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November 02, 2008

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November 03, 2008
The Yoga News

Yoga News ...
The Karma of an Economic Meltdown
A global tragedy brings golden opportunity
yoga-hinduism Yoga Feature
Yoga and Hinduism
Are they one and the same?
Yoga Festival
The festival of lights
Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani

The Karma of an Economic Meltdown

A global tragedy brings golden opportunity
By: Yogacharya

It’s been an era of extreme naivety. For more than a decade now, the world populace has been gleefully prancing through life under an ever-darkening veil of maya, or illusion, as though it were somehow possible for millions upon millions of consumers to accumulate the riches of their wildest dreams through little more than positive thinking.

With the aid of a fresh and “sophisticated” financial ideology, which in reality amounted to little more than unbridled borrowing, the average person was able to mimic the lifestyles of a higher class. They were, in fact, encouraged to do so by scores of over-zealous pundits who let themselves get swept away in the utopian enthusiasm of boundless material prosperity.

Global financial leaders, from the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve down through money managers and financial advisers at all levels, told us that economic seasons were a thing of the past, that we are now in an eternal summer of affluence. In mistaking a mountain of debt for a mine of gold, they encouraged a reckless pursuit of material indulgence. “You can afford that house, a second car, and a luxury family vacation. Dine out to your heart’s content, and pick up another pair of fancy shoes on your way home too.” “Don’t worry”, they said, “you can now have your cake and eat it too.”

New and incomprehensible financial tools, such as derivatives, collateralised debt obligations, and structured investment vehicles, we were assured, contained the magic to deliver not just the homes, but all the goods of a high rolling lifestyle too. With sub-prime wizardry at the centre of it all, the blind led the blind straight toward certain disaster.

For the millions around the globe who have enjoyed, without restraint, the fantasy of continually spending more than they were earning, a harsh reality is now setting in. Those who proselytised for this foolishness indeed have much explaining to do. But with all the finger pointing going on in Washington and on Wall Street, the fact of the matter is that the culprit is much nearer than anyone wants to admit. Just stand in front of the mirror and you’ll see the guilty party.

We are not children, and we have no-one else to blame. When somebody tells us that we can spend more than we earn without worry, then who but a fool wouldn’t stand up and say, “How is that possible?” But we didn’t do that. The spoils were simply too enticing, and at the end of the day, entire populations of people managed to turn a blind eye and convince themselves that somehow, everything was going to keep coming up roses.

The point is not about how many will lose their homes, their jobs, and their dignity. What matters is that the party is over, and like any booze fest, a terrible hangover awaits. The reality is that life will now be different, for everyone.

No one seems to have noticed, however, that the problem doesn’t lie in banking structures, or in rules and regulations; it lies within the very mindset of people today. No one seems to recognize that we have, right in front of us, an opportunity for profound global change; or at least nobody seems ready or willing to make that shift yet.

As governments around the world pour trillions of dollars into their fledgling financial structures, we have all quickly become swept up in yet another delusion. We’re not trying to figure out what we have been doing wrong all along. We’re trying to figure out how to fix things so that we can get back to living a life of mindless consumerism again.

The greatest tragedy of all is not the downturn in world economies; it’s not that we will probably be working harder and gaining less in the coming years; it’s not the increased tax burden that awaits us. It’s that we are still just heading down the same, unfortunate road. It may take ten years, or fifty years, or even another hundred before history again repeats itself, and our world once more comes crashing down around us.

At some point we have to realize that life is more than big homes, cars, gadgets, and fancy clothes; that happiness does not lie in the things that we own, but in the things that we do; that real fulfillment comes from the things that we uncover about ourselves while striving to lead a life of selflessness for the greater good of humanity.

We now stand on what could be our generation’s greatest threshold of opportunity, with a chance step bravely into a new, more enlightened way of living. Yet few seem to recognize the opportunity, and fewer still seem to have the courage to step through that doorway.

Sure, it would have been nice for such a big shift in consciousness to come easily and painlessly, but big shifts, as a matter of course, do not. Massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions alter the landscape of this planet and so too do massive cultural and economic upheavals shake mankind from its slumber. The quake has hit; we’ve all been stirred from our blissful dreams, and now it’s time to stop pointing fingers and to start coming to terms with the reality that faces the world — a reality that says its time to start living a more intelligent life.

Swami Gitananda used to tell his students, “You don’t have a problem, you are the problem!” We are, each and every one of us, responsible for our lives and all that happens to us. In the same way that we have all created this nightmare for ourselves, we all have the power and ability to change it, to create lives of immensely deeper meaning and purpose, lives that are based on the foundations of wisdom and moderation, lives that show understanding of the interconnectedness of humanity and nature, lives that reveal love and compassion for all our brothers and sisters across the globe, and lives that reflect seeing the world as it truly is — not as we ignorantly and selfishly want it to be.

It’s time to realize the difference between our “needs” and our “greeds.” Life can and should be a lot simpler. Once we embrace that fact, then we will never let ourselves be enticed by the golden calf down the road to ruin again. Then we, as a global population, will finally find peace, health, happiness, and everlasting prosperity.

About the Author:
Yogacharya is the director of International Yogalayam,

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Yoga and Hinduism
Are they one and the same?
By: Yogacharya

Last month I came across an article in "The Chicago Sun Times" by Rupa Shenoy, entitled “More Than Just a Pose.” An American of Indian heritage, Rupa voiced his disapproval of the general way in which yoga is being presented in America and pointed out the obvious disconnect of yoga in the West from its Hindu roots.

Around that same time, I received an email from a man who referred to himself as a swami, asserting that “You and your swami ‘obviously’ do not really know what Yoga is. Yoga is the Hindu religion” — full stop! Though I’ve never met this person, he continued to write me with more dispariging words. Clearly he has strong feelings about this issue, even though I felt his hasty judgements about me and my guru were misguided.

In addition to these things, I noticed a buzz in the media over the past few weeks about a group of parents who were up in arms against yoga classes being offered at a school in Massena, New York, claiming that their children would be subtly indoctrinated in principles of the Hindu religion.

This past week Muslim clerics in Malaysia have also spoken out against the practice of yoga and its association with Hindusim, threatening to issue a fatwa, or ban, on the practice of yoga in the country.

Evidently, this was a subject that I was being prodded to address.

I am not a Hindu. I was born in Canada, and I admit that it took me quite some time to come to know something of Hinduism and also to appreciate its relevance to the science of yoga. I am in India, on my eighth visit, right now. Each time I come here, I learn more about this culture, these people, Hinduism and yoga. Over the years, I have come to know with certainty that yoga and the ancient spiritual culture of this land are utterly inseparable.

The parents of Massena high school had a legitimate beef. Yoga has its foundation in the spirituality of ancient India, and its teachings are indivisible from that. Yet, at the same time, very little if any of those spiritual teachings are portrayed in the common approach to yoga in the West. The latest decision taken by the school on this matter was a compromise that reflected exactly that fact. Instead of “yoga classes,” the school has agreed to offer a voluntary program with “yoga-type exercises” and refer to it as “Raider relaxation,” named after the school’s mascot.

I also imagine that Rupa’s arguments in his editorial ring true for many Hindus in America today, as they spoke directly to this point. He begins his commentary by lamenting a group of Caucasians at a party who were improperly using, and cheekily mocking, the Indian greeting namasté. He also rightly points out that “tens of thousands of non-Hindus are practicing an art that is central to the Hindu religion and quite often misunderstanding and misrepresenting many of the teachings.”

To illustrate his point, he didn’t have to wander any further than a few experiences from members of his own family. “My sister attends yoga classes,” he said, “but on her first visit, a religious faux pas was immediately apparent to her. A small statue of a Hindu God sat in the front of the room. If my sister did the postures correctly, her feet would have pointed in its direction, which, in Hinduism, is the highest gesture of disrespect.”

Also relating the experience of his cousin who attended a yoga-instructor training class in New York, he claims that “when the teacher explained the philosophies of Hinduism, he got the basics all wrong.”

Even cranky email swami had a valid point. Yoga is not the exotic physical fitness system that it is being portrayed as today. Is it correct, though, to say that yoga is simply Hinduism? Although many elements of the science of yoga are certainly inherent in Hinduism, and although yogis may easily identify with Hinduism, all Hindus are not necessarily on the yogic path.

Religion and spirituality are not the same thing. Religions, as mass movements, are more concerned with social order than spiritual awakening. Their followers, many Hindus included, often engage in a lives wrapped in samskara, or subconsciously conditioned thoughts and attitudes, and not lives reflecting a passionate search for the highest truth and understanding.

Every religion, though, has its spiritual saints, the ones who peer into the deeper dimensions of their respective teachings; the ones who engage in a profound exploration of the 'inner self' to find the ultimate spiritual transcendence. They are the Christian mystics, the Islamic sufis, and in Hinduism, the yogis.

It would be accurate to say that yoga stems from the ancient Vedic culture of India, the spiritual tradition from which the Hindu religion arose, and in many respects, is still reflective of today. The Vedic period refers to an earlier time when life was lived, in every sense, the yogic way.

As Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani says in her essay, “Returning To the Roots: Classical Yoga”, this was a time when “yoga was a way of life, a culture, and a life style, which encompassed not just techniques, practices, and ideas, but also eating habits, bathing habits, cultural use of body, prayer, social interaction, and work.”

She explains that the Vedic period was defined by “a vast body of attitudes toward being, an ingrained sense of morality and ethics, so strongly etched on the character that it would be literally unthinkable to transgress them.”

She recognizes, as well, that “any attempt to return to the roots of yoga, must necessitate a return to the life style, attitudes and realizations of the great Rishis,” or seers, of this ancient period.

Rupa Shenoy also reminds us that yoga is “part of a religion and culture that deserve respect,” a feeling no doubt shared by millions of silent Indians around the world today. But, adds, “Our religion is very accepting. We don't really like to make waves.” With such a placid attitude, however, this anchorless modern yoga ship may remain adrift on its own sea of samskara for a long time to come.

About the Author: Yogacharya is the director of International Yogalayam,

Got an opinion? Send us Your Comments ...


The festival of lights

Deepavali, which means “row of lamps,” is a five-day festival that culminates on the final day of the dark half of Kartika, which fell on October 28th this year.

Referred to as the festival of lights, homes are given a thorough cleaning during this time and then illuminated at night with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas.

Also called Divali (or Diwali), it is the most popular of all the festivals in India, celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs alike. Like Christmas in the West, it is an occasion for buying and exchanging gifts. In fact, Deepavali has really become a time for serious shopping, with commercialism, as it is with Christmas, now starting to erode the spiritual side of the festival.

However, the holiday remains a joyous and friendly time across India; a time when everyone forgets and forgives the wrongs done by others. It represents a time of unity and instils warmth and charity in the people’s hearts.

The Origins of Deepavali
There are various origins attributed to this festival. It is an occasion for some to celebrate the marriage of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, to Lord Vishnu. Bengalis worship the Goddess Kali during this time.

Deepavali also commemorates the triumphant return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after defeating the Demon Ravana. Likewise, on this day, Sri Krishna killed the demon Narakasura; thus making the celebration of good triumphing over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance, a significant aspect of this festival.

Diwali also marks the end of the harvest season in most of India; farmers thank the Goddess Lakshmi for their bounty and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Business people regard this as a favourable day to start a new accounting year and invoke the blessings of the Goddess for a good year ahead.

A Deeper Meaning
The Sanskrit word Deepavali comes from the root words deep, meaning "light of the dharma", and avail, which means "a continuous line." Its meaning speaks to the eternal, continuous light within — the Atman — the eternal, cosmic soul which is beyond body and mind, which is pure, infinite, and eternal.

Deepavali is really the celebration of this Inner Light and the knowledge that it outshines all darkness. We are reminded during this time of our highest Divine nature; we are reminded that, as light dispels darkness, so should we continually strive to seek knowledge and dispel ignorance.

The ultimate aim of Deepavali is to set us all moving forward on the spiritual path so that we might ultimately attain illumination and remember our universal oneness with God. The lighting of the lamps is a symbolic representation of the reminder to light the lamps of wisdom, goodness, and God-consciousness in all of us.



Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani

By: Yogacharya

meenakshi-devi-bhavanani Puduvai Kalaimamani Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani was born in The United States of America and travelled to India to study yoga in 1968, at the age of twenty-five. She has remained there ever since.

In 1992 she finally received her Indian citizenship, an event that she describes as the proudest day of her life. Although her fair complexion is unmistakable among the dark skin Tamils in her South Indian home, she is, in every sense, an Indian woman.

In my studies of yoga and my search for truth and deeper understanding in life, I have yet to meet anyone who has influenced me so profoundly. Amma, as she is affectionately referred to by all, is without a doubt my greatest teacher, although she may not even know it. That’s because she doesn’t look for personal recognition from her students. She does not seek the limelight; she has no desire for fame, fortune, or public attention.

In fact, at times she can even be downright illusive. It took me a while to understand that she is not interested in becoming another object of attachment for her many students and admirers, who are already struggling to break themselves of the burden of immense worldly dependence. She is always there, though, as a true and loving guru is: watching, guiding, and above all else, demonstrating in each and every moment, through a life of absolute devotion to the teachings of yoga.

She was trained as a journalist way back when, and over the years has become a prolific author and public speaker. Perhaps what first drew me to Amma was her exquisite ability to communicate profound concepts in a practical and meaningful way; and it’s in the intimate satsangas, the discourses which she shares in the evenings with her students, where her wisdom is so beautifully revealed.

I have always been amazed by Amma’s insightful analysis of the “human condition”; I am humbled by her consistent capacity to convey observations in a pleasant and respectful way; a rare skill that shows a remarkable compassion for everyone and everything.

Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani is the resident Acharya of Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, India. She is also an accomplished Bharat Natyam dancer who has trained over 10,000 village children in this ancient dance form.

She is the Director of Studies for the annual six-month yoga teacher training program at the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research (ICYER). She has also been editor of “Yoga Life” magazine for nearly 4 decades, as well as the managing editor of Ananda Ashram's publishing unit, Satya Press.

She was named an eminent yoga expert to the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, under the Indian Health Ministry, and is one of the founding members of the newly formed Indian Yoga Association.

The list of her awards and recognitions is endless; the list of her keynote speaking engagements and seminar presentations too vast to mention. Just noting all that she accomplishes in a single day leaves me breathless, yet she flows though life seemingly effortlessly, while still finding the time to be a loving grandmother to two adorable little children.

Smt. Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani is grace and dignity personified and one of the brightest lights in the world of yoga today; not for all that she has done, or for all that she continues to selflessly do, but because she exemplifies, in every conceivable way, what it truly means to live a yogic life.

For more about Smt. Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani, visit:

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In This Issue
The Karma of an Economic Meltdown
Yoga and Hinduism
Deepavali: The Festival of Lights
Profile: Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani
» yoga classified ads
» site news and updates
» Yoga Training
The Yoga News
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Yoga Classifieds

North London Hatha Yoga Classes
Yoga is an excellent way to relax and de-stress,while improving strength and flexibility. This class includes breathing exercises, postures and relaxation and is suitable for all levels. Morning, early and late evening classes at reasonable prices.
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The Goddess Retreat Nov. 21-23, 2008
Leading LA yoga teacher, Diane Hudock will guide us through an unforgettable weekend of yoga, meditation, inspirational talk, humor and live music. Includes: four dynamic asana classes, Kriya meditation, drum circle and trance dance with master drummer Reid Defever, Kirtan and live music with GuaraVani and Temple Bhajan Band, gourmet vegetarian cuisine, swimming, hiking, stunning accommodations, and more…
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Tibetan Heart Yoga Series 4 Teacher Training: The Five Inner Winds with Yvonne Jaques
This series teaches the Yoga of Kalachakra Tantra and the life and teachings of Buton Rinpoche. The asanas are used to experience each of the five vayus (winds) of Kalachakra Tantra and their corresponding visions. Date: November 14 6-9pm, November 15 9am-6pm, and November 16 9am-6pm. US $250 before November 1; US $275 after 20 BCPRA credits
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SOYA Yoga Teacher Training – BC and Alberta
RYT200 and RYT500 Teacher Training available in 4 different locations in Alberta and BC. Several entry dates throughout the year for Part-time programs to suit your working and family life. Training includes philosophy studies in 4 major texts, as well as Asana, Anatomy, Modifications, Meditation and experience in various styles of Yoga.
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Student of Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga as taught by Swami Gitananda Guru Maharaja, Smt Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani, Dr Ananda Balyogi Bhavanani. OM-Kara Kriya® 2 year Graduate Teacher.
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Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training with Gurudass
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Learn Yoga while hiking in the Himalayas - the Abode of the Gods. Join us on treks through the incredible Himalayas to places of immense power, energy and divine serenity, where the great masters have meditated.
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Dubai Yoga Retreat -Jan '09
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200 hr Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher Training
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ShivaShakti Yoga
Hatha Yoga classes in East London with reference to Ayurveda and Tantra. Mantras & Pranayama. March 2009: Yoga retreat in India visiting Tantric shrines and spiritual practice in Ujjain (M.P) and Varanasi (U.P).
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Yoga Teachers' Training - January 2009
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Gitananda Yoga Retreat May 2009
Join Dr Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani for an inspiring weekend of yoga surrounded by natural bushland at Mercy Place Retreat Centre from Friday to Sunday. Includes Yoga, accommodation and meals.
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Okanagan Yoga Essentials – Yoga Products Online
We sell world-wide lovely yoga products from India. Neti pots, tongue scrapers, Om Jewelry, Malas, Arati lamps, Tingshas, Deities and other altar products.
Location: Scotch Creek, BC, Canada
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Erich Schiffmann is coming to Naramata!
Erich Schiffmann is one of the most innovative Yoga Teachers of our time, and the South Okanagan Yoga Academy is bringing him to Canada to share teachings with you! Spend a weekend retreat with him in lovely Naramata BC. More about Erich at 
Location: Naramata, BC Canada
Contact: Marion (Mugs) McConnell, South Okanagan Yoga Academy
Tel: 250-492-2587

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