It seemed like a flashback to the flower-child era. An Indian man in loose cotton shirt and trousers, talking about peace and love and nonviolence, seated on the floor of a house decorated with Indian bedspreads to which people come to learn yoga.
The director of the yoga center, an Englishwoman who is now named Durgananda, spoke of "good vibrations." The word" bliss" was used several times, as in spiritual bliss. The dinner to be served was vetetarian.
In fact, it was a throwback to the flower-child years. Only now it's 1977, and when was the last time you heard anyone say the world's ills could be cured with "peace and love"?
"When there is darkness, light is needed," said K.Krishnan Hair, a swami (teacher) from India who is currently traveling around from yoga center yoga center talking about nonviolence. He is billed as a "disciple of Mahatma Gandhi," about whom he also gives talks, as he did here during a recent visit to the Sivanada Yoga Vedanta Center.
"Violence reached its climax in the atom bomb," he said. "Beyond the atom bomb we cannot go." Thus, he reasoned, society will eventually realize the only course is toward nonviolence.
"What is United Nations? Today no country can take ove another country by force. Public opinion is against it. The popular will is for nonviolence; only govenments are for violence."
But, he was asked, what about Northern Ireland, Angola, Bangladesh, etc? What about crime in the streets, in the schools and in the homes?
"It's a long way we have to go," he said. "We may have to change our modes of living entirely. It's a revolutionary idea.
"We believe society can be transformed by love and persuasion," said Nair, as the yoga devotees in the room nodded in agreement.
He said that in India, where he runs schools of nonviolence in connection with the Gandhi peace Foundation. Students of nonviolence are taken into "disturbed" areas for training, and into the villages for projects such as well digging, road building and cleaning. "Villages are dirty, you know," he said.
In their work, he said, they have persuaded packs of bandits to give themselves up to police and become useful citizens, organized hunger strikes ourside maharajas' palaces, convinced warring factions to give up their fighting, and persuaded landowners t donate 550,000 acres of land to the peasants.
Gandhi and his followers popularized the hunger strike and the mass demonstration that became so familliar during the protest years in the United States.
"After you fast many days the evildoer will come around," Nair explained.
But isn't that a form of blackmail? "It isn't blackmail, its suffering. If you are my friend, because I love you, I suffer for you. The cost must be true costs, of course. Satyagaraha (hunger strike) means clinging to the truth."
Nair's visit is sponsored by the Yoga Society, which has 22 lcenters here and in other countires. They teach yoga, and offer "yoga vacations" at their retreats in Nassau or Canada (plus sking in the winter).
In 1971, Swamiji Vishnu Devananda, the head of the Yoga Society, flew around to "strife-torn areas" in a Piper Apache painted with Peter Max designs, dropping "multi-language peace leaflets, flowers and loving vibrations," according to an article in the current issue of the magazine, "Yoga Life and Yoga Vactions."
As this is his visit to the United States, Nair finds several aspects of American life surprising. He is appalled at the numbers of "drug - poisoned children," and amazed that there are families where "both mother and father work and the children are looked after by servants.
"Women are not in this world for jobs," he said, noting, however, that India is a "matriarchal" society, meaning that mothers are worshipped and considered more important in the home that men, whereas the United States is "patriarchal - meaning the man is considered most important.
"I have met many women here who are separated (from their husbands)," he said. "I cannot understand this thing."
Nair spoke glowingly of the benefits of yoga."I am 55, but I look 38 or 40," he said. "Our prime minister, Moraji Desai, is a yogi. He can stand on his head for hours."
Nair went upstairs to rest before his lecture. In the ground floor hall of the center, which is located at 1705 N St. NW, about 30 people gathered to hear his talk. They chanted for about 40 minutes before he appeared.
"I am bliss," went the one chant in English, "I am bliss. Bliss absolute. Bliss I am."