AGM 28TH October 2018
I celebrate and honour Swami Śobha as the new Patron of the Beacon Yoga Centre, also known as Sivananda Ashram.
Patron, or Patroness, is defined as one who protects and cares for. Śobha has, for many many years, demonstrated both care and protection for the refuge and place of spiritual education we know as Sivananda Ashram. This special place first took root more than 40 years ago now through the blessing and inspiration of that maverick yogi, that Beloved we called Swami Venkatesananda.
In reflecting on what I wanted to say about Śobha on this auspicious occasion, I found the scripture known as the Yoga Vasistha foremost in my mind. The Yoga Vasistha is possibly the most iconoclastic text that Swami Venkatesananda translated into English, and what a gift it is. It’s replete with inspirational stories, shocking stories, mind-blowing stories, for every unique temperament of human being; and it’s one that Śobha has studied in great depth.
One section in the Vasistha that both Śobha and I are fond of is the description of the Four Gatekeepers to Liberation, to freedom. The Four Gatekeepers are:- self control, vicara, contentment and satsanga.
Vicara is probably the most difficult word to translate into English as there is no single word that accurately captures the subtlety of its meaning. Perhaps, we could describe it as a special kind of intelligent enquiry, or seeing, into the nature of phenomena, both external and internal – especially that courageous gaze one is willing to turn within upon one’s own thoughts, emotions, habits and reactions. In Swami Venkatesanada, we were blessed to witness daily the life force in human form of these four noble qualities.
But perhaps, Vicara is the gatekeeper that he so fervently pursued and embodied in his own life and so patiently attempted to educate us in. He did this with humour and warm heartedness each time we sat rapt in his company.
The legacy of Swamiji’s teaching on Vicara is the same gatekeeper that I have seen Śobha strive to embody in her own life ever since I have known her. She does this with a sincerity and tenacity that is an inspiration to us all. And a Patron is, perhaps, not only a protector, but someone who works to remain steady in the pursuit of what is wholesome, good and life-affirming.
Śobha equally pursues and fosters the Gatekeeper of satsanga – a precious space where a kind of wisdom-dialogue between seekers can take place. How urgently we need to protect and nurture these two interconnected Gatekeepers of vicara and satsanga in these turbulent, precarious, egocentric times. Where appearance so frequently triumphs over substance.
Śobha is someone of substance and I cannot think of anyone more worthy to protect and vivify the flames of vicara and satsanga. So today, I salute Swami Śobha as the new Patron of the Ashram, protector of the flame. I pray for her good health and long life and, with the help of all of us (for we have a responsibility too), may she keep bright this torch of inspiration for all those who enter the Ashram portals, for all who yearn for knowledge and wisdom. Long may she and Venkatesa’s legacy of living yoga thrive for the benefit of all beings!
Only Swamiji could summarise a whole canon of scripture in two words, so I’ll conclude with his wisdom:
Om namo Venkatesaya svaha!