Teaching Peace begins at Home

Make Yoga the only purpose, aim, and real interest in your life. Plunge in Sadana now, and realize God. 

— Sri Swami Sivananda

If only people even knew about yoga! So many people don’t have access to this beautiful aspect of life.

My dear friend and colleague, Ms J’aime Tilston, MA, is a peace education researcher. Her Master’s Thesis was conducted on the role of nonviolence education (NVE) in transformation, focusing on how NVE can help prison inmates rehabilitate themselves and lead to a more peaceful life post-release.

In the process of interviewing individuals in the system in California, Tilston discovered that many inmates had never had a chance to learn anything but violence. Nonviolence was not even a remote concept in many of the incarcerated men’s minds when they entered prison (Tilston focused her work on men).

She, on the other hand, had been raised by a father who taught NVE in public schools in one of the worst cities in California for murder: Merced. While the actually class title was not “Nonviolence” or “Peace”, Ms Tilston’s says her father incorporated the lessons of peace and character-building into his daily routine. She attributes much of her own knowledge on peace to her upbringing by a peaceful family.

Today, Tilston is a graduate of the Master’s Program in Peace Studies at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. Over my life, I’ve met a lot of people, and none have inspired me to look within and make changes to my own lifestyle, and be a more peaceful person, than her.

I began to wonder, does the home environment have an effect on an individual’s ability to learn peace?

So I looked at my own life, and how yoga and peace evolved into my life. Was it largely due because I grew up in an ashram atmosphere?

Some moments of truth flashed into my mind: My peace was not mine alone. My yoga was not mine alone. Even my music was not mine alone. In fact, these gifts are things that run through my family, filling our home, and thus touching me.

My grandmother grew up a happy child, whose parents died at an early age. She married, and then, when she had a little time free in the 1960s, she and her aunt spent a moment of their own time in the presence of Swami Sivananda, one of the most prominent yoga “gurus” today and founder of several schools of yoga.

Author's grandmother and a friend with Swami Sivananda

Sivananda imparted many lessons to my grandmother, which she has shared over the years. These lessons didn’t come in the form of stories, or lectures, or even advice. Rather, my grandmother relays most simply how she ended up becoming the “daughter” of Swami Sivananda.

It was around 1964. Sachham (my aunt) had come to visit us in Lucknow. She was always wanting to be with them (swamis, monks). She had written a letter to a friend in Rishikesh, asking about staying at their guest house there. The friend wrote back and welcomed us. So we booked the train ticket and my husband dropped us off at the station, along with two other women friends. He did not have time off from work then. We all went to Rishikesh. Every day, we used to just do our daily work in the morning, then in the mid-morning we would go to see Sivananda Swami. We would sit with him and he would give satsang or just talk to us. Sometimes he would ask me to sing. I used to love to sing and sang some bhajans. Later he gave me a certificate in music. Then after one or two weeks, my husband got leave and he also came. Sivananda Swami greeted him joyously, honoring him highly by calling him “son-in-law”. My aunt was so happy: I, who was without parents since a small child, had become the daughter of Sivananda Swami. 

Those days impacted my grandmother deeply, and she has continued her musical endeavors, devoting her spare time, even in her 80s, to singing for God in temples and functions wherever she is (mostly California).

After listening to these stories time after time, I began to realize the value of being brought up in a relatively non-violent environment. It has served me well, and over the years, I’ve started to find and share peace through both yoga and music.

In the same way, nonviolence education in prisons, Ms Tilston writes, has the power to inculcate peace and nonviolence among inmates. Peace begins at home, and when your home is in the prison, it is important to bring peace into it!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Nancy Van Pelt
    Dec 10, 2011 @ 19:31:17

    Sowmya, Thanks for sharing this family background and providing your readers yet another lesson to ponder! Peace, Nancy


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