Visit to Ajatananda Ashram & Shri Babaji’s Birthday Celebrations – September 2011
Below are a selection of photos and brief descriptions of Shri Babaji’s visit to Ajatananda Ashram, His meeting and Satsang with Swami Padmanabhananda Saraswati, General Secretary of the Divine Life Society, and also of Babaji’s birthday celebrations at the Dehradun Ashram.
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Visit to Ajatananda Ashram, Rishikesh
On the invitation of Swami Atmananda Udasin, head of the Ajatananda Ashram in Rishikesh, Shri Babaji visited the beautiful Ashram on the banks of the Ganges with a small group of His disciples and devotees. Ajatananda Ashram is an interreligious Ashram dedicated to silence, solitude and simplicity, which practices a universal form of prayer and meditation in a community environment to encourage the attitude of oneness. This is beautifully reflected in their motto: “Truth is One, paths are many”. Upon His arrival at the Ashram, Shri Babaji was reverentially greeted by Swami Atmananda and the Ashram brahmacharis who garlanded Him and His disciples, performing a simple puja. They then lovingly attended to all guests showing them around the Ashram and welcoming them with a small Satsang of universal prayers and bhajans, before serving lunch and refreshments.
Swami Padmanabhananda Saraswati of Shivananada Ashram, Rishikesh, had long expressed His sincere desire to meet with Shri Babaji upon hearing about His Life and Tapas from Swami Atmananda. In the evening a meeting of the two great Saints had been organized at the Ashram itself followed by a small Satsang. Swami Padmanabhananda is the General Secretary of the Divine Life Society worldwide and He is well renowned not only as scholar of Vedanta and the Vedic texts but also for His simplicity and surrender to the Divine. His humility touched all devotees present as He greeted Babaji with heartfelt reverence while Babaji garlanded Him, welcoming Him and His disciples to the Ashram. Babaji recalled how in His student days He had once met Swami Venkateshananda, direct disciple of Swami Shivananada, who had been most delighted to discover that Babaji was from the same lineage as Swami Shivananda (descendant of Sage Ayyappa Dikshitar). Later the two Saints spoke freely about spirituality, their own inner experiences and the wisdom of the ancient scriptures, each eager to listen to the Golden words spoken by the other, as the devotees gathered watched in wonder. Swami Padmanabhananda requested Babaji to speak about His Master Shivabalayogi who He had also heard of. Babaji narrated Shri Swamiji’s incredible story with much joy, and then shared with the audience that in those days Swamiji had been invited to Shivananda Ashram in Rishikesh to conduct meditation programs. Swami Padmanabhananda was also requested by Babaji to narrate the story of His spiritual journey and how He came to join Shivananda Ashram as monk. Many spiritual questions were then asked by the monks and devotees present to both Masters, who’s answers inspired the gathering deeply. It was an evening to be treasured, one that will be etched forever in the history of our Mission.
Shri Babaji’s Birthday Celebrations at the Dehradun Ashram
This year preparations started early as many devotees from around the world had already gathered a week before in eager anticipation of the celebrations ahead. Every evening after an hour of meditation, bhajans were sung in praise of Swamiji and Babaji and after the Aarati, prasdam was served to all devotees on the Ashram balcony overlooking the stunning Shivalik ranges. As each day passed more devotees gathered to honor their Master and the feeling of universality and oneness grew stronger all through the Ashram.
On the morning of 19 September devotees gathered in the Ashram temple at dawn. Shri Babaji started the prayers by performing abishekam (ritual bathing) to the idols of His Guru Maharaj Shri Swamiji, Lord Ganesh, Lord Dakshinamurti, and the Maha Rudreshwar Shivalingam while the chanting of Shri Swamiji’s 108 names reverberated around the Ashram. Babaji then offered flowers and performed Aarati to the deities and the recitation of the ancient mantras infused the atmosphere with Divine power and presence. After Babaji completed the puja by offering worship at His Beloved Master’s Dais in the main hall, devotees partook of the blessed Prasad as many sat in silence absorbing the vibrations of Peace and serenity that filled the Ashram.
Apart from the usual programs, devotees had also organized a visit to Cheshire Home, a residential facility in Dehradun that cares for the permanently disabled in the community, and also a village school for the poor and needy. Cheshire Home is very well maintained and the staff are most attentive to the needs of the fifty residents. They happily showed Babaji and the devotees around and also explained the daily running of the place. The devotees had gathered a collection to sponsor the day’s lunch and donate towards the cost of some basic necessities. The staff requested Babaji to Bless the food for the residents. At the school also snacks were given out along with a box of stationeries for each student. The children had even prepared some small song and dance performances for their visitors. Both outings were thoroughly enjoyed and gave a sense of satisfaction to all that they could contribute something back to the society, especially to the poor and needy.
On the morning of Shri Babaji’s birthday, 20 September, devotees congregated on the ground floor of the Ashram for a homa (fire ceremony). After Babaji spoke about the significance of homa and sadhanas in general to bring the mind under control, He beautifully chanted mantras while offering the sacred ingredients to the fire. At the end of the ceremony Babaji offered the Purnahuti (final offering) and performed Aarati to His Guru Shri Swamiji. Later devotees continued with an hour of devotionally charged bhajans, Aarati and Prasad.
In the evening almost one thousand five hundred devotees gathered in the Ashram for the main function. They enjoyed the chanting and bhajans, as they eagerly awaited the Master’s entrance. Shortly thereafter, Shri Babaji entered, taking the stage, which was spectacularly decorated with flowers and lights, and paid His respects by performing Aarati to His Beloved Guru Shri Swamiji. The bhajans continued and as per tradition the devotees lined up to perform pada puja to Shri Babaji on this auspicious occasion. Later, Shri Babaji addressed the crowd emphasizing that sadhana is required to attain Peace and that one should always consider how valuable time is and not waste it. Babaji then offered shradhanjali (tributes) to His Guru in the form of a song, after which devotees sang their own birthday tribute to Shri Babaji. Following Aarati to Shri Swamiji and Shri Babaji, Babaji cut the birthday cake and the crowd went up one by one to convey their pranams and receive blessings from the Yogi. All devotees gathered were also fed as is the tradition in Shri Swamiji’s Mission. Next day a trip was organized to Haridwar for a dip in the Ganges and later a beautiful Satsang took place on its banks. Devotees were in tears when the programs came to their natural end and it was time to bid farewell to one another and their beloved Master.