ADDRESS AT THE ‘YOGA ON TOP OF EUROPE’ EVENT
25 June 2017. Jungfraujoch, Switzerland
Congratulations to the team for hosting this unique event. You have brought Yoga on top of Europe. The glacier on which this event is being hosted is supposed to be the highest point in the Alps mountains. Metaphorically speaking Yoga has today conquered the heights of Europe.
Yoga has conquered the world’s highest mountains, the Himalayas, aeons ago. Adi Yogi, Shiva’s abode is the Himalayan mountain peaks. Today Yoga has come to conquer the mountain peaks in Europe.
We all have come here to celebrate World Yoga Day. Yoga is the ancient art and science of happiness and well-being that the Hindu spiritual masters have developed millennia ago. It was introduced to the west more than a century ago by the renowned Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda. The first real brush with Hinduism for the West happened when Swami Vivekananda visited Chicago in 1894 to address the World Parliament of Religions. He continued his travels in US and Europe for 4 years during which time he had introduced the ancient religion of the Hindus to the westerners.
Sitting in Manhattan Swami Vivekananda had authored a book by name Raja Yoga in 1896. That book had a major impact on Western understanding of yoga.
Vivekananda’s original name was Narendra. Another Narendra emerged on the world scene in this century and through his universal vision encouraged world leaders to turn to Yoga.
It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to the United Nations as Prime Minister that has opened a new chapter in the history of yoga. In his address to the UN in October 2014, Prime Minister Modi had given a call to celebrate 21 June as World Yoga Day annually. His call was enthusiastically supported by leaders of the world. Within a record time in UN history, by December 2014, 177 countries have extended their support to the proposal and the UN has adopted the resolution unopposed.
Since then Yoga Day is being celebrated all over the world on 21 June. This year too the event has taken place in hundreds of places all over the world, from Machu Picchu in Peru to the Great Wall in China.
It is being celebrated for the first time on top of Europe in the Alps today. This place, besides being the highest peak in Europe, is the most famous and sought after tourist destination. I am told that thousands of Indians, besides millions of tourists from all over the world, come here spending lots of money every year.
Why do they come? In search of happiness. Man’s eternal quest is for only one goal – happiness. Our efforts, our inventions, our technologies, our life style – everything is with one singular objective called happiness.
We find happiness here on the Alps today. But tomorrow it will be boring; we have already seen it. We look for a different kind of happiness.
It is the Hindus who have developed the science and art of eternal happiness, and that is Yoga. Yoga is not just about some physical movements. Starting with Yama and Niyama, up to Sadhana and Samadhi – the eight stages of Yoga, called Asthanga Yoga – is the key to universal and eternal happiness. These eight stages involve training the physical body as well as the invisible mind and consciousness within that physical body.
Material philosophies have taught us that happiness lies in exploiting everything around us, including nature. Hindus have taught the world that eternal happiness lies in not exploiting, but integrating with, becoming one with the nature and universe.
Yoga is the science and art of man’s journey from brutes to humans to spiritual beings; a journey from Pashutva to Manushyatva and there on to Daivatva. It controls the mind, the origin of all thinking, good and bad; and integrates it with soul and consciousness.
Yoga will make Men, with capital M, the integral human beings. At the outer level – Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam – meaning Yoga enhances the efficiency of your work. If you are an engineer, you will be a better engineer through Yoga; if you are a doctor, you will be a better one. At the same time, at the inner level – Yogah Chitta Vritti Nirodhakah – Yoga will control the wandering mind. Disciplining the mind is the most critical thing needed for the mankind. Had it been achieved there wouldn’t have been any Hitlers and Osamas. That is man making, and that is the need of the hour for the entire world. In the conflict ridden world around us we need real men.
‘Krinvanto Vishwamaaryam’ – ‘Let us ennoble the world’ – This has been the motto of the Hindus from time immemorial. Yoga is one great instrument to achieve that motto.
In the 20th century it was our software professionals that became the soft power of India. In the 21st century it will be Yoga which will be the new soft power.
“Many countries which do not know our language, tradition, or culture, are now connecting to India through yoga,” PM Modi told a crowd of tens of thousands in Lucknow on the Yoga Day this year.
Indian culture and tradition have so much to offer to the world which is at a crossroads today. As proud members of the Indian community I appeal to all of you to become the torchbearers of this great universal tradition whose only mission is: “Sarvepi Sukhinah Santu Sarve Santu Niramayah” – ‘Let there be happiness all around; Let everybody be healthy’.