Category Archives: Spiritual Sadhana

Retreat in Ganges, Michigan, on Kaivalya Upanishad by Swami Brahmarupananda

Hari and I decided to attend as many retreats as possible this year. This is the first retreat conducted at Ganges for the year 2007, as the center opened its doors with Spring. We have learnt “Kena Upanishad” and “Chandogya Upanishad” from Swami Brhmarupananda before. This is our third retreat with him. It started on Friday evening at 8:00 and concluded on Sunday afternoon. The retreat went very well. Kaivalya Upanishad is a small Upanishad, which is one among the 108 minor upanishads. It was taught by Prajapati Brahma to a sage Asvalayana. It contains some wonderful teachings, which Swami Brhmarupananda has explained aptly in a way that we can implement them in our daily life. We thought we will take some photographs in Ganges, but we could only take two. Next time, we will take more.

I will also post the notes I have taken down, so you can glance through it.

Jai Sri Ram !
-Aparna Hari

Ram and Nam – The Immortal Twins by Swami Tejomayananda

I bought the audio cassette with the above title at Chinmaya Mission, Hyderabad on my recent trip to India. This is one of the best things I have besides “Bhajan Sudha” by Swami Divyavratananda ji of Ramakrishna Mission (about this in the next post). Since then, I have listened to this cassette over a hundred times. Everyday, while driving to and from office, I would by-default put this cassette in the tape player and get engrossed in it.
I cannot describe in words the joy, inspiration and encouragement to do Nama Japa that I derive from hearing Swami Tejomayananda.

Swami Tejomayananda is the President of Chinmaya Mission. The first talks of Swami Tejomayananda that we heard are the Chandogya Upanishad and Kena Upanishad discourses. These audio were kindly provided to us by uncle. Swami Tejomayananda is such a humble and child-like in his manners, and so joyful and humorous. He drives the point home so beautifully.

“Ram & Nam – The Immortal Twins” by Swami Tejomayananda ji consists of the power of Ram Nam as expounded by Goswami Tulsidas ji in his “Ramcharit Manas”. When Swamiji sings some of the chaupayis in Tulsidas Ramayan, one cannot but experience joy. Swamiji almost tells the entire story of Rama, while beautifully glorifying his name.
It is so humorous also in few instances.

Whenever I hear it, I always get a new perspective and I surely get lot of motivation to continue Nama Japa. Swamiji has rendered Tulsidas Ramcharitmanas in his wonderful and devotion-filled voice and these audio CDs are available for purchase on their website.

If possible, please purchase “Ram & Nam – The Immportal Twins” by Swami Tejomayananda. It costs Rs. 35/- in India and it is such a valuable audio a person can have in his collection.

Please contact the following address for more information on the audio cassettes and books:

Publication Division
Saki Vihar Road, Mumbai- 400 072
Tel: (022) 2857 2367/5806 /6056
Fax: (022) 2857 3065

– Jai Sri Ram !
Aparna Hari

Bhakti Yoga of Swami Vivekananda : Retreat with Swami Chetanananda

We attended a one-day retreat with Swami Chetananda ji of Ramakrishna Mission (St. Louis Branch) on April 14th. This retreat was conducted at Vivekananda Vedanta Center, Chicago. Hari and I were looking forward to go to this retreat. We already decided that we would try to attend all the retreats that are conducted in Ganges, Michigan.

The retreat was on Bhakti Yoga by Swami Vivekananda. Swami Chetananda ji is a Bengali, and he provided very good and humorous anecdotes when talking about how to develop Bhakti Yoga. He is a very great devotee of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ma Sarada Devi and Swami Vivekananada. He is a very humble person. He also emphasized that Bhakti and Jnana are not mutually exclusive paths, but very compatible and one cannot exist without the other.

He also presented a meditation technique which I found very interesting – of dynamically meditating on the life of our Ishta-Devata. It is like a movie, only difference is here, our hero is our Lord and all the scenes are his glories or acts and deeds, which we might have read in any devotional text like Ramayana and Bhagavata.

We also saw a movie, as part of our retreat, on Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It was a Bengali movie which was taken in may be 1940s or so, and a Black & White film. There were subtitles in English. We enjoyed the movie thoroughly. We made our way to the front and sat on the floor. Lord Mahaprabhu is the incarnation of love for Sri Krishna. He has revolutionized by the Chanting movement.

The movie was so wonderful. After finishing the movie, the second part of the discourse on Bhakti Yoga continued. In the evening at 6:00 pm, we had Rama Naam sankirtan. Swami Chidananda ji is a very great soul and his love-filled bhajans are melodious. We had a wonderful satsang in this retreat. We returned in the night to Milwaukee.

We look forward to Swami Brahmarupananda’s retreat on “Kaivalya Upanishad” in Ganges, Michigan on May 12, 2007.

Thanksgiving Day Retreat at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Saylosburg, Pennsylvania. 23 – 26 November, 2006

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