We came to know from a family friend about Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Pennsylvania. Swami Tadatmananda, who is a disciple of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, often visits Milwaukee, USA, the place where we live, to conduct satsangs, Lectures on Bhagavd Gita and Vedanta. Actually, Swami Tadatmananda was born and brought up in Milwaukee and studied here before his spiritual quest carried him to India, and there met his Guru Swami Dayananda Saraswati. We had great fortune to meet Swami Tadatmananda and attend his discourses. In this context, we came to know that Swami Dayananda Saraswati has an ashram in Saylosburg, and that it was established in 1986. We took the 2006 Retreat Schedule at this ashram. Hari and I were excited about this opportunity and we registered for the Thanksgiving retreat on “Yama and Niyama of Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras”, which was to start on Thursday, November 24th on Thanksgiving day and conclude on Sunday, under the guidance of Swami Tattvavidananda.
We set off in the early after-noon on Wednesday, as we had a plan to stop-over in Chicago for Sundarakand Path by Sri Ajay Yagnik, a great artist, with whom we had the fortune of meeting during Sri Rama Navami this year. As usual, it is so vibrating and enchanting. As expected, we were held up in traffic in Chicago, but could reach the host’s house where the satsang was to be conducted at around 7:00 pm. The satsang concluded at 11:00 pm, and then we drove on, inorder to complete as much distance as we could during that night. We continued for an hour or so and lodged that night in Hampton Inn, and continued at sunrise the next day. Then it was my turn to drive and I speeded up, as we had another plan of stopping at Pittsburgh to have darshan of Lord Venkateswara. And as I speeded up, I did not know that Ohio cops were always on the alert. So I was signaled by the cop to pull over. The police officer was so courteous and he just gave me an unofficial warning. This was the first time I met with a cop, and I was almost on the verge of asking the cop to pose for a photograph, but ofcourse did not ask him. Then, we maintained a 75-ish speed and reached Pittsburgh at around 2:40 or so, had darshan, had curd rice and pulihora, and proceeded to Saylosburgh. The orientation for the retreat was to commence at 8:00 that night. We knew we could not make it to the orientation. The mapquest cannot give exact directions to this Gurukulam, and says “Address cannot be found”. The Gurukulam website has specific directions as to how to reach them.
We reached the Gurukulam at around 9:00 or so. It was raining heavily. There were some cottage kind of houses disperesed here and there, and we were given the ‘Room 331” in “Godavari”. We were very happy. In other retreats that we attended (Kenopanishad and Chandogya Upanishad retreat in Ganges, Michigan, and Didji’s retreat near Milwaukee), men and women had separate rooms or dormitories. But, here, the rooms were allotted to families. Our room was very cosy and another family was staying in the room opposite to us and we shared a common bath. Totally, there are 4 families per cottage. We went to the kitchen, had some food, and then slept heartily as we were very tired that day.
Every day at Gurukulam starts with Abhishekam to Lord Dakshinamurthy, the personification of Jnana and the Universal teacher. I cannot describe in words how beautiful the statue of Dakshinamurthy is. He has a wonderful smile. The retreat was to be conducted by Swami Tattvavidananda, who is from Hyderabad and who took up sannyasa five or six years ago. After the Abhishekam, there is half an hour of guided meditation, and then breakfast. Breakfast was very tasty (Upma, cereal, bread, whatever you want), and there is selfless service in Gurukulam’s kitchen-cutting vegtables, making chapathis, and the like. Hari and I enjoyed this immensely, because in any other retreat, we were eating, listening and sleeping. There was no service. Always, the same set of people had a monopoly over the kitchen, and other gurukulam matters. After the selfless service, there is some coffee, and then the class started.
It was on Yama and Niyama – Control of the Senses, which according to Patanajali, is the actual yoga. Swami Tattvavidananda is a natural, capable and yet humorous speaker. We enjoyed all his classes thoroughly. There were some very nice anecdotes, stories and similies that he brought into the discussion. They were very enlightening, very kind and very upto the point. After a class, there is a chai break, and either a chanting class or music class followed it. Later, we had another class, lunch break and free time. We walked over the gurukulam in our free time, wondering at its natural beauty and its tall pine trees. At 3:00 in the evening, we had Yoga by a Yoga instructor. She is a disciple of Sri Iyengar, who is an exponent in Hatha Yoga. We learned some very important techniques in her class. This usually lasted for an hour and a half. After that, snacks, and then one more class, followed by dinner. After dinner, we had satsang, when Swamiji would kindly answer our questions and enlighten us on some sadhana etc. On the last day, the children enacted a play, sang bhajans and danced and all were given a chocolate by Swamiji.
We enjoyed this retreat immensely and we derived new motivation from this satsang. We look forward to visiting Gurukulam next year.
I will try to upload the class material that Swamiji has chalked out and some points and anecdotes that we noted. It is of benefit to all of us.
-Jai Sri Ramji ki