It cannot be gainsaid that going to Bloemfontein was devoid of gathering spiritual benefits either to me or to the Hindu devotees there. To me it was a learning experience in life as this was my very first visit to Free State Province in South Africa.
This Town is generally regarded as a Judicial Capital of SA. BFN, short for Bloemfontein is popularly and poetically known as “the city of roses”, owing to the abundance of these flowers and the annual rose festival held there. I had a good chance to see and savour the blooming roses and it was for the very first time that I was glad to glance through ‘green’ roses too.
There are a dozen denominations of the miniscule Hindu population who, I was delighted to note, unlike in other places, love to meet at a central point under the banner ‘Bloemfontein Hindu Association’. A devotee had allotted his fully furnished Conference Hall for this purpose and it was here the inter-active sessions for two days were held.
One devotee put it to me thus: The heart beats of the Hindus of BFN had gone upbeat in relishing simple, universal truths of Vedanta as propounded by Sri Ramakrishna. Another devotee wrote his feelings to Yash who accompanied me in this travel and made my travel utterly interesting and comfortable, thus: I want to thank you and Swami Vimokshanandaji from the very bottom of my heart for coming to us. Not one of those present is left unchanged by your presence! The place is abuzz with devotees wanting to register for the Hindu studies course and improve their spiritual life. This is living proof that association with holy company will improve one’s yearning for God, repeatedly told to us by the Master!
BFN is, of course famous for Cheetahs – the name taken by the Rugby sportsmen who have the colour Orange. On the day I landed there, I could see plenty of BFNners – men and women alike – wearing ‘orange’ TShirts gathering with verve and vigour to witness the choice Rugby match scheduled on that day. It is something like ‘cricket fever’ in India! Seeing me in full orange dress it was amusing for many to see a ‘Cheetah supporter’ direct from India!
A Short Report on my visit, duly given below, was penned by our devotee Navilla Somaru who is the Chief Prosecutor – WELKOM Cluster. With the limited resources, the arrangements made by her and husband Bishun and the care taken by this wonderful family is memorable indeed – not to forget of those pretty pets who remained pivoted to me!
A Report by Navilla Somaru from Bloemfontein, SA
BLOEMFONTEIN HINDU ASSOCIATION SPECIAL PROGRAMME
SPIRITUAL RETREAT CONDUCTED BY HIS HOLINESS SWAMI VIMOKSHANANDAJI MAHARAJ
1. During April 2009, the Bloemfontein Hindu Association (BHA) extended an invitation to His Holiness Swami Vimokshanandaji Maharaj, President, Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa, to conduct a spiritual retreat in Bloemfontein. Pursuant thereto, the dates of 31 October (Saturday) and 1 November 2009 (Sunday) were arranged. A programme of both days’ events is attached hereto for ease of reference.
2. Revered Swamiji arrived in Bloemfontein at approximately 13h00 on 31 October 2009.
The programme commenced at 17h00 at our new shrine which was previously a conference room at the Taj Guest House in Bainsvlei, a smallholding just outside Bloemfontein. We were all very surprised to have more than a hundred people in the congregation, mostly Hindus but also some members of the Christian faith, black and white alike.
3. The programme began with the chanting of mantras at 16h45.
The satsangh commenced exactly at 17h00 and included prayers to Sri Ramakrishna, singing of devotional songs, Hanuman Chalisa, Bhavani Ashthakam, Revered Maharaj’s special address, a lengthy and lively question and answer session, a guided meditation, arati and the concluding prayers.
4. Revered Maharaj’s address was profound, to say the least. It was very well received with amazing positive input forthcoming from most members of the congregation. Revered Maharaj’s address was eloquent, yet simple and covered very relevant and pertinent issues on spirituality and Vedanta. Revered Maharaj expounded the need for all of us to live simply, take God’s name at every opportunity, to chant AUM every morning, elevate ourselves from religiosity to spirituality as well as to perform service to the under privileged in the immediate community and to protect our animals.
5. The programme concluded at 20h00 with Revered Swamiji meeting all members of the congregation and partaking of supper with those present. Many families requested personal interviews with Maharaj, which was held in the shrine and the office. Swamiji retired at 22h30.
6. The programme for the next day began at 10h00 and was conducted by the children of the Bloemfontein Hindu Association.
We are happy to state that the children organised the entire programme, which included prayers, devotional songs, cultural items and the vote of thanks. The tiny tots recited a poem on the glory of Diwali and an action packed version of “The love of Krishna”. The 9 to15 years old performed a garba dance in honour of the Divine Mother.
7. Revered Swamiji brilliantly directed his address to the children by way of questions and answers enabling the children to participate actively. There was also an animated DVD presentation on the Life of Swami Vivekananda which was sent by Revered Pravrajika Ishtaprana Mataji from the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Durban. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this presentation and felt inspired. We extend our sincerest gratitude to Revered Mataji, not only for the DVD but also for the assistance and encouragement received to initiate the children’s Hinduism classes which we conduct under her guidance and direction, on Sundays.
8. Sunday’s programme concluded with lunch being served to all present. Thereafter, at the request of individuals and families, Revered Maharaj held private counselling sessions for two hours.
9. On both days, the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram held a bookshop which stocked books on Vedanta, the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda literature, Meditation and children’s books. Mr Yash Govender arranged and managed the bookshop, which was very well supported.
10.The Bloemfontein Hindu Association takes this opportunity of conveying our very humble, sincere and grateful thanks to Revered Maharaj for his time. We appreciate his efforts in making a journey to Bloemfontein, which is 650km from Durban, to conduct the spiritual retreat with us. The presence of Revered Maharaj meant a lot to the spiritually starved members of our fledgling association. We pray that Maharaj bestows his grace upon us by more frequent visits in future. This will be of great benefit to the Hindu community here, as well as to the many youth we have in the community as well as at our University who are in dire need of constant spiritual education.
Yours in the service of Sri Ramakrishna
Bloemfontein Hindu Association
10 thoughts on “BFN (up)Beat!”
Param Pujaniya Maharaj,
I was mesmerized in your visit to BFN, enchanted to read the report of Navilla Somaru, watching the slides, children and the wonderful plants and roses. The whole two-day events transported me to BHA from this cold and wet England. Surely Maharaj, this place (BFN) is unique too.
I was wondering about the vast number of Hindus who are living there. Having tasted the “amrita” (nectar) for a brief period, I am sure the members of BHA will be panting for more in future. Can one be satisfied with the “boiled rice water” (fena) when once tasted the nectar (amrita)?
While watching you with the Somarus and their pets in the photo album, I thought of the blessed dogs of Swamiji in Belur Math over hundred years ago.
Your blog uplifts so many people like me who live so far away in different countries.
Dr Hiru Mukherjee
||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Dear Hiru Babu
Thanks for your visit to this blog and placing an encouraging comment!
It is true that the members of BHA of BFN want repeated visits but considering the distance and other factors, I don’t think I will be able to go there very frequently. They want monthly one class which for the present seem to be not feasible. Yet we are always with them and there are of course many different ways of communication which can be utilised. Coming away after two days’ stay at BFN gave the feeling that that was not enough. But then who are we to decide? Its Master’s Wish and if He wants me to go there again, I shall go.
The Hindu population there is not ‘vast’ but only a miniscule minority. Hardly we have about 200 families of various beliefs and I deeply appreciate in this respect that without any distinction, all the Hindus come together to pray every Tuesday!
Yes, pets of Somaru’s became very close to me. Swamiji’s Baga story is indeed interesting. How blessed was that dog!
with love and prayers
It is only by the infinite Grace of the Holy Trio that we have been blessed with this wonderful opportunity to be in the Holy presence of our most revered Swami Vimokshanandaji Maharaj.
Congratulations to the Bloemfontein Hindu Association for arranging such a wonderful program for the spiritual upliftment of the Bloemfontein community!
Good luck to the Cheetahs for next season!
||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Thanks dear Naveen!
Yes, the BHA’s efforts in making all necessary arrangements is deeply appreciated. What I found there was a unitary purpose in achieving the desired goal. Everyone was attuned to the work in hand and whatever one can do one renders without any murmur.
Well, should I read between the lines when you wish Good Luck to Cheetahs? They are still powerful. See what wikipedia says about Cheetahs – In the 2007 season, the FS Cheetahs continued their great form, winning 13 of the 14 games before the finals. After beating the Blue Bulls in the semis at home, they won the Currie Cup for a third consecutive time by coming from behind to beat the Golden Lions by 20-18 in the final.
So, I would consider this time it was a tactical retreat!! Of course I know not A, B, C of Rugby!!!
Pranams to our loving Swamijee!
What an interesting and truly captivating account of Swamijee’s visit to BFN!
Clearly people there are hungry for spiritualty and are indeed blessed to have been in the company of Maharaj, who is a fountain of knowledge for their starved souls.
And how blessed are those dogs to be in such close company of Maharaj!
Wish I could have heard Swamijee’s message though as I always find it inspiring.
Love and Om!,
Cape Town, SA
||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Thanks for your visit and comment!
Well, not that I am a fontien (in Afrikaans!) by which the spiritual thirst of others can be quenched! There were people who of course wanted to know ‘more’. The purpose of my going is not to satisfy people’s curiosities by answering questions but rather to increase their thirst for spirituality when they can start ‘practicing’ the rise from religiosity. If Religion makes us rise from animal level to human level, spirituality will take us further from human level to Divine level.
P.S. Oh! the dogs! When I visited ‘Pretty gardens’ I found a sleeping python in a glass case curdled. When I stood before it and started telling to the children about it, the python just raised head (seemed to be glad!) and and made it known that ‘he’ is listening!!
Each and every post in your Blog is a new chapter of FAITH AND DEVOTION in heart of every Devotee.
I feel that even a staunch atheist or NON BELIEVER will have to think twice about his conviction.
Specially these words, from the well-written Report by Navilla : “We were all very surprised to have more than a hundred people in the congregation, mostly Hindus but also some members of the Christian faith, black and white alike.” fill up one’s heart with CATHOLICITY OF THAKUR’S TEACHINGS.
My humble pranaam!
||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Glad to see you here in spite of your extremely busy schedule about which I am well aware of. You were the first person to coin the word, I think, ‘eYatra’ Electronic pilgrimage meaning going to the websites of spiritual nature and reading the comments by devotees and the responses thereof.
Indeed, Navilla‘s Report is very clear. A Prosecutor by profession, she has been blessed by Mother Saraswati to enable her using the gifted vaak shakti – the Power of Words!
You have rightly touched the core sentence of the Report! Thakur’s non-sectarianism is something of which we, as devotees, should be highly proud of. Let me recall Swamiji’s words about Thakur: “…But this Math that we are building will harmonize all creeds, all standpoints. Just as Sri Ramakrishna held highly liberal views, this Math too will be a centre for propagating similar ideas. The blazing lights of universal harmony that will emanate from here will flood the whole world.”
May Swamiji’s inspiration make us more liberal!
Having such a nice bundle of devotees, BFN is really blessed, but why Swami took so much time to visit this lovely place of roses! Well cheetah merged with lovely roses, mean the pets and the little ones in the hall !!
Sri Ramakrishna spreads his lively arms around every yearning and earnest soul. It was clearly visible in Swami’s visit, talks, movie on Swami Vivekananda, the roses and what not!
May the Vedantic tribe swell and sweep BFN and rest of Africa and bring solace to all is my prayer to Sri Thakur, Sri Sri Ma and Swamiji !
Dr Y Hariharan
||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
Well, I understand your wonder ‘why I took so much time’ to visit BFN. I had just completed 2 years and 6 months in SA and for your info, there are some more Provinces which I am yet to visit! Yes, BFN had its own history and during Aparthied time not a single Indian was allowed to enter. Even if an Indian had to go through that Province by road he had to obtain a special permit and no one can stay for the night there! Those conditions are gone now as SA is a free democratic country with equal rights to every citizen. History is remarkable here. People are trying to understand other cultures and are accommodative in many matters. Master has His own wishes and everything will be done on His terms!
We are here only to accept and perform in dedication to Him.