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

Interview with Pandit Harshanand Uniyal

by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

A few weeks before Guru Purnima, I could feel that something was different. I did not know what exactly was different but I could feel it as if a chrysalis was coming to life. It seemed that it would be important to interview Pandit Harshanand Uniyal and his wife Kusum, the head priests at SRSG. She sat quietly and listened. They kindly agreed to make room in their very busy lives as parents and priests to come to my cottage for an interview. This is what I learned.

Question: Please say something about what you do here, how long you have been here and how you came to SRSG?

Pandit Harshanand: We live here with our family, and the ashram is our family. We have two children. I started at Sadhana Mandir in 1999 when I was 34 years old. Earlier, I saw Swami Rama when I was a 15-year-old student at a school called Kali Kamli, where Pandit Gairola, the acharya of many of our pujas, is now principal. It is next to Sadhana Mandir. I was a child. I was walking along Ma Ganga and along came Swami Rama with two or three men. I was with my friend. We had heard about this great man Swami Rama but had never had darshan before. He looked straight ahead, walking majestically. For one brief moment he turned his head and looked at me. His gaze was brief but strong and focused. I am very clear now that the blessing was fixed then for me to be here now with Swami Veda. At the time, I did not know the significance of this meeting until some years later when I came to know Swami Veda.

I help my wife Kusum, the head priestess, prepare for the daily Devi pujas at the Tara Devi Temple and I do the daily Shaadhakeshvara Siva puja in the Siva temple. Whatever Swami Veda asks me to do, I also do. I started with him at Sadhana Mandir. If he said “those guests are leaving now. Go help them take their luggage to the car” I did it.

Every morning I go to Sadhana Mandir to check that all is okay in the Meditation Hall there and that the altar light is lit. I do karma-kanda (rituals) and other spiritual work of Swami Veda. The commitment and selfless sewa without any expectations we learned from Swami Veda. I have learned many things from Swami Veda about the Guru.

This has come by grace, the guru’s blessings. It is by his blessings that we are here.

Question: Do you mean not just the physical form of the guru but also the transcendent and pervading force called the guru?

Pandit Harshanand: Yes.

Question: This is a very special time of year and I know you have made many preparations.

Pandit Harshanand: Yes, we can see the dedication and love of Swami Veda and we want to simply do the work he gives us.

Question: How did these preparations begin?

Pandit Harshanand: We have been preparing for this puja for 4 or 5 months. Swami Veda has kept all these things in his mind since that time. Then one day he sent me a message asking me to please give him the programme for Guru Purnima. I did and he approved it.

Question: How did you know what to write?

Pandit Harshanand: I knew that he wanted two special practices for the 9-day period leading up to Guru Purnima from the 14th July to Guru Purnima on the 22nd July. There are certain traditional things we do to prepare for an important puja and an akhanda patha so I knew. Akhanda patha means nonstop round-the-clock recitation.

Question: What exactly are these two special practices?

Pandit Harshanand: There will be a havan or fire offerings with the recitations of the special mantra Akhanda-mandalakaram, both at Sadhana Mandir, the mother ashram, and here at SRSG. 

Question: Is this a special mantra honoring the guru and, in particular, of our guru lineage?

Pandit Harshanand: Yes, this mantra invokes the presence of the guru.

Question: What is the other special practice?

Pandit Harshanand: There will be an akhanda-patha of the Shri Guru-Gita at both Ashrams from 14th to 22nd July. This is the first time Swami Veda has been here at SRSG for Guru Purnima. He is usually teaching and traveling on his worldwide mission at this time of year.

Question: Have we recited the Shri Guru-Gita here before?

Pandit Harshanand: Yes, we do this once every year on Guru Purnima at both ashrams, first at Sadhana Mandir because it is the mother ashram, and then again here at SRSG. One complete recitation usually takes about an hour when done at a gentle pace. This is the first time that we will do the round-the-clock recitation of the Shri Guru-Gita here.

Question: Who will do the Akhanda mandala japa and where and when will it be done?

Pandit Harshanand: There are 23 priests who will take turns chanting. Of them there are two acharyas, lead priests, Pandits Gairola and Rakesh Bahuguna. They have both been here many times. Two priests will chant the Akhanda mandala japa out loud with fire offerings for two hours each morning and one hour each evening (7-9 am and 5-6  pm). This will happen both at Sadhana Mandir in Swami Veda’s mud hut (fire kutiya) and at Sadhaka Grama in the big yajña shala by the main building. Swamiji’s mud hut is a place where he has done many, many fire offerings. The vibration there is very strong.

Question: What is the Shri Guru-Gita? When and where will it be chanted?

Pandit Harshanand: The Shri Guru-Gita is very sacred. Different devatas (shining beings) have different prayers and this is a prayer for the Guru. It is a dedication to and an invocation of the Gurudeva. It has many verses. It is inviting the guru simply by its recitation.

The Shri Guru-Gita will be recited nonstop from Sunday, July 14th and will end on Guru Purnima, Monday, July 22nd. It will be chanted at Sadhana Mandir in just a small room. At SRSG it will be done in the Meditation Hall.

Question: Are the akhanda mandala mantra with fire offerings and the Shri Guru-Gita unbroken recitations only for the priests or may others come?

Pandit Harshanand: All sadhakas are invited to sit in on both of these pujas.

Question: Is there anything going on at the Tara Devi Temple?

Pandit Harshanand: Yes, all sadhakas are invited to sit in the Tara Devi Temple at any time and also to attend the daily pujas which have been going on since the invocation of this temple in 2012. The pujas are at 4:30 am and 5:30 pm every day. This temple is open 24 hours a day to all Swami Rama and Swami Veda students.

Question: I know that preparation takes place from birth and previous lifetimes. But how do you make yourself ready for something like this?

Pandit Harshanand: If Swamiji asks me to do something for the ashram, I have no hesitation. It is his mission work, not something happening in a small room or for a small group of people. This is for everyone.

First I have prepared from my innermost feelings. This comes from seeing Swamiji’s feelings for all of us as his children, his students and for other people. I have fixed in my life sattvic feelings, speech and behavior. I speak softly---and by the grace of the guru, by keeping a humble daily schedule. I wake up at 3:45 am (4:15 am in the cold time) for the daily 4:45 puja to help my wife at the Tara Devi Temple and to do the morning Siva Temple puja here. We protect the Shri Chakra with a cloth because the Shri Chakra is the body of the Devi.

Swamiji carries a very large burden and resolves many, many issues from a place of meditation.

People do not have the capacity to understand Swamiji’s feelings and this is very difficult. This is why people make many mistakes with themselves with their thoughts, words and actions.

I have been working at the two ashrams—Sadhana Mandir and SRSG for 13 years. I am not a worker. I am a small student. These are my feelings. I live like this and simply make my way.


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