From the famous opening of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival (pictured above), to impacting medical research, interfaith dialogue, teaching and providing spiritual guidance to countless students, Sri Swami Satchidananda was one of the twentieth century’s greatest spiritual masters, living from 1914 to 2002. He first came to the U.S. on a stopover on the way to Paris, when popular artist Peter Max begged him to stay and teach. That led to the formation of Integral Yoga International (IYI), Yogaville in Virginia, the interfaith Light Of Truth Universal Shrine (LOTUS) and more than 50 IYI centers. In Living Yoga, the filmmakers capture the heart, soul and teachings of this teacher and his legacy through archival footage, interviews, photographs and glimpses into classes that continue the essence of Swamiji’s message.
World peace, insisted Swamiji, comes from within, from practicing the teachings of yoga. Within these teachings you can clean your own house. Devotee Felix Cavaliere, the lead singer of The Rascals, recalled some of Swamiji’s influential words in the film. When Cavaliere expressed frustration at the world around him, Swamiji said: “I gave you a broom and told you to clean your closet and now you want to clean the whole house. Finish your closet and then come back and talk to me.” It is fitting advice for the practice of yoga, physical, mental and spiritual closet cleaning. Somehow, when we clean the closet, we look around and notice a different perspective on the room.
In watching the film, I was struck by Swamiji’s humanity during a Richard Avedon photo shoot and his wisdom that continues in the teaching, like the reminder that the eyes are the only part of our brain that is exposed, so relaxing the eyes facilitates the relaxation of the brain. Many were struck by Swami Satchidananda, as evidenced by the array of featured interviews including: Dr. Dean Ornish about his noted studies on the benefit for reversing heart disease and Swamiji’s influence. Artist Peter Max, Yoga for the Special Child founder Sonia Sumar and Dr. Mehmet Oz are only a few of the others who weigh in on Swamiji’s impact.
Even though it is a documentary, there is a meditative quality to the program, fitting for the person and the subject. It is a delightful film for sangha (community) members to watch, no matter their tradition.