Origins of Yoga

by Tim Kettle, Producer

Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Brahmachari

His name is Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Brahmachari. Not the kind of name that immediately rolls off your tongue. He was wearing the orange robe of a yogi, sitting cross-legged on the ground of an old-growth forest. Sunlight bounced off his white jatta, and full beard. He smiled and spoke his name slower, somehow knowing that if he spoke slower, I would suddenly understand Hindi. Well in the case of Swami Vidi-anand Swar-oop Bra-ma-chari. It worked!  I suddenly understood. 

After repeating it about fifty times, the name Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Bramachari began rolling off my tongue. Spelling it, now that’s another matter.

Now, a bit about Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Bramachari’s jatta. When a yogi takes his initiation, he vows never to cut his hair, a commitment against vanity. His jatta is his long matted hair that he coils around the top of his head. When unwrapped, it hangs all the way down to his heels. That is the way the Hindu God, Shiva looks. Shiva is the Lord of Destruction and Re-creation. He’s my favorite Hindu God.  

Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Bramachari’s white hair was the only characteristic that gave him any age. His smooth skin, youthful eyes and overall demeanor was that of a man in his early forties.  He revealed to us that he was sixty-five. 

We met him at a tea stall outside a temple in a small town on the way to Manali. We were traveling through North India, filming “Origins of Yoga.” One of our goals was to find a yogi that we could film traveling the countryside, always moving so as to never become attached.

We interviewed him, through our translator, Trilo. During the interview, I could feel that something special was happening.  Every time Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Bramachari answered a question, Trilo would smile with amazement and say, “Wow.” I could sense that we were all happy with the way the interview was going. In our minds, I think we took possession. He became “Our Yogi”. He was the yogi we wanted to film roaming through the Himalayas.

We asked him if he could meet us in Manali. We had planned to be there to film in the nearby forest. We also wanted him to travel with us higher into the mountains, to Rothang pass, a main passage for people moving between Tibet, Nepal and India. He agreed to meet us in Manali, in two days. I thought that the chance of him finding us was remote. To me, India seemed chaotic and disorganized. I have since learned that beneath India’s apparent chaos is calm reassuring order.

I watched Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Bramachari catch a bus. As it followed the narrow road around a hill and into the mist, I thought, how strange, “Our Yogi” just caught a bus. I always visualized images of yogis meditating in caves, communing with God alone in the wilderness, or serving as gurus in ashrams. Not catching a bus, with ordinary people.

Meanwhile, we followed our filming schedule, shooting temples and yogis and statues and shops and pilgrims and anything we thought would help us create our film. We were trying to capture the magical lifestyle developed by the Yogis of India. Life to me seemed like a blur…yet ever so clear!

Two days later we were in Manali, pulling up to the huge forest just outside town. In the distance, I could hear the Ganges flowing. I  thought, now wouldn’t it be great if “Our Yogi” actually showed up.  Guess what?  He did.

“Our Yogi” had easily found us and was planning to join us on the trip up into the mountains. We filmed him all day in the forest, and the next day we planned to take him with us higher into the mountains.  

We arranged for Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Brahmachari to stay in a room in our hotel. It was the first time he had ever stayed in a hotel. 

Later, we were in the dining room. Trilo came to the table and said, “You have to come see this.” We followed Trilo down to Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Brahmachari’s  room. He was sitting on the bed beginning his meditation. He had his beads in his right hand covered with the protection cloth bag, signifying respect for God. He smiled and motioned for us to sit on the bed next to him.

He began chanting.
Suddenly, for me, the moment became magical. The air felt thick. I could sense the molecules and atoms swirling around everything, everywhere. I felt as though I had entered an altered state of reality. It lasted for only a few moments. I remember thinking, “How could we ever capture this feeling on film?”

These moments are so startling when they happen. I felt a little scared, a lot excited. I started questioning myself.  Was I just imagining an experience that I wanted to have with a Yogi in India? I was in a hotel room, not the floor of a mystical cave, not in an ashram fill with devotees. I was with a yogi in a hotel room!

This experience confirmed to me that “Our Yogi”, Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Brahmachari, is truly a spiritual man. He has the ability to communicate with God, and share it with others. He showed me in an instant, just a flicker of what a cosmic experience could
be like.

I know that if I focus and concentrate and faithfully pursue the principles of yoga, I can have these experiences on a regular basis. But, the complexities of everyday life usually leave me dizzy. My pursuits for security keep me from truly giving my life over to the power I experienced in that brief moment while Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Brahmachari was chanting. 

I will always be grateful for that moment in a hotel room in India, with a man that I know, knows God. For that, is my goal too, and someday I will realize that the security I seek is not the money I think I need to survive, but the security I find when I see God in every moment, every movement, every situation in my life.

Thank you Swami Vidyanand Swaroop Brahmachari. Thank you for letting us film you for “Origins of Yoga”. Thank you for inspiring me to try harder to find the spark that makes me want to smile.

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