Category Archives: seva

Japathon! Seva – by Ellen Mitchell

When I came back from India, I knew I wanted to do seva.  I quickly filled out the application form and sent it in.  I was offered the opportunity to lead the team organizing a Japathon!  How very exciting!  Grace flowed at the very mention of it.  The Grace continued flowing throughout.  What a gift.  Were there bumps in the road?  Yes, there were.  Were there uncertainties?  Absolutely!  Were there questions?  Tons!  Were there answers?  Always.  Throughout it all the Grace flowed and love swelled within me for all.  Tears come to my eyes just writing this.

Swamiji's hands

Swamiji’s hands

I want to thank Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati for the idea, for guidance, for making this the Year of Japa, for all the beautiful recordings about japa, for her superb editing skills, for being.  I thank Devapriyaa Hills for her wise words and fielding all those questions!  Rukmini Abbruzzi for her steady responses and guidance.  Janice O’Brien for her work on the web site Japathon! page and Glen Christensen for helping me figure out how to play a recording clearly.

Thanks to Sharada Macdonald and Kanchan Mohn, who were called to other services; although your time on our team was brief, you made an impact.  I thank the Meditation Group Leaders who so quickly responded to our requests and those who led the Japathon! — Rukmini Abbruzzi, Vibhuti King, Rudrani Nogue and Niranjan Matanich.  I especially want to thank the Japathon! team — Deborah Woodward, Gayatri Hess, and Vicharinee Chafin.  I could feel the Grace coming through every call and email.  Your words brought me to tears on more than one occasion and inspire me to do more japa — thank you.

To those who participated in the Ashram’s fourth birthday — thank you!  The Japathon!, our gift from the Ashram, to the Ashram and to each other, will continue to resonate with Grace, love and joy through us all.  Om Namah Shivaya

A Note from Swamiji

Nirmalananda 2 croppedI echo Ellen’s thanks along with so many others who had a great experience on the call.  Your shares onFaceBook keep trickling in – each one touches my heart deeply.  This is truly the type of birthday celebration I like!  Instead of candles and cheers (as fun as they are), the event is another opportunity to experience your hidden Divinity, your own Self – and an opportunity to express it into the world.

Congratulations to the whole Japathon! team, who really picked up the ball and ran with it.  Behind the scenes, we were served by  Ellen Mitchell (coordinator), Deborah Woodward, Gayatri (Barbara) Hess and Vicharinee (Su) Chafin.  Our phone japa was led by Niranjan Matanich, Vibhuti Courtney, Rudrani Nogue and Rukmini Abbruzzi.  And of course Baba – without whom none of this would exist.  I owe it all to my Guru!

OM svaroopa svasvabhava.h namo nama.h

Seva Is Yoga by Rob Gold

My introduction to seva came from an Indian professor I had in college. She taught on the


topic and the responsibility of and value in serving one’s community. It was lost on me at the time.  However 20 years later, I remember what she looked like, subtleties of her accent and even the spelling of her Hindu name; clearly she had an impact on me.

The second time I encountered seva was at my Foundations training at Kripalu. Swamiji divided our large group into teams of sevites and sent us out to help with the housekeeping, kitchen and operations of the Center. Who knew vacuuming could be such

bliss! Gone were the superficial and selfish reasons for doing things; for that one hour my job was to vacuum carpet and focus on why I was doing it. Time flew by and I was amazed at how full I felt and how much I had accomplished in such a short time.

My third and deepest encounter with seva came from readings in the Bhagavad Gita during Swamiji’s Yoga Business Skills course. Time and time again Krishna provides the teachings and illuminates the path for Arjuna until finally he gets it. I often feel like Arjuna:  lost, confused and without focus, but once I recognize my state (with a small “s”), I have these collective experiences to draw upon and apply to my life. My version of it is this:

  “When you are stuck on yourself, go be of service to someone else.”  It works every time, usually in ways and to a degree I could never have imagined.

Such is the case with the upcoming Conference, now just 1 week away. I feel like Arjuna slumped in his chariot, burdened by my churning mind, caught in the turmoil of why I can’t go — and why I need to. But what if I went not for me but to serve others and assist with the event? Swamiji always builds in ways for us to be of service and the Conference is no exception. Vacuuming the halls of Kripalu was a profound experience before my spine opened, before I knew about seva and its power, so by becoming part of the Conference I’ll get more yoga, more Swamiji, more community and more Grace, all by doing more for others and less for me. Sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn’t it?

Temple Fund & Seva — Outside & Inside

A Gazebo — A Temple, by Swami Nirmalananda

Chanting the sun up every morning, sitting under the canopy of mango trees — this is one of my most powerful memories from my early years of study:  Shrii Guru Gita in my Baba’s Ashram.  In the rainy season and when it got too cold, we moved indoors to the temple with a life-size statue of Bhagavan Nityananda.  I used to tune the tambouras before the morning chant, a daunting task to get all 7 of them in tune together!  And before 5:15 am!

The morning chant is delicious no matter where it’s done:  in the Ashram, in your home, on an airplane (quietly, of course!) and even sitting on elephant back as described in the text.  But at sunrise, outdoors, it’s something really special.  That’s what the Temple Fund is for.

It is my pleasure to announce that our Temple Fund is fully funded, due to the generosity of many donors, large and small.   We announced this plan last January as part of the Ashram’s fundraising goals.  We made headway but since then we’ve been graced with full funding and are moving ahead full-steam.

We’re putting in a gazebo, something that is appropriate to our neighborhood, with landscaping to make it a gem in our backyard — yet it is more.  The whole plan is a capital project, meaning we’re taking care of the Ashram building and property.  Thus we’re also upgrading our furnaces and reconfiguring the system to eliminate the hot and cold spots throughout the building.  Both the furnaces and gazebo will be completed this summer.

I’m looking forward to beginning my morning practices outside once the gazebo is completed, anticipating being able to use it for three of the four seasons.  We are planning some soundproofing panels so that we can chant without disturbing our neighbors, though I doubt they would be disturbed by someone worshipping the Divine in her own backyard.

The gazebo design will be based on mystical geometry as described in the texts.  We’ll include a pedestal in the middle, where we can place a photo and flowers (for now) or a sacred statue (perhaps in the future).

Someone said to me recently, “This is the center of the Svaroopa® Universe.”  Yes, it’s true.  Yet you must remember that the center of the universe is in you.  You are the center of your own universe, and whole universe is contained within you.  Both are true.  Outside and inside.  Inside and outside.  Thank you for giving me an opportunity to create a holy site in the midst of our modern lives.


Seva & Grace, by Devapriyaa Hills



My seva is as Seva Coordinator.  This means that I meet with Swami Nirmalananda regularly to review all open seva positions and for her to decide on each person’s seva personally.  She says, “I want to make sure that the seva is a ‘yoga’ for the sevite.  This means that they’ll be making spiritual progress while they’re doing the mundane tasks that it takes to run an Ashram.”

Swamiji has asked me to write about seva and what has changed now that I work with her so closely.  What can I say that will make sense?

It is such a lovely and Grace filled ride. Being with Swamiji amps up the feeling of Shakti, burns away some of my limited identification and gives me enormous freedom & fulfillment.  I release desires to be doing other things and choose the presence of my Guru. This choice holds and guides me like no other. Grace frees me to see and choose my path, my dharma. Seva is like choosing freedom, that freedom that allows Grace to flow more freely.

There are so many external practices to pick from but I choose the Self by choosing seva, meditation, practicing japa, and reading & listening to Swamiji’s teachings. They all guide me on the path that I have chosen.  Seva always shows me my Self if I look through accepting eyes, letting go of what my mind thinks serving should look like.

There is something about this seva of writing for Swamiji that has cleared out the cobwebs in my mind similar to what japa can do for me. I am now ready to clean my house, remove cobwebs and clutter, and simplify, all to make time for more interior explorations and time with Swamiji. Doing seva is like a mini immersion that allows me to remove another layer and another limitation to being the Self.

We invite you to consider one of our open sevas: Proofreading, Bookkeeping, Updating courses or links on our website, Research Project, and Musician.  These sevas can be an opportunity to develop new skills as we offer training for your seva.   We will soon have a seva list for local positions, in our upcoming Downingtown Yoga email. This will be an opportunity to help Swamiji or our hard-working staff.  Click here to make sure you receive the Downingtown Yoga emails.

Please email me if you are interested or have questions.  I am looking forward to hearing from you and serving you!


Social Media, the Svaroopa® Yoga Way: From the mundane to the sublime

by Sarvataa Christie



My life is seva. My focus is deepening my Guru-disciple relationship. My use of social media also includes these practices.

When I first realized Swamiji was on FaceBook, I hesitated sending a friend request. Finally, I did, and I was so excited (and nervous) when she accepted! I was afraid She would really see me. Little did I know, She sees me anyway; really sees me. How wonderful! Swamiji says that she loves to get to know us in this personal way through FaceBook. I certainly love visiting her page! This was one of many steps toward a deeper relationship with my Guru.

I love sharing SVA videos, daily E-Quotes, photos, blogs and various other SVA content on my FaceBook page. It brings a deeper understanding for me and accessibility to my students and friends.  It keeps me connected to my yoga community; each time there is a “like” for something I’ve posted, I have that chance to connect with a fellow Svaroopi, my yoga buddies.   As a bonus, I am reminded to visit that post again myself; layering it in there. It is even more delicious when a yoga buddy posts the E-Quote, too — yet another chance to contemplate it and deepen my understanding (or just remember what it said!). It is the gift that keeps on giving!

As Sharada Macdonald added, “The posts still my mind, and social media usually activates it.” It is such a treat to utilize the external to turn inward!  Sharing Svaroopa® yoga via social media is a way to focus on the highest thoughts; thoughts of God, the Divine and the Guru.

Svaroopa® social media turns the mundane into the sublime.  It is a way for me to stay in touch with my community, my yoga family,  to get and to give support, to keep up to date on what’s happening with our global community and to deepen my relationship with Swamiji. It’s an easy and fun way to market my teaching schedule, as teaching is part of my practice of seva.  When I receive something in my inbox from the E-Group, it brings me inward every time. How sweet!

The Ashram Nursery

by Kusuma Sachs

I love plants! You get to know that pretty quickly if you have spent any time at the Ashram or in the Exton Studio. I have plants that have moved from Rehoboth Beach to 3 different living locations in PA, and they are still thriving. One of the sevas I do at the Ashram is taking care of the plants.

African violet babies gather the Shakti

African violet babies gather the Shakti

Because of this seva, the Gardening Team asked me to make African violet babies for a project later in the year! Until they asked, I had never considered propagating anything besides a few stands of philodendron. In addition, I have always felt intimidated by African violets and really had no idea how they grew or what kind of care they needed. The ones I have bought over the years have thrived by watering when dry and not letting water get on the leaves. Despite being intimidated, every time I go to the local plant store and see African violets that are in the ‘marked down section’ (what I call the ‘infirmary” which really means they are on their way to being compost if someone doesn’t save them soon!), I buy them and save them. Periodically, when I need a plant fix, I come home with a few slightly sickly-looking African violets, which flourish beautifully in the Shakti-filled Ashram, even when I forget to water them or when they dry out in the sunroom quicker than I expected.

At first I was reluctant: Really?…all you have to do is plant a leaf and it will propagate into a whole new plant? I was an intimidated yet curious indoor gardener. I went online and found a plethora of YouTube videos on propagating African violets. You can propagate not just from leaves, but also by splitting the plants up; they grow babies all by themselves if left to their own devices. In one video, there was a pathetic-looking 3-inch pot of straggly African violet, but it turned out to be 7 separate plants growing in that one container. I was fascinated and motivated!

I excitedly took on the challenge, bought supplies and happily collected leaves from the 15 or more plants around the Ashram. I made up special potting soil and filled plastic serving cups gifted by the Ashram cooks. I stuck one leaf in each of 60 cups, adding a bit of rooting compound before planting them. They looked just like the YouTube videos!

Jade, too!

Jade, too!

The baby nursery continued to grow over the next few days until I ran out of African violet potting soil. Then I remembered that the second part of the memo from the Gardening Team was about making jade plant babies. We had one jade plant in the Ashram, so now there are about 20 potentials. I went on YouTube for these guys, too. You can propagate jade plants from the stem, or a leaf, putting it halfway in or even on top of the soil. I tried a bit of each.

The original plan was to set up grow-lights and a timer in the basement, for the babies to incubate, so I bought the supplies. The day I planned to set it up, Swamiji walked by the nursery on one of the dining room tables (my workstation) and said, “Let’s keep them here so we can see them and let them fill with Shakti from the Ashram.” Yea! They get natural light here, and we stop by and visit them throughout the day. They are doing well so far. The African violet leaves have not withered, and the jade looks healthy, although the leaves on top of the soil don’t seem to be doing anything.

You will be able to buy these Shakti-filled African violet and jade Ashram babies at the Svaroopa® Yoga Conference in October. By then, I expect many miracles will have happened with these babies. Ashram guests, residents and staff stop by and spend time with them many times a day. When I stop I feel just like a parent looking at their kid through the nursery window. These babies are in their own yogic way very fascinating and full of potential!

Seva: Something I Can DO!

by Devapriya Hills

Sometimes you bring your inner depth and vastness to your seva. Other times you are reminded of your expansiveness by doing your seva.



Sarvataa recently blogged about seva at the Ashram, packaging sacred ash to send to our Monthly Donors.  Her experience was full of depth, vastness and expansiveness; seva is like this.  Seva is a profound yoga practice all its own.

You begin, thinking you’ll support the Ashram, but then you discover you’re the one being supported.  Sarvataa described how she and Kristine’s donation of time and service supported them in diving deeper into consciousness, yet it supported the Community, especially those that received their beautiful ash-filled marble gift box.  It also supported the Ashram and our Guru all at the same time. How divine!

When my other yoga practices have become difficult for me, I find that I still have my seva. Sometimes I can bring my vastness to my seva practice, but when the tough gets in the way, seva is something I can DO. It is a practice that my mind has listed under “acceptable activity,“  precisely because it is an activity. My seva has the power to fulfill me and bring me closer to my stillness and my vastness.

You are all invited to expand your yoga practice by participating in Divine Seva. We have many different seva opportunities to pick from:

  • The Special Events Team will soon begin the planning for a Japa-thon on Muktananda’s Mahasamadhi in September. This surely promises to be a divine, expansive event.
  • The Gardening Team will be planting at the end of May. Many are bringing plants from their home gardens to the Ashram. Maybe you have plants to share or you can help with planting.
  • The Sound Editing Team has room for another sound editor.  Listening to and editing Swamiji’s teachings and Satsangs is full of Grace and Shakti.
  • If you are interested in helping keep the Web up to date or Blogging there are more opportunities for the practice of seva and an offering of your Self and your story.

The Grace that flows when you do seva is amazing. It is another opportunity to live in the flow of Grace.

Contact Devapriya at Fill out our 10-minute Seva Skills Survey to be expertly matched with your seva.


Special Shishya Seva

Imageby Sarvataa Christie

The tippy top of the seva sheet read “*Special Seva Project Downstairs”…what?!  Oh, I hurried down there, so very excited, and then my eyes gazed upon those magnificent marble boxes…the sacred ash!  From our yajña! My heart leapt and my mind melted.

At breakfast the next morning, as Kristine Freeman and I were chatting about our “Special Seva Project,” we shared joyful bliss mingled with excitement. Swamiji explained how Making a Difference monthly donors would truly appreciate the sacred ash being packed by Shishya hands (and I can say the Shishya hands loved it!). She then instructed us to do it in the meditation room, while playing chants, and then meditate. Yum!

We began in right after mealtime, as the task seemed daunting! Blissful and an honor, but all those boxes!  Kristine assembled the first packing box, then when she got to the second one she was like “How did I do that first one!?” She then decided to “stop thinking” and just do it; the next time I looked her way, there were seven boxes all neatly lined up and assembled. She had figured out, what she coined, “box asana”!

As I opened the bag of ash, which had been hidden until now, I was amazed by its richness and the depth of its grayness. My mind immediately began to worry and cause me trouble about the how to’s and the what if’s.  We adorned ourselves with the ash upon our third eyes and I did have a taste or two.

As we continued our work, we began to slip into meditation.  Those what if’s/ how to’s dissolved and the task at hand became so simply full of bliss! We worked together as a great team and were so surprised when we were all of a sudden done! Karobiji termed it “Working efficiently from the Self; functioning from that deep state of meditation.” What a wonder! To be able to function in that state of bliss is such a sublime and easy experience.  Kristine said, “I thought this would be something we would start and the next group would finish!” We had seamlessly completed our seva with plenty of time for meditation before lunch.  At this point, we were giggled, “Oooh! Next is meditation.” We both agreed we were already there.

Now…Meditation.   A blissful hour passed in the blink of an eye. It was so sweet to be so deep; “unconscious in consciousness” as Swamiji says. Kristine’s meditation was “So still.”

So, of course, I have been applying the sacred ash daily between my eyebrows and the tip of my tongue. It is so lush and full of power. It is a bit gritty, but so soft; a little rubbing between your ring finger and thumb will make a nice fine powder.  Enjoy your sacred ash, thanks for your continued support and generosity and for this opportunity to serve! I’ll treasure this experience always.

Keeping the Home Candles Burning. Posted on February 13, 2013 by Ashram

by Connie Mohn

Ahhhhh…What a gloriously sunny and warm winter day in Downingtown. A perfect day to be out and about. Destination? Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram. Even with so many yogis in India, the seva continues and for that I am grateful.

Sevite Lisa Spangler (Yoga Teacher at DYMC) was meeting me at the Ashram for a special – oh, so very special – project. It was time for Ganesha’s annual full body scrub and massage……or better said, the annual polish and shine.

Before we could get down to business though, two furry four-legged ashramites, bellies full, insisted we join them in the sunroom to lounge in the warmth of the sun and do absolutely nothing……. with friends. There is so much love in this thing called seva….from all directions.

Here are some pictures of some of those purrrrfect moments:

Sundari Mantage

Eventually we left our little sun-lovers to tend to our Ganesha, the Beloved. What a treat to be able to spend such quality time with Ganesha! Bathed in shakti, with the Guru Gita playing in the background, periods of japa, pleasant conversation and connection, we scrubbed and polished and scrubbed and polished. Were we polishing Ganesha, or our own Heart? When it was all over not only was Ganesha shining bright, so were we…..and so was the whole world.

Who is serving whom?
There is only the serving.
There is only Love.
What a difference a couple hours of seva makes!


Seva: Making Pillows for the Ashram. Posted on August 18, 2011 by Debbie Mandel

Creating new pillows for the Ashram is a story of connection and reconnection, on many levels. It began in May of this year when I was fortunate to spend eight days with Swamiji at Kripalu Yoga Center. When I returned home there was a seva request for persons who were handy with a needle and thread. I love to quilt and I was looking for anything Svaroopa® yoga related to help me to not relapse, so I sent in my name and quickly heard back from Sri that there were pillows that needed recovering. “Oh no, not pillows” I thought as I felt my relapse accelerating., “Anything but pillows.” I have always found pillows extremely difficult to make as they demand a type of perfectionism and patience in sewing that my mother and my grandmother had, but that I do not. There is no room for error in making a pillow, or so I thought.

A few days later Sri told me that there was another woman from my area working on the pillow project – Jana. She wondered if we knew each other. Ironically we did. I first met Jana in the spring of 2002. She was renting a room from my mother, and my mother was dying. I had the unpleasant task of telling Jana that she needed to move out. A few months later she spoke eloquently at my mother’s funeral about how she appreciated my mother and all that they had shared together. That was the last I saw of Jana until a few years ago at a Svaroopa® yoga workshop. I walked around stunned that weekend that someone so close to my mother was at the same workshop I was, as I did not voluntarily choose to see people from my mother’s life. I saw Jana again at the workshop this May. This time it was less startling. Then we volunteered for the same project.

I do not believe in coincidences. Jana was close to my mother in a way I never could be. Sewing with my mother was one of the few ways we had connected—for example, when I was stranded at her house for three days during the blizzard of ’76, she and I made pillows. Jana told me she began sewing when she was living with my mother. A common thread, pun intended.So I worked hard on the pillows. I tried to do them perfectly. I did not succeed. But I did succeed in having some lovely memories of my mother, and was able to let go of my perfectionism identity and send them off to the Ashram, flaws and all.

Swami Nirmalananda reports that she was overwhelmed with the beauty of these pillows, which are for her darshan room, where she meets with people personally when they come to Downingtown Yoga & Meditation Center. “They radiate love,” she says.

The Benefits of Seva by Sri (Sonya) McNeill. Posted on April 1, 2011

I continue to be amazed by the changes that yoga brings. With each course, with each practice changes have occurred, I grow deeper and deeper. My initial journey into the depths of myself reminded me of going to the pool when I was a child. I would watch in amazement as people jumped in the deep end. I was as amazed by the jumps as by the depth of their destination. The same thing always happened though, I would watch for quite awhile and then my longing to be in the water would take over my fear of the deep end. That didn’t mean jumping in, it meant that I walked back to the 3 foot water to enter the pool. My first Svaroopa course produced the same experience as I sat in awe listening to yogis describe going into the depths. I felt as though I was sitting in the shallow end of the pool as I struggled with poses, blankets, pain, etc. Each time I returned for a new course I found a new and deeper experience. Asana, meditation, and studying the texts have been my path to the deep end. Now I know that seva, karma yoga, takes me into awareness and consciousness as well.

When the ashram opened I found myself on the side of the pool again, wondering how to be a part of it, wondering how to go deeper. I volunteered for a project. Actually, I begged and practically harassed Swamiji into giving me a project, in its entirety. I thought the project was as simple as scanning, saving, and transferring data. Little did I know that this project would become my new deep end of the pool, pool of fire that is. As I dove deeper into the project, I dove deeper into myself. From the moment I received the tasks I began to meet more of my mini-selves, those aspects of yourself that you believe define you. I met the self that immediately sees the big picture but not the details, the self that refuses to ask for help due to fear of leaving a negative impression and the self that is not techno savvy. Hello SELF! I learned that when you begin a project, complete a small portion first so you can see the glitches in the process before you get to what you think is the end. That would have been lesson enough but there was more. Thanks to this project I also learned that it really is okay that I don’t know. Funny, I’ve given that advice to others for years but have never taken it. I learned its okay to ask for help. Actually it’s mandatory. Two heads, three heads, four heads, really are better than one.

Because of this project, because of diving head first into the deep end, I met myself, several little selves actually and arrived at a place deeper seated in consciousness. I didn’t expect to get here by volunteering. When I started my goal was to give of myself and that alone would have been satisfying, instead, I found mySelf. Seva has expanded my heart, my knowingness, and awareness and for that I am grateful. The experience of this seva project has been so valuable to me that I want to dive deeper still and have volunteered to be the Seva Coordinator. I know that this journey will propel me into the depths. Unlike my childhood memory, this time I’m jumping in. Joy!