Navaratri – I

First Five days

My Vijaya greetings to all of you! Trust by the grace of Divine Mother, the Durga Puja or Navaratri at your place, as usual, would have been a spiritually stimulating and enjoyable experience.

Mother Durga at Asherville Sarada Devi Ashram
Mother Durga at Asherville Sarada Devi Ashram

Here of course, Mother made me travel (felt blessed) all the centres in Northern Natal. I left HQ on the very first evening of Navaratri for Talks at Asherville where Sri Sarada Devi Ashram is situated. The vibrant atmosphere there enlivened my Talks on Durga and Her manifold Names.

Next day I reached Newcastle for the noon lunch. The Navaratri second night was spent there. The program there included Puja, bhajans and my Talks. ‘Mahakali – Her Aspects’ was my pet theme that I dwelt upon. After supper, the devotees of Newcastle sat with me when we had lively discussion on religious life. Next day individual appointments were granted to devotees from morning 8 to 11.

Mother Sarada at our Newcastle Centre
Mother Sarada at our Newcastle Centre

My third night stay was at Dundee. The program at the Dundee shrine which is indeed so beautiful was in the set pattern including my Talks. Here I took up the subject of ‘Grace of Kali’. Next day again from morning 8 to 11 devotees of Dundee met me in groups and we had lively discussion on interesting subjects. Albeit tucked away from the mainstream land, living as if in a seclusion, the devotees of Holy Trio have undeniably kept up the spirit of love and service. The keen interest that the growing children of Dundee devotees took during discussions eminently suggested to me that they are really ‘thirsty’ for the right kind of knowledge about Hinduism.

Mother Durga at Dundee Centre
Mother Durga at Dundee Centre

I reached Glencoe by noon. My thinking that I would have a quiet lunch was taken a back seat when I found that old devoted lady had invited almost all the devotees of Glencoe! The evening program was held at the only Hindu Temple wherein a big cut-out of Devi Amba was kept in front of the presiding five deities – Ganesha, Shiva, Murugan, Vishnu, Ram. Here also the usual satsang pattern was adopted that included my Talks on ‘Three Functions of Energy’.

Mother Durga at Glencoe
Mother Durga at Glencoe

The children and devotees of Glencoe were always fascinating to me as their faces would instantly light up with devotion unbelievably. The post supper discussion went on and on till we realised that the time was fifteen minutes to one in the night and I rose for the rest! Next day from morning 8 to 11 the devotees and their children from Glencoe as well as Dundee assembled. The discussion continued till I got ready for departure for Ladysmith. They saw me off; and the parting was indeed so heart-rending especially when the children could not contain their tears!

Shrine of Ladysmith Centre
Shrine of Ladysmith Centre

Reached Ladysmith for the lunch. Selected devotees were there who all joined me in the sumptuous lunch that was served lovingly to all of us. Post-afternoon rest, I was taken to Ladysmith Centre where a strikingly enchanting shrine is there. Here also the usual pattern of satsang was followed with my Talks juxtaposed in between the items of program on the fifth night. ‘Mother’s Protection’ was the theme I chose to deal with. About 250 devotees who attended were served with supper in the nearby Civic Hall. Next day morning I went to the Centre where the Sunday School for children was in progress. I met all the different class students from kids level to adult level. I felt satisfied in witnessing the loving efforts put up by the voluntary teachers in imparting the cherished Hindu values through study of religious books.

Continued…

Memorable visit – Last Six days

Swami Smarananandaji with Swami Saradanandaji at Newcastle in deep discussion

Sri Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj, one of the Vice-Presidents of the world-wide Ramakrishna Order completed his South African tour on 4th June, 2008. He and his Secretary Swami Jnanavratanandaji left Durban on 5th June morning by a homeward bound SA flight to Mumbai and onto Kolkata. Here is a short Report on his memorable visit – the Last Six days (30th May to 4th June) in South Africa. The holy visit brought about a remarkable enthusiasm among the Ramakrishna devotees and Hindus in general. The spiritual atmosphere was palpable wherever he went. Many sincere spiritual seekers got his invaluable guidance. 

Swami Smarananandaji with his Secretary Swami Jnanavratanandaji and Swami Saradanandaji of Ramakrishna Centre of South AfricaThe morning of 30th May saw the departure for Northern Natal centres. The team – consisting Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj accompanied by Swami Jnanavratanandaji, Swami Saradanandaji, Dr H B Parbhoo, Dr Seebaran and Bhavanesh – arrived at Newcastle by 1 pm. In the evening a special Satsang was arranged in the Centre’s Shrine where to the packed hall, Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj spoke on ‘Peace in Daily Life’. Next day morning after breakfast, the team drove to Ladysmith where the poor children of Ramakrishna Quedisisi Crèche, situated in the Black Settlement Area warmly greeted Revered Maharaj. He distributed packets of breads, biscuits, cakes and juices along with writing materials among the children.

Swami Smarananandaji giving breads etc to the Black children of Ramakrishna Quedisisi CrecheAt 11 am he reached a School premises where more than 500 indigent Black/Indian people gathered. He gave away the hampers and also spoke a few words of consolation first in English and then for a few minutes spoke, to the delight of the aged people assembled there in Tamil and Hindi. In the evening, he visited the Ladysmith Sub-centre and prostrated at the beautiful shrine before the Holy Trio. He met devotees and also the newly initiated disciples and gave them spiritual guidance.

On 1st June, a public Reception Programme had been arranged by the Ladysmith Sub-centre in the famous 115-year old stately Town Hall where Revered Maharaj spoke on ‘Contemplation in Active Life’. The centre’s children-devotees presented an interesting folk dance item.

Swami Smarananandaji at sunrise in DrakensburgIn the evening, he with Jnanavratanandaji left Ladysmith and reached Ramesh Ishwarlaal’s Retreat Home at Drakensberg. The assembled devotees had meditation and Readings from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. 2nd June was spent on discussion on Upanishads, Conversations of Holy Mother and Meditation. In the day time Revered Maharaj and the devotee team went to see the Bird Show in Drakensberg where the well-trained birds like vultures, falcons, owls and also dogs performed to the delight of tourists.Swami Smarananandaji conducting a Retreat in Ladysmith

On 3rd June, Revered Maharaj and the team while returning stopped for an hour at Pietermaritzburg Sub centre. In this beautiful shrine Revered Maharaj was received with arati and traditional welcome with garlands. While speaking to the devotees there he paid homage to Swamis Nischalanandaji and Shivapadanandaji for their endless efforts in spreading ‘Ramakrishna thoughts’ among the public. He added that Ramakrishna has become a ‘permanent citizen’ of this country.

Reaching Durban back at the headquarters centre, he went to Sri Sarada Devi Ashram located at Asherville in the evening. He was accorded a warm reception by Pravrajika Ishtaprana and other nuns and women devotees. He spoke in the beautiful shrine on ‘Katha Upanishad’ underlying the prominent ideas chapter-wise.

There was no outing on the 4th June which was the last day in his itinery. The day of course saw numerous devotees having darshan as well as receiving spiritual guidance from the Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj. His visit will ever remain etched strong in our memories as it gave enormous opportunity for all of us to see, walk and laugh too, besides drawing inspiration in our onward spiritual journey.