By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
A cloudy sky hung over all the island and extended a greyish mist on the heights of Ganga Talao where a huge tent was pitched in front of the Durga statue to welcome devotees for a three-day session with Swami Avdhoot Shivanandji, who flew from India to bless us with his presence. The Shivyog branch in Mauritius had the excellent initiative of organising a gathering which drew crowds of devotees. Besides, the peaceful spot provides parking facility for one and all.
On Sunday 9th it was cloudy and a cool breeze was softly blowing, but inside the tent it was all warmth and serenity. Backstage musicians set the tune for the chanting of Jai Jai Shiv Shambo with everyone present standing up to sing and welcome Swamiji. He joined in the chanting for long minutes, creating a powerful bond with the devotees.
In a soft voice resounding from the depths of his deep inner being, Swamiji spoke about the spiritual potential of every human being and the light that is inside us, the infinite capacity for love and the importance of positive thoughts, actions and relationships, the necessity to connect to the Cosmic Energy and rise above our physical body through meditation, take consciousness of different levels of being and fully accomplish the purpose of living. Chanting of mantras intersperse his teachings which he delivers with a heart full of love and invites devotees to tap the pool of love that is inside them and give it out unconditionally to family which is the foundation of society, and extend it to other members of society.
Explanation of chakras, centres of energy in the body and the pyramidal form of one of them, the triangles and the deities associated to the chakra was the last part of the teachings, and all the devotees chanted the Sri Devi Khadgamala Namavali mantras in Sanskrit starting with: Om Shrim Hrim Krim Aim Indrakshyai namah.
Mantras sung in Sanskrit by all devotees gathered there created a most enthralling elevated level of consciousness. Everyone was recommended to have the chakra made in brass and place it in a clean quiet place in their homes and regularly chant the mantras.
A gentleman, who was queuing up to get a book of mantras, the Sri Devi Khadgamala and the copper chakra, told the people around that he is a lifelong member of ISKCON and also doing Shivyog meditation. While he was explaining the breathing exercise during meditation on chakras and chanting of Shivoham, a few young women admitted they knew nothing of chakras and only started to discover all the knowledge from the Swami. They also brought along a basket of flowers and fruits, and were heading to the talao to perform the ritual of pujas which they are accustomed to.
* * *
Many Hindus fail to appreciate how Hinduism purports to explain the place, role and purpose of human beings in society, their relation with the universe, the concept of Cosmic Energy and the different paths to spiritual evolution. While the mechanical performance of rites and reciting prayers during pujas and regular festivals without a proper understanding is well-entrenched in the bhakti tradition, restricting oneself to its sole practice deprives one of the deeper philosophical truths and rationale which underlie them.
What percentage of Hindus has access to this deeper knowledge which promotes spiritual development is a relevant question which should be a matter of concern to all religious bodies that claim to represent Hindus in Mauritius. Indeed, it should be a matter of prime concern to representatives of religious associations if they care to help members integrate spirituality in their development, to stand by unwavering principles, abide by lofty ethical standards, follow positive thinking in the quest for happiness and realizing personal dreams, value and believe in Truth, gain self-control over thought and action, and inculcate discipline through yoga and meditation.
How much energy and time are devoted to rituals and not enough to philosophy and deep thinking with a view to making everyone develop spiritually is an open question. Baba Avdhoot Shivanandji encourages everyone to become a better person every day. How many swamis do we need to impart wisdom to folks across the country should be a priority to organizations who are entrusted with the duty to look after the flocks. There must be an awareness that mere observation of rites is not enough to define oneself as being ‘religious’. Anyone who takes an honest look at the social ills which are affecting one and all, as well as violence, crimes and drugs must surely admit that there is an urgent need to help people see the difference between the superficial and the genuine.
The five bodies, the aura which surround them, the different levels of being, the chakras, how to stimulate and connect with them, breathing exercises, exploring the soul within, meditation, acquiring mental strength, awareness of being part of the Cosmic Energy, and the concept of unity in social units and the universe are part of knowledge that should reach everyone if there is a genuine desire to promote spiritual development.
* * *
Judging from the scant coverage given to the Shivyog event at Ganga Talao by the national television, hardly a few seconds, in sharp contrast with lengthy report on performance of rites and prayers in mandirs and religious halls, ending with inane comments in Creole on partaz, valer and armoni, one may ponder over the motivation or intention of the news producer. Does he reflect the general frame of mind of his countrymen? A lot of attention to appearance and hollow verbiage and not enough to authenticity. Or does he take his orders from the management board which follows the guidelines set by politicians?
Of course, there is no room for political propaganda in Shivyog public sessions. There is no opportunity to showcase sociocultural presidents rubbing shoulders with political leaders with the blessing of pundits. No politicians are invited to sit on the stage with the Swami, dish out palaver and have a dig at opponents. Swami Avdhoot Shivanandji is also of a high intellectual calibre, and devotees go there to connect with him and to benefit from his blessed presence as a spiritual guru. Probably, that’s too much for the average standard of culture prevailing among decision takers at MBC-TV.
The Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation and other organizations have loads of work ahead for the spiritual upliftment of devotees. We should thank Shivyog centre and other similar associations for the excellent initiatives they take to enable people to meet and listen to spiritual gurus.
* Published in print edition on 14 June 2019