At New Jersey…

Visit to New Jersey – 1
Swami Vimokshananda arrived at Philadelphia from Dublin on 29th Oct 2019. It was late evening. The host Ranjan Das of Moorestown who is the President of the New Jersey Vedanta Centre (NJVC) received him at the airport.


Next day on 30th Oct, a Ramakrishna Puja was performed at his home with a few close devotees joining in. The devotees met the Swami and had some discussions on spiritual life.
In the evening, the Swami was taken to the New Jersey Hindu Temple where the NJVC organised a public meeting. The Swami spoke on the difference between murti and vigraha and explained how the vigrahas become a living being and how they interact with the earnest devotees. It was followed by a Q & A session that saw interesting questions coming up from the audience.

For more photos connected to this event please click this link.

Visit to New Jersey – 2
On Thursday 31st October 2019, Swami Vimokshananda participated in a Satya Sai Baba Satsang. This was held at Moorestown, New Jersey at the home of Sri Ranjit Das. The altar was decorated with pictures of Sri Ramakrishna, Shirdi Sai Baba and Sri Satya Sai Baba.
After the opening prayers, one by one the assembled devotees sang several “namavalis” telling the glory of the Lord’s Holy Name.


At the close of singing, an Arati was performed. Swami Vimokshananda was requested to speak. The Swami expressed his happiness in participating in the Thursday Satsang.
He narrated an unusual story of battle between Lord Sri Ram and His best sevak-das Sri Hanumanji. The interesting story was concluded with the fact that God and God’s name are non-different. The Swami also explained the modus operandi of how the remembering of Name would lead to the feeling of His Presence quoting profusely from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.
The devotees partook of a sumptuous supper arranged by the hosts.
Earlier in the morning hours the Swami gave spiritual counselling to earnest seekers.

For more photos connected to this event, please click this link.

Holy Mother as a Guru

Heart is conceived as lotus in Meditation. This lovely lotus picture taken in China received on Guru Purnima courtesy: RH
Heart is conceived as lotus in Meditation. This lovely lotus picture taken in China received on Guru Purnima courtesy: RH

Sri Guru Purnima was celebrated on 19 July 2016 at the Singapore Ramakrishna Mission. A special Puja for Sri Ramakrishna was done and a Talk on “Holy Mother as a Guru’ was delivered by Swami Vimokshananda, President of Singapore Mission. In his Talk, the Swami narrated three incidents from the Life of Holy Mother namely how the devotees like Surendranath Sen, Premananda Dasgupta and a porter at Vishnupur railway station received diksha from the Mother. He elaborated the idea of Guru Shakti and how it lives on for the benefits of the disciples. One can listen to the Talk here. Bhajans and chanting on Gurus and Sri Ramakrishna were sung. All the participants offered pushpanjali and they had supper prasad. More than 250 people joined the celebration.

Here is a slideshow of the event.

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Ram Ram !

Bhagawan Shri Rama and Mother Sita flanked by brothers, rishis and devatas...Courtesy: Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, the Tamil monthly magazine from Chennai Ramkrishna Math
Bhagawan Shri Rama and Mother Sita flanked by brothers, rishis and devatas…Courtesy: Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam, the Tamil monthly magazine from Chennai Ramakrishna Math

Ram Ram!” is a religious way of greeting one another generally among the Hindus in all the Hindi-speaking areas in India.  I noticed this when I was living in Kanpur and also while travelling in many places of North India. In this country too, our South African devotees have a way of greeting one another with “Aum Namo Narayanaya!“.

Taking the name of the Lord at the start of every aspect of our activity is indeed a spiritual method well recognised and advocated by our sages and saints. We, as devotees, in spite of our good intentions tend to forget His name. It is in this context that we are advised to utilise the naama as a tool to further our quality of spiritual life. Some reflections here!

On this auspicious Shri Rama Navami period beginning from 31st March to 8th April, my hearty greetings to every one of you : ‘Ram Ram!

Verve and vigour

Yesterday the Rama Navami parv began with all solemnity at the ashram and its branches. The celebration generally continues from the first day that is this year from 31st March and completes on 8th April on the holy navami tithi.

Satsangs here have a definite pattern. Every evening a large number of devotees attend who sing bhajans and kirtans. Selected passages from Sri Ramcharitamanas are recited every day. The temple altar stands decorated beautifully. 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 discourses and songs.

Tale of Two letters!

In my first-day discourse at the Glen Anil temple the point that such a short two-syllable name ‘Raa Ma‘ has in due course of time acquired a powerful connotation came up for discussion. Speaking on the subject “Ramayana – the Scripture Par excellence”, I explained how the famous saint Tyagaraja has remarkably pointed out the significance of the name “Rama“.

Saint Tyagaraja's love of Lord Rama
Saint Tyagaraja’s love of Lord Rama

In one of his divine songs he says that :

shiva mantramunaku ma-jivamu ; maadhava mantramunaku ra-jivamu

Ma” is the very life of the Shiva mantra,”Ra” is the very life of Vishnu mantra. The Shiva mantra refers to the famous one called panchaakshari (five-lettered) mantra : Aum namasshivaaya. The Vishnu mantra refers to ashtaakshari (eight-lettered) mantra : Aum namo narayanaya. If we think deeply it will be clear that without these two syllables the two respective mantras loose all meaning.

Take out “Ma” – the mantra will read now na shivaaya – nothing auspicious! Take out “Ra” – the mantra will read na ayanaaya – no royal road!

Hence these two syllables “Ra” and “Ma” become the life force of these mantras. They are called beeja (seed) and hence by constantly repeating any of these holy mantras, the beeja would one day start sprouting, which means to say that the significance of the mantra would become clear like daylight. The word ‘Rama‘ therefore represents the power of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu together! Saint Tyagaraja takes delight in telling us that he would salute those great men who understand this detail !

Less is equal to more!

There is another way of looking at the glory of the name Rama. The single word is equal to one thousand names of Lord Vishnu!

Lord Shiva tells Parvati :

Sri Raama Raama Raameti, Rame Raame Manorame |
Sahasranaama tattulyam, Raama Naama Varaanane ||

This verse is explained thus:

“O Varaanana (lovely-faced woman), I chant the holy name of Rama, Rama, Rama and thus constantly enjoy this beautiful sound. This holy name of Ramachandra is equal to one thousand holy names of Lord Vishnu.”

Worthy name without love?

Sri Ramakrishna advises that the name of the Lord is no doubt highly proficient capable of providing Divine realisation. But Master asks, “is it sufficient without Love?”. Master continues, “the soul must hunger for God. What will it avail if I repeat His ‘name’ while I allow my mind to be attached to ‘woman and gold’? Mere muttering of magic incantations will not heal up a scorpion-sting. You must also apply the smoke of burning cow-dung.”

|| Aum Shri Ramakrishnarpanamastu ||

Why Ganesha ‘Lord of Obstacles’?

||Om hreem Vighneshwaraaya namaha||

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.

Ganesha at the temple altar of Ramakrishna Centre of SA, Durban

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!

Lord Ganesha, ever the son, with His brother and parents

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.

Lord Ganesha
Image by Swami Stream via Flickr

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!

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