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February - March 2006
Yoga campaign in India on Aastha Channel
The very recent controversy started by the Secretary of the Communist Party (Marxist) of India Mrs. Brinda Karat against the Ayurvedic medicines given out by Baba Ramdevji’s pharmacy at Kankhal (Haridwar) has created a furore, and the public reaction can best be gauged by large demonstrations against Brinda Karat and burning of her effigy. Her allegations are being investigated by the Indian authorities. Baba Ramdevji has challenged the veracity of allegations and affirmed that Truth would prevail.
The unique Kankhal -based spiritual and health promotion programme through Yoga has taken the people of India by storm. It is as if the Indian masses - almost one-fifth of the world population - have suddenly woken up after centuries of deep slumber.
Hundreds and thousands of men and women from all walks of life and every corner of the country are enthusiastically attending Yoga classes conducted in Hindi by a team of dedicated Yoga experts led by Swami Ramdevji Maharaj, a new phenomenon to appear on the Indian scene. Talks are given every day of the week, starting from 5:00 in the morning to 9:30pm.
It is claimed that by simple and easy-to-follow Asanas performed regularly, and by taking proper diet, even such ailments as high blood-pressure, acute asthma, arthritis and prostate cancer can be cured without the use of allopathic drugs. Ramdevji has, however, emphasized the importance of vegetarian meals and total abstinence from alcohol, drugs and smoking.
Never before - not during the ancient history of Bharat nor following the country’s independence in 1947 - has a popular movement of this kind ever been carried out on such a massive scale. And this is happening not only within the country but has spread abroad; the Aastha programme is now also beamed via TV channels to as many as 172 countries worldwide!
As a Sadhu once said to me years ago as I camped at the foothills of the Himalayas: “Whereas alien invaders for centuries savagely plundered the land of Ram, Sita and Lakshman, and brought death and destruction to the peaceful (Hindu) population of Bharat, India sends out the message of Ahimsa (non-violence) and universal peace by exporting Yoga and meditation.”
That a peaceful revolution is stirring the country’s 1.2 billion inhabitants as never before, and at the same time creating a keen awareness among millions of people in foreign lands, is truly laudable. Both Hindu Dharma and Yoga have now got wider world-wide publicity!
Hitherto the immense benefits of Yoga, though gaining popularity in the West, had not been taken seriously in the land of its origin. Perhaps the Indian masses’ long and painful struggle for survival until 1947 had prevented them from wholeheartedly practising the Yoga Asanas, on a large scale, though the tremendous potential couldn’t have been lost on them.
Now all that has changed as a new and vibrant era of national pride and confidence and economic resurgence with renewed awareness of the benefits of Yoga, has dawned in the land where modern (Western) technology co-exists harmoniously with ancient (Hindu) philosophy.
Though the gruesome violent attacks in USA in 2001 and bomb blasts in London and Delhi in 2005 - and in other parts of the world - by fanatical Al Qaeda-inspired terrorists resulting in death and destruction on a large scale, were seemingly not a good omen for the start of the 21st century nor for democracy, the rapid spread of the Indian Yoga campaign for peace and spiritual/physical wellbeing through the medium of television appears to have given a welcome boost to the battered morale of mankind.
And a salient feature of this wonderful movement is that it is entirely free! As Swami Ramdevji has said, no one need to pay a single Paisa for this humanitarian service. Whereas Yoga centres in London, New York and other cities in the West charge exorbitant fees for the teaching of Yoga, the Aastha system is entirely free of any charges - and it is more beneficial.
In Britain one can gain access to Aastha Channel 828 on Sky television, and all one needs is to sit cross-legged on a bedsheet or blanket on the floor in the home at the crack of dawn, or later in the evening, and follow the simple instructions on the TV screen. Besides a variety of physical exercises, the importance of concentration and deep-breathing is also dealt with. The speakers use English words too.
It is said that some foreign governments have expressed a keen interest in inviting Swami Ramdevji and his entourage to their countries for Yoga lectures, but Ramdevji has declared that first he and his colleagues must serve the needs of the Indian people.
What has made Ramdevji a very popular and widely-acclaimed figure in India today is his down-to-earth philosophy, easy-to-follow rhetoric, use of humorous anecdotes, cheerful disposition and a magnetic personality - characteristics sadly lacking in Indian leaders today.
By his ability to establish an instant rapport with the public Ramdevji is truly a man of the people. He has spoken out against the evils of Sharaab-Thhekas (liquor shops) that have mushroomed in cities and towns right across the country, and are wrecking the lives of the poor segment of Indian society. With a simple deep -orange Chadar wrapped around his well-trimmed physique, and displaying a thick black moustache and bushy beard, Ramdevji seems to have struck a chord in the hearts of the Indian masses. They adore him and love him.
Yoga promotes enlightenment and self-improvement for all people, rich or poor and irrespective of age, sex, race, religion, creed or nationality. It does not preach religious dogma. At one open air congregation held under a giant Shamiana and attended by an estimated 30,000 people, both men and women, at the early morning session, Ramdevji announced that it was heartening to see ‘Hamaray Mussalmaan Bhai’ also turning up in large numbers at the Yoga sessions, as are Christians and people of other faiths.
When the dreadful earthquake struck in Muzzafarabad and Balakot in north Pakistan, a disciple of Swamiji sitting next to him said that we should all share the ‘Dukh aur Durd (grief and pain) of those suffering people across the border.’
Since the Yoga message goes out to people of all nationalities, in fact to the entire global population, millions all over the world including those living in some Muslim countries, are turning to Yoga on Aastha Channel for mental stimulation, emotional stability, and physical fitness.
Ramdevji’s Yoga headquarters are based in Kankhal near Haridwar in Uttar Pradesh, where an estimated 4000 rooms are to be built where visiting devotees from distant areas would be given free board and lodging for a short period. A huge kitchen manned by an army of men and women volunteers, and where truckloads of vegetables, flour, milk and fresh fruit will be delivered daily, will probably become the largest kitchen in the world.
Never before in the history of the human race has such a colossal campaign for peace and healthcare worldwide ever been held which has done so much good for so many - and it is all gratis!. Om Shanti Om.