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Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Yoga is needed in Hell"---Pujya Swami

On March 8th, International Women's Day, the first Seva Celebration was held at Parmarth Niketan in Rishkesh, India, hosted by the spiritual master Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati and Sadhvi Bhagawati Sarwaswati. Yoga Gives Back was truly honored to receive recognition for its work to empower women in India at this celebration.

Pujya Swami and Sadvhi Bhagawati Saraswati, Parmarth Niketan, Rishkesh

Pujya Swamiji concluded this historic event with a joyful and powerful speech with an unexpected line, "Yoga is not needed in Heaven, but needed in Hell."!! Though surprising to many of us, this message strongly resonated in my me as I have been thinking about what Yoga and Seva mean to the real world, beyond its definition in Sanskrit.

Anand Mehorta, Sattva Yoga, Rishkesh
The concept of Seva Celebration was created Rishkesh native Yoga Master Anand Mehorta, founder of Sattva Yoga. "In Sanskrit, Seva it means to be of service. While we remain deeply committed to our physical practice, it is equally as important for us to remember that as manifestations of the Divine, we have a responsibility to take our practice off the mat and give back."

Bhavini Kalan and Laura Plumb
Daphne Tze and Anandra George
To respond to Anand's passionate call, world renowned yoga masters and teachers including Gurumukh Kaur Khalsa, Kia Miller, Tommy Rosen, Laura Plumb, Bhavini Kalan, Daphne Tze and Anandra George joined to offer a truly special soulful session for hundreds of yogis from all over the world. I was so touched by everyone's pure intention to express their support to empower women this day. Behind the scenes was the hard working organizer Annemarie Brown and her colleagues who made this very successful event happen. I am so grateful that YGB got this precious opportunity to connect with so many people from Norway, Germany, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Brazil, etc.

Pujya Swami and Annemari Brown

Tommy Rosen

Kia Miller

Gurumukh Kaur Khalsa 
In this chaotic world today, or because of the media, we cannot pass one day without learning about a tragedy in some place on this earth. I started Yoga Gives Back as I felt I needed to use my healthy body and mind to make this world a better place. Use myself as a vehicle, no matter how small, to make a difference. Our body is a temple and we need to cherish it to serve others. I continue to learn about the mind, body and the unlimited human power that can be tapped for better use. Here is truly an incredible example of ultimate SEVA. It is Japanese journalist Mr. Kenji Goto who was killed by ISIS terrorists this January. I have struggled to share Mr. Goto's mission and his story here and finally with Pujya Swami's words, "Yoga is needed in the hell," I found a way to connect my feelings to my thinking.

Japanese Journalist Mr. Kenji Goto who was killed by ISIS

The reason why I want to share Mr. Goto's story on the Yoga Gives Back blog is what Mr. Goto believed in and acted upon teaches us exactly what I continue to learn from YOGA. Mr. Goto's life mission was to help us make the connection to the reality of victims of war, especially children. He continued to ask us, "Can you really feel the pain of these children?" Following the death of Mr. Goto on January 31st (coincidentally my birthday), Japanese TV programs have been reporting about his legacy in detail. Here are some of Mr. Goto's words; " I do not want to document and share how dangerous war zones are. I want to share with the world how a person, a child is living in the war, what kind of life one has to survive, and what one feels. If you can really feel such a person's life as yours, you come to realize that we all share the same exact moment in life." Mr Goto lived to share the stories from war victims', especially from the children's perspective, committing his life to end wars on this earth.  He committed to report from war torn communities in Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and many other places, then finally into Syria last year. Before he entered Syria, he left a video message saying that no matter what happens, hatred is not the answer.

Village woman in West Bengal, India. I met her when she was beaten by her husband by being late to make lunch 
"YOGA is needed in Hell". Unfortunately this is true. There are many painful situations in so many lives in this world we live in. We can not solve everything but if we can just imagine and feel the pain of somebody else in today's hell, we can act and start taking small steps to support them. I believe the Yoga Community has tremendous resources to make a difference in this world. Yoga Gives Back was born in 2007 from one yoga classroom in Los Angeles, and now supports more than 500 destitute mothers and children in India, with supporting events in 15 countries. Our potential is unlimited if we just tune ourselves in to those who are really suffering from the many forms of hell in today's world. Just feel their pain and act. As I sat through this Seva Celebration, this message became very clear to me and I hope this makes sense to you, too.

The Ganges, "Mother Ganga", Rishkesh

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