Memorable visit – First Nine days

Swami SmarananandaHere is a short Report on the First nine days (21st to 29th May) of a memorable visit of one of the Vice-Presidents of the world-wide Ramakrishna Order, Sri Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj. His arrival – second time in South Africa – saw a surge of joy and enthusiasm among the devotees here. His previous visit in 2002 was in his capacity as the General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Order. He reached Durban from Mumbai on 21st May, 2008.

On arrival he, along with his monastic assistant Swami Jnanavratananda, was given a warm and traditional welcome reception at our Temple Hall in the evening. In his Address of Reply, Swami Smarananandaji pointed out the deeper link of this SA Centre with Belur Math and how the continued relationship would be a potent factor in bringing peace and happiness to the people of South Africa.

Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj with Black children of the Ramakrishna Abalindi Home which takes care of the HIV/AIDS affected Black childrenNext day in the morning he was taken to Ramakrishna Abalindi Home at Inanda where he met African people among whom hampers were distributed. Later in the evening he was met by distinguished dignitaries of Durban.
 
On Friday, 23rd May, Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj addressed a gathering of devotees at our Chatsworth Sub-Centre. He explained the advent of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna as a necessity to bring people of all faiths together. On 24th he visited the Ramakrishna Ethembeni Home at Kwa Mashu where he met orphans among whom a few children were affected by HIV/AIDS. In the evening he was given a public reception at our Nischalananda Hall where more than 600 people of all walks of life attended. There was also a cultural programme of Kathak dance recital by the famous Manesh Maharaj.
 
On Monday evening the Vice-President Maharaj addressed a gathering of devotees at our Redhill Satsang Group on the cultivation of devotion to Holy Mother.Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj with a dignitary couple from Black community in their traditional costumes
 
On Tuesday morning, Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj gave initiation (mantra diksha) to 109 devotees at our Temple. In the evening at the Temple Hall he gave a scholarly discourse to the devotees on Srimad Bhagavad Gita and its day-to-day utility. Wednesday was spent on granting interviews to the spiritual aspirants. He and his monastic assistant Swami Jnanavratananda were taken round of the beautiful Botanic gardens in Durban where they enjoyed the varieties of plants and trees including the water birds.

Swami Smarananandaji is waving 'arati' before the Holy Trio at the altar of the Shrine as a mark of inaugurationOn 29th that is on Thursday, Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj blessed 98 devotees with initiation (mantra diksha). Thus in South Africa he has initiated 208 devotees with spiritual guidance. Earlier on Sunday morning, Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj inaugurated the Ramakrishna Shrine at our Phoenix Sub-Centre which was attended by more than a thousand people. A special puja was performed by Swami Saradananda on that auspicious occasion. On Friday morning he and his team left for Northern Natal tour.

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Celebrations in South Africa

The Birthday of Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda

The 145th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda was celebrated at the Centre, Glen Anil on Saturday, 26 January 2008 (4:00 – 6:00 p.m.). The programme commenced with the chanting of invocation hymns by the Centre’s Choir group, singing of A Hymn to Swami Vivekananda and devotional bhajans by the Satsang Group.

The Keynote Address was then delivered by Sri Swami Vimokshanandaji. The Swami stressed that the ideals and values that Swami Vivekananda taught were universal in nature and would be beneficial to the South African society as a whole to develop in appreciating “other” cultures so that human society can live in peace and progress.

A DVD presentation on the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishtan Hospital in Kolkata, India was then shown. The audience had the glimpses of the early phases of the Ramakrishna Movement in India which was service-oriented to the suffering public as taught by Swamiji. The DVD was appreciated by one and all for its graphic account on the development of the leading Hospital. Thereafter, the Guest of Honour, Mr Jeph Mtshali (General Manager: Tourism & Corporate Strategy; Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism – KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Ministry), addressed the congregation on the topic “Intercultural Understanding”. He drew parallel observations from Swamiji’s teachings in order to bring a unified view on the understanding of the different cultures.

A graceful kathak dance by Kumari Sasha Naidoo followed. The programme concluded with peace chants led by Pravrajika Ishtaprana of the Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville. Supper was then served to all devotees.

12th January

On 12th January which is Swami Vivekananda’s solar birthday, celebrated as National Youth Day in India, the Centre had an evening Satsang. Swami Saradananda of the Centre spoke on Swamiji and some of his dynamic aspects that give people strength of mind to face modern challenges.

Tithi Puja

As per Hindu Almanac, Swami Vivekananda’s birth tithi fell on Tuesday, the 29th January, 2008. In a quiet and solemn way, the tithi puja was observed with a few devotees joining in to sing the suprabhatam stotram at mangala arati. A detailed puja was done thereafter. In the evening during the weekly Gita class, Vimokshanandaji threw light on the duo rishis nara-narayana combination and how Swamiji as nara rishi as identified by his Master Sri Ramakrishna fulfilled the wonderful command of him in serving the poor, destitute and suffering people.

Youth Programme

Earlier, a Youth Programme to commemorate the Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda was held on Sunday, 13 January 2008 (7:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.), at the Centre, Glen Anil.

The programme commenced with satsang, which included the chanting of kirtans and bhajans, a reading from Swami Vivekananda’s “Complete Works”, meditation and peace chants. Thereafter the youth proceeded to the Swami Nischalananda Hall for breakfast. A Youth Seminar on Swami Vivekananda was then conducted, and the following topics were discussed:

Swami Vivekananda and the Rise of India

Processing Youth Energy according to Vedanta and Vivekananda Literature

The never-ending source of Life

After a short break, a DVD presentation of the address by the Honourable Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the former Prsident of India on Youth Day (Ramakrishna Mission, Porbandar, Gujarat, India – 12 January 2006) was shown. This was followed by a series of audio-visual presentations on the activities of the Ramakrishna Centre  of South Africa. The programme concluded with satsang. Lunch was served thereafter. Registration for this youth retreat was limited to 100 youth.

Celebration at other Natal centres

Swamiji’s birthday was enthusiastically celebrated in Northern Natal centres of Estcourt, Ladysmith, Newcastle, Dundee and Glencoe. Ladysmith Centre on this occasion distributed 500 hampers to the poor while Dundee Centre gave away fruit juices and bread packets to 250 black poor children. Newcastle Centre had a Youth programme.

Among the Southern Natal centres, Pietermaritzburg, Durban central, Chatsworth, and Phoenix centre celebrated the event with cultural items. Chatsworth Centre held a Youth Seminar also. In all these places, Swami Vimokshananda spoke on Swamiji’s life and teachings.