2016, by: Kirpa Wirk
Global Ambassador Kirpa Wirk visited the Rishikesh Ashram for the international yoga festival to distribute 60 solar lanterns to further progress the children’s educational center. The ashram is the largest in Rishikesh with over a 1,000 rooms. The daily activities at Parmarth Niketan include morning universal prayers, daily yoga and meditation classes, daily satsang and lecture programs, kirtan, etc. Located in the mouth of the Himalayas, the ashram is known to be a deeply religious and spiritual place. It lies on the holy banks of the Ganges River, the longest river in India. The river holds a great importance to Indians and is referred to as “Mother Ganga.”
Wirk was first introduced to Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji when she went with her aunt to Yoga on the Labyrinth in San Francisco. Sadhviji is a PHD student from Stanford and went to the Ashram when she was 22. Sadhviji was so overwhelmed with the spiritual presence and the work the ashram was doing for the community that she felt compelled to stay in the area for over 20 years. Sadhviji gave a talk on grace and then talked about how the Ashram was still in need of more passionate volunteers whom wanted to help make a better future for others. The next week, Puiya Swamiji, the leader of the Ashram, met Wirk and personally invited her and her aunt to come to India to visit the Ashram themselves.
The Rishikesh Ashram’s goal is to primarily give others of lower economic status an opportunity to learn and work so they can move from smaller villages to cities. One of the many ways the ashram gave to the community was by building solar toilets, a gesture that was meant to enrich the environment around them.
Upon arrival, Wirk was not able to obtain the 100 solar lamps she brought because customs thought she was bringing one million lights instead of bringing “One Million Lights” lamps. Unfortunately, she was not able to get ahold of them until customs released them to her about a month after. Once Wirk reached the ashram, Puiya Swamiji and Sadhviji decided to distribute the lights throughout Rikishesh, an area with people of lower ecocomic status.
During the yoga festival, small groups were made so people could choose what type of yoga they wanted to learn about. However, Wirk was the only one allowed to teach a group on solar energy. She taught this group about the education benefits of solar energy, what One Million Lights does, and the global applications of solar. Wirk provided the group with the curriculum so anyone could come up to her and sign up to volunteer with OML and integrate themselves with the nonprofit sector.
Global Ambassador Kirpa Wirk’s experience with the ashram has opened her mind to the need for solar lamps in Rishikesh and the spiritual presence within the ashram. She knows others will follow in her footsteps by becoming a Global Ambassador who aspires to change lives through solar power while having noteworthy experiences as well.