Our next stop, accompanied by Dr. Shirley Telles, is the children's school complex. The school is an integration of western scientific approaches and the traditional gurukulam system. Along with supporting all things Indian, Swami Ramdev clearly wants to incorporate all that is best from the West, in the spirit of Swami Vivekananda.
As we arrive, a children's sporting event is under way presided over by Swami Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan. We hope to stand on the sidelines to watch the proceedings in order understand Yogpeeth and it's vision a little better. We are barely out of the car when we are called up onto center stage as visiting dignitaries. Lilian and I are asked to sit on the main platform next to Swami Ramdev.
There are boys and girls teams, one team for each of the five elements, with their associated colors. We watch running races with the members of Prithvi, Jala, etc. pitted against each other. When the finals in the tug of war are announced, Swami Ramdev rushes out onto the playing field. He delights in participating fully in everything that is happening.
Just as we are enjoying watching him judge the tug of war, we are called out onto the playing field to help judge the competition! Swami Ramdev's intention is to involve us in everything that is happening, in the same way that he himself is involved. What we experience in Swami Ramdev is someone with the infinite vision that could create this vast complex, and also with a childlike playfulness that allows him to participate fully in a high school sports program.
After the sporting event, Swami Ramdev invites us to his house for a talk and interview. He gives the interview in English, which, according to his own estimation, he is just beginning to learn from Shirley Telles. While extremely gentle, Swami Ramdev is also extremely direct in his comments and vision. According to him, Yoga was never meant to be a business and the whole direction in the West of for-profit Yoga centers is not the way Yoga should be taught. He acknowledges that Yoga teachers need to support themselves, but also notes that his organization offers a different but very effective model in which one hundred thousand Yoga groups in India offer free Yoga to people of all socio-economic backgrounds.
We also visited the research facility at Yogpeeth headed by Dr. Telles. Shirley Telles is unquestionably the world's most well known Yoga researcher, with hundreds of articles published. Her family is originally from Goa and her father was in the British Indian civil service, so she grew up in England and Africa. After becoming a physician, she knew she wanted to do research, and there was a project available involving Yoga. For that first project, she literally had only a desk and a chair to work with. Soon after embarking in Yoga research and beginning to study and practice Yoga, she knew it was her life's work.