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One of the leading exponents of the classic yogic tradition to the Western world, Swami Vishnudevananda became a popular teacher to the Beatles and numerous other celebrity artists, wrote the still-widely studied Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, and became an accomplished pilot who flew his own plane. Part of Swami Vishnudevananda’s mission in this world was to promote peace. He flew himself and his disciples to regions that had known deep sectarian conflicts to deliver a message of hope and love.
One of these missions involved a flight to Berlin during the days of the Cold War. A New York Times article on September 16, 1983, described the Swami Vishnudevananda's visit. Bringing a bunch of purple chrysanthemums to symbolize the spirit of peace, he flew his motorized kite over the Berlin Wall from West Berlin. The wall was then the physical symbol of the division between the capitalist and cosmopolitan West Berlin and the Soviet-controlled grayness and starkness of East Berlin.
In talks with reporters before the flight, the Swami said he was unconcerned about any risks to his physical being, noting that the life of the entire world hung in the balance as American and Soviet leaders could destroy it within a few minutes of the first nuclear strike.
After his craft landed in a field on the East German side of the wall, local Communist authorities confiscated it, before forcing the Swami to return to West Berlin. Undaunted, he vowed to continue his efforts of calling attention to the many needless kinds of walls that humanity puts up to separate groups of people from others.
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