The first day at the Summer Camp on Indian Culture and Spirituality began with everyone gathered at the auditorium eagerly awaiting Bhagwan’s arrival along with His invited dignitaries against a background of soulful Bhajans being sung which set the mood for the day. After the ceremonial lighting of the lamp, the theme of this year’s summer course was explained to us as being ‘Practical Spirituality in Daily Life’ This was followed by a brief talk by Sri Narasimhamurthy sir. He talked about the essence of Sanatana Dharma as being the realization of inherent divinity. He reiterated the point that we are not human being undergoing a divine experience, but divine beings undergoing a human experience. He also mentioned the cycle of transformation that must occur within us, a step-by-step progress from ‘I’ to ‘We’ to ‘He’.
This was followed by a speech by former CM of Karnataka, Shri SM Krishna. He began by recounting his experiences with Bhagwan. He went on to emphasise on the twin goals of caring and sharing, and on the prime role that the youth have to play in carrying forward of the mission. His talk ended with him saying that we must consider ourselves privileged to be selected ‘sevaks’ of the Lord Himself.
Next, was a short talk by Swami Nikhileswaranda, who pointed to the distinct feature of Sri Sathya Sai Institute that place emphasis on man-making as opposed to the money making goal of most other institutions. He also talked about the concept of Spiritual Quotient (SQ), a facet accorded only to us, human beings over the 84,000 species in the world. This was followed by a brief addressing by Dr Sudhakar, MLA of Chikballapur district. He placed strong emphasis on the art of giving as being the need of the hour. His prayer to Bhagwan for water for Chikballapur district was responded to in kind by Bhagwan. Swami declared He would do it in six months.
Bhagwan’s Divine discourse was the highlight of the morning session. Today all of us had the greatest privilege to witness the mission expand to include two brand new projects promised by Swami. It was indeed a miracle that unfolded in front of our eyes as our dearest Bhagwan showered us with more streams of grace and love. Bhagwan has promised water as well as sustainable energy to light up the homes of the residents of this tapo bhoomi. Bhagwan also said that love, will never sit quietly within the heart, but always reach out in the form of selfless service. Swami explained that the mind is like a lock and key. Turn in towards God and it will be unlocked, turn it to the world, it shall remain as the reason for our bondage. This was followed by a documentary, namely, ‘Love in Action, The Mission Continued’ presented by alumni of Sri Sathya Sai Institutions. It captured vividly the Saga of love that continues to unfold in front of us. The morning session concluded with a short, but inspiring talk by Sri C Srinivas. He inspired us to be the torchbearer for the Sathya Sai Mission. He said, Much is wanted of us, much is needed of us. Life is about perpetuating the cause you live for. We are the catapult generation and with Swami’s divine grace, we will carry forward this legacy’.
Swami, with your blessings and permission, we have continued the momentum of learning this afternoon. We had the first session this afternoon by Swami Nikhaleswarananda from Ramakrishna Mutt. Swamiji has energized and enthused all of us on practical spirituality, with his witty stories and anecdotes. The session beautifully connected the dots on how to practice spirituality in day to day lives. One of the classic examples of human perception on the limitations of self has been rated by Lion-bleating story. The lion was fooled into believing that it is a sheep until another lion showed its reflection in a pond, just like our divine Sadguru is showing us and reminding us of our divine nature through this Summer Course. Swamiji also explained in layman terms about four important yogas that we need to practice in day to day lives.
Raja Yoga – Trying to practice moral values.
Gnana Yoga – Finding out who am I
Bhakti Yoga – Loving the Lord.
Karma yoga – Making every work into worship
The main takeaways of Swamiji’s session are
Being selfless, Being mindful, Being in a state of concentration, Being in a happy state, always.
Second session we had this afternoon was an interactive session with the theme I to we to He, by brother Vijay Sai & team. Today we have covered I aspect of it, which is realization of Self, and how to carry out the essence of Bhagwad Gita that was beautifully summed up by Bhagwan as ‘mama dharma’, in day to day life. Brother and team carried out the enthusiasm throughout the session by using the tools like ‘Wheel of Life’. It was evident that all the participants were able to realize the essence of mama dharma and practiced listing various roles that carried out in day to day life and prioritizing them
We then had a comprehensive session on goals and setting up them in SMART way. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. With a great satisfaction and lot of takeaways on practical spirituality, we concluded today’s afternoon session.
Day 2 started with two of the esteemed speakers from the spiritual fraternity who gave us the wondrous and witty nuggets on the practical beauty that spirituality is… Swami Hamsananda of Chinmaya Mission spoke about happiness being the undercurrent of spiritual life and the pun that God played with us, when He had our senses point outwards. Truly, one needs to go inward. He then beautifully extrapolated on the power of now and how a well-integrated body, mind and intellect would lead us and that we simply need to put love into everything.
Speaker two – reverential Sri Dinesh Godke of Art of Living, the enthusiastic, vibrant speaker, opined how spirituality and materialism always went together in Hinduism. He also showed us through many practical games, those higher learning, which are otherwise difficult to comprehend. He expounded on the symbolism in scriptures through Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswathi, on the importance of yoga, meditation and how meditation results in no craving. He said, like Lord Krishna, we need to place ourselves in both the material and spiritual world. This was followed by interactive session with Godkeji, where he said a mere connection of six seconds with someone was enough to fill us with love and joy.
Even as we were fuelled by these two invigorating speeches, brother V Kumar filled us with more joy, sharing Swami’s love through two of his conversations: Where Swami said He and love are one and same If Swami is next to us, the world will go around us. What emphatic words. Surely, His love still flows and the mission continues. Did not the Lord declare He is a Vajra Sankalpa?
The morning session ended with slides on various seva activities that resonated within us at all levels. The experiences, stories and seva activities that each of them shared were so humbling… we know, how truly, it is all His Grace? Swami’s loving words to a youth of Hyderabad, who tried to mop sweat from floor of interview room, ‘Sweat of Seva is cleaner than the Ganges’
We started this afternoon session with a recap of the ‘I’ aspect of the theme, ‘I to We to He’, that was covered yesterday. Today it was an extension focusing on the ‘We’ aspect of it handled by Bro VijaySai & team. It was an interactive and interesting demonstration through an activity of how actions speak louder than words. Later it was followed by another activity helping us focus on the right things in life. It was practically demonstrated with a small ‘dot’ on a white screen. The focus of the most of us went on to the black dot reflecting to the negative aspect in us. We were also shown a picture of a senior person. All felt the expression of the person was negative initially. When we practiced to see the same person with love, everybody’s feeling has changed to positive!
Swami sees everybody with love, which was a takeaway for us to practice the same in day to day life (‘premaswarupulara’). As Swami told yesterday we should not only talk merely about the theory of love. But should implement this love in action. Whatever we see through love it reciprocates and will be an expression of love. Swami says our Anandam is His aaharam. It is with this expression of love in the self we get ananda in our lives. The practical way of spreading love is through appreciation. Swami says we should ’Always Be Cheerful’ (ABC). We realized the importance of appreciating self and appreciating others with an activity wherein we went around and appreciated 15 strangers. We learnt the real joy of appreciating others, right from family members to friends, neighbours, strangers, and our Lord Himself.
It was a wonderful feeling for everybody and a moment of joy in doing this and acknowledging the appreciation. Later we extended the gratitude to all the people whom we come across in our lives. The takeaway that impressed all of us was attitude of gratitude determines your altitude. The later session continued in the Divine Presence with presentations by Hyderabad mahila youth and Kolkota youth team, which was followed by a visual treat on 50 years of Swami’s era by Vizag team.
With a smile on our faces, albeit with a bit of a heavy heart, we began Day 3 of the Summer Course, with Shrimati Sumit Roy. She taught us the meaning of the equation, “Practical Spirituality = Eloquent Living”, quoting enriching examples from the lives of Shri Ramakrishna Parahamsa and his disciple, Swami Vivekananda. This was followed by a very riveting talk by Brother Vijay Sai. Using various examples from his experiences with the Lord, he showed us how Bhagavan teaches us the meaning of life’s important truths, through very simple lessons. He said, “When we have the Lord of the Universe with us, what is the need for worry? What is the need to look up to anything else?”
Sri Kunal Ganjawala, a renowned Bollywood singer and staunch devotee of Swami, relayed to us his chanced encounter into the world of music brought about by the grace of Baba’s Divine Will. This session was succeeded by an absolutely devoted and inspiring talk by brother Sri Ram. Drawing parallels to the rich experiences Swami has provided to him, he inspired us to use this camp as an opportunity to begin our transformation within, and more importantly, for each one to carry Swami back home with us.
Our morning session was concluded by an extremely enriching talk by Sri Narsimha Murthy sir. He taught us through his experiences, we need only concentrate on Swami’s Divine work. Swami will take care of all of our works for us. He ended with a beautiful saying of Swami that touched all of our hearts. Baba has said, “I AM with you, I WAS with you, I WILL be with you, All I want from you is to remain with Me.”
This reminds me of a very beautiful Sloka, a childhood favourite of mine. With Baba’s permission, I would like to share it with all of you:- मूकं करोति वाचालं पङ्गुं लङ्घयते गिरिं । यत्कृपा तमहं वन्दे परमानन्द माधवम् ॥ The Lord’s love and grace is such that, he makes even the dumb talk and the crippled climb mountains. Let us all remove our fears and place our faith in the Lord, let us dedicate all our actions to the Lord and, rest assured, the Lord will always take care of us.
Swami Nikhileswarananda, Ramakrishna Mission
Swami Nikhileswarananda is the Head of Vadodara centre of Ramakrishna Mission. He graduated in Chemical Engineering (with honors) in 1970 and post graduated in Industrial Engineering in 1972. After working for a short period as a Management Consultant, he renounced the world and joined Ramakrishna Order at its Headquarter at Belur Math in 1976. For 11 years he edited the Gujarati Monthly ‘Shri Ramakrishna Jyot’ published from Shri Ramakrishna Ashram, Rajkot (Gujarat) – from 1989 to 2000. Earlier he was in Ranchi (Jharkhand) from 1977 to 1986 when he guided the rural and tribal development project – ‘Divyayan Krishi Vigyan Kendra’ which received the award of best KVK of the country. Before coming to Vadodara he was the Head of Porbandar centre for eight years. He was instrumental in constructing 37 school buildings and three colonies in Porbandar district as a part of earthquake rehabilitation project and in starting Vivekananda Institute of Value Education & Culture (VIVEC) He tours extensively preaching the universal message of Vedanta in industrial houses, management institutions and educational institutions. He has visited hundreds of educational institutions for preaching the character-building message of Swami Vivekananda and has conducted training programmes on Stress Management, Productivity through Holistic Management, Management of Mind, Total Personality Development, Women Empowerment, Happiness and Peace in everyday Life, Mind Medicine and Meditation, Management of Everyday Life. He has participated in many inter-faith conferences.
Swami Bodhamayananda- Director, Vivekananda Institute of Human Excellence, Hyderabad
Swami Bodhamayananda joined the Ramakrishna Order in Bangalore in 1984 and was inititated in to monastic vows in 1993, After initial training, he served the mission in Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Chennai between 1989 and 2010, being involved in various youth activities during the period. He has conducted 750 workshops and seminars covering about 2,50,000 students, teachers and managers on human excellence, management and personality development in schools, professional colleges and many corporate companies in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kolkata and Sri Lanka. He emphasises on Swami Vivekananda’s message of mind management, ethics, spirituality in management at the RK Math, Hyderabad, he has taken the initiative to encourage, recognise and appreciate leadership among youth by organising a youth movement called ‘Swami Vivekananda Yuva Jagruti Vedika’. As part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda, he has visited 90 engineering colleges, 35 degree and PG colleges and 20 schools in a year to talk to the youth on character building education and set up 100 Swami Vivekananda centres of human excellence in the country.
Swami Hamsananda – Acharya, Mission Centre, Hubli
Pujya Swami Hamsananda is one of those rare flowers groomed and nurtured in the Chinmaya Gardens. Swamiji basically belongs to Bangalore and could have chosen a lucrative career in the materialistic world if he so desired but chose to be active in the Chinmaya Youth Movement involving himself in various capacities even during the poorvashram days. Inspired by Pujya Gurudev Chinmayananda, he chose to involve himself as a full time worker of the mission even before joining the Sandeepany. After getting the diksha, he has been working relentlessly for spreading the knowledge gained to ardent seekers through Geeta Jnana Yajnas and Upanishadic discourses. He has worked in several places all over Karnataka and has been instrumental in developing the Mangalore Centre playing a very key role right from concept to completion. He has also been instrumental in developing the Hubli centre into a very strong youth movement. His contribution in developing the Bangalore Yuvakendra into what it is today is remembered at all youth meets. His capacity to inspire and get the youth involved to study the scriptures and imbibe the teachings in their day to day life is simply amazing. He has also conducted several spiritual camps, study workshops and youth meets to help sadhaks pursue their study of the vedantic subjects. His role in the recently concluded All Karnataka Balvihar meet at Shimoga where he was the acharya is still fresh in the minds of all the members of the mission. It was a massive event that needed the coordination of hundreds of workers all over Karnataka. Till recently he was the acharya of our Mysore centre where he created a wave of activities transforming silent members to real active volcanoes. His revolutionary concepts of harnessing the potential within individuals have to be experienced to believe. In the recently concluded All Karnataka Chinmaya Camp at Kolwan he was the live wire behind all activities. Right now he is the Acharya of Chinmaya Mission centre at Hubli. His simple and unique style of dissecting the subtle spiritual concepts and explaining them in a language that can be understood even by beginners is appreciated by all listeners. He has a rich golden voice and his soul stirring bhajans are very popular. His Vedic chanting is the yardstick to all learning the hymns. He is very homely with people of all ages especially children and youth as his firm belief is that the society of tomorrow is entirely dependent on them. He is a master organiser involving himself in all the mission activities – be it a small area activity or a massive project. People close to him have seen him working 18 to 20 hours a day while on time bound projects and yet maintaining the smile and serenity for which he is very well known. It is indeed very difficult to find such a wide combination integrated in a single individual.
Dinesh Ghodke – Director, Youth, Art of Living/ Director, Sri Sri University
Dinesh co-created and developed the highly popularYouth Empowerment and Skills (YES!+) workshop and taught this series of courses in various national and international universities of repute such as the Stanford University, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Massachusetts besides inspiring and training over a 1,000 teachers to lead this workshop. At the time he became a teacher, he was the youngest Art of Living had produced and since 1997, he has travelled to more than 30 countries teaching programmes on life sjills, trauma relief, ethics and human values. He’s been a TEDx speaker at Mumbai and Symbiosis Pune. He’s conducted workshops for a broad spectrum of general populace including politicians, executives, slum dwellers, prison inmates and youngsters. He also represents the AoL Foundation at various international fora, some prominent ones being the World Ethics Forum and the United Nation’s World Youth Peace Summit. He served at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s personal secretary for the year 2006. He executes his current responsibility as Director, Youth, Art of Living and Director, Sri Sri University where he is an Adjunct Professor.