Five years had passed since the last time I was in the beautiful village of cottages, shrines, and meditation halls that Swami Veda Bharati built in Rishikesh, India, within walking distance of the River Ganga, called Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG), literally, Swami Rama spiritual practitioner village. In previous years I'd spent much time there learning, serving and practicing.
This time I was returning, after a long absence while I cared for my parents, to teach at the Teacher's Training program. It was an immense honor to do so.
After a long, 18 hour flight, I arrived in the glistening new Terminal 3 at Delhi International Airport. Stepping into that new airport was happy surprise. The old airport was abysmal and this was such a step forward for India. Then I flew from there to Dehradun to another amazingly modern airport where there formally was nothing but a cement strip. In most past visits, I'd endured an arduous six to eight hour taxi ride from New Delhi to Rishikesh, and flying was such a pleasure.
The taxi drive from the Dehradun airport to SRSG was a half hour long, and when I arrived at SRSG the peace of the place en-wrapped me, like a soft blanket. It was beautiful.
There was a group of 40 something students in the Teacher Training program, and my first meeting with them was a couple of days after arriving. They were a wonderful group, with students from many lands. Quite a few were from Europe -- Holland, Greece, Germany, Italy, Hungary, and other places. Some from North America and one or two from East Asia. There were also a nice contingent of Indians, which I especially appreciated.
More than a decade ago, Swami Veda put together this teacher training program to create, as he said, "not just teachers of techniques but guides of people." This program helps the students engage in self-observation and practice leading to self-transformation. I had been one of the first students in the program, and now had an opportunity to lead others through it.
This was the level 1 program, the first of a three level program that takes at least three years to complete. In this first level, the students learn the basic knowledge and practices and how to share what they've learned with others. The students are expected to establish their own regular yoga-meditation practice. The idea is that we cannot teach others unless we have practiced first ourselves.
There were several senior teachers leading this program, from the USA, Holland, and Germany, all long-term students of the Himalayan Tradition.
The students were on a schedule from 5 AM until 9 PM at night. There was also free time and a field trip or two, and even two evenings of traditional music. The students held up well, even with the very intense schedule.
By the time they received their certificates of completion, the students had changed. Somehow they seemed clearer, more focused. They'd started on their path to learn and teach from this timeless Tradition and had made progress. It was a pleasure to be with them through this.
I stayed on a few days after the program ended, simply enjoying the peace of the place, before returning the New Delhi and then flying back to the USA. It was a wonderful pilgrimage.
Photos: Jackie Ratcliffe