Introduction of Papa Francis I (image compliments of talkingpointsmemo.com)
After two weeks at a yoga training on a mountain top in Virginia, I finally viewed the introduction of the new Pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis. Tears gathered at the corners of my eyes as I watched Bergoglio in plain trappings, including his wooden cross. The formal vestments of previous Popes had been left by the wayside. Most striking were the smiles (even grins) of the cardinals surrounding Pope Francis. As opposed to the grim looks, pomp, and circumstance usually marking these proceedings, the new Pope held a space of joy – contagious joy, if you will.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama (image compliments of www.writespirit.net)
He seemed to carry himself with quiet confidence and a gentle radiance which I have only seen once before – when I was fortunate enough to attend a talk by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in college, at University of California, Berkeley. H.H. the Dalai Lama seemed to radiate this quiet, and contagious, confidence and I wondered what it was that these holy leaders of different spiritual traditions might have in common. What is it about them that makes others feel joyful in their presence?
I was particularly moved to inquiry after spending two weeks studying with Gary Kraftsow , founder and director of the American Viniyoga Institute , which marked the third session of our Viniyoga Foundations for Teaching and Yoga Therapy Program . During the final days of our training, after our intense study of meditation and of the teaching principles of pranayama, we discussed the commonalities between the world’s religious traditions. We walked the fine line between religious teachings and phenomenology, the study of structures of consciousness as experienced from the first-person point of view. (This definition and more on Phenomenology can be found here. )
Our study took place at Yogaville , the beautiful community founded by Sri Swami Satchidananda . Though this community primarily supports yoga trainings and retreats, the interfaith mission of Swami Satchidananda lives on. The Yantra (or symbol, left) of the community and its mission shows the immense commitment to the phrase “Truth is One, Paths are Many.” See Sri Swami Satchidananda’s interfaith teachings on Truth is One and Paths are Many . Look closely at the many religions honored in the outside edges of the Yantra.
LOTUS shrine - image compliments of www.yogaville.org
This symbol can be found everywhere one looks at Yogaville, and it hung over Gary’s head as he shared his take on the study of comparative religions with regards to the non-sectarian study of the mind. There is even a celebration of these many faiths in the Interfaith room at the LOTUS shrine (right), which is quite a sight to behold if you are in the middle of nowhere in Virginia. Satchidananda's mission was to bring people of many faiths together, in dialogue and support of the human condition.