Welcome and introduction Shyamji Bhatnagar
Good morning and welcome to everyone.
I will do my utmost best to do this introduction in English. My daughters strongly advised me not to do it – you may have already understood why ☺.
So I first asked Peter to do the introduction, but he insisted that I should do it myself because a teacher must always be introduced by one of his own students.
Before I introduce you our special guest Shyamji Bhatnagar, I wanted to show you some photos from the early days of the university to recall some memories.
Sometime in March 1979, the official start of the University of Lugano took place …. in Lugano.
I think this picture is from that year … at the start of the new academic year in front of the building in the Via Besso. Beautiful, isn’t it?
The photo also makes clear that it was not an ordinary university. It was a small university – I think that almost all students of that year are pictured in the photo – but the curriculum or the program was based on the educational vision and principles of professor van Praag.
Creativity and the activation of the right hemisphere played an important role in this new learning concept and the program regularly provided artistic teachers, such as the American Elisabeth Monath who you can see on the photo.
You came to the university – and I can say this better in German- , not to learn, but ‘zum lernen’, an integral way of learning. We will discuss this concept a bit further this afternoon.
The university actually started in Manternach a few years before 79.
Most of the students lived in the houses near the main building.
I myself lived with a number of students in a house in Biwer, a few miles away.
And every day we went on foot, up and down, from Biwer to Manternach, to follow classes from professors from different countries, different universities and cultures.
It must have been also that time when Henri van Praag met Shyam Bhatnagar.
As Shyamji writes in the preface to his book ‘Microchakras. Innertuning for Psychological Well-being”, published in 2009:
“Two well-known parapsychologists Professor Ten Haef and Professor Henri van Praag heard a series of five lectures I delivered at the Royal Tropical Museum in Amsterdam.
Professor van Praag had me teach in his newly founded University of Lugano.“
And so Bhatnagar became one of the regular visiting professors at the university. He was the first from India.
Many others followed later, such as Ranganatananda and prof. Mehta and many more at the School for oriental studies.
At this university we didn’t get to know Indian culture in the usual rational way as at other universities. No, we experienced Indian culture during the courses by sitting on the floor and chanting mantras.
Some of us started to change their lifestyle (getting up before sunrise, squatting to go to the toilet, using the right hand for your personal hygiene and that was your left hand :-)), but we also learned Indian cuisine and learned to eat with our hands (in which case the right hand was the right hand). It was really mindfulness avant la lettre!. …
… Although cooking may have been more the specialty of Shyamji’s good friend,
whom we would like to honor also today,
a great artist and expert in storytelling,
After a few years at university though – it must have been for most of us – one has to find his or her way in the professional world and so, you start to make a career, to earn some money, you start a family and get blessed with children and you create your own way in life.
But somewhere down that road, I still had the feeling that I was missing something or I was looking for more. And to make a long story short, I changed career and started looking for a more spiritual way of life.
When one day, in October 2010, I found out by chance that Shyamji Bhatnagar was in Paris, I decided to enroll for the course and went to Paris, open-minded but without specific expectations.
During one of the lessons he asked us to think about how much time we spend in our own life for ourselves, not on others, not on family, work or other obligations, but on your own Self, our own personal and spiritual development. And there, on that moment, at that spot, I realized that, somewhere in the hustle and bustle of life, I had lost track of my Self.
During the following summer I participated in the three-body-purification in Barchem in Holland, for eight or nine days, that was a very blissfull experience…
… and from then on I continued to follow from time to time some sessions during a weekend or during the summer …
Making slow but steady progress on a spiritual path … that was enriched over the years with many meaningful and rich experiences, hard to describe, but leading to more spiritual clearity and satisfaction for which I want to thank Shyamji from my heart.
I also wanted to share this positive experience with all of you and so the idea arose to ask Shyamji if he was willing to give a lecture to the group of his former students at the University of Lugano at a next meeting.
I am grateful to him that he accepted. Now that we have all come together, I can hand over to him and give him the floor.