On January 22, 2018, Mrs. Rukmini Rasiah—affectionately known to all as “Amma” (mother in Tamil)—becomes a centenarian. Though she is celebrating the occasion in her native land of Sri Lanka, Amma is being celebrated at her home in Yogaville as well as globally by all who know and love her.
(photo: Amma Rasiah, pictured just behind Swami Satchidananda, during a Himalayan pilgrimage, late 1950s)
Amma first met Swami Satchidananda when he was sent by his Guru, Sri Swami Sivananda, to Sri Lanka in the early 1950s, to serve the Divine Life Society devotees throughout this beautiful island. Every three months the Jaffna Divine Life Society, which Swami Satchidananda had inaugurated, invited him to come for fifteen days and give programs, classes on the Bhagavad Gita and discussions of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Amma was the secretary of the Jaffna DLS at that time and she organized a full schedule for Swamiji. Almost every day he taught a six o’clock morning Hatha Yoga class. After breakfast he traveled to a local school to give satsang to the students. After lunch there was a short time for rest. Then he was off again to another school for the afternoon. Evening brought a regularly scheduled public lecture. Amma and her entire family drew very close to Swami Satchidananda and became ardent devotees.
(photo: with Swami Satchidananda at a temple in Sri Lanka. Amma Rasiah pictured front left)
Observing Amma’s dynamic enthusiasm for organization, as well as her own musical abilities interest in the fine arts, Swamiji asked if she would help to promote the fine arts in Kandy—where he was establishing an ashram that became known as Satchidananda Thapovanam. Swamiji knew that classical dance and music were important ways of expressing one’s worship and devotion. He once said, “From Vedic times, art in India has been spiritual, developing and flourishing in the precincts of temples, aspiring to reflect the divinity of human beings through their creative faculties; thus, it is regarded as Yoga and as a means of Self-realization.” Toward this end, he integrated these fine art forms into the Thapovanam, and later at his Integral Yoga centers in the West. He wanted Westerners to be exposed to and gain an appreciation for the classical dance form, Bharata Natyam.
In the early 1980s, once he had established Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville Virginia, Swami Satchidananda invited Amma and her family to relocate to America and help establish a Fine Arts Society there. In 1984, the Fine Arts Society of Yogaville was inaugurated. Its aim was to encourage the fine arts of music, dance, and drama among people of all nations with respect for the various traditions and cultures of the world. Its further mission was to affirm the unity of art and spirituality and to promote peace, good will, and harmony through the arts. Through its classes and programs, FAS has achieved its mission and continues its service today.
Amma’s youngest daughter, Padmarani Rasiah-Cantu, an accomplished Bharata Natyam artist, became the artistic director of the FAS. Integral Yoga International sponsored a European and North American dance tour for Padmarani and her brother Dr. Jeyarajan in the early l980s to wide acclaim. For almost 30 years, Padmarani has been honored as a selected artist with the Virginia Commission for the Arts.
(photo: Swami Satchidananda, Padmarani Rasiah-Cantu, and Mrs. Rukmini Rasiah in front of the LOTUS, during the 25th anniversary of the Fine Arts Society of Yogaville)
In 1988, the V.P. Dhananjayans, world-renowned artistes and directors of Bharata Kalanjali in Chennai, were invited to give a lecture demonstration in Bharatha Natyam at the FAS in Yogaville. There was such a tremendous response from those attending, that the Dhananjayans were invited to return that summer to conduct a residential camp in Bharata Natyam for young students who were unable to go to India but wanted to study with the finest Indian dance masters. Originally planned as a one-time program, the FAS was literally flooded with requests for this program, particularly from parents of Indian children being raised in the USA who wanted them to maintain the link with their cultural heritage. Through Amma Rasiah’s efforts, this Natya Adyayana Gurukulam became an annual program for 25 years, and a new performing arts hall was built to house FAS classes and programs.
(photo, L-R standing: Amma, Mataji, the Dhananjayans, Padmarani join other Natya Adyayana Gurukulam organizers/staff to pose with Swami Satchidananda)
Kavita, Meera, and Anjana, daughters of Dr. and Mrs. Pathmarajah of Lancaster, California attended the Natya Adyayana Gurukulam for many, many years. On reflection they offered that, “The Camp has instilled in us the importance of discipline in controlling our senses and serving the world with love…our teachers have invoked in us a deep devotion, and have impelled us to dedicate our actions and enhance our devotion and dedication through selfless service.” The benefits received by this family, as well as hundreds others, is in large part due to the dedication and devotion of one remarkable woman: Mrs. Rukmini Rasiah.
(photo: Swami Satchidananda blessing Mrs. Rukmini (Amma) Rasiah after a FAS program.)
The entire Integral Yoga organization joins together in felicitating her on the momentous and auspicious occasion of her 100th birthday. May God and Guru continue to bless her with good health and strength to continue to be an inspiration to one and all.