27 Nov 2012

In the spirit of Saint Nicholas

On the 6th of December we honour St. Nicholas.

As all of you surely know, St. Nicholas lived in present-day Turkey as a son of very rich parents. His parents died early. He found no joy in his life – nothing satisfied him or made him happy.

One day he secretly went outside of his palace and met the beggars – now he knew what to do: he sold all of his possessions and gave them what they needed! This giving satisfied him and made him happy!

As by the example of Saint Nicholas we would like to do the same at the suggestion of Swami Vishwananda.

That is why we would ask you to:

Please bring a gift to Darshan on 29th of November or 1st of December which then will be passed on:
  • Gingerbread, Chocolate, Nuts, Apples ... (the traditional St. Nicholas treats)
  • Warm Gloves, Socks, Scarves and Hats
We have placed a Christmas tree in the entrance hall under which you can lay your gifts.

On 6th of December we then will share your gifts with the people in need and several aid organisations in the area around Springen. The treats will also go to two nursery schools in the neighbouring villages.

Of course you can also find places in your neighbourhood where hungry people meet and can help (by the way not only on 6th of December) as exemplified by St. Nicholas!

The joy that we create by such giving doesn’t only warm the heart of those who receive the gifts but also nourishes and warms our own heart! It feels wonderful!

26 Nov 2012

We've got Peacocks! (part 2)

About catching the peacocks:

To catch the young peacock couple, Drishti had an idea after thinking about it for quite a long time: From the construction works here at the centre, we had some left-over steel boxes standing on the parking area. These would do as a trap. After speaking to Kalpit, who liked the plan, it turned out that he was a real "trapper" and was skilled in trapping ;-)

After talking to the residents in the neighbouring village, Watzelhain, who assured their assistance, we put the trap in one of their gardens, tied up the "trap door" with a knot and put some food in the box.

And behold - the little bit more trusting male peacock walked in without any drama the door could easily be shut. Heinrich (that's the name of that peacock) looked a little bit puzzled. Now Kalpit could easily grab him with a blanket and put him in a transport box. And off he went back home.

Catching our hen "Prinzessin" was a little bit more difficult. To trap her, we had to put a mirror in the box so that she would "think" that there are more hens in there.

The neighbours helped us and as they did their breakfast-tour through the gardens the next morning, Prinzessin was also "on board" (in the box). That had worked out quite well.

So now we had 8 peacocks!

After an adequate period of settling in, some of the peacocks were set free, one after the other. They now stayed around because the others were still in the aviary. In the evening they came back into the aviary to get fed.

Then, finally after Navaratri: Open doors and freedom for all of them. It was a great joy to watch them discover everything!
During dawn it is especially fascinating to watch them getting on the trees! At the moment they form some kind of "flock" - I think in springtime during the mating season this will change...

All 8 of them have chosen their favorite spots now, but Heinrich and Prinzessin are a little bit braver due to there "survival training" in freedom - they even choose trees a little bit further away from the roof of the apartment house.

When it gets windy they like to go into Naamdev's garage - to the displeasure of Naamdev - because of course they leave things behind there...

Another important appeal:

We are very happy that the animals now feel at home here and we hope that they get over the winter well. They are in the private area around the apartment house. Please understand that you can't go there.

Please, just wait until the peacocks - latest in spring - will expand their cruising radius and "go on the prowl" around the whole centre - due to their curiosity, surely they will then be seen everywhere and also land on some of the balcony railings.

Pictures from India-Pilgrimage with Swami Vishwananda

Somewhere between Kolkata and Varanasi: 

24 Nov 2012

We've got peacocks!

Some of you already know, but we haven't really made it public yet. We've got peacocks!!! Real, beautiful Indian peacocks, which give a new mystical touch to our centre, Shree Peetha Nilaya.

After a first adaptation phase of several weeks our peacocks (4 cocks and 4 hens) are able to move around freely now. That's why we would like our guests to pay attention to the following:

  • The animals are quite trusting and let themselves be fed, but are jumpy if you move too quickly.
  • In the dark, they are completely blind - to protect themselves from foxes and other animals, they fly over to the trees at dawn and sleep on the branches (please never disturb them there).
During late summer, the male peacocks lose their beautiful feathers (about 150 per peacock) and during winter, new feathers grow, ready for mating season in spring. So in case you wonder, they are just growing :)

Here, you can read how we got the peacocks:

Some time ago in a conversation, Swamiji mentioned that he loves peacocks very much. Last summer we spontaneously had the idea that it would be nice to have some peacocks.

Mataji Drishti asked Guruji if she should take care of that and he immediately answered  "Yes, go for it".

Girikumarananda and Maksym built a shelter for them, because it was clear that they would have to be kept in a closed area for about 2-4 weeks before they could roam freely.

At the same time, we searched the internet and found a one year old hen (princess) and a cock of the same age.

This was a few days before Guru Purnima. On the morning of Guru Purnima, there was a big peacock egg laying in the straw! What a delight... (unfortunately the hen was too excited to breed in peace).

Later on, 6 more peacocks came (3 hens and 3 cocks) from an outdoor restaurant, all spoilt by cheese cake but also quite cool and trusting!

After 3 weeks, the first couple of them was set free and... one day later they had disappeared 
:-( So that had been too early!

Several weeks later, we heard about them grazing through the gardens in the next village and being fed by the residents there.

Swamiji said "Make sure to bring them back!" That was a real challenge - as it isn't very easy to catch peacocks in the nature!

To be continued...

18 Nov 2012

Christmas Programme at Shree Peetha Nilaya

On the 24th December (Christmas Eve) we will start the ceremonies at 17:00 by singing the Akathist to baby Jesus, reading from the Psalms, old testament and Epistels as part of the Royal Hours. We will also sing Christmas songs during this time. There will be a break for evening meal and then we will commence with the liturgy of St Basil from 22:00hrs. During the liturgy of St Basil we will carry out the intercession, Canon of Nativity, Benediction of the loaves, procession with baby Jesus and the gospel will be read in different languages. We expect that the evening ceremony finishes just after midnight. 

On the 25th December (Christmas Day) there will be an abhishekam carried out to baby Jesus at 10:00 whilst we sing songs to baby Jesus. Later in the evening there will be OM healing and a liturgy from 18:00hrs.

Please fill in the registration Form to register for Christmas on the 24th and 25th December 2012 in Shree Peetha Nilaya. This form MUST be filled out once for each person attending the eventAll starred fields must be filled in. Donations are welcome!
To register, please click here:

17 Nov 2012

4th part of the Pilgrimage

East India Pilgrimage with Swami, part 4

Today we got up at 8am and after breakfast, at 9am, we went to the small Devi
temple nearby. There everything was prepared for Chandi Path, a yagna to Durga Devi. All the 40 of us sat near the yagna kund. Swami asked me to do the prayer representing the group as he said he would not come. 

The priest started the puja and instructed me about every step. He had an „apprentice“ assisting him. Just as the fire was started, after all the purification and invocation was done, Swami came and joined in. We recited „Om Aim Hrim Klim Chamundaye Vicche“ 108 times, then followed different Devi prayers and mantras. The whole prayer took about 2 hours. Swami again mentioned how special this temple and the presence of the Devi there is.

After completion, we walked again to Kreem Kund to meet Aghoreswar Sidharta Gautam Ram Jee. When we arrived, we again met with our „friend“ whom we woke up from his peaceful sleep. He told us, that Gautam Ram Jee decided to come later on the 16th November, so it was not possible to meet him. However, he said that when Swami comes back for the next pilgrimage in February, he would be able to meet with him. We stayed some time and chatted with the Aghori, who seemed to have made this corner of the temple (in open air) his home for some time, as he had all his utensils and his „bed“ prepared there. In his humorous and bright way, he told us more about the Aghora path life style. He said, that all what he achieved, all his siddhis, e.g. to be able to „touch the
sun“, to see through the eyes of birds and other beings, to be at 10 places simultaneously, etc., he achieved it through putting all his focus on his Guru, Aghoreshwar Baba Bhagwan Ram (who passed away in 1992). His Guru “gave” him everything. He  said that there is no particular sadhana that Aghoris do, their sadhana is their Guru, and whatever he gives them they will perform.
At some point a “typical” aghori arrived at the temple, dressed in black, with a black turban, big chains around his neck, long beard, and walked quite fast from one place of worship to the other, followed by two other men. Upon seeing this, our friend “laughed” and said, that one cannot distinguish if these “babas” are crooks or genuine. He said the outside “show” is not important for a  true aghori, in fact an aghori might as well be dressed completely normal, more normal than so called spiritual people. All divinity and power is within. He said love especially for ones Guru and also ones Ishta Dev is all what counts. Also the so called “naga babas”, who walk around completely naked, he said that there is practically no genuine naga baba anymore. He said they are mostly beggars asking for money. He told us that these people are coming here (Kreem Kund) today because of Deepawali, the festival of lights, and that in the night they would do their sadhana on the cremation grounds. We asked him, if he also performs his sadhana on the cremation ground tonight. He said, that he will not go tonight, that he doesn't care, he goes whenever he feels like going... Anyway, he said, for
him, the best cremation ground is Kreem Kund, better than all the other ones, cause here is the burial place not of “normal” people, but of the Aghori saints, which (their energy) makes a great difference for improving ones sadhana. He said that Kreem Kund was the very first cremation ground or cemetry of Varanasi. Actually it was Baba Keen Ram, who brought fire from the cremation ground and lit up the dhuni (sacred fire) here. Since then, several hundreds of years ago,
the very same dhuni is still burning, and the only prasad that is given to the devotees is the ash of Baba Keena Ram's dhuni.
It was really nice and very interesting to speak again with this humble and simple man. We bid farewell and walked back to the hotel. On the way we went to a small Kali temple where they had built up a huge (over) life size Kali statue for Divali celebrations:

Back in the hotel we had lunch and the remaining time of the day was “free time”.
As it was Divali or Deepavali, at night there were a lot of fireworks everywhere. The whole city was filled with loud explosions of firecrackers. Already in the afternoon children set up firecrackers in the streets. Some of them simply poured out black powder on the floor and lit it. It didn't feel very safe to walk through the streets with all these “bombs” everywhere. 
At night Swami went on the roof of the hotel and had great fun to light firecrackers with the hotel staff. The noise continued the whole night of course.
The next day it was time to say good bye to Varanasi. We left around noon and with boat, bus & plane we travelled back to Kolkata where we checked in to our hotel at around 9pm. 
Early the next day, some of us went again to Dakshineshwar to see Kali, and afterwards to Kalighat, also to see Kali :) There I also managed to buy a Tara that Swami asked me to get for the Kali temple in Springen. Finally we got back to the hotel, checked out, drove to the airport, and flew back home...
We had a really wonderful time in India, were graced with the presence of many saints, Gods & Godesses, and most uplifting of all, we had 14 days in the presence of our dearest Guru, Sri Swami Vishwananda!!!

Jay Guru Dev!

14 Nov 2012

3rd part of the Pilgrimage

East India with Swami, November 2012, Part 3
After arriving at about 7am in Bhod Gaya, we went straight to the hotel. After a big breakfast all of us fell in bed half dead. We were lucky as the beds were very good and comfortable. The hotel was completely new, so new that they did not yet have internet access (only in the managers office, that's where I sent the last report from) and the third floor was still a construction site. 

At about 2pm we met again and after lunch we left to the town. There we visited the most important Buddhist pilgrim site: The place where the Buddha got enlightenment. There's a large temple and behind it is the giant banyan tree under which Buddha was sitting when he got enlightened. The whole temple complex had a very, very serene atmosphere. There weren't any priests in the temple doing any puja and it was quite different from the Hindu temples, that sometimes resemble market places with greedy priests waiting for money. We sat for about half an hour with Guruji beneath the tree alongside other pilgrims, mainly from Asian countries.

After meditation we did some shopping and finally drove with the bus to our next destination, Vishnu Padam, where there is the foot print of Vishnu. As the bus couldn't enter the narrow streets, we walked the last bit to the temple. The sanctum of the temple is round shaped with a rock on the ground on which there is the foot print of Vishnu. The puja is done in such a way, that the devotees give a donation, put Tulsi leaves and flowers on the rock around the foot print, and the priest then puts a white cloth on the foot (the foot is painted red) on which then appears the foot print of Vishnu. This cloth is  then given back to the devotee who can take it home.

The next morning we left at 10am and took the road to Varanasi The drive was about 5 hours long. 
We again had lunch packets that were served in the bus. Finally we arrived in Varanasi. Before entering into the city one passes a lot of poverty along the roadside some people living only in a shack, others without any roof, lying on the plain floor. Near the Ganges we had to leave the bus and continue on foot and then take a boat. The „old town“ of Varanasi is built along the Ganges and one cannot access it with buses. 
During the boat ride we got a first impression of the holy city of Varanasi, which used to be known as Kashi and also as Benares. The city is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati. Many Hindus come here before dying to be cremated as the atmosphere is very sacred. One can feel the effect of the many saints that have graced this place. 

After about a 20 minutes boat ride we reached „Rana Mahal Ghat“ where our guest house is situated. The „ghats“ are the steps that lead from the city down to the Ganges where the people go to have a dip in the river. We climbed the steep steps from the river towards our guest house. Its name is „Palace on steps“. Although from outside it does not look like a palace anymore, inside it is very nice. Guruji found out, that it was built by the royal family Ranaprakab Singh who were the in-laws of Meerabai Devi, the famous saint. We checked into our rooms. Swami got one of the round „corner rooms“ with a wonderful view on the Ganges. 

Right after check in we went again down to the river and took a short boat ride to the main ghat. There the aarti was performed to Mother Ganga as it is done every evening. There are about 12 priests and each one of them is doing the aarti, while
many devotees gather and sing bhajans or dance for Ma Ganga. After the aarti is finished, all the people that were watching from the boats light a small butter lamp which is placed on a little basket with flowers and offers it to Ganga. It was very beautiful to see all the little lights floating on the river. 
When we got back to shore, we took the ghat before and walked a bit through the narrow streets. There are many shops where one can buy just about anything. Suddenly we turned into some kind short side road. At the end was a big door that read: Sribendu Lahiri. We entered into a beautiful courtyard. Inside there were two mandirs, one was dedicated to Shyamacharan Lahiri (Lahiri Mahasaya), his son Tinkori Lahiri and grandson Satyacharan Lahiri, the other was dedicated to Mahavatar Babaji. 

The temple, which was built by Lahiri's great grandson, contains the ashes of all three of them. It was a wonderful, peaceful atmosphere inside and we sat with Swami for a while in meditation. Then the person who looks after the place showed us the original of the famous photograph of Lahiri Mahasaya. 

When we got back to the hotel, we found out, that the nowadays hotel used to be Lahiri's Ashram, and the room that Swami chose, was the room where Lahiri used to meditate!

At night we had a good meal which we ate on the terrace of the guest house. The restaurant is caged as for the monkeys not to steal the food. The hotel staff showed us also the rooftop which is a great place to meditate, overlooking the Ganges river.
The next morning we started early, at 6am, to make a boat tour along the river. That way everyone who has never been there got a first impression of the city. Besides the merchants that come by boat to try to sell their things (see a DVD and CD sales boat on the picture), we also encountered some Asian pilgrims who liked our bhajan singing that they even started dancing on their boat:

After breakfast we went to the most important temple in Varanasi: Kashi Vishwanath. It is a Shiva temple which contains one of the 12 Jyotir Lingams of India. We had to go inside in groups of 10 persons. First we needed to register our passports as they are very strict not to let any Muslims enter the temple due to tension between Hindu und Muslim community. In the past history the temple had been destroyed and a mosque was built instead. Now the temple is just next to the mosque. It has a roof which is gold plated with 900kg of real Gold which was donated by a Maharaja some time back. There is quite a lot of police and military presence around the temple. Europeans are normally not allowed, only in exceptional cases if they follow the Hindu tradition. We were allowed however. 

We had a short Darshan of the Lingam as there were many people trying to push through. But it was definitely very nice to see and feel this special place. Photography was strictly prohibited. After Vishwanath we strolled through Varanasi and visited a few other temples. One of them was the ashram of Shri Satuwa Baba where we were received very warmly and got a cup of tea from the
Brahmacharis there. The afternoon was free for everyone (first free time on this trip) and most people used it for some shopping. Some people went also to the aarti in the evening. 

The next morning we started at 10am. First we visited a small ashram nearby. Unfortunately I dont remember the name of the saint who founded the ashram, but he is a quite famous Vaishnava Saint. One of the Brahmacharis showed us around. We sang some bhajans in their temple and the Swami was gifted with a personal shawl of this saint. They said that he was the first one to propagate the Mahamantra “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Ram Hare Ram, Ram Ram Hare Hare” in our times, even before Srila Prabhupad.
Next on the program was the “Kashi Dham, Shakha ashram” of another local saint, and then we went to a small temple which was the house where Ramakrishna stayed in when he visited Varanasi. He lived in that room for three months and performed regular Puja on a Saligram there. The granddaughter of the man who hosted Ramakrishna back then welcomed us warmly and showed us the padukas that Ramakrishna was wearing while being at that place. 

After leaving that place, we went to Krim Kund. It is the place where Aghorachara Baba Kina Ram practiced his Aghora Sadhana and introduced the Kinarami Aghor tradition. Baba Kina Ram received his instruction directly from a manifestation of the great Dattatreya (a manifestation of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva together). Baba Kinaram (1563-1714) revived the Aghora tradition which existed already before. It said to go back to Shiva himself and having been propagated by Dattatreya. One of the meanings of Aghora is: A & Ghora: Ghora = Difficulty, A = “not”, therefore it is said to be the path which is not difficult, but easy, a simplified worship. Aghoris do not believe in any “formalities”.

At the Krim Kund Guruji and some of us had a very nice and fun chat with an Aghori for almost an hour. He explained us a lot about their tradition. He said that a true Aghori does neither need to smear himself with ashes and pretend to be crazy, nor does he need to display his spirituality as a “show” in any other way, but just be simple and “normal” towards the outside, while of course the inside burns with love for the Divine. He said that they (the temple) did not accept any donations from government or foreigners in order to remain independent. I told him that my donation of Rs50 was accepted at the temple, upon which he laughed and said that he could even give me a donation of Rs1000, and I said I could give him Rs1500 back... He said that he has the “power” to generate whatever he needs for himself and doesn't need anyone to look after him, but that nature looks after him. The only one they really believe in is the Guru. Even the Gods are secondary, cause they can only be attained through the grace of the Guru. This reminded us again of the utmost importance of the sadguru. It also reminded me of Vijaya Krishna Goswami (a Vaishnava Saint of Bengal) who said about Ramakrishna, that because of his accessibility, people do not recognize his greatness and importance. If he were to live in the Himalayas, people would appreciate him more. And again, I thought of our Guru, and how he is only waiting that we sincerely long and pine for God, not wanting anything else, so that he can pour his grace in us.
The founder, Baba Kinaram, said when he was alive, that his 11th successor will be his reincarnation. We found out, that the current head (Aghoracharya) Sidharta Gautam Ram Jee, is in fact the 11th head of the Aghors after Baba Kinaram, and therefore considered the reincarnation of the great saint Baba Kinaram, and we were able to arrange a meeting with him for tomorrow Tuesday.

After this refreshing and fun conversation, we walked further about 5 minutes and reached the ashram of Anananda Moy Ma. The mandir was closed so we just sat there some time in meditation. 
Later on we took a boat to another ghat. There we visited Trailanga Swami Math. Trailanga Swami (or Telang Swami) is probably the most famous saint of Varanasi. He became about 280 years old, others say that he was over 300 years. He always walked around naked, innocent like a child, not caring about the outside. Ramakrishna called him the “walking Shiva of Varanasi”. To sit in his math, where he used to worship, was very, very beautiful. There is a huge Shiva lingam which is said that Telang Swami carried himself from the river to the temple, a task only possible for someone who can defy gravity. Only by touching it one could feel its power and sacredness. Telang Swami also installed a HariHara, a murthi of half Krishna, half Shiva, of which there are only two in whole of India. Besides this murthi, he installed also an image of Kali. Before he took mahasamadi, he asked his disciples to build a big (he was very large) wooden coffin for him. When he died, they put him in there. Upon opening the coffin a few days later, instead of a dead body, they found it full of fragrant flowers. Some people, up until today, have said that they have seen him on the shore of the Ganges...

After leaving Trailanga Swami's muth, we took again the boat and came just in time to again participate in the Aarti. Swami got a special seat just next to the singer. 
I am not sure if there will be more reports, as on the 14th we will already be flying back to Kolkota, and from there to Europe.