‘Swamini Shraddhananda was here for two weeks, and left on Tuesday last. Hopefully we will have the opportunity of welcoming her again in about a year’s time if all goes as planned given her busy schedule.’ That is what I wrote in August last year after Pujya Swamini’s departure. True to her word, and at the request of all those who had followed her teachings during the Gita Jnana Yagna that she conducted, when she made a lucid expose of Chapter 12 of the Bhagavad Gita, she was here again this year.
Hosted by the Institute of Vedanta, Reduit, she arrived in Mauritius from Mumbai on Wednesday 27th July and left on Sunday 7th August for South Africa, where she would be spending ten days conducting similar Yagna before returning to India. As we pointed out in last year’s article (‘From Biochemistry to Spirituality’, Mauritius Times, 28th August 2015), there she is based, with Mataji Tanmayananda, at the Praman Param Darshanalaya in Pardi, district Valsad, Gujarat.
In fact, she is one of the three founder Acharyas of the Darshanalaya. She holds a PhD in Biochemistry from Chennai and completed her training in Vedanta under her Guru Pujya Swami Tadrupananda. It may be recalled that we had the great privilege and joy of having Mataji Tanmayananda in our midst in 2005, when she held a Gyan Yajna on the Bhaagwat Purana.
She conducted a Gita Jnana Yagna, this time on Chapter 15 of the Bhagavad Gita, in the evening from Friday 29th July to Tuesday 2nd August, at the same venue as last year, namely the Rengasamy Nagen Auditorium in Rose-Hill. The inaugural function was held on 29th July with the Vice-President of the Republic as Chief Guest, who stayed on to listen to the first portion of Swamini’s unfolding of the sacred Vedantic teaching.
Vedanta is a living ancient teaching tradition that explores the realities of oneself, the world and the sacred. Essentially this teaching helps one to bring a shift in one’s thinking by presenting the real goal of life, thus making one’s life more meaningful. Psychological issues one faces are also addressed pragmatically and fundamentally.
In fact in the words of Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha, a God-realised saint, ‘Vedanta enables us to understand life fully and work our way to perfection, harmony and fulfillment. It is not reserved for Sanyasins and scholars, and certainly is not a pastime for the old. A right understanding of Vedanta will make a man excel in whatever field he is. The earlier one takes to this path the better.’ Further, he goes on to say: ‘It is not at all important whether you believe in this God, that God, or No-God. The point is what you do and how you live with your belief.’
Chapter 15, which Pujya Swamini elaborated upon, is unique in that it summarizes the Gita and all that is to be known by the Vedas. It covers four topics that are the core of any scripture: Who am I? What is the world? What is God? And what is the relationship between God, the world and me?
In this chapter Lord Krishna talks about the nature of samsara, which refers to the cycle of births and deaths, in order to help one develop dispassion towards it. It is very important to note that there is no moksha (freedom) within samsara. Samsara implies erroneous knowledge about realities, which is caused by ignorance of oneself. One’s existence in this world is illustrated by an upside down aswattha tree, which keeps on perpetuating itself. However, this tree of samsara can be felled with the axe of dispassion.
Attachment is lessened as regards the sense of ownership: mamakara. Closely following this sense of ownership is an erroneous sense of ‘I”, the ego or ahankara. The tree of samsara can be uprooted by enquiry with the help of the scriptures and a Guru. Here Lord Krishna teaches the truth of the self: the atma tattwa.
This chapter shows that everything is the Self. It deals with the world, the individual, the root cause, one’s lot of birth and death, the subtle body, and the daily activities like eating, etc., in terms of what is eaten, the one who eats and so on, revealing that all these are nothing but the self, paramatma. In addition, it defines the qualifications needed which enable one to cross samsara. It is thus a complete chapter.
After the Yagna, Pujya Swamini held some sessions on shanti mantras and dhyana mantras to a smaller group of devotees over two days. She has promised to come again next year, and everybody who was present for her Yagna are now awaiting the next one with impatience!