Tag: Yoga

SingaSpeaks – Roar 76

SingaSpeaks – Roar 58

Roar 58 gives details of Yoga Training lessons, conducted by Nikam Guruji Yoga Kutir at our Mission campus on Fridays and Sundays. The Sunday batch was the 59th…

SingaSpeaks – Roar 49

Roar 49 gives a bird’s eye-view of the Monks’ Visit to Synagogue, reunion and reflections of the IMCO, A Friendship Dinner at Turkish Cultural centre etc…
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SingaSpeaks – Roar 32

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SingaSpeaks – Roar 22

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SingaSpeaks – Roar 14

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Never to forget Nischalananda

Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji
Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji

Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji was the Founder of the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa. Every year, during his birthday weekend some program or other is arranged in various ways. This year, on the 84th birth anniversary, our Centre held a Seminar on Religious Education.

Following erudite Papers were presented to the delight of all the listeners accompanied by captivating slide-shows.
1. Identifying a Curriculum for Hindu Religious Education by Ms S Naidoo from Sri Sarada Devi Ashram, Asherville
2. The Role of Sunday School Teachers in Promoting Hindu Religious Education by Dr N Balkaran from Ladysmith
3. The Role of Parents in Home-based Religious Education by Mrs R Singh from Newcastle
4. Using Distance Education and the Electronic Media to Promote Hindu Religious Education by Mr V Mohanlal from Headquarters

Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji in a lonely moment
Gurudev Swami Nischalanandaji in a lonely moment

While inaugurating the Seminar, I drew the attention of all to the wonderful early spade-work done by Swami Nischalanandaji in introducing variety of ways in keeping up the heritage of religious ideas among the Hindus who due to the prevailing political conditions in those days, could not maintain their cultural contact with Mother India.

He had several disciples. I met a few who are pretty old now. The name of Mother Henny (sweetly called Henny Maa), now 87, spending quite days in Asherville Sri Sarada Devi Ashram is not unknown to many devotees of the Ramakrishna Centre in South Africa.

Henny Maa
Henny Maa

Her original name was Henny Maria Thekla Schimmel, was born at Leipzig in East Germany. She arrived in South Africa in 1950. She was 28 years old then. In 1956, a friend introduced her to the local branch of the Ramakrishna Centre in Johannesburg. A doctor of homeopathy – Dr Mckippen, ran the branch. She visited the branch every Thursday. In 1956 (after a few months of attending satsangs) she was informed that the leader of the Ramakrishna Centre was arriving in Johannesburg from Durban.

Meeting Gurudev

It was a Thursday towards the end of 1956 that Henny first saw Gurudev.

“We were singing, when I felt a gust of wind brush past me. I turned my head and saw the feet of Gurudev. At that very moment, I thought to myself these are the feet of Christ – the anointed one. I was not myself after that. I was transported to a higher plane of consciousness. All my life I was looking for something. On seeing these divine feet, I knew that it was Gurudev I was waiting for. At last, I had found him.”

She continued to say in a choked voice,

“Gurudev informed me that he was going to India. I asked him to give me initiation before he left. I was initiated on the 6th of February 1957.”

Henny Maa could relate to us some of her memorable experiences vis-a-vis Swami Nischalanandaji. I give below two of them as narrated by her. One was on Yoga Camp and the other was Dance of Shiva.

Yoga Camp
“I was looking forward to going to the yoga camp when I got very ill with double pneumonia. Gurudev phoned me. Disappointedly I informed him that I could not make it to the camp. He said to me, “You will come. Phone me after midnight.”

I called him after midnight and felt better soon after. Needless to say, I attended the yoga camp. It was relayed to me later that Gurudev got seriously ill after my telephone conversation with him. He had taken over my illness.

Dance of Shiva
At one of the camps, Gurudev had dressed as Nataraja the cosmic dancer. He danced using classical intricate steps, with no formal training or knowledge of knowing how to dance. The devotees were moved by this experience. Some cried and some laughed each having a different experience. A trained dancer wrote down the movements and informed Gurudev that the intricate steps he performed could only be done by the rishis.
He was a saint of this century. Not many people knew of the power behind his deep spirituality. His sannyasa Guru, Swami Purushottamananda knew about the positive influence that Gurudev would have in South Africa.
I am truly blessed to have been associated with Gurudev.

Hinduism Conference at Glencoe

The following is a short report on the Hinduism Conference held at Glencoe Town Hall on Sunday 7th September, 2008. About 250 delegates from mostly Northern Natal region participated. Kumari Reantha Pillay, a student-devotee from Durban recounts here of the Conference.

On Sunday 7 September from 9h00 to 12h00, a Conference on Hinduism was held at the Glencoe Town Hall. Mrs Shalini Bhudhu of  Sanatana Dharma Sabha delivered the inaugural address in which she discussed Hinduism and Vedanta, according to the Holy Trio.

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.
  • Smarana – Remembrance
    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. 
  • Puja – Worship
    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.   

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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”

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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.