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 ||

Woman as mother

Women’s Day programme

A Review by Inderani Basdeo

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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.

Satsang in progress...
Satsang in progress…

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”!

Sister Avintha speaking on practice of Japa...
Sister Avintha speaking on practice of Japa…

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.

Question-answer session is on...
Question-answer session is on…

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.

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Swaagatam! Suswaagatam!!

DSC_0353 One coast to the Other

It’s indeed a privilege for our Centre to welcome one of our senior monks of the world-wide Ramakrishna Order today. The Saturday evening Satsang tomorrow would aptly provide an opportunity to extend our warm traditional welcome to the visiting Swami. He is most Revered Swami Gautamanandaji maharaj. The occasion is the 150th Birth Anniversary celebration of Swami Vivekananda in this rainbow nation.

He has come on a 9-day visit to South Africa. He is presently one of the Trustees of the Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission and also holds the position of President of Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. In Durban airport this evening he was heartily welcomed by brother Saradaprabhananda, officials and Self. He is accompanied by Swami Atmajnananadaji maharaj who is Secretary to the visiting Swami. They are scheduled to return on the 17th by the afternoon flight to Chennai.

Some bio details

Swami Gautamanandaji joined the Ramakrishna Movement in 1951 and received his early spiritual training under Swami Ranganathanandaji and was ordained as a monk in 1966 by Swami Vireshwaranandaji, the tenth President of the Order.

The Swami worked among the tribal and rural people of Arunachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh for 20 years vigorously promoting value-based education. He served as the General and Executive Member of the Central Board of Secondary Education and the National Council for Educational Research and Training, New Delhi, the two major National bodies of the Government of India.

The Swami also worked in the Mission’s Mumbai, Kolkata, Raipur and Narainpur Centres. He was appointed a Trustee of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission in 1990. In 1995 he took charge of the Ramakrishna Math in Chennai as its Head (Adhyaksha).

The Swami has organised extensive relief operations in India and is an expert in India’s cultural heritage.  He has lectured extensively both in India and abroad in the East and West to spread the universal message of Sri Ramakrishna in the light of Neo-Vedanta. He is proficient in English, Sanskrit, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Bengali. He is highly regarded for his thought-provoking lectures and has also contributed a number of articles to leading journals.

In 2011, Swami Gautamanandaji was authorised to give spiritual initiation to devotees in India. This is his second trip to South Africa at the invitation of the Ramakrishna Centre.

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The 150th Jayanti of Swami Brahmanandaji

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 2.10.59 PMThe 150th jayanti of Swami Brahmanandaji falls this year on the 12th of this month. Since on that date, several of our centres in India and abroad have scheduled a celebration, we felt that it would be beneficial for the devotees to listen to the visiting Swami on the spiritual teachings of Brahmanandaji. It is pertinent to note here that the visiting Swami is a disciple of Swami Yatishwaranandaji. Swami Yatishwaranandaji was a well-known monk for his erudition and higher spiritual living. His pioneering Vedanta work in Europe is still remembered. He was one of the disciples of Swami Brahmanandaji.

Public Lectures

Swami Gautamanandaji would be travelling to our branches that are located in Ladysmith, Phoenix and Johannesburg. He will be also making a visit to Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at Asherville in Durban on Monday, the 11th instant. He will be specially interviewed by Smt Veena Lutchman in the Lotus Radio from 5 to 6 pm on Sunday, 10th instant during the Hindu popular program ‘Bhakti Sangeet’. This will be broadcast all over the country.

His public lectures have indeed interesting topics. A list is given below for your information and dear reader, if you are anywhere near the place of our branch centres, I urge you to attend the programs and do not miss the radio interview too!

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