The first speaker was His Holiness Sri Swami Vimokshanandaji Maharaj who dealt with the topic of Devotional Practices according to the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Revered Swamiji informed the audience that in order to see God everywhere one must apply the kaajal or collyrium of bhakti (devotion) to our eyes just as Radha did. As always, Maharaj approached the topic from a very practical point of view, listing six devotional practices that Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna spoke about in the Gospel.
- Shravana – that is, Hearing God’s Name
Maharaj advised all to read holy books and seek holy company to listen to God’s name.
- Kirtana – Sing the Glories of God
Whether it be on a CD or through chanting and singing at satsang, we must always sing the Lord’s praises. Revered Maharaj recounted Master’s teachings about clapping our hands to rid ourselves of negative qualities.
Revered Swamiji reminded us of the importance of introspection. Maharaj advised that just as a cow takes in its food only to regurgitate it and slowly munch on it, we too must slowly munch on all that we have learnt about God.
- Padasevana – Service to all beings
A true Bhakta sees Master (or God) in his multifarious forms. Therefore we must serve all, animal and humans, in the spirit of worshipping God.
Ritualistic worship is necessary at the beginning of Bhakti but Maharaj advised us that rituals are not the be all and end all of devotion. There is a higher state to be realised and that is the Lord within.
- Bhava – Relationship with God
Maharaj pointed out the many relationships we can share with God. One may adopt the attitude of a beloved, have a mother and child relationship with God, think that you are the servant and God is the Master or have the attitude of a friend towards God. These various Bhavas help one to cultivate the greatest love towards their Isthadevata (Chosen Ideal).
Maharaj’s discussion on spiritual practices gave us a clear guide on how to increase our devotion to God according to the path of Bhakti Yoga.
The second speaker, Mrs Radidevi Govender, an ardent devotee of the Ladysmith Sub-centre, spoke on the topic of Work as a Spiritual Discipline. Mrs Govender explained the concept of Karma yoga, which is work done renouncing the fruits of the action.
She introduced the idea that our character was essentially our combined impressions but warned us against becoming fatalistic. She advised that we cultivate a will power because we are responsible for who we are. Just as there is fire in flint, so too is their knowledge in each of our human minds. Mrs Govender informed the audience that everyone is forcibly made to act under the influence of the three gunas, and rather than allow these actions to tie us down to the world we should, “work for works sake”.
Mrs Govender ended in the words of the Holy Mother, Sri Sarada Devi saying, “Everything happens by God’s will, yet man must work because God will through mans actions”
After the second speaker the conference broke for tea.
On Returning, Revered Ishtaprana Mataji dealt with the topic of The Role of the Hindu Mother in Instilling Spiritual Values in the Home. Revered Mataji warned all parents to be mindful of the samskaras (impressions) we expose our children to. She advised mothers to chant during pregnancy, play devotional music and do positive things. Mataji recounted incidents of the change that ashram has had on young children who attended Sunday classes.
Mataji gave the example of bhakta Prahalad, who though a demon by birth, was in fact, a great devotee of Bhagavan Sri Vishnu. This was partly because of his kind and pious mother being taken by Sage Narada to an ashrama, where positive vibes were abundant. Mataji further gave the example of Luv and Kush who were lovingly brought up my mother Sita and Sage Valmiki in the sage’s humble ashrama. The young boys were given love and affection but never spoilt. Incidents from the life of Holy Mother’s niece were also recounted, thus explaining the need to allow children to perform simple chores.
Mataji went on to explain that children were expert imitators and therefore parents must be positive role models. Parents were reminded to read holy stories to their young ones and attend satsungs regularly. Mataji also advised children not to argue or revolt against their parents but rather to look upon their parents as God, “Mata, Pita, Guru, Deivam.
The last topic of the morning was Preserving Hindu Culture for the Young Hindu away from Home, this paper was delivered by Dr H.B. Parbhoo, the General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa.
Dr Parbhoo clearly defined the differences between culture and civilisation, stating that the former was the way of life and values, and the latter, the external manifestation of this. He then went on to state the problems of today’s youth. He spoke about the lack of firm judgement due to various different causes. Dr Parbhoo advised the youth against entering places of Kali, places where gambling and drinking occur as well as slaughterhouses and brothels. Everything gathered by our senses affect us, therefore we must be careful with the people we surround ourselves with, the food we eat and places we go to. He reminded how Swami Gahananandaji, the past President of the Ramakrishna Order used to advise us to self analyse, pray, perform japa and meditation as well as selfless service.
The conference was also introduced to Swami Saradanadaji’s Golden triangle, in which the focus of our lives is school or work, home and ashrama or a place of worship. Dr Parbhoo dealt heavily with the Taitiriya Upanishad which states that one must have a spiritual home to ground oneself. He added some form of observable religion, association with Hindu culture and civilization, the ability to still the mind and reach out to the community would be a great help. With this vibrant message to all the delegates, the Conference came to a close.