Today I am completing one week in the soil of Singapore! I am exhilarated to learn that only yesterday as it were, that is on the 12th June in 1893 Swami Vivekananda stepped into this great city! As Acharya Shankara says, “kaalah kreedati” Time sports in his famous Bhaja govindam– I find five months have gone by so swiftly after I left South Africa! The move from South Africa to Singapore was not on rosy petals! It had its own share of hiccups.
My last post was on 20th November 2014. Most of the readers of this blog knew that I was on the move on a pilgrimage tour of Ramakrishna centres in Europe. I left the shores of South Africa on the 30th December 2014 and landed in Belur Math on 14th February 2015.
The six-week sojourn before stepping back to India and again an eight-week post-arrival travels in South India were extremely hectic and I had no time to “sit and stare” at the computer!
It was heartening to see that many devotees, in the meantime started enquiring about my resumption of posts. I just wondered from where to start! From the ‘bidai’ of SA or from the ‘shuruAt’ of Singapore where I landed on the 6th June 2015.
One devotee’s suggestion came in handy. He said that I should give some space for my travels so far. My travels were in the nature of pilgrimage and hence the wonderful feelings that I experienced in all those places and in all those I saw would be worth recounting. Be as it may, now let me begin from Durban where I was given “Durga, Durga” !
I learnt to say “Durga, Durga!” after joining the Order by watching senior monks used to pronounce these two mystical words at the time of anyone’s departure. Later I found in Bengal this is customary. It appealed to me to say the name of the Divine Mother who protects every jiva than merely saying “bye, bye!” that lacks the spiritual import. Hence I taught the devotees in South Africa whichever branch I went, including children who fearlessly would say, at the time of my departure in loud voice “Durga, Durga!” .
In paying tribute to the great saint Shri Kanaka Dasa, the Government of Karnataka in India has declared his birth day as a State holiday. All the government offices, schools and colleges around the state celebrate the birth anniversary of Shri Kanaka Dasa who made even the Lord turn around and made Him listen to his prayers. At the request of Pravrajika Ishtaprana, I gave the following article, written for children. She published in Deepika, an annual children’s magazine brought out by Sri Sarada Devi Ashram at Asherville, Durban.
Magnet attracts Metal
The other day I was talking to a group of children. They were Sonal, Sashiv, Sundar, Mishka, Kareena and Payal. It is always refreshing to talk to children. One little girl, Sonal, enquired why she is attracted to visit the ashram regularly while some of her friends are not inclined to come. I told her that the Lord, who is the Supreme Controller of this universe, is indeed like a magnet. We are all like iron metal pieces attracted to this grand magnet and therefore visit the ashram. Those who do not like to visit holy places are also like metal but are covered with so much dust that the magnet cannot attract them.
I asked the children what they do at the ashram. Sashiv, a young boy, said that he neatly arranges all the prayer books that were used in the morning. Another child, Mishka, said that she loves to clean the shrine carpet so that they can sit and study comfortably. Kareena teaches the little kids on how to behave in the ashram. Payal takes care of all the musical instruments.
One boy, Sundar, said that he enjoys ‘meditation’. I was surprised and asked him what he does during meditation. He told me that his mother tells him captivating stories about Lord Krishna and he sits quietly in the shrine and mentally recounts the whole story.
So I said, “Come Sundar, today you will tell us the story that your mother told you!” Sundar gladly agreed and began relating the story.
The Singing Saint
The story is an interesting one and concerns a lovely incident that happened in the life of one great devotee. This devotee was born in the present Karnataka State in India, about 500 years ago. He became very popular by the name of Kanaka Dasa.
Kanaka Dasa was devoted to the worship of the Lord in the form of Sri Krishna. Whatever he did – whether working in the fields or going to the market to purchase any item, cleaning the courtyard of his home or even taking care of his parents – he used to think of Lord Krishna and would always express his gratefulness to the Lord Sri Krishna. He became expert in singing the glory of God.
Once on his pilgrimage, he came to a small town called Udupi. In this town there was a beautiful temple dedicated to Sri Krishna. Kanaka Dasa was very eager to visit this temple and have darshan of the Lord.
Denied but Determined
But in those days, people born of lower castes were not allowed entry into the temple. Only the people of higher castes could enter and perform the worship. Coming to know of his social status, the men at the gate forbade Kanaka Dasa from entering the temple. Greatly disappointed, he went behind the temple and sat outside the fence just opposite a small window. This window was behind the Lord’s beautiful stone image. Though denied he was fully determined to see the Lord.
Kanaka Dasa could not see the Lord because the image was facing the entrance on the other side. Sitting there, he felt so unhappy that he began shedding tears profusely. He pleaded with God that was he not like the piece of metal drawn by the magnet in the form of Sri Krishna? He came to see the Lord but was not successful in having His darshan. He began to sing the glory of the Lord throughout the night, with copious tears flowing from his eyes.
Metal attracts Magnet
Just before daybreak, the people of the town who were passing by that temple noticed an amazing and surprising phenomenon. When they went into the temple as usual to offer their morning worship, they found that the image of Sri Krishna had turned 180° (half circle) and was now facing Kanaka Dasa! Behold! It was a miracle that the Lord had performed to make others understand the glory of His devotee!
We listened to Sundar’s story with keen attention. The boy said that his mother also told him what she learnt from the Sayings of Sri Ramakrishna. Sometimes the devotee becomes the magnet, and the Lord a metal, who is attracted by the devotee. He told us that even today, in that Sri Krishna temple of Udupi, the Lord is facing the window and not the entrance to the sanctum!
The Lord always fulfils the earnest prayer of a sincere devotee.
May Sri Krishna bestow ‘buddhi yogam’ – the Right Understanding to all of us !
|| Aum Shri Raamakrishnaarpanamastu ||
Renunciation, that is the flag, the banner of India, floating over the world, the one undying thought which India sends again and again as a warning to dying races, as a warning to all tyranny, as a warning to wickedness in the world. Ay, Hindus, let not your hold of that banner go. Hold it aloft. Even if you are weak and cannot renounce, do not lower the ideal.
Count down begun
The news of my transfer from South African Durban Centre has spread like a wild fire. I have been receiving lots and lots of mails, smses, phone calls and visits from innumerable devotees, friends and admirers of the ashram. The surge of emotion that fills the hearts of so many well-wishers is just overwhelming to say the least. Nonetheless, the time has come and I must announce the final date of departure to every one; yes the count down has begun! It’s just 50 days left for 30th December 2014.
One close devotee in a sad tone remarked the other day that I was a ‘guardian angel’ to her children and they would definitely miss me. I reassured her that the case is not so. We, in the Ramakrishna Order have a wonderful system of passing on the heritage to the next comers and it is this tradition that makes all the difference and also makes the stream of angel’s presence flow uninterruptedly. If one ‘guard’ goes then another ‘guard’ comes in. Who remains is not any more a matter but what sustains is all that one needs.
A whiff of fresh air
So, it was a joyous occasion for all of us to extend a hearty welcome to the new incumbent Revered Swami Vishwatmanandaji Maharaj on the last Saturday special satsang at Sri Ramakrishna Temple in Glen Anil, Durban. I handed over the ‘Charge’ to him one day before that is on the 7 November 2014 in the morning when we had a Trustees’ Meeting. Thus my tenure that lasted for seven years, seven months and seven days came to an end.
Revered Maharaj arrived at Durban from Mumbai on the 5 November which was a holy day – the birth tithi of Swami Vijnananandaji Maharaj, one of the direct disciples of Bhagwan Sri Ramakrishna. There we two resident Swamis along with Brahmachari Akhilachaitanya and some senior officials received him. It was my honour to garland him and utter ‘swaagatam, suswaagatam‘!
The Satsang function went off very well. In the traditional welcome that was accorded to him, brother Saradaprabhananda garlanded Revered Maharaj. In my Welcome address, I alluded to the oft-repeated question that was put to me : How is the new Swamiji? I answered that every one of the monks was unique and one could never find a carbon copy of another. Swami Vivekananda has strongly recommended us to be ‘original’ and hence no two Swamis will be alike. Yet a thread of unity courses through our veins and breath that gives a ‘holistic’ whole instead of segmented parts. That is called ‘Ramakrishna-sutra’ that binds every one with love, compassion and empathy.
Still the curiosity remains as to know about him. Revered Swami Vishwatmanandaji joined the Ramakrishna Order in 1968. Maharaj has served in various capacities at the Ramakrishna Ashrama (Rajkot), Ramakrishna Mission Higher Secondary Residential School (Arunachal Pradesh) until his posting to the Ramakrishna Mission Hospital, Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh in1984. A long stint of 25 years he spent in organising and running the most popular hospital service in the capital city unto 2009.
Here only I came into close contact with Revered Maharaj for nearly four years. The hospital has just started taking its wings of multi-various development. A stern administrator was the need of the hour and he fulfilled his role very admirably.
From 2009 to this year, Maharaj has been the Coordinator of the nationwide (India) humanitarian and educational projects undertaken by the Ramakrishna Mission to commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. This work took him all around India to monitor various welfare projects. He is a silent worker. When I think of the enormity of tasks involved in his work, the smooth sailing of his responsibility that he carried on his shoulders without much ado is amazing and it shows how humble he is.
He is an initiated disciple of Swami Vireshwarananda, tenth President of the Ramakrishna Order from whom he also had his monastic vows in 1978. Three years later I also had the blessed opportunity to have sannyasa from the same sangha-guru.