The day started early for some of the sādhaks – with morning Yogāsana. Sumanth ji (Mr. Sumanth Kumar Nag) used his talents for the sevā of teaching Yogāsana to the eager sādhaks. We were taught simple warm up and breathing exercises along with prāṇayāma and relaxation. The best part came unexpectedly at the end – with laughter therapy and Sumanth ji with his child-like enthusiasm and vigour, made sure we all laughed together to our hearts’ content! He was aptly supported by his wife, Anākshi ammā, who went around us all, gently correcting the sādhaks during the Yogāsana session. She had been given such a beautiful and melodious voice by Bhagavān, that once we heard her singing bhajans, the requests came to her everyday – to sing more and more! At one time I remember, she was singing – Om namaḥ Śivāya! Om namaḥ Śivāya! The entire audience at Gita Mandir kept on listening to her, mesmerised by the beauty of her voice! At one point after singing for a long time, I could feel she was straining and finding it difficult to sing anymore – at which time I suddenly got up and went towards the stage. I knew what I had to do, but as I was walking, I wondered how could I follow her!? Maybe she too understood my predicament, as she kindly continued singing with me together for some time. She finally withdrew and went back to her seat, and I continued for some more time till Swamiji entered the hall.
Swamiji started the talks early in the day with a short but profound message – ‘Pay attention and treasures unfold!’ or simply put – ‘Pay attention and know!’ This was followed with a beautiful simile, where facing our filthy mind was compared to drinking poison i.e., accepting the negativities in me, being painfully aware of them to develop desire to transcend them – then transform ourselves! Many other beautiful pearls were then showered on us by the merciful Swamiji which are too many for me to describe here!
First visit to Kuber Bhandari temple
After the morning session and a hearty breakfast of Gujarati Gotā, Rajesh bhai and I decided to visit Kuber Bhandari temple, which was a beautiful experience. As soon as we entered the main building, we saw a series of smaller shrines followed by a shrine dedicated to Śrī Krishna – where anyone could touch the mūrtī. I found this quite rare and unlike most south Indian temples which I knew, where the good folks there ensure that God is always kept at a safe distance from His devotees! And with no entry for anyone other than the priests, to the garbha-guḍi (sanctum sanctorum). I gratefully touched the lotus feet of Bhagavān’s mūrtī. Then we proceeded towards the main shrine of Kuber Bhandari dev, which had a beautiful glass ceiling. Even though it was Kārtika Pūrṇimā on that day, the crowds had not yet started thronging in. We sat in a corner near the main shrine – where it was peaceful, and I meditated there for a while. We then saw a beautiful peepal tree inside with 11 lingas around it – representing all the jyotirlingas in India. After going around them reverentially, we entered another shrine from where Narmada Mātā could be seen and strangely, her waters had noticeably receded from what I remembered the other day! The priest informed us that, that happened when they opened the gates of the dam and let the water out for irrigation/ drinking purposes downstream. We then exited the temple from behind and proceeded to the ghat. Rajesh bhai kindly bought a big bag of puffed rice, to offer to Narmada’s numerous little children, huddled together in Her waters and constantly playing in the lap of their mother!
Meeting some great devotees of Bhagavān from Karnali
During the early afternoon talks, an incident happened, that really touched my heart! When Swamiji’s talks were going on, most regular devotees visiting Gita Mandir, seeing an audience gathered there, did their obeisance to God from near the entrance door itself. However, a poor and simply dressed devotee, whom I later realised may have been a Mahātmā in disguise, walked across the hall towards Gita devi’s shrine. He simply didn’t walk across, but rather seeing all the sādhaks gathered there, he humbly kept his hands folded, all along the way while walking across, thereby respecting all present there! What a unique act of humility! Later, during the evening session, another devotee made his presence felt whom we had the good fortune of only hearing. He was loudly singing the praises of Bhagavān, without any inhibitions whatsoever – unlike those that we usually have – as he walked on the road adjoining the Mandir. Such was his devotion and humility that Swamiji recognised it immediately and stopped his talk for a couple of minutes as a mark of respect for that simple, but great devotee of Bhagavān! Again, this reminded me of Nāradaji, who as they say used to go about, constantly singing praises of Bhagavān – without a care about what others thought of him!
Impromptu Satsaṅga at Dakshinamurthy Ashram
As we were about to set out for the early evening session, we were informed that it was cancelled due to Chandra grahaṇ (lunar eclipse) and subsequent closure of Gita Mandir. We then came to know that an informal Satsaṅga would be held at DA, at the same time. We all then hurriedly reached DA, to see a large group already gathered there. But to my dismay, instead of a Satsaṅga, this session unexpectedly turned out to be a ‘chatpatā chāt’ session for the evening – as gently put by Swamiji! However, there were some discussions on Bhagavān Śrī Rama and Sita Mātā, which was enlightening for me. It was here that Sreenivasa Murthy Sir (a very well-read sādhaka) and Asmita didi, along with few others, answered one long pending question of mine – which had haunted me for quite some time and for which I had not got a satisfactory answer, until this time. Towards the end of the session, the air was quite tense and Kirit bhai did a nice job of releasing the tension, by delivering a great joke, while pulling Indu ammā’s leg at the same time – which seemed to be his favourite pastime! He said that though Indu ammā had insisted upon the same, he had asked the cook not to prepare a dish called ‘Gotā’ (made from besan) for breakfast – the effect of which unexpectedly came out during this session (in the form of some heated debates)!
Reason out things before accepting
Someone I respect had asked me not to watch the sun that day during grahaṇ and I had accepted it without a second thought. While walking with Rajesh bhai and Shrinivas Balgi Sir, the former asked me if we want to go to Kuber Bhandari ghat for watching the sunset. To this, I remarked what I had been told earlier. The moment I said this, Balgi Sir immediately started questioning the logic of why not to see the sun – when it’s a lunar eclipse and earnestly tried to reason it out. Then Rajesh bhai and I too immediately joined in remembering our elders saying that it’s safe to watch a lunar eclipse and that only a solar eclipse shouldn’t be seen directly – due to the fact that the sun rays appear to be mild at that time, but is really strong enough to damage our eyes. This incident taught me not to accept anything blindly from anyone and always to question things, but with the right attitude. The merciful Bhagavān will then help to shed light on that subject – to help us understand better. Later, Balgi Sir’s never say die attitude came to the fore, as I saw him doing warm up exercises of Yogāsana with only one hand (probably due to his frozen shoulder). Instead of sitting quietly, he participated and did everything that was possible for him, which was remarkable! We then proceeded to the Kuber Bhandari ghat, where we saw a few priests busy doing Japa, watching the sunset. We found out later that the puṇya of Sādhanā, is more on grahaṇ days and the daily Japa mantra that we practise, recharges itself when Japa is done on such days! Sitting on the steps of the ghat, Rajesh bhai and I briefly discussed our individual spiritual journeys – as we saw the most magnificent sunset that evening, with its golden hues and reflections stretched across the lap of Narmada Mātā!
In the late evening class, Swamiji greatly simplified the path to Liberation for us. Be good – do good (by following scriptures/ Mahātmās) – transcend the world – become liberated! Choose the sacred and choose the noble always!
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