Women’s Day programme
A Review by Inderani Basdeo
With 9th August being National Women’s Day in South Africa, the Ramakrishna Centre held a special programme for women at the Glen Anil Ashram. Despite the damp weather, approximately 100 ladies enthusiastically attended the programme, which specifically catered for the needs of women.
The programme commenced with prayer and the melodious recital in chorus of the Sri Ramakrishna Ashtakam, Sri Sri Sarada Devi Stotram and a hymn to Swami Vivekananda set the tone for the day. This was followed by reading from the Gospel of Sri Sarada Devi done by Arathie Singh .
The three Talks presented rejuvenated the spirits of the ladies and inspired them to strive to greater heights for themselves and their families.
To evaluate how much Motherliness is manifested
Revered Swami Vimokshananda, the Spiritual Head of the Centre, in a most methodical, yet elegant manner pointed out that a Mother is not only she who has biological children but anyone who displays the qualities of a mother. This would include young girls and even fathers and unwed men too as the qualities of caring and loving are not exclusively for women. This occasion, he added gave an opportunity to evaluate introspectively how much motherliness could be manifested in one’s life.
Revered Maharaj also explained that the vibrations created by the word “ma” play a significant role as opposed to “aunty” in kindling the caring, loving and nurturing qualities of a mother. It is therefore essential that these qualities are instilled and nurtured from childhood and a very effective means of doing so is by addressing every female (from the moment they are born) as “ma”!
The Practice of japa an essential element
Sister Avintha of the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram lovingly addressed the ladies on the topic, “Japa – The Repetition of Holy Name according to Sri Sarada Devi”. She highlighted the importance of practicing Japa, and effectively pointed out that “lack of time” should not be an excuse for not practicing Japa as there is no restriction of time and place for the practice of Japa. She showed us how to give practical application of Holy Mother’s message of doing our duties but keep our minds on God by pointing out that one can easily repeat God’s name whilst engaged in daily activities such as cooking, attending to household chores, traveling or even lying down.
Dangers of “burn out”
Mrs Shireen Dhunraj pointed out the realistic challenges faced by working women and highlighted the importance of having coping skills. She warned of the dangers of “burn out” and stressed the need to maintain a balance in life. She advised that to this end, spiritual practices such as Japa and meditation and attending satsang and keeping holy company, play a significant role.
A DVD on Jayrambati – the birth place of Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi, was aired. It was an excellent documentary that immediately transported everyone to Jayrambati through the beautiful narration, music and visuals of Mother’s actual homes, the ponds, rivers and pilgrims.
Ask thy shall be given
From the question and answer session it was evident that the ladies were deeply inspired and motivated to implement all that they had learnt. Apart from Swami Vimokshananda, Mrs Sita Gangay, Mrs Shireen Dhunraj and Sister Avintha also answered some questions. The programme ended with closing prayers and followed by prasad in the form of lunch to all.
Devotees of the Ramakrishna Centre found a spiritually enjoying way of the Christmas holiday by participating in the ‘Vedanta Retreat’. It was held on Thursday, 25 December 2008 (6 a.m. – 6 p.m.) at the Centre, Glen Anil.
The program for the day started in a serene atmosphere with satsang, which included the chanting of hymns, singing of bhajans and kirtans like pranam mantras, Sri Ramakrishna Jaya Ashtakam, prakritim paramam, murta maheshvaram and bhajan on Disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, song on Lord Ganesha and bhajan on the Divine Mother, reading from the ‘Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’ and chanting of Vedic shanti mantram.
Thereafter, all the participants of the Retreat moved over to the spacious Nischalananda Hall. A seminar was conducted on the Bhagavad Gita on the following topics when each speaker presented his/her theme with a captivating slide show presentation.
1. Divine Manifestations (Chapter 10) by Miss Jyothi Bhana.
2. Moral Code for Hindus (Chapter 16) by Prof. V B Jogessar.
3. Surrendering to God – Sri Krishna’s Final Message (Chapter 18) by Mr Bhavanesh Parbhoo.
This was followed by a discourse on: “First and Second Verses of the Isha Upanisad” by Sri Swami Vimokshananda. While explaning what the first two verses imply, the Swami first focussed on the Invocation mantra “purnamadah purnamidam”. He went on then to narrate the significance of the three aspects in each verse namely, permeation of everything by God, enjoyment by renunciation, not coveting others’ wealth in the first verse and living a long life, doing work unabated, keeping the attitude of non-attachment in the second verse.
A DVD presentation thereafter on Ganges was enjoyed by all. After a short break the devotees assembled in the Temple where Sri Hanuman Chalisa was recited in chorus. Devotees enthusiastically participated in the Guided Meditation, conducted by Swami Vimokshananda . At the end of Meditation, shanti invocations were chanted.
After Lunch prasad at Dining Hall a devotional concert by Mrs Swati Kulkarni (Vocalist) from India was heard attentively by the devotees. She was accompanied by two artistes namely Sam Rugbeer on Harmonium and Manesh Maharaj on Keyboard. Tabla support was provided by Ravi Rugbeer. Swati’s daughter Neha also sang and supported her mother. This was followed by a Talk: “The Holy Mother as an Example for Householders” by Pravrajika Ishtaprana of Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville. She used the slide show presentation deftly in order to bring home the simple but significant ideas of the Holy Mother, that can be practised in day to day life by anyone.
After a short break for Tea, devotees were asked to do the Likhit Japa. Question/Answer session was conducted by Dr H Parbhoo when Sri Swami Vimokshananda gave the answers.
All devotees once again assembled in the Temple Hall for the final session. It had the usual Silent Meditation, Arati, Evening Hymns, Bhajans and Concluding Prayers. Supper was served to all in the Dining Hall. This Retreat was restricted to 300 devotees.