By Sarah McElwain
What is the Integral Yoga Ministry and how is it connected to Interfaith?
Interfaith has always been a very important part of Integral Yoga. Our Interfaith work was introduced to us by Swami Satchidananda. He saw a demand and conducted many great interfaith events such as “The Swami and the Rabbi,” carrying on a dialogue with Rabbi Joseph Gelberman that lasted 13 years to promote interfaith ideals such as respect, understanding, and cooperation among all religions and faiths.
Swami Satchidananda and Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine, were close spiritual friends as interfaith activists and pioneers, often discussing peace in the world and “peace within” from a Christian and Integral Yoga perspective.
We are reminded and inspired by the phrase Truth is One; Paths are Many. Part of our mission is to inspire the recognition that all paths are legitimate and are different ways of finding our True Self.
Will this year’s Interfaith Virtual Memorial Service to remember and honor lost loved ones be similar to the first one you conducted last year?
Our Integral Yoga Memorial Service has evolved into something even more beautiful than before. In order to honor all of the family, friends, and animal family members who passed away during the COVID-19 crisis, whether due directly to the virus or not, we held a virtual service.
We are asking people to join us again this year in a virtual “Loved Ones Interfaith Memorial Service” to invoke divine blessings upon the departed souls, assist them on their journey to the heavenly realms, and to bring comfort and peace to their family and friends. When we lose a family member or friend, we want to honor their life in a way that shows love, respect, and recognition of how they have contributed to the welfare of others.
Likewise, all the great spiritual traditions teach us different ways of honoring loved ones as they pass on. In order to honor all of the family and friends who have passed away in the last year or so, as well as recognize the interfaith reality that The Truth is One and the Paths are many, we are conducting an Interfaith Memorial Service
We will hear prayers and insights from panelists representing the different traditions, as words of great wisdom from Reverend Jaganath Carerra and Reverends Bhagavan and Bhavani Metro. During this service, we will see pictures of our loved ones who have departed and honor them for what they have given to the world. Rev. Laksmi Scalise will be playing bowls and gongs, Rev. Sam Rudra Swartz will blow the shofar, or ram’s horn, and Jayadeva Mandelkorn will blow the conch.
This year we’ll be having an online puja (a worship service invoking the Divine by making offerings of light and love so please bring a candle for the candle-lighting. We like to include photos of loved ones so please include a relatively hi-res color photo (if available) with their name, date of birth and passing, along with one positive quality for which they will be remembered, for example their philanthropy or kindness, so we can publicly honor them during the service.
Anyone who wishes to honor their loved ones, or help us as a community honor our loved ones collectively is certainly welcome to attend.
Reverend Shankar Bruce Fern, an ordained Yoga Minister, conducts weddings, baby blessings, house blessings, and memorial services, including weekly services with a group of Interfaith Ministers at Hart Island, NYC’s potter’s field for the homeless and indigent. He is Vice Chairman and on the board of trustees of the global Integral Yoga Ministry. Reverend Shankar has been a devotee of and serving Sri Swami Satchidananda for decades and has been guiding the NYIYI and Satchidananda Ashram as a teacher, coach, and counselor. A a leadership development specialist and management consultant for organizations such as Citigroup and IBM, he is currently president of Change-Ready Solutions, a training/consulting firm dedicated to Inclusive Problem-Solving – helping organizations solve complex problems by leveraging diversity and inclusion.