Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi
  AHYMSIN Newsletter, Issue - Mar 2013  

Brief Notes on the 2013 Sangha Gathering Program at SRSG

by Rajini Prakash

(Slideshow link at the end of this article)

A gathering at SRSG of nearly 450 people from 26 different countries was an awesome spectacle in itself. One stepped into the Ashram gates and was almost immediately enveloped in a deep sense of peace. A hectic period for some, a gentle pace for others, every participant made their own personal journey through the ten days in an environment that vibrated with higher energies, oneness and a strong spiritual connection with the divine.

A large tented structure was erected behind Swami Veda’s office that easily held the entire gathering. Other structures included a resting tent for those members who did not reside at SRSG, but wished to rest during the day. There was a money exchange counter and also a counter for tea/ coffee and snacks.

Sofia Foteina from Greece, who was one of the volunteers that manned the tea / coffee counter, said that it was a beautiful experience. She felt at home making tea or coffee for friends. People were happy to come to the stall.

The following is a recap of the program content as it took place between 28th February 2013 – 10th March 2013.

Swamiji graced the Sangha with his presence every day between 4.30 pm to 6.00 pm with a 45minute meditation and 45minute talk. This is covered separately towards the end of this write-up for the sake of providing continuity to the talks.

Day 1: 28th Feruary 2013:

The programme started with a short orientation by Dr. Sanjay Shastri. The opening ceremony led by Pandit Harshanand and the Swamis in the Tradition started with the Guru Puja. The Sangha joined them in chanting the Guru Prayer, “Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru Devo………..”

This was followed by a moving rendition of Guru Vandana melodiously sung by gurukul student, Geeta Bhoi.

Speaking of his experience of this ceremony, an initiate and participant, Ullas Nambiar from Mangalore, India, said that he found the atmosphere beautiful and felt the Guru’s grace. He also said that there was the feeling of vasudaiva vutumbakam (the whole world is a single family.)

Dave Hume, the outgoing Senior Vice President of AHYMSIN, Bhola Shankar Dabral, General Secretary of Dhyana Mandiram Trust (DMT), Dr Upreti, the General Manager of SRSG, warmly welcomed the Sangha to the program. Carolyn Hume, Director of Communications, AHYMSIN, gave an overview of the program.

The speaker for the evening was Dr. Sanjay Sastri, a Sanskrit scholar based in Canada, spoke on the “Meaning of Havan, Yajna, Ritual”. As the fire ceremony was simultaneously going on outside the main Meditation Hall, the talk on its significance was particularly illuminating.

With his extensive understanding of the subject, Dr. Shastri explained the meaning of Yajña and the fire offerings (Havan). Yajna itself is an offering of oneself on several different levels. As the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 3, verses 8-17, states, Yajna means making yourself into a worshipful offering and sublimating it into the fire. The fire pit itself constitutes a Mandala and the ritual is accompanied by chanting of the Mantras like the Gayatri. The Havan at SRSG was accompanied by chanting of the Ganesh Gayatri Mantra and the Guru Stotram, Akhanda Mandalakaram.

Dr Shastri also spoke about every act having consequences and of how every one of us is duty-bound to return an act of kindness and compassion most important of which was the debt to the Guru. The example of Kabir (mystic poet of India, 15 CE), who famously said that the Guru is greater than God as he (the Guru) shows the aspirant the path to God, was cited.

Day 2: 1st March, 2013:

The day started with Swami Ritavan Bharati’s talk on “Silence”. Swami Ritavan led the group through a short meditation with the mahavakya, “OM Kham Brahma”, which was followed by a brief reading of Swami Veda’s meditative experience in the form of a poem.

Swami Ritavan spoke on transition of one’s life in short stages in the process of self-transformation. Sankalpa Shakti, or the power of will and determination, was particularly mentioned as being the necessary attribute for one who was on the spiritual path. Principle of burning, tapas, is also an important part of the journey of self transition. Mind pacification, which is necessary to progress in the spiritual path may be developed by silent chanting of the personal mantra.

There was specific reference to Chapter 4, verse 18 of the Bhagavad Gita, which says that one who sees action in inaction and inaction in action is the wise one. Performing and action skillfully, yet remaining detached from it. Yoga is skillfulness in silence.

Swami Ritavan also mentioned his own silence schedule for the next three years, during which he will remain in silence from Monday to Thursday of every week.

The afternoon schedule involved a short session on “Learning to Serve: A Journey Within” by Rajini Prakash based in the UK. The session started with a reading from Swamiji’s book, “Light of Ten Thousand Suns.” The talk covered the interplay of the gunas causing one to perform action and the motivations behind actions that made the difference. Desire and the fruits of action causes one to be in bondage and the only way of freeing oneself from bondage is through selfless service. Performing an act skillfully, with love and dispassion while surrendering the fruit of action constituted selfless service.

Tinyu Chen from Taiwan spoke on “Personal experience at the Yoga and Meditation centre in Taiwan”. Particularly inspiring was extending the teaching of the Tradition to those disadvantaged by hearing impairment. The challenges and the deep satisfaction one received from the initiative were shared. The experience of mutual growth through the journey on the spiritual path was spoken with warm humour and understanding by Tinyu.

The talks were followed by an introduction of candidates for the Executive Committee by Dave Hume, outgoing Senior Vice President of AHYMSIN.

Sadhana Mishra, the General Secretary of AHYMSIN, shared a short, deeply moving, documentary on the true meaning of Guru.

A highly charged Hindustani Classical recital by Barun Kumar Pal took place in the evening. Barun pal is a world famous player of Indian Classical Music on Hansa Veena, the Indian slide guitar. He is also the direct disciple of the late Pandit Ravi Shankar, Master of Sitar. Pandit ji was so moved by the dedication shown by Barun Pal towards the Classical Guitar that he accepted Barun Pal as his disciple.

Day 3: 2nd March, 2013:

On his part, Barun Pal showed great devotion to his Master and attributed all the success to him. This was evident in the “Workshop with Barun Pal” which started the 3rd day of the program. One learned the deep connection of Indian classical music with spirituality. It is quite simply another arm of spirituality. Barun Pal also shared few words of his Master’s view of Hindustani Classical music and its direct links to the inner being within.

The afternoon involved various presentations of the main activities by DMT and AHYMSIN, which informed the Sangha of the various arms of AHYMSIN such as Publications, Goshala, MRI Lab and others. DMT also spoke of development activities undertaken with the local community, its funding sources and its links with AHYMSIN and SRSG.

Sadhana Mishra, Dave Hume, Carolyn Hume and Bhola Shankar Dabral were the speakers.

In the evening, Ma Radha Bharati spoke on the intriguingly titled topic, “The Big Bang”. The content traced the origins of the Himalayan Tradition to the Hiranyagarba (the Golden Womb). In an amazing unfolding of our connections to the manasa-putras (mind-child/ children) of the Hiranyagarba, beings of light emerge, who may or may not let their energies congeal to take on forms. It is these rishis, these mantreswaras who guide us in our meditations, our silent surrendering of the mantras. From there the mantra flows and into them again it flows. The talk, interspersed with reading held the listeners spellbound in a deep understanding of how far back we are connected and will remain guided by the realized ones. Ma Radha mentioned that those who are interested to learn more may refer to Swami Veda’s articles on “Origins of Himalayan Tradition” and “Roots of the Himalayan Tradition”.

Speaking of Ma Radha’s talk, Rajini Prakash, UK, said that it was a fascinating journey through the history of the Tradition and the fact that it was not chronological, but had a deep connection that went a long way back. It also gave one a strong sense of belonging and a reassurance that the sadhaka is never alone, but is truly guided by the Masters.

Day 4: 3rd March, 2013:

The morning session began by Stoma ji saying that he would not speak on the mentioned topic, “Meditation, the Art and Science of Self Governance.” Instead Stoma ji brought together the various aspects covered by the talks that had taken place in the earlier three days. There was mention of living in the heart-field that love made a family. There is no room, said Stoma ji in OD (organizational development) theories for a mother’s love or Guru’s grace. In reality, in order to create a family, we simply agree to live with each other’s disagreeable parts. Within the individual, there needs to be an abiding link between the spiritual and the psychological aspects. We were encouraged to read Swami Veda’s writing on “Ethics of Emotions in Yoga Therapy”. 

Stoma ji specifically mentioned how the hormone oxytocin was produced simply by breath awareness, and how the hormone was instrumental in forming loving relationships. Cultivating chitta-prasadanam where the four Brahma-viharas resided was mentioned as significant practice towards emotional purification.

Speaking of the talks by Swami Ritavan and Stoma ji, Dr Sanjay Shastri, Canada, said that the advanced teachers were very inspiring. However, the listener will not be able to grasp the true meaning unless it is experienced by the self.

Election to the Executive office of AHYMSIN took place in the afternoon.

In the evening, a panel consisting of spiritual committee members and initiators  (those of whom were present), offered to respond to any queries by the Sangha members. Questions like the possibility of separate grooves created by different mantras, how the bija mantras impacted meditation, preparation for becoming initiators were raised, which were answered by the Panel.

Day 5: 4th March, 2013:

On the fifth day, Ashutosh Sharma ji spoke on the “Philosophy of Hatha Yoga”.

According to Tinyu Cheng, Taiwan, it was an inspiring talk, which connected the physical aspect of Hatha Yoga with the subtle layers of Pranamaya kosha and meditation. It is a journey from stillness to stillness, meditation in action. Every move is led by an awareness of breath. Movement followed breath. Eventually, when performed with complete integration of body, breath and mind, the Ha and the Tha aspects, the sun and the moon, the pingala and ida merged into the sushumna flow. Ashutosh ji also had a message for teachers, urging them to accept students as they were and to start from where the student was at that point in time. Rather than simply teaching what they wanted to teach, it would be best for teachers to teach what the student wished to learn and were prepared to learn, thereby genuinely preparing the students for the next step forward.

The post lunch session involved a detailed presentation by DMT and SRSG team, which involved the activities of the Publications team, facilities, Mandala office, Gurukulam and the MRI Lab. Speakers were from these teams and included Bhola Shankar Dabral and Dr. G Prabhu, the Director of MRI Lab.

Dr Prabhu spoke in depth of the various projects currently being researched at the Lab. 

In the evening, there was a rousing performance of Sufi-based Kathak dance where the dancer blended the mysticism of Sufism with the classicism of Kathak to evolve a new kind of dance, Sufi Kathak. Sufi mysticism was incorporated in the movements in her performances that are reminiscent of the meditative practices of the whirling dervishes.

According to Geeta Bhoi from the Gurukulam, the Sufi Kathak dance was very powerful. It electrified even the one that watched, grew meditational and the observer became still within. It was an expression of devotion, Bhakti, in its purest essence.

Day 6: 5th March, 2013:

Pandit Vamadeva Shastri, aka David Frawley, is the founder and director of the American Institute for Vedic Studies. He is an expert on Yoga philosophy, Ayurveda, Hinduism and Astrology. He briefly addressed the Sangha and spoke for a few minutes on Swami Veda’s going into silence. Silence is the essence of Pratyahara, he said, through silence one may hear the vibrations of the chakras, the sounds of the spiritual heart. Silence will sustain a deeper level of practice.

Each individual is a combination of doshas, gunas and karmas. The teachers understand this and guide students accordingly. One prepares oneself through the path that suits best whether it is through ritual, which is the foundation of Bhakti yoga or otherwise. It becomes important to cultivate chitta-prasadanam. Thus, we prepare ourselves to receive silent guidance from Swami Veda.

Pandit Vamadeva Shastri promised to return to address the Sangha later on, if possible.

The rest of the day was dedicated to AHYMSIN. The election results were shared with the Sangha. Dr. Mohan Swami, the President of AHYMSIN addressed the Sangha, followed by Shi Hung, the senior Vice-President.

Sadhana Mishra, General Secretary AHYMSIN made an extensive presentation of Swami Veda’s plans for the five years of silence, what Swamji would focus on, how communication would occur regarding emails, how initiations will take place and Swamiji’s travel plans after one year.

The Sangha members divided themselves into interest groups to address the following three aspects that Swami Veda wished for the Sangha to concentrate on in the next five years:

  1. Various arms of AHYMSIN to be integrated
  2. Continuous flow of guests/ members to SRSG
  3. Future leaders to be given an opportunity to take responsibility

The outcome of this group initiative and the actions thereof will be shared with the Sangha shortly. The group initiative was facilitated by Chuck Linke, from USA.

The evening performance showcased the beautiful Balinese dance by the dance troupe from Sacred Heart Ashram. The commentary for this dance was by Siddhartha Krishna, a regular visiting teacher of Sankhya, Vedanta and Sanskrit at the Gurukulam. Swamiji said a few words in praise of Siddhartha Krishna who is from the Kailash Ashram, Rishikesh, a renowned place to learn Vedanta.

Swamiji also introduced Prince Indra Udayana from one of the eight princely states of the island of Bali and spoke briefly on the culture of Bali.

Siddhartha Krishna spoke of the deep connection between Bali and India, the concept of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, unity in diversity that is practiced in Bali today. The dancers then took the stage performing different dances, to the warriors, homage to the strength of life as being joyful and happy and the sattvic personality of a wise ruler.

Day 7: 6th March, 2013:

The day started with a talk on Yoga and Science by Dr Tacson Fernandez from UK. Dr. Fernandez spoke of how Yoga involved a holistic approach to the state of wellbeing of an individual. The talk mainly covered aspects of emotions, cognitive function, conditioned responses and its relationship to the functioning of the brain. The link between Anatomy and Physiology to Joints and Glands exercises, the practice of neti and breath awareness formed a significant part of the talk. The talk was interspersed with a reading from Swamiji’s book, “Light of Ten Thousand Suns” and “Sadhana in Applied Spirituality”.

Geeta Morar from Canada said that she enjoyed the talk. It would be valuable if Tacson created a model for applying Yoga and Meditation to Pain Management, which may be used internationally.

In the afternoon, the children from KHEL put forth a heart-warming performance of music and dance. Ammaji, Mrs Arya, who is the founder of KHEL introduced the people whose hard work and dedication gave the children an opportunity to shine.  Ammaji interspersed the performance with a brief talk on Sewa, which may be seen as a material manifestation of compassion, Karuna. Desire and motivation is balanced by dispassion. What one sets out to do is much affected by what one ends up doing. To convey Ammaji’s message on the performance, it captured the “fullness of heart and joy of the children.”

Day 8: 7th March, 2013:

On the morning of the eighth day, Pierre Lefebvre from Canada spoke on “What Have We Learned?” Pierre captured the important aspects that Swami Veda always reminds us about, to keep the forehead relaxed, two-minutes Meditation every once in a few hours, watching the thoughts, chitta-prasadanam (making the mind pleasant) and bhava samshuddhi (purification of emotions).

Pierre engaged the audience and urged them to share at least one thing that Swami Veda said that had stayed with them. The words of Swamiji that stayed with them are mentioned below:

“I did all my sadhana, at least half of it in the airport lounges,” - Siddhartha, in charge of Guest Services at SRSG.

“When you speak, speak from silence; when you act, act from stillness,” - Anil Saigal, USA.

“Smera, smera sthimita,” - Shunya, Thailand.

“Enjoy what there is to be enjoyed; notsuffer what there is to be suffered.” – Nalini, Netherlands.

Speaking of Pierre’s talk, Ulrike Timmerman from Germany said that she appreciated that Pierre spoke from his own experience. Also, Pierre’s sharing of a little bit of Ashram life gave some insight into it.”

In the afternoon, Pandit Vamadeva Shastri could fortunately make the time to address the Sangha once again. Since it was close to Shivaratri, he spoke at length on the Shiva principle. Shiva is a deity presiding over dissolution, just as Brahma presided over creation and Vishnu over preservation. Shiva is not a name, but that which is nameless, auspicious and is beyond even the cosmic mind. The cosmic energies, Shiva and Shakti are omnipresent and omnipotent even in the changing seasons.  The dualistic forces pervade the entire universe and the human manifestation is only part of the biological phenomenon.

Prakriti Bhaskar from Mumbai, India, held the audience in thrall at the evening presentation of dance. The classical dance from South India, Bharatnatyam, was presented not only in dance form, but was also supported by a documentary that showed the journey of an evolving dancer.

Prakriti demonstrated through her dance how rhythm, movement and expression came together in a seamless integration of emotion and a deep sense of devotion of the dancer wooing her beloved, the divine entity. It was meditation through dance, the dancer becoming one with the divine.

Day 9: 8th March, 2013:

Swami Ritavan led the Sangha through a Yoga Nidra practicum on the morning of 8th March. It was a deep experience during which one could come in contact with the subtle layers of the self.

Yoong, an initiator in the Tradition spoke on the “Four Stages of Life” in the afternoon. The four stages were conceived in the Vedas as a way of life that led one to the attaining liberation or Moksha in the end. The four stages are depicted as Brahmacharya, Grihasthya, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa. The first stage of brahmacharya covered the period of a young man’s life while he studied under the guidance of the Guru. The second stage was when the young man became a householder and along with his wife, performed various rituals and also his duties in the world. In the third stage, the man handed over responsibilities to his children and began the journey inwards. He, along with his wife became a forest-dweller. In the fourth stage, the man led a monastic life by renouncing the world completely. The first two stages lasted until the ages of 25 years and 50 years after which, the man became a vanaprastha and later a sanyas.

In the evening, Sridatt Sharma (also spelled 'Shri Datt Sharma') and family held the audience spellbound by a splendid rendition of Dhrupad, a vocal genre of Hindustani classical music. Swami Veda said that the rendition was like the variations of OM vibrating at various levels. It was the dance of universal cosmic energies.

Day 10: 9th March, 2013:

Shi Hung, Senior Vice President of AHYMSIN spoke on “Dharma trafficking”. The talk centered around Bodhidharma and the Chinese Buddhist Master, Xuan Zang.

Bodhidharma is traditionally seen as introducing dhyana-practice in China. The instruction is not to read scriptures, but to truly understand the nature of the self. Shi Hung did a reading in Mandarin the message of which was that mind should be firmly established as an even-flowing stream. 

Xuan Zang spent 17 years in India and became an expert in Sanskrit and also a Buddhist Master. He then returned to China with many scriptures and translated them into the Chinese language with the emperor’s support. The Li dynasty was then in power.

The open Mic program in the post-lunch session showcased special talents that kept the listeners actively engaged. The session was facilitated by Pierre Lefebvre.

The eminent speaker of the evening was Shri Bharat Bhushan ji, the first recipient of the Padma Shri Award in the field of Yoga. His Mokshayatan International Yogashram is located at the foot of the Himalayas in Saharanpur city as well as many branches throughout the world. Shri Bhushan ji spoke with great humility of the deep impact Swami Veda had on him. Swami Veda was also a source of inspiration for the poetry that Shri Bhushan ji has written. He spoke of silence saying that it is not a matter of the senses. In the process of creating something, we go into mouna, silence, into that part that activates the indriyas. Silence is the key to creativity. The deeper the silence, the deeper is the vision. He urged the Sangha to support Swamiji through the silence period. “Do what the Guru says”, he said, “not as the Guru does.”

Also, during Swami Veda’s talk on 9th March 2013 at the 2013 Sangha Gathering, Swamiji introduced the practice for “the next five years and the rest of your life.” Please see: http://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/practice-for-the-next-five-years-and-the-rest-of-your-life.html

Swami Veda session: every day from 4.30pm to 6.00pm with 45mins meditation and 45mins talk.

Swamiji addressed the Sangha on every day of the 10-day Program. Sangha members and friends have been urged to follow Sadhana in Applied Spirituality, which is based on ancient principles and their practical applications. The practice would ensure that the family nurtured its members, stayed together to take forward the Mission of Gurudeva. The sadhana of applying yamas, niyamas and chitta-prasadanam in daily life were necessary practices.

Swamiji constantly reminded the Sangha to keep the forehead smooth, do the two-minute meditation at regular intervals of every 2-3 hours, follow sadhana in applied spirituality and offer the six mantras of Shiva Sankalpa Sukta.

Swamiji spoke of stations that indicated progress in meditation and spirituality. Stability in posture, the urge to speak less, the tongue forming the kechari by itself was signs of progress. The sensations in the chakras are felt; there may be a feeling of tingling or vibration in certain chakras. The personal mantra could become faster, almost like a vibration. The sadhaka may hear celestial sounds, see a light or discern a wonderful smell. Nadis may be seen becoming luminous. The chakras may become activated. Muladhara indicates stability. A natural root lock may form. Svadisthana signifies brahmacharya, Manipura controls the prana flow throughout the body, the activation of the Anahata chakra indicates emotional stability, the Vishuddhi brings eloquence in silence and Ajna intellectual strengths. Both Vishuddhi and Ajna bring intuition.

However, there are traps in which the sadhaka may become ensnared. The traps may be in the form of pride over spiritual progress, a need for recognition, becoming attractive to the opposite sex, intensification of concentration of negative emotions especially if sadhakas have not achieved bhava samshuddhi through nadi shodhanam, the trap of intensification of physical passion, fear in meditation, which can be a great block to progress.

As the sadhaka progresses, Ahimsa becomes natural, generosity will arise, there will be less craving for food, will learn the art of sleeping, memory will improve, quality of dreams changes, body conditions will not become mind conditions.

Swamiji has suggested that all the Sangha members use the Shiva Sankalpa for mind pacification and to make ourselves peaceful beings. The Sangha has also been advised to read Swami Rama’s book, “The Art of Joyful Living” and Swami Veda’s “Sadhana in Applied Spirituality” as a guide.

Caroline Thomazean, France, a participant and initiate said that Swami Veda, in his loving and gentle voice, makes his teaching accessible to everyone whatever may be the level of experience or knowledge. The clarity and simplicity of his speech, nourishes us at a deeper level and may be integrated consciously or unconsciously into daily life, which naturally gives it spiritual dimension. It is not an intellectual process of verbalizing ideas, but a true experience and gift of love that can then take many creative forms.

Beyond the mental process of internalizing Swamiji’s teachings, a process of transformation is instilled allowing everyone to thrive in his or her own way feeling respected and encouraged, thus deepening a sense of love and reverence for the lineage and the Tradition. 

Day 11: 10th March, 2013:

 The final fire-offering ceremony took place on the morning of day eleven, in which the Sangha participated. It culminated in Swamiji going into silence for the next five years. A sense of deep calm and silence was perceived throughout the Ashram.

Editor's Note:

For a slideshow of the 2013 Sangha photos, please click here.

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