Navaratri was celebrated at the Eire Vedanta Society (EVS) in a solemn manner. Swami Madhurananda of Mayavati was the guest monk during Durga Puja period. He spoke on “Mother Worship” at the Centre on Mahashtami night (6th Oct) with good insights!
Swami Vimokshananda and Swami Purnananda spoke on Mahasashti Day (4th Oct) at Limerick function – the very first time Puja organised there, – by the Indian Cultural Association (ICA), Limerick.
At Dublin function, organised by Ireland Durgotsab Committee (IDC), all the three Swamis spoke on the Mahashtami evening (6th Oct). Swami Purnananda conducted a Guided Meditation at the Puja venue on the Mahanavami Day (7th Oct) at the IDC Durga Puja.
At the Centre of course the EVS hosted one evening of Mahasaptami (5th Oct), a Navaratri festival of Sanatana Ireland the members of which performed a devotional program. That included chanting of Lalitha Sahasranamam and a few bhajans. Krish, a young boy rendered a classical Carnatic Concert in a charming style on the same evening.
Earlier, on 28th Sept., Swami Vimokshananda attended a Durga Puja festival organised by Sujon Durgotsab Committee of Dublin. He addressed an audience of 350 devotees assembled there.
May the Divine Mother bestow Her blessings on all of you! Jai Ramakrishna!
Namo Vrata pataye Namo Gana pataye Namah Pramatha pataye Namaste Astu Lambodaraya Ekadantaya Vighna nashine Shiva sutaya Shri Varada murtaye Namo Namaha || 10 ||
Prostrations to Vratapati, the Lord of Plenty. Prostrations to Ganapati, the Lord of various groups of Gods. Prostrations to Pramathapati, the Lord of Siva‘s hosts. Prostrations to Lambodara, the full-bellied God with a single tusk, destroyer of obstacles, the Son of Siva, the Bestower of all Blessings.
With the chanting of this auspicious Ganesha mantra, Swami Vimokshananda, the Minister in Charge of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Centre, Dublin began his Discourse at the Vinayaka Chaturthi Festival held at the Limerick town, about 180 kms south-west of Dublin. The Hindu groups of Limerick came together to celebrate the Chaturthi event grandly on Sunday, 15th Sept 2019.
The images of Ganesha and the mother Gauri were brought specially for this purpose from India by Mohan, one of the Limerick residents. He is the principal devotee who gathered the community and arranged this festival that was attended by more than 180 devoted people. The hall was almost full with elders and children in their variety garments indicated the joyous moment.
A recently married young couple from Karnataka was selected to do the puja rituals. Swami Vimokshananda was the tantra-dharaka of this puja, directing them to perform the rituals and chanting the mantras suitable to every act of propitiation. He explained the purport of this puja initially and went on giving an English rendering of the ritual practices. At the close of the Puja, the audience repeated with him the 108 names of Lord Ganesha in one voice. That created a wonderful vibration. The assembled devotees then gave the pushpanjali one by one.
In his Talks, the Swami described the importance of puja in one’s spiritual life and how the puja transforms the concept of God from God outside to God within. Dattareya Valenkar, a close devotee from Bengaluru who was on a visit to Ireland as a guest of the Vedanta Society, Dublin was present. He is a popular Hindustani Classical music vocalist.
He sang Ganesha bhajans in Hindi, Marathi and Kannada languages to the delight of the audience. The vocalist was aptly accompanied on Tabla by Rupak Pandit from Dublin.
The event concluded with sumptuous lunch prasad. The musician and the Tabla player were duly honoured with gifts by the Limerick Hindu community.
(The above is a short Report on the event from a devotee who attended the programme)
A very happy ‘Sri Ganesha chaturthi’ to every one! It is a joyous occasion always. All our Centres in South Africa celebrate this day in a solemn manner.
Importance is given to japa whereby the wisdom aspect of our personalities is stimulated. The day starts with a special puja to Sri Ganesha in our temple. Devotees, by turn perform japa of the above-quoted mantra from 6 am to 6 pm on a relay manner. In the evening it concludes with a satsang where devotees in chorus sing bhajans and kirtans interspersed with Talks or Readings.
As children we were not only treated with different kinds of sweets during dining time, (note: earlier I wrote about that delicious dish Kozhuk kattai or modakam) but also were trained in lots of traditional practices that were initially appeared as queer but later loved. In igniting the imagination of the child, Ganesha worship would or even now stands supreme. Imagination about what? About creating a living contact between the visible human and the invisible super-human. It leads the growing child in the practice of devotion. This worship acts as a means in giving practical shape to develop a healthy and loving relationship with friends and neighbours.
I am reminded of the allotted duties among the siblings and oh! what verve and vigour the children used to show in fulfilling their arduous(!) tasks like plucking flowers, cutting fruits, arranging durwa grass etc. A sense of camaraderie prevails that brings peace and happiness. May Sri Ganesha resolve all our conflicts!
Worship of Personal God in whatever form has many distinct advantages. Lord Ganesha though He is ever the son of Parvati and Shiva is known as ‘Vighneshwara’ the Lord of Obstacles. Often children (the mustachioed babies too…!) ask how is it that this God is called ‘Lord of Obstacles’. Is it not good to worship those gods who can offer boons instead of those creating obstructions? Late Revered Swami Chidbhavanandaji maharaj (famous for his translation of Bhagavad Gita in Tamil and English – perhaps the very first one in bringing Master’s teachings at relevant places – used to compare this Universe to an automobile. He says in one of his books “Facets of Brahman” which is as delightful as inspiring, explains why and how Lord Ganesha brings good to the devotees :
“In the working of an automobile each mechanism has its particular part to play. The function of one part in it cannot be the function of another.” This means that notwithstanding each part having its own structural and functional individuality the motor car an move only with the combined effect of all of them. So, he concludes that the Universe is a self-projected living and intelligent mechanism. It is the material manifestation of the saguna brahman
While harmony exists in its variation, discord and conflicts are also seen. Thus Nature brings all the beings into existence and provides opportunities ‘to evolve into higher and yet higher order of life’. All levels have their intrinsic two categories called Divine and Demoniac.
This Cosmic Intelligence is symbolically called Ganesha. Those who are honest and strive to lead a peaceful life, thus possessing Divine qualities, He definitely comes to their aid. And he does not neglect those with asuric qualities. By creating obstructions, He brings disappointment in the minds of devotees as what was prayed goes not sanctioned! But in the course of life’s journey, a devotee finds out that seeming obstruction was in one way a blessing in disguise. In short by introducing lesser evils He wards off greater evils of life and Vighneshwara (Vighna – obstacles, Ishwara – Lord) rightly represents this particular aspect of Nature.
How Ganesha came in the practical life through dreams and fulfilled the desires of the devotees is narrated here.
It was sometime in 2005. This happened while I was in Ranchi. Once I received a post parcel that looked very tiny. Well, I just kept it on my study table; I never even ventured to open it. Everyday I was seeing it but somehow had no urge to open the parcel and look what the gift was. Suddenly one fine early morning a devotee rang me up to say that she was indeed frightened by a dream. I asked her what was the dream. She explained that she was entering into our Temple. She saw a small figure of Ganesha slowly emerging from nowhere and becoming crystal clear and was walking towards her. The image was in utter black colour. She asked me whether this dream was inauspicious.
Consoling her with words of sympathy, I told her that seeing Ganesha is considered as most auspicious and who knows that black Ganesha wants to come to her home! Did she not tell me earlier that she wanted to worship Ganesha in some murti? So, I concluded by telling her that she might wait till Ganesha makes some arrangement.
That day while I was just going out, the cleaning boy came and put that tiny parcel into my hands and said that I had not yet opened it as it was lying for many days on the table. I quickly thrusted it into my pocket and went out.
It was a pleasant surprise when on my way back, I met the son of this devotee who insisted that I should visit his home. Since I had some time, I agreed and reached his house. The devotee welcomed me and was talking about her dream; she asked me, ‘Maharaj, when would Ganesha come to my home?’
While the conversation was going on I casually took the parcel and opened it and lo! it was black Ganesha murti! So tiny and cute, I said, “See! here He is!” I placed that Ganesha into her altar under the feet of the Mother Kali image. Well, son got his place again under mother!
A devotee from South Africa, the other day narrated this following incident.
It was in 1997. I was overwhelmed by money and power. I had a successful business and everything was hunky dory in my life. My day used to start quite early, leaving home everyday including Sundays at 7am and returning at 10pm. That meant neglecting my home, children and daily prayer.
This continued for 2 years. Although I was a devotee of the Master from the age of 13 years, somehow at the age of 29, I faltered in my spiritual life. My conscience used to prick me every now and then….. but still I neglected my sadhana.
As the second year was coming to a close, my body and mind was beginning to tire and so were my kids on whom I could sense the effect of neglect. It was late one night while I was asleep, that I had a wonderful dream… or was it real, I will never know that… Lord Ganesha came to me while I lay on the bed and spoke softly to me. He kept telling me ‘arise and offer some fruit and milk’. I could still see Him in His flowing yellow dhoti and with a flower garland around His neck. When I was reluctant to get up, he firmly, at the same time, very lovingly coaxed me to wake up. I lay in my bed wondering at the strange, yet divine dream that I just experienced.
I gazed around to see whether the Gracious Lord was still in the room, was it my imagination, was it a dream, was it real? who knows! After a quick bath and breakfast, just out of curiosity I went to the calendar to check what day it was… I WAS STUNNED TO SEE IT WAS THE AUSPICIOUS DAY OF GANESH CHATURTHI. I immediately went into my shrine and offered milk to the Lord and realised that the Lord is continuously knocking on my door, and He is waiting for me to open. It was on that auspicious day that by the will of the Lord, I quit my job and became a mum to my kids and held on tightly to the Lord’s Feet… Never to let go AGAIN!
A Hymn to Him? Him, whom the entire Hindu world remembers before beginning anything anew; Him, whom Gauri-shankar, the parents of the universe (jagatah pitarau) praised for His wisdom ; Him, whom all the Gods, Goddesses, humans and other beings bow for removal of obstacles; today is the auspicious Sri Ganesh chaturthi.
Last year I reminisced my childhood days during Ganesh chaturthi celebration (see here). How the wonderful Lord Ganesha, who shines like a freshly risen sun (nava-udita-arka bhaasvaram) enlightened me of a fact of life! And, alongwith, in a lighter vein, I had talked of kozhukattai, the delectable sweet dish. I must confess here that my complaint(!) was well taken as challenge by one of our devotees of Ladysmith sub-centre, who exactly reproduced kozhukattai to my great wonder and delight too, as per the recipe! Ganesha bestowed on her siddhi (success) in her earnest attempt.
The worship of Ganesha was made an integral part of Hindu tradition by Adi Shankaracharya; It tells us about the panchaayatana puja. Five deities – Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Shakti and Surya – are taken together for daily worship. Skanda that is Lord Murugan is also added bringing a title of great honour viz., shanmata sthapaka – “Founder of six Faiths” for Adi Shankaracharya.
I find our Centre in SA has published a Prayer Book which is very popular among our devotees and even among other organisations too. It has excellent hymns compiled by Swami Shivapadanandaji, the second President of our Centre. Its contents are neatly classified into Prayers, Bhajans and Kirtans, Stotrams and Aratis.
Generally hymns play a vital role in the evolution of spiritual life. As a child you start reciting it again and again along with the elders in the family and without any extra effort the whole hymn becomes byheart. The ideas of the hymn remain in the mind when you grow up. I remember vividly how I used to join the recital of hymns with my mother and other elders in the family, by the process of which several hymns became strongly embedded in memory. One such hymn was Ganesha Pancha-ratnam. The other was some captivating songs from the enchanting Thiruppugazh.
Now let me tell you about the hymn called Ganesha pancha-ratnam – the Gems-five on Ganesha. The author of this exquisite hymn on Ganesha is our eternal Guru Adi Shankaracharya. The metre, language, and the thoughts are exceptionally elevating to our bhakti mood. This poem is composed in a metre called pancha-chaamaram, which has four quarters of sixteen syllables each, and has a scheme of short-long-short-long syllables. The dance experts say that this ‘tadhIm-tadhIm’ gait endows it with a brisk, marching gait (imagine Ganesha walking!). The learned further add that the poets of the past exactly knew how to choose metres, and sounds which conveyed the import of the poem, not just lilting lyric.
This has been sung, creating a soul-satisfying experience, by no other than Karnatic maestro M S Subbulakshmi.
It would be wonderful if our devotees in SA as well as in other countries who do not know this particular hymn on Ganesha, can learn it. In order to get the tune for this hymn, I give below the youtube link for Ganesha pancharatnam. While listening to the tune, one can follow the words of the hymn given hereunder. I am thankful to Chennaionline.com for the English translation of the hymn.
Meaning: I prostrate before Lord Vinaayaka who joyously holds modaka in His hand, who bestows salvation, who wears the moon as a crown in His head, who is the sole leader of those who lose themselves in the world. The leader of the leaderless who destroyed the elephant demon called Gajaasura and who quickly destroys the sins of those who bow down to Him, I worship such a Lord Ganesh.
Nateta raati Bheekaram Navodi taarka Bhaasvaram
Namat Suraari Nirjaram Nataadhi Kaapa Duddharam
Suresvaram Nidheesvaram Gajesvaram Ganeshvaram
Mahesvaram Samaashraye Paraatparam Nirantaram
Meaning: I meditate eternally on Him, the Lord of the Ganas, who is frightening to those not devoted, who shines like the morning sun, to whom all the Gods and demons bow, who removes the great distress of His devotees and who is the best among the best.
Samasta Loka Shankaram Nirasta Daitya Kunjaram
Dareda rodaram Varam Vare Bhavaktra Maksharam
Krupaa karam Kshamaakaram Mudaakaram Yasaskaram
Manaskaram Namaskrutaam Namaskaromi Bhaasvaram
Meaning: I bow down with my whole mind to the shining Ganapati who brings happiness to all the worlds, who destroyed the demon Gajasura, who has a big belly, beautiful elephant face, who is immortal, who gives mercy, forgiveness and happiness to those who bow to Him and who bestows fame and a well disposed mind.
Meaning: I worship the ancient elephant God who destroys the pains of the poor, who is the abode of Aum, who is the first son of Lord Shiva (Shiva who is the destroyer of triple cities), who destroys the pride of the enemies of the Gods, who is frightening to look at during the time of world’s destruction, who is fierce like an elephant in rut and who wears Dhananjaya and other serpents as his ornaments.
Nitaanta kaanta Dantakaanti Mantakaanta Kaatmajam
Achintya Rupa Mantaheena Mantaraaya Krintanam
Hrudantarey Nirantaram Vasantameva Yoginaam
Tameka Danta Mevatam Vichintayaami Santatam
Meaning: I constantly reflect upon that single tusked God only, whose lustrous tusk is very beautiful, who is the son of Lord Shiva, (Shiva, the God of destruction), whose form is immortal and unknowable, who tears asunder all obstacles, and who dwells forever in the hearts of the Yogis.
Today we observe Sri Ganesh Chaturthi. The wonderful Bengali song, “Giri Ganesha aamaar shubhokaari” ends with this line “Suresha kumaar Ganesha aamaar | taader naa dekhile jhore noyona baari ” is being sung in the beginning of Durga Puja. “Ganesha be my auspicious. Ganesha is mine, Kartik, the son of Shiva is mine; If I dont see them, tears flow from my eyes.”
The day started with a special puja to Sri Ganesh in our temple. Devotees, by turn perform japa of the above-quoted mantra from 6 am to 6 pm on a relay manner. After the Puja, my mind started munching albeit nostalgically the childhood days when we would bring the image of Ganesh from the market the earlier evening. Oh! What an enthusiasm in holding Him, as Ganesh, in that small idol, appearing so cute and everyone in the family vie for each other in having Him in their hands.
We, as children would eagerly await the completion of puja so that we are served with tasty modakam, in Tamil, Kozhuk kattai stuffed with purnam. There used to be two varieties one sweet and the other savoury (ellu and usili ). After leaving Madras in 1970, I have not had the taste of it as I went on moving in North and Eastern India. And now in South Africa, Tamil devotees have not even heard of this term, not to speak of its preparation!
In Ranchi where I was stayput for long 12 years (a yuga, in local parlance), Ganesh Chaturthi was uneventful. However, I used to relish the news of the Puja getting extremely popular all over India in the last two decades and I remember how a Maharashtrian family once invited me for lunch on the Puja day and to our hearts’ content, besides the sumptuous meals, we discussed the importance of Ganesh Puja and how the veteran freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak began.
This happened in Ranchi. On one Ganesh chaturthi day during the noon break, I went strolling towards our school called ‘Vivekananda Vidyalaya’. The school was in recess and I found groups of pupils sitting together and enjoying their tiffin. I came near to one group of girls, studying in class IV. Among them one girl, a poor Munda Tribal, was not eating anything though the tiffin box was lying in front of her. Naturally my curiosity was aroused and I enquired her why she had not been eating while all others students were taking their tiffins.
She kept mum as these tribal girls do not speak out immediately. One trait I noticed with them was that to get an answer one had to repeat the question while with the non-tribals, you just ask once and you get ten answers! The tribals by nature are very timid.
I enquired whether somebody – one of the bullies – has eaten away her food. She nodded her head briskly to indicate that no such thing has happened. Then, what was the matter, why she was not eating, I persisted.
She stood up shyly and said that she herself had given to one of her friends. Why, I demanded to know, stating that how in the early morning, her mother had prepared so lovingly a tiffin for her and by giving away that to someone, would it not have hurt her mother’s feelings?
How foolish I was!
Sri Ganesha, in all His grace, wanted to give me the wisdom.
The child now spoke with determination: “Maharaj, my friend had not eaten anything in the morning before coming to school. Her mother is sick and her dad went out for work. But, I did have something to eat. So, I gave her my noon lunch so that at least my friend does no go empty stomach.”
It was hard for me to control my tears. That small girl has such a vast heart! How many of us can think of ‘others’, denying the comfort to ourselves? Did she not go out of her little ‘being’ and spread out to reach for her friend? If this is not Vedanta in practice, then what?
May Sri Ganesha give us all the ‘feeling’ for others!
Ethics always says, “Not I, but thou.” Its motto is, “Not self, but non-self.” The vain ideas of individualism, to which man clings when he is trying to find that Infinite Power or that Infinite Pleasure through the senses, have to be given up–say the laws of ethics. You have to put yourself last, and others before you. The senses say, “Myself first.” Ethics says, “I must hold myself last.” Thus, all codes of ethics are based upon this renunciation; destruction, not construction, of the individual on the material plane.