Satyam Shivam Sundaram !

Who can know Shiva in full? And that too except by His grace? But a preliminary idea can be gained from reading a booklet “Lord Shiva” written by Swami Shivapadananda. He was the Second President of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa. You will appreciate the intrinsic worth of this booklet.

May Shiva bless all!

Holy ashes offered to and accepted as prasada from Lord Shiva can indeed do wonders – from removing obstacles to bringing peace of mind. The following is adapted from the weekly Talks on Gita by Swami Vimokshananda at Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa, Durban. 

Aum Namah Shivaya!

This panchakshara – five lettered – mantra is potentially efficacious in warding off evils and bestowing grace and peace of mind. Sages, saints and innumerable devotees of Lord Shiva have chanted this mantra repeatedly all through the ages.

In the life of the Master, Sri Ramakrishna we find his mother Chandradevi used to visit frequently the temple of Jugi Shiva in Kamarpukur. Once she suddenly saw a divine effulgence coming from the holy image (linga) of the great Lord Shiva. This bright light filled the temple and rushed towards her in waves. Engulfing her all of a sudden, the light swiftly entered into her body. Stunned with wonder and initial fear Chandradevi fell down unconscious. After recovery she felt that she was pregnant with a child. The maid Dhani was helping Chandradevi during the pangs of labour. When the baby was born Dhani kept the baby aside and was rendering necessary help to the mother. When Dhani came back she was surprised to find that the baby had disappeared from the place where she had kept it.

In alarm she took a lamp and found to her great surprise that the baby had rolled down the ground into the hollow fireplace. It was simply lying there with its little body fully smeared with ashes like Shiva and still not crying!

the present manikarnika ghat wherein Master witnessed Lord Shiva and Mahakali

Shiva’s ashes had a great charming effect on the mind of the Master. Indeed under the Naga sadhu Tota Puri, Sri Ramakrishna while practising meditation would smear Shiva’s ashes all over his body. At ‘golden’ Varanasi Sri Ramakrishna had the vision of Shiva. In the words of Master, ” I saw a tall white person with tawny matted hair walking with solemn steps to each pyre in the burning-ghat, raising carefully every jiva and imparting into his ear the mantra of supreme Brahman. On the other side of the pyre the all-powerful Mahakali was untying all the knots of bondage, gross, subtle and causal of the jiva produced by past impressions and sending hm to the indivisible sphere by opening with Her own hands the door to liberation.”

In Puranas we find once the great Muni Durvasa while chanting the mantra‘Sarvaatman Shivashankara! Srimaatar Bhuvaneshwari!’– was moving on the sky and came to a halt before Yamaraja. Yamaraja welcomed Durvasa Muni and showed him the entire city which was called Dharmapuri. While discussing with Yamaraja, Durvasa Muni off and on heard noisy sounds of weeping and wailing. Surprised at that Durvasa Muni asked Yamaraja from where these crying sounds were coming.

The dispenser of Justice Lord Yama explained to Durvasa Muni that under his control there were fourteen heavens and twenty-eight hells. The cries that Durvasa Muni heard emanated actually from one of the hells called Kumbhipaka Naraka. People of sinful nature who did not properly respect their elders and ancestors by not offering pinda and udaka (riceballs and water) were the cause of the ancestors’ downfall into Kumbhipaka Naraka.

Hearing the heart rending cries of the ancestors, Durvasa Muni requested Lord Yama to allow him to visit Kumbhipaka Naraka. Accordingly Lord Yama arranged his men who took Durvasa Muni to that hell.

Durvasa Muni was greatly surprised to find that Kumbhipaka Naraka was not looking like a hell. Neither weeping nor wailing! Instead the manes were found cheerfully relaxing on comfortable beds having their drinks and meals, served by host of attendants. The Yama’s men were also taken by surprise.

They immediately rushed back to Lord Yama and informed him of the wonderful sight they had seen in Kumbhipaka Naraka. Yamaraja thereupon informed Indra , the Lord of the Devatas, about the sudden change of the nature of the hell into heaven. Not knowing the reason thereof Indra came to Kumbhipaka Naraka on his airavata (celestial elephant).

On inspection, Indra too got bewildered how the hell could change into a heaven overnight. The Devatas led by Indra approached Brahma, the Lord of Creation. Lord Brahma could not give any answer; so the Devatas turned to Lord Vishnu from whom they could also not elicit any answer.

a marble murti of Shiva, brought from Varanasi sitting majestically at HQ

When finally they approached Lord Shiva for an explanation, Lord Shiva smiled and said that it was the visit of Durvasa Muni to that hell that brought about the wonderful transformation. Surprised at this the Devatas asked Lord Shiva what Durvasa Muni did to enable the change of hell into a heaven.

Lord Shiva proclaimed that Durvasa Muni was indeed a great Shivabakta– devotee of Shiva. Everyday after having bath, Durvasa Muni would smear the holy ashes of Lord Shiva on his forehead and upperbody. Due to Durvasa Muni being jolted on hearing the suffering, particles of the holy ashes fell on the grounds of Kumbhipaka Naraka.

Lord Shiva continued to say that whoever applies holy ash on his body would remember that from ashes came the creation and finally all will be reduced to ashes. By wearing ashes on one’s body, a devotee can develop detachment with his body/mind complex. This would make him realise the Truth behind all these changing phenomena because Shiva is Truth (Satyam). Shiva is also Auspicious (Shivam) and indeed Beauty (Sundaram) itself.

Jai Shiva Shankara! (Hail Victory to Lord Shiva Shankara!)

Aum Namah Shivaya!

A Video on an Address on “Service as Worship of the Divine”

Public Meeting on “Service as Worship of the Divine” held in Ramakrishna Mission, New Delhi on the occasion of Golden Jubilee Celebration of Sri Ramakrishna Temple. Here is a video of an address by Swami Vimokshananda given on the above occasion on 18 November 2007. Of course the Address was delivered in Hindi.

After sleep, how can you ‘get up’ before ‘opening eyes’?

Swami Vivekananda in Chicago
Swami Vivekananda in Chicago

During my Northern Natal tour in connection with the Swamiji’s birthday celebration, I had a refreshing meeting with youngsters of Ladysmith Branch of Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa on 10th January 2008. All of them along with their parents were volunteers and had worked very hard to organise the next day morning meeting in the Civic hall. A little more than 800 people were expected to attend where my key-note address was scheduled. Though they were eager to continue the discussion in that late night, I felt that I could cut short of my discussion to give them a reprieve from the tiresome work they put up practically the whole day. In order not to disappoint them, I asked them to field questions. All were, unlike the other days, silent (shy? or tired?). So I raised this query and asked them to keep the reply ready when I would meet them on my return trip from Dundee on 14th January.

cimg1082.jpgMy query to the young members was this. One of the oft-quoted line of Swami Vivekananda is ‘Arise! Awake! And Stop not till the Goal is Reached!’. We normally see that after the night sleep, we first ‘wake up‘ – ‘open our eyes’ and then only ‘rise up‘ – ‘get up’ from our bed. But Swamiji strangely calls up first to ‘Arise!’ and later to ‘Awake’. Is it not a contradiction to what we are used to? Would Swamiji, being the ‘nitya siddha’ – the Ever Perfect, make such a silly mistake? No, the youngsters in one voice said, no, it cannot be a mistake. Then, I asked: what does this mean? 

Ladysmith Ramakrishna shrineUnfortunately, on 14th January at the scheduled ‘Thanksgiving Satsang’, we could not take up this question for discussion due to lack of time as I dealt with the topic ‘Divine aspects of Swamiji’. So, I told them to send their replies by email to me. The replies that I received by email were indeed fascinating. Below you will find one of them, written by Nirmala Balkaran from Ladysmith, South Africa  : 

“At the outset… I must honestly and humbly confess that it is not possible to comprehend even a fraction of Swamiji’s profound gospel. It is with this in mind that I offer an attempted response to the question. Swami Vivekanandaji speaks of “awakening” after “arising” because this is not a reference to the kind of physical wakefulness from a state of sleep as we know it. We are all obviously “awake” when we read this quotation by Swamiji; however the kind of wakefulness to which we are exhorted, is a higher awakening of the spirit. This is preceded by the call to “arise” which is a call to action. It is through action and effort that we can arrest the state of sleep into which we have fallen and make possible a spiritual awakening. After having arisen (as we do after a physical awakening), we are still guilty of being asleep, or oblivious of our inherent spiritual nature and the real goal of life, for having arisen we go about our secular duties in a state of spiritual slumber. Hence the need to awaken after arising.”

Mother would eat last

We normally believe that culture blossoms, flowers and sustained well with the education. A highly educated person is supposed to exhibit good cultural traits. However culture can be manifested even if a person is unlettered or not educated. One such case came to my notice when I found an illiterate woman belonging to a poor village, eking out a living by preparing and selling hadia (home brewed rice-beer) expressing a very high cultural attitude through her action.

saradadurgablog.jpgThis lady heard about Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. The life and teachings of Holy Mother fascinated her. She eventually proved that even without formal education, one can adopt Sarada Devi’s teachings in life. This episode was recently published in our monthly journal, Prabuddha Bharata, published by Advaita Ashrama, Mayavati, Himalayas which is reproduced below:

It was during Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi’s 150th birth anniversary celebrations. The Ranchi Sanatorium is surrounded by villages inhabited mostly by people of the Oraon and Munda tribes. We had a meeting with the villagers, and what they told us frankly surprised us. They said that all the six villages would take part in a big procession, starting in the morning, and would reach the ashrama campus by 11 a.m. Each village would have a jhanki or tableau specially made for the occasion.

On the tithi-puja day, the procession started from Tupudana, and reached the ashrama after a journey of 1 km. One of the jhankis, from the village Dungri, which had a little girl fully draped in a white sari like the Holy Mother with her long hair flowing over her shoulder, evoked lot of interest. She was seated on a thelagadi, a push-cart, and behind her there was a picture of Belur Math, drawn on a sheet of cardboard.

pbarati.jpgThe girl was known to us as Arati Kachhap, studying in class five. I asked her to sit by my side on the lawn in front of our temple, and she came down from the push-cart. Several devotees were also sitting there as the temple was full inside.

I asked Arati at what time she had left her home. She said, ‘By seven in the morning the didis (the elder girls of the village who were supervising the arrangements) came and dressed me up like Ma Sarada, and asked me to sit on the cart.’ Then I asked her, ‘Arati, did you eat anything before leaving your home?’

She replied that she had had nothing. Sensing that for a long time this little girl had been sitting on the cart without having had even a snack, I immediately asked one elder girl to bring prasad from the temple. When I gave her the prasad, she held it in her little hands but did not eat it. Surprised, I said, ‘Arati, take it! Oh! You have not had anything since early morning. Have it now!’

To my surprise, Arati refused to eat. When I asked her why she didn’t want to eat, her reply surprised me all the more. She said that her mother had instructed her not to eat. I was stunned, as I knew her mother well. She was a poor tribal woman eking out a living and supporting three children by preparing and selling hadia (home-made rice beer) in the bazaar. Her husband was of no use to the family. I asked Arati how it was that her mother did not approve of her eating prasad. Arati replied, after some hesitation and after my repeated prodding, ‘My mother told me, “Look Arati! Today you are dressed up like Holy Mother. You should not take any food at the ashrama until all the Dungri village people are fed – because Holy Mother would always eat last, after feeding all the devotees.”‘

Tears came to my eyes. Arati’s mother, an unlettered villager who brewed and sold hadia – just imagine what culture she exhibited! She had imbibed one of the core qualities of the Holy Mother, and was trying to fashion her daughter’s life with what she understood! If people would follow even a fraction of the Holy Mother’s teachings, how good our society would be. May Holy Mother inspire everyone!

Added 3 Slide shows…

Glimpses of Swamiji’s birthday celebration held at Glencoe, Ladysmith Satsang and Phoenix are placed here in the ‘child’ pages of ‘parent’ page “Slide Shows”. For viewing them please click the ‘child’ pages enumerated at the right sidebar!

Swami Brahmarupanandaji arrives in Durban

 Swami Brahmarupanandaji Maharaj (72), a senior monk of the Ramakrcimg3590.jpgishna Order of Belur Math, India arrived in Durban on 6th February 2008. He is a South African born Indian Swami who went to India in 1959 and in 1961 he had mantra diksha (initiation) from Swami Shankaranandaji Maharaj in Belur Math. Later in 1968 he was initiated into sannyasa diksha by Swami Vireshwaranandaji Maharaj. After a long stint of service in Madras Math, Nattarampalli, Mangalore in India and in Singapore he retired from active service and for a few years has been staying at Ulsoor Ashrama in Bangalore, India. He had undergone a bypass surgery in 1997 at Chennai. At the airport, he was visibly joyful and happy to have reached South Africa. He would like to tour all the Sub-centres of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa during his stay.

Jayrambati Home now functional

The Jayrambati Home, Foresthaven, Phoenix, was officially opened on Saturday 8 December 2007, by Adv. H Kessie Naidu SC (Main Sponsor). The Home is an annexe of the Ramakrishna Clinic of South Africa and will serve as a place of refuge and solace for distraught indigent women. The Home will be managed by the Ramakrishna Clinic with its staff of doctors, social workers, counsellors, caregivers etc.

phoenix_jayrambati_ext.jpgThe Home is rightly named after the village Jayrambati which is the birth place of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, the Divine Consort of Sri Ramakrishna. The Holy Mother gave refuge to whoever came to her and could not say ‘No’ to whoever called her as ‘Mother’, said Swami Vimokshananda, the President of the Centre during his Valedictory address.

Shelter Care Workshop

Shelter Care Workshop:  The Ramakrishna Clinic of South Africa conducted a workshop on Shelter Intervention and Management on Saturday, 19 January 2008, at the Swami Nischalananda Hall, Headquarters, Glen Anil. Prof Anshu Padayachee from the Advice Desk conducted the workshop for the Abused. Twenty-six members of the Clinic were in attendance, including twelve who have also completed the certificate course on “Crisis Intervention in Domestic Violence”.  

The workshop addressed the following issues:

  • effective and efficient shelter management;
  • skills necessary to deal with cases of domestic violence;
  • effects of domestic violence on women seeking shelter;
  • appropriate helping mechanisms;
  • understanding of shelter philosophy and best practice. 

The main role of shelter intervention is to empower women and provide a safe haven at a time of crisis. The role of a shelter interventionist is thus crucial as he/she is often the first point of contact as a counsellor. The interventionist would have to remain neutral in a time when the sheltered is in a brittle state of emotions.  

The participants were educated on admission and discharge protocols as well as the all important aspect of follow up care. They would have to complete two case histories and be assessed by members of the Advice Desk for readiness to serve afflicted women.  They will render services at the Jayrambati Home, Foresthaven, Phoenix which is a shelter for women undergoing domestic crisis. This Home, under the management of the Ramakrishna Clinic of South Africa, is situated in the epicentre of an area where there has been a surge in domestic violence against women. 

New look Website

On the tithi puja night, that is on 29th January 2008, the 145th birth tithi of Swami Vivekananda, the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa, Durban launched its new look, thoroughly revamped website.

The need for new format and updating of information was keenly felt after the official affiliation of the South African Centre with the Ramakrishna Mission’s headquarters at Belur Math, West Bengal, India last March. The new website’s address is: 




Celebrations in South Africa

The Birthday of Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda

The 145th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda was celebrated at the Centre, Glen Anil on Saturday, 26 January 2008 (4:00 – 6:00 p.m.). The programme commenced with the chanting of invocation hymns by the Centre’s Choir group, singing of A Hymn to Swami Vivekananda and devotional bhajans by the Satsang Group.

The Keynote Address was then delivered by Sri Swami Vimokshanandaji. The Swami stressed that the ideals and values that Swami Vivekananda taught were universal in nature and would be beneficial to the South African society as a whole to develop in appreciating “other” cultures so that human society can live in peace and progress.

A DVD presentation on the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishtan Hospital in Kolkata, India was then shown. The audience had the glimpses of the early phases of the Ramakrishna Movement in India which was service-oriented to the suffering public as taught by Swamiji. The DVD was appreciated by one and all for its graphic account on the development of the leading Hospital. Thereafter, the Guest of Honour, Mr Jeph Mtshali (General Manager: Tourism & Corporate Strategy; Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism – KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Ministry), addressed the congregation on the topic “Intercultural Understanding”. He drew parallel observations from Swamiji’s teachings in order to bring a unified view on the understanding of the different cultures.

A graceful kathak dance by Kumari Sasha Naidoo followed. The programme concluded with peace chants led by Pravrajika Ishtaprana of the Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville. Supper was then served to all devotees.

12th January

On 12th January which is Swami Vivekananda’s solar birthday, celebrated as National Youth Day in India, the Centre had an evening Satsang. Swami Saradananda of the Centre spoke on Swamiji and some of his dynamic aspects that give people strength of mind to face modern challenges.

Tithi Puja

As per Hindu Almanac, Swami Vivekananda’s birth tithi fell on Tuesday, the 29th January, 2008. In a quiet and solemn way, the tithi puja was observed with a few devotees joining in to sing the suprabhatam stotram at mangala arati. A detailed puja was done thereafter. In the evening during the weekly Gita class, Vimokshanandaji threw light on the duo rishis nara-narayana combination and how Swamiji as nara rishi as identified by his Master Sri Ramakrishna fulfilled the wonderful command of him in serving the poor, destitute and suffering people.

Youth Programme

Earlier, a Youth Programme to commemorate the Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda was held on Sunday, 13 January 2008 (7:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.), at the Centre, Glen Anil.

The programme commenced with satsang, which included the chanting of kirtans and bhajans, a reading from Swami Vivekananda’s “Complete Works”, meditation and peace chants. Thereafter the youth proceeded to the Swami Nischalananda Hall for breakfast. A Youth Seminar on Swami Vivekananda was then conducted, and the following topics were discussed:

Swami Vivekananda and the Rise of India

Processing Youth Energy according to Vedanta and Vivekananda Literature

The never-ending source of Life

After a short break, a DVD presentation of the address by the Honourable Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the former Prsident of India on Youth Day (Ramakrishna Mission, Porbandar, Gujarat, India – 12 January 2006) was shown. This was followed by a series of audio-visual presentations on the activities of the Ramakrishna Centre  of South Africa. The programme concluded with satsang. Lunch was served thereafter. Registration for this youth retreat was limited to 100 youth.

Celebration at other Natal centres

Swamiji’s birthday was enthusiastically celebrated in Northern Natal centres of Estcourt, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Dundee and Glencoe. Ladysmith Centre on this occasion distributed 500 hampers to the poor while Dundee Centre gave away fruit juices and bread packets to 250 black poor children. Newcastle Centre had a Youth programme.

Among the Southern Natal centres, Pietermaritzburg, Durban central, Chatsworth, and Phoenix centre celebrated the event with cultural items. Chatsworth Centre held a Youth Seminar also. In all these places, Swami Vimokshananda spoke on Swamiji’s life and teachings.

Swamiji’s birthday

For other interesting slide-shows, please click the Page – ‘Slide-shows’ which has different ‘Child Pages’ for other towns in South Africa

This slide-show is of Swamiji’s birthday celebration at Estcourt

Temple for Swami Vivekananda in Belur Math

abt_rkm5aThe temple stands on the spot where Swami Vivekananda’s mortal remains were cremated in 1902. Consecrated on 28 January 1924, the temple has in its upper storey an alabaster OM (in Bengali characters). Beside the temple stands a bel (bilva) tree in the place of the original bel tree under which Swami Vivekananda used to sit and near which, according to his wish, his body was cremated.On July 4, 1902 at Belur Math, he taught Vedanta philosophy to some pupils in the morning. He had a walk with Swami Premananda, a brother-disciple, and gave him instructions concerning the future of the Ramakrishna Math. He passed away in the evening after a session of prayer at Belur Math. He was 39.  Vivekananda had fulfilled his own prophecy of not living to be forty-years old.From the reminiscences of Josephine MacLeod

At Belur Math one day, while Sister Nivedita was distributing prizes for some athletics, I was standing in Swamiji’s bedroom at the Math, at the window, watching, and he said to me, “I shall never see forty.” I, knowing he was thirty-nine, said to him, “But Swami, Buddha did not do his great work until between forty and eighty.” But he said, “I delivered my message and I must go.” I asked, “Why go?” and he said, “The shadow of a big tree will not let the smaller trees grow up. I must go to make room.”…

On the second of July, Sister Nivedita saw him for the last time. She went to inquire whether she should teach a certain science in her school. Swami answered, “Perhaps you are right, but my mind is given to other things. I am preparing for death.” So she thought he was indifferent. Then he said, “But you must have a meal.” Sister Nivedita always ate with her fingers, a la Hindu; and after she had eaten, Swami poured water over her hands. She said, very much the disciple, “I cannot bear you to do this.” He answered, “Jesus Christ washed the feet of his disciples.” Sister Nivedita had it on the tip of her tongue to say, “But that was the last time they ever met.” It was the last time she ever saw him. That last day he spoke to her of me and of many people, but when he spoke of me he said, “She is pure as purity, loving as love itself.” So I always took that as Swamiji’s last message to me. In two days he died having said, “The spiritual impact that has come here to Belur will last fifteen hundred years – and this will be a great university. Do not think I imagine it, I see it.”


Temple of Swami Vivekananda with other Temples - View from the Ganga
Temple of Swami Vivekananda with other Temples - View from the Ganga

A few months before his passing away, Swami Vivekananda said:

“How often does a man ruin his disciples by remaining always with them! When men are once trained, it is essential that their leader leaves them; for without his absence they cannot develop themselves!” (CWSN 1: 260)

A few days before his passing away, the Swami said:

“I am making ready for death. A great Tapasyâ and meditation has come upon me, and I am making ready for death.” (CWSN 1: 261-62)

In Kashmir after an illness, Swami Vivekananda said as he lifted a couple of pebbles:

“Whenever death approaches me, all weakness vanishes. I have neither fear, nor doubt, nor thought of the external. I simply busy myself making ready to die. I am as hard as that [the pebbles struck one another in his hand] — for I have touched the feet of God!” (CWSN 1: 262)

“Work unto death—I am with you, and when I am gone, my spirit will work with you. This life comes and goes—wealth, fame, enjoyments are only of a few days. It is better, far better, to die on the field of duty, preaching the truth, than to die like a worldly worm. Advance!.”