Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Guru Purnima 2016 at SRSG

by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

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This was on the bulletin board by the Meditation Hall:

“Tasmai shree-gurave namah: My prostrations, my homage, my surrender, my ‘not mine’ is offered in love to that Guru.

This here is a helpless disciple sharing the guru’s prasada with all other helpless disciples.”

—Swami Veda Bharati, Guru Purnima Message, 2011

One friend, Michael Kissener, said that many people spoke of how Swami Veda’s presence was tangibly felt in the ashram. This is probably the most important part of being here for most of us. The Mahasamadhi observances and sharing were deeply moving and an aura lingered for some time.

At my desk, I lit a small flame. My prayer: Swami Rama, Swami Veda in the endless light that bears no name, no form - may this honor you.

This is how I finally began to write this article, which seemed impossible to do.

The Procession

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The days or years leading up to a particular Guru Purnima are a sort of procession. This day is the most important day of the year in remembering the Guru. People come to honor the guru, to express their love and commitment, to receive the blessings of the guru lineage or of a great teacher and to offer material gifts in gratitude for the immeasurable gifts of the guru.

Swami Ritavan Bharati, Ashram Pramukh, was physically present as were Swami Prashant Bharati, Michael Kissener and Dr. Stoma Parker, all mantra initiators. Ashutosh Sharma, a senior international teacher, was also here. It was indeed a special time. Most of those present were SRSG residents and staff and devotees from India with a few sadhakas from other countries. The elder Mrs. Pal, whom Swami Veda named ashram mother in 2004, was here from Delhi with other family members and Mrs. Kapoor. Mrs. Pal has known Swami Veda since the 1950’s when he was a teenager known as Pandit Usharbudh. Many people came with so much love.

People around the world observe Guru Purnima in their hearts and minds, sometimes with others and sometimes with kalyana mitras. Some have prepared for this through the annual 40 Day Spiritual Festival, a time to expand and refine one’s sadhana and an invitation that was started by Pandit Usharbudh Arya (Swami Veda Bharati) many years ago.

The Shri Guru Gita

The recitations of the Shri Guru Gita form a procession here as well. This year it began on the 11th of July. Swami Veda began an annual tradition here at SRSG of priests and attendees reciting a 9-day akhanda (nonstop) japa (recitation of sacred syllables) of the text known as the Shri Guru Gita. It culminates on Guru Purnima, which this year was on the 19th of July.

The Schedule

Awhile after the full moon silent meditation, the pujas for Guru Purnima began here. They had already been completed that morning at Sadhana Mandir. Here are a few of my diary notes.

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“Strong vibrations fill the hall. Yajagrato…Shiva sankalpam astu… Familiar mantras sung in strong cadence. Familiar faces. The rains have paused for bright sun. Flames, flowers, fruits, water. Guru Purnima is yet one continuous flow here and the world over. Throughout the puja the Shri Guru Gita recitations continue. Though different prayers are said simultaneously it feels like a rising fugue that all fits together.”

The day followed the usual ashram practices with prayers, hatha, the morning and evening silent hours of meditation, with a special bhandara lunch at Sadhana Mandir. There were the Guru Purnima pujas at both Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) and Sadhana Mandir and the “purnahuti” (final fire offerings) of the 9 days of recitations of the Shri Guru Gita into the sacred fire.

Who Is The Guru?

Several days before Guru Purnima, Pawan Mishra led an inquiry in which we were all asked to share our thoughts on “Who is the Guru?” He said that the question of who is the guru is answered in the sacred text the Shri Guru Gita. In our explorations, many different perspectives arose. The sharing was animated, relaxed and illuminating. Afterwards, Rabindra Sahu said that he really appreciated teaching done in this manner, which involved the active participation of the whole group.

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Pawan also gave some important insights into the Shri Guru Gita. A few prayers familiar to many people appear in this text: the Gurur Brahma, the akhanda-mandalakaram and the shantih pada, to name a few. One of its central themes or purposes addresses the question of “how do we transcend the materiality of this life?” It is from the Skanda Purana, one of the 18 Shiva Puranas. It begins with a few of the rishis (sages) gathered on Mount Kailash together with Shiva and Shakti. The starting point of the Shri Guru Gita is when Shakti, the mother of the universe, asks Shiva “Who were you remembering?” In a previous life she had asked the same question and lost her life because of it, Pawan said.

“It is a very bizarre text,” Pawan continued. “It is frustrating, funny, puzzling. And it can only be given to a qualified person.”

I remembered how one year I had sat in the Meditation Hall here for hours each day, absorbing the Shri Guru Gita vibrations. The sweat was pouring down me, yet I felt a certainty that though I did not understand the lexical meaning of the Sanskrit recitations, and most certainly not the full depths of the vibrational, mantric meanings either, something I could not name was settling into me.

Pawan explained “We think spirituality is democratic, but it’s not. There are qualifications in all branches of knowledge and also on the path of spirituality. They say that the milk of a lioness can only be kept in a golden vessel or it will separate. Similarly this knowledge can only be kept in a qualified seeker.”

“First it requires a certain openness, a loving mind that understands that we are all together, an ability to go beyond the rational mind. Otherwise it may seem like nonsense,” he said.

Pawan ended by telling us that the guru seeds us with “para vidya,” the higher knowledge beyond cognitive thinking. “The guru is the source, ‘Hiranyagarbha’, the golden womb, the primordial guru. The first cognition of ‘I am’ is also the Golden Womb.” Then he told us the answer Shakti was seeking when she asked Shiva “Who were you remembering?”

“Shiva was remembering himself as the Golden Womb,” said Pawan.

Guru Smaranam

Guru Purnima of July 19, 2016, began here with morning prayers, hatha and an hour of silent meditation. It ended with Guru Smaranam, the Guru unveiled in the form of dance and voice offered by Dr. Prakriti Bhaskar and Jaya Bhagat. This was the lighting of an internal chalice.

Prakriti has a doctorate in Bharatnatyam and has studied under 3 accomplished dance masters. She and her husband Bhaskar work at home. Their work moves seamlessly in and out of one another and tempers iron into gold. The formlessness of devotion is the product of each creation. I wish you could have been there. A mood of wonder settled throughout the room as a montage of beautiful photos and quotes of Swami Veda reflected on a big screen.

One of my favorite Swami Veda quotes appeared:

“I brought a hammer and chisel, placing them at my Guru’s feet I begged him to sculpt my mind into some beautiful form.”

Then the slide show stopped and Prakriti gave a talk on Bharatnatyam and her own development in that art form. In 2012 she met Swami Veda Bharati. “I believe that it was Swami Veda’s grace that gave me insight into dance. It is a meditative, transformative process,” she told us.

She shared intriguing details about Indian temple dance, ancient and varied, highly prescribed traditions with room for interpretation and improvisation. I wish I could place the flame on my desk at the center of this page. The whole evening was indescribable.

A few days earlier, Prakriti had appeared at my door and invited me to watch her practice. I became aware that this process from start to end is not a fixed form. It is an inspired exploration into the unknown and happens before your eyes. Witness a flame. “Indian temple dance,” said Prakriti, “is a fire dance. It is the mystical manifestation of fire in the human body. The dancer evokes and represents the dancing flame.”

Then Jaya Bhagat offered 3 deeply moving bhajans. She also spoke about her first meetings with Swami Rama.

The 3 bhajans she sang addressed the 3 stages of a sadhaka. First, there was “offering the flower of devotion to the guru.” Then came “salutations at the feet of the Guru. “You are the boat that takes me across this ocean of samsara,” she said. This is where you welcome the deity in a procession, followed by a “dakshina-murti stotram, to a form of Lord Shiva as a teacher of the highest knowledge.” Her singing was inspiring.

The entire evening was blanketed in wonder and peace.

Concert at Sadhana Mandir

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For many years, Swami Rama brought 2 outstanding musicians to Honesdale to teach the Himalayan Institute residents Indian classical music. They became like family. They are vocalist and table player Shri Tiwari and Shri Hari Mohan Pandey. When I lived there, it was always a happy surprise when they arrived at the Institute from India. Nowadays, these two, together with Tiwariji’s protégé Shri Ashutosh Pande, (also Hari Mohan’s nephew) offer bhajans and kirtans on Guru Purnima night at HIHT. On the following night they usually come to Sadhana Mandir to offer kirtan and bhajan. They did this again this year, and it was wonderful.

It always feels as if the room is bursting with the mystery and joy of Swami Rama.

Editor’s Note:

Photos by Jay Prakash Bahuguna

To read Swami Ritavan Bharati’s Guru Purnima 2016 message:  http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1607/02.html

Guru Purnima in 2017 will be 9th July.

31st May - 9th July 2017 there will be the Annual 40 Day Spiritual Festival Retreat at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) under the guidance of senior teachers/initiators. Contact: [email protected]

30th June - 9th July 2017 there will be a Guru Purnima Retreat at SRSG with akhanda-patha (24 hour non-stop recitation) of Guru-Gita, the Song to the Guru. Contact: [email protected]



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