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Health In The Traditions: Sangeeta Saxena

Pratibha Shah

It is not every day that you come across someone living a completely ‘sattvic’ life, especially in the US. And to come across an entire family leading a ‘sattvic’ life is almost a rarity. I was therefore simply delighted when I recently came across the Saxena family, who are part of the ‘All World Gayatri Pariwar’ (AWGP). To give you some background of this group, here is an excerpt from their website:

“Gayatri Pariwar movement was founded by Yugrishi Sri Ram Sharma Acharya and Mata Bhagawati Devi Sharma in India is 1940, in order to uplift the oppressed in India and to rejuvenate divinity among its people. Gayatri Pariwar is a spiritual movement that regenerates the highest human values around the world. Based on the principle of “Giving is the law of the Universe” (Yagya) and Wisdom (Vivek),  Gayatri Pariwar attracts people from all folds.”

I knew I had to meet this wonderful family and learn more about their philosophies and life practices. ‘Simple living high thinking’ – seems to be the motto of Saxena family. Sangeeta, Sanjay and their 20 yr old son Param Vyom – all seem perfectly content with what they have. They do not seem to be clamoring for more materials and assets. Even though Sanjay is highly qualified and also an alum of IIT, Roorkee and Sangeeta a BEd, MA, they are not part of the rat race to the top. Instead they have been quietly working toward spreading practices that lead to the path to inner peace, joy, love and intellectual and spiritual emancipation. They truly exemplify the art of living and also the art of giving.

I arrive at Sangeeta’s residence on a busy Wednesday evening. I am received by Sanjay, Sangeeta’s husband. He seats me in the living room and leaves to attend a call. As I look around, I am completely fascinated by the wise messages on the wall hangings and the Bhagwat Gita, Mimamsa, Puranas and many of the 3000 books written by Acharya Sri Ram Sharma ji, on the book shelf. As I am browsing through some of the books, Sangeeta comes in and greets me with her typical bright and welcoming smile. She comes across as someone with very high energy and yet behind those sparkling eyes, one can sense deep wisdom and  being grounded.

Sangeeta moved to the US in 1997 when her husband was offered a job here. She worked for a few years but by 2000 was beginning to feel restless. Ever since her marriage to Sanjay – solemnized at Shantikunj, Haridwar - Sangeeta had been exposed to, influenced by and engaged in learning and spreading the word of Acharya-ji. Sanjay himself became a teacher and mentor to her, having lived in Guruji’s Ashram in his mid-twenties. He first met Gurudev at the tender age of 13. Sanjay’s mother had got involved with the Pariwar in her teenage years as well. So after marriage, Sangeeta literally ate, breathed, practiced and preached the philosophy of the AWGP (All World Gayatri Pariwar) – knowledge (not just information), love, peace, brotherhood and community, all riding on the wheels of simplicity and clarity. Guruji had re-presented the deep and sometimes complex knowledge of the Vedas in the most contemporary and practicable terms, thus making it acceptable and reachable by the masses. Having learned so much over the years, Sangeeta was very eager to share her knowledge with her countrymen here. Finally in the year 2000, after returning from a 3 month stay in Shantikunj, Sangeeta decided to take up the task of sharing all she had learnt – for the benefit of her countrymen, but more so for the generation growing up here. She started by picking up the yellow pages and calling up the Indians listed there. Today, she successfully runs group meetings, camps, as well as weekly conference calls for people all over US.

I sit completely riveted as Sangeeta narrates her life’s journey. As she is winding down, I interject to ask “So what are your views on health? Let us start with what health means to you.” “A healthy Mind is the main pre-requisite for health, as the disease first stations in the mind and then transfers to the physical body,” she replied. She then went on to emphasize this further. I couldn’t agree more because Ayurveda has listed ‘Pragya apradha’ or crimes/errors of the intellect as one of the main reasons for disease. Pragya is nothing but our intellect to choose the right from wrong, the good from bad. And when our intellect is affected, we make bad choices of food, thoughts and lifestyle, thereby sowing the seeds for disease. Having grown up in a home where she witnessed only good choices, Sangeeta is very clear about the choices she has to make for herself and her family. She grew up with fresh, home cooked, ‘sattvic’ food and that is what she brings to the table for her family today. A vegetarian by choice, she cooks fresh food everyday. Some things that are a complete no – sodas, frozen or processed foods. She recites the ‘gayatri mantra’ while cooking in order to infuse positive energy into the environment as well as the food.

I ask her about a typical day in her life. She wakes up at 5 AM every day. After bathing, she has an hour long ritual of different meditations and prayers. This one hour session involves certain rituals that inculcate respect for all natural resources around us and also act as enablers for mastery over self. She then leaves for a 2-3 mile walk with her husband, at least 15 minutes of which is spent walking barefeet on the grass in her beautiful backyard. This is followed by at a 45 minute yoga practice with her husband, which includes a variety of pranayamas (breathing techniques) and asanas (postures). Breakfast consists of sprouted moong, chana and/or methi, some veggies or fruits and yogurt. Lunch and dinner are wholesome and well balanced with roti, lentils, vegetables and occasional rice. There is a prayer ritual before lunch and dinner which inculcates respect and gratitude for the meal and its source. The meals are followed by ‘Vajrasana’ which is known to help with digestion. Dinner is followed by an hour of walking. Bed time is at 10. Sangeeta does ‘Atma bodh’ prayer in bed when she wakes up and ‘Tattva bodh’ prayer at night time. The former  is to thank God for the beautiful day as you rise, set plans for the day and ask blessings to accomplish them; and the latter is to thank God for all the tasks done, to mentally analyze what good was done and what bad could have been avoided. Then she sets herself up for sleep with the thought – “I am going into the lap of death”. This helps her practice detachment while still allowing her to fulfill her worldly duties. I can’ help but get reminded of ‘King Janak’, an ascetic leading a perfectly normal domestic life. I sit back and process all that Sangeeta has said and begin to marvel at her mastery of leading a very balanced lifestyle.

It comes as no surprise to me that Sangeeta and her family visit the doctor only for annual physical exams. They are a very healthy family and prefer to use natural remedies if at all they fall sick. Sangeeta knows how to make and use several home remedies that she learnt from her mom.

Currently Sangeeta is deeply involved in teaching and sharing with our Indian diaspora, practices and advises that help bring peace and love, within and outside of families. She conducts yagyas, havans, the sixteen ‘samskaras’ which include marriages. She has taken the initiative of community celebrations of our key festivals. At these celebrations she explains the true intent and meaning of these festivals so that a context is set for the specific rituals of the festivals, especially for the younger generation who will do things only when their ‘whys’ are answered. She has started a new trend of celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and graduations in ‘Vedic’ style, all geared toward increasing love and bonding, reaffirming forgotten vows and building confidence.

I walk away feeling very enlightened and inspired. On my shoulder is a saffron bag full of books that Sangeeta kindly gifted me. Having recently embarked on a journey of seeking and learning about Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas, I am childishly thrilled with the booty in the bag and am eagerly looking forward to reaching home and diving into the ‘shastras’. I give silent blessings to the Saxena family and pray to God that their path is lit and free of obstacles so that they can continue to bring about lasting changes in people’s lives.

Websites for further info: www.Gayatri.info and www.AWGP.org.

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