30 Oct 2015

Karthik Month 2015 - Fasting

"…on the spiritual path as you are fasting, you are in a state of constantly remembering God, so your mind is not focused on the food, but mostly on your spiritual path. So, this helps you to elevate also. Because, you see, when you eat a lot, your concentration also becomes heavy. You can’t really concentrate fully. But when you are fasting, you are light. Then it becomes easy for you to concentrate on the Divine or do your sadhana."  – Sri Swami Vishwananda

We are happy to announce the arrival of Karthik Month!

This time of year is very dear to Lord Krishna, as many of his leelas were enacted during this month, such as the Govardhana Leela and the Ras Leela. It is said that, during this month, whatever prayer you offer to Krishna, the punya, or spiritual benefit, received is much more than other months. According to scriptures, when you fast during an auspicious time, the hold of the material world is lessened by the fast, and that accelerates our spiritual growth.

Although it is tradition to fast in some way during the month, Sri Swami Vishwananda has made it absolutely clear that it is up to you whether to fast or not, and if fasting, what kind of fast you want to do. As with most things on the path of Bhakti, there are no prescribed rules as to how one should perform rituals, as each person has a unique and different relationship to God.

If you wish to fast, we recommend doing it on the Ekadashi days (see below).

Info on Ekadashi: Ekadashi takes place on the eleventh day of every lunar fortnight in the Hindu Tradition, or 2 times per month according to the western calendar. In Hinduism, Ekadashi is believed to be an auspicious day dedicated to Lord Vishnu. If you choose to fast during this time, it is recommend that one abstains from all types of grains, but you can have a light diet of nuts, milk, fruits, etc., if you wish. The fast should begin at sunrise and last until the next day. Ekadashi Dates for Karthik Month: 7 & 22 November, 2015

For those of you interested in learning more about the Ekadashi dates for the reminder of the year and for 2016, stay tuned for a future blog post on the subject.

Regardless of whether you choose to fast or not, we cordially invite you to the upcoming events planned in celebration of Kartik Month:

1. Karthik Night at Cudrefin, Switzerland – 7 November 2015
2. Diwali at Shree Peetha Nilaya (Springen, Germany) – 11 November 2015
3. Karthik Night at Shree Peetha Nilaya - 14 November 2015

You can find out more about upcoming events at: www.bhaktimarga.org/events

23 Oct 2015

Navaratri 2015: Final Day - Dussehra

"Whatever you are doing, you are doing for Him. There is nothing in this world that you are not doing for God. There is nothing in this world that is not a prayer. But the attitude with which you are doing it, is very important: the attitude of surrender, the attitude of love, dedication, and loyalty." - Sri Swami Vishwananda

Event Name: Dussehra

This day marks the victory of Durga over the demon Mahishasur, after she fought with the demon for nine nights and ten days.

Another important event associated with Dussehra is the victory of Rama over the demon king Ravana. It is said that on this day Rama killed Ravana, who had abducted his wife Sita to his kingdom in Lanka.

Event Highlights:

The nine nights of Navaratri wouldn’t be complete without the Dussehra celebration on the tenth day. Dussehra marks the victory of the heart over the ego. The commemoration began similar to Navaratri with Guru Puja, Gauri Ganesha Puja, and Kalash Puja to nine Goddesses.

Sri Swami Vishwananda lead the ceremonies which took place outside, in front of a yagna in a kund dug into the earth. The fire from the yagna blazed with hefty pieces of timber, which helped warm the participants on this cold and drizzly day.

Round after round of participants came to gather near the fire to chant and offer rice, until everyone had had a turn. After the yagna was complete, an abishekam was performed on Sri Swami Vishwananda himself. Sitting on top of a large abishekam tray, holding the Maha Lakshmi murti, Sri Swami Vishwananda was fully bathed with the water from the Kalash pots.

After Sri Swami Vishwananda had changed into some dry clothes, he made his way to the front of the altar and performed arati. Guruji concluded the event with the final prayers and a few words to say about Dussehra and Navaratri in general:

So today was Dussehra, the last day where Ma Bhagavati consumed everything, purified you completely, fulfilled all your wishes, and gave you blessing. Just like all the sages and the saints, She comes to your aid and listens to your prayers. 

Now, I know you are hungry and tired right now. So come and have Darshan quickly and take the tulsi dhal. Tulsi dhal is rice with which we have done archana, and tulsi dhal carries the blessing of the nine days of Navaratri -- especially the blessing of Maha Lakshmi. So you can keep it in your safe, you’ll become rich, and keep it in your purse, it will ever be full. But it brings the blessing of Ma Bhagavati Lakshmi. So may your business and everything flourish.

Hopefully next year we will see you all again. May Ma Bhagavati keep you all healthy and grounded and that all that you wish for, may Ma Bhagavati Devi Jagadamba fulfil it. And this blessing, just like the mantra says, the blessing that you receive now, you go to the world and bring it to the world. It’s not for you to keep for yourself.  Like I talked about love earlier: love is not something that you can keep only for yourself. Like that too, the blessing goes wherever you go, whatever country you go to. The last mantra that we were chanting was blessing you. It said that whichever country you come from, that blessing goes to that country also. 

That’s why we say, “Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu".   We don’t just separate, “Please give only me peace of mind.” Or, “Give me only peace, nobody else.” No, we never say that. We say, “Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu.” We live in this world, no? We are part of this world, so if first we are happy, then we can make somebody else happy. But we pray for the world to be happy. We don’t think only egoistically for ourselves, but we pray that the whole world is happy, and that the whole world is at peace. 

But for that we have to become peace. We can’t pray that there is peace outside when we are not in peace ourselves. We can’t pray and say, “God bless the world with lots of love.” God is always blessing the world with love. Eternally He is blessing the world with love, but people don’t see it, and people don’t feel it because they are so busy with their minds, busy in the outside, busy on the computer, busy in the office, busy with money, busy in this and that. So busy that the beauty of life passes in front of their eyes and they don’t see it. The Grace passes and they don’t realise it. 

Because, you see, they have the expectation that when Grace comes, it will appear ‘Boom’ like a revelation to them. Isn’t it true? That’s what is in the mind of men, right? Like God has spoken to Moses, and like that God will come and say, “I reveal Myself to you.” No, it’s not like this. For great yogis like Moses – all this, yes – but for people, He comes daily to them. But very often you are so busy in the world that you don’t realise it, you don’t see it, and you don’t take the opportunity of it.

And that’s what you have to pray to Ma Bhagavati for. That’s what Atma Kriya Yoga stands for, no? To remind you, to make you aware, that you are meeting God in each step of your life. Whatever you are doing, you are doing for Him. There is nothing in this world that you are not doing for God. There is nothing in this world that is not a prayer. But the attitude with which you are doing it, is very important: the attitude of surrender, the attitude of love, dedication, and loyalty. When that attitude is there inside of you, then whatever you do in the world becomes a prayer. So that’s why we pray, “Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu” that all be happy, including each one of you.

So it was lovely to be with all of you for the nine days praying to Ma Bhagavati. I see this enthusiasm. You see, what I appreciate so much when I look at all of you, (you know my aunty and others were also saying), we come from a place where we pray every day. In Mauritius there are prayers in all the temples for nine days also, but this dedication that you have, they don’t have. That’s why it’s said that to those who really long for God, God will reveal Himself to them. 

So carry on in your spiritual path, and Ma Bhagavati will give you strength, will give you power, will support you, and will carry you, like She carries everyone who surrenders to Her. – Sri Swami Vishwananda


The following is a story by Rishi Pramod about how Sri Swami Vishwananda's blessing is not only for the devotees that are at Shree Peetha Nilaya, but for all the devotees around the world. He blesses all who celebrate and Love the Divine.

"Today after the final prayers of Navaratri, we enjoyed once more the prasad which filled not just our bodies with sweetness, but also our soul.

For this special occasion, we got an extra blessing through Rakesh, our brother from Kenya.

He brought vibhuti which manifests daily in the temple in Kenya, and also Amrit, which constantly manifests in the temple in Kenya from a pendant of Guruji.

Through Guruji's and the Divine Mother's presence during the nine night and ten days, together with the prayers, the bhajans, the amazing sangha (gathering) of devotees and the prasad, we experienced and received, literally, the nectar of immortality.

All glory to the Satguru, all glory to the Divine Mother, all glory to the assembled devotees." - Rishi Pramod

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22 Oct 2015

Navaratri 2015: Day 9 - Siddhidatri Devi

“Siddhidatri grants the eighteen siddhis, the eighteen successes in life; She gives success in everything. So whatever you wish, by Mother’s Grace, you will be successful, whether it is in business, in finances, in a relationship, or anything else.” – Sri Swami Vishwananda

Devi Name: Siddhidatri Devi

Siddhidatri Devi is the ultimate form of the Goddesses among the Nava Durgas, and is traditionally worshipped after the first eight forms of Durga. It is said that if one worships Her with unwavering devotion, they will be blessed with success in many areas of their lives.

In the Hindu tradition, Siddhidatri Devi grants the devotee with eighteen specific kinds of success, also known as siddhis or powers. But on this night, we focused on her ability to awaken the pure potential we have within us for Divine Love. Once we have realised that Love within us, all the other abilities come naturally.

Siddhidatri Devi is Adi Shakti. She is the highest form of the Divine Mother, and though She can give supernatural powers, truly, the most precious gift that She gives is Her unconditional Love, and Her unfailing Grace.

Event Highlights:

The final night of Navaratri was one to be remembered for its pagentry, as it enacted the nine forms of the Divine Mother, plus the epic battle between Durga and the demons.

After the beginning Guru Puja, Sri Swami Vishwananda conducted the Kanya Puja, where the Divine Mother is worshipped in the form of nine little girls. With each girl adorably dressed as one of the forms of Durga, Sri Swami Vishwananda offered all the customary items to be offered during any Puja, including Padyam (a foot bath), Prasad (food), Paneeyam (water to drink) and more. Guruji also spoke a little bit about Kanya Puja:

Today, we will start first with Kanya Puja, worshipping the nine forms of the Goddess Durga in the nine little girls, and receiving their blessings. Kanya Puja is one the most wonderful prayers for Maha Devi. She manifests Herself through the innocence of the little girls, because they are still pure. So Maa can give the blessing and reveal Herself through them. – Sri Swami Vishwananda

Each person was able to offer gifts and have darshan of the nine little girls. The Puja was truly sweet, as the girls accepted all that was offered on behalf of the Divine Mother.

After Kanya Puja, Sri Swami Vishwananda performed abishekam to a murti of Maha Lakshmi named 'Shree Dhanaa Karshana Shree Maha Lakshmi Sahita Sri Kuberaya', followed by a yagna. As the final night was dedicated to Siddhidatri Devi, Guruji also talked about Her importance and how She assists each person on their spiritual path:

We have been praying today to Maha Siddhidatri, the ninth form of Durga, the One who reveals your potential, the One who awakens your potential. But what is this potential? This potential is the universal Love inside of you. First, you have to remind yourself that this Love is within you. If you have not discovered this Love inside yourself, how can you love somebody else? You can't. That's why you have to dig deep inside yourself, because this universal Love can't be awakened when the mind is fully overshadowing you. Then, that Love is covered and it doesn't reveal itself easily. But if you make your effort and try your best, then of course, with the blessing of the Master, the blessing of God, that Love will reveal itself. 

When this happens don't fear to give it freely, because this universal Love is not bound by expectations, it ever flows. This is the gift that God has given you.

Maha Siddhidatri reminds yourself of your inner potential, your true potential, not your external physical potential. What makes one very strong is not the 'big muscles' but the inner potential. Your true strength lies in the power which you hold inside of you. Maha Siddhidatri gives you this inner strength so that you can carry on in life, with inner strength, with full awareness on your spiritual journey, on your sadhana, and on your material and professional life.

When you give material things you become poorer. But regarding the cosmic Love, the Love that God placed inside your heart, the more you give, the richer you become. So, ask today to Maha Siddhidatri for that blessing, which will make you rich in every way. When you have inner strength and inner satisfaction, you become rich, not only materially. (When you die, you leave everything here!) You become rich not only in this world, but also in the next world. – Sri Swami Vishwananda

After the concluding prayers came the dance of Kali also referred to as the Mahishasur Mardini. This part of the night was truly electrifying.

With a couple of modern-day demons taunting the Goddess, this “theatrical performance” for lack of a better term, depicted the dance of Kali and Her slaying of the demons. As this was the last night of Navaratri, everybody, including Sri Swami Vishwananda, danced late into the night and praised the Divine Mother with bhajan after bhajan.

Guruji concluded the night with a short summary of the nine nights. Here’s what he said:

Today is the last day of Navaratri, and tomorrow we will celebrate Dussehra. You have prayed during these nine nights to the Mother, remembering Her, praising Her. I am sure that Her blessing and Her Love has anchored inside of you. This love will grow inside of you and from you to the others, because love is something that you can't keep. You can't say, ”Whatever I have received, I will treasure it,  and I will lock it in a safe and keep it for myself.” Impossible! Because if you do that, you'll suffocate yourself to death. You'll die because that Love will leave you. Whatever you give, it diminishes, it gets less and less until it finishes. However, Love is something that the more you give, the more it increases.

During these days, Maha Bhagavati has filled your heart with the Love of God and this Love will transformed itself into Grace, whenever you are ready. Bhagavan will not reveal Himself if you are not ready. He is the One who is seated inside of your heart. He is the One who is seated everywhere. But it is difficult for the mind to perceive Him, to see Him, to feel Him, because the mind has been trained to look at everything only outwardly, with logic; it has to understand the love. 

Love can't be learned, love is something that happens automatically. Nobody needs to tell you how to love. When you are hungry, you know that you have to eat. You don't need someone to tell you, “You are hungry, now you have to eat!” No, this happens automatically, and you will roam around looking for food. The same with the Divine Love inside of you. – Sri Swami Vishwananda 

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21 Oct 2015

Navaratri 2015: Day 8 - Maha Gauri

“Maha Gauri represents the purity of our true Self, which is without any stain, without any impurity. Once we have attained our true Self through the Mother’s Grace, we attain the Divine. Maha Gauri helps release people and helps them attain Mukti, salvation.” – Sri Swami Vishwananda

Devi Name: Maha Gauri

Maha Gauri is a form of the Divine Mother that has a completely white complexion. The clothes that She wears are also white, despite the fact that in India, white is typically the colour for widows. Maha Gauri’s white portrayal is due to the blessing of Lord Shiva. After Her rigorous penance to attain Shiva as Her husband, Her complexion had darkened. Lord Shiva, being pleased with Her devotion, bathed Her in the Ganges river and Her complexion turned fair. Since then, She has been known as Maha Gauri.

Similar to how the Ganges River turned Maha Gauri’s complexion white, She is the one who cleanses the stains of Her devotees. Maha Gauri relieves all the pains and fatigues of Her devotee, and She grants them with a supernatural salvation. Maha Gauri is the Goddess who grants pure and endless devotion. 

Event Highlights:

On this eighth night of Navaratri, the night was especially dedicated to married couples. The night included Guru Puja, Gauri Ganesha Puja, Devi Puja, bhajans, dancing, as well as Sri Swami Vishwananda distributing prasad and talking about the form of Maha Gauri and the value of marriage (see excerpt below).

The night also included a wedding ceremony for five couples. The ceremony was beautiful to watch, as it followed the traditional customs found in an Indian wedding. With the bride and groom tied to each other with a piece of white cloth, they walked around the yagna kund and Sri Swami Vishwananda seven times. At the end, the couples both applied tilaks and fed each other prasad.

Overall, the eight night of Navaratri was an amazing night. It’s exciting to see the new married couples who have all that they need in order to support each other and progress on their spiritual path. It is through the grihastas, or householders, that make what we do here at Shree Peetha Nilaya possible, and by having them live “in the world,” they are truly spreading the light of Sri Swami Vishwananda where it is needed most. Towards the end of the night, Sri Swami Vishwananda also gave a short talk about marriage and Maha Gauri. He said:

What attracts you to each other, this love, is very old relationship. You have a certain – your Atma has a certain relationship with the other Atma. Even if the Atma is the same, the quality which each Atma has and the karma it holds is different. That's what makes you attractive to each other, and want to be with each other. When you look at yourself, when you analyse yourselves as a couple, and look deeply into this love that you have for each other, you will perceive that this love is the love for God. Not only the outside, but the inside also. This is where the human love transforms into Divine Love. Because when the mind stops looking at it from the external point of view, but starts looking at it from an internal point of view, then the Divine Love awakens itself, and the Divine Love transforms you.

That's why there are many saints who were married and were in a relationship, but they held first the Love of God. For sure at the beginning they didn't know about it, but later on, you know, this love transformed itself. This is when the couple becomes a supporter on the spiritual path for one another. They don't hold only onto the physical love, or only onto their own security of the outside, but they hold onto something greater, which is the Love of God. – Sri Swami Vishwananda 

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20 Oct 2015

Navaratri 2015: Day 7 - Kalaratri Devi

“Kalaratri takes all our negativity so that we can be free. She wants us to really surrender to the Divine and to become our true Self.” – Sri Swami Vishwananda

Devi Name: Kalaratri Devi

Kalaratri Devi has a complexion that is as dark as night. Sitting atop a donkey, Her hair is let loose wildly as Her three fierce eyes permeate the space. Kalaratri Devi wears a garland that beams like a bolt of lightning. Between Her four arms, two of Her hands are in the mudras that display fearlessness and the rendering of boons to all. Her other two arms hold an iron dagger, and a sickle dripping with blood.

Kalaratri’s black complexion is a symbol of infinity. Kalaratri Devi accepts all from Her devotees, both the good qualities and the bad. She absorbs everything. Though Her form is ferocious and She can be enormously terrifying, that isn’t to say that She must be perceived this way. Kalaratri Devi is genuinely soft-hearted, and acts solely out of love for Her children. She is continuously giving, again and again, to purify Her children so that they may attain the Divine.

Event Highlights:

The seventh night of Navaratri venerated Kalaratri, the all-black Devi who accepts every quality we offer. With most of the devotees dressed in black, the worship of Goddess Kalaratri was of a different essence than the previous Goddesses. Kalaratri is a very intense Devi, and so were the prayers for Her.

Rishi Tulsidasananda and Rishi Pramod conducted the beginning Guru Puja, Gauri Ganesha Puja, Kalash to the nine Goddesses, and the yagna. During the yagna, Sri Swami Vishwananda arrived and gave a short talk about Kalaratri. Here’s what he said:

…this seventh day of Navaratri, which is Kalaratri, is literally translated as a dark night. So Maha Devi in the form of Kalaratri, in Her dark aspect, symbolises the dark aspect which is inside of each one of us. So each person inside, you are well aware of your positive side and you are well aware of your negative side. This positive and negative is part of life and it always depends on what side you hold onto. 

On the spiritual path, there is a constant reminder from the Guru to hold onto the light side. Nevertheless, the dark side is also part of you and that dark side we don't have to call negative. This dark side is a side that you have to transcend and transform. Both are part of yourself. Like the yin and the yang. The light can't stay without the darkness and the darkness can't exist without the light. But there is a certain quality which rises above, you know. If you hold onto the light or if you hold onto the darkness, there is always duality. – Sri Swami Vishwananda

As is customary each year, everybody has the opportunity to offer rosewater and sesame seed oil to the feet of Kali (Kalaratri). Guruji began both of these offerings by first pouring rosewater over Kali’s feet. Once everybody had offered rosewater, Guruji poured sesame seed oil over Kali’s feet and began the next round of offerings.

Sri Swami Vishwananda explained the meaning of these offerings and their benefits:

The water which you have put on Tara's Feet is to cleanse you, to purify you. This water, you can use it. Tomorrow you can take it as prasad. Use it to purify your house, to purify your place. Use the water - you can drink a little bit before doing puja. You can sprinkle a little bit of this water to purify you.

Now you will put oil on the Feet of Ma. You pray and ask Ma Bhagavati that She keeps you healthy, and that She heals all which is negative inside of you, because most illnesses are due to the mind and the mind has to be cleansed and purified and healed. When the mind is healed, then the body will heal. But if the mind is still impure, if the mind is still negative, if the mind is still full with its darkness, then it's very difficult to heal. So ask Ma Bhagavati while putting the oil on Her Feet that She purifies your mind, and while offering and pouring this onto Her Feet that She cleanses and transforms this oil so that it becomes healing. Then you can take it afterwards as an ointment so that these healing properties of Ma Bhagavati destroy all the illnesses from your mind, from your body, and cleanses your spirit so that the Grace of Sri Krishna can flow through you. – Sri Swami Vishwananda 

The latter half of the night included classical Indian dancing, the Devi Mahatmyam narration, and a spontaneous bhajan performance from randomly selected guests. Swamiji would throw flowers from behind the curtain, and whoever the flower would land on in the crowd, that person would sing a bhajan. All in all, the night was rich with different forms of devotion for Maa, and since it was the night dedicated to Goddess Kalaratri, She made Herself known through the intensity of the prayers.

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19 Oct 2015

Navaratri 2015: Day 6 - Katyayani Devi

“The Guru is here to make you masters of both shaktis, the male and the female energy, and to rise above that. That's why on Katyayani's day we are reminded that the whole creation is the Mother, and the only aim for this feminine energy is God; we all become gopis and long for Krishna.” – Sri Swami Vishwananda

Devi Name: Katyayani Devi

Katyayani Devi is a warrior Goddess who is closely correlated with the fierce forms of the Divine Mother, such as Bhadrakali and Chandi. She has four hands and Her complexion is as luminous as gold. In two of Her hands, She holds a lotus flower and a sword, while the other two are held in mudras that signify the blessing of courage and the bestowing boons (spiritual gifts).

Sage Katyayan was engaged in a rigorous penance to ‘Bhagavati Durga,’ with the goal of having the Divine Mother appear in his household as his daughter. Durga accepted his penance and took the form of Katyayani Devi, named after the sage himself. She took birth on the fourteenth day of the new moon during ‘Aashwin,’ which is September through October.

Event Highlights:

The celebrations for Katyayani Devi on the sixth night of Navaratri were incredible! Of all the nights so far, this night could be characterized by the singing and dancing, as it was the liveliest yet. The night started with Guru Puja, Gauri Ganesha Puja, Kalash Puja of the Nine Goddesses, yagna, and then, another special puja performed to Sri Swami Vishwananda himself.

After that, a classical Indian dance was performed that displayed the pasttimes of the Divine Mother. With each emotion entrancingly expressed, the dancer captured the crowd’s attention similar to that of a hypnotist. It was a mystical dance to say the least.

The end of the night was when the “party” kicked off! One could hear from far away, choruses such as, “Radhe Radhe! Shyam Shyam! Radhe Radhe! Shyam Shyam!” The tent was quaking with excitement. Sri Swami Vishwananda would make his way to the middle of the tent, and a spontaneous circle of devotees would form, dancing in sync with Swamiji’s movements. Even once Sri Swami Vishwananda had said goodnight to everybody, devotees chanted, “One more song!” to which Swamiji appeared from behind the curtains and granted the request. It was just like an encore you would find at a rock concert. But undeniably, this had the depth of devotion that a normal rock concert lacks.

Instead of dancing for the sake of the music, all of the dancing and singing was done for the sake of the Divine. It was done so that people could open their hearts, and feel the love of God. It was done so that everyone could attain the Lotus Feet of the Lord. What follows is a small excerpt from the speech given by Swamiji last night:

Each day of Navaratri now, what are we going through? What is happening? You are purifying yourself. Purifying through many lives of impurities so that once you are cleansed, the Lord can reveal Himself within your heart, and the Lord can give Himself to you. Because the Lord doesn't reveal Himself just like that. He reveals Himself only when you are ready. And the biggest barrier which one has is the mind. The mind always notices the differences: you are woman, you are man, you are rich, you are poor, you are black, you are white. The mind is in constant judgement. 

As long as you run with the mind, the mind has its power. But when the mind is disarmed from that through Nama Japa or through certain challenges or certain sadhanas, then you transcend this mind. When you transcend this mind, the Lord reveals Himself. First He reveals Himself inside of your heart. Then He reveals Himself outside through the people around you. Then He reveals Himself in grand form: the whole world as Him. –Sri Swami Vishwananda  

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