Living a selfless life for a better world
We all dream of travelling the world. Dedicating one’s entire life to helping humanity and living out of a suitcase, however, is not everyone’s cup of tea.
This is the life 34-year-old Swami Purnachaitanya has chosen to lead.
For the past 12 years, he has reached out to people all over the world in the dire moments of their lives.
It is a life the selfless Swami describes as fulfilling and full of purpose. His countenance corroborates it too.
“I cannot think of doing anything else,” he explains simply.
Born and raised in Netherlands, from an early age Swami Purnachaitanya asked himself what his purpose in life would be.
“I wanted to engage in something that would change people’s lives. Make a difference. Never did I dream of owning a big house, a flashy car and having loads of money. That has never been me,” revealed the yoga guru, whose flowing brown hair and thick black beard gives him a striking resemblance to ‘Jesus’.
“Even though I was not sure how I could go about it, the life of a monk intrigued me. All I wanted was little possessions and to travel round the world.”
It was a meeting with Indian spiritual leader and Art of Living founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, that would shape the then 16-year-old’s life forever.
Because he had a deep interest in ancient religions, particularly from Asia, the yoga sessions with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gave Purnachaitanya’s life a bright new perspective.
“Mediation was part of my life at home. My mother is of Indian descent. So she used to practise it quite a lot and my brother would join in.”
After graduating from High School, Swami Purnachaitanya took a gap year – six months to work and earn money before travelling to India for three months.
It was an opportunity to reconnect with his grandfather and volunteer at the Art of Living centre.
“I was only 18 years when I did this. From my trip to India, I dedicated my life to service. So, through my years in Varisty, I was certain of my pathway. On completing my degree in Media studies, at the age of 22, I set off to India again.
“The idea was to spend two years as a volunteer at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s head office,” Purnachaitanya chuckles, noting that those two years have now become 12.
In that time, he has never thought of going back to his motherland, pursuing any other dream – or even searching for a life partner.
“My experience in India was phenomenal. I felt complete. Despite that I had moved from a well developed economy, left my family behind, to a country with a whole different culture, food and various religious beliefs, I felt at home.”
He told his mentor and master, Sri Sri Ravi Shanikar, he was ready and committed to dedicating his entire life to service.
“This is how my name was changed from Alexander to the one I have now. It means one whose consciousness has the quality of fullness,” he explains, smiling contently as he talks, his vivid blue eyes radiating calm.
Since taking this major decision, Swami Purnachaitanya is now the Director of Programs and Senior International trainer with the Art of Living Foundation back in India. His job entails travelling across the world teaching people to effectively manage their mind and emotions, to eliminate stress, live in harmony and bring greater peace and joy – all through the ancient techniques of yoga.
“I’m in charge of service projects in the northern region of India. These projects are rural development and educational initiatives,” he adds humbly.
Having traversed much of the world, this is Swani Purnachaitanya’s first visit not only to Botswana but to Africa. It is a trip he has thoroughly enjoyed.
Though he intended to spend only three months on the continent, the yoga guru is no longer sure when he will be back in Asia.
“I started off in South Africa then jetted to Zambia, then Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya then came Botswana. From here, I’m off to Mauritius then back to South Africa, Uganda and then Ivory Coast. I don’t know where else I will be heading to,” he grins, displaying immaculate white submerged in deeply tanned features.
In Botswana, the Art of Living presence is being felt and its footprints are seen at the boy’s prisons in Molepolole to as far as Mokubilo.
“In winter time, we have a blanket distribution in a number of villages in collaboration with the Roman catholic church. At Molepolole prison, we run a smart programme where inmates are taught breathing techniques and how to manage their minds and thoughts.
“We have adopted villages where we offer vocational training too,” reveals the softly-spoken guru, who says he’s impressed with what he’s seen in Botswana during his two-week stay in the country.
“This is a peaceful country whose people are very appreciative of what they have. They are kind and hard working. People are quite busy here, but open to new things!”