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Excerpt from Jean-Philippe's article. Click Here to read the full story
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The Way of the Sadhu
Yogi Priest Swami Shiva Nand Jee
Story by Jean-Philippe Soule 01/2003

Varanasi, the holiest Hindu city, is perpetually overflowing with Pilgrims. Varanasi was already thriving in 500 BC when Buddha came to Sarnath to give his first sermon making it sacred to Buddhists too. Indians believe that the Ganges, the sacred river that runs through Varanasi, has its source in the footprints of Shiva, and that bathing in the Ganges from one of its ghats –ritual stairways leading to the river– cleanses all the sins. Visiting Varanasi at least once in a lifetime is every Indian’s goal, and dying there insures the greatest chance of moksha (release from the cycle of rebirth). Of all the cities devoted to Shiva, god of internal knowledge, Varanasi is nothing else than Kashi, the City of Divine Light.

. . .

 We learned about yoga, and the philosophy behind it. Being vegetarian is an important part of the way of the Sadhu explains Swami. “People should never take the lives of other living animals. When an animal gets killed, he is very upset and this anger flows in his blood. Then you eat this blood, it is terrible for your soul. In any case, it is much healthier to be vegetarian.” Not only are real yogis vegetarian, but they also periodically clean their body internally. We use various techniques to clean our sinuses and digestive systems.”  Later, I witnessed these techniques. They were impressive, disgusting and looked painful, but Swami practices them two to four times a month, avowing their health benefit. “If you eat a vegetarian diet, practice internal body cleaning, yoga postures and pranayama breathing techniques, you will never be sick,” said Swami. But yoga is not just a physical practice- it is the preparation of the body for the much higher state of consciousness found in meditation.

At age 28, Swami is the spiritual guru many pilgrims dream of meeting. He doesn’t wear the dress of a Sadhu, but he lives every instant of it with all his heart and soul. Sunil told me in a private discussion that Swami is a “Saint”. It is certain that in fifteen years of travel I have met numerous spiritual leaders, but never one so young with such wisdom. His youth and vitality contradict his surprising maturity. His goal is simply to find the “Truth.” When I asked him how long it took him to master yoga, he simply replied, “Just a few months, but that is long story.” I listened and started to understand the way of the Sadhu.

. . .

 

Indian Yoga and Hindu Philosophy

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Yogi Priest Swami Shiva Nand Jee

Excerpt from J-Philippe's story "The Way of the Sadhu": ...Swami’s mastery of yoga had always impressed everybody, but Swami grew tired of the crowd and the trophies--for him yoga was a way of life, an art that benefited health and that led to a better meditation and concentration power.

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 Young Shiva got his first revelation at age six. Without understanding much about the complex multitude of gods that make up the Hindu religion, he was attracted to temples. There he often felt a strong feeling of peace flowing through his body. The feeling kept calling him so much that he often skipped school to read, study or just sit and relax in the various religious centers of the city. At age 14, he come to understand that in spite of being first of his class, his path wasn’t to follow in his father’s footsteps as a businessman, nor his elder brothers’ study of computer science. He wanted to know the real meaning of life-- he wanted to learn meditation in search of personal power and internal knowledge.

 

. . .

Shiva’s intensive training started the next day and would be a daily routine for weeks. Awaking at 4 AM, he first had to bath and clean his body entirely, a ritual that would later include internal body cleaning. As part of the cleansing, Shir Ram Lal Jee gave Shiva a single leaf of a medicinal plant to release his anger. From five to eight, Shiva learned difficult asanas or yogi postures that increase the body’s flexibility, power, balance, and overall health, as well as support the power of meditation.

. . .

 Weeks passed and happiness and fulfillment quickly replaced the pain Shiva first experienced. In a matter of a few months, Shiva revealed himself as a great yogi master. To mark his advancement to a higher level of understanding, his guru gave him a new name. He would now be a priest yogi named Swami Shiva Nand Jee.

. . .

 In India, the notion of family is very strong, and boys are at the center of the family. It is understood that girls one day will move to their husband’s families, but boys will always remain close to their parents. When parents grow older, it is tradition that their sons will take care of them. For this reason, all of the family’s energy and financial resources are invested on the boys and their education. Swami was born in a fairly high caste known as the Kshatriya , and his family was from the middle class. His father, owner of his own business, gave up much of his work time searching for his lost son. Knowing that Swami liked temples, he naturally looked in ashrams around Uttar Pradesh. For three years he endured numerous fake sadhus selling him false hopes about the whereabouts of his son. Undeterred by these fruitless financial donations to cons in every ashram, he kept looking with faith he would one day find his son.

. . .

Swami’s mastery of yoga had always impressed everybody, but Swami grew tired of the crowd and the trophies--for him yoga was a way of life, an art that benefited health and that led to a better meditation and concentration power. Too many people only saw the sport in yoga; they didn’t understand all the philosophy behind it. Swami returned to his private practice at home away from the crowd. He quit competing and spent more time teaching. His classes focused more and more on the spiritual and therapeutic aspect of yoga. In 1999 he graduated with a bachelor degree majoring in Sanskrit; in 2000 Swami went on to study for his master’s degree.

. . .

 Swami doesn’t only teach the asana postures, he also teaches the controlled breathing techniques known as pranayama, meditation, and Indian Philosophy. He doesn’t preach Hinduism. He says, “In India we have millions of gods, but really there is only one, it is the same for all religions. At the origin, all religions were based on the same principles, for centuries people have modified them to control the masses. Today there are so many versions, religions have evolved into myths but too many people follow them without understanding. I pray Shiva because it represents the mastery of the internal knowledge I am seeking, but all religions are good when people really understand what they follow.”

 His master’s degree in Sanskrit almost complete, I asked Swami what his goal was. He replied: “I want to teach the world to live in Peace. No matter the religion, no matter the practice, we are all the same, God is inside us and we need to live in peace with ourselves and with the rest of the world. I want to travel, maybe go to other countries, meet more people and teach them to be at peace, to control their mind and desire. Yoga and Meditation are the vehicles. Their prayers do not need to be Hindu, but their soul needs to be free. I also want to continue to purify my soul and reach a higher level of meditation.“

Jean-Philippe Soule

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