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Sivananda World News: The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashrams

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp, Val Morin, Quebec, Canada

Om Namah Sivaya, Greetings from the Headquarters. In early November the second week at the Yoga Camp was full of Swami Vishnudevananda’s Grace. We celebrated his Maha Samadhi with a Puja at the Krishna Temple, and then we chanted Om Namo Narayanaya in relay all day. The energy was intense. We felt Swamiji present with us. The next day we celebrated Diwali. The Camp was decorated with lights from the main gate all the way to the Krishna Temple which, in turn, was glowing with lamps all around. The following morning, we held Satsang at Swamiji’s house at Samadhi Estates. Bharata and Sita counted personal stories of their experience with Swamiji, bringing his energy and those moments to us that day. Staff chanted Om Namo Narayanaya all day in relay, which seemed to bond us tighter together in peace, as one family. A yogi, Shanti, and her baby daughter accompanied these events, adding a pleasant and innocent energy to the Camp. Later that day, we all went to Montreal Centre, where a large crowd of about 200 people joined the meal and the Diwali. Everyone participated in the Puja which was performed by the two priests from the Yoga Camp, Harisha and Manjunath. Finally, another intense and blissful time for us was the closing for the Subramanya Temple. Prahlada came from Toronto and so did many devotees, particularly Alex who brought his new born son Vishnu for blessings. Pujas were performed, and the statues were moved to Krishna Temple just in time for the arrival for the TTC. Krishna Temple was charged with energy welcoming Swami Rajeshwariananda, Kamala Chaitanya and TTC students. A group of 32 students received their initiation on that Sunday night. May Lord Ganesha clear all paths, and the grace of Swamiji bless this TTC course. On the staff side, the events of the week and the final preparations of the TTC kept everyone busy. The unexpected nice weather gave us the opportunity to complete outdoor projects at the Ashram and the Temple. Other duties continued as usual. May we all continue to receive the blessings of Masters.

During mid-November we started with a Puja for Lord Ganesha, to clear obstacles along the Teacher Training Course. The hungry and energetic group of students went through the first week, some experiencing the Grace of the Ashram from day one, and others navigating through waves of excitement, passion, doubt, and curiosity. By the end of that week, the waves had calmed down as everyone was immersed in the course: chanting, studying, writing home work, and bonding well amongst each other and the staff. It was interesting to hear questions changing from “Why do we have to do so many rigid rituals?” to “Can I stay at the Temple for a bit after Satsang? Can I have a Ganesha statue”! Attitude transformation was remarkable too, from negativity around Karma yoga to “I love cleaning bathrooms/dishes now!” During Satsangs, Swami Rajeshwarianandaji and Swami Shivabhaktananda spoke on meditation. A drumming workshop took students and guests on a journey through music, exploring the power of sound in activating our energy. That evening an Iranian Sufi group, came and played a series of devotional tunes that kept all in awe and contemplation. Although highly demanding, the course creates a great concentration of energy as staff work together to ensure the students receive the teachings of our Masters in the best possible manner. The weather allowed for some outdoor work, fixing signs at the airfield, painting and construction work at the Subramanya Temple, etc. We had an inventory count at the boutique in preparation to placing orders for next year. Other work continued as usual. We welcomed Kamala Chaitanya that came from the Ranch to assist with the TTC. We are grateful everyday for the blessings of the Masters. May they remain alive in us. Pranams.

Sivananda Dhanwanthari Ashram, Neyyar Dam, Kerala, India

Namah Sivaya to all. In early November Bhagavata Saptaha prepared us for this very dynamic week. TTC initiation included a Ganapati Homa. One hundred and sixty three students and ten assistants joined the first course of the high season. Three quarters of the students are from India. The TTC profile had been changing in the last years with more Indian students probably related to an increased presence on Google search due to Google grant. We celebrated Diwali by lighting many oil diyas (lamps) around the Temples. This created a magical effect which was much appreciated by the students particularly those from India who were missing home. Dr Ananthapadmanabham together with his son, Kaushik and Dr Babu on mridangum gave wonderful veena concert. We were also treated to a Bhajan concert with Prof. Anantharaman from Chennai, a regular guest who likes to freely share his devotion in the Ashram. The Ayurveda Wellness Course started with six students from as far as America, South Africa and Australia. Swamis Gayatriananda returned from Canada. Janardhanananda reached from Uttarkashi and will be staying for few months to assist the Yoga Vacation program. We also welcomed Kannan back from Madurai Centre.

During mid-November, despite the regular rains, the TTC students kept their spirits up and their uniforms mostly dry, We managed to conduct the kriya practice without getting rained on, unfortunately the silent walk was not so blessed as most students got drenched on the way to the lakeside. Yoga Vacation guests and TTC students enjoyed the Kattakali Prahlada story as part of the cultural program. Nataraj and five staff gave a yoga demonstration and talk at the All Saints College, Trivandrum for the inauguration of a conference on yoga and physical exercise for good health organized by the physical education department. Many research papers on yoga and physical exercise were presented during the two day conference. Kalyani got a break from checking EBM budgets by enjoying a piece of cake for her birthday. Narayana Chris stopped by briefly on his way to Madurai for the fasting program. Ravi Easwaran arrived to teach Bhagavad Gita and Lila Lolling arrived for the Adapted Yoga program scheduled after TTC, in the meantime she will be assisting TTC. Shivani, from Delhi, arrived from Delhi for ten day stay. We said good bye to Supriya who travelled to Madurai for the fasting program and then will transfer to the Chennai Centre. Hiran travelled to attend TTC in Madurai. Pranams & Om Namah Sivaya from all staff at Neyyar Dam.

Sivananda Ashram, Netala, Uttarkashi, Himalayas, North India

Om Namo Narayanaya – Greetings from Uttar Kashi. Pranams to all.

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Meenakshi Ashram, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

Om Namo Narayanaya. Mid-November was a period of relaxation and recharge for the quickly upcoming TTC. About 6 fresh yoga teachers from the previous TTC batch joined the staff team. Khilesh left to Uttarakhand for his wedding. While it was just the Yoga Vacationers who were enjoying the returning serene ambiance, the participants of fasting program were gradually checking in. Chris, the course director of Fasting and Detox Program arrived then program formally commenced with an initiation ceremony. More candidates for TTC arrived and settled in. Kapoorji arrived to teach Vedanta while Sandeep will be handling the Hatha Yoga sessions. On the opening day of TTC 39 students were initiated into the program. On the construction side, painting was completed in Yamuna Nivas and mezzanine flooring. About 1.5 acres of land was prepared for vegetable garden. The 3 Ongole heifers which are adding new charm to the premises were adapting well and taken care of. Om Shanti. All are well and conveying Pranams.

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Ranch Colony, Woodburne, NY, USA

Om Namah Sivaya! In early November we celebrated the Mahasamadhi and Jalasamadhi of beloved Swami Vishnudevananda. Srinivasan performed beautiful Pujas both days for Swamiji, that were powerful and touching.  We also celebrated Diwali with an Indian Feast, lighting oil lamps and candles and performing a Lakshmi Puja. We were only a few in attendance since most of our staff went into New York City to celebrated with the Centre staff.  But none the less, it was an inspiring evening, full of light.  We had a few guests staying with us during the weeks with many new guests arriving for the weekends.  We offered two programs, an Advanced Asana weekend, taught by Iswara and an Emotional Freedom Technique weekend, taught by Karen Arthur (Kamala). By the grace of Master and Swamiji, several karma yogis arrived for these weekends to help out. Staff greatly appreciated their service as the help was much needed. The temperatures remained cold with wind and rain challenging our outdoor chores but warmer weather was in the forecast so projects are being planned accordingly.  The floors in the staff trailer were completed, giving new life to a well lived-in structure. The new laminent floors were perfect for doing asanas.

By mid-November the septic project was well underway taking a few weeks to complete.  Four staff members returned to the Ashram, a much welcomed addition, taking on responsibilities in reception, kitchen, laundry and housekeeping. The weather was warm and sunny so we offered a hiking weekend. A long time karma yogi, Arjuna, drove up from NYC to help out and lead the hike at beautiful Lake Minnewaska. Neeti also came from the New York Centre to give an Indian Cooking workshop one weekend. There were 10 participants manifesting a pre-Thanksgiving feast, enjoying the delicious Indian dishes she prepared with the students. Srinivasan and several staff drove into New York to help the NY Centre celebrate their annual Thanksgiving program. It was a busy and festive weekend, preparing us for the Thanksgiving week ahead and reminding us of all we have to be grateful for, especially to Master and Swamiji for the blessings of practicing and serving in this organization. All staff are well, strong in their Sadhana and send their Pranams.‎

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm, Grass Valley, California, USA

Om Namah Sivaya! In early November we wished everyone a Happy Diwali! The last week of TTC was filled with inspiration as the Ashram celebrated Swamiji’s Mahasamadhi and Jala-samadhi days with mantra chanting, stories of Swamji’s life and a beautiful Diwali Puja to Mother Lakshmi, offered by Swami Vasishtananda. We were further blessed by a sublime classical sitar concert by Hasu Patel, accompanied by Samrat Kakkeri on tabla. This same day we also celebrated Swami Sitaramananda’s birthday, making for a memorable evening for all. Nearly all the TTC received the blessing of mantra initiation the following morning at Swamiji’s house and received their spiritual names that evening. This very sincere and serious TTC group graduated with inspired words from Swami Sitaramananda-ji and the other teachers, and also with wonderful words of appreciation from the TTC students themselves. Several of the TTC will remain as staff for the winter months. We thank all the karma yogis who came to serve the TTC and Swamiji’s mission for the month and wish them safe travels.

During mid-November the Ashram energy remained very high and all very inspired following the TTC, with the 10-day Vedanta and Silence course, taught by Swami Sitaramananda, with students receiving personal guidance from Swamiji in the study of the Viveka Chudamani and the teachings of Adi Sankaracharya. Concurrently we had the Permaculture Design course, presented by Bill Wilson of Midwest Permaculture, giving students the opportunity to develop design principles and knowledge to live in harmony with Nature and create sustainable living solutions. Swami Narayanananda visited the SYVC LA for a weekend to give workshops on Positive Thinking and Bhakti Yoga. Swami Jnaneswariananda attended a weekend at San Francisco Centre, teaching workshops on Bhagavad Gita. Ananta Chaitanya spent a week on the east coast USA, visiting family. Om Namah Sivaya to all blessed selves from the Yoga Farm.

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, Nassau, Bahamas

Om Namo Narayanaya, Blessed Selves. In early November the yearly ‘Ayurveda Body Treatments Certification Course’ took place and ended with a graduation ceremony. Taught by Lalita Devi, this 9 day course trained students in 4 traditional Ayurvedic treatments. Our new karma yogis and several guests joined in on the Essentials of Yoga 1 course, receiving inspiring teachings on enriching life through a regular yoga practice. Special guest Jeffrey Davis hosted several workshops and an evening Satsang on Wonder on the Creative Quest, about yoga writing and wonder, sharing techniques to develop focus, wonder and deep imagination. Kam Thye Chow returned to the Ashram to teach the level 1 Thai Yoga Massage course. This 6 day course ended with a graduation ceremony. In a series of 3 workshops and one evening Satsang on The Yoga of Vision, special guest Marc Grossman shared with us the underlying patterns that cause vision problems and ways to holistically improve eyesight. Dream therapist Tzivia Gover offered her program on The Yoga of Dreams during workshops and Satsang, sharing ways to use dreams as part of your spiritual practice. The Fall Cleanse, Detox and Juice Fasting program with Manu Dawson kicked off, easing the participants into the juice fast by starting with a raw food diet. The TTC was well on its way with a committed group of students. The weather was warm and steady so guests enjoyed many yoga classes on the beach platform.

During mid-November we started a new program with special guest Steven Weiss on Principles of Asana Alignment. In a series of workshops and evening Satsangs he shared with us the fundamentals of alignment to keep asana practice safe and injury free. The Fall Detox program, with Manu Dawson, came to an end and a group of cleansed, happy guests returned home with new inspiration to take care of their health. Reiki Master Brett Bevell offered a series of workshops and an evening Satsang during the Yoga and Energy Healing Retreat, teaching us a variety of healing techniques from Reiki and other energy healing traditions. The Essentials of Yoga 2 course allowed karma yogis and guests to deepen their practice and understanding of Sivananda Yoga practices. Susan B. Lord, an integrative physician specializing in mind-body-spirit medicine, hosted the 4-day program From Stress to Resilience: Cutting Edge Science Meets Ancient Wisdom. During her workshops and Satsang lectures she brought together science and spirituality and shared several ways to facilitate self-awareness and expression for living a mindful life. We started the Food as a Spiritual Path program, by Daniele Giovannucci. During evening Satsang there was discussion on different ways which people relate to food and raised awareness on food issues and hunger in the world, challenging us to reduce waste of food. TTC entered their third week and progressed steadily. We’ve experienced several rain storms mid month. Om Shanti from all the staff in Nassau.

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat House, Reith or Mittersill, Tyrol, Austria

Om Namah Sivaya. The last weekend before the closing time of the Retreat House in Reith saw a good group of guests who came especially for relaxation and wellness for body, mind and soul. The Ayurvedic massages and sauna were fully booked, lectures on the various effects of the asanas and stress management techniques were well received. On Sunday everybody left recharged and satisfied. On Monday, 9th of November, after a 45 minutes drive from the Retreat House in Reith which led through marvelous mountain ranges Gopika Chaitanya and Swami Vidyananda arrived at the new Yoga location “Sonnberghof”. After installing a little office and a meditation room the first yoga guests in this new place were received for the afternoon asana class. The main subjects of the first week there were stress management and relaxation techniques. We had exceptionally good weather which continued into the second week of our stay. The staffs spent quite some time to explore the new area to be able to lead the vacationers for some nature walks. As this yoga resort is a genuine hiking area we found beautiful paths to walk and to enjoy the marvelous view of the surrounding mountains. Towards the third week of our stay the numbers of guests were even more increasing. Around 15 guests were coming especially for a course on “meditation and experience of inner balance”. OM.

Sivananda Ashram Chateau du Yoga, Orleans, France

Om Namah Sivaya. The Ashram opened again after two weeks with the arrival of 67 TTCs. All staff and KYs worked very well together to prepare the rooms, the TTC sets, etc. Everything was in place to welcome the students! Saturday, November 21st was inauguration day: we started with the pilgrimage to all the shrines in the Ashram, the students received their uniforms, and the priest chanted auspicious mantras. Swami Kailasananda gave a nice introductory talk, Master and Swamiji were introduced and then all the students spoke about their reason to participate in the course. The next day the priest performed an inspiring Ganesha Puja in the morning. The Ashram is filled to capacity, for the coming four weeks we will have no guests. A few students are accommodated at Annapurna’s place, a close teacher who leaves 5 minutes from the Ashram. The wooden platform in the woods of the Ashram is completed and will be a nice place for the students to do their practice during Sadhana intensive. Preparatory work continues for the new building construction project, which should start in the spring. We got the bank loan and are waiting for the permit. Many renovation projects took place during our 2 week yearly closing time, including upgrading our kitchen, building a new office for our technical director, working on the grounds, tidying the storage spaces, sorting out big boutique orders. The Ashram is now ready for the TTC and the busy Christmas and New year time. OM.

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Good character is like catching a contagious disease. Acquire it through Satsanga – the company of good people. This is the best way. – Sri Swami Sivananda


AVIDYA – nescience; ignorance of our true nature; all consciousness or knowledge, so long as it is restricted to the subject-object manifold
This world of experience is due to the force of Avidya. It is the force of Avidya that plunges us into the ocean of Samsara. It is a negative power which makes us forget our divine nature. Avidya operates through the mind, and the mind functions through the time, space and causation. Avidya is an illusory power that disintegrates the Divine into a million different fragments. Pleasure, pain, desire, Karma, attraction, repulsion, delusion, pride, lust, egoism, anger, jealousy, the three bodies, five sheaths, are all effects of Avidya. Avidya is the source of all ignorance, sin and misery. Avidya is beginningless (Anadi) but it has an end.

As soon as one gets knowledge of the Self, Avidya terminates. Brahman appears as the world on account of Avidya, just as the rope appears as snake in the dusk. If we bring a lamp, the snake disappears, but the rope alone remains. Even so, when we get knowledge of Brahman, the appearance of the world will vanish. Avidya is not negative, but is positive (Bhavarupa). It is absence of Knowledge. It is erroneous knowledge. Avidya or Ajnana which constitutes the causal body is the cause for the two bodies, gross and subtle.

It is impossible to define the nature of Avidya. It is not real, because it vanishes when knowledge of the Self dawns. It is not unreal, because we experience it unlike the horn of a hare or a barren woman’s son. It is not a non-entity as it is destroyed by Atma Jnana. It is through the force of Avidya that the ignorant Jiva has mistaken the impure mortal body for the pure immortal Self and says I am a Brahmin, I am a Pandit, I am a householder, I am beautiful, I am lean, I am a doctor, etc.

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It is in the nature of man to strive for happiness, but all the happiness which he can gain by his actions is only of limited duration. The enjoyments of the senses are transient and the senses themselves are worn out by too much enjoyment. – Sri Swami Sivananda