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Here We Respect All Religions, Especially Their Spiritual Side; Divine Art of Yoga Ashram in La Habra

Here We Respect All Religions, Especially Their Spiritual Side; Divine Art of Yoga Ashram in La Habra

Learn more about how to get connected to life at the Divine Art of Yoga Center here: divineartofyoga.org

On a stretch of boulevard occupied mostly by independent businesses, The Divine Art of Yoga Center ashram, a non-denominational donation-based yoga center, sits behind a lush green hedge. It’s an oasis of peace amid the thrumming life of North Orange County. I parked and wandered the grounds, taking in peaceful gardens ideal for meditation, a shared meal, or an outdoor yoga practice. Leaving my shoes on the shelf outside the front door, I entered the main building. The original house on the property is like stepping into an everyday Indian home. Art lines the walls, meticulous carpet pads the floor, and smiling faces greet me. It was amazing to find such an oasis in La Habra.

The two kind women who run the ashram, Gautam Baiji and Rammurti Baiji, are both religious sisters – Baiji is the term for nuns in the Hindu faith – and biological sisters. Their gentle, genuinely loving manner makes settling in here easy. They encourage anyone to stop by at any time for a tour, and sometimes a tasty homemade Indian snack. This article features a portion of our video interview which can be found at RadianceMM.com. ~ Gina Kegel, Radiance Associate Editor

[This interview has been edited for clarity and length]

 “Every time I feel sad, I come here. This feels like home. When you’re here you’re listening to good thoughts, you’re being positive. It’s very welcoming. I’ve changed a lot because of coming here.” Abha Choudhuri, Brea

GINA KEGEL: Baiji, in Western culture, we tend to approach wellness from a reactionary view – we treat illnesses without trying to create a lifestyle that prevents them in the first place. How does your approach differ? GAUTUM BAIJI: We teach yoga and meditation. We want to bring oneness in our body, mind, and soul. We teach yoga so that we can become healthy, but at the same time we try to focus our mind with the breath. That way we can get awareness for our body and mind both. People do all kinds of diets, but it must be more than this: we teach people what to eat, and how to eat and when to eat, but more, we teach people how we can think about the thought process. 

How do our thoughts affect our health? Life is too short. We don’t have time to think of all negative things that are not useful. That’s why we try to teach people how to filter our thoughts. Nowadays you are seeing coronavirus spreading everywhere. People are spreading the message to be safe, wash your hands, keep everything clean. So, the same way it’s not only for the outside, it’s for the inside also. How can we clean our thoughts, because the thoughts continue to come. Whatever happens, if you have the wrong feeling or the wrong thoughts, it takes us to our destruction. Think of it this way: if you have one hundred dollars, you can use it to make somebody feel good… or you can use it in other ways that don’t.

But here we try to teach how to use your life the right way so you can live a blessed life, and you can help others. 

That’s why every Sunday we give discourses here. Sometimes people bring family matters, and we try to bring positivity to their minds. In this world, people want to blame others, change others. But here we teach them, just focus on yourself – if you gain positivity in yourself, you will see a different person standing in front of you. That is personal responsibility and awareness, and that begins with thoughts and thought patterns.

We are aware of the virus, and a person can die, but we have other viruses in us – our anger, our ego, you know? Jealousy, and all these things. In this country we have everything, but still people are suffering – why? Because of those inner viruses.

And there are physical outcomes of those types of emotions in the body. They can suppress the immune system by being in a constant fight or flight state, in a state of fear and stress and anxiety. So on a practical, and functional level alone, it’s an important time to bring awareness and to practice self-discipline in choosing emotions like love, compassion and peace, that support wellbeing. Yes, absolutely.

Let’s talk about the approach and philosophy of the ashram (which is non-denominational) itself. Does someone have to be Hindu to attend? When you come to the ashram, you will feel a little bit of Hinduism. It feels more Hindu here because mostly Indian people join us, we sing the Hindi devotional songs, and the other Baiji speaks in Hindi. We go according to the audience. When only Hindu people are here, it’s easy to help them understand according to the Hindu scriptures. But here we respect all religions. We talk about all different scriptures, but our goal is to bring more spirituality, not more religion. All great souls that came had the same message: “Man, know they self.” We talk according to the Hindu scriptures, but we talk about all the great souls: Jesus, Buddha, Muhammed, and so on.

That’s why we became nuns: we did lots of meditation and we realized religion is just a way of living, when people just follow the same style and everything, like in Indian culture. So the main goal of our center is to bring awakening in our consciousness. That way we will realize every culture says, “God is one, God is light.” Every scripture is saying the same thing, but how can we realize that? Because only by saying it, we can not achieve anything in our life.

Let me explain: maybe we say, “there is oil in the ground.” But by saying that, we can not run our car. If we want to run our car, we have to take out the oil and refine it, then we can use it. In the same way, in spirituality we say, “Divine is everywhere, God is light within us,” but how can we realize that? As long as we don’t realize that, we can not bring the Oneness.

So our goal is here at the ashram, we do spiritual discourses, we do yoga and meditation and all the things to bring the Oneness. And that we can bring only when we know – what is that One? And how can we go within to realize it? The same way we want to connect our body, mind and soul, the same way we want to bring balance in our life and spirituality and materialism. When there is a nice balance, then you can live the fullest life.

If you are using a bicycle and both wheels are the same, you can go easily. But if the wheels are not the same, more air or less air, then we don’t feel that comfortable. So our goal is to bring balance in materialism and spirituality in the same way we bring balance in body and mind. When both go together hand in hand, then we can really enjoy life.

Learn more about how to get connected to life at the Divine Art of Yoga Center here: divineartofyoga.org

 

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