"It is wonderful to join you today to inaugurate the world renowned, annual International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, on the holy banks of Mother Ganga, in the lap of the Himalayas, in what is popularly known as the birthplace of Yoga, and also the Yoga Capital of the World, with Yoga Masters, yogacharyas and yoga participants from every corner of the world.
Yoga is a holistic approach to well-being which has physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions. The science of yoga is ancient yet timeless. This knowledge can be applied to make our contemporary lives better, healthier and happier.
The word Yoga is derived from two roots. One signifying “connection” and the second signifying “concentration”. It connects physical health with mental equilibrium and emotional tranquility. It promotes concentration and focused attention.
The emphasis on the physical exercises emerged around the 11th century AD in a branch of yoga called Hatha yoga. These exercises have gained world-wide importance and prominence over the years. We, in India, felt that this treasure house of knowledge should be shared with the entire world, as this ancient science of Yoga is India’s invaluable gift to the modern world. Thanks to our Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, the United Nations declared June 21st as the International Yoga Day and it is now being celebrated across the globe.
The International Yoga Festival (IYF) at Parmarth Niketan is a true testament to the power and the universal popularity of Yoga and its capacity bring people together from every corner of the world. Just last year alone, IYF hosted over 1700 participants, who came from over 101 countries around the world and this year they are welcoming even more.
Rishikesh and the banks of Mother Ganga indeed, are a place that have drawn sages, pilgrims, commoners and celebrities alike, over millennia, in quest for peace, and for the true essence of Yoga. In this sacred land, Yoga is in the air, water and soil. Hence, I hope your experience at the International Yoga Festival, as the organisers say, imparts not only the teaching but the touch and transformation of Yoga.
Sage Patanjali who compiled the first yoga philosophy defines yoga as an ability to control one’s own random thoughts and achieve a stillness, a calmness that creates inner harmony.
Yoga should become a part and parcel of our daily routine to combat the modern-day health problems, both physical and mental. Yoga is a holistic system in which the mind and body act in unison and get completely rejuvenated, as physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation help in overall well-being of an individual.
And of course, Yoga also helps in the spiritual quest of an individual through understanding of the inner Self and achieving complete peace with the surroundings.
Yoga aims to help us to achieve a state of equilibrium when we are at peace with ourselves so that we can create a peaceful environment around us. We are at harmony with our surroundings, with our fellow human beings, with nature and environment.
Lord Krishna in the Bhagawad Gita talks of three Yogas – Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. These three dimensions - Action, Knowledge and Devotion - are relevant in all walks of life. We should be always active and work with total dedication and devotion. At the same time we should keep learning and spreading the knowledge as we keep doing our work.If work, knowledge and devotion are combined, the work we do gets transformed into something quite extraordinary.
I heartily congratulate Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, the Founder of the International Yoga Festival (IYF) at Parmarth Niketan, and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, the Director of IYF, for creating such a beautiful festival for the world to take part in and celebrate the true essence of yoga and for them to celebrate the diversity whilst stay rooted in the unity, in line with the tradition of our sacred land. I am so glad to learn how this festival has grown and blossomed over the last nearly twenty years at Parmarth Niketan.
Personally, I know and have been together with Pujya Swamiji on many occasions. His contributions to the welfare of all and plethora of inspired service initiatives are a great asset to the nation and to the world. Especially, his emphasis and passion for supporting the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign with his Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Ganga Action Parivar initiatives, bringing the faiths together in these efforts, are commendable. He is a unique confluence of a Karma Yogi, a Bhakti Yogi and a Gyan Yogi! He leads by example the practice of not just doing but truly BEING Yoga. I know that many of you have been inspired and touched by his example and keep coming back year round to be here in his beautiful ashram.
I wish to end with the prayer from the Upanishads that is a prayer for happiness, good health and positive thoughts.
Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah
Sarve Santu Niraamayaah
Sarve Bhadraani Pashyantu
Maa Kaschid Dukha Bhaag Bhavet
“Let everyone be happy, free from illness, see goodness everywhere and not be sorrowful.”