Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Incense becomes Essence

In dedication to Most Revered Srimat Swami Atmastanandaji Maharaj

Gurudev- Pic Google images

The blaring horn does little to interrupt the rackety din of the tuk-tuks as they jerkily manoeuver through the narrow lanes and gullies of the village side. It’s 6.30am but it’s difficult to distinguish noon from night -aside from daylight breaking through the seam of dawn- because the mercury fails to dip below the 38 degree meniscus. The absence of the monsoons is quite evident by the unsettled air teeming with coarse sand particles rising off the unpaved roadways.


Behind the low-roofed thatched homes filed neatly along an eye line… lies many busy courtyards contributing towards the thriving incense home industry. The finest ingredients collected from the length and breadth of the vast woodlands of tribal India are skilfully and efficiently turned into divinely beautiful incense sticks neatly packed into an array of differently decorated boxes waiting to praise a deity in some altar or to just infuse an environment with a lively aromatic scent.


A few hundred miles away in a crowded metropolis pulsing with brisk trade, can be found sophisticated sheened shop fronts, elegantly packed shelves of incense being demonstrated and shown off by eager and perfervid salesman striving to make targets. Standing before such an assortment is indeed a muddled and jumbled experience with the banal use of adjectives failing to accentuate the veracity of the product.


It is only when the overzealous salesman one-by-one exposes your olfactory system to the variety you come across that one scent that gives you confidence, releases your anxiety and gives you an overall sense of wellbeing... hatching sanguine, sublime, sterling thoughts and intentions within.


The great and eminent characteristic of this ordinary looking incense stick is that the scent -although initially only accessible when you are in contact with it- once ignited, the divine fragrance after permeating the sacred altar and prayer room slowly starts to infuse into the entire house and all its contents and eventually even the outer surroundings of the house and road gets engulfed by the cosmic redolence. My mind becomes divinely inspired not only in the prayer room but in the lounge, bedroom, kitchen and even as I take my coat and walk to the car making my daily journey to the office.


Today, it is with a deep and profound sense of sadness that I think back eight years to one of my first blogs written on my Gurudev: Most Revered Srimat Swami Atmastanandaji Maharaj - on the occasion of the ensuing Guru Purnima celebrations. It was with ebullience, euphoria and exuberance that I put pen to paper to describe to the world my Revered Gurudev.  Today, it is 10 days after Gurudev left the body… and my pen flows with grief.


A highly venerated and respected senior Monk of the Order, Most Revered Srimat Swami Atmastanandaji gave impeccable and deific leadership to the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. To have the blessed opportunity to take spiritual initiation (mantra diksha) from such a saintly persona was indeed for me a great blessing. Maharaj’s fatherly affection, love and compassion was unwavering and relentless amidst His strained schedule and diary. I recall His letters and responses penned with such endearment and detail even to the most trivial of enquiries. Maharaj’s clarity of though and profound spiritual understanding was vividly reflected in His sage and practical counsel.


Today, our world is in a better place having being propped up by the teachings and legacy of a spiritual giant who has practically and palpably reinforced the wisdom and message of Vedanta. Having come under His spiritual guidance and tutelage… although feeling a tinge of sadness due to the physical separation that has occurred between Maharaj and us… I feel a sense of spiritual emancipation knowing that just nine days ago we lived 8000km apart and today Gurudev permeates every atom of the universe. The incense has become the essence. 


Today, I feel closer and more connected to Gurudev than ever before… feeling His presence in every action, thought and object. Guru Purnima thus offers a very significant and profound message this year. Respect, right action, words and thought are not applicable in front of the Guru only but needs to become integrated with our character and become a part of our being. The Guru is none other than God and is therefore omnipresent… thus we must offer our discipline and service to the world and creation as our Guru and teacher.


The sun never sets on spiritual luminaries like Maharaj and even a few hundred years down the passage of time, the melody of their voices will charm the hearts of millions and the indelible man-making ideas planted in the fertile minds of a few will grow unrestrained in to forests of pure consciousness that will engulf humanity and bring to life Sri Ramakrishna’s ideal of harmony in the world.


I offer my eternal sastanga pranaams to Gurudev and on this occasion of His Maha Samaadhi offer my petals of love, affection and devotion on His all-pervading consciousness.

Jai Guru Dev!!!   My best wishes and prayers to all for the ensuing Guru Purnima celebrations.

I remain yours sincerely,

Yogan Naidoo


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