Day 3 (17th July, 2012) – Shashi Maharaj`s 150thJayanti day
The day being the 150th birthday of Swami Ramakrishnananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math Chennai, was glittering and felt the bliss of its founder sage.
It began at 4:30 am with Nadaswaram, Suprabhatam and Mangala Arati followed by Vedic chanting and bhajans by Swami Jnanadananda and other monks and devotees. After circumambulating the Universal Temple, sadhus and devotees went in a solemn procession to the newly inaugurated Mandapam. At the Mandapam, Arati was performed to Swami Ramakrishnanandaji`s image by Swami Gautamanandaji. Flowers were offered to Swami Ramakrishnanandaji by the assembled sadhus and devotees.
Bhajans at the Universal Temple were performed first by Smt Vishnupriya and then by the students of Ramakrishna Math Vivekananda Centenary Girls’ Higher Secondary School, Mint.
The boys from Ramakrishna Mission Students` Home brought a florally decorated chariot in procession carrying the picture of Shashi Maharaj to the Math while playing on their orchestra. Devotees assembled offered pushpanjali to Shashi Maharaj while the boys offered their prayers at the shrine. Later, they played on the orchestra in front of Swami Ramakrishnanandaji at the Mandapam.
Swami Atmajnananda, other monks and devotees present chanted the Vishnu Sahasranama at the Universal temple. From 10 am special puja and Ramakrishna Homa were performed to mark the occasion. Swami Atmaghananada performed bhajans during food offering to the Lord. About 2000 devotees witnessed the Maha Arati and were blessed by the divine grace of the Lord and His disciple. Everyone enjoyed the prasad that was distributed.
In the afternoon around 30 children from Jyanadarshan seva foundation for the disabled repeated their heart-rending performance in front of a large audience at the pandal. Each of them was presented with a school bag and a memento. This was followed by a Harikatha at 2:15 pm presented by Smt Gowri Rajagopal, an eminent artist, along with her team on the supreme devotion of Shashi Maharaj. At 4:30 pm large number of devotees took part in Vishnu Sahasranama Archana with Akshada at the Universal Temple.
As Lord was pleased with devotion, His blessings came down as mild shower and the evening function was shifted to Vivekananda Auditorium. Swami Gautamanada presided over the function in which a DVD compiling all 50,000 pages of ‘SriRamakrishna Vijayam’ since its inception in 1921 was released. Swami Harivratananda sang two melodious prayer songs to mark the start of the function at 5 pm.
After the welcome speech, the audience was apprised by a nice presentation on the process, contents and facilities available in the DVD by Prof Yogananda of Sriranga software Technologies, the makers of the DVD. The 92 years DVD of Ramakrishna Vijayam was released by Swami Gautamanandaji and the first copy received by Sri R.Krishnamoorthy, Editor, Dinamalar, a popular Tamil daily. Sri R.Krishnamoorthy in his talk appreciated the efforts of the Math as well as the technicians who made the epoch making DVD.
A function was held at 6:15 pm to felicitate the ground workers who by their dedicated service have contributed to activities of the Math. Swami Asutoshananda, Manager of the Math, hailed their role and introduced these workers. They were presented with an attractive looking glass memento with Swami Ramakrishnanada`s image embedded on it. Swami Gautamanandaji and Swami Divyanandaji presented this memento to the employees and volunteers.
After evening Arati, the public function of Swami Ramakrishnananda’s Jayanti was held at 7 pm at the pandal. Swami Kamalatmananda spoke in Tamil on the great life of devotion and sacrifice that Shashi Maharaj lived to establish his Master`s name as well as the organization of Ramakrishna order in Chennai and several states of South India.
Swami Gautamanandaji Speaking in English dwelt on the intimacy of Shashi Maharaj and Swamiji; and how Shashi Maharaj took Swamiji as his leader. As Shashi Maharaj had witnessed Sri Ramakrishna`s command to Naren to hold on and take care of these boys, he (Shashi Maharaj) faithfully followed Swamiji, the Swami pointed out. He also pointed out as to how the ecstasy witnessed by Shashi Maharaj at the time of his Master`s Mahasamadhi was repeated when he left his mortal coil in 1911. He underlined the Master`s praising of Shashi Maharaj’s service to him, by saying that it was so intense that it may even make him bound to his body. Shashi Maharaj`s service extended to his Master`s other disciples too. The swami concluded his speech by saying that Shashi Maharaj preferred service to Guru than have his own spiritual experience.
The second day of celebrations started at 4:30 am with Suprabhatam followed by Vedic chanting and bhajans by Swami Abhiramananda at the Universal Temple. This was followed by the pradakshina of Universal Temple led by Swami Harivratananada accompanied by sadhus and devotees.
Swami Atmajnananda and Swami Harivratananda started the morning session at 8:30 am with bhajan performance for about an hour.
At 10 am, a special retreat for Teachers was convened. About 200 teachers from our Math and Mission schools participated. Swami Satyaprabhananda welcomed the gathering and pointed out the relevance of this convention during Shashi Maharaj`s Jayanti. He pointed out how Shashi Maharaj took up the job of a part-time teacher at a Baranagore School to facilitate worship and offering to Sri Ramakrishna school during the early days of the Math.
Dr MNG Mani, Chief of International Council for Education of people with Visual Impairment, pointed how our Gurus absolved the mistakes of their pupils and saved them just like a mother cat protects its kitten. Quoting profusely from Swamiji`s thoughts on education, he stressed the need to teach our students value systems and the 5-C’s namely Curiosity, Confidence, Communication, Compassion and Conviction. He defined teacher as the one who is Technically Efficient And Cool Headed Energiser of Reason-TEACHER.
Sri Ramasubramanian of Samanvaya stressed the need to value our tradition of teaching epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata before beginning to learn from the school. He raised a valid thought provoking question – What is the use of knowledge without practicing Dharma? He pointed out that our Indian way of teaching was through love and compassion to all beings of the world and quoted the words of Swami Ranganathanandaji `there is no use of living outside with so much of bitterness inside`.
Sri Balu, who has specialized in uplifting bright students from humble social backgrounds and runs an organization called Nallor Vattam (literally, a group of noble people), underlined the need to recognize excellence in the children and make efforts to bring it out of the students so as to make them skilled, self-confident and of good character. He also elaborated on how to bring the best out of the students. He stressed the point that it is student life that decides a person’s future life.
Swami Gautamanandaji in his benedictory address to the teachers told that health, hygiene, communication skill and helping tendency were inculcated to the students by the schools run by Ramakrishna Math and Mission. He added that such education instilled self-confidence and courage in the minds of the children and they can become great citizens and patriots by the efforts of teachers.
Following the tradition of feeding the poor during every Math function, a special Annadanam (feeding the poor) was arranged at 1 pm. The inmates of the nearby orphanages and homes were brought to the Math in vehicles and fed sumptuously. During the lunch, the children from Jyanadarshan seva foundation for the disabled voluntarily sang heart-rending songs and they were requested to sing at the Pandal the following day. After worshipping Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna at the temple and Swami Ramakrishnananda at the Mandapam, prasada was distributed to the assembled devotees. The atmosphere in the afternoon was filled with divine music from the girls of Vivekananda Vidyalaya, Ambattur.
Different dimensions of Shashi Maharaj were presented to the devotees by the senior Swamis of the order presided by Swami Divyanandaji Maharaj. The programme commenced at 3:15 pm with a song by Swami Atmajnananda.
Swami Raghaveshananda, Secretary, Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama, Belgaum, looked at the wonderful devotion of Shashi Maharaj which has no parallel anywhere in spiritual history. Shashi Maharaj wanted to bring Sri Ramakrishna ‘back to this room’ that he had vacated on shedding his mortal coil. The swami quoted several incidents to bring out the supreme devotion Shashi had for his Guru and God. The Swami concluded his speech saying that Shashi Maharaj lived with Sri Ramakrishna and felt his presence ever with him.
Swami Shukhadevananda, Secretary of Ramakrishna Mission Vidyapith, Chennai, spoke on how untiring Shashi Maharaj was in spreading the message of his master in the southern part of India. He pointed out that Shashi Maharaj`s two gifts to the South were bringing Holy Mother and Swami Brahmanandaji here (Chennai Math) and sanctify the Math centre by their presence.
Swami Brahmeshananda, former Editor of The Vedanta Kesari, delved deep in to the wonderful writings of Shashi Maharaj. He also brought out gems of Shashi Maharaj’s creative and original thinking like – `Man is constantly finite and unconsciously infinite, while God is consciously infinite and unconsciously finite`.
Swami Kamalatmananda, President, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madurai, dwelt on the great pujari in Shashi Maharaj. He pointed out how Shashi Maharaj single handedly took upon himself to manage all the works like pujari, cook, servant and even earning by teaching in a school during the initial days of Baranagore Math. He detailed out his daily worship and service to Sri Ramakrishna here at Chennai from the moment he landed at Ice House. Regular chanting of Gita and Chandi, ‘Umbrella-service’ and ‘Fan-service’ to his living God and informing his Master whenever he goes out for classes or market are the masterpieces of Shashi Mahraj’s devotion and service, the swami explained.
Swami Atmasraddhananda traced the life of Shashi Maharaj at Madras, his joy in establishing the new Math at Mylapore, his keen sense of publishing Swamiji`s ‘Inspired Talks’, his preaching of Gita, Bhagavata and Upanishads in and around different parts of the city and starting educational institutions at Madras and other services. Swami very aptly placed Shashi Maharaj as the moon that moves around the Sun of Sri Ramakrishna.
Swami Golokananda, President of Ramakrishna Ashrama, Tiruvalla, dwelt on the training of brahmacharis, the discipline and guiding spirit in Shashi Maharaj that have made him a superior Teacher or Acharya.
Swami Abhiramananda explained the thoughts of Shashi Maharaj on education. He beautifully narrated Shashi Maharaj`s prescription for de-addiction from drugs with an experiment where the weight of drug to be consumed is placed on one pan and a chalk piece that gradually decreases in size on the other pan. Swami pointed out the teachers as the eagle that comes down to lift the tortoise from the earth.
Swami Divyanandaji in his presidential address, pointed out how Sri Ramakrishna yearned for disciples like Shashi Maharaj by praying to Divine Mother, Kali. He added that Shashi Maharaj also had a little message for him and with that he became the pioneer in establishing the organization on a firm ground. He said that Shashi Maharaj had the GOD particle in him. Citing anecdotes from different monks as well as from M`s dream, the swami pointed out the greatness of Shashi Maharaj. The programme ended with Swami Shankaratmananda rendering the closing song.
The new publications in Tamil, fittingly remembering the great life Swami Ramakrishnananada, Maharaj, were released by Swami Raghaveshananda during the evening book release function at 6:15 pm. Swami Kamalatmananda received the first copy. The Tamil books released at the function were:
Speaking on the occasion, Swami Kamalatmananda appreciated the efforts and enthusiasm shown by Chennai Math in highlighting the great life of the Saint by publishing his life both in text and picture form.
The special discourse for the night was made at 7 pm by SriDhushyanth Sridhar, a well-known Management executive and religious speaker, who traced the parallels in the great lives of Swami Ramakrishnanandaji and Sri Ramanuja. His speech was studded with gems from the lives of these two saints, the other Vaishnava Acharyas as well as from the epics.
A great history of devotion and service dawned on Madras (now Chennai) in 1897, when Shashi Maharaj (Swami Ramakrishnanandaji), on the direction of his brother disciple and leader Swami Vivekananda, came to this city of orthodox and ancient culture. This Swami, the apostle of Sri Ramakrishna to the South, established the Chennai Math and spread the message of his Master in South India against all odds.
The swami lived for 14 years between 1987 and 1911 in this city of Chennai. The several schools and colleges run by the Ramakrishna Mission not only in the city but all through the state, the mighty Students’ Home for the poor and orphaned children and the Girls School run by Math in the Mint area speak volumes of his dedication, service and vision. Apart from establishing centers at Chennai and Bangalore, he was instrumental in the Ramakrishna Mission taking roots in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra States.
Swami Ramakrishnananda’s 150th Jayanti was impressively celebrated on 17th July 2012 at Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai with various programmes from 15th-17th July 2012. Installing an image of the swami in a newly constructed Mandapam (a memorial) at the very spot where he had lived in this Math a century ago, releasing his Complete Works in three volumes, arranging an exhibition and opening a new treasure house of books in his name were some of the acts by which the Chennai Math expressed its love to its founder.
Day 1 (15th July, 2012):
The opening day started at 4:30 in the morning with Nadaswaram, Suprabhatam and Mangala Arati followed by Vedic chanting and bhajans by Swami Atmaghanananda at the Universal Temple of Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna.
At 6 am Swami Gautamanandaji, Adhyaksha, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, carried the picture of Swami Ramakrishnanandaji from the temple and performed three pradakshinas (circumambulation) of the temple accompanied by a large number of monks and devotees. Nadaswaram and bhajans accompanied the procession. Nature expressed its happiness by blowing cool breeze accompanied by a slow drizzle! The procession proceeded from the Universal Temple gate to the Old Math gate through the road to reach the Mandapam.
The procession of monks made pradakshina of the Mandapam once and then Swami Suhitanandaji, the General Secretary, Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission, unveiled the image of Swami Ramakrishnanandaji in the midst of Vedic chanting by the swamis present. Swami Gautamanandaji placed the picture of Shashi Maharaj on an altar arranged in front of the image and performed Arati to Swami Ramakrishnanandaji and unveiled the plaque. Swami Somanandaji, a senior monk of the Order, other assembled Swamis and Brahmacharis offered flowers to Swami Ramakrishnanandaji.
The Mandapam is a small and simple structure. The image of Shashi Maharaj, made of bronze, looks grand with a divine smile on his face, which is often mentioned by his reminiscers. He was adorned with the offered garlands of Kapaliswara, Parthasarathy and also Sri Ramanuja of Sriperumpudur, the Acharya of the eternal adoration of Shashi Maharaj.
Swami Divyanandaji, a Trustee of Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission, declared open the Ramakrishnananda Exhibition organized in an adjacent place for the occasion. The exhibition, apart from containing Swami’s rare photographs, depicted his life in paintings by Sri Venkatesh, an artist working in Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, and was appreciated by one and all.
It was almost 8 am when ‘Ramakrishnananda Book Treasures’, a new book-sale shop, near the office complex was declared open by Swami Somanandaji by lighting a lamp and the first purchase from the stores made by Swami Suhitanandaji.
Once the Mandapam was inaugurated, a special puja to Sri Ramakrishna was started at the Mandapam site. This was followed by Ramakrishna Sahasranama Homa chanting ‘Om Aim Sarvadevadevi svarupaaya Sri Ramakrishnaaya svaahaa’ and offering bilva leaves and ghee. Puja and Homa were performed by Swami Vimurtananda assisted by Swamis Natarajananda, Bhasvatananda, Apavargananda and Suprajnananda.
In the food offering made to Shashi Maharaj, apart from prasad of Sri Ramakrishna, the prasad of Kapaliswar and Parthasarathy too had been included. A special curry prepared of ‘Thoodhuvalai’ green, dear to Shashi Maharaj for its special place in the life of Yamunacharya, also was offered to him. About two thousand devotees enjoyed the divine atmosphere and partook the prasada at about 12:30 pm.
While the puja was going on, bhajans were performed by Swami Jnanadananda, Swami Atmaghanananda and Swami Abhiramananda at the old temple. Though a special pandal was erected for conducting the programs, these bhajans had to be conducted indoor owing to rains.
The afternoon session started at 1:15 pm in the pandal, with Sri Vittal Bhajan Mandali, a leading bhajan group in Chennai, singing the songs of Saint Tukharam hailing the glory of the Guru.
The nextsession was unique with a special retreat arranged for the auto drivers of Chennai representing the working class – unique, for this program represents the concern of Swami Ramakrishnananda for the working class. Swami Gautamanandaji presided this session with Sri G Narayanaswami, a leading auditor and philanthropist, as the Chief Guest. Swami Harivratananda, welcomed the auto drivers and set the tone for the programe with his melodious singing.
The interaction during the session highlighted the issues faced by the working class. Two speakers, Sri Prabhakar and Sri Vijayakumar, representing the working class felt the need to orient the brethren to higher values in life and felt elated at the recognition of their services to the society by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. Sri Prabhakar spoke about the contributions made by the auto drivers for eye donation camps and also their help for mentally retarded persons. He added that some of the auto drivers, by writing Tirukkural, a Tamil classic on moral values, every day on their autos invoke good thoughts among their passengers. Sri Vijayakumar spoke about the insecurity of the auto drivers, education of their children and host of other issues faced by them. He also pointed out their contribution to the society by helping people during emergencies like pregnancy, immediate hospitalization of the sick and also in maintaining the Hindu culture by celebrating festivals like Pongal, Deepavali, Ganesh chaturthi and so on.
Sri G. Narayanaswamy expressed the view that the auto drivers are the mirrors of the society. He appreciated the role played by the auto drivers in the society. He also stressed on the urgent need to raise their status in the society.
Swami Gautamanandaji, addressing the 150 auto drivers present, assured them that they are all devotees as they have all come under the influence of Sri Ramakrishna. Swami also welcomed them to visit the temple on any day of their choice. He wanted them to turn a new leaf in their lives by saving money, feeling for fellow human beings and service to society. He reminded the concern of Swami Vivekananda and Swami Ramakrishnananda for the working class, the need to raise them and treat them as equals. All the auto drivers were presented with books and also given photos of Holy Trio for affixing in their autos. Apart from these mementos, a scheme of free medical treatment for four members of each auto driver was offered by Swami Gautamanandaji; an identity card was issued to the auto drivers for availing these medical facilities.
The main event of the evening function at 6 pm was the release of Commemorative Souvenir, books in English and e-Books. Swami Suhitanandaji presided over the function. Swami Atmashraddhananda in his introductory speech briefed the source, importance and value of the new books released on this occasion.
Swami Suhitanandaji released the Souvenir published to commemorate Swami Ramakrishnananda’s 150th Birthday & Dedication of Ramakrishnananda Mandapam and also released new books on Swami Ramakrishnananda. Swami Jnanadananda received the first copy of the commemorative souvenir and the books. The English books released at the function were:
Complete Works of Swami Ramakrishnananda (3 Volumes)
Swami Ramakrishnananda as We Saw Him
Swami Ramakrishnananda : A portrait in pictures
Swami Ramakrishnananda: The Apostle of Sri Ramakrishna to the South (Special Edition)
Two Great Worshippers of Sri Ramakrishna
Swami Lakshmidharananda explained the features of the e-books, how it could be used in modern gadgets like i-pad and also how it can be purchased on-line. Then Swami Suhitanandaji inaugurated the special e-books. A video show was presented detailing the features of the web site www.vedantaebooks.org through which information about the books can be obtained and purchased on-line.
Swami Jnanadananda spoke on the holiness of this Math. He called it a pilgrim centre as it was sanctified by the visits and stay of disciples of Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother Sarada Devi.
Swami Suhitanandaji in his presidential address elaborated the role played by Swamiji and Shashi Maharaj in the creation of the Chennai Math. He underlined the spiritual vibration of the Math and the services rendered by Shashi Maharaj in spreading the message of Vedanta. He also spoke about the untiring efforts of Shashi Maharaj in starting the publication of the Math, initiating new centres far and wide. He appreciated the role of a project of Chennai Math called Viveka Murasu – the mobile vehicle travelling to remote villages and for making the lives of the villagers better by teaching them about health, religion and life.
After the evening Arati, at 7 pm Maharanyam Sri Muralidhara Swamigal, a popular exponent of Hindu scriptures, gave an inspiring talk in Tamil on the life of Swami Ramakrishnananda. He hailed Sri Ramakrishna as an Avatara, and also praised the ancestry, life and role of Shashi Maharaj and his discipline in carrying out the work of his Master Sri Ramakrishna.
A function that would have immensely satisfied Shashi Maharaj was organized in Meyyur, a village about 70 kms from Chennai. It is located in Tiruvallur, one of the most backward districts of Tamilnadu. For more than 10 years, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai has been providing free educational training to the poor boys and girls of this village appreciably enhancing their educational standards. In addition free medical camps are being arranged every fortnight.
On 1st July 2012, Swami Ramakrishnanandaji’s birthday was celebrated in the above village with puja, bhajans, and discourses. A free medical camp was also organized on that day. Swami Gautamanandaji addressed the gathering said that he was surprised to see the enthusiasm shown by the villagers and highlighted importance of service to society. He also wished that the village to have a college and university in the days to come. All the 1200 families of the village were given the prasada and each family was given a coconut sapling.