|| Sri Ramakrishna Sharanam||
Aum Namo Narayanaya
The time: 22:30, the date: 26 October 2012, the place: Ramakrishna Ashram Durban. It was the eve of my birth - and I sat in my room embanked by the shrine housing the Holy Trio, the quarters of the two Swamijis and an ensemble of my thoughts that projected out of over 3 decades of experiences. The lives of these elevated souls forming the benchmark and basis of reference of a life lived; I am convinced that the impending anniversary arguably cannot substantiate any celebration. The hours, days and years that stack beneath - how have they been utilised? As much as half of it has been spent sleeping. I cannot really account for the waking hours being spent efficiently and productively expressing the potential divinity that I am. I want to take this opportunity to bow to and thank all those who called and expressed their messages of prayer, blessings, gifts and good wishes. I was overwhelmingly moved by the number of calls and messages that flooded my phone and computer. But I also seek forgiveness and bow to all those that I may have offended, hurt and failed to serve during the course of these years. I stand repentant, but collected and focused not to repeat those mistakes again.
Master's party for me began before sunrise as I joined Swami Brahmaroopananda, Swami Vimokshananda and Brother Chandi for morning meditation, japa and mangal aarthi. Blessed with the grace of Master, Mother, Swamiji and making morning pranaams to our revered Maharajs' set the bar for a perfect day, but more importantly reconstituted and repositioned me with the inspiration and impetus to live a life representative of my true nature. Making and serving coffee to both Swamijis brought an immense amount of joy that would sustain all other activities for the day
It was however during breakfast that Master through the profoundly striking words of Swami Vimokshananda presented a gift that is priceless beyond all currencies. Sharing from His own cup a concoction of hot water and a pinch of neem powder, Maharaj said: ”Whilst everywhere sweets are given during a birthday, I give you this bitter drink." Partaking of the freshly sliced fruit, delicious curries and “thawa” rotis, my mind started to cognise on the depth of this string of words by Maharaj.
It was surprising to note that my birth month is shared with quite a few luminaries who have touched millions of people by their actions - the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Oliver Reginald Tambo. But, significantly with 4 Presidents of the Ramakrishna order. Their lives portray an exemplary array of inspiration that motivates us to find our true purpose and try to achieve it. One such divine soul whose birth thithi was on the auspicious Mahalaya day this October was Revered Swami Akhandanandaji Maharaj who was affectionately known as “Baba Maharaj” for His compassion and affection shown to humanity as a monk with a fatherly love.
Swami Vimokshananda in His discourse last night beautifully and eloquently painted for all the illustrious and selfless life of this great disciple of Sri Ramakrishna who is accredited to starting the Mission work of the order. What really intrigues me upon listening to the biographies of these saints is that they were able to undertake such great work with the minimal resources; yet in this resource endowed world we still struggle to bring relief to the hunger of another human being.
Being a renunciate monk, Swami Akhandanandaji without hesitation once fed almost an entire section of a village struck by famine with puffed rice with a mere four annas given to Him as pranami by a family. When will the hearts of those with excess reserves feel for those who go to bed without a meal?
It was 6.30 am before breakfast when Swami Brahmaroopananda, a few devotees and myself were seated around a hawan kund. We were about to start the scheduled Saturday yajna. I felt blessed to be incorporated into this special sacrifice as part of my birthday. Bowing our heads in invocation prayer and after the purificatory cleansing, the fire was lit. Each was given a container of hawan samagree (mixture of different herbs, roots and stems). After addressing the different deities, the mixture of samagree and butter ghee was inserted into the fire with the chorus recitation of swaha. Fruit and sweatmeats coated with ghee were offered. The yajna concluded with peace chants and the singing of the Hanuman Chalisa.
The effect of the yajna pounced upon me as I walked to my room after breakfast. The words of Maharaj found correlation with the yajna. Each of us frozen within our own egos and self have become cold to our fellow humanity. Like the mixture of samagree, we all don our own unique personalities and temperaments which impedes our ability to interact as a homogenous society. The lighted fire represents God and His infinite grace. When Swami Vivekananda developed the motto of the Ramakrishna Mission “Atmano mokshartham jagat hitaya cha" - 'For one's own salvation and for the welfare of the world', He presented the twin goals in the journey of life. When we embrace God in our lives and surrender at His feet - by His mere touch He melts our egos and as we offer all the different ingredients, even the ghee coated offerings with the word swaha (meaning self), we must offer all our flaws and imperfections to the Lord, who by His mercy smoothes us to perfection. This is seen as within a few minutes of being offered, everything in the kund becomes a pure white ash.\
With this realisation that the result of all life and creation is perfection, and that essentially we are all constituted of the same divine energy, we must live by Swami Vivekananda's principle of: 'for the liberation of the self and the welfare of the world'. Swami Vimokshananda's bitter tonic is this ultimate reality. It is of no use living a life of sugar-coating with dreams and illusions, thinking that we are above all and happy. True and real bliss shall only come when we are purified with the touch of God.
It is only then when you have lived by that you need not worry about celebrating your birth anniversary - but the world will celebrate it for you! I offer my eternal salutations and pranaams to all these selfless luminaries and saints who lived amongst us to show the way.
May their lives give us inspiration and impetus to live a divine life is my sincere prayer.
With love and prayers always