Martha, Mary, M and Master

Merry Christmas!

Baby Jesus bringing everlasting joy...
One of our devotee-readers of this Blog, Sucheta Ghosh from Italy has sent the following which is a timely reminder of the divinity in different Incarnations to be contemplated upon on this auspicious occasion of Jesu Jayanti.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.

40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  — Luke 10:38-42

From The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

Visit to the Brahmani’s house (Chapter 43: Tuesday, July 28, 1885)

The Master arrived at the house of the brahmin lady who was grief-stricken on account of her daughter’s death. It was an old brick house… The brahmani had a sister; both of them were widows. Their brothers also lived in the house with their families. The brahmani had been busy all day making arrangements to receive Sri Ramakrishna…

The brahmani came and saluted the Master. She was beside herself with joy. She did not know what to say. In a half-choked voice she said: “This joy is too much for me. Perhaps I shall die of it. Tell me, friends, how shall I be able to live? I did not feel such a thrill even when Chandi, my daughter, used to visit the house accompanied by liveried footmen, with armed guards lining both sides of the street. Oh! Now I have no trace of my grief at her death. I was afraid he would not come. Then I thought that, if that happened, I should throw into the Ganges all the things I had arranged for his reception and entertainment. I should not speak to him any more. If he visited a place, I should go there, look at him from a distance, and then come away…

She was talking like this when her sister came up and said: “Come down, sister! How can I manage things if you stay here? Can I do it all by myself?”

But the brahmani was overwhelmed with joy. She could not take her eyes from the Master and the devotees…

M: “How amazing! A similar thing happened with two women at the time of Jesus. They too were sisters, and devoted to Christ. Martha and Mary.”

MASTER (eagerly); “Tell me the story.”

M: “Jesus Christ, like you, went to their house with His devotees. At the sight of Him one of the sisters was filled with ecstatic happiness. It reminds me of a song about Gaurānga:

My two eyes sank in the sea of  Gora’s heavenly beauty

And did not come back to me again;

Down went my mind, as well, forgetting how to swim.

“The other sister, all by herself, was arranging the food to entertain Jesus. She complained to the Master, saying: ‘Lord, please judge for Yourself-how wrong my sister is! She is sitting in Your room and I am doing all these things by myself.’ Jesus said: ‘Your sister indeed’ is blessed. She has developed the only thing needful in human life: love of God.”

MASTER: “Well, after seeing all this, What do you feel?”

M: “I feel that Christ, Chaitanyadeva, and yourself-all three are one and the same. It is the same Person that has become all these three.”

MASTER: “Yes, yes! One! One! It is indeed one. Don’t you see that it is He alone who dwells here in this way.”

As he said this, Sri Ramakrishna pointed with his finger to his own body.


Title: 'Martha and Mary' Painter: Nathan Greene, born 1961 Year: unknown Incident shown: Martha has made her complaint, and Jesus is responding. His left hand points towards Mary, as he suggests she focus on what is really important. The disciples in this crowded little room listen intently to what he is saying. Bible reference: Luke 10:41 Information: Nathan Greene is a contemporary painter of scenes from the Bible - not an overcrowded field these days. His paintings show meticulous attention to detail - not only in brushwork and realism, but in something that the great masters of the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation considered unimportant - historical realism. The people in Greene's paintings wear Middle Eastern designs and fabrics similar to those of the biblical period; their houses and furniture are authentic to the time. Modern minds, affected by scientific realism, appreciate this attention to detail in his powerful images. Courtesy:

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” [Luke 11:9 / Matthew 7:7]

Similarities between Christ and Sri Ramakrishna

M: “But there are many similarities between you and Jesus Christ.”

MASTER (smiling): “What else?”

M: “You don’t ask your devotees to fast or practise other austerities. You don’t prescribe hard and fast rules about food. Christ’s disciples did not observe the sabbath; so the Pharisees took them to task. Thereupon Jesus said: ‘They have done well to eat. As long as they are with the bridegroom they must make merry.

MASTER: “What does that mean?”

M: “Christ meant that as long as the disciples live with the Incarnation of God, they should only make merry. Why should they be sorrowful? But when He returns to His own abode in heaven, then will come the days of their sorrow and suffering.”

MASTER (smiling): “Do you find anything else in me that is similar to Christ?”

M: “Yes, sir. You say: ‘The youngsters are not yet touched by: “woman and gold”;  they will be able to assimilate instruction. It is like keeping milk in a new pot: the milk may turn sour if it is kept in a pot in which curd has been made.’ Christ also spoke like that.”

MASTER: “What did He say?”

M: “‘If new wine is kept in an old bottle, the bottle may crack. If an old cloth is patched with new cloth, the old cloth tears away.’

“Further, you tell us that you and the Mother are one. Likewise, Christ said, ‘I and My Father are one.’ ”

MASTER (smiling): “Anything else?”

M: “You say to us, ‘God will surely listen to you if you call on Him earnestly.’ So also Christ said, ‘Knock and it shall be opened unto you.’


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Image courtesy: Dr S Adhinarayanan, India

Never to forget Nischalananda

Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji
Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji

Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji was the Founder of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa. Every year, during his birthday weekend some program or other is arranged in various ways. This year, on the 84th birth anniversary, our Centre held a Seminar on Religious Education.

Following erudite Papers were presented to the delight of all the listeners accompanied by captivating slide-shows.
1. Identifying a Curriculum for Hindu Religious Education by Ms S Naidoo from Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville
2. The Role of Sunday School Teachers in Promoting Hindu Religious Education by Dr N Balkaran from Ladysmith
3. The Role of Parents in Home-based Religious Education by Mrs R Singh from Newcastle
4. Using Distance Education and the Electronic Media to Promote Hindu Religious Education by Mr V Mohanlal from Headquarters

Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji in a lonely moment
Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji in a lonely moment

While inaugurating the Seminar, I drew the attention of all to the wonderful early spade-work done by Swami Nischalanandaji in introducing variety of ways in keeping up the heritage of religious ideas among the Hindus who due to the prevailing political conditions in those days, could not maintain their cultural contact with Mother India.

He had several disciples. I met a few who are pretty old now. The name of Mother Henny (sweetly called Henny Maa), now 87, spending quite days in Asherville Sri Sarada Devi Ashram is not unknown to many devotees of the Ramakrishna Centre in South Africa.

Henny Maa
Henny Maa

Her original name was Henny Maria Thekla Schimmel, was born at Leipzig in East Germany. She arrived in South Africa in 1950. She was 28 years old then. In 1956, a friend introduced her to the local branch of the Ramakrishna Centre in Johannesburg. A doctor of homeopathy – Dr Mckippen, ran the branch. She visited the branch every Thursday. In 1956 (after a few months of attending satsangs) she was informed that the leader of the Ramakrishna Centre was arriving in Johannesburg from Durban.

Meeting Gurudev

It was a Thursday towards the end of 1956 that Henny first saw Gurudev.

“We were singing, when I felt a gust of wind brush past me. I turned my head and saw the feet of Gurudev. At that very moment, I thought to myself these are the feet of Christ – the anointed one. I was not myself after that. I was transported to a higher plane of consciousness. All my life I was looking for something. On seeing these divine feet, I knew that it was Gurudev I was waiting for. At last, I had found him.”

She continued to say in a choked voice,

“Gurudev informed me that he was going to India. I asked him to give me initiation before he left. I was initiated on the 6th of February 1957.”

Henny Maa could relate to us some of her memorable experiences vis-a-vis Swami Nischalanandaji. I give below two of them as narrated by her. One was on Yoga Camp and the other was Dance of Shiva.

Yoga Camp
“I was looking forward to going to the yoga camp when I got very ill with double pneumonia. Gurudev phoned me. Disappointedly I informed him that I could not make it to the camp. He said to me, “You will come. Phone me after midnight.”

I called him after midnight and felt better soon after. Needless to say, I attended the yoga camp. It was relayed to me later that Gurudev got seriously ill after my telephone conversation with him. He had taken over my illness.

Dance of Shiva
At one of the camps, Gurudev had dressed as Nataraja the cosmic dancer. He danced using classical intricate steps, with no formal training or knowledge of knowing how to dance. The devotees were moved by this experience. Some cried and some laughed each having a different experience. A trained dancer wrote down the movements and informed Gurudev that the intricate steps he performed could only be done by the rishis.
He was a saint of this century. Not many people knew of the power behind his deep spirituality. His sannyasa Guru, Swami Purushottamananda knew about the positive influence that Gurudev would have in South Africa.
I am truly blessed to have been associated with Gurudev.

Merry X-mas!

To all devoted readers - Merry X'mas!
Merry X-mas! The above digital painting was sent from India by Dr S Adhinarayanan












Vedanta Retreat

Devotees of the Ramakrishna Centre found a spiritually enjoying way of the Christmas holiday by participating in the ‘Vedanta Retreat’. It was held on Thursday, 25 December 2008 (6 a.m. – 6 p.m.) at the Centre, Glen Anil.

Satsang in temple hall
Satsang in temple hall

The program for the day started in a serene atmosphere with satsang, which included the chanting of hymns, singing of bhajans and kirtans like pranam mantras, Sri Ramakrishna Jaya Ashtakam, prakritim paramam, murta maheshvaram and bhajan on Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, song on Lord Ganesha and bhajan on the Divine Mother, reading from the ‘Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’ and chanting of Vedic shanti mantram.

Seminar in progress
Seminar in progress

Thereafter, all the participants of the Retreat moved over to the spacious Nischalananda Hall. A seminar was conducted on the Bhagavad Gita on the following topics when each speaker presented his/her theme with a captivating slide show presentation.
1. Divine Manifestations (Chapter 10) by Miss Jyothi Bhana.
2. Moral Code for Hindus (Chapter 16) by Prof. V B Jogessar.
3. Surrendering to God – Sri Krishna’s Final Message (Chapter 18) by Mr Bhavanesh Parbhoo.

Discourse on Isa Upanishad
Discourse on Isha Upanishad

This was followed by a discourse on: “First and Second Verses of the Isha Upanisad” by Sri Swami Vimokshananda. While explaning what the first two verses imply, the Swami first focussed on the Invocation mantra “purnamadah purnamidam”. He went on then to narrate the significance of the three aspects in each verse namely, permeation of everything by God, enjoyment by renunciation, not coveting others’ wealth in the first verse and living a long life, doing work unabated, keeping the attitude of non-attachment in the second verse.

A DVD presentation thereafter on Ganges was enjoyed by all. After a short break the devotees assembled in the Temple where Sri Hanuman Chalisa was recited in chorus. Devotees enthusiastically participated in the Guided Meditation, conducted by Swami Vimokshananda . At the end of Meditation, shanti invocations were chanted.

Swati Kulkarni in concert
Swati Kulkarni in concert

After Lunch prasad at  Dining Hall a devotional concert by Mrs Swati  Kulkarni (Vocalist) from India was heard attentively by the devotees. She was accompanied by two artistes namely Sam Rugbeer on Harmonium and Manesh Maharaj on Keyboard. Tabla support was provided by Ravi Rugbeer. Swati’s daughter Neha also sang and supported her mother. This was followed by a Talk: “The Holy Mother as an Example for Householders” by Pravrajika Ishtaprana of Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville. She used the slide show presentation deftly in order to bring home the simple but significant ideas of the Holy Mother, that can be practised in day to day life by anyone.

After a short break for Tea, devotees were asked to do the Likhit Japa. Question/Answer session was conducted by Dr H Parbhoo when Sri Swami Vimokshananda gave the answers.

All devotees once again assembled in the Temple Hall for the final session. It had the usual Silent Meditation, Arati, Evening Hymns, Bhajans and Concluding Prayers. Supper was served to all in the Dining Hall. This Retreat was restricted to 300 devotees.