The history of the Ramakrishna-Vedanta movement in Germany goes back to the days of Swami Vivekananda when he visited professor Paul Deussen of Kiel in Germany in 1896. There were many prominent German scholars in the past, like Schopenheur, Max Mueller, Paul Deussen, and others whose contribution to Vedanta is immense. In recent times, Kurt Friedrichs made a lasting impact on Vedanta movement. He has written or translated many books on Ramakrishna-Vedanta literature also.
In the year 1933 an official centre was started with Swami Yatishwarananda as the head of the centre at Wiesbaden. But due to some unavoidable reason it was closed down in 1938. However, the work of Vedanta Centre of Wiesbaden was revived from 1959 with Kurt Friedrichs, a disciple of Swami Yatiswarananda, as its president. Since then this society has been publishing books on Vedanta and bringing out a quarterly journal called ‘Vedanta’. Later on in or around 1995 some enthusiastic devotees and students of Vedanta formed this Society and bought a spacious three-storied house at the present location. At the request of the Society the Ramakrishna Math headquarters at Belur Math, India, has affiliated its spiritual activities in November 2004.
courtesy: German Vedanta Centre
It was a cold, wintry day when we arrived at Frankfurt. Clutching on to our warm jackets we wheeled our bags out of the central station and to the taxi rank. To our surprise we noticed hundreds of beige coloured “e class” Mercedes Benz cars running as taxis. But then we understood that we were in Germany – home to the MB family!
As we drove to the hotel, I could not help but notice the contrast between old and new buildings, with the modern skyline and its glass skyscrapers set on one side, and the historical old town opposite. we were looking forward to reaching the hotel as the body needed a hot drink.
The Flemings Deluxe Hotel – a truly regal building, was a welcoming sight after the four and half hour train travel from Paris. After lunch I contacted brother Swami Baneshananda, the Minister-in charge. He was profoundly regretting that he could not meet me at that hour as he had urgent meeting at Berlin and hence he was leaving Mühlheim as early as possible.. He had, however, made all arrangements for us to be received by his Assistant Swami Bhaswatananda at Mühlheim ashram the next day.
Mesmerising Mühlheim Ashram
A one hour journey from Frankfurt to Mühlheim was indeed scenic; we drove along the beautiful country side with rivers and lakes along the way, lots of parks and quaint apartment buildings with well manicured gardens to be marvelled at.
Our ashram building is a 3-storey building with a small compact shrine on the first floor which was really beautiful. Swami Bhaswatananda welcomed us warmly and offered us hot tea and snacks. We had a short satsang, some reading and then the Swami gave us a little history about the Mühlheim and Berlin centres. We were treated to a sumptuous lunch. It was a pleasant meeting of an India born volunteer who was expert in culinary and we learnt that he prepared our tasty meals! He was pursuing his higher education while staying at the Centre.
Cooking vis-a-vis pure mind
I was pleasantly reminded of the incident in the life of Swami Vivekananda about the art of cooking. Saratchandra Chakravarty, a disciple of Swamiji in his famous work “Swami-Shishya-Samvâda” in two parts recounts how Swamiji was appreciative of good cooking and connects it to the pure mind… I give below the passage from this book :
For some days past, Swamiji has been staying at Balaram Bose’s house, Baghbazar. There will be a total eclipse of the sun today. The disciple is to cook for Swamiji this morning, and on his presenting himself, Swamiji said, “Well, the cooking must be in the East Bengal style; and we must finish our dinner before the eclipse starts.”
The inner apartments of the house were all unoccupied now. So the disciple went inside into the kitchen and started his cooking. Swamiji also was looking in now and then with a word of encouragement and sometimes with a joke, as, “Take care, the soup (The Bengali expression has a peculiar pronunciation in East Bengal which gives the point of the joke.) must be after the East Bengal fashion.”
The hungry monk
The cooking had been almost completed, when Swamiji came in after his bath and sat down for dinner, putting up his own seat and plate. “Do bring in anything finished, quick,” he said, “I can’t wait, I’m burning with hunger!” While eating, Swamiji was pleased with the curry with bitters and remarked, “Never have I enjoyed such a nice thing! But none of the things is so hot as your soup.” “It’s just after the style of the Burdwan District”, said Swamiji tasting the sour preparation. He then brought his dinner to a close and after washing sat on the bedstead inside the room.
While having his after-dinner smoke, Swamiji remarked to the disciple, “Whoever cannot cook well cannot become a good Sâdhu; unless the mind is pure, good tasteful cooking is not possible.”
As we were leaving the ashram, drops of rain washed our faces…a true blessing from Thakur!
Sight-seeing the spots
Directly opposite our hotel was the one of Germany’s finest relics the Eschenheimer tower from Frankfurt’s old town walls which was built in the 1400. It’s a hugely impressive structure at 47 meters high.
What was the best way to view the city? The Swami at Mühlheim advised us to take the open bus, as the extreme cold weather would not permit us to walk leisurely in the city. That was the right decision.
In the heart of Frankfurt’s old town (Altstadt), the Römerberg is an irregularly shaped square with the justice fountain at its center. As the tourist guide described it was not only Frankfurt’s most picturesque public square, it’s the city’s busiest pedestrian zone, home to numerous tourist attractions. One can see a variety of shop structures, from its many Kulturschirn, a form of open-fronted shop once common throughout the old town, to the Römer, a complex of 11 lovely old buildings from the 15th to 18th centuries. The old town hall (Altes Rathaus) with its imperial hall (Kaisersaal), once the scene of splendid banquets was another attraction.
Man with a hammer
As the bus I was sitting was winding its way I noticed a sculpture that kindled my imagination. It was right on the pavement of the road leading to Trade Fair grounds.
A man with a hammer was that sculpture I noticed. I remembered the English proverb “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”! He can fix up all broken frames. He can “create’ whatever remain to be done. Did not Swamji say, “You are the creator of your own destiny”? It signified the tremendous efforts put up by Germans to ‘create’ a new nation, as it were, after the war ravages. The splendour and prosperity that we witness today comes from that hard work of the industrious German people.
Saying farewell to Frankfurt we left for our next stop in Europe – the snowy Switzerland.
|| Aum Shri Raamakrishnaarpanamastu ||