As the New Year dawned hundreds of devotees gathered in Rikhiapeeth to welcome the New Year and to express love and devotion to Swami Satyananda, to invoke his eternal blessings for the year ahead. It was a powerful time to both reflect on the immense changes of the past year and also to look with renewed enthusiasm and commitment towards the year ahead.
A special New Year program was conducted at the Samadhi Sthal of Swami Satyananda to invoke the guru's blessings for the New Year. The kanyas led numerous chants, prayers and kirtans dedicated to guru and a havan which was dedicated to the worship of Vishnu, the sustainer of the universe, by chanting Sri Vishnu Sahasrara Namavali.
During the program Swami Niranjanananda and Swami Satyasangananda gave inspiring satsangs which uplifted devotees from all around the globe. Their words encapsulated the spirit of the New Year program conducted in Rikhiapeeth as they presented a clear and insightful message for the future, which reassured one and all that the two flowers left behind by Sri Swamiji would guide us all in our spiritual lives and towards a brighter future.
Excerpt from the New Year's address of Swami Niranjanananda on 1st January 2010: "Faith is the strength of every life, of every individual. Not intelligence, not intellect, not emotions, not even prana. But faith is the last thing which can elevate the human consciousness, the external life, and it is the faith which creates a connection, a link between an individual and the guru and God. We have not seen God, but we have seen our guru. Guru embodies the energy, the spirit, the transcendental nature of the Divine. And we have had the opportunity to spend some time with our guru. And these memories of our proximity with guru is the inspiration that has to guide us."
Excerpt from the New Year's address of Swami Satsangi on 1st January 2010: "The best way to remember Swami Satyananda, the best way to offer him a tribute is to do what he taught us. Not to just read it from the books, but to do it, to put it into action. And what did he teach us? He said it very clearly in his last address on 2nd December at Yoga Poornima when he was celebrating his 86th birthday. He said, `Improve your karmas. Purify your karmas. Refine your karmas, refine your thoughts, refine your feelings, refine your emotions. Purify your mind, have good thoughts.' And for that he has given you a very, very excellent place, Rikhiapeeth. In Rikhiapeeth, you get a chance to do karma yoga, selfless action, because it is only with selfless action that the karmas can be purified, not otherwise."
The kanyas of Rikhiapeeth also offered a touching New Year's message: "We kanyas and batuks, who are the very lucky children of Rikhia panchayat, make our sankalpa to keep the presence and spirit of Sri Swamiji strong and alive here in Rikhiapeeth by holding him forever in our hearts. He had trust in us and we pray that we can fulfil all the dreams he had for us. Above all, let us pray for the strength to follow the example set for us all by Sri Swamiji, and pledge ourselves to always be worthy of guru's grace. Happy New Year and Jai Gurudev.
The kanyas then led a kirtan which they had sung during Sat Chandi Mahayajna and Yoga Poornima when they performed their English drama from the Katha Upanishad. When Swami Satyananda heard this kirtan, he liked it very much, so this kirtan was sung as a tribute to Him. "I am not this body, I am not this mind, I am not these senses, Immortal self am I. Soham Soham Soham Sivoham."
The morning program was followed by a mass distribution of Yajna Prasad to hundreds of villagers in Tapovan. These villagers had walked great distances to receive prasad of much needed household necessities, including blankets, clothing and grains.
After an inspiring and uplifting day full of satsang, prayer, havan and offerings, all present were ready to face the year ahead with renewed enthusiasm and dedication.
By breaking through the misconception that meditation is only for sannyasins and recluses, Swami Satyananda re-claimed yoga as the birthright of one and all, especially those who are involved in worldly life.
For participants of the comprehensive Antar Mouna Course conducted in Rikhiapeeth from 2nd to 7th January, this became a reality as they were systematically guided through the various stages of the technique of antar mouna as revealed by Swami Satyananda. As antar mouna is beneficial for practitioners of all levels, this course was attended by aspirants ranging from beginners to advanced.
This course was led by Swami Nityachaitanya, who guided and supported students through this intensive course. His depth of personal experience enabled him to give profound insight into this exceptional practice that can be practiced by everybody, anytime and anywhere! Students were fortunate to have illuminating satsang with Swami Satyasangananda, who gave insight into different aspects of spiritual life and yoga practices. She also gave practical applications of yogic science and how it can be integrated into daily life for personal upliftment and fulfillment.
Kanya bhoj was conducted in Rikhiapeeth on 6th January in honour of the great yogi, Swami Satyananda, to honour one month since he took Maha Samadhi, on 5th December 2009 at midnight.
Bhoj was conducted at 10.00 a.m. for 108 small kanyas who embodied the innocence and simplicity that Sri Swamiji so often identified in the kanyas and that made them perfect mediums for divine grace.
A huge picture of Sri Swamiji was central to the entire bhoj and his smile was contagious as the kanyas beamed smiles of joy and happiness throughout the bhoj. To begin the bhoj, the kanyas led the chanting of chapter 15 of the Bhagavad Gita, during which kanyas worshipped Sri Swamiji by serving his prasad.
After the bhoj was complete the kanyas were offered prasad of soft toys, dolls, stationery and accessories. These small kanyas could hardly contain their excitement at the generous bag of prasad that landed in their laps. The look on their faces as they hugged their new dolls and played with their new toys was priceless. Worshipping and offering prasad to these kanyas, whom Sri Swamiji loved so much, was the best way to honour his life and exalt his teachings.
A very special celebration in honour of Poornananda, Swami Satyananda's much loved Alsatian, was conducted in Rikhiapeeth to celebrate his birth which occurred on 10th January 2002. Guests and residents were invited to a special picnic dinner which featured all of Poorna's favourite items, including a special cake!
Since his birth Poorna has been blessed and privileged to live his entire life in the presence of his beloved master. From the moment he first opened his eyes, he was blessed with the darshan of Sri Swamiji, who was first his friend, then his guru.
For many, many lifetimes Poornananda has been a close disciple of Sri Swamiji. He was born previously as Bholenath and loyally served Sri Swamiji during the long and difficult sadhana of Panchagni. Swami Satyananda had said, "Bholenath was my disciple in his previous life. His relationship with me is very deep. Dogs are more dedicated than disciples. Disciples can betray you, dogs will never betray you."
On 11th January 1970, Swami Niranjanananda was initiated into the Dashnami order of sannyasa by Swami Satyananda. As 11th of January 2010 happened to be Ekadashi, the chanting of the entire Bhagavad Gita was dedicated to Swami Niranjanananda. This was followed by a touching address by the kanyas of Rikhia in which they prayed that people all around the world may benefit from Swami Niranjanananda's example and immense spiritual power.
Swami Satyasangananda also gave a satsang to honour this day, in which she expressed that Swami Niranjan totally embodies the essence of shishyatwa or discipleship, which is the most important quality for self-evolution and the most difficult thing for humans to attain.
Swami Satyananda had said about Swami Niranjan, "Whenever there is darkness in your life and you forget the way, he is the one who can guide you. I have full faith that he will come as a divine light into your spiritual lives."
Makar Sankranti marks the transition of the sun into the Tropic of Capricorn and the first day of Uttarayan. To aspirants all over the world this day has a special significance. Swami Sivananda had said, "The message of the sun is the message of light, the message of unity, of impartiality, of true selflessness, of the perfection of the elements of karma yoga. If you imbibe these virtues of the sun, what doubt is there that you will shine with equal divine lustre!"
In Rikhiapeeth, on 14th January, this day was marked with havan, kirtans and prayers in praise of the Sun God. The kanyas conducted a havan which was dedicated to the worship of Surya by chanting Sri Surya Ashtottara Shatanamavali.
A spirited morning program was followed by the offering of prasad of blankets, warm clothes, buckets, rajais, new clothes, grains and cooking utensils to hundreds of families from surrounding panchayats, who walked up to 50 kilometres to receive the blessings of Devi and guru in the form of much needed basic necessities. The offering of prasad was followed by bhoj for over 2,000 people, including the kanyas and batuks, gramins and old age pensioners of Rikhia panchayat.
In preparation for Basant Panchami, a yoga anushthana was conducted in Rikhiapeeth, on 19th January, during which participants from all over India and the world were guided in Ajapa Japa Meditation sessions as well other aspects of yogic life, including seva and satsang. The highlight of the anushthana was the satsang session with Swami Satyasangananda whose insight revealed many aspects of yogic lifestyle in a practical and applicable way. This anushthana gave aspirants an opportunity to delve deeply into the yogic practices and prepare themselves for the auspicious day of Basant Panchami.
Basant Panchami, 20th January, is very special day for the kanyas and batuks of Rikhia as it is a day dedicated to Saraswati, the Goddess of wisdom and learning. On this day all worship was dedicated to Saraswati Ma and our beloved Swami Satyananda, and their benevolent blessings were invoked for success in life through havan, kirtans, prayers and a beautiful classical Odissi dance performed by the kanyas of Rikhia.
The newly selected kanyas and batuks received prasad of school uniforms, stationery and books, so that the grace of Devi and guru may help them with their studies. The newly graduated kanyas and batuks, who have all attended English classes at the ashram and have been associated with the ashram throughout their childhood, officially graduated so that they can pursue higher studies and we wished them all the best for the future!
The Brahmins of Rikhia panchayat were also offered prasad of new clothes, which was an important part of the worship of guru and Saraswati Ma. After the offering of prasad all were invited to a great feast for over 2,000 people!