Living Life on the Yogic Path
What a Yale University education could not provide, an ancient yoga text did. That is what bhakti yogi Devamrita Swami experienced in the 1970s. As a scholarship student, Devamrita Swami wanted answers to the world’s problems. After consulting with his academic advisors, he studied whatever subject he wanted to. Upon graduation, he was unsatisfied. He had not found solutions to things such as justice inequality, environmental unconsciousness and nuclear weaponry. However, several months later, he discovered the Bhagavad-Gita, a 700-verse acient yogic sacred text that is part of the larger epic Mahabharata. After reading it and several other yoga texts, Devamrita Swami decided to live the Krishna bhakti tradition, also known as bhakti yoga, or path of the love supreme. He became the official student of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder/acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
In 1982, he became a Krishna monk, and for the past 40 years has been travelling all over the world living and teaching bhakti yoga. He speaks regularly at Philadelphia universities, including Penn, Drexel and Temple. He wants to help people connect with nature and ultimately, source.
The Bhagavad Gita presents the science of self-realization, which is what Devamrita Swami was searching for. This particular lifestyle does not come without challenges, though. He says it requires people to travel deep within themselves to get to the advanced levels of the yoga system. Another challenge is showing compassion toward all living creatures, which is why he lives a vegan lifestyle.
Devamrita Swami founded Mantra Lounge, in Fishtown, part of an international network of bhakti yoga centers, to cater to a diversity of people so they can enrich and enliven each other while learning about bhakti yoga. Splitting his time between New York and Philadelphia during childhood, Devamrita Swami chose Philadelphia as the home of Mantra Lounge because it is a “city with a heart,” he says. “Philadelphia has the sophistication of the Northeast and the warm-heartedness of the Midwest,” he says. Devamrita Swami has taught this tradition on almost every continent and offers free yoga classes to university students.
His love and respect for the environment and true sustainability led Devamrita Swami to the Gita Nagari Farm, in Port Royal, Pennsylvania. He serves as director of the 350-acre organic farm, which is the only USDA-certified cruelty-free farm in the U.S. Devamrita Swami invites people to get out of the city and into a rural setting, and remarks that more people live in urban areas than rural areas for the first time in human history. “Yoga, meditation and ecology go hand-in-hand,” he says, and that environmental problems are worse now than before. “We’re the only species that destroys its own habitat,” he reflects. “We are so disconnected, not only from nature, but from source.”
In addition to teaching through the spoken word, Devamrita Swami also is an author of three books, Including third and most recent book, Hiding in Unnatural Happiness. Dedicated to everyone, he wants to open people’s minds to nonmaterial sources of happiness. He also presents the Bhagavad Gita in a contemporary context. People have lost their ultimate connection with source, and he wants to reconnect people with it through his writings and teachings. His next step is to strengthen the connection of Mantra Lounge with the farm project at Gita Nagari.
Mantra Lounge is locate at 312 E. Girard Ave, in Philadelphia. For more information, call 215-834-8043 or visit MantraPhilly.com or DevAmritaSwami.com.