Interfaith Understanding in Yogic Wisdom
Yoga is the most popular physical, mental and spiritual practice in the 21st century. It originated from the Vedic tradition in South India which has a rich multitude of spiritual-faith cultures and traditions. Our great yogis and sages transmitted their own yogic experiences to us which contain an unlimited knowledge of the universe.
During my early childhood as a yogi, I learned yoga from my parents, who were an interfaith couple and they encouraged me in developing an Interfaith style of yogic teaching. My mother, Devaki Kanakamma, was a school teacher and she guided me in finding answers from a practical and humorous perspective. She is from the “Kavil Family” - a traditional Hindu family promoting Ayurveda, Kalaripayattu, Yoga, Vedanta and Sanskrit for many centuries. My father, Dr. Thomas Thankappan, was a holistic medical practitioner who taught me scientific methods to understanding the human body and mind. He is from the “Nadayil Family,” which belongs to one of the twelve Namboothiri families who converted from Hinduism to Christianity since the arrival of St. Thomas the Apostle in A.D. 52.
During the school/college years, my parents sent me to different masters to learn sports, games, martial arts, music, dance, alternative medicine and much more! It gave me such great joy to serve people in thousands of community events and additionally acquiring essential wisdom. As a child, my personal experiences were encouraging me to find the truth in my own life which became part of my yogic practice. I was diving into the depth of universal spirituality and more questions began to arise in my mind. Although discussions with my parents and teachers instilled me with peace of mind, I eventually ended up living in Himalayan caves and mountains in Western Ghats, South India.
Meeting great yogis who can do miracles was an amazing experience in my spiritual journey. I observed that these masters never mentioned any religion or culture, especially Prabhakara Siddha Yogi, Paul Muni, and Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yeti. They only spoke about the universal love & wisdom of which we all are born with. In 1979, I began incorporating interfaith teachings and holistic medical techniques during my yoga classes with the help of my parents. In 1991, I invited a relative who is a bishop, H.G. Mor Polycarpus Geevarghese, to Inaugurate the annual celebration along with other religious leaders at our institute. Inviting faith leaders and accommodating other religious teachings became an attractive style in my events. I faced some objections from Hindu extremists upon introducing interfaith prayers at my yoga events. Somehow the Universe protected me from them and all other dangerous situations.
In Cochin City, the place where I grew up in Kerala, India, there are numerous temples, churches, mosques and even a synagogue. It was a supporting atmosphere for organizing more events with friends. I started to create events throughout India and eventually ended up in New York City on September 14, 1999. Fortunately, Jagat Guru H.H. Swami Bua Ji Maharaj (who lived over 120 years) and Rabbi Dr. Joseph H. Gelberman gave me enormous support to build up interfaith based yoga activities. Swami Bua encouraged me to meet numerous yoga masters in different countries in order to propagate International Day of Yoga and I signed the agreement on June 21, 2009, in Lisbon, Portugal.
From my social media and email blast, often people may think that I have an egoistic nature and some of them will block my messages or ask social media to delete my pages. I gave up my entire personal life for the global community to serve a divine purpose. “Never give up” is my personal mantra! I have to ignore their emotions and push hard to break people’s mindsets in order to bring the ultimate goal which is the understanding of the universal truth. Recognition of the "World Interfaith Harmony Week" and the "International Day of Yoga" by the United Nations are two major goals that have been already fulfilled during my life. Opportunities such as traveling to numerous countries, meeting a few million people and working with NGOs as well as institutions including the United Nations are providing me more freedom to cultivate universal wisdom.
When people can understand the true meaning of their own life, they will start to love themselves and others. By birth, we all are spiritual beings. The universe gives us a beautiful chance to celebrate our existence. We all are from the universe; we all are made of five elements in the same way as the universe; we all are part of the universe; we are the universe. Yes, we can make a difference with our collective work for the sake of our universal family the “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.”