By Ajay Kalra September 2004 Just when we thought the world has demeaned itself through selfishness and money-mindedness, the selfless service of bharatiya yoga sansthan comes as a breath of fresh air. they organise free yoga classes in 400 public parks in delhi alone We believe in doing things for others selflessly. We believe that our body is not entirely ours. It is only a means to carry out God’s larger plan for the welfare of the entire universe. Talking to Rishiram, general secretary of Delhi-based Bharatiya Yoga Sansthan (BYS) about their daily morning yoga training and practice sessions, conducted free of cost in over 400 parks in Delhi alone and over a 1,000 centres all over the country, is a highly invigorating experiance. It gives an insight into how a modest beginning can be nurtured into a shining accomplishment with time, patience, and purposefulness — and all that free of cost! A simple man, Rishiram talks in low notes. Clad in unpretentious white kurta-pajama, neither Rishiram nor the BYS founder Prakash Lal gives much hint of the substance they pack beneath their serene visage. Sitting in an airy and spacious office of BYS headquarters at Rohini in West Delhi, an imposing five-story structure flanked by sprawling lush green lawns, huge halls and a small team of support staff speaking their Hindi with a marked touch of warmth and nativity of distinguishable dialects, Rishiram talks about Indian values, universal brotherhood, yoga, their degeneration during the 1,000 years of slavery and the new spoilsport named money. Rishiram’s approach is direct and succinct. He says, “Poverty is a simple reflection of inattentive mind leading to indecisiveness. You simply correct this and your basic financial need will take care of itself. The real problem is when money comes in abundance. Will you then lead a lifestyle that ends you up in big hospitals just because you can afford both the lifestyle and the hospital bill?” “Imbibe yoga in your daily life. This will keep your body healthy and purge your mind of impurities of the past. Envy, fear, anger, violence, sickness, undue attachment would be suitably replaced with positive energies. You can see your purpose more clearly and work for it more vigorously, without being passionate or obsessed about it. Your final days will not be spent in an old age home nursing a tired, aged and malignant body but among your own people. You will not be in a chaotic state, physically and mentally. Unfulfilled desires will not be running riot within you. A purged mind does not desire, it achieves everything without any special love or obsession for it. Detachment is so natural. One does not need to even strive for it, forget it being difficult to achieve,” Rishiram says. All that he says rings true because even at his age (72), the physical fitness he displays is enviable. And the mammoth, well-groomed yogashram, where research, training and free treatment of various health conditions has begun, shows the people behind this free-yoga-in-park idea have really come a long way since BYS’s humble start in 1967. BYS’s mission is ‘Live ‘N’ Liven’ and it does not cost anyone anything in monetary terms. But in putting forward such clear viewpoint, Rishiram covers too big a time span of an individual’s life in a jiffy. What about the minute details that one lives through, where every moment has to be passed in the arduous journey of real life? For example, one has to earn one’s bread from this very world, which Rishiram and his volunteers are hell-bent on changing. A session in progressI strolled to the Paschim Vihar district park where one of the 400 free yoga centres in Delhi holds its morning yoga sessions from 6 a.m. I walked into the sprawling park and into a soothing world of greenery. A centrally located lake brimming with water in the month of May when the notorious Delhi heat was at its peak provided much respite to my parched soul. The park was full of people. The BYS group was the easiest to identify. From a distance they looked much like an RSS Sakha, minus the flag. The participants were mostly adults with bodies either being too shapely or too bulky, being instructed by a couple of helpful individuals. A majority were women who showed marked enthusiasm compared to men. I talked to one instructor about joining. Said he, “Must come. Your life will change. This frail and dull body of yours will liven up with fresh energy and radiate with glow of life. Do you understand what life is?” I returned with lungs full of fresh air and a mind jollied by the myriad colours of the park and people. Inspirational tete-a-tete Revealing the initial inspiration behind his unique idea, founder Prakash Lal writes in his column in a recent issue of their quarterly Yog Manjari. “The idea was sudden, there was no planning and the institution virtually came up by itself. Someone said something, heard it, realised it and then came a voice of protest and a positive determination from within. The institution began to take shape. When does such a determination arise? And how?” Considering that the founders renounced money right at the onset and refused the role of influential individuals, it was not very difficult to realise that Prakash Lal has lots in his heart to tell. Excerpts from an interview: What is the reason of BYS’s success?We were sure from the beginning that we are not going to sell yoga for money. We wanted dedicated individuals towards our cause. Dedication is not a readymade good procured instantly, one needs to develop it over a long period of time. Today, we are a successful bunch of individuals who believe in giving rather than taking. What else does BYS believe in?We believe in doing things for others selflessly. We believe that our body is not entirely ours. Otherwise, it would act according to us and we would never fall sick. Our body is only a means to carry out God’s larger plan for the welfare of the entire universe. Our dedication towards people is a reflection of our dedication towards God. How do you expand without money?We sent two of our volunteers to Hyderabad to start our work there. They visited the city and located a suitable and centrally located park which was visited by a good number of people. Next morning, both began their work—one instructed the other who posed as a trainee. We explained to the people gathered there, our purpose and that we were interested in teaching free yoga. They were sceptical at first but as they got involved they understood our intentions. By the end of the month, the small beginning became a full-fledged centre. Finally, on the basis of sincerity of purpose, they chose one from among the participants to take charge and continue the work initiated there. Since such involvement does not cost any money and there is immense benefit from the yoga sessions, new centres keep getting born. By now, we have over 1,000 centres. How do you fund BYS activities?First of all, we are frugal in our approach when it comes to money. We publish yoga related books and a quarterly magazine which sells over one lakh copies through these centres and volunteers. We manage to take care of our expenses from the sale of these publications. We do not seek or accept any funds from any source. We appealed in our magazine for donations for the construction of the headquarters building and we received enough funds for our work and appealed again to stop the donations once we had sufficient funds. What next? We have now begun to approach specific professional groups such as lawyers, doctors and defence personnel for yoga training. We have also started special yoga training and practice sessions in 100 parks in Delhi for school children during the summer vacations. The response is more positive than we had envisaged. We have started free yoga training centres in Mauritius, Fiji and Australia. Centres in America and England are in the final stages of taking off. But the governments in these countries do not encourage free training. Perhaps, the world will take time to realise that yoga is a gift to humanity. We are organising a special training camp for instructors in all foreign centres in October. How old are you?I am 84, and I think I will live upto 100. Contact: Prakash Lal Rishi RamPh: (011) 27943421-22-23
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