On 1st January 2014, Ganga Darshan greeted the new year with havan and the chanting of Hanuman Chalisa 108 times. Established in 2008, this sadhana has become a tradition of Ganga Darshan to welcome and prepare for the year ahead. The evening program celebrated the new year with an array of dance and singing performances.
On 3rd and 4th January, the feature length film, Satyam, was screened at Paduka Darshan. The screening over two nights was well attended by the citizens of Munger.
From 12th to 14th January, a three-hour program of chanting and havan was conducted daily at Satyam Udyan by the acharyas from Varanasi and sannyasins of the ashram to acknowledge many auspicious events, including Makar Sankranti and Swami Niranjanananda's sannyasa diwas.
On 1st February, Basant Panchami celebrations began with bhajan and kirtan by the children of Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal and Sri Vidya pooja conducted by the yoginis from Lalita Mahila Samajam, Thirueengoimalai, Tamil Nadu. Residents, students and guests were immersed in the sacred and beautiful Sri Vidya pooja.
The morning and afternoon sessions held at Yajnashala were alive with mantra and the energy of Devi. Swami Gorakhnath, Swami Swaroopananda, Swami Anandananda, Swami Kaivalyananda and Swami Dharmakirti told inspiring and often entertaining stories of their experiences with Swami Satyananda.
On 4th February, Basant Panchami, the yoginis conducted poornahuti. As special guest and guru, Swamiji spoke on the expressions of the mind and the qualities of satyam, shivam and sundaram.
Basant Panchami is the foundation day of the Bihar School of Yoga and Swami Shankarananda, the senior most sannyasin of the ashram and a pillar of the institution, spoke on the importance of observing oneself, including the negative aspects, and how to increase one's positive qualities. Swami Suryaprakash, President of the Bihar School of Yoga, highlighted that it was the 51st birthday of BSY. He then shared his experiences with his guru, Swami Niranjanananda, and ashram life.
The evening program was dedicated to Swami Dharmashakti, fondly known as Ammaji, who took samadhi during Basant Panchami in 2013. The Vishnu Sahasranama havan was conducted by the sannyasins of Ganga Darshan.
On 27th March, Sivaratri was celebrated at Satyam Udyan, the Akhara. The special evening program began with two hours of kirtan conducted by the sannyasa trainees. Swami Niranjan explained the significance of Sivaratri. Havan and pooja was accompanied by the chanting of Shiva stotras and the Shiva Sahasra Namavali. The sannyasins of the ashram performed pooja to the Shiva lingams of the Akhara, including the 12 jyotir lingams. The celebrations concluded with the distribution of prasad.
On 17th March, the auspicious day of Holi was celebrated at Ganga Darshan. Residents, students and guests of the ashram gathered at Kutir lawn for satsang and kirtan. Swamiji explained the spiritual significance of the day, and amongst the joy of kirtan, Swamiji offered coloured powder to all.
From 31st March to 8th April, Chaitra Navaratri was celebrated at the amphitheatre of Satyam Vatika at Ganga Darshan. Each evening, havan and pooja was accompanied by the chanting of stotras, dedicated to Sri Ram and Devi Ma, and kirtan.
Ma Durga was worshipped for the first three days. The next three days were dedicated to Ma Lakshmi, and Ma Saraswati was worshipped on the final two days. Stotras were chanted in honour and praise of Devi Ma whose blessings were felt by everyone present.
Evening programs on 5th and 6th April were held in Satyam Udyan, the Akhara, where the Navaratri program was combined with the monthly Guru Bhakti Yoga sadhana in memory of Sri Swamiji's attainment of mahasamadhi.
At 12 noon on 8th April, the birth of Sri Rama was celebrated at Satyam Udyan. The hour-long program consisted of stotras and kirtan dedicated to Sri Rama.
Swamiji spoke on Rama as the embodiment of dharma, nyaya and maryada, the three qualities of obligation or inherent duty, natural justice and appropriateness.
On 14th May on the occasion of Buddha Poornima, a special program was conducted at Satyam Udyan in memory of Swami Dharmashakti. Pandits from Shivalaya, Munger, conducted Rudrabhisheka and Sri Yantra abhisheka to the chanting of stotras.
At the Satyananda Ashram in Rajnandgaon devotees celebrated Ammaji's birthday with havan and the chanting of the Mahamrityunjaya mantra and Gayatri mantra.
On 11th and 12th July, Guru Poornima was celebrated by the residents, sannyasins and hundreds of guests at Paduka Darshan. Mantras and stotras were chanted by all present and havan was conducted each day by resident sannyasins. The first morning was made complete with beautiful kirtan led by the children of BYMM followed by two expertly performed dances. The first dance was presented by the older BYMM children and the second dance by the youngest – it was their very first public performance!
On 12th July, the Guru Poornima celebrations commenced with an opening statement and a meditation on guru and the guru tattwa. Havan was conducted by resident sannyasins to the chanting of Sakaradi Satyam Sahasra Namavali. Swami Shankarananda spoke on the guru-disciple relationship and the importance of the guru in an aspirant's life. This was followed by the chanting of the entire Saundarya Lahari and Sundarkand.
In the afternoon, the Mahamrityunjaya havan was conducted which was followed by a dance performance and a karate demonstration by the children of BYMM.
In the evening of both days, the citizens of Munger were invited to Paduka Darshan to watch Satyam, the feature film on the life of Sri Swami Satyananda. Shiv Kumar Rungta introduced the film, emphasizing that the life and teaching of Sri Swamiji will remain an inspiration for all generations to come.
On 17th August, at Satyam Udyan of Ganga Darshan, the birth of Lord Krishna was joyously celebrated by ashram residents, students and guests. Swamiji's Sunday morning satsang was dedicated to the topics of Sri Krishna and bhakti yoga. The evening program consisted of havan, pooja, kirtan and bhajan dedicated to Sri Krishna.
From 5th to 7th September, Prahlad Singh Tipanya and his group of musicians enchanted all residents, students and guests with his rendering of Kabir songs.
The first evening, Prahladji filled the Akhara with his soul-stirring music, the next evening the amphitheatre in Satyam Vatika was the scene of his performance, and the last evening he brought Kabirdas to Paduka Darshan.
Prahladji on tamboura and kartal was accompanied by Ajay Tipanya on dholak, drum; Dev Narayan Sarolia on violin; Dharmendra Tipanya with manjira; and Guru Charan on harmonium. The whole group accompanied Prahladji singing the Kabir bhajans.
From 8th to 12th September, the fourth Lakshmi-Narayana Mahayajna was held at Paduka Darshan, Sannyasa Peeth. The first day, being the birthday of Swami Sivananda, was dedicated to the paramguru of the Satyananda Yoga tradition. The following days were dedicated to Ganesha, Ma Lakshmi, Narayana and Sri Swami Satyananda, whose Sannyasa Diwas is commemorated on 12th September.
Acharyas from Tryambakeshwar, Nasik, led by Sri Lokeshji, performed the daily aradhana for the yajna. The sannyasa trainees chanted stotras and mantras in honour of the gurus and to invoke the Divine.
On the second day of the program, Swamiji initiated 175 aspirants into mantra, 54 into jignasu and 28 into karma sannyasa. The newly-initiated disciples performed sahasrarchana while Ganesha Sahasranama was chanted. 108 coconuts, representing the egos of disciples, were broken by Swami Gorakhnath, acharya of BSY. In addition, 1,000 offerings of durva grass were made. The following day, 108 selected men and women performed sahasrarchana and made offerings of 9 items to Mother Lakshmi during the chanting of the Lakshmi Sahasranama. On the fourth day, sahasrarchana was dedicated to Sri Narayana who was offered 9 items by 108 people to the chanting of the Vishnu Sahasranama.
Throughout the yajna, Swamiji spoke on pancharatra, a Vaishnava system of tantra. He explained that 'ratra' means jnana. Through adhyatmic jnana we come to understand the relationship between Brahma, jiva, the individual soul, and jagat, the world. Muktipada jnana removes tamas from life, and the yogic jnana is the highest yoga, namely kundalini yoga. Swamiji explained samsaravishayak jnana as the knowledge through which one's daily life is harmonized and spiritualized and one's environment beautified. Bhakti jnana is the fifth jnana. The aim for all five is attaining bhakti.
Swamiji described two forms of bhakti: sakara and nirakara, the first being the way and the second the experience. The main basis of bhakti is seva, being able to see God in every being, and offering love and surrender, which is the principle of Sri Swami Satyananda's teachings.
The presence of Devi was felt in the form of Swami Satyasangananda, Peethadhishwari of Rikhiapeeth, who graced the yajna on the last two days. She asked everyone to take the flame of the yajna with them in their hearts and worship it. Speaking on Sri Swamiji, she said that he always gave and gave. She invited everyone to thank him for what he has given to us, namely, "himself in the form of Swami Niranjan."
Between listening enraptured to the satsang, and following the aradhana of the pandits, the audience was delighted to watch the daily dance performances, classical and modern, of BYMM children and members of YYMM. The 'blue brigade', the youngest members of the BYMM, had their first stage appearance performing to a song by Swami Sivananda. The Yuvas demonstrated advanced yogasanas to perfection in a beautifully orchestrated sequence. They also presented their dance skills for the first time.
For the evenings of the last two days, the doors to Paduka Darshan were open for the screening of Satyam, the feature film on Sri Swami Satyananda's life.
The yajna was an experience of joy and connection to the Divine. The participants, left their hearts filled with inspiration, gratitude and the determination to take the spirit of the yajna into their daily lives.
From 25th September to 3rd October, Ashwin Navaratri was celebrated at Ganga Darshan with stotras, bhajans and havan. Swami Niranjanananda spoke on the importance of worshipping Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati in this sequence as it is conducive to spiritual benefits. He said the sequence commonly followed of worshipping first Saraswati, then Lakshmi and Durga gives material benefit only. However, when one reverses the sequence the material becomes spiritual. This is the statement of Chapter 15 of the Bhagavad Gita, the statement of yoga and of the spiritual traditions of India.
Vijaya Dashami, the last day of Navaratri, is the day Sri Rama conquered Ravana. Swamiji explained that this victory symbolizes every individual's possible victory of righteousness and positivity over negativity or the ten heads of kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, matsarya, raga-dwesha, bhaya and sanshaya – passion, anger, greed, illusion, pride, envy, likes and dislikes, fear and doubt.
On 23rd October, Ganga Darshan celebrated Diwali. In the morning, havan was conducted in the vedi at Satyam Udyan with chants dedicated to Ma Lakshmi.
Senior sannyasins spoke on the significance of Diwali, and Swamiji said that the true message of Diwali was on contentment. Contentment is the most important quality to cultivate for it gives everything and overcomes all limitations, negativity and destructive tendencies.
Swamiji initiated 23 aspirants into mantra and 4 into jignasu sannyasa.
After the havan dedicated to Ma Lakshmi and Sri Rama, the evening program at the amphitheatre of Satyam Vatika was a splendid show of play, song and dance, Indian classical, modern and fire. Students of the one-year Diploma course, students of the Four-month Yogic Studies course, as well as sannyasa trainees performed the story of Sri Rama's return to Ayodhya through bhajan and narration. The ten-headed Ravana was a fearful sight indeed.
Watching the joyful and skilled BYMM dance teams, the audience joined in with clapping to express their love and admiration for these young artists, talented and happy at the opportunities given to them by Swamiji.
This year's 'Ashram Life, Yoga and Satsang' program was held from 11th to 14th December. Swami Niranjanananda conducted the morning class and introduced the new approach to the practice of asana and pranayama. Yoga nidra class was given by sannyasins of Ganga Darshan. In the afternoon, Swamiji's satsang was held at Satyam Vatika.
He presented the 'Yoga Chakra', the wheel of yoga. Swamiji described the history of yoga from Lord Shiva and his teaching of Pashupat yoga, to the period when the various yoga branches were established by rishis and their treatises, to the modern period which started in the late nineteenth century.
Swamiji spoke on the six main branches of yoga: hatha yoga, raja yoga, kriya yoga – the bahiranga aspect; and karma yoga, bhakti yoga and jnana yoga – the antaranga aspect. This is the sequence for aspirants to follow. Sannyasins of Ganga Darshan gave brief outlines of each branch as taught in yoga.
The evening programs were a wonderful surprise to the residents and guests of the ashram. Moulana Abdullah Bukhari, former Iman of the Jama Masjid of Munger, and his family attended the program. His young daughter, Rabia Syeda, and son, Atullah Bukhari, spoke in a heart-warming manner on their relationship with Swamiji, the ashram and yoga. After the World Yoga Convention of 2013, Moulana Abdullah Bukhari had taken Swamiji's 'thank-you letter to God' to Mecca, the Kaaba and to the sacred city of Medina. He also took copies of APMB, translated into Urdu at Ganga Darshan with the help of his family, to eminent scholars. It was touching to witness the long-standing friendship between Swamiji and Moulana Abdullah Bukhari.
The next evening, the premiere of the film on the World Yoga Convention was screened – a moving tribute of the highlights of those five unforgettable days.
The last evening, the sannyasa trainees presented a beautiful show of slides, song and dance, telling the story of Satyananda Yoga and its three masters. At the amphitheatre, they concluded their three-year training in a joyful manner.
Over 200 guests from 25 countries attended the program. During the week, Swamiji initiated 28 aspirants into mantra, and 15 into jignasu sannyasa.
On 24th December, Jyoti Mandir was filled with the sounds of Christmas carols. Everyone was immersed in the spirit of celebration.
On 25th December in the evening, havan was conducted to the chanting of the 100 names of Jesus and the 108 names of Sri Swamiji. Carol singing, dances of BYMM children and a performance of Indian classical dance made it a wonderful evening for BYMM children, Yuvas, guests and ashram residents. Father Christmas gave presents to all present among lots of laughter.
Swamiji spoke on Jesus who had come with the message of peace. Wherever Jesus went, he would say, "Go in peace," or "Peace be with you." Swamiji explained that through peace we connect to love and through our love we connect to the divine.
The year 2014 ended with havan, stotras and kirtan dedicated to Ganesha. This was followed by a dance performed by the BYMM boys on the life of Lord Shiva. The students of the Yogic Studies course performed an African harvest dance, and one student gave a demonstration of Kalari, the martial arts originating in Kerala.
With an offering of a candle, in the spirit of dedication and positive affirmation, everyone joyfully welcomed the New Year.