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“The Woodstock Guru” – The Opening of the Woodstock Festival

On August 15, 1969, Swami Satchidananda was asked to give an opening address at the famed Woodstock Music Festival to set a tone of peace and harmony for what became one of the largest gatherings in festival history…


This is the story of his arrival and talk at Woodstock. “Swami Satchidananda’s opening invocation at Woodstock, witnessed by nearly half a million youngsters and seen in part in the Oscar-winning documentary about the mud-and-acid-soaked weekend accelerated public awareness of India’s heritage of inner exploration.

The founder of the Integral Yoga Institute/Integral Yoga International and the most popular guru among counterculture New Yorkers at the time, Swami Satchidananda was helicoptered to Woodstock from Manhattan by organizers who thought that a wise elder might start things off on a serene note. With his long gray beard and flowing hair, the Swami was right out of central casting, and his message played to the generation’s sense of importance. “America is helping everybody in the material field,” he said, “but the time has come for America to help the whole world with spirituality also.” He exhorted everyone present to take responsibility for the success of the festival. Responsibility was not a very popular word in hippie circles, but coming from someone seen as an advocate of peace and freedom—the inner variety—the message was taken seriously, and any misgivings the kids might have had were dissolved in the Sanskrit chant that the Swami led before blessing the crowd and departing. To this day, many believe that his good vibes averted what could have become a catastrophe as the festival anticipated.” ~Philip Goldberg, author of “American Veda.”


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