|AHYMSIN NEWSLETTER, ISSUE - January 2019|
Yoga of Life Retreat in Thailand
by Little student of Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition
“Yoga of Life” makes a life worth living. Summary of the retreat in Thailand on December 15-18, 2018
When preparing for a retreat that was to take place in December 2018, almost a year ago the title “Yoga of Life” naturally came to my mind. And it fitted very well with the retreat as I felt that many participants came with a question “What life is all about?
Personally, I felt that it was also a fit to the mission of our beloved Gurus and tradition, whose only intention is to free people from their fears (born out of ignorance) and lead them towards realization of their own essential/divine nature.
We were so lucky to have a “trio” of outstanding teachers compassionately agreeing to lead the retreat for us. Swami Ritavan Bharati returned to Thailand again after 3 years, and this was his first visit as an Ashram’s Pramukh. In his new duty, he has been so busy with workload and has made a lot of sacrifices trying to hold disciples and students together amid challenges naturally following the change in the leadership at any organization. I was so joyful when he accepted my invitation. Ashutosh Sharma delighted many Thai students as in Thailand we can hardly find a hatha yoga teacher who fully embraces yogic wisdom in his/her teaching style. While it has to be accepted that Ashutosh’s style of teaching may not appeal to a big mass in Thailand, there are many people who really want more depth than what is generally being offered in hatha yoga classes.
Lastly, Shi Hong finally made his first trip to Thailand as a teacher. He has been in my mind for some time as it would be nice to have in our retreat a great disciple of a genuine spiritual path who has first-hand experience in leading a busy business life and yet is able to respond to his own inner search for higher value in life without getting carried away with material success (before his retirement, he worked in investment banking industry in Hong Kong for three decades).
Presences of these three teachers and the Grace of the Guru helped draw nearly 70 participants to the retreat, a much higher number than we originally estimated. Because of the activities at the venue (Baan Phu Waan pastoral training center), we could not get the long weekend and had to settle with the following week instead. Thus, people were required to take two days off rather than just one day to join our retreat. At one point, we were considering trimming the schedule to three days, but we decided to stick to a four-day format so that people would benefit most from their efforts (to join).
Swami Ritavan inspired people to learn how to be still and immerse themselves in silence. In order to hear the small voice of the Guru within (the source of highest wisdom), one needs to go beyond talkative mind by stilling all the senses. Otherwise, we can keep listening to yogic wisdom for the rest of our lives without getting any benefit out of it apart from feeling elated and entertained for brief moments. For this to happen, one needs to purify his/her emotions and mind. One should also value one’s own discipline, not in a sense of forcing oneself, but rather to contemplate on the higher goal that the discipline can take one to and thereby willingly doing it out of love and respect. His lectures were like lullabies sung sweetly to our hearts. Swami Ritavan embraced all of us with his tender love. I overheard one lady say to him that she felt so touched by his teachings. He has many qualities as a good disciple as well as a spiritual guide, but the one that I admire most is his total surrender to his Gurus.
Ashutosh Sharma has always been subtle whenever he led the practice session, but somehow I felt that in this retreat he has gone deeper than any other times. He even stimulated people to ask the question “Who am I?” because everything we do in life is centered on finding an answer to this most important / fundamental question. He kept reminding people of this question throughout the retreat. He also shared his insight in a lecture with a subject “The Art of Letting Go”, in which he wonderfully inspired us to let go of everything we mistakenly think is our real identity; body, mind, habit, character, emotion, and various roles we play during a journey called “life”.
Once letting go is complete, the answer to this question (Who am I?) is resolved as the answer will be automatically realized from personal experience. His nearly three-hour practice session was never enough. People told me they did not feel that three hours have already passed. When one is truly in peace with oneself, time passes very quickly in a very joyful manner.
Shi Hong came to the retreat full of knowledges – they are not just information; they are real wisdom realized through his own devotion, practices and high level commitment. He was a great story teller, and all his stories conveyed the wisdom applicable in daily life. He beautifully introduced us to Swami Rama, Swami Veda Bharati and Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition and along the way mixed valuable teachings from these two great Masters for us to ponder.
His knowledge of Buddhism is also outstanding (especially given his background as a businessman), and he clearly pointed out sublime connections between Buddhism and Yoga. For him, Buddhism and Yoga are the same path, and who cares which one came first. Because the truth is one and the same, it does not matter at all who discovered it first. Time becomes irrelevant once the truth is revealed because those fortunate enough to realize the truth are no longer subject to conditions of time.
One of a few differences is that Buddhism uses the term “Anatta” while Yoga speaks of “Atman” to describe essential nature of everything. To avoid unnecessary arguments, he nicely put “fortunately for most us, we do not need to worry about this point at this stage”. I really like the way he handled this sensitive point. Why do people (myself included) love to discuss the highest point when they are at only the kindergarten level and only speak from the information they read from somewhere? He also inspired us to put teachings into daily practice by telling his own stories in relation to his beloved Master, Swami Veda Bharati.
To my surprise, the teachings from the three teachers were finely connected to one another in the most seamless manner as if they were all guided by the same unseen wave of high energy. When the mind is perfectly tune to the higher (Guru) force, then all the teachers operate within one mind – it is truly a real example of genuine Guru/disciple relationship, without which seekers can never reach the ultimate goal.
I would like to give special thanks to: Khun May (Mayurachat) and Khun Chadanuch (Gor) for their initiatives to produce T-Shirts and fabric bags to raise fund for the renovation works at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG); a lovely couple Khun Sukri and Khun Meracha as well as Khun May (again) for generous donation to support our teachers and the renovation works; Khun Chanutta (Bee) and Khun Prarop (Ahm) for wonderful translation works; Khun Warin (Nub), Khun Jeraporn (Ae), Khun Paramita (Tim), Khun Chomat, Khun Yada (Jib), Khun Ek-uraailuck and Khun Vorawut for great volunteer and co-ordinating jobs; and Khun Sopa for helping to lead useful digestive breathing sessions. My appreciation also goes to all the participants for their time, willingness to learn and donations, without which, our efforts would have come to failure.
May Guru’s love and compassion find their ways into the heart of everyone and reside there as guide and protection until we all reach our ultimate goal, which is one and the same.
Little student from Himalayan Yoga Meditation Tradition
To see more photos from this retreat, please click here