I had always been fond of playing as well as organizing different kind of games that were usually enjoyed by all. Knowing this, the compassionate Bhagavan may have decided to use this talent given by Him, for the amusement of His devotees! The dawn arrived that day with a flood of thoughts entering my mind, while I was still half awake! I realised that the compassionate Bhagavan was communicating with me – asking me to do something for Him. I was seeing thoughts about organizing a spirituality-based game session for the sādhaks, to utilize the time for some Satsaṅga – while travelling in the bus for our outing that day. Thought after thought connected to the game were flowing, including its rules and possible pitfalls to avoid (I was kindly warned about its dangers too!). After organizing all these thoughts, I made up my mind to inform the group about it when the time came and check if they would like to play!
A beautiful Ārati at Gita Mandir
Since there was no morning yoga class organized for that day, I decided to reach Gita Mandir early and do some meditation there. I had forgotten about the morning ārati in the Mandir daily at 6:30 a.m. I found Jital ben had already reached there well ahead of time, before the early morning talk probably to see the beautiful aarati. Jital ben was a quiet and a very humble devotee of Bhagavan, who silently and almost secretly did the seva of others – with most of them not even realizing it! She had found a beautiful way to gracefully avoid all attention towards her – showing her deep humility.
I had really cherished those moments of the ārati earlier at Gita Mandir when Swami Omkarananda ji went about doing the ārati of Gita Devī and other deities – all the time singing Devī’s stotrams (hymn of praise), while forgetting the entire world around him! During the ārati, I thanked Gita Mātā for the great knowledge she had given us and to Krishna Bhagavān for delivering the same! While the ārati of Lakshmi Narayana and Parvati Shiva was going on, suddenly some of my past sins flashed in my mind, for which I had repented many times in the past. But some traces of those were still left in my mind. This time with tears in my eyes, I prayed to Bhagavān from the bottom of my heart saying that I had done those sins in the past, only out of my ignorance and to please forgive me. The merciful Bhagavān very shortly forgave me, as I could instantly feel the lightness in my mind – with those sins now being completely washed away in tears of true repentance!
There was just one session of Swamiji’s talks that day, in which he spoke about the important Vijñanamaya koṣa (sheath of wisdom or right understanding of truth). This koṣa is just one step below the Self (since Ānandamaya koṣa is at every level). He said, “We should think of ourselves as – ‘I am a spiritual being with human experience’, and make it a habit to always remain in Consciousness. Every (bad) habit must be corrected by instead practicing a (good) anti-habit.”
Post the early morning talk, I was in a hurry to depart for our outing to the Statue of Unity (SoU) and forgot to collect the tea flask kept in Reva guest house that day, instead of Gita mandir, and to return it to Hitesh bhai – our caterer at SK. I came to know that, the visit to SoU was previously researched very exhaustively by Jital ben, including booking the tickets for fifty plus people in advance – so that our valuable time and effort is saved later at the venue! It was then led beautifully by Shankar ji and supported equally well by others. Jital ben had organized us into eight groups of about six to nine people each aligned to eight respective group leaders, who were responsible for keeping their group members together – I found myself to be one of them. Post breakfast, about fifty odd people assembled near the Śivaliṅga at SK and we then proceeded together – towards our bus. Once everyone was seated, we started on our journey with chants of “Sadgurunāth Mahārāj kī Jai!” and “Har Har Mahādev!”
Playing a spiritual game!
On our way, we saw beautiful fields of cotton and wheat on either side with crops growing aplenty. Some of the sādhaks in the front seats started chanting Margabandhu stotram and other stotrams. Thereafter, Bhakta ji got all minds together by leading the soulful chanting of “Śrīman Nārayaṇa Nārayaṇa, Hari Hari”. After covering some distance, sensing that, the time had come, I got up and walked to the middle of the bus and asked if anyone wanted to play a game! Many of the sādhaks agreed and I started to explain about the game. I said, “Since we are all sādhaks, we will play a spirituality-based game called – ‘Guess the verse or śloka”. Explaining the game rules, I said the verse had to be a popular one – either from our scriptures like Bhagavad Gītā or from compositions of Mahātmās like Śaṅkarācārya, Ramana Maharshi, Sant Kabir, DVG (Dr. D. V. Gundappa – a great philosopher and poet from Karnataka), etc. The verse should be about 2 to 4 lines only and one team should chant the first line and the other team should guess the rest of the lines, which I explained with a simple example verse from our Bhaja Govindam – ‘Bālastāvat krīdā saktaḥ…’. If the guessing team could also translate it in English / say the brief meaning of the verse, then they would get an extra point! In case the guessing team couldn’t guess the verse then the puzzle-setting team should themselves complete it and could also say its meaning for a bonus point. I emphasized another important rule that the translation/ meaning of the verse, as said by someone from either team, would be their understanding of that verse and we had to respect that – even if it didn’t match with our understanding! Completing the rules, I finally said, “Let us all learn something new and have fun while doing it!”
One side of the bus was designated as team A and other side as team B. Once everyone understood the set of rules, we started the game. Most players gave popular ślokas from Bhagavad Gītā and some from Mankuthimmana Kagga (a literary work by DVG and considered by many as Kannada Bhagavad Gita) and few others from the Upaniṣads and the Vedas. I found that Bhagavān had somehow evenly matched both teams, even though the seating seemed completely random to us – with one paṇdita emerging from each team – Savita ammā and Geethanjali ammā – and rest of their team supporting them! The sādhaks seemed to enjoy the game, with rounds being conducted alternatively at the front and the back of the bus as we didn’t have a mike, and everyone couldn’t hear at the far end. Some sādhaks like Latha Bhat ammā, played the role of repeating the verses heard at the front, for the benefit of those at the back of the bus and vice versa.
At the Statue of Unity (SoU)
After playing the game for some time, few of the sādhaks asked Sumanth ji to take laughter yoga class and we all then laughed and laughed! As we approached SoU, the world’s tallest statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was visible from quite a distance away! We reached SoU and found a world class structure built there, matching, or exceeding similar sites abroad! We made our way inside where a lot of exhibits depicting the history about Vallabhbhai ji were displayed, along with the culture, flora and fauna of Gujarat. Even while being there, among a comfortable centralized AC environment and with pleasant things all around us, somehow my mind was not finding any joy there and instead was now and then going towards the camp’s Satsaṅgas and Swamiji’s talks. We then had our lunch at the food court and even though I found my favourite food – pizza, I did not find much joy eating it – remembering the wholesome food at the camp! Later some of us proceeded to a place called the Valley of Flowers, while others made our way to the Cafes near the parking lot. We finally gathered everyone and then boarded our bus to bid adieu to SoU!
Later we proceeded towards Neelkanthdham Swaminarayan temple located on the other bank of Narmada, bang opposite Karnali, in a village called Poicha. All of us were exhausted. Balakrishna annā then went to the front of the bus and started distributing bananas, that we had carried from SK for our group. Bala annā had a very cheerful and humorous demeanour – especially while doing sevā. I found later that he as well as his wife Nayana akkā, had immense compassion towards all animals. I later saw him feeding cucumbers to bulls and cows and indeed treating them like our younger brothers and sisters – as Swamiji says! Later, we saw a glorious Rathotsav of Bhagavān at the magnificent Neelkanthdham temple, before returning back to our camp after sunset.
That night after dinner, a few of us were chatting in the Annakṣetra, when Bela ji, sitting next to us, enquired about how to make a start in serious spirituality. We discussed about Swamiji’s Mangalore Mission YouTube channel (Chinmaya Mission Mangaluru) and she also asked us and noted few of the books written by him. She said that she planned to visit the Mangalore centre soon and spend some time with Swamiji. Seeing her humility, child-like innocence and eagerness to learn, I understood that she had indeed started on the right path!
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