The SILENCE RETREAT with 45 participants was the first one had in England. The main work of the Himalayan tradition in England has been going on under the guidance of Peter Glover whom Baba, that is Swami Rama, had initiated several decades back. He has a beautiful, wonderful group of deep meditators under his guidance as he is also an initiator. He remains linked to the Himalayan Institute in Honesdale. At the same time he gives to Swami Veda all the due, affection and regard and has helped with Swami Veda's work in many different ways such as:
1) having his institute in England make a contribution toward the yoga manuscripts project,
2) from time to time moderate offerings,
3) organizing a lecture or two every time Swami Veda visits England. His serenity and even mindedness is something to emulate. He cannot be agitated, cannot be disturbed and remains always balanced, a true mark of spiritual progress.
Swami Veda has been visiting England on a regular basis now for at least four years during which time he has held lectures through number one, Peter Glover's Himalayan Institute, number two at the Bharatya Vidya Bhawan--a highly recognized and respected institute of cultural education in India which has it's very flourishing and large presence in London. Three, for the last three years he has been visiting the Yoga Place which is a yoga center run by Jenny Pretor-Pinney, and by Alexander Medin both initiated by Swami Veda Bharati.
October 18 to 24, 2003 was the first Silence Retreat held by Swami Veda Bharati in England. With all the efforts put in by Jenny Pretor-Pinney, and by Tejaswini, also greatly assisted silently and humbly by the self-effacing and most capable initiate, Andrew Henley. It was publicized through Tejaswini's and Jenny's effort and the attendance of forty five, from all walks of life, in a country where Swamiji does not have a center of its' own, was really very fulfilling.
Swami Veda Bharati flew in on fourteenth of October after his retreat in Italy near Florence. Stayed with Zia Rawji, one of the sponsors of the SRSG (Sadhka Grama, Rishikesh), a beloved initiate. On the October 16, 2003 Swami Veda Bharati visited the Center for Hindu Studies at the University of Oxford. It was a ground breaking visit with promise for much greater future contact.
Spiritual life and relationships consist of confluences. The retreat was had at a convent in Hants county. In a beautiful convent in the middle of the English countryside.
Currently the monasteries and convents in Europe are more and more empty. The monasteries made for a thousand monks are occupied sometimes by as few as eight. So monks and nuns are brought from India to keep these sacred locations operated and lit. All the nuns in this convent are from India. They introduced themselves to Swami Veda and then what a confluence! They said we do Christian mediation here with practice of breath awareness.
It turned out that they have been taught by Vandana Mataji. Who is Vandana Mataji? She has a beautiful little ashram in Rishikesh, a Christian ashram where she has been teaching mediation for as long as one can remember. She calls the Himalayas as her source and resource. Many visitors to our Rishikesh ashram have had the opportunity of enjoying the worship and mediation at her ashram. She is now quite aged, with a face filled with light and serenity and now retiring. She had last visited our ashram as recently as March, 2003. Swami Veda had least expected that he would meet up with those guided by her in this remote country side of England, not only that but to hold a mediation retreat at such a congenial place.
The retreat was actually guided by Pandit Ananta. Pandit Ananta has made himself a name in many countries as far as Saba (Borneo), Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Singapore, Korea (where he recently lead a teacher training program and helped certify several dozen teachers), Holland and now England. These days Swami Veda Bharati makes an appearance only once a day in the evening.
On the first night of the opening Swami Veda Bharati gave the participants freedom to continue to converse among themselves until next morning after breakfast. Pandit Ananta was surprised that no one took the offer. People had come for silence and they all immediately went into silence. Pandit Ananta said to Swami Veda that he was astonished and Swamiji replied, "this is England". On the last day people were advised that they may get to know each other by breaking their silence. Some were happy for the opportunity for social interaction, but he majority said that they felt cheated that their silence was reduced by one day.
This is being written here to inspire the people of other cultures, where such stability and recourse to silence becomes more of an effort than a natural enjoyment.
Through the presence of a leading psychiatrist of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, it now seems possible that soon there will be lectures, retreats, and who knows, even a mediation group or center in that city starting right from 2004, with a visit of Pandit Ananta and after he has cleared the way through the presence of Swami Veda.
A word here about Nandani, who wrote the first part of this report. Swami Veda first came to England at the end of 1953. In 1954 he gave his first lecture in English to the Gloucester Vegetarian Society. There he met a Anglican priest who then invited him to his small little gothic church in a village in Gloucestershire and it became Pandit Usharbudh Arya's (as Swami Veda was then known) family and home. Their three children became as Swami Veda's little sisters. Swamiji would take the smallest one on his shoulder and go for a walk in the village, this he so fondly remembers. Years and decades past and suddenly after more than forty years, Elaine turns up at the Rishikesh ashram with her tall son to receive initiation and guidance for teaching. Since then Nandani has received a special light, and has created a group around her own light in a town called Glastonbury, and now has established a small retreat center in Spain.
Besides Nandani there were many others luminous persons at the retreat including Zia and Andrew Henley, a lawyer in England. He spent forty days in the Rishikesh ashram a year or two ago and returned well established in spirituality and practices. He now along with Tejaswini and Jenny is the leader of the informal Himalayan Yoga Mediation Group of the United Kingdom.
Next retreat in England is planned for May 13 to 19, 2004.
ANOTHER SHORT VISIT TO NEW YORK
Lately Swami Veda Bharati has been making short visits to New York. Dr. David Alcol's very flourishing Genesis center has organized his lecture in September earlier this year. Swami Veda's New York visits also pertained to the fact of his being a member of the World Council of Religious Leaders. Here a little background:
Gopi Anand organized the Millennium World Peace Summit of all the leading statesmen and heads of state at the end of the last millennium. Ted Turner, the owner of CNN, suggested to Gopi Anand: Mr. Anand this is all very well, but there is one segment of world leadership that you are neglecting. The religious leaders hold tremendous power, sway, and influence over the peoples of the world. Why do you not bring them together? So a Millennium World Peace Summit of leaders in religion and spirituality was organized.
It is now a permanent office lead by Bawa Jain, a disciple of Muni Sushil Kumar. Muni Sushil Kumar belongs to the tradition of Jaina monks. For those who do not know Jaina religion was founded by the great enlightened being known as Mahavira, a senior contemporary of the Buddha. Its emphasis on absolute asceticism, austerity, self purification, and especially total non-violence made it one of the most powerful surviving spiritual forces in India.
The monks of the Jaina tradition are divided into two major orders:
1) Shvetambara, the white clad ones. They wear white with a flap over the mouth so that no invisible creatures may be hurt by the hot air emanating with ones speech. They carry a very thick velvet brush with which they gently wipe the ground as they walk so that no ants may be crushed under their feet. They do not ride chariots and cars because these crush all kinds of little creatures under the wheels.
2) the Digambara, the sky clad ones. To reach the status of a sky clad monk requires such rigorous training, testing, and education in discipline and austerity and purification that it is beyond the power of more than a handful. Even when they come to a cold place like Rishikesh and further up the mountains, they are not permitted to cover themselves even with a sheet when sleeping at night--they have such a tremendous self-control. At one time a Digambara monk was visiting Rishikesh. Swami Veda took the ashram visitors to have his darshana (this word cannot be translated) where the monk was addressing a crowd. Upon return to the ashram Swamiji asked some of the American ladies, "did you feel as though you were in the presence of a naked man? The answer was "absolutely no." This is the level of purity in these monks. Muni Sushil Kumar worked in New York area for several decades and one of his products is his disciple, Bawa Jain who is director general of the Millennium World Peace Summit. As he is so deeply ingrained in the teaching of non-violence, none is better suited to lead the world leaders to spread the message of tolerance and mutual understanding.
A part of the Millennium World Peace Summit (MWPS) is the World Council of Religious Leaders (WCRL) in which Swami Veda Bharati is active as well as being a member of the Central Council of the Ethics Initiatives (EI), of the MWPS. This sometimes brings him to New York to attend conferences of the WCRL.
Swami Veda flew into New York from London on October 27, 2003 evening. On 28th he addressed a crowd at the Arya Spiritual Center, which is lead by Pandit Ramlall. Here a few words about Pandit Ramlall. When Swamiji went to give his spiritual services in the country called Guyana (then known as British Guiana) Pandit Ramlall was his first right hand man to help organize all of his work throughout that country from 1956 to 2003. A very close, often silent, relationship has remained.
The spiritual center established by Pandit Ramlall is mostly populated by the Guyanese people of Indian origin. In the audience were people who are now the third generation that has grown up hearing Swami Veda or hearing about him. Many children have grown up only hearing his name and seeing his picture and this was their first opportunity to actually see the person who large number of people in that region almost regard "a legend" because of the services he rendered there from 1956 to 1962.
Swami Veda Bharati left England on October 29, 2003 via Tokyo to Taipei, Taiwan. Here a little back ground on the center in Taiwan. In 1994 a Buddhist nun, Shui Jo-Han visited the Rishikesh ashram with a group. She came back in 1996 to seek for the guidance. After a year or two Swami Veda Bharati initiated her into the swami vows, giving her the name Ma Tapasya Bharati (Ma meaning mother, in the normal title of swami nuns).
This spiritual daughter of Swami Veda Bharati is a cause of pride to him and a source of inspiration to hundreds. Those who have seen her know what absolute stillness of body and mind can actually mean. She has followed intense austerities and spiritual practices both at the Rishikesh ashram and back home in Taiwan where she established the Himalayan Dhyana-Yoga Mandir of Taiwan.
She has translated Swami Veda's booklets into Chinese. and made them into very attractive pocket books. Over a year ago she established a lovely ashram in Nantou county in central Taiwan. The mediation hall can seat over two hundred people. The Guru presence is really palpable. Here something about the culture of Taiwan, that is (China). Just a few examples will suffice.
Four years back in a February program of fifteen days duration at the Rishikesh ashram, a group of twenty five Taiwanese under the guidance of Ma Tapasya participated. Except for Ma and one more member no one knew a word of English. All 25 sat through all the lectures absolutely still and incredibly serene. When asked, they said "we do not come for lectures we come for the Presence and the Transmission". This attitude was cultivated in that culture first by the Taoist and Confusion traditions, then after the Indian monk Bodhi-dharma (founder of the Shao Lin monastery) visited China and introduced Buddhist mediation practices. The tradition continues to this day.
A Taiwanese (Chinese) will never come to see a holy person empty handed. When they come to receive the Swami at the airport, they come with gold and red envelopes to make an offering of welcome. Swami Veda no longer gives lectures in Taiwan. He is only asked to come and sit in front of the silent and serene rows of Mas' disciples for a few minutes. Then each person rises, comes forward on his or her knees, bows down with joined hands as in the Chinese tradition, and is anointed with lotus oil on the forehead, then with Swami Veda placing his hand of blessing on the disciple's head in a silent prayer. And that is all that is requested of him, expected of him just a blessing, just a presence. No one in this culture asks: What is the meaning of my manta? It is a gift. It is a benediction.
During the current visit to Taiwan from October 31 to November 4, 2003 as in the previous visits, Swami Veda participated in the recitations and the sacred fire offerings. The atmosphere gets so charged because of the serenity that the Guru field is palpable. Those who want to learn the meaning of stillness should come and seek to study with Ma if she would really accept them.
To help Swami Veda and to take care of him in Taiwan two of his beloved students flew in to keep company. One was Raj Verma from Singapore who has been one of the organizers and helpers of Sadhka Grama also. She is Swamiji's permanent host in Singapore. The other person who flew in was Shilpa from Kuala Lumpur. We'll put her photo here at a later time. Shilpa has been teaching yoga in Malaysia for nearly a decade and was initiated by Swami Veda three years ago. Her classes and the center have so flourished that she the newspapers vie with each other to publish stories about her. Her name has become synonymous with yoga in Kuala Lumpur, and the full page articles about her extol her ability to lead people to experience of stillness through the practice of breathing as well as the asanas.
The current American Express Platinum magazine has her picture, with a one page article on the meaning of yoga that extends to an understanding of breath and stillness as well as the deep relaxation of mind. Swami Veda says, "I am so proud of these daughters of mine."
Swami Veda left Taiwan on November 4, 2003 arriving in Singapore. There was a satsang at the home of Raj Verma in Singapore organized by her and by W. Yoong Khiang.
Here a little background. Six years ago there were only four or five initiates in Singapore. Since then the group has grown to over fifty members. All very active meditators under the guidance of W. Yoong Khiang, in short known as Yoong. Yoong started visiting the ashram some years before Baba left the body. Baba taught him and guided him. I used to see him briefly at the ashram a lean, trim, straight, sattvic person with clarity on the face. After Baba left his body we became very close. Baba had told him to start initiating people in Singapore. "Who will train me to be an initiator?", Yoong asked. Baba said, " Swami Veda will." Yoong has since then continued teaching not only in Singapore but has been the coordinator of Swami Vedas programs for the entire south-east Asia.
Singapore is a unique community a city state with a couple million population, with four official languages: English, Malai, Chinese and Tamil (the chief south Indian language). Today it is an independent republic. During the British colonial times it had been become part of Malaysia, then known as Malaya, but centuries before that it was colonized by the Hindu and Buddhist kings from Java and Sumatra and the Sanskrit name means the "City of the Lion." At that time it was a controlling point for the international trade through the Malacca straights. Today it is a major maritime center, among other things. It's population is cosmopolitan. English and Malai are the major spoken languages, but one may choose to be educated in Chinese, or in Tamil--thus the cultures of all the communities is not only preserved, but they all play a major role. The immigration officer checking your passport may be wearing a headscarf as Malai Muslim women do, or may be wearing a red dot on the forehead, as married Hindu women do. There is no conflict, and the language of each culture is encouraged, yet unity is maintained through a very strict discipline.
Our own initiate group represents the tamagraphy of Singapore. There are Indians and Chinese and Europeans, but unfortunately not he Malaise who identify with an Islamic coat. Although in Malaysia itself we have many Muslim students in the yoga classes which are flourishing.
Those who wish to know what Swami Veda taught in this multi-racial initiate community may ask for the cassette in which he quotes from the Sufis and from the book of Tao and from the Upanishads, tying it all together into one simple theme "do not believe in God; know God personally".
WHERE HAS SWAMI VEDA BEEN?
Last report we published about him was about his visit to Bangalore in south India. If you find the reports of Bangalore as well as the ones being published here, you can just imagine what an interesting life he leads through so many other countries, cultures and cities. Unfortunately there is no one traveling with him with a writing skill who can keep sending the reports. It is our effort that in future we can give a continuous story about his various visits to the countries and centers.
In the immediate future Swami Veda Bharati is making a stopover in Singapore on November 5, 2003 reaching India on November 6th. November 7th he will lead a small group of people from Holland from New Delhi to Rishikesh. This is also the time to do some interviews for the applicants for the Gurukulam program and to receive some students for the same who are coming for 3, 5 or 7 years of training and study for the purpose of, eventually, becoming spiritual guides.
From November 16-30, 2003 there will be visitors from the Zoroastrian community of Mumbai, for whom special courses within the Zoroastrian tradition have been announced. Please read the separate article on this subject on this web page.
The month of December looks roughly as follows: 6th through the 9th December pre-conference of the World Parliament of Religions in New Delhi. On the 9th December night Swami Veda Bharati will fly to Jerusalem for a meeting of the World Council of Religious Leaders. He will fly back to Mumbai for two days 17th and 18th December. then arrive in Rishikesh on the 20th December to start a four day silence and akhanda japa (unbroken mental mantra remembrance by groups of people) until December 24, 2003.
Copyright 2004 West Art, Prometheus 91, 2004