AHYMSIN Sangha Gathering 2023 – A Global Family Celebration
Published: 5 March 2023 | Written by Divya Gupta
With Guru’s Grace, we were recently blessed with the Lord Ganesha’s blessings who removed all obstacles for all our global family members to finally return home at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) for the AHYMSIN Sangha Gathering from 12-25 February 2023. This was our first biggest event at SRSG since 2016, and it was heartwarming to see everyone once again after such a long gap of many years. As many as 180 people from 22 countries joined the gathering at SRSG this year. Many members of the AHYMSIN Spiritual Committee and AHYMSIN Executive Committee, senior teachers, AHYMSIN centre leaders, and family members from all over the world came home for this joyous occasion. Some members had not been to the ashram for as many as 12 years. It was a beautiful gathering of family that is a celebration rooted in our connection with guru and each other, through our mantras, meditation and our practices.
The whole ashram was decked up with more than 100,000 beautiful and fragrant flowers everywhere to welcome the family. Right from the main entrance, Mandala Office, Mother Mary Temple, Buddha Temple, all the statues and inscriptions within the Main Building, both the Meditation Halls, Initiation Room, Yajnashala, Dining Hall, Ma Tara Temple, Shiva Temple, Shankaracharya Temple were all decorated with long strings of flower garlands. There were many Rangoli and Mandala formations done on the floor of the Main Building with flowers. The ashram looked simply exquisite and heavenly as the flower decorations were only a reminder of our collective longing within us all of the celebration that was to follow.
The fragrance of these flowers reminded us once again of our beloved Swami Veda, not just because he loved flowers, but also of his teachings. His words were ringing in our ears as a reminder of how we are enveloped in the light and beauty of His ashram and His teachings:
There is an ancient passage that says, “That you have to enter into meditation is the proof of your bondage and ignorance.” How do you still that which is already still? How do you illuminate that which is self luminous? Do you pour perfume on jasmine to make it fragrant? Do you raise a candle so that with the light of that candle you may see the sun? With what eyes can you see your own eyes? With what other ocean are you going to fill the ever-full ocean? What sugar could you sprinkle on a honeycomb filled with honey to further sweeten it? Follow the philosophy of fullness, and when you are aware of your own fullness, you feel that there is nothing wanting, nothing missing, and you are ever joyful.
Joyful does not mean “full of joy,~ it means the “joy of fullness~—joy that is fullness. The one who is aware of infinite fullness is aware of infinite joy.This is not a condition produced from outside. A silk or paper flower needs a perfume to make it fragrant. Many people think that meditation is something like sprinkling perfume on our lotuses, as though we have no natural perfume of our own. The essence of our being, the honey of these flowers, is distributed by the buzzing bees of nada, internal sound, throughout every cell of this honeycomb called the body.
The gathering started with Guru Puja on Feb 12 by invoking the blessings of the Guru lineage in presence of Swami Ritavan Bharati (our Ashram Pramukha and Spiritual Guide), Swami Radha Bharati, Swami Tattvananda Bharati, Swami Atma Bodhi Shree, Swami Ameyaananda Bharati, Swami Tripurashakti Bharati, Swami Prayag Giri, and other members of the AHYMSIN Spiritual committee including Shi Hong, Wong Yoong Khiang, Matilde Caro, Sofia Foteina, Pt Ashutosh Sharma, Anna Mezosi, Adhikari Bhoi, and Tinyu Chen.
The Sangha Gathering began with a thought-provoking and inspiring opening address by Swami Ritavan and Shi Hong where they welcomed all the members of the sangha and reaffirmed our beloved Swami Veda’s vision for AHYMSIN and the Sangha. Under their auspices, we re-dedicated ourselves to the meaningful goals of life, and renewed our purpose of this lifetime.
Swami Ritavan gave us “Aapo Deepo Bhava: Be a Light unto Oneself” as our theme for this year’s gathering. The term originates from Buddha’s teachings. In Hindi, it is read as “Aapo Deepo Bhava”; in Pali, it would be “Appo Deepo Bhava”. It is often understood as an instruction from the Guru to the disciple to light his/her own lamp within. However, it may also be seen as a blessing from the Guru to the disciple to be/become the source of that light and thereby become an instrument to spread this light.
We were blessed to have received talks on our theme from Swami Ritavan Bharati. Swami ji also invited senior teachers including Swami Tripurashakti Bharati, Wong Yoong Khiang, Pt Ashutosh Sharma, Pt Priyadharshan (Pierre Lefebvre), John Sellinger, and Rabindra Sahu to share their own understanding and reflections on the theme with the sangha members.
All the participants were divided in smaller groups and special guided meditations were offered by Swami Ritavan Bharati, and other mantra initiators in the Initiation Room. There was also a special guided meditation by Swami Ritavan in the Meditation Hall for all. Swami Radha Bharati had visited the ashram after many years, and we basked in her loving presence and were blessed to have the opportunity of practicing OM Kriya under her guidance. The sangha members also got the opportunity to learn from the many mantra initiators who were present at SRSG as they spoke on “Mantra, meditation and initiation”.
As is the practice in the Ashram, each Thursday (Guruvaara in Hindi – the Day of the Guru) is the day of silence. The silence practice on every Thursday included Akhanda Japa (non-stop recitation of the mantra) in the Meditation Hall and in the Initiation room in the loving and meditative presence of Adhyatma Samiti members. On the first Thursday (16 Feb), we did japa of the Ganesha Gayatri Mantra, while the following week (on 23 Feb), we offered japa of the new Ganesha Mantra. The Akhanda Japa continued from 9 am – 9 pm, as all the participants, and residents kept silence together. This collective silence and japa practice was one of the most special moments of the Sangha Gathering.
As part of the Swami Rama Dhyana Gurukulam, the students are learning ‘Vedic Chanting’ (Ghanpatha Recitation) under the guidance of Rabindra Sahu. This includes learning to properly recite Vedic mantras and stotras in the traditional way of chanting according to the Krishna Yajur Veda. One of the practices that have been undertaken in the Gurukulam this year is learning to chant the Ganapati Prarthana Ghanpatha and the Gayatri Mantra Ghanpatha. The students had been practicing the chantings for many hours each day for a month before the Sangha Gathering began, and offered a special session of chanting during the gathering.
Every day we were blessed to practice with the senior teachers from the many AHYMSIN centres as they each guided the sessions on Joints & Glands exercises, Hatha Yoga and Breathing practices. We also had four sessions of ‘AHYMSIN Family Connections’, where all the regional centre leaders of AHYMSIN affiliated and friendly centres shared more about their centres, teaching programmes, and their future visions with each other. They supported each other by sharing ideas and suggestions from their own learnings. This allowed us to get to know about all of the efforts they have put in towards Swami Veda’s mission. Their successes are inspiring and heartening.
A presentation was shared by Rabindra Sahu on the operations of Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama ashram for the past four years, which included the major renovation and construction works, finances, charity projects. He talked about the contributions and love offerings received from our global family members that helped in sustenance of the ashram during the pandemic, while supporting the construction projects. The next steps to strengthen the mission were discussed and included – training teachers and building youth force, renovation of the cottages, enhance centre relations, publications and sustenance.
On 14 Feb, elections were held for the AHYMSIN executive committee and office bearers, where all the initiates voted for the various positions. Results were announced the same day. Shi Hong ji from Hong Kong has now been appointed as the President of AHYMSIN by Swami Ritavan Bharati.
As in our previous gatherings, all of us received a special mantra practice for the entire AHYMSIN Sangha. Just as during the last sangha gathering in 2019, Swami Ritavan wrapped us all again in his love and blessings through the Ganesha Mantra meditation shawl. We also received a Rudrakasha hand-mala and Ganga-Jala (holy water from the Ganges) from Swamiji as blessings.
The new Ganesha Mantra we have received from Swamiji is:
ॐ गं गणपतये नमः ।
Om Gaṁ Gaṇapataye Namaḥ ।
Salutations to Lord Ganapati.
We offered our final japa with the Ganesha Gayatri Mantra practice on the morning of the Mahashivaratri with the purnahuti (the concluding fire offering) at the Yajnashala. Collectively, we then took a sankalpa for the new Ganesha Mantra practice and began a 6-day yajna (fire offering) where 7 pandits presided over the pujas and fire offerings. Simultaneously, our classes, sessions, and practices continued on.
On the morning of the Mahashivaratri, 8 members of the Sangha received Vanaprastha vows from Swami Ritavan Bharati – Atma and Fernando from Spain, Sarojini from Mauritius, Heejung, Borim, Meekyung and Yaehee from Korea, and Chuck Linke from the USA (our new Sr. Vice President).
The Mahashivaratri was celebrated at the Sadhana Mandir, SRSG, and Virbhadra Temple on 18 Feb. The pujas began at 6pm and continued throughout the night, until 5am on the next morning. It was heartwarming and inspiring to see so many members of the spiritual family enthusiastically participating in all the beautiful rituals, while sacrificing their sleep.
At this auspicious occasion, two new books by Swami Veda Bharati were released and offered to all the initiates and students of the Tradition. The titles of these two new publications are – You & Your Emotions and Signs of Spiritual Progress. Additionally, Swamiji’s Superconscious Meditation and Philosophy of Hatha Yoga book was also reprinted and is now available once again in our bookstore. All these books were released on the sacred Mahashivaratri day.
As was the case with all the previous sangha gatherings, we invited various artists from the Indian classical arts. The sangha members enjoyed soulful performances of Bharatanatyama dance led by Dr Sadhanashree P. from Sadhana Sangam Trust. Sadhanashree and her family are long term initiates of the Tradition, and both her parents were/are mantra initiators within the Himalayan Tradition trained by Swami Rama. We also experienced a mesmerising Santoor performance by Pt Mohan Singh Rawat ji and a heartfelt Hindustani Classical Vocal performance by Shri Ashish Kukreti ji. We also invited 11 students from the Sanskrit School that the Ashram supports. They chanted the Swasti Vachana, Purusha Sukta and Rudra Sukta.
This Sangha Gathering was special and unique in many ways. We went on a pilgrimage to the Surkanda Devi temple in Kanatal, near Mussoorie. Almost all the members joined this beautiful excursion, along with Swami Ritavan and most of the mantra initiators.
We also celebrated our theme of the gathering with lighting of 5000 earthen lamps (diyas). Preparation for this special “Diwali” lamp lighting began more than a month ago, whereby all the residents and visiting sadhakas at the ashram prepared the 5000 cotton wicks by hand. All the members of the Sangha, young and old, helped prepare the 5000 diyas, by washing them with water, drying them out in air, laying them out all over the ashram campus, from the rooftops of the Main Building, Gurukulam building, and New Block buildings, to the many pathways, the main entrance, outside each of the cottages, rooms, in the garden, etc. While we had turned off all the electrical lights that night, every corner of the ashram was lit up as the entire ashram was filled with the magnificent lamps and their light. As the night progressed, these tiny diyas managed to bring silence, stillness and light within each of our hearts. We received 5000 reminders that night of the light within.
We gathered at the Meditation Hall after the lamp lighting and Swami Ritavan recited the poem – Light by Swami Veda Bharati. Many of our international family members then offered the same poem in their respective languages. Translations were shared in Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Oriya, Russian, Sanskrit and Spanish. Even if we didn’t understand the poem in other languages than our own, the recitations were somehow equally beautiful and meditative. There was a unique union of light, silence and peace that night, which I had not experienced before… One could see some sangha members walking silently, deep in contemplation, and filled with light within, late until after midnight.
The last event in our two weeks of the gathering was a large bonfire by the Dining Hall after dinner, along with a delicious dark chocolate cake. We had the most beautiful impromptu kirtana (devotional singing) by the bonfire, accompanied with Guitar, where many members offered devotional songs in Sanskrit, English and their own local languages.
This magnificent event with so many participants was only made possible with the boundless love and support of all the residents, staff members, Gurukulam students, and our global family members. Everywhere one looked, one could see people spreading their inherent light through their seva, in the Dining Hall, Meditation Hall, etc.
Much went into our preparations for the Sangha Gathering, including a complete renovation of the Meditation Hall. While we were waiting for all our family members to return home, we completely redid the ceiling and electrical work in the Meditation Hall. This included new sound system, speakers, lights, fans, curtains, carpets, etc. The renovated Meditation Hall now has a new altar. As Swamiji and many people noted, the Meditation Hall was somehow miraculously ready just on time.
The lunch was served in bhandara style, and many people came forward to help serve the food and clean up the Dining Hall after each of the meals. Our lovely volunteers were sometimes in the Dining Hall many hours after the meals, cleaning, wiping, drying each of the utensils by hand, to prepare everything for the next meal. The food was naturally extra nourishing and delicious throughout the Sangha Gathering, as it was cooked with the secret ingredient of ‘Love’. I somehow am missing the gathering for the lovely company and scrumptious food also.
We received countless presents of love and care from all the family members, who brought many gifts, including exquisite chocolates, coffee, foods from different countries, etc. Our hearts (and stomachs) were overfilled with their love.
I am filled with unbounded gratitude for all the family members whose loving and meditative presence at this unique confluence brought us all much love and joy. It is a long wait until the next Sangha Gathering in 2026…
Many of the sessions of the AHYMSIN Sangha Gathering were livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube. Below are the YouTube links: