Tag: Newcastle

Greetings on Ganesh chaturthi!

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Newcastle Swamiji 150 Invite

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Swami from Sri Lanka


Welcome to South Africa!

His Holiness Sri Swami Sarvarupanandaji Maharaj, the Head of our  Sri Lanka Ramakrishna Mission arrived in Durban today. He was visibly joyful in paying a 10 day visit to this Rainbow nation where in many places he will participate in the 156th Birth Anniversary celebrations of Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi. He was warmly welcomed at the airport by Swamis Brahmarupanandaji, Saradaprabhanandaji, self and Chairperson Ramesh Ishwarlaal with some senior officials of the Centre. I cannot but remember Revered Sarvarupanandaji’s amiable nature when he was part of a team of monks who came to Seva Pratishthan to assist the Administrator-monks during service dislocation for a short period. He could carry every one with him by his jovial and pleasant behaviour.

Swami Sarvarupanandaji

Early days

Revered Maharaj started as a volunteer in the Salem Ashram in 1962. He formally joined the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1969 and was initiated into spiritual life by Srimat Swami Vireswaranandaji – the 10th President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission and also was ordained a monk of the Ramakrishna Order in 1979.

Stint of service

He has served extensively in many of the Ramakrishna Branches starting at the Salem Ashram from 1969 to 1982, at the Singapore Ashram from 1983 to 1991 and a short period at the Sevaprathistan Hospital. From 1991 to 1998 he served at the Madurai Math, and 1998 to 2004 at the Coimbatore Vidyalaya.

In 2004 he was appointed the President of the Ooty Math where he served till 2006. In 2006 he was appointed the Head of the Ramakrishna Mission in Colombo, and continues to serve in this capacity currently.

Colombo Centre

The Colombo Centre is engaged in a number of ongoing spiritual and welfare  programmes to assist the communities of Sri Lanka. These include: spiritual discourses and retreats, medical services, poverty relief, education for youth and personality development, Sunday School for religious education where nearly a 1000 children attend weekly. Of special significance is the work done at times of natural disasters, the most recent being the Tsunami – when  1000’s of families were affected. The Mission adopted a village and built 116 two storey houses to rehabilitate those affected. The Mission is also currently engaged in assisting Internally Displaced People due to the civil war in Sri Lanka. More than 46,000 people are being fed and provided assistance every month.

His public program in South Africa would be as below.

DATE PROGRAMME
Saturday,12 December Birth Anniversary Celebration of Sri Sarada Devi
Topic : “Life & Teachings of Holy Mother”
Time : 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Venue : Ramakrishna Centre, Headquarters, 8 Montreal Road, Glen Anil
Sunday,13 December Conference on “Parenting – A Hindu Perspective”(Hosted by the Sri Sarada Devi Ashram)
Time : 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Venue  : University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville Campus
Monday,14 December Programme at Phoenix Sub-Centre
Topic : “Life & Teachings of Holy Mother”
Time : 6:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Venue : Ramakrishna Centre, 17 Foresthaven Drive, Phoenix
Tuesday,15 December Programme at Gauteng Sub-Centre
Topic : “Life & Teachings of Holy Mother”
Time : 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Venue  : Eagle Canyon Golf Estate, Club House, Blueberry Street, Honeydew, Johannesburg
Wednesday,16 December Programme at Newcastle Sub-Centre(for all Northern KZN Sub-Centres/ Satsang groups)
Topic : “Life & Teachings of Holy Mother”
Time : 4:00 – 6.00 p.m.
Venue : Ramakrishna Centre, cnr of Centre & Green Streets, Newcastle
Thursday,17 December Programme at Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple
Topic   : “The Glory of Divine Mother”
Time : 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Venue : 7 Maharaj Street, Gandhi’s Hill, Tongaat
Friday,18 December Programme at Chatsworth Sub-Centre
Topic : “Life & Teachings of Holy Mother”
Time : 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Venue : Ramakrishna Centre, 26 Moorcross Drive, Moorton, Chatsworth
Saturday,19 December Programme at Ramakrishna Centre, Headquarters
Topic : “Life & Teachings of Holy Mother”
Time : 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Venue : Ramakrishna Centre, Headquarters, 8 Montreal Road, Glen Anil
Sunday,20 December Vedanta Retreat
Topic   : “Vedanta in Everyday Life”
Time : 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Venue : Ramakrishna Centre, Headquarters, 8 Montreal Road, Glen Anil

(Registration for the above programme is essential.

Never to forget Nischalananda

Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji
Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji

Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji was the Founder of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa. Every year, during his birthday weekend some program or other is arranged in various ways. This year, on the 84th birth anniversary, our Centre held a Seminar on Religious Education.

Following erudite Papers were presented to the delight of all the listeners accompanied by captivating slide-shows.
1. Identifying a Curriculum for Hindu Religious Education by Ms S Naidoo from Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville
2. The Role of Sunday School Teachers in Promoting Hindu Religious Education by Dr N Balkaran from Ladysmith
3. The Role of Parents in Home-based Religious Education by Mrs R Singh from Newcastle
4. Using Distance Education and the Electronic Media to Promote Hindu Religious Education by Mr V Mohanlal from Headquarters

Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji in a lonely moment
Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji in a lonely moment

While inaugurating the Seminar, I drew the attention of all to the wonderful early spade-work done by Swami Nischalanandaji in introducing variety of ways in keeping up the heritage of religious ideas among the Hindus who due to the prevailing political conditions in those days, could not maintain their cultural contact with Mother India.

He had several disciples. I met a few who are pretty old now. The name of Mother Henny (sweetly called Henny Maa), now 87, spending quite days in Asherville Sri Sarada Devi Ashram is not unknown to many devotees of the Ramakrishna Centre in South Africa.

Henny Maa
Henny Maa

Her original name was Henny Maria Thekla Schimmel, was born at Leipzig in East Germany. She arrived in South Africa in 1950. She was 28 years old then. In 1956, a friend introduced her to the local branch of the Ramakrishna Centre in Johannesburg. A doctor of homeopathy – Dr Mckippen, ran the branch. She visited the branch every Thursday. In 1956 (after a few months of attending satsangs) she was informed that the leader of the Ramakrishna Centre was arriving in Johannesburg from Durban.

Meeting Gurudev

It was a Thursday towards the end of 1956 that Henny first saw Gurudev.

“We were singing, when I felt a gust of wind brush past me. I turned my head and saw the feet of Gurudev. At that very moment, I thought to myself these are the feet of Christ – the anointed one. I was not myself after that. I was transported to a higher plane of consciousness. All my life I was looking for something. On seeing these divine feet, I knew that it was Gurudev I was waiting for. At last, I had found him.”

She continued to say in a choked voice,

“Gurudev informed me that he was going to India. I asked him to give me initiation before he left. I was initiated on the 6th of February 1957.”

Henny Maa could relate to us some of her memorable experiences vis-a-vis Swami Nischalanandaji. I give below two of them as narrated by her. One was on Yoga Camp and the other was Dance of Shiva.

Yoga Camp
“I was looking forward to going to the yoga camp when I got very ill with double pneumonia. Gurudev phoned me. Disappointedly I informed him that I could not make it to the camp. He said to me, “You will come. Phone me after midnight.”

I called him after midnight and felt better soon after. Needless to say, I attended the yoga camp. It was relayed to me later that Gurudev got seriously ill after my telephone conversation with him. He had taken over my illness.

Dance of Shiva
At one of the camps, Gurudev had dressed as Nataraja the cosmic dancer. He danced using classical intricate steps, with no formal training or knowledge of knowing how to dance. The devotees were moved by this experience. Some cried and some laughed each having a different experience. A trained dancer wrote down the movements and informed Gurudev that the intricate steps he performed could only be done by the rishis.
He was a saint of this century. Not many people knew of the power behind his deep spirituality. His sannyasa Guru, Swami Purushottamananda knew about the positive influence that Gurudev would have in South Africa.
I am truly blessed to have been associated with Gurudev.

Navaratri – I

First Five days

My Vijaya greetings to all of you! Trust by the grace of Divine Mother, the Durga Puja or Navaratri at your place, as usual, would have been a spiritually stimulating and enjoyable experience.

Mother Durga at Asherville Sarada Devi Ashram
Mother Durga at Asherville Sarada Devi Ashram

Here of course, Mother made me travel (felt blessed) all the centres in Northern Natal. I left HQ on the very first evening of Navaratri for Talks at Asherville where Sri Sarada Devi Ashram is situated. The vibrant atmosphere there enlivened my Talks on Durga and Her manifold Names.

Next day I reached Newcastle for the noon lunch. The Navaratri second night was spent there. The program there included Puja, bhajans and my Talks. ‘Mahakali – Her Aspects’ was my pet theme that I dwelt upon. After supper, the devotees of Newcastle sat with me when we had lively discussion on religious life. Next day individual appointments were granted to devotees from morning 8 to 11.

Mother Sarada at our Newcastle Centre
Mother Sarada at our Newcastle Centre

My third night stay was at Dundee. The program at the Dundee shrine which is indeed so beautiful was in the set pattern including my Talks. Here I took up the subject of ‘Grace of Kali’. Next day again from morning 8 to 11 devotees of Dundee met me in groups and we had lively discussion on interesting subjects. Albeit tucked away from the mainstream land, living as if in a seclusion, the devotees of Holy Trio have undeniably kept up the spirit of love and service. The keen interest that the growing children of Dundee devotees took during discussions eminently suggested to me that they are really ‘thirsty’ for the right kind of knowledge about Hinduism.

Mother Durga at Dundee Centre
Mother Durga at Dundee Centre

I reached Glencoe by noon. My thinking that I would have a quiet lunch was taken a back seat when I found that old devoted lady had invited almost all the devotees of Glencoe! The evening program was held at the only Hindu Temple wherein a big cut-out of Devi Amba was kept in front of the presiding five deities – Ganesha, Shiva, Murugan, Vishnu, Ram. Here also the usual satsang pattern was adopted that included my Talks on ‘Three Functions of Energy’.

Mother Durga at Glencoe
Mother Durga at Glencoe

The children and devotees of Glencoe were always fascinating to me as their faces would instantly light up with devotion unbelievably. The post supper discussion went on and on till we realised that the time was fifteen minutes to one in the night and I rose for the rest! Next day from morning 8 to 11 the devotees and their children from Glencoe as well as Dundee assembled. The discussion continued till I got ready for departure for Ladysmith. They saw me off; and the parting was indeed so heart-rending especially when the children could not contain their tears!

Shrine of Ladysmith Centre
Shrine of Ladysmith Centre

Reached Ladysmith for the lunch. Selected devotees were there who all joined me in the sumptuous lunch that was served lovingly to all of us. Post-afternoon rest, I was taken to Ladysmith Centre where a strikingly enchanting shrine is there. Here also the usual pattern of satsang was followed with my Talks juxtaposed in between the items of program on the fifth night. ‘Mother’s Protection’ was the theme I chose to deal with. About 250 devotees who attended were served with supper in the nearby Civic Hall. Next day morning I went to the Centre where the Sunday School for children was in progress. I met all the different class students from kids level to adult level. I felt satisfied in witnessing the loving efforts put up by the voluntary teachers in imparting the cherished Hindu values through study of religious books.

Continued…

Memorable visit – Last Six days

Swami Smarananandaji with Swami Saradanandaji at Newcastle in deep discussion

Sri Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj, one of the Vice-Presidents of the world-wide Ramakrishna Order completed his South African tour on 4th June, 2008. He and his Secretary Swami Jnanavratanandaji left Durban on 5th June morning by a homeward bound SA flight to Mumbai and onto Kolkata. Here is a short Report on his memorable visit – the Last Six days (30th May to 4th June) in South Africa. The holy visit brought about a remarkable enthusiasm among the Ramakrishna devotees and Hindus in general. The spiritual atmosphere was palpable wherever he went. Many sincere spiritual seekers got his invaluable guidance. 

Swami Smarananandaji with his Secretary Swami Jnanavratanandaji and Swami Saradanandaji of Ramakrishna Centre of South AfricaThe morning of 30th May saw the departure for Northern Natal centres. The team – consisting Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj accompanied by Swami Jnanavratanandaji, Swami Saradanandaji, Dr H B Parbhoo, Dr Seebaran and Bhavanesh – arrived at Newcastle by 1 pm. In the evening a special Satsang was arranged in the Centre’s Shrine where to the packed hall, Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj spoke on ‘Peace in Daily Life’. Next day morning after breakfast, the team drove to Ladysmith where the poor children of Ramakrishna Quedisisi Crèche, situated in the Black Settlement Area warmly greeted Revered Maharaj. He distributed packets of breads, biscuits, cakes and juices along with writing materials among the children.

Swami Smarananandaji giving breads etc to the Black children of Ramakrishna Quedisisi CrecheAt 11 am he reached a School premises where more than 500 indigent Black/Indian people gathered. He gave away the hampers and also spoke a few words of consolation first in English and then for a few minutes spoke, to the delight of the aged people assembled there in Tamil and Hindi. In the evening, he visited the Ladysmith Sub-centre and prostrated at the beautiful shrine before the Holy Trio. He met devotees and also the newly initiated disciples and gave them spiritual guidance.

On 1st June, a public Reception Programme had been arranged by the Ladysmith Sub-centre in the famous 115-year old stately Town Hall where Revered Maharaj spoke on ‘Contemplation in Active Life’. The centre’s children-devotees presented an interesting folk dance item.

Swami Smarananandaji at sunrise in DrakensburgIn the evening, he with Jnanavratanandaji left Ladysmith and reached Ramesh Ishwarlaal’s Retreat Home at Drakensberg. The assembled devotees had meditation and Readings from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. 2nd June was spent on discussion on Upanishads, Conversations of Holy Mother and Meditation. In the day time Revered Maharaj and the devotee team went to see the Bird Show in Drakensberg where the well-trained birds like vultures, falcons, owls and also dogs performed to the delight of tourists.Swami Smarananandaji conducting a Retreat in Ladysmith

On 3rd June, Revered Maharaj and the team while returning stopped for an hour at Pietermaritzburg Sub centre. In this beautiful shrine Revered Maharaj was received with arati and traditional welcome with garlands. While speaking to the devotees there he paid homage to Swamis Nischalanandaji and Shivapadanandaji for their endless efforts in spreading ‘Ramakrishna thoughts’ among the public. He added that Ramakrishna has become a ‘permanent citizen’ of this country.

Reaching Durban back at the headquarters centre, he went to Sri Sarada Devi Ashram located at Asherville in the evening. He was accorded a warm reception by Pravrajika Ishtaprana and other nuns and women devotees. He spoke in the beautiful shrine on ‘Katha Upanishad’ underlying the prominent ideas chapter-wise.

There was no outing on the 4th June which was the last day in his itinery. The day of course saw numerous devotees having darshan as well as receiving spiritual guidance from the Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj. His visit will ever remain etched strong in our memories as it gave enormous opportunity for all of us to see, walk and laugh too, besides drawing inspiration in our onward spiritual journey.