As the orange hues of the sun danced in reflection on the Ganga, they sat huddled in the cold. There was something always reassuring and calming about watching Ganga. She seemed to encourage them to reflect and change as she flowed by their side in their life journeys. ‘What a year it has been.’ ‘It was too intense’, ‘Glad it is getting over’ ‘Learnt a lot’. They thoughtfully whispered as flashes of the year went by for each of them – different and yet together in their common experience.
After a while, they asked her ‘Swaminiji, how was the year for you? and she replied, ‘It continues to be fulfilling as I tried to serve Jnana ganga.’ They were curious and said ‘Tell us more’.
She said, ‘In 2020 the timeless teachings of Vedanta were shared on the banks of Arsha Vidya Ananda in the following way.
Vedanta courses – As different groups we coursed through the journey of our lives and looked at ourselves in the light of Tattvabodha, Saddarshanam and Vivekachudamani (ongoing). Every course involves sadhana and study of the text, Q &A, meditation, assignments and small group discussions. I am happy that we also completed the first round of the Bhagavad Gita with two groups. This is what some of you said. All classes moved online this year and we were able to still retain the energy and interaction of the groups by having our online slack community, continuing whatsapp group and breakout rooms.
For me very class is a joy, a privilege, an honor, a responsibility to serve the tradition and you (are they different? )
Response to the Corona pandemic – Due to some requests talks were offered on coping with the pandemic.
A spiritual response to the pandemic of corona virus which offered a four fold response in addition to the medical precautions
How to be calm and focused when fear/anxiety overwhelm us? – The key highlights of this interactive session included meditation and the following – 1. The understanding of dharma as stability and strength. 2. The difference between Healthy fear and Unhealthy fear and 3. Four effective ways to deal with overwhelm.
Acceptance -2/2 This was a two part series where we showed that the way to acceptance is the journeying through resistance. Acceptance is misunderstood as passive resignation which it is not. The talk series were in collaboration with World Yoga Festival UK.
In the continuum of fragile to antifragile, what is fragile cracks, what is resilient bounces back but what is antifragile grows stronger and better, in the face of adversity.
In collaboration with the World Yoga Festival, this was a fulfilling course to put together as the enthusiastic participants (mainly from the UK) dived into the assignments and discussions with an endearing honesty and willingness to learn.
This course is available for access.
Online short courses
In the month of March with the lockdown having started it was time to put together an online course on Vedantic Meditation (5hours). It offers an overview of meditation, a glimpse of different types of meditation and also shows how the purpose of Vedanta is to discover the meditator. More than 50 of you enrolled. More details here
Carefully and lovingly curated from the podcast, The River of Wisdom, the topics include the purpose of life, blessings we have each moment, fighting the shadows of self-judgment, being loved, how to be the best version of oneself, the dance of karma, the role of a guru, the relevance of Hinduism for the spiritual-but-not-religious, and much more.
This was not a part of the plan and yet after receiving two signs I realised it must be done. Swami Brahmavidananda ji kindly released my first book on Guru Purnima.
Collaborations and celebrations
It was wonderful to collaborate with fellow travelers and respond to some invitations .
With Advaita Academy celebrating the global festival of oneness –
1.What Modern Vedanta can learn from Adi Shankaracharya – Through Adi Shankaracharya’s bhashya, five myths of modern Vedanta were clarified.
2. Guru Ashtakam – Guru Ashtakam, is a set of 8 verses composed by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya establishing the need for surrender to the lotus feet of the Guru.
3. Weekend with wisdom – Gita Amrtam – Gita Amrtam (The Nectar of Gita) is a series of talks covering key verses of the Bhagavad Gita. Over four hours we cover the topics of 1. Fundamental human problem and solution, 2. Atma as free from being a doer and experience, 3. Karma Yoga as a way of living and 4. Svadharma as worship. Many myths about the Bhagavad Gita are also clarified
Discovering Love and Happiness (Based on Bhagavad Gita and Yoga sutras) With Yogacharya Saji of the International Vasishtha Research Foundation – Journeying from niyama to bhakti, absolute love and happiness are indeed possible in the vision of oneness offered by Vedanta, which begins with a practice of surrender. The different ways of expressing love and care were touched upon and questions addressed at the end.
How do you find completeness? With Mystic Lotus and Dragonflies in their Women’s telesummit
Shakti – Devi and You with Bewoman project for Navaratri – Relating to Devi is relating to Shakti, the cosmic power that pervades the entire world. This means recognising the shakti I have been given, manifesting it and wielding it well. Then, my life pervaded by Shakti is transformed into a life of meaning, purpose and connection.
Modern psychology vs Psychology in Vedanta with Vidya Vaaridhi trust on 25 years of completion –It is important to not confuse the two – Modern psychology and psychology in Vedanta as both are born of a certain vision and culture. 5 important areas of consideration were offered.
Our third edition under the aegis of Aarsha Vidya Foundation was a huge success with a great line up of speakers and masters unfolding Vedic Wisdom.
With the theme of Vedic Wisdom for all, over two days and participants from 17 countries our masters shared and inspired our participants with a wide array of topics. These ranged from The framework of dharma for lasting happiness, Ayurveda – the original system for complete well being, Hinduism (and the clash of civilisations), Moksha and Success – can the twain meet, The ultimate purpose of Vedic Wisdom, Thinking clearly and feeling deeply (Breaking unhelpful patterns) and even a lecture dem on Bharatnatyam- From Dance to Devotion –
Videos can be accessed here
Vedanta – the river of wisdom podcast –
With more than 28222 plays, 43 episodes this year we reached listeners in 34 countries. Bringing together different topics to listen to on-the-go, what I find exciting is to keep each episode complete in and of itself and in just 10-15 minutes dive deep into Vedanta to come up with a pearl dazzling in simplicity and clarity. The three most popular episodes were –
Festival celebrations – It is always good to come together with students to celebrate these festivals – Mahashivaratri, Shankara Jayanti – Vishnu Sahasranama bhashya, Maanasa puja to Adi Shankaracharya, Guru Purnima – Talk on Rishi Yajna, Janmashtami, Pujya Swami Dayananda’s 90th birthday and Gita Jayanti
Vedanta Retreats – Two Vedanta retreats with Aarsha Vidya Foundation (one offline and one online) – One delved into meditation and mahvakya vichara while the other delved into Dosha parihaara ashtakam and Vishnu Shatpadi as well as ‘Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahman and Mandukya Upanishad.
The Yoga and Vedanta retreat with Lakshya Yoga touched on some key yoga sutras and meditation in the lovely environs of Alibaug.
Meaning of Mantra and Stotrams – Rich with meaning and imbued with deep devotion and strengthened by the shakti of the sages, it is always a joy to delve into a mantra and see the glory of the devata-s. The meaning of Mahamrtyunjaya mantra, The Greatness of Bhagavan Rama and the mantra and The Glory of Hanuman
Launched SHINE Channel and our Annual SHINE newsletter – SHINE Samvaada – Delighted at this dedicated channel to help spread the spiritual heritage of India for parents and children, led by our dynamic parents particularly Sonali Ambasankar and Rashmi Kaikini and supported by Gauri Dalvi(@giddymum), our supertalented illustrator. Our superteam also includes Rekha Nair, Sheela Surendran, Seema Pillai and Varsha Shankar. We produced thoughtful, educative and meaningful content.
Chords of Oneness – Nine Stotrams for singing and absorption were beautifully rendered by Sonali Ambasankar, some of which were Shri Gurupaduka stotram, Shri Ramaraksha stotram, Shri Kalabhairavashtakam, Shri Lingashtakam, Sri Ganga stotram, Sri Dakshinamurti stotram. All on this playlist
Our first ever Stotra Utsava during Navaratri had a lot of the students (more than 30) learning chanting with Sonali A come together for the first time. The power and grace were felt by all as we sang, recited and chanted stotrams that we have inherited enlivened by tapas and anugraha.
Learning how to do puja – Rashmi Kaikini helped 7 people discover their love and devotion as they learnt the steps of a shodasha upachaara puja.
Vishnu Krpa groups – Some of the students formed Vishnu krpa groups as they chanted the Vishnu Sahasranama the first Ekadashi of every month. I am hoping that more do this.
By the way, I also was infected with the corona virus as were parents and other family members. It was an event in time and we did what what was required to be done.
‘What?!!!!’ they exclaimed. Swamini said – That ‘s a story for another day.
Thanks to the blessings of Jnana Ganga and gurus and contributions from students, all this has been possible.
Saying so, they all rose to offer their namaskaara to the Ganga, grateful for what was received. They began to see that their life was not really theirs – it was just a flow of blessing to serve what was around them, given their unique place and time in the world. Ready to welcome the new day and the new year, they walked back with clarity and a renewed sense of purpose to serve.