Relevant Resolution?

New Year Resolution

Any more relevant?

Sri Ramakrishna Temple in Durban, SA
Sri Ramakrishna Temple in Durban, SA

Silly season

December known as ‘silly season’ aptly or not, is a month of merry-making with holidayers dotting different places around the globe. Children and equally elders too, joyfully look forward to the prospect of school-closing followed by festival-booms and the most eagerly expected New Year. They tire themselves out with routine partying extending to midnight  on the 31st December. They are overwhelmed too receiving gifts galore.

And finally the New Year peeps in. At the stroke of midnight bells, unperceived by many in the din and bustle of all the hullabaloo and unmindful of the karmic effects that this same New Year is going to thrust upon. Year by year may pass; none can escape from the karmaphala – the fruits of action. So the old saying ‘as you sow, so you reap’ stares at the face as time rolls on. The moments of despair gnaw each one of us. Fortunate are those who are brought under the gracious umbrella of divine personalities. They are made to realise what is the ultimate purpose of life that meanders sans any meaning.

Saving Message

In Ramakrishna tradition, the beginning of the New Year brings in a new awareness of our goal. The moving incident that happened on the 1st of January in the life of Sri Ramakrishna is still a beacon light to all his followers over the globe. That day, every year is called Kalpataru Day. The message of Master on that day was “may you all be illumined”.

He was undergoing treatment for throat cancer. He came down the stairs on the 1st January, 1886 and started moving in the lawns. Many devotees had assembled there. They bowed down to Master.

To Girish, the Master said, “Girish, what have you seen that makes you glorify me publicly before one and all?” Girish at once fell at the Master’s feet and said with folded hands and choked voice, “What more can I say of Him, even a fraction of whose glory Vyasa and Valmiki miserably failed to express in their immortal epics and Puranas?”

IMG_8112Master heard these words of Girish, Seeing the divinely illumined face of the Master, Girish cried out joyously, “Glory unto Ramakrishna! Glory unto Ramakrishna!”. The Master looked at all present and said smilingly, “What more shall I say to you? May you all be spiritually awakened!”

Kalpataru Tree of Grace

How and when can this Kalpataru grace turn our own life towards progress in spiritual life? Undoubtedly, unconditional is the divine grace. Yet, in our heart of hearts, we do feel that without some sort of readiness to receive the grace, we make ourselves unfit for it. Why not we take a Resolution – a strong one at that – to attend satsang once in a week faithfully and uninterruptedly ? Let us begin with this one.

Kasipur event reminds us to go beyond the physical episode and makes us deeply think  about its spiritual implication. If this was valid on that day, it is still valid today.

|| AUM Sri Ramakrishnaarpanamastu ||


SSDA Swamiji 150 Invite

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Umgeni Shiva Temple

Glory of the Goddess – 1

Durge smritaa harasi bheetim ashesha jontoh
swasthaih smritaa matimateeva shubhaam dadaasi|
Daaridraya dukha bhaya haarini kaa twadanyaa
sarvopakaara karanaaya sadaardra chittaa ||
When called to mind in a difficult pass, you remove fear for every person.
When called to mind by those in happiness, you bestow a mind still further pious.
Which Goddess but you, O Dispeller of poverty, pain and fear, has
an ever sympathetic heart for helping everyone?
The Composite Image of Divine Mother Durga as worshipped in our Headquarters Belur Math contains Ganesha, Karthik, Lakshmi and Saraswati

Today is Vijaya dashami. My hearty and happy Shubha Vijaya Greetings to every one of you. Brother Saradaprabhanandaji, officials and devotees join me in wishing Mother’s blessings to all.

Here Navaratri was celebrated in all its solemnity. Everywhere i.e., in all our branches, the devotees assembled in large numbers. Three of our centres i.e. HQ, Chatsworth and Pietermaritzburg had, of course did the navaratri function with Sri Sri Durga’s benign form without the demon Mahishasur in murti (3 ft height). These clay images were prepared locally by a lady devotee.

My first Talk during Navaratri function was at Phoenix Sub-centre. There, more than 500 senior citizens were present to whom I narrated the glory of Goddess Durga. On the same evening, I had the opportunity to visit our Chatsworth branch where I was blessed to speak on “Saptashloki Durga”. The second day took me to Pietermaritzburg and in our Sub-centre there I dealt with the same topic. On the third day I was in Estcourt where I attended the Satsang at Maha Gayatri Mandir. The temple was packed to its capacity, attended by almost all Hindu groups. There I spoke on the three functions of the Divine Mother viz., the projection, sustenance, and dissolution.

On the fourth day, of course on my return, I stopped at Pietermaritzburg to attend the grand function organised by PMB Sanatan Ved Dharam Sabha. Here more than 300 people participated. My subject of Talk was on the “Three Aspects of Sri Durga” namely Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and Mahasaraswati. I spent my Fifth and sixth days in performing morning puja and attending the evening satsangs at Durban HQ and quietly listening to different speakers. On the 7th day at the same Satsang, I took up again explaining the “Saptashloki Durga” verses. On the 8th evening I was invited by Redcliff Hindu Temple where again I spoke on the glory of Goddess Durga. On 9th evening which is Vijaya Dashami day, the topic “Significance of Vijaya Dashami” was dealt with.    

In all this running about and stating the events with lots of “I” (which perhaps not pleasing to read), what was the feeling in the core of my heart? That She, the Divine Mother has been acting, directing and instructing and making me a worthy instrument in Her hands. I was ever praying that this blissful mood may continue.

On Mahashtami day, after Master’s puja (that included the Kalash puja, Ganesha puja and Jai Durga’s puja) at the Temple, we gathered at the Nischalananda Hall where Sri Durga Havan was performed to the chanting of entire Devi Mahatmyam. The Chamunda mantra was recited 108 times by all the assembled in unison at every oblation of vilva leaf into the sacrificial fire.

The tradition of observing Navaratri here among the Hindus is a mixture of North-South combination. Our Centre follows the mainstream practice and hence the Bengal type Durga puja is not yet inroduced. Thus the first three days were dedicated to Mahakali, next 3 days to Mahalakshmi and the last 3 days to Mahasaraswati. The 10th day is of course Dasserah or Vijaya dashami when Mother Saraswati is invoked. This year we had only 8 days as the 2nd and 3rd tithi fell on the second day itself. It is to be noted that throughout the Navaratri days we had everyday Satsang in the evening. On the Vijaya dashami day the sky was partly clouded, not windy and one by one the murtis, after the farewell puja at the sea beach, were immersed in the surging waters. On that day when the murti was taken out for immersion, Saraswati’s picture was kept.

All the days were spent in a blissful mood for which we are grateful to our Sri Thakur, Ma and Swamiji. And this feeling of joy is nonetheless due to the gracious blessings of all senior monks and loving vibrations from the younger brothers all over the globe.

During the Navaratri we all read portions from Devi Mahatmyam. This is an authoritative scripture on the Mother worship. Many devotees though read it with all faith and devotion want to know what the story in brief is. Reading the English translation of the Sanskrit verses “as it is” would probably drown a person in extreme details and hence would lose the thread of the story. Here comes the importance of having a neat narration without the complexities of descriptions so that at one glance, the reader who is not conversant with Indian vernaculars gets the core teaching of this marvellous scripture.

I have no hesitation to point out that recently our devotee-brother Kissoon Behari sent me one such rendition that I was greatly elated at his attempt to put the prose in as simple terms as ever and understandable by even a child. I believe that the readers of this blog would surely find this not only interesting but also enlightening.

I shall proceed to post in continuation, Section-wise with the spiritual import behind each Section. The latter is added in order to encourage readers thinking in philosophical terms. What is given here is obviously the interpretation of the author and I am, as also you too are, aware that many more interpretations are available and many may come in the future. The 2nd instalment is scheduled to appear in this blog on the 31st October and the final, the 3rd instalment on 7th November 2012. 

Jai Sri Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati Sri Durga maayi ki jai !


by Kissoon Behari



Rsi Markandeya tells his disciple how, by the grace of Mahamaya, Savarni, the son of Surya, became the eighth manu. He recounts the story of the king Suratha and a merchant named Samadhi.

King Suratha was a good king who treated his subjects well and protected his kingdom. When he was defeated by his enemies and betrayed by his own wicked ministers who had made themselves powerful in his absence, he left his kingdom and went into the forest. Here, he met a merchant Samadhi whose wicked wife and greedy sons had taken all his wealth and cast him away.

They both went to the beautiful hermitage of the Rsi Medhas. Although they were in the company of a great sage, the two men had no peace of mind.

The king presented their problem to the Sage: Without the control of his intellect, he was afflicted with sorrow. How was it that though he had lost his kingdom, he still had an attachment to all his royal trappings? And how was it that though the merchant had been cast out by his family and servants, he still felt unreasonable affection towards them?

The sage explained that not only ordinary men but even the wise are hurled into the whirlpool of attachment by Mahamaya. However, when She is propitiated, She becomes gracious and then She bestows material prosperity and success as well as devotion and spiritual knowledge, enlightenment and liberation. She is the Yoganidra of Lord Visnu.

When the two men became eager to know about the Devi or Mahamaya, the Sage unfolded to them the Glory of the Divine Mother by first narrating the story of Madhu and Kaitabha. (And then the stories of Mahishasura, followed by that of Shumbha and Nishumbha, in the second and third sections respectively.)

The slaying of MADHU and KAITABHA

Before creation, Lord Vishnu lay in mystic sleep. Lord Brahma, the Creator, sprang forth from the navel of the Lord. At the same time, two terrible demons, Madhu and Kaitabha, emerged from the wax of the Lord’s ears. They at once set out to kill Lord Brahma. Seeing that there was no help from the sleeping Lord, he sang a hymn to Mahamaya, now in the form of Yoganidra or sleep, covering the Lord. This hymn is called the ‘Tantrika Ratri Sukta’, or simply ‘Brahma Stutih’.

The Divine Mother was pleased, and withdrew Herself from the Lord who fought the demons for five thousand years with his bare hands. Then Mahamaya deluded the demons. They stopped fighting and in their arrogance they offered a boon to the Lord. He asked that they be slain by him at once. Trying to get out of their own trap, they asked to be slain where there is no water. The Lord placed them on his loins and severed their heads with his discus.



The myths are allegorical, for the external conflicts represent our own internal conflicts. The demons are our own impulses in search of earthly and heavenly power and pleasures.


1 Lord Brahma as well as Madhu and Kaitabha are born from the Lord. Good and evil, creation and destruction – all have their source in the one God. God Himself, of course, is beyond these pairs of opposites.

2 Life is a complex of creative processes which involve a struggle with forces that attempt to hamper and halt their progress. The creative process is symbolised by Lord Brahma. On the other hand, the opposing and destructive forces are symbolised by the two demons.

Lord Brahma’s appeal to the Mother comes in the face of utter desperation. So, too, should be the pleas and prayers of the devotees. The devotee who surrenders to the Mother and appeals earnestly receives help.

3 To face the difficulties of the world, one needs a spiritual guide. Faith and devotion arise in the devotee. One becomes aware of a Higher Power. Suratha and Samadhi find Rsi Medhas who becomes their Spiritual Guide and shows them the way to final liberation.


Delight of Devotees

A devotee who has had long association with monks of the Ramakrishna Order was telling me the other day that the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna were unique, each in his own way. He hastened to add that even today, though to a varying lesser degree, the monks are indeed special. Generally, a monk’s life is inward bound, so it is difficult to see externally the gem that each is. But when such monks occupy high positions or undertake such activities as to bring them within the ken of society, their uniqueness is visible to all. Swami Shantatmanandaji is one such monk who recently toured South Africa.

the soothing smile of Swami courtesy: Kavish

He is the present Head of the Delhi branch of the Ramakrishna Mission; this in itself is a comment on his leadership qualities, his admin abilities, his creativity and resourcefulness.

I used to wonder always when and where he took great interest in learning puja – the detailed methods of worship. In most of our branches daily puja of Master is according to the ten item method. The Special Puja of course consists of not only sixteen items of worship but also a much more expanded one. And what to speak of more specific pujas like Kali puja, Durga puja and Jagaddhatri puja which require besides expertise certain life styles too.

I came close to Shantatmananda in connection with Sri Sri Jagaddhatri puja during my tenure at Ranchi Sanatorium. That was an occasion to know more about the puja matters as he would patiently explain the science and art of many methods of worship to my varied silly questions! Sometimes our discussion would stray into those points pertaining to tantric worship. I was always just amazed at the depth and profundity of his knowledge and his ability to explain the esoteric and intricate processes in a most simple way.

It is little wonder that I looked forward with great expectation for his visit to our Centre here on a 15 day program. Though his days of itinerary were packed with hectic schedule – delivered 18 lectures in 13 days! (a detailed Report appended below) – yet during his stay here, many a post-meal time was spent in being with him thus gaining some memorable moments together leaving me wanting more! When we, monks from different parts of the world meet, (sometimes through skype too!) there is much ‘catching up’ to do. It was wonderful to listen to him about the proposed 150th birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in 2013 all over the world and he lovingly ‘booked’ me for a program in Delhi! The unique combination of a sincere devotee and a serious  academic in him added a lot of ‘masala’ to our discussions.

Contrary to what I had heard of him (that he was in the habit of keeping a distance from devotees etc.), he spoke in a sweet and simple yet enlightening manner, whether at the dining table, in the foyer or at a public lecture with whomsoever he came into contact with. Instantaneously he became a spiritual delight of devotees.

What was his impression about his visit to South Africa and the devotees here? I quote a portion from his email that he wrote after returning to India:

Dear and Revered Maharaj,

What shall I write to you?  I am afraid, any attempt to pen down my feelings would fall far short of my true feelings.  The South Africa experience is something which only the truly blessed people get once in their lifetime.  I have never seen such a wonderful band of sincere, dedicated and devoted devotees anywhere outside India.  The officials and members of Exco — they are shouldering enormous responsibilities.  Hats off to them.  Revered Swami Saradaprabhanandaji is a truly amazing personality.  It is unbelievable how one can be so humble and self-effacing in spite of such capacity and talent.  My prayers to Master that he may continue to serve the devotees of South Africa for decades.  As for you I sincerely feel that you are the Master’s special gift to the devotees of South Africa.  Lord has blessed you with such a loving and affectionate heart and I am sure you are providing healing touch to thousands of devotees there.  Please convey my special regards to the Exco members…My special love and best wishes to devotees…My special prayers and best wishes to mothers…With deep love and humble pranams,

Yours affectionately,


Swami Shantatmanandaji arrived in Durban, on 15 July from Mauritius. On 17 July he was given a warm welcome reception that was held at HQ Ramakrishna Temple during Saturday weekly evening satsang where he spoke on Spiritual Life. Earlier in the afternoon he addressed a gathering of Youth members of the Centre on A Life of Purpose, Dedication & Service. His 15-day stay saw meeting with the officials and many devotees of our Centre, addressing different public programs, performing holy home-satsangs and giving interviews to spiritual seekers. He also visited Ramakrishna Sub-Centres in Gauteng, Dundee, Newcastle, Ladysmith, Estcourt in Northern Natal and Pietermaritzburg, Phoenix and Chatsworth in Southern Natal.

At Gauteng Sub-centre, Swami Shantatmanandaji gave his Keynote address on Glory of Guru on 18 July. From there, the next day, he was driven to Dundee Sub-centre where he gave his Address again on Guru. At Newcastle the officials took him to a few welfare sites where he saw how the humanitarian work being done. On 20 July he addressed a large gathering in Ladysmith Sub-centre where he spoke eloquently on Swami Vivekananda’s Message to the Youth. At Estcourt, on 21 July, the Swami explained the concept of Spiritual Journey.

A special satsang in honour of Swami Shantatmanandaji was held at our Pietermaritzburg Sub-centre on 22 July, when he conducted Guided Meditation and also addressed the congregation on Holy Mother. On 23 July he reached HQ in the morning where a number of lady-members of Sri Sarada Devi Women’s Circle were awaiting his arrival. They listened to him speaking about Women Empowerment and their role as Volunteers. At Chatsworth Sub-centre, in the evening, he gave a lecture on Welfare of the World – Why? & How?

The next day i.e., on 24 July at the evening weekly Satsang, held at HQ, he spoke on Swami Vivekananda as the Universal Preceptor. Earlier in the afternoon the Swami met the beneficiaries of Greenbury Welfare Project and addressed them on Faith in God – the First Step. On 25 July we celebrated Guru Purnima. In the Temple he performed a special worship with sixteen items called ‘shodachopachaar pujaa’. An hour later at the Nischalananda Hall there was a Public Meeting wherein Swami Vimokshanandaji, Swami Saradaprabhanandaji and Shantatmanandaji addressed a large congregation. The visiting Swami spoke on Sri Ramakrishna as Guru. On 26 July at Phoenix Sub-centre he spoke on How to obtain the Grace of God to the assembled devotees. On 27 July in the morning he addressed the Senior Citizen Forum members at the same Phoenix Sub-centre on the topic Aging Gracefully. A Class on Bhagavad Gita in HQ in the evening drew lot of appreciation. On 28 July evening he participated in a program organised by three Satsang Groups viz., Verulam, Etete and Tongaat. The venue was the famous Sri Veerabhoga Emperumal Temple at Tongaat. There he delivered a Talk on Religiosity vs Spirituality.

He was taken to Abalindi Home, one of the NGOs with which the Centre is associated for nearly a decade. The Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa has used a multi-dimensional approach in all its welfare activities over the last 65 years. This vision and strategy ensures that our support and services reach those in need in all areas of society irrespective of race, gender or creed. The Centre works with many NGOs with similar aims and objectives to provide much needed community services.  The Swami was overwhelmed at the plight of Terminally Ill Patients. He was all praise for the Centre’s help to this Home in giving a decent and dignified living just before death.

Being a Nature lover, a special visit was arranged by the officials of the Ladysmith Sub-centre to the world renowned Drakensberg mountains.

reading the incident of Gandhiji inscribed on a stone at PMB courtesy: Rishie

That was a good relaxing experience for the Swami after a hectic tour of 7 days. So also his lively visit to Lions Park and Zoo and the century old Botanical gardens arranged by the officials of the Pietermaritzburg Sub-centre. They also took him to the historical railway station where Mahatma Gandhiji was thrown off the train. That was the place where ‘shivering through the winter night in the waiting room of the station’, Gandhiji made the momentous decision to begin his unique form of protest against racial discrimination called ‘satyagraha’. Visiting Ushaka Marine World to see the Dolphins’ dance and aqua creatures in the undersea ship wreck, the crocodile creek, the South Coast and also the famous Umgeni River Bird Park made him feel thoroughly rejuvenated.

On 29 July of his departure day, the Exco officials bid him farewell and thanked the Swami heartily for his brilliant and inspiring lectures.  The Swami, in his reply pointed out, his delight with devotees who are serving the Holy Trio with unconditional love and how he was brimming with joy in witnessing the Master’s work being carried out in South Africa so meticulously. He was full of praise of sincere devotees who served the Centre from decorating the altar to dishing out the prasad.

On the afternoon of July 29, Saradaprabhanandaji, officials and self saw him off at the Durban International Airport. On his way back to Delhi he would stop for a day in Dubai where he had two programs to attend.