The director of the International Yoga Festival offers wisdom on the power of yoga to help heal our broken world.
Today when we look at the news, it is so difficult not to be heartbroken. Whether we read about the Middle East, Ukraine, domestic violence, child abuse, climate change and environmental destruction, or even just the rising rates of depression and suicide, the global condition seems tragically dire. Yet these varied catastrophes have one common cause: a feeling of separation.
When we feel separate from our true Selves, from God, from the Universe, we suffer. When we feel separate from each other on the basis of race, religion, color, gender, political party, or nationality, we have conflict in the home and in our communities and war and terrorism occur. When we feel separate from Mother Earth, we see Her as a resource and use, abuse, and discard Her. As the root foundation of all this suffering is the myth of separation, the root remedy is union, or yoga.
As more and more people around the world do yoga, we must ensure that we spread not only the physical exercises but the ultimate fullness of yoga.
Yoga, the word itself, means “union.” It is not merely a union of our forehead to our knee or our fingers to our toes; it is a union of ourselves to the Divine.
Patanjali spoke about eight limbs of yoga, of which asana, the physical practice, is limb three. Limbs one and two, the very foundation of yoga, are the yamas and niyamas, or the do’s and don’ts of a yogic life: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, control of the senses, non-hoarding, purity, contentment, dedicated practice, self-study, and surrender to the Divine.
In separation the world is made up of objects. We are each the “subject” of our own subjective reality. Everyone and everything else is an object: the animals whose flesh we eat and whose skin we sit upon in our cars, the sweatshop workers who produce our “rock-bottom” priced clothes, the trees of the Amazon felled to make room for the grazing of cows that will become hamburgers, the Indigenous peoples whose lands are clear-cut, the coffee and cotton pickers whose children have birth defects due to the toxicity of their pesticide-ridden environment.
In a yogic life, a life committed to the awareness and experience of unity, we realize that we are not separate. Your hunger is my hunger. Your pain, my pain. Hence, we don’t need to put sticky notes on our computers to remind us to practice non-violence, to remind us not to steal or hoard, to remind us to live a conscious life. The practice of true “yoga” leads automatically to a life in which our choices are ones made in an awareness of unity and oneness.
This is what our world needs. As individuals, to overcome our depression, loneliness, and numbness, we need to feel connected. As a society, in order to function well, we need to be connected and in harmony. As a global family, we need to realize we are inextricably linked. Yoga, a true realization of union, could save not only our health, but also our planet.
This is the spirit that has been calling saints, sages, rishis, and yogis to the banks of the sacred Ganga (Ganges) River, to the Himalayas for thousands of years to meditate, do yoga, and attain enlightenment or moksha.
Each year our annual International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan draws more and more people from around the world to dive deep into this sacred and rich tradition, a sacred time of coming together with yogis from every country, culture, color, and creed. It is a union of different lineages and traditions. It is a time to remember what we all already know, if we are ready to dive deeply enough: We are all ONE.
These days you can learn everything online, but more and more people come each year, as it’s not only the teaching our world needs. We need the true touch and transformation. We need the deep celebration of true Yoga, that profound union of our small, isolated, individual, limited, physical existence, with all of Creation.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati International Director, Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, India Director, International Yoga Festiva
P.S.: Please join us for International Yoga Festival 2024 at Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh (Himalayas), India. Come home to the Himalayas and to the banks of the Mother Ganga (Ganges) River for your own powerful, life-transforming experience of healing and awakening! Register TODAY! March 8-14, 2024!