New Delhi: Yoga is India's true gift to the world that can empower people to tap their full potential and it is a wonderful step by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to further propagate the idea of yoga on the world stage, according to SRF President Swami Chidananda Giri.
The US-based Self Realisation Fellowship (SRF) and India-headquartered Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) were founded by Parmahansa Yogananda, known for his book 'Autography of a Yogi'.
Emphasising that yoga is not just a set of physical exercises, Swami Chidananda Giri said it is one of the most powerful tools to battle complexities of modern life that could usher in inner peace.
"Prime Minister Modi is to be applauded for bringing further the idea of yoga onto the world stage...because he chose what India's unique and most precious gift to the world could have ever been," Swami Chidananda Giri told PTI in an interview here. "... it is so beautiful that as a representative of India he is putting first and foremost what India's true gift to the world is. That is wonderful," he said.
On the 100th birth anniversary of YSS in 2017, Modi had termed Parmahansa Yogananda as one of the greatest Yogi whose life and work demonstrated to the world the tremendous value of India's spirituality.
Unlike mass popularisation of the concept that yoga is a physical exercise, which is just a superficial understanding, Swami Chidananda Giri emphasised that yoga is a union of the body and the soul.
Ruing about the various happenings in the society, Swami Chidananda said lack of a healthy source of self-esteem in the modern world was fast spreading like an "undiagnosed epidemic" with today's youth turning to social media for self validation and craving for identity in how many of their posts have been liked or seen.
"As a child grows older, naturally the individuality starts to become more separate...There is that craving just to feel constantly nurtured and yet the need for love the need for validation never goes away... If they are exposed to the idea of yoga or meditation... they find that validation, that love in even greater way than they ask for coming from within," he said.
According to him, there is that instinct and craving for love for validation for something to identify with and there comes constant attraction for social media "as to how many people have liked my post and how many people looked at my tweets and do they like what I am wearing do they like what my hair looks like”.
The heart breaks because all that is "just a cry for somebody to tell me that I am worthy", he said, adding that the right time to plant the seed of yoga is in later childhood years, pre-teen and teen years when an individual is forming a unique and independent identity.
At the same time, he emphasised that spirituality does not mean withdrawal to the ashram and retirement away from career or outward achievements . "The pursuit of success and the pursuit of spiritualism support each other. Because the same qualities that one needs to achieve in business or in industry or in whatever field they focus come from concentration - one pointedness for the goal and persistence, perseverance and will power - these are all qualities that are equally necessary for success", he noted.
India can help in ensuring global peace, he said, adding that he would place the achievement of India's ancient sages and saints as absolute crowning achievement of the human race as a whole.
"Has anybody said that I don't have time to eat or no time for food, no time to sleep? No, because these are necessities of existence. And it is only because there is this reverse sense of priority that we give last priority to the unfolding and nurturing and care of the soul, the spirit...yoga is to make some radical change in the daily schedule," he said.
About Kriya Yoga, propagated by YSS and SRF, he said it has a set of very powerful techniques for pranayam, which is not just a breathing exercise but life energy through which one gets control of mind.
Stating that true religion is a science, Swami Chidanand said it is a form of dogmatism, form of blindness on the part of material science to exclude anything that is beyond the perception of the senses.
"Spiritual science doesn't impose such limitations. It encompasses understanding and appreciation of material sciences, physics and biology and chemistry and all of these things ...this is only subset of the grand cosmological structure that proceeds from certain astral worlds of life and colour and beauty and energy and then finally manifesting in physical forms," he said.
On the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, SRF had a celebration at Gandhi World Peace Memorial, Lake Shrine in the US where Paramhansa Yogananda had enshrined a portion of Mahatma's ashes.
Yogananda had established the memorial when he dedicated the SRF Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, California, in 1950.
'Autobiography of a Yogi' is one of the most acclaimed books globally and has inspired the likes of erstwhile co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Apple Inc Steve Jobs, lead guitarist of the Beatles George Harris, inventor of Kodak camera George Eastman and horticulturist Luther Burbank.