Swami Taponidhi Saraswatiji was practising yoga without knowing it. As a child, he would wake up early and exercise and some of the exercises he did were inverted asanas. His first association with yoga was through his father’s books and when he met his Guru, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, he knew he was destined for the spiritual path. In conversation with Indica Yoga, Swami Taponidhiji shares what it was like to spend 15 years in an ashram and how yoga transformed his life.
How It All Started:
Swami Taponidhi Saraswatiji: Reflecting back, when I was an engineering student in Pune, in 1971 - 1973, I had a habit of waking up very early, exercising, and at the time, I did not know I was practising yoga. I was doing inverted postures etc., as part of my exercise routine and I didn’t even know these were yoga poses. My father was a keen yoga enthusiast and it is through his books that I first started understanding yoga. My original learnings are from my father’s books. I was also very keen on Indian classical music and the feeling it gave me. I believe the seed of yoga was always in me and just needed a proper environment to flower. That happened when I met my guru, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati, in 1995 or 1996. Until then, my practice was irregular. But then I participated in this Yoga Nidra session for five days and on the third day, a transformation happened. Things just changed from that day. Then I did the certificate course, the teacher’s training course, and while doing these courses, the guru is what ‘pulled me up’. My guru invited me to his satsangs, initiated me into mantras and then finally, I landed up at the Bihar school of Yoga. My transformation journey deepened at the Bihar School of Yoga.
15 Years with Swami Niranjanananda Saraswatiji
Swami Taponidhi Saraswatiji: I have to go back a little in history to talk about how I landed up at the ashram. When Swami Satyananda Saraswati was in Gomukh, he was visited by a couple who asked him to bless them with the boon to conceive a child. He said that they would be blessed with a child but the child will belong to Vedanta. This child became Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati and from the time of his conception, he was destined to walk and teach the spiritual path — he was made president of the Bihar School of Yoga in 1983. My association with the ashram started when I was 48! I had sent an application there for a master’s in yogic science and it was accepted. I wrote to the ashram and asked if I could come a little early. I wanted to understand what ashram education is before I commit myself to the course. I went 15 days earlier. There was a swami at the reception of the Ashram, he was from Colombia. He saw me and started talking to me in Hindi and said, ‘why do these eager students arrive 15 days early.’ It was just a test to see if I would lose my composure (laughs). I told him very calmly that I had sent a letter informing that I would come early and if I couldn't get accepted that day, I could leave as my car was waiting outside. He then spoke to someone on the phone and asked me to fill in the acceptance form and that was how I entered the ashram. Like this, there were so many tests to test my patience and finally, during the interview, my irritation exposed itself (laughs). You see, I always had a lot of anger and a temper and these little tests were to gauge my personality and all of my reactions were being taken back to Swamiji. One of the biggest changes that happened there was that I stopped looking at books and texts for answers. Rather, I began to understand and experience meditative states, I participated in all the ashram activities. It made me understand the concept of “Atman Paramatman Ka Milan.” It was a union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness. You receive knowledge that you can apply in your life. What these words mean practically is what I experienced and realised at the ashram. My anger completely dissipated. Now, I only laugh. Within a year of arriving at the ashram, I received Purna Sannyas. Swamiji chose the date of this initiation and it was the same date that he was initiated. We celebrated this day of sannyas initiation every year with a havan in the morning and in 2004, on that day, after the havan, Swamiji said he would initiate my final purna sannyas and he did it that evening.
This love that I felt and received from Swamiji is unconditional. Even now just telling you about it is making me brim with love. That is what ashram life does to you.
Using Kalaripayattu for Chakra Balance:
Swami Taponidhi Saraswatiji: So I have been doing these sessions at Kalarigram in Auroville. They invite me every year. So in the evenings, I ask them to try a dynamic practice and use aspects of Kalaripayattu. In the mornings, I take the asana classes myself, then pranayam sessions, shatkarmas, etc., but in the evenings, I allow a more dynamic movement like Kalaripayattu followed by yoga nidra and nada nidra as the body and mind is then more receptive to these…Finally, I make the students practise meditation.
Swami Taponidhi Saraswatiji: This is an acronym I use to help students understand the process of spiritual practice. We have to learn how thoughts work and how to relax the mind. Our thoughts in the modern day are like kites flying aimlessly around without being attached to a string. Our thoughts keep moving in every direction all the time. These thoughts guide our behaviour and action in life. If we don’t control the thoughts, we can’t control the behaviour and actions. But if we control our thoughts and guide them, then we can guide and direct our life too. Firstly, do we know our thoughts? Yoga to me is to bring back the wandering attention to look at the mind itself. Once you start looking at this, the dissipation of the mind stops and then there is more attention and relaxation. So the ARA stands for Attention, Relaxation, Awareness, and these can lead you to ‘C’ or concentration and you can become focused. Once you become focused and concentrated, your entire consciousness can be infused with one thought or object. That takes you to ‘E’ or Evolution and you finally know your true Self.
On the Current State of Yoga:
Swami Taponidhi Saraswatiji: I am happy that people are at least taking up asana even if that is the first step. At least they are doing something and will benefit from it.