Yoga teaches you that You are Divine, that you are much more than the body, senses, mind, intellect, and ego. Through the practice of Yoga, you get to appreciate the underlying Divinity that pervades all of creation. This understanding, that everything and everyone is Divine, removes the limiting concepts of racism, superiority between religions, and hatred based on fear and ignorance. It is this fundamental self-knowledge, knowing the truth of “Who am I?” that is so desperately needed by humanity. We have reached the threshold of the awakening of consciousness, where humanity is crying out for social and economic reform. Let us use this opportunity to continue to rise above racial injustice and uplift the consciousness of humanity.
The world is slowly recovering from the shock of a global pandemic, the threat of extinction from the microcosmic level of existence. During that time, we had a glimpse of this Divine intelligence that pervades all of creation. On the viral level, a microscopic being brought great nations to a halt. On the human level, we experienced the ingenuity of human intelligence to formulate ways to coexist and neutralize the effect of a pandemic.
During this time of legislated isolation, we are forced to live a life of discipline, awareness, and behaving in a way that does not threaten other people. Wise people yearn for such an opportunity to live in seclusion, allowing time for introspection and contemplation. At the ashram, we have used this time to study and do Sadhana.
After months of quarantine and restriction comes the tragedy of the senseless murder of George Floyd. We now find ourselves in global social upheaval. Nations around the world are protesting injustice and waking up to demand equality.
I grew up in Guyana in a very poor condition. I lived through the shift out of the slave-based economy of my grandparents. I was able to gain an education and extricate myself from the exploitation of the British system. From this perspective, I would like to propose some solutions to these seemingly insurmountable problems of injustice and inequality.
The conditions in which many impoverished people are forced to live are deplorable and stifle their opportunity to improve their lives. Just to cope with the suffering and stress of poverty, many people resort to drugs like tobacco, alcohol, medication, and worse, resulting in addiction and enslavement. There is little hope for people to rid themselves of these expensive and destructive habits, which is where social and governmental programs can assist.
In many lower-economic neighborhoods, there are numerous vacant lots that could be donated to a trust, organization, or their city. This land can be subdivided into lots and given to families, along with a low- or no-interest loan to build a house. The incentive of ownership, the ability to own property and a house, and the opportunity to have a job to provide for their family will help to motivate people to commit to rehabilitating themselves and gain freedom from substance abuse.
The schools in these neighborhoods should be upgraded and renovated, to give children the education and confidence to succeed. Many successful people of color, including myself, have attested to the necessity for access to education which was enough to give them opportunities to excel and become financially independent.
In our prison system, I understand that it costs as much as $80,000 per year to provide for one person in prison. With reforms and planning, some of this money could be diverted to uplift the children of poorer neighborhoods, instead of spending so much money to rehabilitate them after growing up in a troubled environment.
I grew up in a dirt-floored Guyanese village and witnessed the positive impact of ownership and education. At the age of 22, my doctors deemed me a medicated incurable, yet I took responsibility for my own health through the practice of Yoga. I freed myself from medication and doctors. Over the past forty years of teaching Yoga, I have seen thousands of students pass through my ashram and emerge as healthier, more independent, and aware human beings.
The most empowering lesson that Yoga teaches you is that you are Divine. What could be more empowering than that? Every month, 30-50 students of different races, cultures, and religions, come to our ashram in search of knowledge to improve themselves. During the two-week Yoga Teacher Training course, they live here at the ashram and learn how to become Yoga teachers. After a few days, being exposed to higher teachings that emphasize their humanity, unity, and divinity, the superficial distinctions between the students become insignificant. A group of 30-50 strangers start to relate to one another as one family of Divine beings instead of focusing on their differences.
It has always been my desire to teach Yoga for free. Over a year ago, I decided to offer my Yoga Teacher Trainings for 50% off. I wanted to allow more people to have access to Yogic knowledge, so that money would not be an obstacle to improving your life. My teaching is still free, and the money that students contribute covers their expenses of food, lodging, and helps to maintain the ashram. Our ashram is not supported by any trust or foundation, so students’ contributions are how we survive.
Every day, it is more and more apparent that the people of this nation and globe are hungry for change. There is a mass awakening of consciousness that is expressed in the demonstrations and protests all over the world. The demands for justice and equality is shown by all races, by people of all colors. What we are teaching, that all beings are Divine and providing the knowledge of how to realize this Divinity, helps to further uplift the consciousness of individuals as they struggle with questions about life, equality, and what it means to be a human being.
Looking to the examples of the non-violent leaders of the past, we know there is no need for hooliganism, riots, and violence to bring about significant political and social change. Icons such as Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela are examples of the power of non-violent non-cooperation. It is possible that peaceful demonstrations can tell our leaders that we, the citizens of the world, will not tolerate injustice.
Above all, you can either be a beacon of positivity or a vortex of negativity. You have the choice of what kind of energy you would like to transmit to the world. We need positivity right now more than ever, and you have a responsibility to be a part of the solution instead of adding to the problems of anger, violence, and hatred.
I pray that this momentum of social upheaval can give us the push that we need to raise the consciousness of all of humanity. In the meantime, I continue to teach the highest truth to those students who are seeking higher knowledge. May you be blessed with radiant health, peace, and prosperity.
–Shri Yogi Hari
June 9, 2020