The 157th Jayanti day of Swami Vivekananda was observed recently in a grand scale in India and elsewhere. While perusing the ‘global medley’ of photos that were constantly pouring in at my WhatsApp on that day, I was thrilled to notice the surging enthusiasm of the people all over the world irrespective of caste or creed, race or religion. Here is a personality that can be truly called Universal.
On Sunday the 27th of January, the Éire Vedanta Society (EVS) celebrated Swami Vivekananda’s Jayanti at its Dublin Centre. The programme included a ritualistic puja by Swami Vimokshananda, talks by Swami Purnananda, melodious bhajan singing by a group of adult devotees, hymnal chanting and singing of short songs by the children of Sanatana Ireland and readings of poems and reflections by several devotees and finally bhogarati followed by prasad distribution!
The multi-faceted qualities that Swamiji possessed included his deep interest in classical music like dhrupad, khyal etc is well known to everyone. He was also good at playing musical instruments like pakhawaj, tabla, violin, tambura etc. One music artiste Ashish Dha, specializing in Nada yoga in Dublin paid homage to Swamiji by singing the morning raaga Miyan ki Todi. He also played dhrupad and a little khyal to the delight of devotees in an Irish instrument Hammered Dulcimer somewhat likened to the Indian santoor. He charmed the assembled children by singing an English funny song playing with his guitar! A grand birthday cake was also offered lovingly by the children while singing the beautiful song “janmadinamidam…” in a chorus. About 50 people attended the function.
For EVS, this fledgling centre, this is the very first tithi-puja celebration. There was all around joy among the visitors. The reason was obvious: That Swamiji was the Guru of Ireland’s daughter Margaret Noble! It was Swamiji who gave the delectable name of ‘Nivedita‘ to this dedicated lady from the West. Even after a distance of a hundred years of Sister’s writings and speeches, when one goes through them afresh today, one is unmistakably inspired by Swamiji‘s broadness and inclusiveness of all faiths and beliefs. In her representation of Swamiji, He shone as broad as the sky and as deep as the ocean.
His was a mission tirelessly telling everyone that Divinity is within and to manifest in everyday life must be set as the goal. And he inspires men, women and children everywhere with his clarion call to stop not till one reaches the goal.
A few snaps of the Dublin Centre celebrating Swamiji‘s birthday:
Swami Ishatmananda Ji Maharaj, the Head of Vivekananda Vedanta Society, Chicago along with a devotee Sri Arup Patranabish visited the Éire Vedanta Society, Dublin, Ireland on 2nd January 2019. A brief Report was given in the earlier blog post.
The next day that is on Thursday, the 3rd January, the guests visited Dungannon that has become a place of pilgrimage where Sister Nivedita was born on Scotch Street in 1867. The first port of call was the First Steps for Women Centre, where they were received by devotees Ms Jean and Mr Larry McGuinness and Manager Mr Michael McGoldrick. Mr McGoldrick has dedicated his life to the Centre. He explained that the purpose of the Centre was to provide education for women as the first step towards literacy and to acquire skills for life and as a means to get employment. The Centre also provides for the children of attendees. Michael showed the visitors the state of the art facilities that had been funded by awards and grants. He recalled with thankfulness that In the past, the Éire Vedanta Society has also given donations and support,
Next, was a visit to the historical site of the Hill of O’Neill and the Dungannon Visitors’ Centre. The Visitors’ Centre houses a museum and a small theatre where Jean McGuinness has put on a play called “Awakening a Nation” as a tribute to the life and speeches of Sister Nivedita (1867 – 1911). Sister Nivedita is on the Hall of Fame at the Centre and a small terracotta statue of her is preserved in a glass case. Finally, the group made their way to the Blue Plaque on Scotch Street that commemorates Margaret Elizabeth Noble (Sister Nivedita).
On the way, the group visited the Dungannon Public Library where they met Manager Ms Elizabeth Synnott-Telford. The Library has a small section dedicated to the Complete Works of Sister Nivedita and Swami Ishatmananda pledged to donate the complete works of Swami Vivekananda and selected Nivedita publications.
Special thanks go to Jean and Larry who always receive our guests and are passionate about our beloved Nivedita. The Chicago Swami with his devotee left for London on the morning of 4th January. Swami Purnananda and Swami Vimokshananda saw the guests off at the Dublin Airport in the morning of 4th January.
Swami Ishatmananda Ji, the Head of Vivekananda Vedanta Society, Chicago arrived at Dublin on 2nd January 2019. His was the very first visit for the Dublin Eire Vedanta Society in the new Year 2019. After taking lunch and rest, he was taken to some important places in and around Dublin. He evinced great interest in seeing the Trinity College campus and the St Stephen’s Green wherein a statue of Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore is maintained by the Park. The Christmas lightings were still available on the main streets of Dublin. On return, devotees were waiting for him to hear him speaking on “The Divine Grace”. A vesper service was held from 7:30 PM and immediately then Swami Purnananda Ji welcomed him and introduced him to the assembled audience. Swami Ishatmananda Ji spoke on the nature of Divine Grace and how we as devotees, should prepare ourselves so that we deserve the Grace.
The Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre at Dublin in Ireland celebrated Christmas in a holy atmosphere. The occasion was marked with a warm ‘Welcome Back’ Reception to Swami Vimokshananda on Sunday, 22 December 2018. He was earlier here in June 2018 when he was appointed as Minister in Charge of the new fledgeling Centre.
Carol songs were sung as part of Christmas Celebration. One devotee Mr Basil Conroy read out a part from the Gospel of St Luke that describes the divine birth of Jesus.
Another devotee Mr Jeff Delmar read an inspiring article on the Love of Jesus comparing with the Love of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi.
Swami Purnananda explained the significance of the passages from the readings to the audience. Swami Vimokshananda narrated the incident that happened at Antpur, West Bengal, India where Naren (later Swami Vivekananda) expounded on the wonderful life of sacrifice led by Jesus.
All devotees partook the prasad at the close of the Celebration. The shrine was tastefully decorated for the occasion when about 50 people gathered. A few children were also present who joined the carol singing.
Today, I remember with nostalgia the wonderful Sri Jagaddhatri Puja held every year at Ramakrishna Mission TB Sanatorium in Ranchi District. By Her grace, I had the best moments of my life by organising for twelve years, this mammoth function where more than twenty thousand people were given lunch prasad! Many devotees requested me for the Jagaddhatri Stotram which I reproduce below with English Transliteration. By reading this Stotram, the grace of Divine Mother Sri Jagaddhatri will be ours. Earlier this Blog has published two posts on Mother Jagaddhatri. Links are given below:
आधाररूपे चाधेये धृतिरूपे धुरन्धरे । ध्रुवे ध्रुवपदे धीरे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ १॥ शवाकारे शक्तिरूपे शक्तिस्थे शक्तिविग्रहे । शक्ताचारप्रिये देवि जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ २॥ जयदे जगदानदे जगदेकप्रपूजिते । जय सर्वगते दुर्गे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ३॥ सूक्ष्मातिसूक्ष्मरूपे च प्राणापानादिरूपिणि । भावाभावस्वरूपे च जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ४॥ कालाधिरूपे कालेशे कालाकालविभेदिनि । सर्वस्वरूपे सर्वज्ञे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ५॥ महाविघ्ने महोत्साहे महामाये वरप्रदे । प्रपञ्चसारे साध्वीशे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ६॥ आगम्ये जगतामाद्ये माहेश्वरि वराङ्गने । अशेषरूपे रूपस्थे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ७॥ तीर्थयज्ञ-तपोदान-य्योगसारे जगन्मयि । त्वमेव सर्वं सर्वस्थे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ८॥ दयारूपे दयादृष्टे दयार्द्रे दुःखमोचनि । सर्वापत्तारिके दुर्गे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ ९॥ आगम्यधाम-धामस्थे महायोगीश-हृत्पुरे । अमेयभावकूटस्थे जगद्धात्रि नमोऽस्तु ते ॥ १०॥ इति श्रीजगद्धात्रीस्तोत्रं सम्पूर्णम् । Sri Jagaddhatri Stotram AdhArarUpe chAdheye dhRRitirUpe dhurandhare | dhruve dhruvapade dhIre jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 1 || shavAkAre shaktirUpe shaktisthe shaktivigrahe | shAktAchAra priye devi jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 2 || jayade jagadAnande jagadeka prapUjjite | jaya sarvagate durge jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 3 || sUkShmAti sukShmarUpe cha prANapAnAdi rUpiNi | bhAvAbhAva svarUpe cha jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 4 || kAlAdirUpe kAleshe kAlAkAla vibhedini | sarvasvarUpe sarvaGYe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 5 || mahAvighne mahotsAhe mahAmAye varaprade | prapanchasAre sAdhvIshe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 6 || agamye jagatAmAdhye mAheshvari varA~Ngane | asheSha rUpe rUpasthe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 7 || tIrtha yaGYa tapodAna yogasAre jaganmayi | tvameva sarvaM sarvasthe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 8 || dayArUpe dayAdRRiShTe dayArdra duHkhamochani | sarvApattArike durge jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 9 || agamyadhAma dhAmasthe mahAyogisha-hRRitpure | ameyabhAva kUtasthe jagaddhAtri namo.astu te || 10 || iti Sri Jagaddhatri stotram sampoornam | Transliteration courtesy: Subhodeep Mukhopadhyay A few snaps of Sri Jagadddhatri Puja of this year 2018 at Ramakrishna Mission TB Sanatorium, Ranchi Photos Courtesy: Debu Bhowmik, Ranchi
“Deepavali” – Is Kali black?
On Sunday, the 4th November 2018, brother monk Swami Shantatmananda requested me to deliver a Talk on the “Deepavali” Festival. It was held at the Sarada Auditorium. Deepavali is not a stand alone Festival as it is preceded by two other holy occasions and followed by another two holy occasions, thus can be in effect it is a Five-day Festival! I gave a synopsis of these five days’ occasions and went into introspective mode of discussing whether these five days can be imagined as linear progress in material and mental spheres of the human soul. While bringing up the topic of Kali Puja that is widely observed in the eastern parts of India on the Deepavali amavasya night, obviously the discussion veered round to a point of view on the subject of Mother Kali and the concept behind Her worship…
This lecture can be heard here:
A few snaps of that evening below:
Our world today is at the crossroads. While charity to help the poor and needy is delightfully increasing, it is disconcerting to see the rise of violence – domestic or national, crime, obscenity, corruption and other expressions of ill-gotten wealth. Serious people devoted to God and godly means of living are indeed worrying about the future prospects of their children. Is there, among the gloomy cloudiness, any shiny ray of hope?
It is in this context that the various celebrations that have come to us from time immemorial from the spiritual land of Bharat hold the clue. One of the most loved celebration of all the Hindus the world over, is the Festival of Lights – Diwali, also called Deepavali.
Diwali signifies lighting of lamps in every household on the Amavashya night that follows the bright fortnight after Vijaya Dashmi. No doubt this occasion marks joy and merriment. On the Diwali night, rows of lamps decorate the houses and presents are exchanged. Diwali, in the north of India, is associated with the coronation of Bhagawan Sri Rama when he returned to Ayodhya (in Uttar Pradesh) by pushpak-vimaan after vanquishing the demon King of Ceylon, Ravana on the day of Dasshera. Sri Ram had been in exile for fourteen years and the people were pleased to see and welcome back him with rows of lit lamps.
This festival of five days gives us, Hindus, an opportunity to go beyond all external extravaganza. First day marks Dhanteras meaning the thirteenth day of wealth. It is also called Dhanwantari Triodashi indicating the adoration of Dhanwantari. He is the God of Medicine for the devatas and originator of Ayurveda science. The importance of keeping one’s physique in a healthy way cannot be over stated. As the ancient Sanskrit dictum says, “shareeram aadyam khalu dharma saadhanam” – body is the best means for practising dharma, taking steps to improve one’s health becomes mandatory.
From here, with strong body, one has to ascend to the state of strong mind. Thus the second day, called naraka chaturdashi, is the fourteenth day signifying release of 16,000 princesses from prison by Sri Krishna. Bhagawan Sri Krishna encountered the demon Narakasura and killed him after granting his wish that on his death day people must celebrate with lighting of diya (lamps) in rows, taking oil bath, distributing sweet meats and burning firecrackers. We all do the latter part but do not pay attention in removing the darkness that has come to reside in our hearts! As Swami Vivekananda says, darkness in a sealed room over one thousand years will instantly vanish the moment a matchstick is lit. Knowledge of God is light. The ignorance inside is darkness – a prison. 16,000 women are none but our 16,000 nadis to be liberated from impurity.
If body and mind are kept free from impurities, then only this life can be truly enjoyed. As the Isha Upanishad says “ tena tyaktena bhunjeetaah” – this life can be enjoyed when detachment comes. The mind searches for the purpose of life and it tries to fix the goal. Lakshmi word comes from lakshya meaning goal. Thus the third day which is the most important day of the five days of festival is spent in the worship of Goddess Lakshmi whose dazzling luminosity is represented by rows of lamps. What is the ultimate goal of life? Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna clearly spells out the purpose of human birth. He says that a man is born in vain who inspite of having a human body, does not attempt to realise God! In eastern parts of Bharat, Goddess Kaali is worshipped. She is evidently invoked in order that our rakta (blood-attachment) is dried up (swallowed) and our munda (ego-head) can be cut asunder by Her grace.
When God becomes the focus, all obstructions, sufferings, troubles come to an end. Did He not assure in Gita that His devotee is never destroyed? – na me bhaktah pranashyati. Thus the fourth day is important milestone in the spiritual development of a sadhaka when he/she is rest assured of the protection of the Lord. This day is remembered as Govardhanpuja signifying how Bhagawan Sri Krishna lifted with his small finger the massive Govardhan mountain in order to protect his people from the deluge of rain.
Progress in spiritual life has some definite signs. One of them is the cheerful attitude with which one serves all brothers and sisters. The amity that is brought forth among the sisters and brothers is practised on the final fifth day as bhaidhuj. As per puranas Yama, the Lord of Death has assured that he would not bother those mortals who spread the message of love to their sisters. A perfect harmony leads to moksha, the ultimate liberation.
Thus this ‘Five-day Festival’ traces the spiritual expansion of human growth culminating in the gaining of knowledge of God. It offers an opportunity to dive deep into one’s heart and search for all types of demonic qualities residing inside. Thus, the need is felt to clear the darkness from the heart. To dispel away the internal darkness we have to light the lamp of knowledge. When a lamp is lit on Diwali, just pray to your chosen ideal that the darkness of ignorance be removed from your heart.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagawan Sri Krishna says that out of compassion for the devotees, He, residing within their hearts, certainly destroys the darkness born of ignorance with the radiant lamp of knowledge. (Ch X.11). Hence, while celebrating Diwali, let us pray to the Divinity (in whatever form one may believe in) to bestow the right knowledge by which we can lead a peaceful and prosperous life with service to the poor and needy.
“Exit of Ego”
On Sunday, the 28th October brother monk Swami Shantatmananda requested me to deliver a Talk on the “Exit of Ego”. The Sarada Auditorium at the New Delhi Centre was almost packed to full. Without going into intricacies of Vedantic view of Ego called Ahamkara, I chose to talk on four incidents – two from the recent past and two from the distant past. The first was about Late Swami Ritajananda Ji Maharaj, the Head of our Paris centre in the past – how the blooming ego could be nipped in the bud. The second was about Sister Nivedita – how the ego could be kept under control. The third was about Sri Hanuman Ji – how the ego was absolutely not allowed to raise its ugly head. The fourth was about Divine Mother Jagaddhatri – how the ego could be transformed by the knowledge of the Doer.
Do not worry if the Ego is present all the time and stubborn to exit; “let the rascal ego remain as a servant” was the solution of Sri Ramakrishna!
This lecture can be heard here:
A few snaps of that evening below in a slideshow: