully combined yoga in tandem with their various disciplines, including neurologists, scientists working with NASA, physicists, medical doctors, psychiatrists, educational experts specializing in the field of child education, and many more.
What was fascinating was how yoga was being used across a wide spectrum, from developing creative potential among children, to handling a smooth transition into puberty, to the calming effects of mantra chanting on babies when done by expectant mothers, to dealing with serious psychiatric issues.
The speakers were predominantly swamis of different nationalities, who looked very relaxed as they were presenting their papers, and it was apparent they were talking from the depths of their experiences with yoga.
In one of the sessions, Swami Pragyamurti from London said that she conducted research on the impact of yoga on jail prisoners and was overwhelmed with the successful outcome of her work with them. She said that she noticed marked differences in the behaviour and mannerisms of a large number of these prisoners within a few months after they had undergone yoga lessons.
Not to be left behind, Nature too performed her little miracles as if She were gracing the event, wherein a group of eagles constantly circled the entire area as if they were guardians watching over the happenings of this magnificent event. On the second day, the mango trees in the ashram had tiny mangoes on them (out of season) and the kamini flowers blossomed also out of season.
Swami Niranjanananda's energy, his aura, and the way he held intellectuals from all over the world to the local Biharis spellbound, was a feat in itself. Despite the fact that Swamiji was in all the places at all times, right from chairing the sessions to effortlessly translating speeches from different languages, to moderating discussions, to dancing with the crowds, to performing tantric poojas – what amazed most of us was his absolutely relaxed and calm composure through all of this, with an absolutely firm grip on all that transpired in those five days. It seemed that even the leaves on the trees would not ruffle without his permission.
What struck me was the simplicity and creativity of the whole program. There were different events happening at the same time, and all of them were so spiritually elevating and exciting that I felt like a kid in this candy shop, wanting all the goodies!
The various events were Akhand Kirtans by different groups from all over the world such as Kazakhstan, Uruguay, France and the UK. Then there were rare tantric poojas that were unearthed from the tantras and being performed like they used to in the ancient days. The chanting and the energy was so powerful that one felt totally mesmerized, calmed and elevated to another state of consciousness. Other interesting tracks were a makeshift theatre where they were showing a movie on the life of Swami Satyananda and how he gave up all he created in a split second: no attachments, a true yogi!
The grand finale and the biggest take-home on many different levels was the prasad. The way the prasad was given was extremely creative. A marquee had been set up wherein 350 publications of BSY books, DVDs and CDs were laid out and people were asked to take whatever they wanted from this huge spread of knowledge. This event encapsulated the philosophy of the gurus: give, give, give. Swamiji said that the prasad that was given was that of vidya, knowledge, that can transform the being. This is the highest form of prasad!
It truly was an intellectually and spiritually enriching experience that has had a deep transformational effect on me on many different levels, an event that will be etched in my heart always for many lifetimes to come.