At the dawn of the Sannyasa Peeth, Swamiji's new mission, the town of Munger along with thousands of spiritual aspirants, seekers, devotees and disciples were witness to the inspiring and uplifting celebrations of Guru Poornima that took place in the grounds of Paduka Darshan from 12th to 15th July 2011.
Guru Poornima is known to be that time of the year when every disciple is able to strengthen their own commitment, determination, conviction and dedication to the guru. It is that auspicious full moon that awakens faith and trust in the hearts of all spiritual aspirants towards the guru, the light and inspiration who illuminates the path that must be trod to attain wisdom, creativity and fulfillment in all spheres of life.
This festival was particularly meaningful this year as it was Swami Niranjanananda's first Guru Poornima in Munger since Swami Satyananda attained Maha Samadhi. It was also the first program being hosted by Sannyasa Peeth. The purpose of this new movement is to nourish and revive the roots of our tradition, by bringing forth their teachings as part of the present lifestyle. For any spiritual endeavour to be auspicious and successful, it is the blessings of the guru that must be first sought through worship, surrender and dedication.
The program comprised several powerful events that merged in with each other during this period. At the onset of Sannyasa Peeth, Swamiji took a year-long sankalpa, where every day he is conducting a havan dedicated to Durga to invoke her divine blessings. The offerings at the havan are being made to the mantras of the 1,000 names of Durga, chanted three times, by twelve sannyasins. This personal sadhana of 36,000 mantras being chanted daily for a whole year started on 2nd January. The havan, which had been privately conducted in the Akhara premises, the very heart of Ganga Darshan Gurukul, shifted to Paduka Darshan as part of the Guru Poornima program and was open to all participants. It infused the venue with a vibrant energy that could be experienced as an all encompassing protective aura.
The beauty of the venue lay in its openness and expansiveness. Thousands of participants gathered before sunrise for the program and saw Swamiji conducting the havan on a stage that had the whole stretch of the northern flowing Ganga as its natural background. During the monsoon season she becomes particularly graceful, as her blessed waters swell and her fresh stream is seen as narrowing the distant lands and the colourful skies on the fading western horizon. Ganga herself symbolizes purity, and is considered according to tradition to create a spiritually conducive environment in those regions where her flow is northbound. Paduka Darshan is positioned precisely in the centre of that stretch, where Ganga embraces it in her northern flow before she returns to her eastward journey.
Since January 2010, each month Swamiji has been presenting a series of satsangs, known as the Yogadrishti Satsang Series, speaking on different yogic and spiritual subjects, shedding light and contributing to the knowledge and understanding of the different systems of yoga and spiritual traditions. Besides these monthly programs, Swamiji has been devoting most of his time to deepening and mastering his own sadhana, as this will subsequently become the basis of the teachings he will impart through Sannyasa Peeth. As a result, he has had to withdraw himself from the interactive roles he previously played.
This transformation in Swamiji's routine and lifestyle has made him considerably less accessible to people than previously. Often people feel as if Swamiji is distancing himself from everybody. People fail to understand that creating space in his life for his sadhana and journey as a sannyasin does not remotely imply creating a separation or a distance between the guru and the disciple, but on the contrary is intended to strengthen the faith and the connection between the two.
At this time, once a month Swamiji puts a break to his sadhana, and people receive an opportunity to be in his presence and imbibe the wisdom that his teachings gracefully transmit, in the form of philosophy, parables, scriptural references and the lives and teachings of great saints and masters. He presents the most complicated subjects in a simple way, understandable and applicable to all people in the audience.
On the occasion of Guru Poornima, the event was preceded with a wonderful Satsang Series program, where Swamiji talked about the growth and development of the sannyasa tradition and the lives and teachings of some of its main luminaries, including Dattatreya, Adi Shankaracharya and Swami Sivananda.
Every satsang was interspersed with kirtan and chanting conducted by the children of Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal, who swept the audience off their feet, making them dance to the tune of their kirtans. Besides the havan and the satsangs in both English and Hindi, Swamiji also conducted different tantric rituals and worship every day, including the abhisheka of a crystal Sri Yantra and theDurga Sahasrarchana. To the chanting of mantras, thousands of delegates from all over India and across the globe received their Guru Poornima prasad.
The day prior to Guru Poornima, 14th July, was also the anniversary day of Swami Sivananda's samadhi. That night a special havan was conducted in the Akhara at Ganga Darshan, to which everybody was invited to have darshan of Guru Peeth, Shiva Peeth, Vyasa Peeth and Sri Peeth, the four temples designed by Swamiji where he has established the different deities. Thus an endless stream of people flowed continuously through the sacred grounds of the Akhara, as the soothing vibrations of mantras traveled across the moonlit night.
The next day it felt as if the entire series of events had escalated to a climax. `That day' for which so many people had been tirelessly working so hard to prepare for, for which thousands of devotees had traveled such long distances and for which devotees and aspirants had gathered to offer their respect and worship the gurus of the tradition, had inevitably come together as one.
The program began at 5 a.m. with havan, and continued till the afternoon. Swamiji initiated over five hundred aspirants into mantra, jignasu and karma sannyasa. Traditional chanting was conducted by the sannyasins and the Bal Yoga Mitra Mandal children, including `Sundarkand' from the Ramayana, the entire Saundarya Lahari, and beautiful bhajans and kirtans dedicated to guru.
It was a sight to see. The audience appeared as a sea spreading into the distance, and as Swamiji gave the initiations, an organized queue of people from the farthest end approached the shrine dedicated to Guru, to offer their prayers to the shining padukas at the centre of the stage. A procession, parikrama, with people of all nationalities, ages, religions and backgrounds came to become a recipient of the grace and blessings that showered in abundance that day.
The five-hour procession was followed by Swamiji's closing satsang, where he gave a few more glimpses of the direction and future development of Sannyasa Peeth. Swamiji explained Sannyasa Peeth to be the third vision of Paramahamsaji. Bihar School of Yoga, based at Ganga Darshan, Munger, is the first vision for the development and enhancement of the mind, or the qualities of the `head'. Rikhiapeeth, based at Rikhia, Deoghar, is the second vision, for the expansion and growth of the qualities of the `heart'. Now Sannyasa Peeth, based at Paduka Darshan, Munger, is his third vision and will focus on awakening the creativity of the `hands'.
For a year after Sri Swamiji's Maha Samadhi on 6th December 2009, Swamiji focused on the rites and rituals that have to be performed when a sannyasin of Paramahamsaji's caliber merges with creation. Precisely one year after, on 6th December 2010, Sannyasa Peeth was registered at Munger as a trust dedicated to disseminating the teachings of the sannyasa tradition.
Swamiji tells us that Paramahamsaji gave him a twenty year blueprint plan on how this new mission is to develop, but of course, the full image will be revealed to us one pixel at a time. When Paramahamsaji started the Bihar School of Yoga in 1963, nobody could possibly have imagined how far the teachings would spread, to the extent of becoming a worldwide movement or yoga empire. Today the same applies to Sannyasa Peeth. Swamiji has a master plan now that will gradually develop, quietly and systematically, just as we have seen the other Satyananda organizations flourish.
The first announced activity is that of the three-year Sannyasa Training Course, of which there has only ever been one of its kind, conducted by Paramahamsaji in 1970. That course started with 108 candidates, but the number reduced to less than twenty within the first few weeks, as the rest were not ready to endure the arduous and rigorous training that sannyasa exposes one to. This course will begin on 28th January 2012 and will be open to both Indian nationals and foreigners.
Besides this intensive training session, Swamiji also announced that in the future other short duration courses will be conducted by Sannyasa Peeth, geared to giving seekers the right samskaras, to provide students with the right opportunities and exposure through a lifestyle that will help them grow and develop in a holistic way. Courses will be for children, teenagers, adults and the retired.
The highlight of Swamiji's talk was his statement that at present Sannyasa Peeth had absolutely nothing besides its bare grounds and infinite possibilities. Before anything could materialize, he would have to develop the infrastructure and make the facilities available. Till now, whenever he has asked for anything, it has always been for the missions which his guru had been developing, Sivananda Math and Sivananda Ashram, but today he has his own mission to fulfil and must start from scratch.
He then continued, saying that when something new is being created for the upliftment of society, God instantly makes all the resources available for the new creation to take place by inspiring those who surround the leader of the new mission to support him. He therefore felt assured that he would always receive everything required from the devotees, disciples and well-wishers who up until now have been steadfast supporters of Paramahamsaji's mission.
Swamiji further announced that Sannyasa Peeth would have a yearly function. Just as Rikhiapeeth hosts the Sat Chandi and Yoga Poornima yajnas every year, and Ganga Darshan celebrates the foundation day of Bihar School of Yoga on Basant Panchami with the ancient Sri Vidya pooja, similarly, Sannyasa Peeth will have a yearly function, from 8th to 12th September, the Lakshmi Narayana Yajna, worshipping Vishnu. 8th September is the birth anniversary of Swami Sivananda, and 12th September is the sannyasa anniversary of Paramahamsaji. The yearly Vishnu Yajna, dedicated to the gurus, will start this year and become the hallmark of Sannyasa Peeth.
In this way the Guru Poornima celebrations of 2011 concluded at Sannyasa Peeth, Paduka Darshan, Munger, in the spirit of surrender and seva, full of joy and happiness. The participants were left in a state of speechless awe, at every imaginable level of experience, and carried with them the sublime blessings which the guru gives us in order to bring light, wisdom and prosperity into our lives.