Narendra Modi was a chai wallah (tea vendor) as a young boy. Today, he’s the first prime minister of India who was born in an independent India. As a child of humble means, he began seva (service) in his early years, possibly due to his interest in Swami Vivekananda, which laid the foundation of his journey towards spiritualism.
Recently elected as the highest political leader in India, Modi has made it clear that he will continue to steer the subcontinent as a high tech nation, while retaining the cultural values and learnings of the rishis (sages).
Modi is my favorite Indian leader, since Gandhi. Granted, my knowledge of Indian politics is limited. But, as a yogi, I like this guy. One, he’s vegetarian. So right off the bat, he can’t be bad, right? I stopped eating meat 40 years ago, after visiting a slaughterhouse in Mexico. However, my yoga lineage strictly enforces vegetarianism as part of ahimsa, and I honor that part of yoga, along with the other branches of yoga, as does Modi.
On a larger scale, Prime Minister Modi successfully convinced the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to create an International Day of Yoga which will take place for the first time June 21, 2014.
When he addressed the UN, he beautifully stated, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action, restraint and fulfillment, harmony between man and nature, a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. It is not about exercise but discovering the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature.”
His words convinced 177 member states, including the United States, to declare June 21 as International Day of Yoga, so we will see many nations hosting events to honor yoga.
The Tribune of India reported that 70 groups in the U.S. are joining hands to commemorate the day. “Several ethnic groups, yoga studios and corporates are among the nearly 70 organisations that have joined hands with a prominent Indian-American community outfit that is organising events across 100 US cities to mark the first International Day of Yoga this month.”
In Texas, Houston’s event is expected to be the largest, with an estimated 2,000 attendees. Houston will host its free yoga event to celebrate peace and harmony from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas.
Harish Parvathaneni, consul general of India in Houston, explains that yoga brings harmony between mind and body, thought and action, human and the environment. He says that yoga “recognizes that every individual is unique and there can be no ‘cookie cutter’ solutions…depending on one’s physical, mental and spiritual heritage allows any one to craft a yogic approach suitable to their heritage, temperament and outlook.”
To further explain the multiple branches of yoga which I personally practice, Parvathaneni suggests that the adoption of them should also be individualized depending upon one’s stage and responsibilities in life.
“Karma Yoga for those who are action oriented, Jnana Yoga for those who have intellectual bent of mind; Bhakti Yoga for those who are more inclined to prayer, surrender to the Almighty; and Kriya Yoga for those who wish to practice the physical poses and utilize the energy within us.”
Those in the Dallas/Fort Worth area may want to check out a special Outdoor Yoga Festival at Radha Krishna Temple in Allen, Texas.
In San Antonio, the celebration which is endorsed by the Mayor’s Fitness Council, will be at Alamo Plaza from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Since the event will take place in the evening, instead of sun salutations, attendees will be led in the chandra namaskar (moon salutation) and meditation.
In Austin, PURE YOGA is opening its doors to the public. All classes will be free, and the traditionally Bikram studio will offer specific asana series prescribed by International Day of Yoga.
”By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change,” said Modi at the UN. I agree with this statement on many accounts, especially that of vegetarianism which has positively been attributed to improving our environment.
As I said earlier, Modi meshes the ancient with the ultra modern. In one of his tweets, he wrote, “I have been a practicer of Yoga for years & you can’t believe the positive difference it has made in my life. Yoga is the anchor of my life.”
U.S. Presidential candidates, start talking this way and you’ll get my vote in 2016.
For more information visit http://idayofyoga.org. To register for the Houston event see http://iyogadayhouston.org/. For more on vegetarian diets, visit http://thenamastecounsel.com/do-no-harm/