Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi
  AHYMSIN NEWSLETTER, ISSUE - Aug-Sep 2016 
 
   
 
   

1st Mahasamadhi Anniversary

by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

The 1st Anniversary of the Mahasamadhi of Swami Veda Bharati

Word and meaning are as closely related as Śiva and Parvati.

— opening words of Kalidasa’s Kumara-sambhavam

Swami Veda speaks through all he has left us. Even after death - he would say that there is no death - he feeds us all. The man was totally baffling. I have seen him with Koreans, Russians, Africans, Italians, Americans, Indians, Scandinavians, Ecuadorians---I could go on and on. He knew people inside out because he loved them.  The alchemist Paracelsus might say he loved because he knew.

I have seen Swami Veda commune with a 4-month old child such that when her mother told her 3 years later, the day after Swamiji left the body, that Swami Veda had died, she said “No, Mommy he’s not dead.”

So why am I surprised to find his incisive insights into –or is it his profound love of the Word - alive at a gathering on the anniversary of his mahasamadhi?

Here at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG), for 5 days, we made offerings of alternating akhandamandala-karam mantra and the core of the gayatri mantra beginning with the words “Tat savitur varenyam” and ending with “prachodayat” into the sacred fire in honor of Swami Veda.

Some people just went and sat there by the fire. Others made advance commitments to offer ghee or samagree into the fire with the mantra.

One friend who sat at the fire spoke of feeling something quite deep move inside. One had streaming tears. Others appeared to be pulled within--sat for hours by the fire --stone still and straight---even in the intense heat of summer. I won’t give names, but I saw two people in the yajnashala a lot and they looked like they had never moved even 2 hours later---day after day.

There has been no rain for 7 days. There is a heavy blanket of humidity holding the heat in. 15 minutes away the dark clouds promising rain are giving rain but not here.

That same day Pawan Mishra gave a talk on the significance of the Shri Guru Gita. The whole talk vibrated. It was not just the meaning, but as John Sellinger said, it was the strong presence you could feel. So did the Guru attend the talk on the Guru? Perhaps. I always feel a little funny when I talk about such things. But how can I not tell you? Yes, Pawan Mishra was electrifying and on target. He was truly open and interested in what each person had to offer in our discussion of “what is Guru?” But besides that, or maybe intrinsic to it, there was a strong guru presence that I think many of us felt. But let’s go back to the first day of our celebrations.

Day 1: The Offerings for Swami Veda (Diary notes)

Location: Inside the Yajnashala

I will not try to describe everything that is happening. For one thing, I can only tell you what I see, hear and feel. The Puja has begun. Off to the side, priests are making small bundles of barley grass, one element in the 16 types of offerings. These sprigs of bright green stir a sense of everlasting life, of the unbroken consciousness that is the same in death as in life in a realized being. They are also the freshness of new beginnings. They are dipped in water and sprinkled on elements of the ritual, including people.

Upon entering, with reverence, I touched the edge of the fire pit where Agni resides. Obeisances to Agni, the living fire and the Guru, that ancient traveler, the sacred light in all beings!

Some say that Agni is a form of Kartikeya, the first-born son of Shiva and Shakti. His conception and birth are the subject of Kumara-sambhavam by Kalidasa, the Shakespeare of India. He is the 6-headed god of war who conquers all darkness and negativity. Agni also resonates tapas , the spiritual heat that clears the path, renders clarity and gives way to sankalpa, spiritual resolve.

Swami Ritavan sits with as much gentleness and turgor as the gathered sprigs of barley grass. These bits of green stand at attention as witness to and representative of all of nature--- Maatra Bhumi, Mother Earth. Swami Prayagiri and Tejaswini sit to one side of Swami Ritavan. Two priests at the other sides make a bandha, a force field, an invisible lock. A number of other priests form a second bandha, a spiritual lock, as the shakti, the sheer force of these ancient chants sung in driving rhythms permeate this space but do not end here.

Some believe that, sanctified by mantras, even the smoke from the samagree, the fragrant herbs placed in the fire as the ghee is offered, is a healing force that goes through space into all of nature. This can be felt as a small gesture of giving back a small part of all that we have been given.

One gets the feeling that no act here is random, that the sequence, form and sanctifying mantras have been performed this way for centuries, passed on from rishis (sages), pandits and forefathers. Beloved pandits are present---the elder Pandit Gairola and Pandit Harshanand guide us.

A simple brass bowl wrapped in red cloth is made alive with mantras and offerings of blessed intent. The goddess, the eternal witness, is of no physical substance but abides in all known and unknown elements of this and other worlds. Invited in. Present. Sacred thread, water, Shiva’s leaves (bilva leaves) and all the elements of this puja are offered by a few with selfless abandon.

Just beyond us, the cows are being fed in the goshala, the cow barn and adjoining yards. Their lowing sounds enrich the event. How Swamiji loved the cows. They were his kids too. I remember when they first arrived at SRSG how he went down to the cow barn and blessed and held each and every one of them.

The mantra is emblazoned in the hearts of those present and sent out to all beings in every corner of the earth.

Then come the blessings of Swami Ritavan Bharati as he moves from one person to the next, applying the tika or tilak, the mark on the forehead of those inside the yajnashala. Pandit Harshanand follows, doing the same for those on the periphery.

The 14th of July

On the 14th of July, one year after Swami Veda left the physical body, all the mantra recitations were offered into the fire on behalf of Swami Veda Bharati.

At 7:30 a.m., a pooja began in the yajnashala. At 9 a.m., Bhola Shanker Dabral welcomed the dignitaries and all present. Following this, each of the dignitaries held up a newly published book as Bhola described the new releases, some in English and some in Hindi. Then the Shraddhanjali or tributes to Swami Veda Bharati began. Afterwards, the purnahuti of the 5 days of mantra recitations in honor of Swami Veda were offered into the sacred fire. The aarti and ashirvada (blessings) followed. A bhandara (special lunch) was held near the dining hall. Many cooks had been working many long hours in preparation. Ustad Kamal Sabri (sarangi and vocal), Sabir Hussain (tabla) and Nabeel Khan (nephew of Kamal, also on sarangi) offered an incredible concert and once again invoked the guru presence.

Tributes to Swami Veda

Bhola Shanker Dabral moderated the gathering and after speaking a bit about Swami Veda, he invited Swami Ritavan to welcome everyone which he did. Then a program of speakers giving tribute to Swami Veda began; some spoke in English and some in Hindi. Here are some highlights of what the English language speakers said.

Swami Ritavan Bharati

Swami Ritavan began with prayers that invoked the guru presence. He expressed gratitude and invited us “to receive the blessings of the saints and dignitaries present.” He also expressed special thanks to the youth who will carry the work forward. The kernel of his talk which stood out most for me were these words:

“When devotion has matured in the fires of tapas in our sadhana, a gem is formed. A pure heart is the gem of a saintly world….a loving mind, the gold of the saintly alchemists. This aspiration, this sankalpa for a life well lived are the gifts that we together bring….”

He also spoke of how we were “not here to adore his [Swami Veda’s) physical form” but rather that we had “gathered to celebrate …the subtlety of his example, the beauty of his teaching, and faith in his mandate….” He reiterated Swami Veda’s wish that we “let each person feel loved.”

Swami Ritavan has also led several satsangs lately. Every time I have had the distinct feeling that the guru presence was strong among us, that Swami Veda had not left.

Yoong

Wong Yoong Khiang is an initiate of Swami Rama, a mantra initiator, a member of the AHYMSIN Adhyatma Samiti (or Spiritual Committee), and the centre leader of the Himalayan Yoga Meditation Centre of Singapore (HYMCS).

There were stirring things Yoong said about the work Swami Veda did and the many flourishing centers he inspired.

Dr. Stoma Parker wrote this about Yoong’s talk: “Yoongji described Swāmijī's mission in Asia as a continuation of the work of many lives. When Swāmijī told him the story of the 7th century Chinese scholar Xuan Zang who carried a load of tens of thousands of manuscripts, a gift of the King Harshavardhana, on foot to the Chinese capital at Xian, Swamiji said… ‘I prepared those books for him.’”

Yoong said that this was the second thing Swami Veda said in his account of the travels of Xuanzang. The first thing Swamiji said was “I was there.” Swamiji said that he knew Xuanzang, this dedicated 7th Century Chinese Sanskrit scholar and pilgrim who, on foot, carried many, many sacred texts back to China to share.

Yoong reflected on the title of one of the new books about Swamiji, Life Beyond Knowledge and Time, which is a collection of some of Swami Veda’s students’ personal experiences with him. He connected that title with the nature of some of Swami Veda’s work.  Yoong said “apart from his conventional interactions…he had other unconventional ways of connecting.”

Yoong continued. “I remember once he suggested a trip down the Mekong River, the river that runs through Thailand and touches three countries, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. And the reason he gave for wanting to take that trip was wanting to revisit the paths of the ancient acharyas [sages]. I focus on that word ‘revisit’ – he had been there before.” Swami Veda had never been there before in this life.

Yoong said that those were the trade routes through Southeast Asia and Indonesia that the ancient Indian sages walked. Yoong said that there were famous structures along those routes, like Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Borobudur. (I remember Swami Veda talking about the latter as a mystical, architectural mandala.) Yoong continued. “He had another intention on that trip. He was looking for some forest monks in Thailand…”

I found this next part especially intriguing. Yoong said “One of the things that Swami Veda had said of his mission was to gather and to collect back those whom he had known and those whom Swami Rama, the master, had known.”

Referring to the murtis along the walls and hallways of the main building, Yoong said “And you will have noticed the little statues outside there. What he said of the statues was that he was bringing home the acharyas.”

“In one of his meditations, and you know Swami Veda did a lot of work during his meditations – in one meditation, a face appeared and Swamiji said this person, the owner of that face, was in Bali. So he made a trip to Bali to look for this person and eventually found him in a small government office in Bali. He arranged for this man to actually come to India to Rishikesh and then to Haridwar where he eventually completed his PhD and today he…is the president of the Hindu Parishath in Bali.”

Yoong ended with this. Someone had asked Swami Veda what death was like, to which he replied “Death is a myth.”

Dr. Stoma Parker

Stoma spoke about the many centers around the world that our teachers serve, expressing immense gratitude. He said “It is the most extravagant grace to have the opportunity to serve that mission and to feel that extended family, to feel this network of love in which we are all caught, so beautifully caught.”

Stoma spoke about what Swami Veda made clear to all his teachers worldwide, from the very new to those who have been teaching for years.  He said he and other teachers always tell the teacher trainees “The certificate that we have in our hand today to give to you is not your certificate. Your certificate is that someone comes to your class for the first time not knowing you, and leaves feeling loved. And that was the mission, pure and simple – to take that love, and to show people how to make love grow in their lives.”

I would agree. If there is one quality that many of us experienced in Swami Veda, it was his deepest wish that people feel loved.  From my experiences, Swami Rama’s “Love all, exclude none” was also pervasive in him.

Stoma also spoke for Ashutosh Sharma in this, saying “Ashu and I--- I think I know Ashu better than my own spouse because we spend more time together than with our spouses--- over the last ten years that we have been doing this travelling it has been the most wonderful experience to serve…”

He also spoke of the dedication that Swami Veda has inspired in his teachers with just one example in Ashutosh, though I have seen this in many who came in contact with Swamiji, people like Stoma himself, Swami Ritavan, Swami Ma Radha, Michael Kissener and Carolyn Hume, to name a few.

Stoma said “Ashu, our beloved hatha yoga teacher, is such an extraordinary person. For so many years now he has given his whole time, even much more than for me…travelling constantly doing seminars…[and] teacher training, Ashu is just tireless and unrelentingly cheerful in that work even though he gets to spend maybe eight weeks a year at home. So one of the things we learn from this journey of ours is that where home really is – in order to do this work --you have to be at home in your own self, and that I think this is what Swamiji has taught us by giving us this task to do.”

Idriss Raoua Ouedraogo

Idriss Raoua Ouedraogo served as the Ambassador of Burkina Faso in India until recently. His talk was profoundly moving, from his early explorations that led to yoga, his role establishing centers in Africa, his first meeting with Swami Veda and the love that he and his family received from Swami Veda.

He spoke of his first visit to Rishikesh, not knowing where he was going. Arriving at SRSG in the wee hours of the morning and not knowing anyone he said “I was sitting, waiting for registration when a swami came up walking slowly, stunned, looked at me, and called me by my name. This was Swami Veda.”

He continued. “Since then it was like father and child. He initiated me on my birthday in Rishikesh. I stayed in the Ashram and learned, and when I flew back to my country, the first phone call that came was his phone call. He did everything for me.”

Idriss said “For us, I think that we can say that we are in just one family.  He is not in his physical body but still he is able to speak, able to guide. This is the beauty of the Himalayan Tradition of yoga. So I want to thank you all, brothers and sisters, I feel sure before he left his body he said, “I’ll be always there,” but we all miss him.”

Dr. Shirley Telles

Dr. Shirley Telles is one of the most prolific and highly regarded scientific researchers in yoga and related fields worldwide.  She does research at Patanjali Yoga Peet in Haridwar and sits on the review committees of many of the top peer-reviewed international scientific journals that print current yoga research. She spoke of her experiences with Swami Veda and Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama.

“When I came to Uttarakhand, to Patanjali (Yoga Ashram), I did not know a word of Hindi. So I was feeling very lost. It was as if I was at home in Patanjali but I did not have anywhere else where I felt comfortable. ….When I came here…for the first time … I felt a warmth, a connection, and Swami Veda said to me, whenever you want to rest, just come here. And that is how…it has been for me. It has always been a place, a space where I can be myself, where I can be close, where I feel the connection with Swami Veda. What can one say when you meet such a great scholar who has so much humility, such a sense of humor, you feel it touches somewhere in your heart which goes beyond the intellect. And I think that was what I badly needed in that space in my life and that is what I got. And that is how I have been eternally grateful-- which didn’t end in July 2015. It continues today and even beyond. I will always feel that connection, that gratitude, that sense of being able to rest, to be myself, to be true to myself, to be pure in my practice when I am here.”

Shruti Pushkarna

Shruti sang a beautiful bhajan in honor of Swami Veda about the abundant grace of the guru. She said “he is not just my guru but the closest friend I have. He was very fond of this song.”

Initiation on the Last Day

The last person to be initiated by Swami Veda was a lady from Saudi Arabia. On his last day on this earthly plane as Swami Veda, he spent hours with this lady, giving her specific and personal instructions in meditation. True to form, because she was a Muslim, the mantra he gave her was of her faith and in Arabic. Both Swami Rama and Swami Veda were clear. We do not convert people. We guide them in the traditions to which they belong. I found myself hanging on her every word as she described her own journey and her first and last encounter with Swami Veda.

“…I was waiting so they received me and they said Swamiji is waiting for you …They kept a chair right in front of Swamiji, I sat on it and he said, ‘We will just do 5 minutes meditation’ and it was 45 minutes. He recorded it and after he finished he looked at me and he said, ‘Now you are my daughter, I want to talk to you.’ In the meditation he said ‘I am in silence, I don’t speak but I will speak today’ and he guided me speaking 45 minutes in that meditation and he recorded it and then he said, ‘I want to talk to you.’ He asked me a few questions about my country because he knows very well about the Arab countries and the Middle East and…people are scared of yoga in that place…he said, ‘I am very honored, I am very happy to see you doing this in the Arab countries. I want you to take my teachings.’ And then they prepared a very special, nice dinner. He requested a special dinner; he could not have the dinner because he was sick.  He requested to see me after dinner and he asked me, he seemed to know a lot of things I didn’t say to him... he gave me a card and said, please tell me your story in details, I want your story…I felt the greatness when I was sitting and meditating in front of him. He requested me to come two days after that so we can have a special program and I can make an Arabic dish for him and I was arranging to get the ingredients to make the dish for him. He spoke Arabic and he spoke from the Koran, he spoke from the belief of the Muslims that he knew everything about it, he knew about a lot of religions. I was so surprised. He gave me two CD’s…he gave me one meditation and he said…this is meditation for Muslims…So I took it and then he said I’ll give you one more. I said I’m coming and then I’ll take, but he said, no, take now. And I took these things… And that night when I left after the meditation with him was so different because I slept that night and felt that I am in a heaven. I seriously left after the meditation I felt, I’m a different person. And when I woke up in the morning I was like, what was that, it was like I was feeling I was still meditating with Swamiji. And when I came to know he left his body I was wondering, why the first and the last meeting, I don’t like to call it the last because my connection with him is not ended there. Now every class, every course I give I talk about Swamiji and his method and I play his CD. I’m trying to incorporate what I learned from his books and the meditation. I’m not maybe there on the same path yet but it’s in my mission that I am going to come and commit one day and learn properly in this ashram to take his words to the Arabic countries…I encouraged people to come and learn in his ashram because Arabs should not be scared of meditation and yoga because they should understand this is a path of peace. It’s needed most in these countries and in the Middle East. This is all I can say today. I will just take a moment and we will say a prayer for Swamiji’s soul.”

Shankaracharya Vidyanrisingha Bharati

Shankaracharya Vidyanrisingha Bharati gave his tribute. He holds the same Shankaracharya seat that Swami Rama occupied from 1949-1952, according to Stoma, who also wrote that it is a subsidiary seat to the Matha at Shringeri.

He was a frequent visitor to Swami Veda. Of course, I have no idea about the substance of their interactions. I was sometimes among those who stood in respect as he arrived at the ashram. I remember him as humble, kind and gentle in demeanor, despite the great dignity of the seat he holds. He spoke primarily in Hindi.

Padma Shri Bharat Bushan

Shri Bharat Bhushan is the recipient of the first prestigious Padmashri Award given by the President of India for his contributions to yoga. He is plainspoken and elegant.  His Mokshayatan International Yogashram is located at the foot of the Himalayas in Saharanpur city as well as many branches throughout the world. Bharat Bushanji also gave his talk in Hindi.

Dr. Vijay Dhasmana

Dr. Dhasmana, Vice Chancellor of Swami Rama Himalayan University and a member of the Dhyana Mandiram Trust board, has translated several of Swami Rama’s books from English into Hindi. He also spoke in Hindi.

Mahamandaleshwara Abhishek Chaitanya Giri

Swami Abishek Chaitanya Giri is a well known scholar of Vedanta and Indian philosophies.  He spoke about the state of a world in great suffering and tumult and the need for healing. He also expressed the need for people to come together to create deeper understanding and a better world and prayed that SRSG would continue to be a place that followed in the footsteps of Swami Veda.

He expressed his prayers that we might learn to redirect any divisions and divisiveness toward a deep and enduring harmony. He said “when I look at Swami Vedaji’s work, this is what I find, that he has invariably made our attentions turn towards these scriptures wherein he has shown us, yes, we all as a world can be living together…. that to maintain the state of the world… wherein all people… [are] together striving for higher goals of life--- that would be preservation of the world. Or else we would be living and living only to fight with each other.

New books and CDs Released

Bhola said that we have more than 5000 hours of Swami Veda’s recorded lectures, many of which have been transcribed. Some of them have taken the form of new books, some in Hindi and some in English. Then he asked some of the dignitaries to release these new books, some based on Swami Veda’s own words, another on Swami Veda, based on the experiences of his students and friends and another on students’ experiences with Swami Rama. I can hardly put these books aside. They are beautiful. Please write to Himalayan Yoga Publications Trust at [email protected] for more information.

Sarangi, Tabla and Vocal Concert (Diary notes)

Ustad Kamal Sabri, on sarangi and voice, comes from a long line of sarangi masters. Upon meeting Swami Veda for the first time, he was surprised that Swamiji was aware of his ancestral musical heritage and noted forefathers. He has a stark willingness to let go at every opportunity and yet is always a force of stillness, dancing arabesques across that dynamic fixed point. He reminds me of Ganesh—so anchored--an immovable force that leaps and flies. The old master and the playful child ride the waves together.

Bold sailors on the open seas, Kamal Sabri  and Sabir Hussain, sarangi and tabla  masters, leapfrogging the galaxies. One calls, the other is already there! Nabeel Khan, Kamal’s nephew, jumps in on sarangi at times to complete an already exhilarating performance. Whimsy, mastery, surprised by oneself and by one another. Together they make a single master oarsman on turbulent seas.

Kamal’s singing is so sweet, so strong, utterly masterful…so much the seeker beseeching the Lord.

How did they do that? It is the perfect indwelling. The music swells, then waits, spilling over. As the sarangi calls, the tabla moves a steady pace, then lets loose.

I commented to a friend on Facebook:

Remember the little toddler who went around sweetly touching the faces of other children at the beginning of the concert? And how he would sometimes throw his arms up in the air in absolute bliss at a passage the musicians had just cut through in the woods? And how surprised Kamal sometimes was at a passage he had done, as if he was just light, a simple element? Not a man with feelings, just there rippling beams in the forest stream? Then I learned at the very end that this precocious toddler was his child! And I thought "I bet he is one of the musicians in that family one or 2 or 3 generations back.” What a joyous night.


Editor’s Note:

Most photos by Michael Kissener.  The photo of the books released by Himalayan Yoga Publications Trust (HYPT) was taken by Jay Prakash Bahuguna.

To read more about Ustad Kamal Sabri, please read the article “Ustad Kamal Sabri” by Dr. Prakash Dixit in this newsletter.

For more, please click on title:

The 14th of July 2017 will be the 2nd anniversary of Swami Veda Bharati's Mahasamadhi. 8th July - 16th July 2017 there will be a Maha Samadhi Retreat at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, Rishikesh, India. Contact: [email protected]

 

   
       

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