On the second day of our stay in the lower Alps at the Gitanananda Ashram, we had a special meeting with what we called the Lakshmi Team. Lakshmi is the name of Svami Yogananda Giri's publishing house, which has been publishing for decades.
We met in Shanti Mandir, the main ashram chalet. Their team had set out about three dozen books they have published over the years, and we were impressed with the collection--both the content, which is thorough and authentic, and the production values, which are elegant and, importantly, consistent in style. One immediately sees the entire body of work as a single and unified unit. The word euphony came to mind as we explored the titles on a large table.
We sat in a sun-filled room, and, to our delight, Swamiji joined us for the discussions (we should have known he would, but were still learning at the time how engaged he is with every tiny detail of the ashram and its work).
Their main team is four strong, but seven attended, as they share extended responsibilities in this important area. As with us, publications are central to their teaching and outreach and a significant amount of their seva is committed to the printed word.
Joining the peripatetic Hawaiian sadhus were: Svami Yoganandaji, Svamini Hamsananda, Svamini Nirajitananda, Ila, Malini and Kamala Devi.
Svami Yogananda Giri was amazingly familiar with all of our works, books and magazine. Hamsanandaji shared Lakshmi's past projects and future publishing ambitions. As the conversation moved around the room, we soon became aware that this is a group that Gurudeva would describe as "over-qualified for the job." They are knowledgable in most of the European languages, plus Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit, Latin and more. The team is fully ensconced in InDesign, enough to have discovered its flawed indexing functions. Like us, they have struggled with diacritical marks, which are key in their technical texts, and there was ample discussion about fonts and the typesetting of Devanagari script, about which our monastery has had a hand in advising Adobe's software engineers in the last few years.
We shared Himalayan Academy's publishing efforts and strategies, both in books and online, and identified a couple of areas that we could help them with (not an easy thing to find): firstly, taking two of their key books and creating ebook formats which they can put online so their readers and students can have access to the resources on their iPads, Kindles, Nooks and Android readers, plus PDFs for downloading.
Like us, Lakshmi and the ashram are deeply immersed in South Indian art, culture and scripture, so secondly we offered them access to our broad collection of art for such works as Tirukural, Periyapuranam and such. They may use some of our children's book and Hindu History text assets.
In turn, they offered to translate some of Bodhinatha's Publisher's Desk articles into Italian, which would be a great boon for Hinduism Today in Europe.
What a joy it was to see another group spreading authentic Hindu teachings, their roots firmly in India, their branches spreading across Europe.
After this meeting, we were taken to a large satsang hall where some 20 or so yoga students had gathered to meet the swamis from Hawaii. They are all here, living at the ashram for the weekend, following a course of yoga asanas, pranayama and philosophy which goes from dawn to dusk for several days. The monks handled this so effortlessly; we could see they had honed the skill of having so many seekers in their midst.
We were invited to sit on the stage while Svamini Hamsananda introduced us. Paramacharya spoke of our own life of yoga in the monastery and then of our recent discoveries of yoga in America (including the just-concluded lawsuit in Encinitas, California) and Europe and responded to a couple of questions, one among them a request to say a few words about Siva Peruman, which he described as All in all, immanent and transcendent, love and consciousness, the divine and the ordinary. It was all translated into Italian for the yogis. This last question is indicative of the ashram's wonderful depth of teaching yoga, which is inclusive of temple worship, Durga puja, scriptural study, yamas and niyamas and more.
More to come of this visit as we are able to carve out little windows of time to process photos and write of our experiences.
Religion needs to be of the present. Mankind is evolving spiritually; mass consciousness is rising. When we go to the temple, in the right spirit, contributing devotion and prana, being open to the blessings of the Deity; it purifies the mind. The Hindu religion focuses on the mind; purifies it; controls it, subdues the ego, makes us more humble.