Delight of Devotees

A devotee who has had long association with monks of the Ramakrishna Order was telling me the other day that the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna were unique, each in his own way. He hastened to add that even today, though to a varying lesser degree, the monks are indeed special. Generally, a monk’s life is inward bound, so it is difficult to see externally the gem that each is. But when such monks occupy high positions or undertake such activities as to bring them within the ken of society, their uniqueness is visible to all. Swami Shantatmanandaji is one such monk who recently toured South Africa.

the soothing smile of Swami Shantatmanandaji...photo courtesy: Kavish

He is the present Head of the Delhi branch of the Ramakrishna Mission; this in itself is a comment on his leadership qualities, his admin abilities, his creativity and resourcefulness.

I used to wonder always when and where he took great interest in learning puja – the detailed methods of worship. In most of our branches daily puja of Master is according to the ten item method. The Special Puja of course consists of not only sixteen items of worship but also a much more expanded one. And what to speak of more specific pujas like Kali puja, Durga puja and Jagaddhatri puja which require besides expertise certain life styles too.

I came close to Shantatmananda in connection with Sri Sri Jagaddhatri puja during my tenure at Ranchi Sanatorium. That was an occasion to know more about the puja matters as he would patiently explain the science and art of many methods of worship to my varied silly questions! Sometimes our discussion would stray into those points pertaining to tantric worship. I was always just amazed at the depth and profundity of his knowledge and his ability to explain the esoteric and intricate processes in a most simple way.

It is little wonder that I looked forward with great expectation for his visit to our Centre here on a 15 day program. Though his days of itinerary were packed with hectic schedule – delivered 18 lectures in 13 days! (a detailed Report appended below) – yet during his stay here, many a post-meal time was spent in being with him thus gaining some memorable moments together leaving me wanting more! When we, monks from different parts of the world meet, (sometimes through skype too!) there is much ‘catching up’ to do. It was wonderful to listen to him about the proposed 150th birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda in 2013 all over the world and he lovingly ‘booked’ me for a program in Delhi! The unique combination of a sincere devotee and a serious  academic in him added a lot of ‘masala’ to our discussions.

Contrary to what I had heard of him (that he was in the habit of keeping a distance from devotees etc.), he spoke in a sweet and simple yet enlightening manner, whether at the dining table, in the foyer or at a public lecture with whomsoever he came into contact with. Instantaneously he became a spiritual delight of devotees.

What was his impression about his visit to South Africa and the devotees here? I quote a portion from his email that he wrote after returning to India:

Dear and Revered Maharaj,

What shall I write to you?  I am afraid, any attempt to pen down my feelings would fall far short of my true feelings.  The South Africa experience is something which only the truly blessed people get once in their lifetime.  I have never seen such a wonderful band of sincere, dedicated and devoted devotees anywhere outside India.  The officials and members of Exco — they are shouldering enormous responsibilities.  Hats off to them.  Revered Swami Saradaprabhanandaji is a truly amazing personality.  It is unbelievable how one can be so humble and self-effacing in spite of such capacity and talent.  My prayers to Master that he may continue to serve the devotees of South Africa for decades.  As for you I sincerely feel that you are the Master’s special gift to the devotees of South Africa.  Lord has blessed you with such a loving and affectionate heart and I am sure you are providing healing touch to thousands of devotees there.  Please convey my special regards to the Exco members…My special love and best wishes to devotees…My special prayers and best wishes to mothers…With deep love and humble pranams,

Yours affectionately,

Shantatmananda

Swami Shantatmanandaji arrived in Durban, on 15 July from Mauritius. On 17 July he was given a warm welcome reception that was held at HQ Ramakrishna Temple during Saturday weekly evening satsang where he spoke on Spiritual Life. Earlier in the afternoon he addressed a gathering of Youth members of the Centre on A Life of Purpose, Dedication & Service. His 15-day stay saw meeting with the officials and many devotees of our Centre, addressing different public programs, performing holy home-satsangs and giving interviews to spiritual seekers. He also visited Ramakrishna Sub-Centres in Gauteng, Dundee, Newcastle, Ladysmith, Estcourt in Northern Natal and Pietermaritzburg, Phoenix and Chatsworth in Southern Natal.

At Gauteng Sub-centre, Swami Shantatmanandaji gave his Keynote address on Glory of Guru on 18 July. From there, the next day, he was driven to Dundee Sub-centre where he gave his Address again on Guru. At Newcastle the officials took him to a few welfare sites where he saw how the humanitarian work being done. On 20 July he addressed a large gathering in Ladysmith Sub-centre where he spoke eloquently on Swami Vivekananda’s Message to the Youth. At Estcourt, on 21 July, the Swami explained the concept of Spiritual Journey.

A special satsang in honour of Swami Shantatmanandaji was held at our Pietermaritzburg Sub-centre on 22 July, when he conducted Guided Meditation and also addressed the congregation on Holy Mother. On 23 July he reached HQ in the morning where a number of lady-members of Sri Sarada Devi Women’s Circle were awaiting his arrival. They listened to him speaking about Women Empowerment and their role as Volunteers. At Chatsworth Sub-centre, in the evening, he gave a lecture on Welfare of the World – Why? & How?

The next day i.e., on 24 July at the evening weekly Satsang, held at HQ, he spoke on Swami Vivekananda as the Universal Preceptor. Earlier in the afternoon the Swami met the beneficiaries of Greenbury Welfare Project and addressed them on Faith in God – the First Step. On 25 July we celebrated Guru Purnima. In the Temple he performed a special worship with sixteen items called ‘shodachopachaar pujaa’. An hour later at the Nischalananda Hall there was a Public Meeting wherein Swami Vimokshanandaji, Swami Saradaprabhanandaji and Shantatmanandaji addressed a large congregation. The visiting Swami spoke on Sri Ramakrishna as Guru. On 26 July at Phoenix Sub-centre he spoke on How to obtain the Grace of God to the assembled devotees. On 27 July in the morning he addressed the Senior Citizen Forum members at the same Phoenix Sub-centre on the topic Aging Gracefully. A Class on Bhagavad Gita in HQ in the evening drew lot of appreciation. On 28 July evening he participated in a program organised by three Satsang Groups viz., Verulam, Etete and Tongaat. The venue was the famous Sri Veerabhoga Emperumal Temple at Tongaat. There he delivered a Talk on Religiosity vs Spirituality.

He was taken to Abalindi Home, one of the NGOs with which the Centre is associated for nearly a decade. The Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa has used a multi-dimensional approach in all its welfare activities over the last 65 years. This vision and strategy ensures that our support and services reach those in need in all areas of society irrespective of race, gender or creed. The Centre works with many NGOs with similar aims and objectives to provide much needed community services.  The Swami was overwhelmed at the plight of Terminally Ill Patients. He was all praise for the Centre’s help to this Home in giving a decent and dignified living just before death.

Being a Nature lover, a special visit was arranged by the officials of the Ladysmith Sub-centre to the world renowned Drakensberg mountains.

reading the incident of Gandhiji inscribed on a stone at PMB Station...photo courtesy: Rishie

That was a good relaxing experience for the Swami after a hectic tour of 7 days. So also his lively visit to Lions Park and Zoo and the century old Botanical gardens arranged by the officials of the Pietermaritzburg Sub-centre. They also took him to the historical railway station where Mahatma Gandhiji was thrown off the train. That was the place where ‘shivering through the winter night in the waiting room of the station’, Gandhiji made the momentous decision to begin his unique form of protest against racial discrimination called ‘satyagraha’. Visiting Ushaka Marine World to see the Dolphins’ dance and aqua creatures in the undersea ship wreck, the crocodile creek, the South Coast and also the famous Umgeni River Bird Park made him feel thoroughly rejuvenated.

On 29 July of his departure day, the Exco officials bid him farewell and thanked the Swami heartily for his brilliant and inspiring lectures.  The Swami, in his reply pointed out, his delight with devotees who are serving the Holy Trio with unconditional love and how he was brimming with joy in witnessing the Master’s work being carried out in South Africa so meticulously. He was full of praise of sincere devotees who served the Centre from decorating the altar to dishing out the prasad.

On the afternoon of July 29, Saradaprabhanandaji, officials and self saw him off at the Durban International Airport. On his way back to Delhi he would stop for a day in Dubai where he had two programs to attend.

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18 comments

  1. Two years ago Lorna and I had the pleasure of meeting Swami Shantatmanandaji at his Delhi Office in the Ashram.
    Despite him being busy he welcomed us and chatted to us humbly and really made us feel special.
    He is an inspiration to his devotees.
    Desmond Sookdeo
    Durban, SA

    Like

  2. My humble Pranam to Swamiji
    Master has indeed blessed us all with a gyani and a bhaktha in the person of Swami Shantatmanandaji.Most defintely a delight to the devotees of South Africa with such wisdom,soul stirring singing and such sweet simplicity.A God realised soul for sure!
    Om Namo Narayanaya
    Ranitha Sewrathan
    Pietermaritzburg, SA

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  3. Dear Swamiji,
    Om Namo Narayanaya,
    We convey our family love and greeting.
    We enjoyed all the talks by Swami Shantatmanandaji especially the Gita class. The summary was excellent.
    Thanks for inviting Sri Swami to South Africa.
    Love and kind regards
    Rudi Dilrajh
    Durban, SA

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  4. Dear Swamiji,
    Prostrations to your lotus feet.
    I’ve been blessed with your loving association here.
    Surely everyone who came in contact with you has experienced your unconditional affection mentioned in letter.
    Best Regards
    Pankaj
    Bloemfontein, SA

    Like

  5. Dear Swamji,
    What a perfect avenue of communication!
    Your blog always expresses sentiments from the heart. I am deeply moved, reading the comments of the devotee on Swami Shantatmanandaji’s visit to SA which flowed over with love, affection and deep respect.
    I miss the chats with Swami Shantatmanandaji during my many visits to Belur Math, and I miss sharing those Jagaddhatri pujas in Ranchi, where your loving devotees celebrate the sacred ritual performed as described in this blog.
    I remember Swami Shantatmanandaji sharing with me that whenever he lectures, he speaks from the heart.
    It seems he has left many hearts overflowing. Which means there must have been a flood of love in Durban with the two of you sharing the podium.
    With loving pranams,
    Barbara Piner (Kalyani)
    ASTI: American Service To India
    Costa Mesa, CA 92628-2456, USA

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    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Sister
      After a long time I got a mail from you. This brought surging nostalgic memories of your repeated visits to Ranchi Sanatorium when I was there. Indeed you have a melting heart, seeing at the sufferings of the poor tribal people there.
      I cannot forget your coming forward to assist in our Projects set for the amelioration of their pain – be it milk distribution or installing solar heaters or any number of useful programs. And your participation in Jagaddhatri Puja in Indian attire was indeed memorable.
      Yes, dear Shantatmanandaji was the person who introduced your ASTI to me when I was in Seva Pratishthan. His support to Sanatorium in very many ways is deeply appreciated. And you have a wonderful rapport with him that does bring benefits to the grass root people.
      May your service to India grow is my prayer!
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  6. Respected Swamiji,
    We are eargerly waiting to hear the speeches of Revered Swami Shantatmanandaji as we are unable to atend his classes in South Africa. Hope you will fulfill our request.
    Pronam,
    Typhoon
    Kolkata, India

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  7. Respected Maharajji,
    In 1997, I was selected as a speaker of 100yrs Belur Math celebration in Belur Math.
    At that time I came to know of Revered Swami Shantatmanandaji Maharaj. It was almost 13 years back. When I was waiting to deliver my speech he came and asked me whether I have taken my tiffin or not.
    From that day I could not forget Revered Maharajji for his sweet nature. I used to take his darshan whenever I would go to Belur. Still now whenever I talk with him over phone he always asks not only about me but also about my other family members particularly about my mother. I really feel proud to come across such a great monk like him. I also feel proud when I see in the paper so many Thakur’s works he is doing in Delhi. He is such a busy person but always with smiling face.
    My sincere pronam to him and pray for his kind blessings.
    Madhumita Ghose (TYPHOON)
    Kolkata 700034, India

    Like

    1. Revered Maharaj ji
      Though you are staying far away from us but when I see your photos particularly in Picasa albums, it seems that you are still in India. Maharaj ji, please keep adding more photos in album.
      Madhumita
      Kolkata, India

      Like

  8. The Most Honorand Maharaji,
    I am in a state of bliss after reading your E-mail message. Your spiritual sermon was fresh like the drops of dew falling from the womb of the morning.
    Shantatmanandaji has become an institution himself & his religious sermons and discourses are eagerly awaited.
    I eagerly look forward to meet you at Durban and appreciating & applauding the good work done by your organisation.
    RELIGION IS THE TRUTH SHINING FROM BEHIND GIVING US THE STRENGTH OF BELIEF.
    May a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred thoughts contend.
    Thanking you & best wishes
    Ashim Sen Sarmah
    Assam, India

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  9. Revered Maharaj,
    Please accept my pranam.
    I am glad to see the blog sent by Prof. Hariharan and happy to know that you invited our dear Jaishankar Maharaj whose visit there generated lot of warmth and enthusiasm among the devotees. I am glad that ‘Sri Ramakrishna family’ is expanding and with your loving care and of course, Revered Swami Saradaprabhanandaji’s yeoman spiritual service in that part of the Globe.
    As you know the Ponnampet temple construction work and also the Temple consecration work went off very well by the grace of Sri Guru Maharaj. Revered Shantatmanandaji was the main pujari on the consecration day. We gratefully remember also your valuable financial contribution for the Temple Project.
    Please visit Ponnampet during your next visit to India and kindly intimate us in advance so that we can arrange a talk by you at the Ashrama.
    With love and regards,
    Affectionately yours,
    Swami Bodhaswarupananda
    Ponnampet, Karnataka, India

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear brother Bodhaswarupananda
      I have been getting news about the progress of the Ponnampet Ashrama. I was pleased when Dr Hariharan sent me some charming photos of the Temple Consecration Ceremony. I saw some of them here too. Please don’t talk about my humble Contribution which was only a drop in the ocean.
      Many thanks for your kind invitation. My next visit to India has not yet been determined. I have left it at Master’s hands.
      May His Will be done!
      with love to you and other younger brothers and my respectful pranams to Bade Maharaj,
      Swami Vimokshananda

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  10. Most Revered Swamijee
    My loving pranam!
    We were instantly drawn to the great insight that Revered Swami Shantatmananda Maharaji had revealed in the spiritual splendour of the discourses he had delivered at the various sub centres in South Africa. Revered Maharaji blazed like the sun, spreading his spiritual warmth on us all.
    We are truly thankful to Revered Swami Vimokshananadji Maharaj and Revered Swami Saradaprabhanandaji Maharaj for making it possible for us devotees to be in the company of such a great personality.
    With loving pranam
    Avitha Partab
    Pietermaritzburg, SA

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  11. My late grand father, who was in South Africa, had great admiration for Indian people and culture. He had seen Gandhi. That emotion has skipped a generation – I deal with a few Indians here – but they are more westernised than many western people – I visit various Indian web sites. I visited this one before – today I have collected the courage to make contact with Indian people.
    I have lots of questions – I do read as much as I can – but I still have many doubts – I wish someone can clarify some of them and direct me towards the right books etc.
    With regards and reverence
    Elizabeth Smith
    UK

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna is my refuge||
      Dear Elizabeth
      A hearty welcome to you for visiting this blog! ‘Be Bold’ was the teaching of Swami Vivekananda.
      Yes, I encourage you to ask questions. That is one of the three valid means to attain knowledge the other two being prostration and humble service. (Gita iV.34)
      I admire your grand father who has seen Gandhiji and was drawn to India’s great culture. As his descendant it is not surprising that you too have been nourishing keen interest in your heart. Well, may your interest in India and its people and also thus in spirituality grow is my earnest prayer!
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

  12. Most Revered Maharaj,
    Indeed it is Swamiji‘s blessing on us that he propagated such a clan of warrior monks, who not only fight their inner demons and successfully position themselves on the feet of Master, but also fight off the demons of the society and the people, in general…thus evolving us into better individuals. What makes them great in a lay’s eyes, is the reason that many monks of our order are extremely qualified and educated, they would have been highly positioned and successful people in other areas. But they chose not this flowery path, but a path full of thorns – leaving behind their worldly connections and senses – to be one with the Paramatman! Such a feat induces great devotion and respect in our minds!
    Swami Shantatmananda ji holds the life-line of the Delhi centre of the Order. His pleasing and cheerful personality attracts all and sundry to him. We all thoroughly enjoy Maharajji’s serial lectures on the Kathamrita and Srimad Bhagwatam and never think of missing it.
    When he returned from SA, he gave us a detailed account of what happened there and he clearly identified this impression of wonder and happiness at how beautifully the devotees there are progressing with the Ramakrishna Phenomena. That same evening after the evening vespers, Maharajji invited all present at the temple hall to join him in singing, as he was extremely impressed with the opening and concluding chorus songs on the holy trio during various occasions sung in South Africa. We all sang with him and felt a great sense of unity and bliss.
    This, I understand, is to be repeated at least every Sunday after the evening vespers.
    Indeed, we are more than happy at the happenings.
    Thanks to you, and all devotees at South Africa.
    Please accept my humble pranam.
    Sabuj Biswas
    New Delhi, India

    Like

  13. Respected Maharajji,
    I am writing this letter to you only to give my heartiest thanks to you because your Blog VEDANTA IN PRACTICE not only gives us religious teaching but also helping us to come across all children of our Thakur, Ma &amp Swamiji; Your all blog posts are so much interesting and inspiring I can’t explain to you. Language is very simple but ideals are like an atom bomb if we can think and follow in our life.
    A few days back, I have come to know a devotee of UK DR HIRU MUKHERJEE through mail where he has written that he has come to know of me through your blog. Maharajji I am really grateful to you and do not know how to give my thanks for helping us to maintain a good relation with all members of our RAMAKRISHNA FAMILY.
    Sometimes I think if our parents are THAKUR & MA and we are their children, we all are sisters and brothers of each and others. We all children are travelling by a train named RAMAKRISHNA EXPRESS. May be different compartments some are in like Ghambhiranandaji; some are Bhuteshanandaji compartment etc but our destination is same which is RAMAKRISHNA LOKA.
    Pronam,
    MADHUMITA GHOSE (TYPHOON)
    Kolkata, India

    Like

    1. ||Sri Ramakrishna sharanam||
      Dear Madhu
      Thanks for your deep appreciative words!
      You are right when you say that all devotees of the Master and Mother make up one family. Thats how the expansion of heart circle should take place so as to ultimately include everyone in this world as related to you.
      Your analogy of train is a good example. Even though we may have many different Gurus who are understandably different names only of the One Sachidananda who alone is real Guru, we travel to reach One Goal only as different compartments are attached to one engine. Keep reading…practice your sadhana as prescribed by your Guru.
      May Sri Guru Maharaj guide you ever is my prayer!
      Swami Vimokshananda

      Like

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