We celebrated Sri Krishna Janmashtami in a solemn atmosphere. About 40+ devotees attended.
After the Vesper service of Sri Ramakrishna, there were two Talks one by self and another by Swami Purnananda. I narrated the birth incident of Sri Krishna, tracing the parents’ life and how the Supreme God intervened to ameliorate the sufferings of good people on the earth. Swami Purnananda spoke on the teachings of Sri Krishna which is available to us even this day as Bhagavad Gita. We had chorus singing of Shyam Naam Sankirtan of 9 stanzas and Bhaja Govindam. A few more bhajans were also sung.
For a fledgeling centre, just started a year back, we didn’t expect a good number. But then, 40+ was manageable as devotees brought their own naivedya (offerings) and as prasad the same was shared among us.
Earlier, on Sunday 18th August 2019, Sanatana Ireland, a Charity organisation in Dublin conducted a Workshop for Children on Srimad Bhagavad Gita. We two Swamis participated in the Workshop.
The program began with lighting of lamp called ‘Bhadradeepam’. The children then sang a Keertana on Lord Ganesha, followed by singing the Glory of Guru and chanted the full Gita Dhyanam. The important element was the Workshop where Swami Purnananda explained some Vedantic teachings from Gita. Swami Vimokshananda explained the concept of constant remembrance of Lord through a story of famous Sakkubai, a Maharashtra Saint.
The children presented an admirable Dance-drama on the value of Friendship by depicting the story of Krishna-Sudama eternal love. The children participated enthusiastically in the quiz program on ‘Dashavatharam‘.
The organisers arranged the release of a new Balagokulam Syllabus. Both the Swamis released the volume and presented to the syllabus makers. The interesting program came to a close with chanting of Swasti mantras and arati to Lord Krishna followed by distribution of prasad.
The 614th Birthday of Sri Chaitanya Deva was celebrated at Eire Vedanta Society (EVS) on Dol Jatra day which fell on Thursday 21st March 2019. A beautiful picture of Sri Chaitanya Deva holding a rosary signifying chanting of Sri Krishna’s holy name was kept at the altar for the first time. Devotees brought suitable offerings which were distributed as Prasad to all. 22 people attended the function.
Swami Purnananda performed the vesper service to Sri Ramakrishna amidst singing of “Khandana…” by the Ramakrishna Choir led by Jhuma Majumdar. While Prithwish Majumdar played the Tabla, Hariharan accompanied on Kanjira.
The evening was a moment of great joy when devotees enthusiastically sang a myriad of Sri Krishna bhajans. A few bhajans were led by Sharanya Bharathwaj and Malabika Basu.
Swami Vimokshananda, in his discourse on the Life and Teachings of Sri Chaitanya Deva, traced the incident of his being given an uncommon name after his birth and how even at the young age he renounced name and fame just for his older friend Raghunath by throwing away all his superb writings on Logic in the Ganges.
Swami Vimokshananda also retold the story of Jagai and Madhai and how these two bad elements of society completely turned over a new leaf as servants of society through the holy company of Sri Chaitanya. Chaitanya‘s infinite compassion healed a leper. His untiring travels to South of India spread the Maha mantra among all classes of people irrespective of caste or creed. He brought millions of people into his bhakti fold.
Supta Ghosh read out the only written short work of Chaitanya Deva available today called Shiksha Ashtakam – an eight verse instructional hymn. Devotees finally offered colourful Abir to Lord Chaitanya.
Later they prostrated to both the monks of the EVS offered Abir.
A few snaps of the function here below in a slideshow:
“Deepavali” – Is Kali black? ——————– On Sunday, the 4th November 2018, brother monk Swami Shantatmananda requested me to deliver a Talk on the “Deepavali” Festival. It was held at the Sarada Auditorium. Deepavali is not a stand alone Festival as it is preceded by two other holy occasions and followed by another two holy occasions, thus can be in effect it is a Five-day Festival! I gave a synopsis of these five days’ occasions and went into introspective mode of discussing whether these five days can be imagined as linear progress in material and mental spheres of the human soul. While bringing up the topic of Kali Puja that is widely observed in the eastern parts of India on the Deepavali amavasya night, obviously the discussion veered round to a point of view on the subject of Mother Kali and the concept behind Her worship… This lecture can be heard here:
Hearty, Happy Diwali Greetings to every dear reader-devotee! May this Diwali lighten up your life, may it lighten down your burden and may it enlighten your intellect and lead you from dark alleys to Lighted path!
This is a repeat Post originally published in this blog on 26th October 2011.
Our world today is at the crossroads. While charity to help the poor and needy is delightfully increasing, it is disconcerting to see the rise of violence – domestic or national, crime, obscenity, corruption and other expressions of ill-gotten wealth. Serious people devoted to God and godly means of living are indeed worrying about the future prospects of their children. Is there, among the gloomy cloudiness, any shiny ray of hope?
It is in this context that the various celebrations that have come to us from time immemorial from the spiritual land of Bharat hold the clue. One of the most loved celebration of all the Hindus the world over, is the Festival of Lights – Diwali, also called Deepavali.
Diwali signifies lighting of lamps in every household on the Amavashya night that follows the bright fortnight after Vijaya Dashmi. No doubt this occasion marks joy and merriment. On the Diwali night, rows of lamps decorate the houses and presents are exchanged. Diwali, in the north of India, is associated with the coronation of BhagawanSri Rama when he returned to Ayodhya (in Uttar Pradesh) by pushpak-vimaan after vanquishing the demon King of Ceylon, Ravana on the day of Dasshera. Sri Ram had been in exile for fourteen years and the people were pleased to see and welcome back him with rows of lit lamps.
This festival of five days gives us, Hindus, an opportunity to go beyond all external extravaganza. First day marks Dhanteras meaning the thirteenth day of wealth. It is also called Dhanwantari Triodashi indicating the adoration of Dhanwantari. He is the God of Medicine for the devatas and originator of Ayurveda science. The importance of keeping one’s physique in a healthy way cannot be over stated. As the ancient Sanskrit dictum says, “shareeram aadyam khalu dharma saadhanam” – body is the best means for practising dharma, taking steps to improve one’s health becomes mandatory.
From here, with strong body, one has to ascend to the state of strong mind. Thus the second day, called naraka chaturdashi, is the fourteenth day signifying release of 16,000 princesses from prison by Sri Krishna. BhagawanSri Krishna encountered the demon Narakasura and killed him after granting his wish that on his death day people must celebrate with lighting of diya (lamps) in rows, taking oil bath, distributing sweet meats and burning firecrackers. We all do the latter part but do not pay attention in removing the darkness that has come to reside in our hearts! As Swami Vivekananda says, darkness in a sealed room over one thousand years will instantly vanish the moment a matchstick is lit. Knowledge of God is light. The ignorance inside is darkness – a prison. 16,000 women are none but our 16,000 nadis to be liberated from impurity.
If body and mind are kept free from impurities, then only this life can be truly enjoyed. As the Isha Upanishad says “ tena tyaktena bhunjeetaah” – this life can be enjoyed when detachment comes. The mind searches for the purpose of life and it tries to fix the goal. Lakshmi word comes from lakshya meaning goal. Thus the third day which is the most important day of the five days of festival is spent in the worship of Goddess Lakshmi whose dazzling luminosity is represented by rows of lamps. What is the ultimate goal of life? BhagawanSri Ramakrishna clearly spells out the purpose of human birth. He says that a man is born in vain who inspite of having a human body, does not attempt to realise God! In eastern parts of Bharat, Goddess Kaali is worshipped. She is evidently invoked in order that our rakta (blood-attachment) is dried up (swallowed) and our munda (ego-head) can be cut asunder by Her grace.
When God becomes the focus, all obstructions, sufferings, troubles come to an end. Did He not assure in Gita that His devotee is never destroyed? – na me bhaktah pranashyati. Thus the fourth day is important milestone in the spiritual development of a sadhaka when he/she is rest assured of the protection of the Lord. This day is remembered as Govardhanpuja signifying how BhagawanSri Krishna lifted with his small finger the massive Govardhan mountain in order to protect his people from the deluge of rain.
Progress in spiritual life has some definite signs. One of them is the cheerful attitude with which one serves all brothers and sisters. The amity that is brought forth among the sisters and brothers is practised on the final fifth day as bhaidhuj. As per puranas Yama, the Lord of Death has assured that he would not bother those mortals who spread the message of love to their sisters. A perfect harmony leads to moksha, the ultimate liberation.
Thus this ‘Five-day Festival’ traces the spiritual expansion of human growth culminating in the gaining of knowledge of God. It offers an opportunity to dive deep into one’s heart and search for all types of demonic qualities residing inside. Thus, the need is felt to clear the darkness from the heart. To dispel away the internal darkness we have to light the lamp of knowledge. When a lamp is lit on Diwali, just pray to your chosen ideal that the darkness of ignorance be removed from your heart.
In the Bhagavad Gita, BhagawanSri Krishna says that out of compassion for the devotees, He, residing within their hearts, certainly destroys the darkness born of ignorance with the radiant lamp of knowledge. (Ch X.11). Hence, while celebrating Diwali, let us pray to the Divinity (in whatever form one may believe in) to bestow the right knowledge by which we can lead a peaceful and prosperous life with service to the poor and needy.
Roar 72 describes the two major functions – one Sri Krishna Janmashtami held on 14 August 2017 and another – a sequel to this function. The latter one was a Cultural programme where Children from the Hinduism classes participated…
In paying tribute to the great saint Shri Kanaka Dasa, the Government of Karnataka in India has declared his birth day as a State holiday. All the government offices, schools and colleges around the state celebrate the birth anniversary of Shri Kanaka Dasa who made even the Lord turn around and made Him listen to his prayers. At the request of Pravrajika Ishtaprana, I gave the following article, written for children. She published in Deepika, an annual children’s magazine brought out by Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at Asherville, Durban.
Is Lord a Magnet or Metal ?
Magnet attracts Metal
The other day I was talking to a group of children. They were Sonal, Sashiv, Sundar, Mishka, Kareena and Payal. It is always refreshing to talk to children. One little girl, Sonal, enquired why she is attracted to visit the ashram regularly while some of her friends are not inclined to come. I told her that the Lord, who is the Supreme Controller of this universe, is indeed like a magnet. We are all like iron metal pieces attracted to this grand magnet and therefore visit the ashram. Those who do not like to visit holy places are also like metal but are covered with so much dust that the magnet cannot attract them.
I asked the children what they do at the ashram. Sashiv, a young boy, said that he neatly arranges all the prayer books that were used in the morning. Another child, Mishka, said that she loves to clean the shrine carpet so that they can sit and study comfortably. Kareena teaches the little kids on how to behave in the ashram. Payal takes care of all the musical instruments.
One boy, Sundar, said that he enjoys ‘meditation’. I was surprised and asked him what he does during meditation. He told me that his mother tells him captivating stories about Lord Krishna and he sits quietly in the shrine and mentally recounts the whole story.
So I said, “Come Sundar, today you will tell us the story that your mother told you!” Sundar gladly agreed and began relating the story.
The Singing Saint
The story is an interesting one and concerns a lovely incident that happened in the life of one great devotee. This devotee was born in the present Karnataka State in India, about 500 years ago. He became very popular by the name of Kanaka Dasa.
Kanaka Dasa was devoted to the worship of the Lord in the form of Sri Krishna. Whatever he did – whether working in the fields or going to the market to purchase any item, cleaning the courtyard of his home or even taking care of his parents – he used to think of Lord Krishna and would always express his gratefulness to the Lord Sri Krishna. He became expert in singing the glory of God.
Once on his pilgrimage, he came to a small town called Udupi. In this town there was a beautiful temple dedicated to Sri Krishna. Kanaka Dasa was very eager to visit this temple and have darshan of the Lord.
Denied but Determined
But in those days, people born of lower castes were not allowed entry into the temple. Only the people of higher castes could enter and perform the worship. Coming to know of his social status, the men at the gate forbade Kanaka Dasa from entering the temple. Greatly disappointed, he went behind the temple and sat outside the fence just opposite a small window. This window was behind the Lord’s beautiful stone image. Though denied he was fully determined to see the Lord.
Kanaka Dasa could not see the Lord because the image was facing the entrance on the other side. Sitting there, he felt so unhappy that he began shedding tears profusely. He pleaded with God that was he not like the piece of metal drawn by the magnet in the form of Sri Krishna? He came to see the Lord but was not successful in having His darshan. He began to sing the glory of the Lord throughout the night, with copious tears flowing from his eyes.
Metal attracts Magnet
Just before daybreak, the people of the town who were passing by that temple noticed an amazing and surprising phenomenon. When they went into the temple as usual to offer their morning worship, they found that the image of Sri Krishna had turned 180° (half circle) and was now facing Kanaka Dasa! Behold! It was a miracle that the Lord had performed to make others understand the glory of His devotee!
We listened to Sundar’s story with keen attention. The boy said that his mother also told him what she learnt from the Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna. Sometimes the devotee becomes the magnet, and the Lord a metal, who is attracted by the devotee. He told us that even today, in that Sri Krishna temple of Udupi, the Lord is facing the window and not the entrance to the sanctum!
The Lord always fulfils the earnest prayer of a sincere devotee.
May Sri Krishna bestow ‘buddhi yogam’ – the Right Understanding to all of us !
Hearty, Happy Diwali Greetings! May this Diwali brighten up your life, may it lighten your burden and may it enlighten your path!
Swami Saradaprabhanandaji, officials from Headquarters and all devotees here join me in wishing you all a wonderful Diwali !
Ray of hope?
Our world today is at the crossroads. While charity to help the poor and needy is increasing, it is disconcerting to see the rise of violence – domestic or national, crime, obscenity, corruption and other expressions of ill-gotten wealth. Serious people devoted to God and godly means of living are indeed worrying about the future prospects of their children. Is there, among the gloomy cloudiness, any shiny ray of hope?
It is in this context that the various celebrations that have come to us from time immemorial from the spiritual land of Bharat hold the clue. One of the most loved celebration of all the Hindus the world over, is the Festival of Lights – Diwali, also called Deepavali. This ‘Five-day Festival’, as I explained in my last year Diwali post, traces the spiritual expansion of human growth culminating in the gaining of knowledge of God.
Diwali signifies lighting of lamps in every household on the Amavasya night that follows the bright fortnight after Vijaya Dashami. No doubt this occasion marks joy and merriment. On the Diwali Day, rows of lamps decorate the houses and presents are exchanged. Diwali, in the north of India, is associated with the coronation of Lord Sri Rama when he returned to Ayodhya (in Uttar Pradesh) after vanquishing the demon King of Ceylon, Ravana on the day of Dasshera. Sri Ram had been in exile for fourteen years and the people were pleased to see his return to Ayodhya.
We get a graphic description of how the people of Ayodhya welcomed Sri Rama, Mother Sita and others in Sri Ramacharitamanasa written by the great saint Tulasidas.
He says that “when the information reached the citizens, men and women all ran out in their joy (to meet their Lord). With gold plates containing curds, Durva grass, the sacred yellow pigment known by the name of Gorocana, fruits and flowers and young leaves of the sacred Tulasi (basil) plant, the root of all blessings, ladies sallied forth with the stately gait of an elephant, singing as they went.
All ran out just as they happened to be and did not take children or old folk with them. People asked one another: “Brother, did you see the gracious Lord of the Raghus?” Having come to know of the Lord’s advent, the city of Ayodhya became a mine of all beauty. A delightful breeze breathed soft, cool and fragrant. The Sarayu rolled down crystal clear water.
Again continuing to explain the warmth of reception accorded to Sri Rama, saint Tulasidas says that “the citizens were transported with joy at the sight of the Lord. All the woes begotten of their separation from the Lord now ended.
“Seeing all the people impatient in their love to meet the Lord, the All-merciful Slayer of Khara wrought a miracle. He forthwith appeared in countless forms and in this way the gracious Lord met everybody in an appropriate manner.
“amita rupa pragate tehi kala, jatha joga mile sabahi kripala”
Saint Tulasidas just wonders how the mystery of Sri Rama in taking many forms and meeting each citizen could not be comprehended by anyone! Here in the words of Sri Ramakrishna, God became the ‘needle’ and the bhakta, the ‘magnet’.
Diwali is also indeed associated with the worship of Divine Mother in the form of Kali. The famous Sanskrit hymn Sri Durga Saptashati called Sri Sri Chandi in short gave Kali worship a new meaning.
When the Devi Chandika battles with different demons, there emanates from Her forehead the awesome and ferocious Kali. As Her origin is associated with the third eye, called ajna chakra in the yogic parlance, She represents the intellectual and intuitive faculties. Kali seeks out and destroys the little lower self (which is ruled by rajas and tamas) so that it will obtain progressively higher levels of knowledge. This chakra denotes the silence of a soundless state when the true knowledge dawns.
The worship of the Divine Mother Sri Sri Kali at Belur Math on 13 November 2012, will be LIVE webcast at http://www.belurmath.tv
Lamp of knowledge
This festival gives us, Hindus, an opportunity to go beyond the external extravaganza. It offers an opportunity to dive deep into one’s heart and search for all types of demoniac qualities residing inside. Thus, the need is felt to clear the darkness from the heart. To drive away the darkness we have to light the lamp thus let the Light of knowledge in.
Sri Krishna encountered the demon Narakasura, who before his death entreated the Lord to celebrate with lighting of diya and burning firecrackers. We all do the latter part but do not pay attention in removing the darkness. As Swami Vivekananda says, darkness in a sealed room over one thousand years will instantly vanish the moment a matchstick is lighted. Knowledge of God is light. When a lamp is lit on Diwali, just pray to your chosen ideal that the darkness of ignorance be removed from your heart.
Destroying the darkness
It is in the Gita that ultimately the philosophy of Diwali emerges. In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna says that out of compassion for the devotees, He, residing within their hearts, certainly destroys the darkness born of ignorance with the radiant lamp of knowledge. (Ch X.11). In The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, we find Master singing melodiously this song:
“Light up O Mind! Light up! True wisdom’s shining lamp and let it burn with steady flame unceasingly in your heart”
Hence, while celebrating Diwali, let us pray to the Divinity (in whatever form one may believe in) to bestow the right knowledge by which we can lead a peaceful and prosperous life with service to the poor and needy.
It is my fervent prayer that each one of us be blessed with such noble and divine qualities! May the light of the lamp burn brightly in our hearts on this holy occasion of Diwali !
असतो मा सद्गमय | तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय | मृत्योर् मा अमृतं गमय | ॐ शांति: शांति: शांति: || Om asato ma sat gamaya | Tamaso ma jotir gamaya | Mrityor ma amritam gamaya | Om shanti shanti shantihi ||
I have the honour to receive host of mails from devotees of different parts of the world enquiring how Sri Krishna Janmashtami celebrations were conducted by our Centre in South Africa. Thanks for their well-meant curiosity. I do take delight in expressing in detail an account on the Sri Krishnashtami celebrations here at our headquarters in Durban. There were Satsangs every evening from the first day to the last ashtami day i.e . for all eight days! Satsang here has a definite pattern.
Themes for Talks
First four days I had vocal rest, as, a week back I had a bad laryngitis. On fifth day morning I addressed Senior Citizens at our Phoenix sub-centre. The point of my address was that the idols or pictures are not to be viewed as mere stones or paper but as a manifestation of the One, supreme Divinity. In the evening I reached Verulam where in the Gopallaala temple I met devotees and spoke on Sri Krishna’s mercy. On the sixth day I had to travel to Stanger, a one-hour distance in the severe cold. There also the Gracious God was the theme. On the seventh day at our HQ Sri Ramakrishna Temple hall, I spoke on Sri Krishna and the Black Cobra. It was the story of poisonous Kaliya and how Sri Krishna tamed it and the spiritual import of this charming story.
On the eighth day, which was the last auspicious ashtami evening, my theme for the discussion was the Divine birth of the Unborn. We had two sessions. In the first session the theory of Incarnation was dealt with. And in the second session the secret of the Unborn Supreme God appearing as baby Krishna to Devaki and Vasudeva was explained.
Brother Saradaprabhananda this year went to Chatsworth branch and gave discourses there for all eight days on the significance of the Fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. The first six evening Satsangs at HQ were addressed by our Youth members. I was witness to their speeches. On hearing them speak with confidence, I joined others in the audience in appreciating them for the research they had done on different themes and how they, in simple form, placed the ideas before the public.
Every evening of the Krishnashtami celebration, Satsang attracted a large number of devotees. There were lot of bhajans and kirtans till the end of the program. Selected passages from Srimad Bhagavad Gita were sung to the traditional tunes every evening satsang. The temple was beautifully decorated. The yugal murti Sri Radha-Krishna bedecked with finery and ornaments dazzled every one. At the stroke of midnight 12, the baby Krishna in a beautiful cradle was brought out to the audience. Finally with arati to Sri Radha-Krishna and offering of flower and rocking the cradle by every assembled devotee the solemn program came to an end with distribution of prasad.
The devotion of the devotees is worth noting; what a verve and vigour in singing bhajans! And faith and fervour in performing worship! And the day-long fasting and sitting in the temple for such long hours – absolutely maintaining utmost discipline – no chitchat, no gossip and all are tuned to the discourse and songs.