Tag: mantra

Shiva and Seva

Shivaratri
Courtesy: Dr S Adhinarayanan, India

Happy Maha Shivaratri Greetings to all !

Maha  Shivaratri is a momentous occasion for most of the Hindus in South Africa. It favours a deep fervour to their religious feelings in as much as for long twelve hours in each phase of day and night, devotees not only keep vigil in the night but also follow fasting to ritualistic performances.

Lord Shiva at Ramakrishna Temple HQ
Lord Shiva at Ramakrishna Temple HQ

Our Ramakrishna Centre observes Maha Shivaratri from 6 pm to next 6 am. The period is divided into four sessions of three hours each. And each session has puja, pouring of milk, curd, ghee, honey in respective four sessions, pasting of chandan, offering of vilva leaves, garlanding of flowers etc, arati, discourses, a combination of bhajan and kirtan. After attending initial puja at HQ, I spent my first session at Phoenix sub-centre where more than 400 devotees had assembled.  A large number of devotees had to be accommodated in the adjoining covered space where CCTV had been installed for that occasion. The topic of my Talk was ‘Shiva-shakti’. The second session was at HQ where the theme of my Talk was on Maheshwara and the Monk, comparing the salient features between Lord Shiva and Swami Vivekananda.

Discourse on 'Shiva Panchakshara Stotram'
Discourse on 'Shiva Panchakshara Stotram' at Chatsworth Subcentre

Third session was at our Chatsworth sub-centre where I took up the panchakshara mantra (Five-letter mantra) of Shiva, “Om namah shivaaya” for discussion. This was based on the stotram composed by the great Adishankaracharya. And in the fourth session I was at Asherville Sri Sarada Devi Ashram where I spoke about Master and Shiva. Back at HQ at 5 am and witnessed the havan ceremony where devotees performed the yajna.

Offering holy Vilva leaves to Shivalinga at Sri Sarada Devi Ashram
Offering holy Vilva leaves to Shivalinga at Sri Sarada Devi Ashram

Devotee Pravesh took me by his car to all these places hopping from one to another in quick succession so that everywhere I was present timously.  And the day being spent on fasting and thinking of Lord Shiva, the night spent again in speaking about Him and His glory. Indeed a very soul-fulfilling experience!

Swami Vivekananda’s famous address at the pilgrim town Rameshwaram came to my mind when on this Maha Shivaratri holy night I started recollecting my memorable experience in one of the jyotirlinga spots. In that Address, Swamiji clearly spells out the intimate connection of Seva (service) to Shiva.

Swami Vivekananda

 This is the gist of all worship — to be pure and to do good to others. He who sees Shiva in the poor, in the weak, and in the diseased, really worships Shiva; and if he sees Shiva only in the image, his worship is but preliminary. He who has served and helped one poor man seeing Shiva in him, without thinking of his caste, or creed, or race, or anything, with him Shiva is more pleased than with the man who sees Him only in temples.

Let me narrate how a poor woman in one place of pilgrimage, illiterate yet knew what is real worship of Shiva. 

When I went for darshan of the famous jyotirlinga at Bhimashankar in Maharashtra state some years ago, from the bus I could see the distant black clouds hovering the hills. Walking from the bus stand to the temple through the small vendors’ shops and watching the selling of all and sundry items of worship and interest to pilgrims was, as enchanting as drenching in the drizzle.

It was noon by the time I reached the holy temple. After darshan, when I was sitting at the entrance in utter quietness, I saw a lady coming towards me. She briskly asked me, “baba, have you had your meal?” I replied in the negative. Undoubtedly I was indeed hungry but had no inclination to go to the roadside eateries. She then asked me to accompany her to her home which, as she showed, was up in the hills. I was, obviously hesitant – should I go or not? Was it proper to go with an unknown woman? and what dangers might be lurking? – as is known well that the places of pilgrimage do have the usual human perils too.

Yet, finally I decided to go as I felt Master is with me and was confident that no evil shall befall. Reaching her home, in that biting cold and amidst the rains, I found her child playing with her little brother. It was easy for me to establish rapport with those children. Within half an hour the lady served me hot rotis with alu sabji. Did I feel it was nectar like? Yes, the love and affection that beamed in her face while feeding me cannot be forgotten.

After food, she raised some questions about some puranic tales. My answers seemed to be satisfying to her. In my narration, I drew some of the similes spoken by Sri Ramakrishna to her attention and she ran inside her kitchen and brought a small photo of Thakur with great joy! I felt that Master only brought me to her home as He knows where to feed His son! 

And taking leave of her and thanking profusely for her cordial, hearty hospitality, I offered a few Rupees that I had. The unlettered village woman’s face turned sour and she quipped angrily whether I am paying the charges for the meal that she supplied. She scolded me saying, was it not that she served me thinking that Lord Shiva had come to her home as atithi (honoured guest)?  It was quite difficult to convince her of the necessity to have that amount. Finally when I said that she should spend the money on her children’s dress for the ensuing Diwali, she hesitantly relented.

Poor indeed but with what a rich heart;  ever ready to serve a sadhu signifying that Rural India is such that it cannot see a monk in ochre robe go unfed.  India is not a punya bhumi (blessed land) merely on poetical terms…

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Economic ill – Any Vedantic pill?

Swami Sunirmalananda
Swami Sunirmalananda

Swami Sunirmalananda has given some serious thoughts to the recent economic recession that had devastating effects in many parts of the world. Is there any vedantic angle to this plaguing ill? Can we at least prevent such maladies? As a student of Vivekananda literature, he delves deeply into the subject and has brought forth truth nuggets that when as an applied science may rejuvenate the entire world.

This blog carried another link to his essay on Sri Ramakrishna and Santa Claus recently.

Please read full article by clicking the below link. This was supplied by Dr Hiru Mukherjee of UK and our hearty thanks go to him!

Swami Vivekananda on character
Vivekananda Card courtesy : Dr S Adhinarayanan

Happy Kalpataru day!

Happy New Year and Holy Kalpataru day!

Swami Sunirmalananda, a brother monk of our Order, graduated in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, came to Brazil in 2004. He gives talks, conducts courses, and presently lives in Curitiba.

He has circulated a thought-provoking essay on Sri Ramakrishna and Santa Claus on the eve of Christmas and New Year occasion. I received this through kind Dr Hiru Mukherjee of UK. A must read for all Ramakrishna devotees!

You can view that essay here. 

Open publication

Bharat Churiwala, Mumbai
Kalpataru wishes! Courtesy: Bharat Churiwala, Mumbai

Navaratri – II

Last Five days

Shrine at Pietermaritzburg Centre
Mother Durga at Pietermaritzburg Centre Shrine

Continued from Navaratri – I

On Sunday, the 5th October the car drive took just one hour to Escourt. The MahaGayatri temple, there, was tastefully decorated for the sixth night of Navaratri festival. The devotees of Estcourt included devotees of other Hindu organisations as well like Divine Life Society, Satya Sai Sangh etc . With common prayers the function started that included my sixth night Talks. Here I spoke on ‘Devi and Her Splendour’. The devotees would not let me go after supper as they all sat with me in the adjoining hall where till eleven past interesting discussions took place.

From Estcourt I reached Pietermaritzburg by midnight. How I wished the next day would go off quietly with sufficient rest! But Mother had other plans, it seemed. The almost continuous incoming telephonic or otherwise messages on the sixth October did not allow me to forget my birthday, which I badly wanted. And when the evening came, I was taken to Pietermaritzburg centre. The program on the seventh night pleasantly included, among the set pattern, extra two items of dance on the bharatanatyam style by two school girls who performed exceptionally well. Here being the seventh night of Navaratri which was inter alia the first night of worship of Mother Saraswati, I dwelt upon Mother Sarada as the embodiment and imparter of knowledge.

Next day, by seven in the morning I was back at HQ. At Nischalananda Hall arrangements for Chandi yajna or Durga Hawan have been made in a huge scale. The chanting of entire scripture of Durga Saptashati was done followed by hawan with the mantra – ‘Aum Aim Hrim Klim Chaamundaayai Vichhe’  which was joined by all the assembled devotees. Cooked prasad was distributed thereafter. On the same eighth night, to a packed audience at the Ramakrishna Temple I spoke on the Devi Mahatmyam. Especially the meaning of ‘Aim, Hrim and Klim’ bija mantras. 

Mother Durga at Chatsworth centre
Mother Durga at Chatsworth centre

On the ninth night of Navaratri, Chatsworth centre had my penultimate Talks during which I narrated the three interesting stories and their significance as contained in Sri Sri Chandi.

The morning of the tenth day at HQ started with silent meditation and a short satsang. This was joined by all other centres in around Durban. The Durga images from Asherville, Chatsworth and Pietermaritzburg by the time arrived at the HQ and all the images were carried to sea for immersion. After a brief visarjan puja the images one by one, were immersed which was witnessed by a huge assembly of devotees. While Mother’s clay image floated on the sea waters, the devotees felt Her luminous image remained in their hearts never to leave. In his blessings to all devotees, our Most Revered President Maharaj, Swami Atmasthanandaji quotes an incident from the Life of Swami Vijnanananda, one of the Direct Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna:

 
Shrine in the Ramakrishna Temple at HQ
Mother Durga at HQ Ramakrishna Temple

“Revered Vijnan Maharaj is staying at the Math. Everyday, the priest starts the worship after offering pranam to him. Vijnan Maharaj asks him, ‘What is next?’  The priest describes… On the day of Navami, Maharaj asked, ‘What is there tomorrow?’ The priest replied, ‘After a brief dashopachar puja (worship with ten articles) in the morning, there will be darpan-visarjan (immersion in the mirror). And in the evening there will be immersion of the image.’ Maharaj asked again, ‘Where will you immerse the Mother?’ The priest replied, ‘Why, in the Ganges?’ Maharaj asked again, ‘In the Ganges?’ The priest replied, ‘Yes Maharaj, as is the practice every year.’ He (Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj) said solemnly, ‘Mother is to be immersed in the heart only’. ”
[The Life and Teachings of Swami Vijnanananda, p.32]

And Navaratri concluded in a grand and unforgettable way on the Vijaya dashami night with my Talks centering around Devi Saraswati during the night satsang.

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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