11 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur Day 6-7 Conclusion

Day 6 of the pilgrimage was a very special day as it was Akshaya Tritiya, as well as, the main bathing day for the Kumbh Mela happening in Ujjain.

During the day we celebrated our own version of the Kumbh Mela by taking a dip in Radha Kund and doing puja to Govardhan. The Govardhan Hill has immense spiritual importance among the devotees of Lord Krishna. After Krishna protected the inhabitants of Vraj from the wrath of Indra, He counselled them to worship Govardhan Hill, for which they did through Puja and a Parikrama around the hill.

In the evening we celebrated Akshyay Tritiya by visiting the Banke Bihari temple. Akshyay means something that does not perish, or in more simple words, you do not suffer any loss on account of it. All the acts performed on this day become perennial in nature. The ancient wisdom teaches us to give, to donate for a noble cause, and to look for the divine blessing on this day.

On this day it is common for everyone to visit the Prince of Vrindavan, Sri Banke Bihari Ji. It is only on this day throughout the year that devotees get a chance to see and admire the beauty of His feet. As sung by exalted and divine devotee, Saint Surdas: this is by the grace of Darshan and Dhyan (meditation) of the Lotus Feet of Lord that all impossible things become possible in the world. The lame can cross high mountains, the blind can see each and every thing, the deaf can hear, the dumb can speak and the poor can become rich and powerful so as to be honoured to move with Chhatra (ceremonial umbrella, generally used in grand processions).

Sri Swami Vishwananda and the group visited the Banke Bihari temple in the evening for Darshan. It was extremely crowded and there was a lot of pushing happening, but everyone in the group was lucky enough to get a glimpse of the murti. The evening Darshan of the Lord carried an even bigger blessing as he was only wearing a dhoti (loincloth) around his waist. It is called the Sarvang Darshan – Darshan of the whole body of Shri Banke Bihari Ji.  It was definitely the most action packed day of the pilgrimage.

As day 6 was filled with events, day 7 was more relaxed and a fitting end to the pilgrimage. The participants were given an opportunity to spend some personal time with Swamiji as well as go shopping before concluding the pilgrimage. The day ended as we celebrated Sri Ramanajua Acharya’s 999 birthday and wished Swamiji farewell to the airport. As with every pilgrimage with Sri Swami Vishwananda and Bhakti Marga, it was filled with external and internal experiences that can only be had by the grace of the Master, by "following the Master" wherever He may lead you.

Thank you for following our blog series during Swamiji's pilgrimage, if you yourself are interested in getting the whole experience of such a pilgrimage, then check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up (Registration ends June 1st): https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016

9 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur Day 4-5

Day four of the pilgrimage proved to be the longest and most exciting day thus far. After doing abishekam to Sri Swami Vishwananda’s personal deity, Giridhari, we made our way back to Vrindavan. Even though the trip from Jaipur to Vrindavan is only "five hours long", it took us over 13 hours to get back. Along the way, we made plenty of stops to visit different saints and temples, and each stop was an amazing experience in and of itself.

One of the stops included a very beautiful ashram directly outside of Jaipur. The venerated saint of the ashram would have darshan of Hanuman and Lord Ram on a regular basis. Even though the saint had passed away, the disciples continued to keep the ashram alive with puja and kirtan everyday.

The main highlight of the day was the visit to the Madan Mohan temple in Karoli. Karoli is about 182 kilometers southeast of Jaipur and about 100 kilometers southwest of Vrindavan. It is a small town and home of the amazing Madan Mohan Temple. Madan Mohan means “one who can even enchant Cupid.” In the temple, there are three altars. Madan Mohan stands on the centre altar, with Sri Radha on his left and Lalita Devi on his right.

The deity of Madan Mohana, also known as Madana Gopala, was first discovered by Advaita Acharya, a disciple of Chaityana Mahaprabhu. It was installed at a place overlooking the river Yamuna by Srila Sanatana Goswami and it was the very first temple to be built in Vrindavan after the long years of abandonment. The original deity of Madan Mohan was taken to Karoli in Rajasthan for safety during the attack on Vrindavan by Aurangzeb.

After visiting many saints and temples, we arrived in Vrindavan at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Everyone was extremely tired from the long journey.

The fifth day of the pilgrimage had a late start since most people got some well-needed rest after the long journey the day before. The majority of the morning was spent getting situated in the rooms and performing the abishekam to Giridhari (Swami’s personal deity).

Later in the day, we traveled with Guruji to various temples around Vrindavan. The highlights being the Banke Bihari temple and the Radharaman temple. In previous blogs, these temples have been talked about quite a lot, but just to say briefly, that these are the temples that truly capture the experience of Vrindavan, as they are a must to visit. Not only that, but it is also interesting to note that the Banke Bihari temple is Guruji's favorite temple.

All in all, the fifth day was very relaxed since we had gathered the necessary rest after the long journey the day before. But even though the fifth day was down time for the group, the locals were busy preparing for the upcoming Akshyay Tritiya, a very special holiday in Vrindavan.

If you'd also like to attend a pilgrimage in India, check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Registration ends June 1st: https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016

7 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur Day 2-3

The second and third day in Jaipur started off with abishekam to Guruji’s personal deity, Giridhari, as well as to two Radha Krishna murtis. These deities are called "Radha Madhav" and are from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself who gave them to Khanja Bhagavan Das, one of his companions.

Through out the second and third day, the group had some time to go shopping in India, and find deals and interesting spiritual items for sale at the local shops. Because the weather is very hot out, most temples typically don't open until later in the evening, giving the group some extra leisure time.

On the second night specifically, we visited the Gopinath Temple. The Gopinath Temple reminds one of the colourful Indian culture and the rich music associated with it. Not only that, but to be here with our Guruji, in the presence of a living master, the blessings are felt tremendously and the atmosphere is too special to truly explain.

The next night we spent visiting the Radha Vinod Lal temple which was installed by Lokanath Goswami. Lokanath Goswami was the first devotee sent to Vrindavan by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. One of Lokanath's notable disciples is, Narottama Dasa Thakur, who became well-known as a great poet and composer who had written many moving Vaishnava songs.

Another temple we visited was the Radha Damodar temple which was established by Jiva Goswami in the year 1542 C.E.  The deities themselves had actually been discovered by Rupa Goswami, who later gave them to his dear disciple and nephew – Jiva Goswami for service and worship. Though due to the terror of the Muslim king Aurengzeb, the Sri Radha Damodar deities were shifted to Jaipur. Till now there is a discussion if the original deities are still in Jaipur, or if they were brought back to Vrindavan.

The third night concluded with a satsang from Guruji as he shared with us the glory of Krishna, and what it means to truly have Love for God. The last two days were full of grace and tomorrow we wake up early to go back to Vrindavan, and (of course) along the way, we will be visiting a few temples. Jai Gurudev!

If you'd also like to attend a pilgrimage in India, check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Registration ends June 1st: https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016

6 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur Day 1

After the completion of the Atma Kriya Yoga retreat, we left very early in the morning on 4 May 2016 to Jaipur for the next part of the pilgrimage. The plan is to spend four days in the holy city of Jaipur visiting the famous temples of the city.

The trip from Vrindavan to Jaipur was approximately 5 hours (taking into account Indian traffic), the time was spent singing bhajans and of course, periodically stopping to have a chai tea. After arriving in Jaipur, the group went directly to the airport to welcome Sri Swami Vishwananda, as he was flying into India from Frankfurt, Germany. After a quick lunch we set out for our first visit to the temples of Jaipur.

The first temple we visited in Jaipur was the Govind Dev Ji temple. It is the most well known temple in Jaipur, and thousands people visit it daily. The murti in the temple is of Krishna, and the story of it goes back thousands of years.

Sri Krishna ́s grandson Vajranabha had three deities carved according the descriptions of Krishna. When they were finished, it is said that Govinda Dev had the same face as Krishna. The murti was then installed in Vrindavan and opened for devotees to worship.

In the 16th century, Vrindavan was abandoned and only deep forests remained there. It was the appearance of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that brought the discovery of this Sri Krishna deity in Vrindavan. Then, during the years of the fanatical Muslim attacks on the hHndu temples, the deity was taken away and hidden in Jaipur.

After having Darshan of Govind Dev Ji, the entire pilgrimage group started to sing kirtan at the temple. We ended up staying at the temple for nearly two hours. As many people were drawn to the large western group and kirtan, Guruji in his humility gave time to many of the curious onlookers and blessed each one that came to him.

On Day 2, the group starts early with temple visits, and also a satsang with Guruji - stay tuned.

If you'd also like to attend a pilgrimage in India, check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Registration ends June 1st: https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016

4 May 2016

Following the Master: Vrindavan & Jaipur 2016

We are excited to cover the next “Following the Master” series from Jaipur and Vrindavan. It’s our hope that you will join us on this journey over the next week as we write about the cities, the temples, and most importantly, the experiences of traveling in India with Sri Swami Vishwananda.

The pilgrimage to Jaipur and Vrindavan started on April 30th with the first ever Atma Kriya Yoga retreat in India. It was an exciting and intense past few days as the retreat concluded on May 3rd, in Vrindavan with the pilgrimage participants preparing to set off on the next part of the journey to Jaipur.

Below you can find an overview of what the participants did over the past few days.

30 April - Atma Kriya Yoga satsang and evening visit to Banke Bihari Temple and Radha Raman Temple

1 May - Atma Kriya Yoga informational sessions / OM Chanting / AKY group practice / kirtan / meditation on the banks of Yamuna river

2 May - Japa walk / AKY group practice at Nidhivan / AKY informational sessions / kirtan

3 May - AKY group practice in Orinda Kund / Atma Kriya Yoga informational sessions / kirtan

The Atma Kriya Yoga techniques given by Sri Swami Vishwananda is one of the most powerful yoga practices ever given to mankind. For the participants to have the opportunity to awaken Love through the practice of AKY in the holy places sanctified by Lord Krishna, is a truly unique opportunity.

Atma Kriya Yoga and Vrindavan. Love and love. And what is Guruji? Love. Which path does Guruji show to us? Just Love.

We have had an amazing AKY Retreat these three days. As Guruji says, Atma Kriya Yoga means to be aware of God in all your actions in your life. And Vrindavan is a unique place to help to do that connection, to help the sadhaks to begin to feel AKY in their daily lives, not only as techniques, but as a way of life.

Guruji always reminds us of the importance of the sangha, the importance of being together to pray, to sing, to do AKY… The importance of being candles of light for others, of sharing what he gives to us. These retreats are part of this, and a special moment to help the participants to become more aware of the precious gift that we have with Atma Kriya Yoga.  And if Atma Kriya Yoga is the nine forms of bhakti, there’s no better place than the heart of love and devotion to infuse that in the lucky sadhaks.

As everything is with Guruji, AKY is not about theory, it’s about experience. It’s about your personal experience with God. Having Rishi Tulsidasananda with us and the whole of Vrindavan at our disposal, the real AKY has begun to shine through the hearts of the participants. - Swamini Prabhaavati, Spain

There aren’t enough words to describe what one can feel when arriving at Brindavan. One things for sure, it makes a big difference in your heart!

These three days of Atma Kriya Yoga retreat enlightened us in such a way that it will be remembered and felt in our hearts for aeons.

Just to pinpoint some of the highlights, we were fortunate enough to walk where Krishna walked, meditate and do our kriya where Radha danced, pay our respects to Banke Bihari and Madan Mohan, feel our bare feet in sacred soil. Reading about these stories in books like “Inspirations” is one thing, but living it where they really happened is no less than magic.

Rich Tulsidasananda lectured about AKY in a way that few can. His love and bhakti for Gurudev and Tulsi Devi has such dimensions that spread to all of us so beautifully that it could only be completely felt in front of Mother herself in Orinda Kund, where she dwells. A lifetime experience is to dive into the sacred waters of the Kund of Orinda Devi. Sitar shared his complete joy of our beloved sadhana making us craving to do more and more every day. - Gaura Das, Portugal

After concluding an amazing past few days of going deeper into Atma Kriya Yoga, we set off on a new journey as we travel to the Holy city of Jaipur, India to begin the second phase of the pilgrimage with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Stay tuned!

If you'd also like to attend a pilgrimage in India, check out the pilgrimage in South India coming up with Sri Swami Vishwananda. Registration ends June 1st: https://www.bhaktimarga.org/southindia2016

8 Apr 2016

INSPIRATIONS: an App by Bhakti Marga

Jai Gurudev!

We are excited to announce the official launch of the "INSPIRATIONS" app by Bhakti Marga (see link at bottom of blog for download). The INSPIRATIONS app sends an individual selected quote each day to your mobile device to inspire your life and spiritual path. With over 400 selected quotes from the teachings of Sri Swami Vishwananda, this app not only serves as an 'Inspiration' for you every day, but it is also a resource of Swamiji's Divine wisdom.

By searching through the many transcriptions of Swamiji's commentaries and satsangs, a conscious selection of these quotes has been made to provide the perfect insights for different aspects of spirituality and day-to-day living. The tech team has served behind-the-scenes to design the app to be both resourceful and simple; and more updates are on the way! Each individual quote you receive is your "Inspiration" for the day that you can read and reflect upon. The quotes can also be easily shared with friends and family on various social media platforms.To supplement the quotes, we have also organised the quotes by "themes" and included a  practical glossary.

The concept behind the 'themes' section is that the app isn't only for someone to receive a quote each day, but rather, we wanted the app to have multi-functionality. Now, when someone wants to find a quote from Swamiji about a certain topic, they can go onto the 'themes' section of the app and find a quote pertaining to the subject desired. Just to give you a bit more of an idea, some of the topics include, "purification," "surrender," "happiness/joy", "karma", "meditation", and "Yoga."

The glossary is another feature that makes sure each and every quote is given its proper context. Oftentimes it can be difficult to find a distinct definition for Sanskrit words and other terms in Hinduism. The glossary is a tool that one can use for both the app and Hindu words in general.

Download the app for free at: https://www.bhaktimarga.org/inspirations

19 Mar 2016

The Initiation of Swamini VishwaNireeshwariLakshmiPriya Mata

We would like to introduce you to the newest Swamini in the Bhakti Marga family: Swamini VishwaNireeshwariLakshmiPriya Mata.

Swamini NireeshwariLakshmiPriya Mata will be responsible for the country of Canada.

We sat down with Swamini NireeshwariLakshmiPriya Mata and asked her to share her story with us.

How did she meet Guruji?

Swamini NireeshwariLakshmiPriya Mata met Guruji in 2015, in Shree Peetha Nilaya - only one year ago.

When Phoenix (Swamini's past name) came to Shree Peetha Nilaya for the first time, she said she didn't know who Guruji was, didn't know that she needed a guru. She was coming to the ashram with more than 3 decades of walking down a spiritual path - one that had led her through Catholicism, Sikhism, Islam, and Zen Buddhism. "There were many paths, but to me, these were all like many fingers on one hand." She had prayed to God with all her heart, since she was a child, that He should let her be on her spiritual path.

One day in 2015, she went to pray, to ask God to let her be on her spiritual path. She felt like there was a shift needed, that her life was not enough about her spiritual relationship the way it had been going. She had been working in Toronto and pursuing spiritual practices as before, but it felt stagnant - something needed to change, but what, she wasn't sure.

A few days later, a friend of hers was talking with her, and brought up that she had heard about an ashram in Germany, where there was a master named, Sri Swami Vishwananda. This was the right opportunity, at the right moment.

She made the journey across the Atlantic, and almost as soon as she arrived, she was jumping into learning about all that Sri Swami Vishwananda and Bhakti Marga could share. She heard about the OM Chanting and Atma Kriya Yoga practices from the residents of the ashram, and started practising them as soon as she could.

Two days after arriving at SPN, Guruji came back from his travels. That evening, he started singing bhajans in the temple, and even though Phoenix didn't understand what bhajans were, or what the words meant, it felt right - this was the spirituality that she'd been longing for.

Swamini said, looking back on that moment, "He saw how hungry I was. I was starving for spiritual food. I devoured that food! I had been waiting for 37 years. When I got the chance, I started it right away."

Swamini's initiation

The two weeks leading up to Phoenix's initiation as a swamini was a whirlwind of activity. She started the journey with the two week long Atma Kriya Yoga teacher training, which is known for being an intense process of learning both what to teach and how to teach the highest sadhana on the planet. Phoenix was enjoying the training very much, but at five days in, she was feeling overwhelmed. There was too much to do!

She went to his picture and said a prayer: that she would become the teacher that he wants, that she would surrender whatever happens to him, that she would walk his path. "I offered everything to him, and I said, 'I just want to please you!' I offered everything back to him, so he could deliver the message."

The next day, the AKY teacher-trainees each gave practice speeches. After Phoenix's presentation, people were impressed. One teacher trainer said to her, "Phoenix, you were the queen of the room."

Swamini spoke of her 'walk' with Guruji as being a similar pattern: she acts on her desire for God, for spirituality - showing up to do the work with a heart full of enthusiasm. She prays, and surrenders the work to God and Guru before it ever begins, that it's clear to herself that she walks in with no expectations. Then, the work is done, through grace - and it's often done with greater impact than anyone imagined it would be.

At the end of the AKY teacher training is a three-day initiation to become an Atma Kriya Yoga teacher. The day after the AKY Teacher Training ended was Shivaratri, and there was still much more to train. In those few days, Phoenix had long training sessions with many of the swamis: in puja practices, in the topics taught by the Bhakti Marga Academy, and more.

When Shivaratri came around, Phoenix had been told by the Shree Peetha Nilaya swamis that she was going to be initiated as a swamini, and had brought a suitcase of orange clothes for the initiation, according to their instructions. However, in her habit of keeping no expectations, even during Shivaratri, until the last moment, she kept the suitcase of orange robes locked in a room - not even wanting to look at them until Guruji initiated her, in case she would create an attitude of expectancy.

And the initiation did happen.

Two swaminis were with her to perform the ritual abishekam during the heavy snowfall of Shivaratri's celebrations. Before they began, Guruji appeared and instructed them to, "Hurry up, do it fast. I don't want her cold" before going back to the Shivaratri prayers.

When asked about how she'll spread Guruji's mission in Canada, Swamini NireeshwariLakshmiPriya Mata said, "I'm not concerned about how I'm going to do Canada. He's going to do it for me. I just call him in to do the job. The path is not my path. God is calling us on his path. Offer everything. It's not about running around. It's not about working for a paycheck. It's like Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, 'Offer everything to Me.' You'll see what happens."

After Shivaratri, Swamini NireeshwariLakshmiPriya Mata flew back to Canada and to Connecticut in the USA, to join Guruji in the beginning of his trip to the States, to initiate two temples. She said that on the flight back, everyone was coming forward to speak with her, to ask her about who she was, why she was dressed in orange robes, and to ask about the special quality that she was radiating. "People are very attracted to Guruji's light in me."

"When people ask how I am now, I tell them I'm blissfully full. I'm not happy - happiness comes from the outside. It can go up and down, so I'm not happy. I'm blissful. And I'm not half. Not a quarter. I'm full of this bliss. That's why I tell them I'm blissfully full."

Ram Navami is coming up shortly! For more information follow the link: http://www.bhaktimarga.org/events/event/ram-navami

18 Mar 2016

Stories from the Mauritius Pilgrimage

We'll wrap up the coverage of Guruji's trip to Mauritius with a few stories from the trip. One story is about the story of a great bhakta named Dhanajara, which Guruji told many times in his tour around the island. In a following blog post, we'll share the story of a hike that we went on during the trip, and how through Guruji's grace, we were able to escape a heavy tropical rain to enjoy a wonderfully sunny hike. We'll share the translation of the arati that Guruji sings every day in his puja to his personal deities. This arati was written by Mirabai, and gives a beautiful insight into the love relationship that we both seek and enjoy on the bhakti path. We'll also share the story of a 'chance' meeting with a Hindu bhakta at a temple, which was very moving - a simple experience, but full of love - just the type that Mirabai sang about in the Mane Chakhar Rakho Ji arati.

The Story of Dhanajara and Raja Thakur

Guruji told the story of the child bhakta Dhanajara multiple times throughout the trip, at many of the darshans and satsangs.


Dhanajara was a young boy of around 4 years old, who lived in a village in India. His village guru was a sadhu, who he observed doing puja to a saligram shila - Mahavishnu in the form of a stone.


Guruji performing puja to two saligram shilas and to Giridhari at Ganga Talao, Mauritius 

Dhanajara asked the sadhu if he could have a saligram. The sadhu offered him a choice: either he could have "Raja Thakur" - which in reality was a normal stone the sadhu picked up, which people kicked down the street every day - or Dhanajara could have "normal" Thakur - which, unknown to the boy, was actually a proper saligram.

Here is Guruji's talk:

The sadhu said to choose which one he wanted. Dhanajara knew that "Raja" is something more special. He said, "I want the Raja one!" The sadhu took it and gave it to the boy. Dhanajara was extremely happy. He didn't know whether it was a stone or a saligram. He hugged the stone, and he was so happy that he was crying - tears were flowing from his eyes. He rushed to his mom and said, "Look! Guruji has given me this saligram!" Of course, his mother saw that this was a stone, so not to displease him, she said, "Okay." She was just laughing at him.

He asked his mom, "Please give me all the puja utensils. I want to pray to the saligram the same way that Guruji has been doing." Not to offend him, she said, "Ok. Listen, I don't have anything right now, but I'll give it to you. Tomorrow morning I will go to the market and buy it." That night Dhana held that stone. He was crying. Time to time he would wake up and he would cry. He was so eager, waiting for when morning would come, when he would go to the market and buy the utensils.

When morning arrived, he rushed to his mom, and said "When are you going to the market to buy?" The mother said to him, "Listen my child, to pray to Thakurji, you have to do one thing. You can't take things from others. You can't take things from somebody else, but you have to take it from yourself. You have to provide everything by yourself."

Then he was determined. He heard what his mother had said. He was determined to serve Thakurji. So, what he did, he gathered some flowers and some leaves. He didn't even know what is Tulsi leaves, so he gathered normal leaves everywhere, flowers which were available. For the chandan - the sandalwood paste - he took a brick from the house, because he saw that Gurudev was using some red paste. He took the brick from the house, and crushed it, and put water into it. Of course brick is made with earth, so when you rub it, it becomes red. Same as chandan. So, he was very happy to have flowers and the chandan, and for an incense stick, he took normal wood. He didn't take agarbhati, nothing. He just took normal wood. That's what he gathered. So, happily, with joy, he collected the bread from his breakfast, and the jaggeri - some sugar, candy - which his mom had given him. He collected for his prayer. He took some water, to wash the stone.

For him, it was a saligram shila. For him, it was Krishna. And he was calling him Raja Thakur - the King of all Thakurs. He prayed. He washed the saligram shila. He offered the flowers, and the leaves. He offered the stick as an incense stick. He offered the chandan. Of course, for him, it was chandan. For him, it was an incense stick. It was Tulsi. And also, for him, it was. For Thakurji, it also was. Mind you, here there was just a stone.

Then he offered the bread, and he offered the sugar. As Gurudev had shown him, he did the same. He closed the curtain, because when you offer bhog, to Bhagavan, you close the curtain afterwards, you know? We say that Bhagavan doesn't eat, no? But Bhagavan comes and eats. If you offer, purely, like Sabari had offered to Ramji, He will come and eat. So he didn't know any mantras. He didn't know anything. He didn't even know who Bhagavan is. So, he offered in the way he saw, from Guru Maharaj. He was waiting that Thakur would eat the food.

What he would do: he would draw on the curtain. He would look. Peep inside: "Oh, He has not eaten." He would wait. So, you see: because of his devotion, that stone, which was a normal stone, which everybody was kicking on the street while walking. All the animals were passing by, and their feet were kicking it! But through his devotion, through his selfless devotion inside of him - single-pointed devotion, and also in the trust that he had in his Gurudev, Bhagavan Himself manifested into that. Bhagavan doesn't manifest just like that, you know? He wants that one is completely surrendered.

To be completely surrendered, what He does? He waits. He hides Himself. The same way He did with the gopis. He called the gopis, and told them, "Come, come, come!", then after, He said, "Why have you come? Go, go, go!" First He says "Come," then He says "Go!". What happens during that time, you know, is what emerges from inside. The more you wait, the more the fruit is sweeter. The quicker you get something, the more quickly you lose it. It comes, and goes. But when you know how to handle certain things, it stays for a longer time. It stays forever.

So here, Dhana was waiting. When will Thakur eat? The mom called him. He said "No, no, no, I'm waiting for Thakur to finish His food. When Thakur finishes his food, then I will eat." Here, we will sit, and think, "When will Swamiji finish? I want to go home, and eat. I have cooked food nicely."

Here, Dhana was sitting, on and on, thinking of when Thakur would eat, and Thakur was looking at him wondering, saying, "We will see how long can you wait for Me? How long can you long for Me? I have been waiting for you for many lives. Not only one life. You know only one life." Here Thakurji said, "To get this devotion, to remember that, I've been waiting for that moment since many lives. You have come so many times here! I long for your devotion. I long to be in your presence!" So He made him also wait.

Dhana started crying and crying, saying "Thakur, what have I done? I don't know any mantra, anything. That's why You're not eating!" Of course, you see, there's a limit, to everything. There's also a limit to where the Lord can't see the bhakta suffer. How can He see a 4-years old kid suffer?

So, He manifested Himself. He started eating the bread and the sugar. You know, when you eat, it makes some sound. Especially when you're eating sugar candy, what happens? You have to break the candy. It makes sound. So in the same way, when Dhana heard that Thakurji is eating, he opened the curtain, and to his amazement, he was face-to-face with Krishna. He could not hold himself. He just started crying. Krishna, when He looked at him, He smiled, and when He saw Dhana crying out of love for Him, He also started crying.

Like that, Dhana, everyday, served Krishna, his Thakur. For him, "Thakur" and "Bhagavan", all these names were just his friend. He didn't know any difference. He didn't know that Bhagavan is the one that you stand in front and pray to. And he didn't know that this Krishna is the same Bhagavan who created the whole universe, who has created the whole world. He didn't know about that. For him, he loved Krishna. He loved Him with all his heart, you know? And day by day, his love grew more and more. That bhakti grew more and more inside of him.


So, time passes. Dhana grew up. Of course, he started to learn. He learned that Bhagavan Krishna, which he called his friend before, is the supreme Lord Himself. He is the supreme Lord of the universe Himself. He is Bhagavan. He loved Krishna dearly, but the mood inside of him began to change. He started looking at Krishna.

You see, before, he used to feed Krishna like the gopas, 5,000 years back in Vrindavan. How were they? Did they have any restrictions on how they loved Krishna? No, they loved Him dearly, but they didn't pray to Him. Even inside of them they know that He is Bhagavan, He is the supreme Lord Himself, but yet, they love Him as a friend. Here, the Lord also reciprocates that love, as a friend. That's why they could carry Him. They could play with Him. They could tease Him. They could beat Him, they could feed Him. They could tell Him everything.

If that relationship would not be there, do you think they would be able to do that? No, they would not be able to do that. What would they do? "Bhagavan, Agya Dijiye: give me orders that can I do for you!" But Bhagavan didn't manifest Himself just to give agya - He didn't manifest Himself just to order people. He has manifested Himself to remind you of His Love - how much He loves you, and how much you must love Him. It's not just 'come and sit and pray'. No. You should love Him! And know, that He loves you! He always reciprocates the Love.

The more you love Him, the more He loves you. Love Him until you can't love more than that. Then let Him do. He can love you much much more. You, as a human, because of the mind, because of this body, one is limited. But Bhagavan is not limited. He is unlimited. His Love is also unlimited. You can love Him to your maximum.

Like Dhana. He loved Him dearly, as a friend. He didn't know who Bhagavan is, until that bhav changed. Then, he started serving Bhagavan, he carried on serving the deity, the saligram, the same way, but Bhagavan would appear to him, and quickly would disappear. After some time he started wondering why.

Why was He different before? Why was it great joy before? It's like when you start your spiritual path, you know? At the beginning, you take deep resolution to move forward. And then, in the middle, you start (in Creole) carot caroter [the enthusiasm that we had goes away]. Same thing with Dhana. This enthusiasm he had inside of him was not the same as before.

Before he was eating and he was feeding Thakur. And this time, it changed. Before, he didn't know. He had bhakti, he had this pure devotion - innocent. Now it was filled with jyaan - knowledge. Due to that knowledge - it is important to have knowledge, don't get me wrong - but knowledge without bhakti is useless. If knowledge really would lead you to God-realisation, every knowledgeable people would have realised themselves by now.

Why are realisations less? There are not so many people who have realised themselves. Why are there so many wise people? You know, many people can sit on an asan and talk, no? Many people can stand there and talk to a stadium of people. It doesn't mean that they are realised. If they don't have this bhakti, if they don't live this bhakti themselves, they are not realised.

So, Dhana was simple, but then, when he had this knowledge that his is not his friend - he knows that He is Bhagavan Himself, the supreme Lord - what happened? His bhav changed, and he could not feel him. He had to put Him there, and do the prayer. That's what he would do. But before, he would feed him.

He started feeling very deeply sad. He would cry regularly, remembering the relationship that he had with Raja Thakur. So of course, the merciful Lord could not bear seeing him crying like that. He appeared in his dream and said to him, "My dear, I have never left you, but now that you have realised that I am Bhagavan, that bhav inside of you" - you know, when we come here, in front of the temple, what do we do? We pray, no?

Dhana was crying. Bhagavan appeared in his dream and said to him, "Listen, now, you have grown up. If you want to achieve back again this relationship, this feeling that we had, go to Kashi. There is Ramananda Acharya. Go and get advice from him."

You see, Bhagavan was very dear to him. They had a very close relationship, but yet, when jyaan had entered the mind, one gets corrupted. Very often, people are so wise, but they become so arrogant of their knowledge. That knowledge will die with you.

You can be very wise. When you die, do you carry the knowledge with you? No! You don't carry it with you. Next life, you will have to study again, no? But, spiritual knowledge - receiving from a true Guru - that you will carry always with you, because it's not external only, but it's also internal. Everything else will give you outer satisfaction, but spiritual knowledge gives you inner satisfaction. And this inner satisfaction is very important. Spiritual knowledge gives you this inner satisfaction, and reveals your relationship with God. But devoid of bhakti, this is not possible. You can chant how many mantras you want. You can do any kind of yoga you want. It always stays mechanical, only.

Dhana went to Kashi, receiving the jyaan, the knowledge, from his Guru Maharaj, Ramananda Acharya. After he received that, he came back home, and this time he understood. He understood that we can love Him differently. We can have different relationships to Him - He is Bhagavan, no? And He has placed inside of each one, certain seeds. In the heart of each person, the Lord has planted different seeds, different forms of awakening, of how to awaken to reach Him. Otherwise, your atma is just sleeping. It has been sleeping.

Chaitanya, in the 1500's, said, jeev jago. He said, "Awake, o soul! Don't sleep!" If you keep sleeping, it will still sleep. Life after life you will sleep. And this eternal sleep doesn't finish! But when you choose to wake up, when you surrender to Him, then you choose to wake up. Then you are awake.

That's the inner awakening. The inner awakening is not something outside. It's something inside. Inner! The word itself says, inner awakening! So it is something from deep inside which is dormant, which is awakening, which is coming out, which surfaces itself. And that, kripa. That's His grace. Whenever He sends the Guru.

When you are ready, He sends you to the Guru. It is His grace, His kripa, that He wants you to fully attain Him. He wants you to fully realise. Not partially, but fully. But you don't know about that, what is fully realised - what is fully attaining Him. You know only a little bit, what your mind can perceive you, that wall which you have created, thinking that, "Yes, I want this. That's it." Once you've got it? "Merci bon Dieu! Bye bye!"

When Bhagavan hugged Dhana, he was filled with the same love again. He was filled with the same bhav that he used to have before. Only under the guidance of a real Guru. Now, the question will arise, "Who is a real Guru? Who is not a real Guru?" The real Guru is the one who can give you Bhagavan. He can give you that feeling. He can awaken this longing inside of you, to long for God more and more. Because the Guru is here for you - not for himself.

He wants you to achieve the highest state. That's why he has left his place, why he has come again on earth. Otherwise, why would the Guru come here? This Love that he feels for Bhagavan, he wants you also to feel the same! That's why choosing one's guru is very important. Because not all gurus can lead you there. There are many lokas - many devalokas, no? But the Ultimate, only the true Satguru can give it to you.


Guruji told the second part of the story the next day, at a darshan he gave in Marcellement:

Bhagat Dhana Ji
[Krishna told Dhana to] learn from him [Ramananda Acharya] what is a guru, and learn from him which quality Bhagavan has - which aishwarya Bhagavan has - and come back. Once he had gotten that knowledge, he knew. He came back to Krishna, his friend was never so happy, his friend had come back.

But yet, still, due to that ignorance, of knowing that there's a difference between God and you, that friendship destroyed. He tried his best to please Krishna, but it was not possible. There was always a distance between them, and that distance, Krishna was longing for it - Krishna was not longing for the distance, Krishna was longing for the service.

You see, service is not one way. Very often we say, "Yes, we have longing to serve the Guru." It's true, you have to serve the Guru, but the Guru Himself is serving you. It's not only one way. It's two ways. Guru Maharaj is uplifting you towards God realization, towards God consciousness. And for you to be serving the Guru means that you are purifying yourself. You are removing all the ignorance from you, so that you can be ready to receive what Maharajji is giving to you.

So, here, Bhagavan also, longing the same way, for this relationship with Dhana. But Dhana: deep inside he was very happy, but yet, he could not be friendly with Krishna.

So what he did? One day, the father of Dhana called him, and said, "Listen, you have this field I am giving you." He said "Yes," Dhana had his house and his duty, and he has also his field to look after. If he didn't look after the field, he would not have anything to eat.

So Dhana started working in the field. As he started working in the field, he was sowing some seeds, and some sadhus were passing by. They came to him, and said, "Dhana, we are very hungry. Can you please give us some food?" The food which was available at that time was just the grain which he was sowing. He took the grain, he boiled it, cooked it, and gave it to the sadhus.

In the other side, Krishna was wondering, "How can I make him serve Me, the same way I was serving him?" What Krishna did, inside of Dhana, He awakened the feeling, "Ah, I can't look after this big field by myself. I need somebody to look after it." Having this inner feeling that he had to have somebody to look after the field, Krishna disguised Himself as Saujaha.

Saujaha came. He said, "You are looking for somebody to look after your field?" "Yes, yes, I am looking for somebody to look after the field." He said, "Here I am. I will look after your field, but with one condition: you give me one-third of the crops." One-third of the crops is a lot of things, no? "One-third is too much! I will give you one-quarter." Saujaha said "No, I want one-third, nothing else."

This is very important to understand. You see, in our tradition - in the Hindu tradition - whatever you receive as income, normally is divided into three parts. One part you look after your family. One part, you do seva with it. Another part, you should use it for the society. I am sure nobody will really follow that, because if you follow that, and say "I myself don't have enough, then how would I follow that?" Here, Dhana also is saying the same thing, "I don't have enough. I don't give you one-third, I give you only one-quarter." He said, "No, I don't accept one-quarter, I accept only one-third." That's what is written in the Shastras. Finally, Dhana said, "Ok, I will give you one-third."

Then, Saujaha, Krishna in disguise, said, "I want also that you serve me breakfast, lunch, and dinner." Dhana said, "Ah, you want me to serve you the same way you are serving me?!" He said "Yes. Look, if I had a wife, it would be easy, but I don't have a wife. If I leave your field to go and cook three times a day, what would happen? Animals would come and eat it." So Dhana said, "Fine, I will bring you breakfast, lunch, and dinner." Saujaha said, "Ah, but with one condition you can bring it - that we can eat together."

Krishna made him serve Him, and when Dhana would bring the breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they would have great joy together, eating together.

So one day, Dhana needed to go somewhere, and he needed to bring the breakfast in the early morning. So he brought the breakfast in the early morning, thinking that Saujaha is still sleeping. He saw the clothes and the blanket there. So he went inside quietly, not to disturb him. He lifted the quilt to say to him, "Look, I brought the breakfast. Have it."

To his amazement, what was in Saujaha's place was Krishna. Krishna was lying, covered with a blanket. When Krishna realised that Dhana is here, He changed again His aspect into Saujaha.

Of course, now that He had been discovered, there is no way back. Dhana, at the same time he was very happy, he was very angry. Krishna wanted to see that anger also inside of him, because you can be angry with your friend only when your friend is dear to you! If your friend is not dear to you, why would you get angry? Then, you use nice words. Flattery.

So, Krishna was discovered. Dhana was so happy, that he had gotten back this bhav inside of him, that it was his friend. This is what Guru Maharaj gives you, once you surrender on your spiritual path. The Guru, in a touch, can give you everything, IF you are ready. If you are not ready, why would the Guru give you? Then he has to work on you! Then, step by step, he will purify you.

He will purify from outside. He will purify you from inside! Sometimes it will be very difficult, due to your mindset, how it is. Your mind always expects and expects and expects how it has to be YOUR way. You want to hear what YOU want to hear! You want the Guru to tell you, "Yes, it's like this. Yes, it's like that." If the Guru tells you, just like this, that's not a Guru. Then, you have to be careful, that he's just flattering you, to please your mind. No. The Guru has to destroy that mind! If the Guru tells you something which is against your self, don't shut the Guru. Accept it.

11 Mar 2016

Maha Shivaratri 2016

Maha Shivaratri is the time of year when we come together to honour the greatest bhakta of them all, Lord Shiva. From the sounds of the Damaru drum, to the shouting of "Hara Hara Mahadev", the night was filled with devotion towards the Ultimate Destroyer, Shankar. As mentioned in previous posts, Lord Shiva is a symbol for the destruction of our ego and pride, but it's not only this destruction that we commemorate. On Maha Shivaratri, we offer our gratitude to Lord Shiva  for the great blessings and sacrifices that He has given and undergone for the sake of humanity. One such case was when Shiva saved the devas and asuras during the Churning of the Milky Ocean from the deadly poison, "Halahala." It is for Lord Shiva's sacrifice of Love, among many other reasons, that we celebrate Maha Shivaratri.

The morning prayers began at the early hour of 5:00 a.m. By worshiping the Guru first, the devotional Guru puja set the tone for the offerings to come. Upon Sri Swami Vishwananda's arrival, the Kalash puja had already begun and it wasn't long until Swamiji began to pour water over the Mrityum Bageshwar lingam and his personal deity, Giridhariji. Simultaneously, there was a yagna conducted by the Bhakti Marga Swami's taking place. After the yagna had concluded and Guruji had finished his first part of the abishkeham, everyone was able to offer both water and a bilva leaf to the lingam and Giridhari. The morning ended with the singing of the Lingashtakam and prayers to Lord Shiva, ensuring that the night to come would be a success. 

The evening celebrations kicked off with a powerful start. The Shiva bhajans were rocking and the devotees stood up to dance. With the singing of "Bam Bam Bhole! Bam Bam Bhole!" amidst  the chanting of "Swaha" during the yagna, the energy quickly elevated.

The prayers only intensified when Sri Swami Vishwananda arrived. Throughout the entire night, Swamiji would make offerings to the Shiva Lingam and sing bhajans dedicated to Mahadev. In between all of this, each person was able to continue to make the auspicious offerings to the Mrityum Bageshwar lingam.

The last puja was the grandest of all. As Lord Shiva is easily pleased with the smallest of offerings, one can only imagine how pleased Mahadev could have been with the plentiful plates of prasad. The kitchen team truly did a remarkable job. The prasad itself was constructed as Shiva Lingams and a design of Shiva's trishul. And when the ceremony was over, the taste matched the presentation, and though the Lord truly only cares about the Love which is offered, Mahadev was probably also pleased with the service of the culinary skill.

Towards the early morning, the fighting of sleep was victorious by most, and the final offerings approached. The amount of vibhuti that Swamiji offered to Lord Shiva was remarkable. Mounds and mounds were poured over the lingam. When the concluding prayers had finished, Guruji spoke shortly about the night of celebration and gave a guided meditation for Mother Earth. Here's a small excerpt from what was spoken: 

You see, the blessing that you received, you know, like I said, the upliftment that you received today, other days you don’t receive that. That’s why this day is considered very auspicious. Yesterday [at the Shiva lecture] you heard them talking about Lord Shiva. So, you know who Bhagavan Shankar is and you know how important it is to have His blessing, and to have Ma Bhagavati Jagadambe’s blessing also, because they open the door for Giridhari to reveal Himself. Giridhariji is very shy. (Well, before He reveals Himself He is shy; after He reveals Himself He is not that shy anymore.) But until you reach that point of knocking at His door, you need Lord Shiva’s blessing. That’s why you see after the Mahabharat war that Bhagavan Krishna Himself said to the Pandavas, “Take refuge to the Feet of Lord Shankar. Go and do penance and when He comes, when He appears to you, then you know that all that you have done has been forgiven.” Here Bhagavan Krishna Himself said it, you know.

So, you have received lots of blessings. This world, Mother Earth, now needs your prayer, you know. I will ask of you just two minutes. I know you are very tired, and you are thinking about going to sleep. Even now if I tell you to close your eyes and think of Mother Earth, you will fall asleep. So I will just ask you for two minutes of your time. Let’s pray for peace. You know, we said, “Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu” earlier. Let’s pray for each of your countries, for each of your families and so on. But let’s pray for Mother Earth in general that there is peace in this world. Because if there is no peace, you can’t really concentrate on Bhagavan, true? When there is peace, then it’s easy. - Sri Swami Vishwananda

Thanks for reading our blog. If you didn't make it to Maha Shivaratri, check out Ram Navami which is taking place April 15, 2016. Follow the link for more information: http://www.bhaktimarga.org/events/event/ram-navami

To see more photos from Maha Shivaratri 2016, check out our flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bhaktimarga/albums/72157665433500502