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Vikasa 2016: Participants Experiences

Vikasa means progress, Vikasa means devel­op­ment! Vikasa 2016 : A Lead­er­ship pro­gram for the Youth, with an Indic approach was joint­ly offered by Anaa­di Foun­da­tion and Vision India Foun­da­tion at Rishikesh, Himalayas in Decem­ber 2016. The pro­gram blend­ed insight­ful ses­sions, hand-on activ­i­ties, local out­ing and self-reflec­tion and med­i­ta­tion. 55 young peo­ple from dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try, eager to make a dif­fer­ence in the soci­ety joined us for the retreat pro­gram. In this arti­cle, we set the con­text of the pro­gram and share the expe­ri­ences as shared by par­tic­i­pants Anu­va Agar­w­al, Naresh Mad­hur and Nihari­ka Math­ur.


Swa­mi Vivekanan­da said “Supreme val­ue of youth peri­od is incal­cu­la­ble and inde­scrib­able. The way in which you uti­lize this peri­od will decide the nature of com­ing years that lie ahead of you. Your hap­pi­ness, your suc­cess, your hon­or and your good name all depend upon the way in which you live now, in this present peri­od. Remem­ber this. This won­der­ful peri­od of the first state of your life is relat­ed to you as the soft wet clay in the hands of the pot­ter”.

Young peo­ple are filled with ener­gy and enthu­si­asm. This ener­gy and enthu­si­asm when put to the right use can trans­form the lives of the indi­vid­ual, the soci­ety and nation at large. Adopt­ing the right frame­works and world­views can help them bring about this trans­for­ma­tion. What they need are tools that help them act with dynam­ic and vibrant ener­gy that is root­ed in inner sta­bil­i­ty. The Indi­an tra­di­tion offers us frame­works and tools through its well devel­oped philoso­phies, knowl­edge sys­tems and inte­grat­ed lifestyle prac­tices.

This youth cen­tric retreat, with an Indic approach, was designed to pro­vide young peo­ple with the men­tal tools to awak­en their lead­er­ship poten­tial. Lead­er­ship is not just to do with lead­ing a team of peo­ple but devel­op­ing a sense of own­er­ship in what­ev­er one takes up. This retreat focused on enabling peo­ple to imbibe the qual­i­ties that make for a true leader: com­pas­sion, vision for the larg­er good, a sense of own­er­ship, self-reliance, ener­getic action, deci­sion-mak­ing with clar­i­ty, inspi­ra­tional stew­ard­ship and self-poise.

The day start­ed with dynam­ic Yoga ses­sions. The Yoga ses­sions helped the par­tic­i­pants to cope up with the chilly win­ters of the Himalayas. The morn­ing ses­sions had insight­ful ses­sion by Shri. Adi­narayanan and Smt. Smrithi. With the Mahab­hara­ta woven into the fab­ric of the ses­sions, a wide range of top­ic includ­ing Edu­ca­tion, Health, Eco­nom­ics and War­fare were pre­sent­ed. The post-lunch ses­sions, con­duct­ed by VIF, gave the par­tic­i­pants an oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect on nation-build­ing and their role as respon­si­ble cit­i­zens. Vis­its to Vashista Gufa and Gan­ga Arti gave the par­tic­i­pants a taste of the beau­ty of Rishikesh.

Ses­sions by Vision India Foun­da­tion, con­duct­ed by Aman­ji, were very infor­ma­tive and insight­ful. They dealt with gov­er­nance, office hier­ar­chy struc­tures, edu­ca­tion, bureau­cra­cy and in a much broad­er sense, nation-build­ing. As a result, many stu­dents came to know about the nuances of func­tion­ing of the gov­ern­ment and their respon­si­bil­i­ties as a cit­i­zen. We dis­cussed about ash­ta­lak­sh­mi (eight forms of Lak­sh­mi) and iki­gai (the rea­son for being), and it required deep assess­ment of one­self. Activ­i­ties like obit­u­ary writ­ing, yoganidra (deep sleep med­i­ta­tion) and group pre­sen­ta­tion for con­cepts to ana­lyze GDP helped in gain­ing a per­spec­tive on our role in shap­ing the nation.We also had music ses­sions con­duct­ed by Smrithi ma’am, in which every­one used to sing togeth­er in a cho­rus, cel­e­brat­ing bless­ings of god around us. The ses­sions used to cre­ate a mes­mer­iz­ing envi­ron­ment where we used to get lost for an hour or so. ~ Nihari­ka Math­ur

Naresh Mad­hur shares his thoughts on what he learnt from the pro­gram and his first expe­ri­ence on tak­ing a dip in the Ganges

A per­son being beau­ti­ful, as far as I was con­cerned back then, was an intu­ition based on appear­ance and char­ac­ter, and what makes a per­son beau­ti­ful could­n’t be writ­ten down, sim­ply because it is an under­stand­ing. But Adi sir explained how it actu­al­ly is based on appear­ance and char­ac­ter, but it isn’t just an intu­ition. Physcial­ly, each body had dimen­sions based on its palms and in per­fect pro­por­tion. He beau­ti­ful­ly brought out the dif­fer­ence between stan­dard units and ratios. More impor­tant­ly, my thoughts coin­cid­ed with the fact that beau­ty, accord­ing to was­n’t just Baahyakarana, but Anthakarana also played a very sig­nif­i­cant role. Actu­al­ly, the for­mer turns out to be an effect of the lat­ter, mak­ing Anthakarana and hence, Anthakaranashud­hi of high impor­tance. Adi Sir fur­ther elab­o­rat­ed on how Anthakarana is divid­ed into Man­as, Chit­ta , Bud­dhi, and Aham-kaara. Now, till then, Aham-kaara, as I knew, was bad and one to be elim­i­nat­ed. But as it con­trast­ing­ly turned out, it was false. Infact, Aham-kaara is required and a bal­ance is cru­cial. This was one of the most impor­tant juices that I got from the trip. So here’s my under­stand­ing. Aham-kaara is nec­es­sary. A bal­ance, is of utmost impor­tance. What aham-kaara is, or how I have under­stood it, is as the label that we put into things. The label can be our­selves, or any­thing that makes us attached to things and pos­ses­sive about it/them. Three things to note here: First, pride does come under it. But it isn’t just the one. Per­haps that’s why there’s a gen­er­al opin­ion social­ly, mak­ing “Aham-kaara” an adjec­tive in the neg­a­tive (Oh man, just intro­duced the word ‘neg­a­tive’ with­out defin­ing it! Excuse me this once please.) Oth­er qual­i­ties that comes under it include dig­ni­ty and con­fi­dence. Sec­ond, it is impor­tant to have a well bal­anced Aham-kaara. And as it turns out, the Naa­makarana, which is the nam­ing cer­e­mo­ny of a child plays a very impor­tant role in mod­el­ling the aham-kaara. The child’s name is repeat­ed, which though appears to be con­scious­ly use­less to the child, who is in no way lis­ten­ing to all the vis­i­tors whis­per­ing his name to him, sub­con­scious­ly shapes the aham-kaara, with the label of his name. Now, all these rit­u­als seem to be mak­ing so much sense. Third, I was nev­er the one who’d be always appre­ci­ate when peo­ple, no mat­ter how young or old, come telling their accom­plish­ments. But I was being a cause to an imbal­anced aham-kaara; espe­cial­ly if I do it to a child. That real­i­sa­tion taught a valu­able les­son. An unbal­anced Aham-kaara can lead to infe­ri­or­i­ty or supe­ri­or­i­ty com­plex­es, due to lack or excess of appre­ci­a­tion respec­tive­ly. A bal­anced Aham-kaara pro­vides us with real­is­ing our abil­i­ty to look at things at a dynam­ic per­spec­tive, where­as the oppo­site makes our per­spec­tives uni­di­rec­tion­al. This Adi sir explained with the exam­ple of how peo­ple with bal­anced Aham-kaara would react to some­body over­com­ing them in any field. A bal­anced one would rea­son out accord­ing­ly, and know that he’d have to either try hard­er, or realise that he is bet­ter in a dif­fer­ent task; where­as the unbal­anced one would sim­ply try to bring the oth­er one down.I’ve men­tioned many of things we did in the Ashram, but there were super fun times out­side the ashram! A bath in the Ganges! This was one of the prime things to be done. How do I describe my bath in Gan­ga? Well, things are as spe­cial as you imag­ine them to be. We went via the Vasista-Arun­dati caves. There, the view was boun­ti­ful­ly refresh­ing! One side was a hang­ing bridge, the and the rest, huge moun­tains! Water was a heav­en­ly green and cold. Looked com­plete­ly pure. It was­n’t so deep, so I just walked in the water. The rocks beneath were too slip­pery, and hence it was hard to walk with­out trip­ping. And now the dip. I was­n’t aware that I was sup­posed to take a dip in the riv­er. Thank­ful­ly my broth­er let me know about the norm and I fol­lowed it. Excit­ed the first time, but dead cold the sec­ond and third. I was gig­gling all the while to myself. I could­n’t feel my body after the three dips! After the dip, I dressed myself back up. The evening out! Then we had an evening to go to Lak­sh­man Jhoola where we first float­ed the lamps into the riv­er, and then went roam­ing. Spent time tast­ing the local food items. Man, they were good! I being a spice lover loved most of what I ate. Pani Puri, Vada Pav, and some oth­ers that I don’t know the name of. And so, that was it. Our one week of stay at the place came to an end. Remark­able peo­ple, with even remark­able mem­o­ries. What we all car­ry with us after the trip are the mem­o­ries, and also, a hand­ful of new but close bonds of friend­ship. As I see, being close has to do with know­ing each oth­er, and not the time that we’ve been togeth­er. It’s the extent of how true one can be with those around him. And in the few days and the few ques­tions that we shared, we could hear and know about their views and expe­ri­ences, from them­selves. This catal­ysed our ‘get­ting to know each oth­er’. All those moments, from off-top­ic jokes to in-top­ic con­fu­sions brought all of us unit­ed. And, in the end of the last day, hopes of meet­ing again were shared amongst us all, in the self­ies that we took. Back home, I have this feel­ing that I’ve grown in my views. I could pick up a cou­ple of quick lessons that were always there but nev­er noticed. Per­haps it’s a bit per­son­al to be shared in writ­ing, but I’d love to talk about it. This feel­ing of ‘wider per­spec­tive’ maybe just a feel­ing, but it’s good any­way because it’s the thought that leads to action.

The pro­gram con­clud­ed with par­tic­i­pants shar­ing their feed­back and per­son­al expe­ri­ence of the pro­gram.

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