Founder of Bali Yoga Retreats, Yogi Vishnu is a profound name among Yogic Kriya Centers in Rishikesh, India and worldwide. Being well established for many years his teachings stem from the mystical range of the Himalayas. His World Peace Yoga Schools have a reputation of being the best in Rishikesh, for the quality of teachers, facilities and for their loving, supportive style of teaching.
Yogi Vishnu Panigrahi has been steeped in spiritual endeavors since childhood. As a young boy, his grandfather advised him to meditate and pursue spirituality from an honest and pure perspective. A Radhe-Krishna Temple was constructed by his grandfather in their village in Odisha, India where Vishnu would frequently serve food and water to wandering Sadhus.
To a nearby town around ten kilometers away from his village, young Vishnu would skip school and attend the Satsang (spiritual company and discourse of the saintly) of several Swamis, among them was Swami Avdheshanand Giri of Haridwar. He found a kalyana-mitra (friend on the noble path) who would set up spiritual meetings everyday at 3 in the morning. Together they would meditate and chant "Mohamudgaram," a famous hymn by Adi Shankaracharya, to dispel their fears and gain Vairagya -- powerful energy eliminating raag (desires) and Dwesh (hatred).
On his days off, he would serve the impoverished people at the nearby hospital by washing them and taking care of those waiting and recovering from treatment.
One day, young Vishnu met an old man who had a horrible odor with small worms attached to his legs. He was neglected by the doctors for a long time but eventually, his legs were treated and bandaged. Vishnu decided to serve the ailing man by cleaning his beard and taking care of his every need. The man was so grateful and driven to happiness that he blessed young Vishnu. After a few days, Vishnu returned to be with him again but the man was not there. He inquired around but got no information. Vishnu was surprised and felt it was God Himself who had come in the form of the old man.
Some years later, an aged man was found near his home debilitated with diseases. He was turned away by doctors as he was of low caste. Vishnu noticed him and, at first, took him to a hidden place. Being an orthodox Brahmin, it was culturally unacceptable for him to mix closely with the lower caste. While beginning to treat him with food and medicine he asked himself, "why should I hide?"
Vishnu brought him to an open place within his community where people observed Vishnu bathing the aged man. The villagers started talking about how Vishnu had become mad and crazy. Vishnu did not relent and, instead, he focused his attention on becoming a strong leader in his village. He started working for the cause of humane treatment of individuals irrespective of caste.
At the young age of 15 years, Vishnu became a member of Muni Samaj, a school of meditation. At age 18, Vishnu met Vedanta Keshari Swami Niranjanji, popularly known as the “Lion of Vedanta”. For two years, Vishnu studied under him. By the age of 20, Vishnu had become deeply immersed into a path full of devotion toward spiritual knowledge. He had acquired a Bachelor's degree in Arts at Jyoti Vihar University. His days and nights passed in prayer, jaap (mental mantra-recitations) and chanting holy names in kirtan.
It was during this time that Vishnu faced his greatest challenge so far. He was diagnosed by doctors with having a congenital heart defect. The only treatment for his condition was open heart surgery. He had no money for the treatment but with God’s favour he was operated free. After that he felt as if he was reborned, and then Vishnu made a sankalpa (vow) to passionately serve humanity in every way possible.
Vishnu started on his new mission by organizing many medical camps, spiritual discourses and bhajan programs in the nearby villages. He started serving the poor and underprivileged in his vicinity.
Once, Giridhar Gopal Shastri came to his village from Vrindavan to conduct satsang and other spiritual lectures. On his last day lecturing, he gave an invitation to the whole crowd that any brahmacharis (celibate novices to be initiated) can come with him to Brindavan and to receive training. Though there were thousands in attendance in the crowd, Vishnu felt like Giridhar Gopal Shastri was speaking directly to him. Vishnu went home, packed a small bag and left for Vrindavan without taking any money. He reached Vrindavan and realised that it is the greatest pilgrimage to start off his spiritual journey. He was so thrilled and inspired every day that he could hardly ever sleep. In the next four months, Vishnu read 18,000 verses of the Srimad Bhagavatam, was trained in kathas and became a member of Hari Katha Yojana. Katha is a beautiful way of delivering highly inspiring discourses of intense godly sentiment with songs and musical verses.
Vishnu eventually made his way to Rishikesh and visited the caves of the Himalayas. There, one sadhu baba, a yogi, introduced Vishnu to the teachings of Swami Rama. This was an extremely transformative period of time in his life full of much learning and experience.
At one point, the sadhu announced that all of Vishnu's possessions were to be thrown into the Ganga in order for him to experience detachment to worldly objects. After complying with his demands, Vishnu was left with one set of clothes, the one he was wearing.
The yogi also provided a cave for Vishnu to meditate and, while sitting inside one day, Vishnu heard movement and sounds behind him. There, positioned on the upper ledge of the cave, was a fierce-looking cobra. Vishnu tried his hardest to keep his composure and not succumb to his fear and suddenly, he heard his inner voice. “I’ve come to release your fear, not increase your fear."
Eventually, Vishnu had to leave the yogi. He was ready to join the Gurukulam (a spiritual school) and be under the close guidance of Swami Veda Bharati.
Vishnu taught at the Swami Rama Institute of Meditation and Inter-faith Studies for 9 years and obtained his masters degree in Sanskrit Yoga. Vishnu feels extremely blessed to have learned from other great masters in his life, such as Swami Hari, Shri Mauni Babaji, and Swami Shankarananda ji.
Yogi Vishnu has been traveling and teaching spirituality worldwide for many years. Now, he is deeply dedicated to guiding students at World Peace Yoga School and Bali Yoga Retreat to take them to the path of spirituality and exploration.