May 2013, No. 153
IN THIS ISSUE
Upcoming Events / Announcements
Previous CMWN Issues
Back to the Future: The Thunderous Glory of Sandeepany
The Bliss of Uttarkashi
Back to the Future: The Thunderous Glory of Sandeepany
by Acharya Vivek Gupta
The highest dakshiņā a disciple can offer a Guru is surrender, to allow the Guru to lead him to abide in Truth. On January 9, 1963, Pujya Gurudev established Sandeepany Sadhanalaya (Sāndīpani Sādhanālaya) in Mumbai, India as a timeless offering to his Guru, Param Pujya Swami Tapovan-ji Maharaj. The golden jubilee celebrations of Sandeepany Sadhanalaya on January 9, 2013 stood testament to the immemorial glory of the Guru-paramparā.
The celebration of Sandeepany Sadhanalaya is the celebration of the Mission’s gurukulam of Vedantic studies wherefrom all swamins and brahmacharins, and some acharyas, have graduated. Sandeepany offers the Mission’s two-year (or longer) residential Vedanta course designed by Pujya Gurudev. This course is more commonly known in the Mission as “the Brahmachari Course” or “the Vedanta Course” in different languages. The Sandeepany ashram in Mumbai offers the course in English medium, whereas other ashrams offer it in various regional languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam.
Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in Mumbai, also known as “the Powai ashram,” has already seen the completion of 15 Vedanta Courses over its 50 years. After every course is a one-year break, during which new applications are accepted and reviewed, personal interviews are taken, and final selections are announced. The course is free for full-time students who are Indian residents and who plan to serve the Mission thereafter. International or part-time students join as guest students and pay nominal fees. Day scholars are accepted locally at the discretion of the course acharya. Every course, blessed donors come forward to sponsor clothes, food, materials, and medical care for these students who are ready to dedicate their lives to personal spiritual upliftment and unrequited service to the world. For more information on sponsoring or joining the next Vedanta Course in 2014 at Sandeepany, contact TCT.
For the golden jubilee celebrations of Sandeepany Sadhanalaya in Mumbai, over 100 Chinmaya Mission acharyas from around the world united to celebrate the glory and contributions Sandeepany over the past five decades. In the august presence of Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda-ji, January 9 began at 6:30 a.m. in the Jagadishvara Temple with a Gaņapati Homa.
Breakfast bhiksha in the annakshetra was offered this sacred day by blessed devotees from all over the world.
Everyone gathered once again at Jagadishvara Temple for a procession after aarti at the main altar of Lord Shiva, whose prāņa-pratishţha in the temple has been done by Pujya Gurudev Himself. The procession moved with the chanting of “Om shri chinmaya sadgurave namaha” to Param Pujya Swami Tapovan-ji’s pratimā outside Pujya Gurudev’s kutir, where everyone reverently sang Tapovan-Shaţkam. The procession continued to Pujya Gurudev’s pratimā, where everyone devotedly chanted Guru Stotram. The conclusion of the procession brought everyone into the open-air auditorium atop the Tapovan Vihar building.
The program commenced with the purņa-kumbha welcome of Pujya Guruji. Seated alongside Pujya Guruji on the stage were Narain Bhatia, CEO and Trustee of Central Chinmaya Mission Trust (CCMT, the apex body of Chinmaya Mission worldwide), and Tara Swarup, Trustee of Tara Cultural Trust (TCT), which administers the Sandeepany ashram. Tara Amma, as she is known, is the generous donor of the land on which the Sandeepany ashram sits.
Kirti Bhima, the new CEO of TCT who retired and moved from Australia to serve Chinmaya Mission, was the Master of Ceremonies. In his warm welcome address, he lovingly welcomed all the acharyas “back home,” and expressed gratitude for Pujya Gurudev’s light and guiding hand that is on all acharyas as they carry his teachings to every corner of the world. He said 161 of the 281 Mission acharyas have completed the Sandeepany Vedanta Course. He also made a striking point that TCT is also the acronym of our Guru-paramparā: (Pujya Swami) Tapovanam-Chinmayananda-Tejomayananda. He thus concluded that Tara Cultural Trust runs only with the blessings of, and on the foundation of, the T-C-T Guru-paramparā. In his later address, Swami Chidatmananda humorously quoted the same acronym to be the antidote for his TCT of Tension-Confusion-Trepidation.
In his address, Pujya Guruji expressed that of all the ashrams, centers, institutions, and projects of Chinmaya Mission worldwide, Sandeepany Sadhanalaya, Mumbai is dearest to his heart, as he attended the second Vedanta Course conducted here. Guruji fondly remembered Pujya Swami Purushottamananda, whom Guruji said he looked upon as “my elder brother,” who had completed the first Vedanta Course at Sandeepany Sadhanalaya. Guruji invited various acharyas to speak, first and foremost Swamini Gangananda, who is currently the most senior swamin in Chinmaya Mission as well as a graduate of the first Vedanta Course at Sandeepany.
Swamini Gangananda said how grateful she was that Pujya Gurudev accepted women into the course and gave them this Vedantic knowledge. The remaining speakers invited were Chinmaya Mission’s Regional Heads, who shared their thoughts of gratitude, meeting with Pujya Gurudev, joining the Vedanta Course, and the impact of Sandeepany. These included Swami Viviktananda (CM Kasargod), Swami Subodhananda (CM Sidhbari), and Swami Chidatmananda (CM Hyderabad). Swami Advayananda (current Sandeepany Mumbai course acharya) and Acharya Gaurang Nanavaty (CM Houston) were also invited to speak. Acharyas Gaurang and Darshana Nanavaty were introduced as the only two students who completed the Vedanta Course in USA at CMW’s Krishnalaya ashram in Piercy.
The stirring and inspiring event aptly concluded with a pādukā-pūjā offered to Pujya Gurudev, after which all the acharyas came forward to offer their Guru dakshiņā to Pujya Gurudev. The highly devotional atmosphere struck a tangible chord in the hearts of all, with prayers for the glory of Sandeepany Sadhanalaya to continue to rise for generations to come.
The Bliss of Uttarkashi
by Anjali Singh
Six of us landed with Pujya Guruji Swami Tejomayananda at the Dehradun airport on April 7, to make our way to Uttarkashi. Mission devotees greeted him with garlands, a basket of fruit, a packed lunch, and two cars.
Since we had already reserved two taxis, we were able to cancel only one. But what a boon it was that we traveled in three cars, with only two people in each car and Guruji in the front seat—by turn!
Neelu and I were lucky to get the first round. “This is my idea of heaven,” said Neelu. She added, “With a basket of fruit in the middle!”
Heaven became “more perfect” as we passed through Dehradun’s beautiful woods, renowned for its wild elephants. We peeled an orange for Guruji along the way and devoured the rest—the strawberries, loquats, grapes, oranges, and bananas.
As we took the turn from Rishikesh to Uttarkashi, we were amidst woods that abound in a variety of trees. Along the steep, climbing road with many bends, we were treated to clear aerial views of the holy city of Rishikesh.
It was midday and quite warm. Guruji inquired if the other cars had air conditioning, and suggested combining cars if needed so that everyone could travel comfortably. Since every car was AC-equipped, we continued driving, chatting with Guruji. But soon after Narendra Nagar, the AC stopped working in our Car (Force) 1, and we had to stop to repair it.
If we did not find a shaded area, we figured Guruji would eat his lunch while driving in the car rather than keep stopping along the way. So, the first nice bend that was shaded was chosen to repair the AC wire, as well as to have our picnic lunch. I had been asking Guruji to stop at a scenic place for some good photos, so he said this was my sankalpa being fructified!
Guruji next sat in the car with Anita Thapan and Kiran Singh. In our car, as we stretched our legs, Neelu dozed and I watched the scenery. It seems that Guruji got some rest in their car, as most of the drive was in silence.
About two hours later, our car ran into trouble again; this time, we had to stop because of a tire puncture. We phoned Kiran to tell her to proceed with Guruji and that the other two cars would continue after repairing the tire. When Prakriti Vasvani and I decided to take in the million-dollar view on the road flanked by the Himalayas, we were surprised to find Guruji there, waiting with Anita and Kiran! I regretted that I had left both my camera and phone behind. Luckily, Prakriti had her phone, so I could still take some pictures.
Guruji then drove with Chandrika Jauhar and Prakriti in the ashram car. Chandrika asked him a question that had come up in her Study Group. She said a young woman had asked that if she was happy with everything—her husband, kids, lifestyle, health—then why should she attend satsang?
Guruji asked what the Study Group sevika had said. The sevika had said that life is never the same or lasting, because everything is always changing, so we should be prepared with this knowledge to face the change.
Guruji said, “This is also an answer, but it might hurt the person if she is told that she is going to be unhappy when things change. It is better to say that we attend satsang to become happier.” He added, we superimpose the notion of happiness onto external factors, so what we experience is dependent happiness. But the happiness that we get from knowledge of the Self, is the kind that remains whether there is an object or not; this knowledge is such that our happiness is independent, he said.
We stopped twice again, once for Neelu’s carsickness and once for tea. Guruji had resigned himself to the fact that a non-stop journey to Uttarkashi was not possible with such ladies. And he was clear that he would not be leaving any car behind. After tea, everyone hurriedly got into the cars. When Neelu and I, as an afterthought, asked the tea stall owner if he had been paid, he informed us that Maharaj, meaning Guruji, had already done so! We all thanked Guruji for the treat!
Neelu managed to get me into Guruji’s car by getting poor Chandrika out, against my protestations, so that I could be there with the camera when all the Vedanta Course students from the Mumbai ashram greeted him on arrival. Guruji is averse to my taking so many photographs, but I try to finagle my way and tell him that they are for posterity, which they are.
Guruji told the ashram car driver, Birender, to step on the accelerator whenever the road seemed good. But it just never got good—for a 30 km stretch! Guruji kept singing, “Sukh hai to ek chhaaon dhalti hai, aati jaati hai, dukh to apna saathi hai,” referring to the bad road, which was the constant companion, whereas the good areas were in short spurts. He had sung the same lines when he had commented that the stops were ending up being longer than the drive! He said at an interval, “Don’t get too happy. The bad road will be back soon.” Sure enough, suddenly, all the cars came to a complete halt. We were at the tail end of a long line of vehicles. Guruji recited the verse again and said. “See! I told you.”
When we inquired why the line, we found out that workers ahead were painting the road! We thought maybe were tarring or clearing a landslide. Guruji decided to walk up a side road and Kiran went with him.
About 15 minutes later, the cars began to move and we passed through a thoroughly bad and bumpy road. Anyone with bone or back problems should not risk it. I declared this was my last journey to Uttarkashi. I had said the same thing last year as well.
When Guruji asked Prakriti if she had more questions, she asked why she had been blessed with this knowledge of Vedanta at such a young age, and what was she supposed to do with it. Guruji answered, “That you are blessed at this age is the result of a combination of many merits of your many lives plus the grace of God. What to do with it? You must strengthen this knowledge by not getting distracted with worldly materialistic things. What to do with it in particular? Wait a little time; be in the Mission. The doors will open. Don’t block your mind against marriage or no marriage; leave it open. Do not fear when you see so many marriages not working around you!”
“Guruji, then will God present me with the person I am supposed to get married to?”
Guruji laughed and said, “That type of language I will not use. But you are to keep your mind open. You have to see that even if this person is not highly spiritual himself, that at least he has value and a respect for spiritual work and supports it. This is the minimum. Then you have to see the family and other things, and make proper inquiries. Many times, you find that they tell one thing and are actually something else. He may say he is a doctor, but is actually a compounder; or he may have read a book on homeopathy and is giving medicines!”
Prakriti asked Guruji why anger comes. Guruji replied that there are a few causes: “It can be because someone criticizes a thing, person, or ideology to which you are attached. Or, if there is something that you want and another person puts obstacles, and you can’t get it. If a strong desire is obstructed, or if your attachment is attacked, or if your ego is hurt, you get angry. The intensity of anger will depend on all these—the intensity of attachment, desire, and ego. If you don’t want something so intensely, your anger, too, will be less. Think about on whom you get angry and on what occasions. Keep a log, a diary, on your anger patterns, on when and why you get angry. Think about what you will get out of getting angry. Then it will come under control.” Guruji’s singing and reciting verses for us through the day’s events had certainly kept our frustration in check!
Prakriti, an idealist, asked if Rama Rajya was possible. Guruji replied, “There was Rama Rajya, because Shri Rama was king. But now, kāma is king.”
She asked why people in the world are afraid to speak the truth and are instead silent or manipulative. Guruji said, “Because we want something from this world. So long as we have desire, there will be compromise. The one who does not want anything from this world is not afraid of speaking the truth; he has nothing to lose. This is one aspect. But there has to be something positive in his life, a cause for which he is working, which will make him unafraid to speak the truth. Like Mahatma Gandhi, who did not want anything personally for himself, only for the nation. But we want something for ourselves and this is our weakness. To the extent we rise above our self-interests, or rise in dispassion, to that extent we are less afraid.”
We reached Uttarkashi when the evening aarti at Tapovan Kuti was in progress. It felt like Tapovanji Maharaj was blessing and embracing all his great, great grandchildren.
All the students from the Mumbai ashram and Coimbatore ashram offered their pranāms to Guruji. In attendance for this Kenopanishad camp by Guruji were Swamini Vimalananda (CM Coimbatore), Brahmachari Samvid Chaitanya (upāchārya of the Mumbai Vedanta Course), and Brahmachari Dev Chaitanya (CM Uttarkashi, ashram in-charge). Br. Dev had been posted to take over the work of Swami Dhyanananda, who attained mahāsamādhi after serving at Tapovan Kuti for decades. Swamiji had contributed greatly to the major renovation and new construction at the ashram, which now houses comfortable rooms with small kitchenettes for devotees seeking long-term sadhana retreats.
The next day, a new aarti was inaugurated in worship of Param Pujya Swami Tapovanji Maharaj, replacing the earlier one. The new aarti on Tapovanji Maharaj has been composed by Acharya Vivek of CM Mulund.
The first camp day was Monday. Brahmachari Samvid Chaitanya took everyone to the ancient Vishwanath Temple, Shakti temples, and the ghaat where Swami Tapovanji Maharaj’s body was immersed into Mother Ganga after his mahāsamādhi.
Guruji began teaching Kena Upanishad. He explained it at a very high level because he was addressing the students of both the ashrams, rather than the campers. About this Upanishad—short, crisp, and to the point—Pujya Gurudev once said (as he did about Gita, Chapter 15) that if a person listens to it attentively with faith and alertness, it is capable of giving a glimpse of Reality. I had told all my friends of this statement of Gurudev, and one day, it seemed to have hit home for Kiran, for she went around the whole day excitedly saying, “I am Brahman!” Unfortunately, one slips out of that experience of Bliss because, as Gurudev said, “The Guru may put you there, but your vāsanās will push you out!”
The most important verses are said to be at the start of the Upanishad. And just when you think this is the best part, it becomes even more interesting! Towards the end portion, Guruji was so animated in showing us that even if one looks at it from the rational, common-sense viewpoint, one has to admit that God exists.
“We don’t doubt the existence of the world and our own little self, but we doubt the existence of the great God! How amazing it is that a complete computer world is in a chip, which is made with man’s intellect. Then how is it that this entire universe can have been created without a Creator? This entire world of deva, gandharva, yaksha, pitr—all these things are known through shāstra. But the sun, moon, galaxies, satellites are seen with the eyes. Look at the variety of animals—from the hippopotamus to the ant—their anatomies, their physiologies! Each of them has their own food, which they find out themselves. This world cannot be created by the best of architects of even one Brahmā of one Brahmānđa!
“This world is governed by all the rules of Nature. We can predict lunar and solar eclipses, calculate eclipses gone by, and see how planets are pulled. A monkey’s child will be a monkey! An elephant’s baby will be an elephant. If such a law was not there, one could expect one’s child to be anything! Science has made progress only following the laws of Nature. Even the cause of accidents can be discovered by an inquiry commission! Here we have the whole of creation and you mean to say there is no one who created it?
“In spite of you not believing in God, he is still supplying you with oxygen! Such a world cannot be made without someone who knows the laws. No creation is possible without a creator. Every painting has an artist. Every potter must have the knowledge of how to make a pot. Every karma is dependent on a doer, a time, and a place. Therefore karma can, at best, be an instrumental cause, not the efficient cause—not an independent cause.
“For whatever effect there is, it must have a cause. Everyone accepts the existence of a material cause. The question is, what is that cause? They accept some material thing as the cause, but it is inert, [so it cannot be]. And how can Consciousness come from inert matter? If there is a world, then it must have a maker. . . . What we call God or Ishvara is the One who pervades all beings and is the Self of all.”
Br. Samvid chose Gauri Kund near Anand Ashram for all the campers to have a dip in Gangaji. Everyone loved it. Later, Swamini Amritananda, who has a beautiful ashram just above, allowed everyone to change there and provided a dona of fruit to everyone as prasād. Guruji went with two people the next day to the same place and had his dip, but without telling anyone about it. And nobody came to know, as it was rest time in the afternoon and no photographers were around!
One day, I saw Guruji, Swamini Vimalananda, and Br. Dev walking out of the ashram after Guruji’s class. I ran after them with camera in hand, down to the entrance road, and up the main road. I felt like a journalist after a scoop! When I caught up with them, Guruji said, “Why did you come here? Nothing is happening here.” I said, “One never knows when it does, because you don’t tell!”
What actually was happening—because nothing happens without some cause—was that Br. Dev was showing to Guruji the new garage that the ashram had recently acquired on the main road to house the ashram car.
Swamini Vimalananda’s talks on meditation techniques in Aparokshānubhūti were wonderful. Though she comes up with all these questions for the audience, which makes the audience think, the result is, she makes her point crystal clear. Most people don’t know the answers to these questions, because only when you have studied the scriptures in a systematic way is there clarity in thinking.
It was a most auspicious time to be in Uttarkashi, as all the New Year days of the Hindu calendar, South and North Indian, all fell between April 11 and 14: Guđhi Pāđavā, Vishu, and Vaisākhi. We were all treated to different kinds of sweets and desserts as prasād.
Guruji was invited on April 13 to inaugurate the Brahma Vidya Peetham of Swami Sarvananda, who is the President of the Sadhu Samaj in Uttarkashi, and Hari Brahmendrananda, who is the resident acharya. Ladies were not allowed, so Yogesh, one of the course students, took photographs with my camera.
The students had very full days, every day. Beautiful chanting and meditation began early morning. They attended classes, and visited Som Ashram and the local temples that abound in Uttarkashi: Ujjaili Devi, Mahishasuramardini, Kandar Devata (protecting deity), Parashurama Temple, Dattatreya Temple (no longer there, as someone has taken the murti), Annapurna Devi, Kalabhairava, Vishwanath Temple, Hanuman Temple, Mukti Shila, Kedar Nath, and Laksheshwar Mahadeva. Vedic chants and other stotrams were sung by all while waiting for darshan at the various temples, making the visits all the more memorable.
The students also visited the Hari, Varanavat, and Valkhilya Mountains, and a scenic spot called Nachiketa Taal. In Gangotri, they went to the Ganga Mata Mandir, Parashara’s Temple (where the hot spring is), and Tapovan Kutir, where Swami Tapovanji Maharaj would teach in the summer months.
Priya, a student from the Mumbai ashram, said, “Uttarkashi’s environment was peaceful beyond words. You could feel Swami Tapovan Maharaj’s presence in every breath. It was amazing to imagine what Gurudev’s experiences might have been studying in this blessed place. Guruji’s Kenopanishad lectures poignantly enumerated the message of the text and gave a clear picture of what every Upanishad aims to tell the seeker. Every moment spent with Guruji is memorable, especially when he shares his new musical compositions. You can feel his immense love for the Lord and get to be a part of that free, flowing love. We were fortunate to help plan and execute the elaborate Guru Pādukā Pūjā that was held on the last day of the camp. Our contributions, though small, were an offering of gratitude to our Guru Paramparā, for allowing us to be in such a sacred and vibrant place.”
The last day of the camp featured a bhaņđārā for sadhus wherein they are fed. Usually there are two types of bhaņđārās: one, where all the sadhus from Uttarkashi are invited, and the other, where only one person from every ashram is invited. The former is much appreciated by sadhus and the talk of the town for many days, as I have learnt from my longer stays in Uttarkashi. But nowadays, it is more practical to invite on a lesser scale solely because of the numbers. The latter type of bhaņđārā was offered held at the ashram on Vishu, on April 14. Led by their acharya, Br. Samvid, the troupe of students prepared a lovely meal for the sadhus.
One student from the Mumbai ashram said, “It was so touching to see so many sadhus, who have dedicated their life to Knowledge, present in one place at one time. As a seeker, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Often, we feel like an exception amongst the masses, lonely and just plain different. But that day, I knew for sure that there are many seekers and saints, just that they are scattered in different places, like stars in the sky, providing a blanket of light to the world.”
What was most special about this trip? Priya said, “Performing aarti to Gangaji in person! Since we had studied the meaning of Ganga Stotram, we were able to see the words come alive as we watched her powerful waves crash against the boulders of Uttarkashi, stopping for no one, serving all selflessly.”
By the end of the camp, Br. Dev and his team, with their warmth, generosity, love, and impeccable attention to detail, had won the hearts of all. The entire trip was a most memorable and awe-filled experience for everyone, in countless ways.
The main attraction of Tapovan Kuti is the shrine, the seat of Knowledge from where Param Pujya Swami Tapovanji Maharaj imparted Brahma-vidyā to our Pujya Gurudev. There is a famous photograph of them together which says it all. Guruji likes to keep the shrine as it was, and sits there sometimes when devotees request a photo. But Guruji has found a place of his own to sit on, just as he has found a place of his own in Chinmaya Mission worldwide. His clarity of vision, and enormous bhakti for the Lord and Guru, always flow from him and get expressed in his poetic bhajans. He lives at an inspired and inspiring level all the time, in his own glowing revelry of the Self. This is the spiritual quality of teachers that Tapovanji Maharaj set in motion, and we are blessed to have been brought under this umbrella, to grow where we feel proud to belong. This pilgrimage to Uttakashi and Sidhbari is most important for the Vedanta Course students, for they go to offer obeisance to, and seek blessings from, their Guru Paramparā, so that they may also come into this league of the knowers of Brahman.