As seekers of knowledge we are told again and again that both Bhakti and Jnana practiced with faith and determination, will lead us to moksha. But we may always have our doubts, how can two vastly different paths lead us to that liberation? Five days of Swami Prakashananda Ji’s lectures convinced us all, that it is possible.
The preparation for the lectures started 2 weeks in advance. Volunteers gathered to clean up the ashram. The food team was busy getting the vendors ready for food boxes which would be provided to all the devotees. The host family was getting their house ready and understanding Swamiji’s dietary preferences . Fliers were sent out and RSVPs came pouring in. Simultaneously social media team came up with different ways to encourage more people to join. Yagna team sent out requests to sign up for bhiksha which would be offered to Swamiji. The excitement was even more because Swamiji was going to be celebrating Krishna Janmashtami at Chinmay Gurukul.Our Sundar Krishna was beautifully decked out with his new clothes and new jewelry .The topics for the morning lecture was Chapter 3, First Valli from Kathopanishad. For the evening lectures it was the bhakti rasa of Kishkindha Kanda from Tulsi Ramayan.
After welcoming Swamiji at the Host family’s home, the agenda was a walk with Swamiji at Cauley Creek Park . a group of sevaks gathered and tried to keep pace with Swamiji’s fast walk . Swamiji was in full element cracking many jokes which had everyone in splits.
The morning lectures started with Swamiji going through verses from Kathopanishad. These mantras as they are called, are a wonderful analogy of this body as a chariot which houses the charioteer which is the Atman. Every day was a revelation about how this chariot can be controlled by an intelligent charioteer which is a discriminating buddhi.
The first day of Kishkindha Kanda Swamiji started with his wonderful singing .There wasn’t dry eye amongst the gathered group of devotees, hearing about the meeting of Bhagwan Rama and Hanuman ji. When Swamiji sang ‘ Sri Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama’ the devotees sang in unison eyes closed, hands folded feeling Rama in their hearts and Hanuman ji in their midst. There was Hanuman ji actually listening to this Rama katha in front of the dais which is what He likes to do always. Every evening concluded with Ramayan Aarti , after which Swamiji would have bhiksha offered by devotees. Dinner boxes were distributed to all the people attending. This would be followed by Satsang where everyone gathered and were entertained by Swamiji’s witty jokes, his thoughtful answers and his love for all of us. There would be cleanup after this which sevaks would finish and hurry home to be back early next morning.
On the 6th, we celebrated Krishna Janmashtami at the ashram with Swamiji leading us in Bhajan Sandhya. We had a huge gathering of devotees and Swamiji sat in the front watching our Sundar Krishna being dressed in beautiful clothes after His abhishekham. The puja concluded and everyone was excited to hear Swamiji sing wonderful bhajans accompanied by tabla and kids and adults from our Swaranjali group. On the side of the hall, a group of gopis and gopas were doing rasa leela with Little kids dressed as Krishna and Radha in the center. A wonderful reminder to keep Bhagwan in our hearts all the time as we go through the whirlwind of our lives. Dahi Handi was a boisterous affair. Volunteers had taken great pains to decorate the Dahi Handi. Little hands climbing on parents shoulder reached up trying to get to the the Handi. Finally it was broken by a natkhat Krishna. The dining team had organized themselves in the dining room and were providing food diligently to everyone .
Finally on the evening of 9th Swamiji finished the last doha from Kishkindha Kanda and gave us a peek into Sundara Kanda. Of course that will have to wait for next time. It was wonderful to be in Swamiji’s uplifting and inspiring presence for 5 days and parting was very hard. We were blessed to have this pilgrimage not just with Bhagwan Ram but also a peek into the Self through Kathopanishad.
The Yagna Team did a great job as usual making sure every little detail was taken care of. A Yagna of this magnitude cannot be accomplished without the love, dedication and attention to detail of every volunteer . We are grateful to all our sevaks who took time out of their lives and helped organize this dip into the holy waters of satsang.