Our Climate and Our Future—a call to action for IYF Participants, Ambassadors, and Leaders to make a commitment to Yoga’s role in Earth Activism.
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji welcome Saul David Raye, Srila B.A. Paramadvaiti, Cheryl Angel, Abuela Tonalmitl, and other indigenous elders in inspiring conversation on Climate and our Sustainable Future
RISHIKESH- On Day 6, the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan, being held in association with Incredible India, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, opened to a dialogue about the urgency of climate action, and how Yogis can spread a message of unity and peace to combat waste, pollution, and violence towards Mother Earth.
Saul David Raye opened the series with a peace mantra and explained: “Today we are here to speak about something that is close to all of our hearts, it’s entwined with the food that we eat, with our present and our future. We are the children of the mother, we are born on this Earth, and she is so intimately connected to our hearts. If we were in our hearts, we would never poison our rivers nor pollute the food that we eat.”
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, asked panel and audience members to join hands in a pledge to “Be Yoga and Live Yoga.” He stated: “In Yoga, we talk about connecting with our soul. Well, I believe that Soul and soil should work together. If the soil is contaminated, then our bodies are contaminated, our moods are contaminated and our food is contaminated. Let us join hands together, to take a pledge, with our indigenous friends, who have become our family. We are one family and we will take care of this planet. Because there can be Plan A, and Plan B, but no Planet B, there is only one planet. We must remember that we are merely the custodians and the guardians of this Earth.”
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Director of the International Yoga Festival, said: “Whether you look at terrorism, war, crime, any type of violence, what’s happening to our world, climate change, depletion of water, pollution… all of those problems would be fixed, if we simply adopted the first 3 yamas, contained in the first limb of the 8 limbs of yoga written by Sage Patanjali: Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), and Asteya (non-stealing). For those of us who are Yogis, it’s critical for us to realize that it’s not just what I do on the mat. It’s not about the waistline, or flexibility, or how much I sweat; it’s about true union.”
In offering possibilities for impactful and immediate action, Sadhviji explained: “It’s not that we have a global land and global water shortage but rather we have a global consciousness shortage. Our choices in every minute and every moment is the power that we all have. As Yogis we must be conscious of the impact of our actions on our planet and inspire others to also be in that awareness.”
Srila B.A. Paramadvaiti spoke to our spiritual connection to change, stating: “The real change will only come about in a person through a spiritual connection, through a duty to each other. A spiritual solution cannot be sectarian, it cannot be Lakota or Hindu. We want everyone to participate, we want everyone to communicate. Through Yoga, we have a duty to the world, to give. What is our share in all of this? How will we take what we have learned outside of this festival and into the world? We must join in that spirit!”
Cheryl Angel, moved by the urgency of her plea, said: “I want to be a part of the solution. I want you to understand that YOU are the solution. I encourage you to look at yourself with love, look at yourself in a forgiving manor, and accept the truth of how you are living today. Be encouraged to not only love yourself, but to forgive yourself, and make a pact to live in harmony with the Earth”.
Abuela Tonalmitl, an indigenous elder from Mexico, spoke of our give-and-take relationship with Mother Earth: “Water is the blood of the earth, and the earth needs her to nourish and produce food. She loves us a lot, we are her children. But if we do not take care of her, one day she will not be able to provide for us”.
Gorilla (Ricardo Cervantes Cervantes), Guardián de Teotihuacán comunidad Tolteca en Mexico, in speaking about spreading awareness beyond IYF, said: “I would like to see all of these chairs completely full of kids. When we go home, we need to deliver this message to the next generation. I invite these elders and these spiritual leaders to join me. If you listen, you teach, and you can go back and tell others.”
Gorilla then positioned himself cross-legged on the floor of the stage to play a beautiful piece on his medicine flute. He presented his flute to Pujya Swamiji and Sadhviji in the hopes that it will represent a continued dialogue of loyalty, peace, and truth at Parmarth Niketan and across the world. Deeply inspired by the talks, he also pledged on the occasion to stop eating McDonalds.
Amber Brovelli, from Arizona Elephants Now and World Elephant Alliance, asked audience members to close their eyes and imagine themselves as elephants, to feel their grounding and connection to the Earth, to “walk like an elephant”. She said: “Be here, feel the connection to Earth, that energy, that Shakti. The more we can listen to these wild places within us, nourish this balance between our cycles and feel the vibrations from the Earth, the more we can create spaciousness and coexist.”
Hate Ignacio Suaie, an elder from the Muisca Community in Colombia, said: “If Yoga is union with God, all of the communities around the world have their own unique expression of Yoga. All of the communities from the North, Center, and South have their own way to approach this divine union. That’s what we came to exchange here in India: our ancient ways of Yoga.”
Pujya Swamiji led all those gathered for the Spiritual Lecture Series in a pledge to take action: “A lot has been said. Now time has come for action. We need not only the teaching but the touch. Touch can come when you lead as the example. Only you can draw the line between greed and need. As yogis you can touch people and they can transmit these values”.
A Declaration for the Rights of the Rivers was signed and endorsed on the occasion as a call by Indigenous Leaders from the KIVA Kumbh Mela and the International Yoga Festival during their historic visit to India as a pledge to work together to protect all forms of water across the world. Parmarth Rishikumars also shared a special dance on India’s Beat Plastic Pollution UN Environment Day anthem, entitled Tik Tik, that they had prepared on the occasion to emphasize the need to end plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans before the menace of plastic becomes an exploding bomb contaminating all our air, water and soil.
Gurushabd Singh Khalsa welcomed Day Six with another Kundalini Sadhana course on the Yoga Ghat for sunrise, while across Parmarth, the sweat lodges held sacred chanting and purification. The third installment of Jai Hari Singh’s “Rebirthing – Renacimiento” in Spanish and English commenced at 6:30. Other early morning classes included “Ashtanga Yoga – Mysore Style” with Sandeep Desai and “Secret of Energy” with Mohan Bhandari.
Participants enjoyed a light breakfast in the garden before engaging in various yoga methods: “Conscious Breath in Asana Practice” led by HS Arun and Kundalini Yoga – Surya Namaskar with Kia Miller. Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa led a colourful class about connecting with others through eye contact, physical touch, and by learning to hold space through Kundalini mantra. Gurmukhji told students: “The best way to be able to heal is to give and to give to yourself”. Swāmi Uttamānada led the “Inner Meaning of Om Namah Śivāya” at the Sacred Sound Stage.
The International Yoga Festival’s spiritual lecture series continued at 11 a.m. when Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, David Raye, Abuela Tonalmitl, Cheryl Angel, Tata Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, Hate Ignacio Sauie, Amber Brovelli, and Srila B.A. Paramadvaiti combined forces. In “Yoga for Our Planet: Yoga, Climate, and Earth Activism”, each focused on a shared belief in immediate action to combat climate change, and how we can do so through our Yoga practice.
After lunch, the second Reiki Healing class was led by Maa Gyaan Suveera. In the afternoon, participants explored many different platforms for yoga including reversing health problems and disease through food with Dr. G.S. Gupta. Many enjoyed the Hindustanī Classical Rāga Concert conducted by peaceful vibration santoor disciple Setsuo Miyashita.
At 4:15, participants chatted over tea and snacks, then joined in a group photo and water blessing ceremony on the Aarti Ghat. After dinner, Uttaran Dance of West Bengal closed the day with a classical Indian dance that everyone enjoyed together, uniting the power and grace of the day’s events into one traditional, energetic performance.