During 2013, the Golden Jubilee Year of Bihar School of Yoga, many keen aspirants and seekers asked three questions: “What is the story behind Bihar School of Yoga?” “What was Swami Satyananda’s vision of yoga?” and “What if yoga?” This book seeks to answer these questions.
Bihar School of Yoga: The Vision of a Sage tells the story of Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s life as a spiritual seeker, his learning, toil and effort while tirelessly serving his guru, Swami Sivananda, for twelve years, and the ensuing years of fulfilling his guru’s mandate ‘to spread yoga from door to door and shore to shore’.The development of Bihar School of Yoga, the dedication behind it and the global propagation and revival of yoga in the modem era, including the journey of Swami Niranjanananda, Sri Swamiji’s successor, are described.
Sri Swamiji’s far-reaching vision of yoga for the spiritual evolution of humanity is told through narrations and satsangs: the story of his life tells how a yogic dream was formed and manifested. Due to Sri Swamiji’s aspirations to fulfil his guru’s mandate, humanity has been given a vidya, a path of learning, so expansive, profound and complete, that it seems it can never be surpassed. In so doing, he established himself as the foremost inspirer of yoga in this era, leaving footprints that millions continue to follow.
The year 2013 marks fifty years of existence of the Bihar School of Yoga, an institution that has inspired millions of people to live a healthy, fulfilling and harmonious life. Established by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in 1963, it is one of greatest yoga institutes the world has known. While fulfilling the mandate of his guru, Swami Sivananda, to ‘spread yoga from door to door and shore to shore’, Swami Satyananda has given humanity a vision of yoga so expansive, so profound and so complete that it seems it can never be surpassed. It is truly the vision of a yogic seer.
In early 2013, the first program to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the institute was held during the auspicious period of Basant Panchami, commemorating the foundation day of the institute. During the satsangs given on the occasion, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, successor to Swami Satyananda, stirred many hearts when he told stories of the development of the Bihar School of Yoga, and of its founder. As preparations for the grand finale of the celebrations - the World Yoga Convention to be held in October 2013 - commenced in the subsequent months, three pertinent questions were often asked: ‘What is the story behind the Bihar School of Yoga?’ ‘What was Sri Swamiji’s vision of yoga?’ ‘What is yoga?’ While the answer to these questions can cover volumes, this book attempts to provide a quick glimpse of the whole panorama and tells, in brief, how Swami Satyananda propagated yoga through the establishment of the Bihar School of Yoga.
Celebrating Swami Satyananda’s life
From its inception in 1963, the Bihar School of Yoga (BSY) has remained true to the vision of Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda, and yet it moves with the times and the needs of the day as a dynamic, evolving, creative force. Its inspiration is chronicled through four parts.
Part 1: The book starts with the story of the birth of Swami Satyananda, the yogi-saint destined to establish the Bihar School of Yoga. In The Unfolding Vision, Sri Swamiji’s early years are described: his auspicious birth, his spiritual awakenings, his search for a guru, his initial meeting with Swami Sivananda, and his life in Rishikesh ashram where he served his guru for twelve dedicated years with a force, enthusiasm and zeal similar to the rising kundalini itself.
Sri Swamiji came to his guru as a nineteen-year-old with a yearning and aspiration for spiritual life. On first meeting his guru, he was told, "The light is within you. Work hard. Involve yourself fully in karma yoga and the light will shine forth." Sri Swamiji served in his guru’s ashram in Rishikesh from 1943 to 1956 with utmost devotion, and through his commitment and spirit of selfless service to guru, gained an enlightened understanding of the secrets of spiritual life.
Sri Swamiji’s story continues with some anecdotes from his eight years as a wandering mendicant, where he lived amongst the people, understanding their needs and performing his own sadhana. This period of sannyasa life crystallized the vision that would enable him to fulfill his guru’s mandate.
Part 2: Equipped with a clear vision, Sri Swamiji embarked on the next period of his life: the development of the Bihar School of Yoga. Bihar School of roga describes how the original BSY came into existence, and the subsequent expansion and relocation to Ganga Darshan. This section reveals the magnitude of the spiritual force harnessed and infused into every undertaking of Sri Swamiji. It also brings to light the unfaltering dedication and one-pointedness with which Sri Swamiji set out to fulfill his guru’s mandate within the twenty years allocated to him. We then hear about the extraordinary humility with which Sri Swamiji closed this chapter of his life, walking away to embrace the next. This period of transition was enabled by his spiritual successor, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, who received the reins from Sri Swamiji and led the Bihar School of Yoga and its affiliated organizations into previously unexplored territory, taking the institution to new heights.
Part 3: The Vision of a Sage comprises a collection of sayings taken from the inspiring teachings of Sri Swamiji from the 1960s onwards. They answer the last two questions posed during Basant Panchami and, at the same time, reveal the genius of a visionary saint and the unstoppable force that continues to guide the development of BSY.
Sri Swamiji elaborated every possible meaning and perspective of yoga. He presented a wealth of techniques that covered every level of interest from beginners to advanced practitioners. He reached out and touched people from all walks of life and revealed a wealth of insight in relation to the purpose, necessity and the practices of yoga, relevant to the present times. The section gives a comprehensive description of what yoga is, and highlights Sri Swamiji’s vision of yoga that encompasses various aims and purposes, an expansive view that goes far beyond the practices of asana and pranayama.
With a treasure of yogic knowledge and practical experience, Sri Swamiji created the Bihar School of Yoga and contributed his vision of yoga to the spiritual evolution of humanity, thereby becoming established as the foremost inspirer of yoga in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The sayings also illustrate Sri Swamiji’s perception of the gradual resurgence of yoga over the decades, from 1960 until the culmination of his mission in 1988, a renaissance in which he was a key instigator.
Sri Swamiji’s personal insights and revelations regarding the evolutionary change that yoga offers humankind are highlighted through sayings that depict the foresight he had about the needs of individuals, groups and society in general.
The force of his guru’s mandate, combined with his own intellectual brilliance and spiritual perception, enabled him to give precise and systematic explanations on the practical and theoretical aspects of classical yoga. Sri Swamiji has clearly defined and systematized all the components of asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, hatha yoga, raja yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, japa yoga, kundalini yoga, kriya yoga, laya yoga, mantra yoga, nada yoga, swara yoga, and more. A brief glimpse into the branches of classical yoga that Sri Swamiji elucidated over the years of his yoga mission is also given.
Lastly, the section presents a satsang from Sri Swamiji’s days after he had renounced the institution, in which he describes the ultimate yoga, the yoga that is most relevant and appropriate for a true aspirant.
The journey continues
The concluding section of the book brings us to the present day and to the illuminating and inspiring teachings of Sri Swamiji’s spiritual successor, Swami Niranjanananda. In this section, Swami Niranjanananda offers a detailed and comprehensive picture of the vision of yoga, as given by the original rishis and sages of yoga, and as developed by BSY. This vision encompasses yoga philosophy, yoga psychology, applied yoga and yoga ecology. This is the same vision of a yogic culture that Sri Swamiji predicted for humankind; the dream of a new world order that breaks down the barriers of cast and creed, where the divine life can be experienced by every individual. The final chapter of the book describes Swami Niranjan’s own journey, indicating the path ahead.
By telling this story, this book aspires to be a small tribute to our beloved gurus, Sri Swami Satyananda and Swami Niranjanananda, whose magnanimous spirits have inspired and lit the flame of yoga within countless hearts.
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