30 Sep 2014

Navaratri Day 5 - Skanda Ma

Skanda Ma
On the fifth day of Navaratri we celebrate the Divine Mother in the form of Skanda Mata.

Sri Swami Vishwananda said in previous years, "The fifth form of the mother is known as Skanda Mata. As you all know, Shiva has two sons, one is Ganesha and the other one is Muruga. Other names for Muruga are ‘Skanda’ or Kartik. So as Devi Durga is the mother of Kartik, She is also referred to as ‘Skanda Mata’. In the Christian tradition, Muruga can be referred to as Archangel Michael, who is the leader of all the angels and archangels. The same as Muruga, who is the warrior God and the commander of the celestial armies. Here you see Goddess Bhagavati, Skanda Devi, holding Muruga in Her arm, showing that She is the Mother of all the power. She is the Mother of all the forces. She is the Mother who gives the power to vanquish all the negativity."

Yagna - purifying ritual
"She will also come to destroy your pride, even if She has to be strict – She has not taken the form of Kali yet – She is still soft. She will give you a certain warning, ‘Hey be careful! Watch out!’ But if this carries on, She will take the form of Maha Kali.

Skanda in this form, is representing all of you, each one of you, is not only him, but it is the whole humanity in Her hand. She is holding all. You also see Mother Mary always with Her hands open saying, ‘All the people in the world are my children.’ So, place yourself in Skanda's place, sitting on Her lap and pray to Her that all the pride and ego that you have may be removed in Her way, in a soft way, so that She can help you to awaken."

"The Divine Mother in this form also gives children to the world. So, people who don't have kids and wish to have children may they be blessed with children."
This year we had a special guest, the Hindu priest Raja Sekaragurukkal from the Shiva Mandir, Wembley, London.

Sri Swami Vishwananda welcoming the Hindu priest Raja Sekaragurukkal
Raja Sekaragurukkal performed the ritual chanting in Sanskrit of the 13 chapters (700 verses) of the Devi Mahatmyam. And, after the chanting of each chapter, a different form of Ma Chandika was venerated by the offering of prasad followed by a short arati.

Raja Sekaragurukkal chanting the Devi Mahatmyam
He was very impressed with the joyful bhakti expression of the Bhakti Marga family during this night's celebrations and said, "You have a very good Guru!"

During the chanting of Durga Chalisa
"It's the first time I have seen this! When you started the bhajans, it was really amazing! I felt it! I feel it! You know, Ma place is Shree Peetham. In Shree Peetham, there is a bell, but in the bell there is no stick inside (clapper). So, how can the bell make noise? Whenever people sing bhajans, whenever people do the Mataji Naam then the sound will be automatically coming from the bell. Definitely, today here is Shree Peetham. Jai Mata!"

29 Sep 2014

Sri Swami Vishwananda gives commentary on the Guru Gita - Part 2

Last night, Sri Swami Vishwananda gave the second part of his commentary on the Guru Gita, covering verses 21-40. Here is an excerpt of his  commentary.

Gukaarah prathamo varno,
masszaadi guna bhaasakah;
Rukaaro dviteeyo brahma,
maayaa bhraanthi vinaashanam.

"The first syllable ‘Gu’ have the attribute of Maya, means also ignorance. So, here in this verse Bhagavan Shankara is saying that this first syllable ‘Gu’ stands for Maya Prakriti, Devi, the Shakti that binds and holds one to this reality. And the second  syllable ‘Ru’ stands for Purusha, stands for the Supreme Absolute which frees one from illusion.

"In the same word, ‘Guru’, you have both: you have Maya and you have the One who frees you from Maya. Thus, this shows that the Guru is the Master of Maya, Master of this reality, He knows how to free one from that reality and He knows also how to put one in that reality – both. To master it you have to know both ways. You can't master something, if you know only one way, then you have not mastered it. If you live in a very fancy reality or in a dream reality, you will not know what true happiness is. Only when you have mastered the other side, when you have mastered the lower quality, then you will truly know the higher qualities.

Yasya sthityaa satyamidam,
yadbhaati bhaanuroopatah;
Priyam putraadi yet preetya,
tasmai sree gurave namah

"It is through the Grace of the Masters, through the Grace of the Guru that one perceives the Light of Love, True Love, not just plain love, but the deepness of Love. Through this Light of the Master all relationships become dear. In the Guru family everybody becomes dear, because the Guru unites all, no matter wherever you are, which means that in many lives all of you have been coming together.

"You come from Russian, from France, from Italy, from Spain, from America or Latin America, Brazil but it is only through the Grace of the Master that all of you come together. The Grace of the Master brings everybody into One dear family. The Guru becomes the magnet which attracts all and holds all tightly, making One big family. This happens only through the Love of the Guru. Without the Love of the Guru where would you be? Elsewhere, no?

"Priyam putraadi yet preetya, tasmai sree gurave namah, which means that it is like the love of the father and son, the parents, that's what brings all close to each another. The parents always try to unite the family, to keep the family together. Nowadays it is different but in a true family it is like this. So here Bhagavan Shankara is saying, ‘The Guru is like that. He unites the family together and brings all under one roof.’"

Having so many devotees from all over the world joining together during these nine days of Navaratri is such a huge blessing - there are so many people from all over the world here with Sri Swami Vishwananda, joining together to celebrate this connection we all have to the Mother of the universe.

Navaratri Day 4 - Kushmanda Ma

On the fourth day of Navaratri, we celebrate Kushmanda Ma. It is said that when there was darkness everywhere and there was no existence of the universe, She created the universe with a smile.

Kushmanda Devi

‘Kushmandam’ in Sanskrit means pumpkin. Among the sacrificial vegetables that are offered in the worship of the Goddess, pumpkin is the most important vegetable with which Kushmanda Devi is most pleased.

The pumpkin contains many seeds within it, and each seed has the capability within it to grow new pumpkins. How great this Devi is, that She was able to create this universe, with each soul inside of it able to grow in spirituality!

Sri Swami Vishwananda said, “Kushmanda Devi is the power by which this universe, this world was created. Of course, as you all know by now, all Goddesses, even if they have different forms, they are all One. The difference is that all the Goddesses existed either before or after creation, but Goddess Kushmanda appeared at the very moment of creation. She manifested Herself through creation, the moment the Universe was created.

"So the creative power at that moment was Kushmanda. We pray to the Goddess Kushmanda, that She showers Her blessing on each one. Whoever is remembering Her and whoever is not remembering Her, people who know about Her, people who don’t know about Her, may Her Love, Her Grace be upon all the people, so that they find true happiness and true joy.”

Coconut offering into the Yagna - purification of the heart of Man
“She is the Cosmic Shakti of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara. She is Adi Devi, the feminine aspect of all the Purusha and it is said that She emerged from the body of Mahavishnu, Narayana and gave the Shakti to Brahma to create the universe, to create everything.

"In that aspect of Devi she shows that even if one sadhana is tough, one has to persevere into it; one has not to let go of it, saying it is too difficult and finish! If you ask Divine Mother to inspire you, if you ask Her to help you, She takes that form of Kushmanda, She comes in a way, showing that everything is inside of you.”

Swamiji's Visit to Kenya

Guruji visited Kenya with Satyanarayan Das following their trip to South Africa, and met with many devotees. He gave darshan and satsang, and held a retreat where many devotees were able to come and spend time with him. Many had not had a chance to see him in person in a very long time, so every chance they got to be in his presence is dearly appreciated.

We asked a devotee who was a part of Swamiji's trip there to share a bit about how the trip went. Here's the story:

Day 1

On 20th September, beloved Guruji was to arrive in Kenya after 3 years. We were all waiting in anticipation at the Airport to have a glimpse of a Him. Finally He arrived accompanied by Babaji Satyanarayan Dasa. Our joy knew no bounds and it was a precious moment for all.

He was welcomed in a traditional way, showered with flowers as He walked, and welcomed at the door by devotees with Aarti, Mala and Tilak.

He introduced us to Babaji and then made His way to the temple.

He then allowed us to perform 'Pada-Pooja' on His Lotus Feet, and all devotees present got a chance to offer flowers at His Feet.

Swamiji then freshened up and sat with Lord Krishna on His lap and let us all have Darshan of His Beautiful Krishna.

As He was talking to us,He materialised a beautiful ring for a devotee and vibhuti for many of other devotees. The fragrance from vibhuti was breathtaking.
What a blessing!!!!!

Day 2: 21st September - Darshan
Swamiji arrived at Ram Mandir, the venue of a Darshan looking so Radiant and Beautiful in His Red Robe, that many people who were seeing Him for the first time admired and commented on His Beauty and Radiance.
We also welcomed Babaji with honour and love, and he took his seat next to Swami.

Swami then allowed us to offer Rose petals at His Lotus Feet as we sang the Guru Stotram.
Shortly after, He gave a short talk and sang in His most sweetly Divine voice. He encouraged all to sing but people were shy. :p

We introduced Babaji and he shared his knowledge and wisdom with all preset.

Darshan was attended by over more than 450 people and lasted for almost 5 hours.

Day 3: 22nd September
We all took a bus trip with Swami to a resort and Swami shared many stories with us on the 2 hour drive.
As He loves roasted Maize, we stopped in Rift Valley to enjoy some with Him. There, He let us talk pictures with Him, joked and laughed, and it felt like one big happy family.

After arriving at the resort, Guruji was welcomed warmly with a Garland and refreshments, after which we had lunch. He then accompanied went for a Game Drive accompanied by Babaji and a few devotees. They saw Giraffes, zebras, antelopes, warthogs with horns (varaha), wild buffaloes and many other animals in their natural habitat. Guruji loved it and had a splendid time.

After dinner, Guruji graciously gave a Satsang which went on till 2am. We also sang and heard lots of words of wisdom mainly from Babaji, and Guruji intervened and joined from time to time to share with us.
His love and honour for babaji showed us the way of Humility.

Day 4: 23rd September
At 8:30am, Guruji performed Abhishekam on Krishna at the Resort and we sang and danced, after which we visited Hanuman Mandir on the way back to Nairobi.

Later in the day, Guruji visited the Sanathan Dharma Mandir and Balaji temple. A special puja was done at the Lord Venkateshwara (Balaji) temple, where He was honored with a shawl.

Many devotees came to personally meet Him afterwards and He graciously met everyone, and blessed them with His Love and Guidance, ad for some He also materialised rings and vibhuti.
It was then time to say goodbye, tears flowed freely amidst promise of coming back soon to Kenya again.

We all cherish the Precious time Sri Swami Vishwananda spent with us, sharing His beautiful words of wisdom, and sweet unconditional Love.

Premavatara Satguru Sri Swami Vishwananda Mahaprabhu ki Jai!!!
~ Always at HIS Lotus Feet ~
♥ Much Love ♥


More pictures will be published soon. Check out Bhakti Marga Kenya's flickr page for updates.

28 Sep 2014

Sri Swami Vishwananda gives commentary on the Guru Gita

Sri Swami Vishwananda explains the Guru Gita
On the second night of Navaratri, Sri Swami Vishwananda surprised us all with the following announcement, “Tomorrow I will speak about the Guru Gita, because the nine days of Navaratri are also the nine days of your spiritual path.”

The Guru Gita (Song of the Guru) is part of the Skanda Purana, one of the 18 Puranas compiled by the sage Vyasa.

Sri Swami Vishwananda said, “Normally, there are 400 verses in the Guru Gita, but we will discuss only the main ones, which are 182. The Guru Gita was a discussion between Shankara and Parvati, where Goddess Parvati asked Shiva, ‘Who do you consider the greatest one on earth?’ And Lord Shiva Himself, in the form of Dakshinamurti, explained to Maha Devi saying, ‘The greatest form on earth is the form of the Master.’ And in the Gita Krishna said, ‘It is through My grace that the Guru appears on earth and it is through My grace that the disciples are guided to where they belong.’ So wherever one is, the Guru will search and will attract the disciple. The Guru Gita is one of most wonderful songs, because all that we are doing here, to please the Mother, is also possible only through the Grace of the Master.”

Yesterday night, during the Navaratri celebrations dedicated to Chandraghanta Ma, Sri Swami Vishwananda started his commentary of the first 20 verses of the Guru Gita. Below are some excerpts:

Sūta uvāca:
Kailāsa-śikhare ramye
Pranamya pārvatī bhaktyā
śankaram paryaprcchata

“Here Shankara Bhagavan is enjoying His devotion for Lord Narayana, because He knows the secret behind that. That's why we can say that He Himself is the embodiment of the sadhana. He was seated on the beautiful Mount Kailash. Parvati bowed to Him with reverence and asked Him... here you have to see that the Mount Kailash stands also for the top most spiritual level. It's not just a place, a mountain, but it stands also for a high level of spirituality. Shankara Bhagavan is there together with Parvati, the two qualities, Shiva-Shakti, the form and the formless. Shiva is considered to be the formless and Shakti the manifested form; both go hand and hand, Purusha and Shakti. But Parvati (Prakriti) which is the manifestation of Shakti, with deep reverence, with humility asked Lord Shiva to explain the deepness which lies on Whom Lord Shiva is meditating and What aspect is That.”

Kena mārgena bho svāmin
dehī brahmamayo bhavet,
Tvam krpām kuru me svāmin
namāmi caranau tava

“Here Bhagavati is asking about the secret of the Master and by which path a human being will be saved. Bhagavati is very concerned because She knows the creation, She knows that the mind of man is constantly creating karma; each breath, each thought, each action is creating karma. So as a Mother She is concerned about everybody, that's why She is asking the Absolute, ‘How can one attain the Lotus Feet of the Lord? How can one attain the Grace of the Lord?’ So seeing such devotion in Her and Her concern as a Mother for Her children, He said:”

Īśvara uvāca:
Mamarūpāsi devi tvam
tvat-prītyartham vadāmyaham,
Lokopakārakah praśno
na kenāpi krtah purā

“Shankara Bhagavan said to Parvati, ‘There is no difference between you and Me. Even if we are separated into two forms, yet we are One. You are the very form of Myself, not only in the form, but even in the Self Itself.’ Shiva and Shakti are One. The same as Radha and Krishna are One. So, He said, ‘I will explain this mystery, I will explain what lies behind this secret of devotion, the secret of the Guru; not because you have asked me, but out of the Love that I have for you, I will explain the secret of devotion to you.’ Then He added, ‘No one in this universe has ever asked me this question. You are the first one who asked Me this question and by answering this question to You, through your understanding, all the lokas, the whole universe will benefit from this blessing.’”

Gurumūrtim smarennityam
gurunāma sadā japet,
Gurorājñām prakurvīta
guror-anyanna bhāvayet

“Here Shankara Bhagavan is saying, ‘Meditate constantly, unceasingly on the form of the Master, with deep devotion and love.’ Not only to meditate, but He also said to chant continuously, to repeat, to do japa with the name of the Master, the Guru. Furthermore He said, ‘Carry out the order of the Guru. Carry out what He says without questioning; carry out what He asks with love and humility. Don't think of anything else than the Master.’”

Navaratri Day 3 - Chandraghanta Ma

Last night, Sri Swami Vishwananda said, “Today is the third day of Navaratri, when are celebrating Chandraghanta Devi. She received this name due to the crescent on her head.”
Navaratri 2014
According to the Devi Mahatmyam, when She was manifested, She was so beautiful that Mahishasur, a demon-king, wanted to have Her as his wife. Devi said: “Fine, if you want to be my husband, you have to be stronger than me.”  First he sent thousands of soldiers to take Devi with them. She just pronounced the word ‘sa’, and all of them became ash. Seeing that, Mahishasur rushed quickly towards Devi to fight with Her. Mahishasur had received the boon that no man could kill him, but he forgot to ask that no Mataji could kill him. He didn’t think that Devi was that powerful. He didn’t know the creative Shakti of God Himself. So Mahishasur went on fighting. He took different demon forms. At the end he took the aspect of a buffalo, and it was in this form that Devi killed him, receiving then Her name of Mahishasur Mardini.

Sri Swami Vishwananda said previously, “In that form of Devi, She removes all the sins from one's life, all the karma that we have created; She removes it and She blesses the devotee with some siddis, like the celestial fragrance. So, whenever the Divine is present, there is also this celestial fragrance all around, which is associated with Chandraghanta Mata. When I was 15, the Divine manifested Himself to show that it was time for me to start working for Him helping the people. So at our place in Mauritius, for 40 days, there was always a sweet fragrance and bees around. Through this sign, you know that the Divine is present.
Abishekam (left) and Yagna (right)
The next point with this form of Devi is that when you look at Her, She is spreading calmness and eternal peace all around Her, but to the wicked one She is terrifying.” So, “if you are negative towards yourself, you can't expect to see positive outside. If your mind is negative, all things around will be negative. But if your mind is clear, pure, calm all around you will be calm.”
“Mahishasur represents the great ego in men, the pride of thinking we know who we are. We are so much attached to our arrogance that it is very difficult to let go. We think that we are more special than anybody else. Of course each one is unique and each one is special in his own way, but Divine Mother wants to show us that it is only through humility that one will attain the Divine. What emerges first from that great pride are thousands of thoughts saying, ‘This has to be like this, this has to be like that’. We always say, ‘If it is not my way, it’s all wrong.’ But how do you know what is wrong and what is right? If you are not surrendered yet, how would you know that? So you can surrender to Mahadevi and attain Her Grace by asking, ‘Hey Maa, relieve me from this suffering, that I myself put on because I always think of myself being more special, of being different from anybody.’ Forgetting that what dwells deep within us is the same Shakti, is God Himself. So why do we let this mind take over? This mind, which is always opposing what comes from the heart, in one go, if you surrender, you will relieve it. The same way you can remove thousands of thoughts, only by surrendering.
Dancing for Devi
As a Mother, She wants you to sit on Her lap. She will look after you. Don’t let this mind trouble you. Even the thoughts that are created in the mind are Her power. But, She lets us have the freedom to choose whether we want to listen or not. So if we let pride take over, of course it will take a long time, but if you are humble, you will see how easy it is. You will attain the Grace of Maa. It’s not about how many mantras or how many prayers you do for Her, but about this Love that you have for Her. The only thing, that can really melt Her heart, is this simplicity of Love.”

27 Sep 2014

Navaratri Day 2 - Brahmacharini Ma

The second night of Navaratri, we celebrated Brahmacharini Devi.

Swamiji gave an explanation about the glory of this aspect of Devi, and what benefits one receives by worshiping her:

“Today is the second day of Navaratri, which is dedicated to Devi Brahmacharini. She is a great tapasyani, actually. She is Tapasyani Devi, who encourages one on the spiritual path.

Yesterday was Goddess Shailaputri and you have seen how She killed the two demons Madhu and Kaitabha. Shailaputri represents the Yogamaya of Mahavishnu. You see, the dormant aspect of Narayana that the Devi Saptashati talks about, is the dormant aspect which is present within oneself. Even if one is on the spiritual path, yet the deepness of spirituality stay always dormant. It can be awakened only when one receives the Grace of meeting the Guru, because only the Guru can really awaken this dormant part.

That's why Shailaputri represented as the Guru, She is the first. According to the story, by Her Maya She awakens Mahavishnu from His yoga nidra. This means that She is the One that gives the Shakti, the power to push your sadhana forward, to activate it inside of you. She is the blessing of the Master, which one receives when one goes on the spiritual path – if you are lucky to meet your Master in this life. She is the first blessing of sadhana-bhakti for you to start your spiritual path, to start your inward journey. On the inward journey, this blessing, is very important because it destroys the pride, the ego.

However, your part is also to strengthen it. It's like: when the seed is planted you have to water it. This is the path of Brahmacharini, where you take the sadhana; you take what the Guru told you, without any question, without any hesitation and you follow it. And Brahmacharini Devi is this second blessing in the form of sadhana.

You'll notice that She is holding a kamandalu and a japa mala – She is showing life in reality. What you really need in life is not all that you think you need. Life is very simply, in reality. If you take all the glamorous part of your life, you will see that in reality a person doesn't need much to be happy. Especially, if you are on the spiritual path, what do you need?

In Her left hand, She is holding the kamandalu, which symbolises purification, because on the spiritual path you are always going through purification; it symbolises also food, shelter and clothing. So, this means that if you are surrendered everything will be taken care. All your needs will be taken care as long as you are fully surrendered. But if you are surrendered, there should not be questions in your mind like, “Why is this and why is not that?” To surrender means that you count completely on the Grace of God. And of course you are doing your duty, but you trust that the Divine looks after you.

In Her right hand, She is holding the japa mala; this symbolises not just the daily japa kriya, but your spiritual sadhana. When you receive the blessing of the Guru, the mantra yoga is very important – the mantra kriya. That's why in Atma Kriya we emphasise that even if you don't do all the kriyas, at least you should do the Japa Kriya regularly. Because by chanting the name of God you start to reflect the Divine qualities and of course if you have your Guru mantra that will help you a lot. But if you don't have it, then chant OM Namo Narayanaya until one day you'll receive it.

As you know, a few months back I said that I don't give any Guru mantra anymore, because one has to deserve the Guru mantra. If somebody just plainly receives the Guru mantra and then later on they come, like today morning somebody said, “Oh, I forgot my Guru mantra.” You can forget about everything but the Guru mantra you should never forget about it! That's why it is said to keep it secret. That's why it is said to treasure it, not to say it loud. Because this is ‘manas’, the guru mantra has to be chanted only in the mind.

So, Brahmacharini Devi is emphasising that the sadhana is important. If you want to reach somewhere, you can't say, “Oh I don't need to do anything! God will do everything for me!” No. Your effort is needed but the blessing will always help you, giving you the strength to advance. That's why here Brahmacharini Devi is saying, “If you can't do anything, if you can't do any sadhana, any tapasya, the best of all is to do japa. Chant the Divine name. Chant the name, ‘OM Namo Narayanaya’. That will also free you.

Can you see how merciful God is? You don't need to do much! In the most simple way, He has given you His name, so that you can radiate what you are, in the deepness of yourself.”