A great opportunity I gifted myself a week before, was being part of an intensive Vedanta retreat camp, at Lonavala. Having just wet my feet into the path of understanding reality, this camp knocked my door at the right time. The camp was organized at a beautiful, well-equipped and serene place, Manghnani elder’s home, run by a Sindhi trust, which breaks the pre-conceived notions of any home for elders out there. The main differentiating factor between this Elders Home and others is the emotional and sensitive approach towards their guests. We all were fortunate to experience their hospitality throughout, making it feel like a home away form home.
For four days, a small group of dedicated students immersed into the teachings by Swami Brahmavidananda Saraswatiji, who standing in the illustrious Guru-Shishya parampara of the rishis, is extremely gifted and charismatic teacher of Vedanta. Much loved by his students for his unique style and humor, Swamiji is a rare jewel of integrity and truth. Swamini Brahmaprajnanda Saraswatiji, who has studied in Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, under the guidance of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswatiji, accompanied him. She is an epitome of knowledge, with a dynamic style of teaching. Luckily I am also attending her Bhagavad Gita classes few steps away from my home every week. With such great teachers around, we started our learning. The topic dealt was a small text called ‘Laghu Vakya Vritti’ a commentary comprising of 18 verses, by Adi Shankaracharya.
Mornings at the camp greeted us with the gentle chirping of birds, something hard to find in a city like Mumbai. The routine started with an early morning puja and aarti of Lord Dakshinamurti, at the temple in the premises of the home. Seeking the blessing of the Lord, we started with the meditation class by Swaminiji, which was rejuvenating followed by a session with Swamiji on the text. There was a second session too after a delicious breakfast. The main highlight was the discussion round, where we were divided into groups and were given some Sanskrit terms to reflect and share our understanding on it. This was a very enriching exercise for all, as we got more clarity, the more we shared our insights with each other. Both the teachers moderated the discussions and our concepts were polished during that time.
Sometimes these discussions were so engrossing that we almost forgot about lunchtime. A variety of sattvik delicacies served with deep love and compassion by the staff were ever so tempting and satisfied our hunger pangs to the fullest. A short nap in the afternoon was relaxing, charging us up for the rest of the day. There was one evening session after which everyone went for a refreshing walk. Amidst nature, we engaged into some more personal interactions with each other. Thereafter, we all gathered for a satsanga, trying our hands on some chanting of Shanti mantras and Dakshinamurti Stotram, guided by Swaminiji, who is so eloquent and has a musical connotation making it easy to follow. While some people were well versed with these prayers, I was in a preliminary stage trying to catch-up with their pace. Intuitive questions at the satsanga revealed that all the participants were attentive in the sessions. Swamiji answered all our doubts with ease and left us for further contemplation. On some days, during satsanga, we had specific topics addressed by Swamiji on request of some participants. The day ended with a scrumptious dinner and a light walk before we rested ourselves.
One of the major take-away was an activity conducted during one of our meditation class, where we had to make symbolic representations of the different roles each one plays on day-to-day basis and how have they helped in shaping our lives. The next day we all had to gather in an open space where we saw bowls filled with blue colour lying on the table along with paintbrushes. All of us were excited, as we were told to give a light blue wash over our paper filled with symbolic role representations. Eager to know the underlying meaning behind this activity was expounded by the standpoint of Ishvara’s role, representing the blue colour, which is substantial over all other roles and it is in his presence we carry out other roles comfortably. This shift in paradigm made us take a step back and introspect our lives more significantly.
Over four days, all of us experienced a deepened connection with the self, and with others in the group. In between breaks throughout the day was a bonus as I got to spend quality time with the Gurus and know more about the way sanyasis live their life along with lot of useful guidance essential to lead a right kind of life. Profound discussions on social, political and current issues with everyone were fun as well as illuminating. I also got a chance to interact with a humble elderly couple residing there. The last day arrived quickly then I thought, an overwhelming moment where we conducted the ceremony of offering aarti to our Guru and sharing our experiences. Mixed feelings arose amongst all of us as it was time to bid goodbye.
After taking a few clicks for memories, we all parted, inspired and charged, taking a sankalpa to continue this journey with utmost dedication. It was a real pleasure to meet and interact with so many multifaceted people. Like minded and inspiring, all in their journey towards fulfillment, knowledge, and understanding the ‘Absolute’. Overall this experience has left a profound impression that will be etched in my memory for long and help me shape my life hereafter. I render special thanks to Swami Brahmavidananda Saraswatiji and Swamini Brahmaprajnananda Saraswatiji for being so compassionate and a great support throughout. My heartfelt gratitude to Manishaji, my roommate at the camp, for whom I have deep regard, Madhuji, in whom I found a friend and all others who made this camp a memorable trip altogether. I will forever be grateful to Prashant, for planting the seed of seeking this knowledge, in me and look forward to assimilate as much as I can with Ishvara’s grace and the blessings of my teachers. Om:)
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