Nine Days of Grace

Sannyasi Vishalakshi

With the fading strains of the last kirtan 'Sri Rama Jaya Rama' ringing in my ears, the nine days I had just spent in Rikhia for the Chaitra Navaratri Satra were being screened before my closed eyes. When we first arrived we were told by Swami Satsangi that this was no ordinary sadhana. We were playing a part in the sadhana of Sri Swamiji, and our goal was no mean one, but that of atma darshan or a glimpse of the eternal spirit within.

Each day was intense, with everybody immersed in spiritual sadhana. Early morning sessions were out in Tapovan, where Sita Kalyanam is held each year. Amidst the chirping of birds and the dawn breaking, the melodious strains of Sadguru Vandana filled my being. Chanting of the Maha Mrityunjaya and Gayatri mantras followed, taking us closer and closer to the core. Then came recitation of Saundarya Lahari, as a ritual practice sitting in vajrasana with the hands in avahani mudra, invoking the spirit of Devi or the Divine Mother. The sessions ended with a beautiful meditation guided by either Swami Niranjan or Swami Satsangi, which left us feeling totally complete and content in the self.

Chanting of Ramacharitamanas followed for an intense three hours every day, in the presence of Sri Swamiji. Sri Rama's picture adorned the centre of the yajnashala. The conch shell was sounded loudly as we began the chanting each day. Two hundred schoolgirls participated, all in bright red uniforms, with hair neatly braided. The hall was full of sadhakas wearing chandana (sandalwood) malas and the traditional red and yellow shawl that is worn during this period. The whole room was full of resonance as if the spirit of the Ramayana had come alive.

In the afternoons there was yoga nidra and satsangs with Swami Niranjan and Swami Satsangi, with most beautiful explanations of how an ashram means only giving, how experiencing the guru tattwa is more important than seeing guru as a human form, how karma yoga can most certainly lead to pratyahara, how realization of the self can come with service alone, and so many more pearls of wisdom that were sown deep within the heart.

Evenings were beautiful with chanting of Devi Nama and Devi Suktam, inner aradhana or worship of the Divine Mother, the source of all creation. Kirtan followed, gloriously singing the name of the Lord in complete ananda.

The energy charged atmosphere of Rikhia Dham was holding the satra together. With the momentum building up each day, a deep internal purification was being experienced.

The satra culminated in a havan on the tenth day, Ramnavmi, with darshan of Sri Swamiji. This almost felt like the fruits of sadhana! In satsang he spoke of how the Ramayana has everything within it, all the answers to present day frustrations, anger and imbalances can be found by just reciting the Ramayana, even if we do not know or understand the meaning. The secret can be revealed, but of course one has to have faith and trust. He said that the schoolgirls' chanting was so important as it was sown deep in their consciousness and this is what can change the next generation. Of course just being in the presence and listening to the voice was enough to change something within.

'Sri Rama Jaya Rama' - that's what I left with. As I write this one month later, I feel that I am just beginning to experience, to understand, that I am witnessing something very powerful unfolding itself, a change at my very core.

No logic, no thoughts, no intellect. Just bhakti, shraddha, trust and complete surrender to the Divine, the Creator and the Creation. "Nothing that exists, nothing still to come, nor any power or height or depth, nor any created thing, can come between us and the love of God."