SHESHEQUIN TOWNSHIP – On Tuesday, people from as far away as Canada, Chicago, New Jersey and Philadelphia gathered at a Hindu ashram, located off of Sheshequin Road in Sheshequin Township, Bradford County.
They had come to the one-story building to participate in a ceremony to mark the 15th anniversary of the expansion to the United States of a Hindu organization called Vishwa Gayatri Mission, which owns and operates the ashram in Sheshequin Township.
Swami Alakhgiriji Maharaj, who established the ashram in Sheshequin Township in 2010, said the Vishwa Gayatri Mission founded its first center in the United States in Chicago, Ill., in 1999, and has centers in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlantic City and other locations in America.
Swami Alakhgiriji Maharaj, also known as “Swamiji,” is “very famous” as a yoga expert and yoga teacher, and is known for that expertise in countries such as China, Nepal, Tibet, the United States and India, said Pallavi Dave, who manages the ashram in Sheshequin Township.
Swamiji, who is from the state of Gujarat in India, said he founded the Vishwa Gayatri Mission organization in 1954 and established eight ashrams in India.
People gather on Sundays at the ashram in Sheshequin Township to pray and practice meditation, Dave said.
About 200 people regularly worship at the ashram in Sheshequin Township, and they come from Towanda, Troy, Athens, Sayre, Mansfield, Elmira, Allentown and other locations, she said.
When there are Hindu festivals, people from all over the United States and Canada come to the Sheshequin ashram, which is called the Vishwa Gayatri Yogashram, Swamiji said.
Swamiji said that Vishwa Gayatri Mission, which is a non-profit organization, is planning to expand the Sheshequin ashram.
The Mission is going to construct a building on the ashram’s 3.2-acre property where people would go to practice yoga, he said.
The Mission is also planning to build a guest house at the Sheshequin ashram where yoga teachers and yoga students would stay, he said.
The guest house would be able to house more than 100 people, and it would include a large kitchen and a library that would have books from all religions, he said.
Each room in the guest house would have living quarters for two people, Dave said.
“We are planning to have (the buildings built) within two years,” Swamiji said. “We are raising funds from donors” to build the buildings, he said.
After the buildings are constructed, the Sheshequin ashram would be the Mission’s main location in the United States, he said.
He said the Sheshequin location was selected for the expansion because it is an isolated place that has views of the Susquehanna River, and of hills and trees.
He said he feels “spiritual vibrations” every time he is at the Sheshequin ashram’s property.
Referring to the Susquehanna, Swamiji said: “I believe it is a holy river.”
The Mission’s other centers in the United States are places where people can practice yoga, and increase their character and morality, Swamiji said.
Swamiji said he can cure people, without drugs, who have serious diseases. It is “divine power” that accomplishes the cures, he said.
He said he can cure “any physical or mental disease,” including depression.
One of the 11 members of the board of trustees of the Sheshequin ashram is Bob Patel, who is a co-owner of the Towanda Motel and the Best Western hotel in North Towanda Township, Dave said.
Swamiji, who is the president of the board of directors of the Sheshequin ashram, said he is completing a three-month stay in the United States, which has included a one-month stay in Sheshequin Township and visits to other Mission centers. He said he will be returning to India on Friday.
Swamiji said he often will spend a week in a particular city in the United States teaching yoga.
Since the founding of the Sheshequin Township ashram, Swamiji has spent 30 to 40 days each year at the ashram, Dave said.
“In the future, he will be here more, because we have all these plans (for expansion) going on,” she said.
The address of the Mission’s ashram in Sheshequin Township is 48 Simpatico Lane, off of Sheshequin Road.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: email@example.com.