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A vision for Satyananda Math

When you are serving, helping, feeding, assisting, supporting, sympathizing, and expressing compassion for others, you are actually doing something for God.

There is no question of social service; this is spiritual service. God is in all the faces of those who are suffering, hungry, sick, and ignored by destiny and fortune.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

In 1991, Satyananda Yoga had been active in Greece for nearly fifteen years. Much had been achieved in terms of yogic teaching, sannyasa training, and spreading our guru's mission 'to carry the message of yoga from shore to shore and from door to door.' As these endeavours stabilized, and the presence of yoga within this country was more acceptable to the mainstream of Greek society, it was felt that a new phase in our public outreach was required.

Prior to this, in 1984, Sri Swami Satyananda established Sivananda Math—a social and philanthropic society—in memory of his guru: Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh. Its aim was 'to serve and uplift the less privileged section of society through charitable acts.'

In honour of Sri Swamiji and Sivananda Math, it was decided to inaugurate a similar project in Greece. This we did with the creation of Satyananda Math.

The Sanskrit word 'math' or 'matha' (with parallels to 'ashrama' and kutira') has several meanings including that of 'mother', 'monastery', 'a meeting place', or 'the abode of sadhus'. All these different meanings are linked through connotations of nurturing and community. In fact, a community cannot really be a community unless it is nurturing.

A community is a group of people which has a centre, but a centre that is continually shifting and adapting as change flows in, and that is consistently nourished by its members. A community incessantly moves, and alters its point of focus, in order to redress specific needs, imbalances and inequities. The energy, that fuels a community, is a nurturing, selfless, and unconditional love that is symbolized, in all spiritual traditions and faiths, by the figure of a mother. It is the 'mother' role that sustains, protects, and provides for the community, be it a small family or a large group of diverse people.

The maternal energy is not restricted by gender; it flows through both men and women. The maternal force is:

  • the energy of empathy—of being able to place oneself in another's shoes and understand them;
  • the energy of sympathy—of being able to feel another's sorrow and share their suffering;
  • the energy of compassion—of yearning to relieve another's pain and hardship and walk the extra mile with them;
  • the energy of selflessness—of being able to put one's own wishes and needs aside to focus on those of another;
  • the energy of nurture—of being able to feed, heal, and nourish another, not just with food, medicines and clothing, but also by giving the other a sense of their own worth, respect and dignity; and
  • the energy of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Such a 'maternal' force or energy must have been what compelled Sri Swamiji to inaugurate Sivananda Math in India and, through Swami Satyasangananda and Swami Niranjanananda, to implement and expand this vision within the local villages surrounding Rikhiapeeth. What was once a deprived and desolate area, now flourishes with vitality, health, and prosperity.

Sivananda Math aims to uplift such impoverished rural and underdeveloped areas, not by creating a culture of dependency, but by fostering peace, health, prosperity and, above all, self-sufficiency. The activities are not rendered as charity, rather as 'aradhana' (the worship of God in human form). This selfless service is an expression of the central precepts of Swami Sivananda's teachings: serve, love, and give. They have become the foundation of all activities at Rikhiapeeth.

In Greece, Satyananda Math exists to support and assist the work and plans of Sivananda Math through various local projects. These, in the past, have included the collection of medicines, clothing, tools, farm machinery, domestic and farm animals, seeds and plants, educational aids and resources, bridal kits, bicycles so girls can go to school, and solar powered lamps etc.

However, there is another aspect to our work that is closer to home. This has been the assistance we have been able to give many people in the neighboring Balkan countries as well as within Greece itself. In the past such ventures have included educational scholarships for children; material support to disadvantaged village families; food and material items for prisoners; medical provisions and other necessary supplies for charities caring for the homeless, the unemployed, and the welfare of children; free yoga classes; financial assistance to many people from neighboring Balkan countries to enable them to visit and study at the ashram.

Recently, the Greek women's groups, throughout our Satyananda Yoga community, have also commenced various projects, through the auspices of Satyananda Math, with a special focus on the empowerment and needs of women. Today we are facing a severe social and economic crisis in Greece that will, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better. It is time for us to repeat our initiative of 1991, and recognize that a new phase in the public outreach of Satyananda Math is again necessary. Exactly how this will manifest is up to all of us present here, at this time, and in this place.

All Greeks have already been affected, in one way or another, by recent developments. Some are unemployed with little chance of obtaining a new job; some have completed years of education and sacrifice to find they must now leave home and seek work in foreign countries and leave their families and friends; others have lost their homes and their past financial and material security; and some families have had to face personal tragedy, desperation, poverty, homelessness, and despair. As well as the political and practical measures, that need to be taken to get Greece back on its feet, with the security of a prosperous future, there is also a profound psychological and spiritual healing that needs to advance alongside the more secular approaches.

A very great psychiatrist, Dr Eric Fromm, described the healing power of love in his book, 'The Art of Loving', as being composed of caring, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. These four aspects can be applied to both ourselves and others. It is time:

  • to care for others as well as ourselves, not in regard to wants and desires, but in regard to needs;
  • to accept self-responsibility, as well as national responsibility, for what has occurred in our country, rather than project the blame onto others;
  • to be responsible, in the maternal sense, for the health, provision, and nourishment of each other throughout all of our communities;
  • to respect each other, and see that the glass is half full, rather than half empty, and that to judge each other leads only to destruction and stalemate; and
  • to seek deeper knowledge and awareness of ourselves, and of each other, and be ready, over and over again, to forgive and be reconciled to those who have hurt us, rather than to hate, fight, quarrel, or enact revenge.

Let us, this summer, open a new door in the history of Satyananda Math. Let us form small groups to discuss the ways and means we can help locally, and throughout the nation, to heal the pain and suffering so many are experiencing. Let this special time together, when we are filled with the grace and magnanimity of the guru, be an occasion to draft a blueprint of action for the times ahead.

Although many of us are also victims of the current circumstances, let us bear in mind there is always something we can do to uplift and bring joy to another. It may be just a smile, or a kind word. In the art of loving no such act is trifling. Rather such an act is like the ripples of a pebble, thrown into the waters of mercy, that increases its outreach and influence, as the waves extend further and further, until it is not possible to see the ultimate outcome and effect of the original act.

Sri Swamiji once said: 'For me, it is more important for a man to be a man than a saint. It is easy to be a venerable man, a guru, anything exalted, but not a man. It is very difficult to give; it's most difficult to love; and it's impossible to understand. Today, man has reached the point where he finds himself incapable of realizing his fundamental humanity. If a man can be a man, he can be everything. Because, to be a man, he has to kill everything in him. Before you can play music on a bamboo flute, the bamboo must be hollowed out. In the same way, you have to empty yourself. You have to bear the kicks, face the criticism, and live with the passions. You must end your fears, and be prepared to be persecuted and abused. You should not expect to be loved or honoured; that is imperative.'

It is this 'imperative' that you are called to begin today. May the pebble, we cast into the waters, not sink through our lack of resilience and courage, but flow outwards in a never-ending circle of maternal love, and of community.

Hari Om Tat Sat

Swami Sivamurti Saraswati


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Satyanandashram Hellas:

1. Ashram Paiania, PO Box 22, 19002 Paiania, Greece, tel: +30 210 6644189, 210 6028531, fax: +30 210 6644048, email: [email protected]
2. Satyananda Yoga Meditation Centre Paiania, Diadochou Konstantinou 32, 19002 Paiania, tel: +30 210 6641545, email: [email protected]
3. Satyananda Yoga Meditation Centre Athens, Semitelou 2, Athens, tel: +30 210 3311178, email: [email protected]
4. Satyananda Yoga Meditation Centre Thessaloniki, Proxenou Koromila 1, 54624 Thessaloniki, tel: +30 2310 283109, fax: +30 2310 229574, email: [email protected]

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