Life - Ananda ever after
by Chitra Jha
In 2008, our younger son, Shurjo, decided to become a yogi after reading Paramhansa Yogananda’s epic book, Autobiography of a Yogi. His logic was, “Why should I settle for anything but the highest?” He was 20 years old, a third-year student in the National Institute of Fashion Technology at that time.
True to his word, he joined Ananda Sangha as an aspiring monk, the day he was done with his degree. People often questioned us about his strange ‘occupation,’ but I was extremely happy with his chosen way of life, dedicated to God. I was also happy about his ‘brahmachari’ status. He was a special boy, and I could not see any girl matching up to him. All mothers suffer from the syndrome; no one can ever be a fitting match for their offspring. I was no exception.
After three years of a blissful and very rewarding life, in August 2012, he suddenly declared (sudden for us; he had been mulling over it for quite some time, unknown to us) that he was renouncing his brahmachari vows, and getting into a relationship. The moment he mentioned the name of his love-interest, my smile broadened (and has stayed there ever since). He had finally found his match – or perhaps much more than that!
I remembered the very first day, in 2009, when Shurjo and I had gone to Pune to attend Ananda Sangha Community’s land ceremony (bhoomi-pooja). Since we were completely new to the whole set-up, we asked around if we could be of any help, and a very pretty Spanish girl had asked us to place some candles around the altar. At that time, a thought had flashed in my mind, ‘I hope Shurjo finds one such girl for himself, and forgets all about being a brahmachari.’ After three plus years, he was mentioning the name of the very same girl, Narayani, as the reason for his ‘life-altering decision’, as he put it.
Things happened in fast-forward after that, and before any one of us could make out what exactly was happening, a wedding date was fixed for October 6, 2012.
The ultimate wedding
I, for one, am completely uninterested in pomp and show at a wedding. In 1984, my husband and I had been married in a simple ceremony, having taken the decision to wed just the night before our wedding day. So, I was more than relieved when Shurjo and Narayani talked about a simple, private wedding ceremony. They called it ‘The Ananda Wedding Ceremony.’
To quench my curiosity, Shurjo shared the ‘Expansive Marriage’ script with me. As I read the script, written by Swami Kriyananda, my definition of the ‘ultimate wedding’ underwent a change.
All that was needed for the ceremony, was a pair of long stemmed roses – one red and one white, materials like earth (mitti), water, incense and a small fire-pot, rings, and rose petals. (Can it get simpler than that?) Since this couple wanted the whole ceremony to be extremely private (there were just 10 of us in attendance), the ceremony was streamed live for the rest of the family and friends.
The ceremony began with a hymn sung by one of the wedding ministers and the rest of the congregation. The beautiful hymn (translated from Bengali into English by Paramhansa Yogananda), set the tone for the 30-minute ceremony. As the couple knelt before the altar displaying pictures of their lineage of gurus, I could feel the blessings flowing in all directions.
A Khalil-Gibran-like brief talk on the subject of marriage followed. It was so appropriate as this couple hopes to work for a much larger cause than their personal happiness. When the ministers asked us to meditate, praying for God’s blessings on the occasion,
I could literally feel the divine presence showering its grace.
The exchange of roses was interesting. The roses were offered upon the altar and placed crosswise; the red rose symbolising the ardour of faithful devotion, over the white rose symbolising purity. The shape of the cross, thus made, signified the couple’s willingness to accept all trials with joy and faith in God, along with the resolution to give each other the strength to love Him ever more deeply. After a small silent prayer, the groom took the red rose in his right hand and placed it in the bride’s right hand, repeating after the minister, “Dear beloved, I offer you this rose as a symbol of my love for you, a love inspired by God, and offered to you as a channel of His love.” The bride repeated the same words with the white rose in her right hand, placing it in the groom’s right hand. The ceremony of the elements began with the wedding minister saying, “In all things see the hand of God, and seek, through them, his blessings on your union.” He placed some earth on the couple’s forehead and said, “From rocks and earth, seek steadfastness in love.”
The other minister sprinkled a little water on their heads and said, “From water and all liquid things, seek the grace to flow through life in harmony, without attachment, and in a spirit of acceptance and co-operation.” The first minister held a few sticks of smouldering incense between the couple and said, “From air and sweet fragrances, seek pure freedom from all thoughts of ‘I’ and ‘mine’.” The second minister lit the sacrificial fire and said, “From rising fire seek the understanding that human love must ever aspire toward the heights of perfect, divine love.” The first minister added, “In fire see also a symbol of the unifying power of God’s love, uniting your separate flames of life in His one, infinite light. Offer your lives up into the fire of that love.”
The couple offered a stick of wood into the flames and repeated, “I offer myself up to thee. Burn up and purify my limitations.” They cast a handful of rice into the fire and repeated, “Destroy in me the seeds of earthly desire.” They poured a little ghee into the flames and said, “Accept my pure aspiration to be one with thee.”
Then they held each other’s hands, knelt before the altar, and offered vows to God, repeating after the minister, “Beloved Lord, we dedicate our lives to thee, our service, and the love we share. May the communion we find with one another lead us to inner communion with thee! May the service we render one another perfect in us our service of thee! May we behold thee always enshrined in one another’s forms! In every test of love, may we see thy loving hand! In any disagreement, may we seek thy hidden guidance! May our love not be confined by selfish needs, but give us strength ever to expand our hearts until we see all human beings, all creatures as our own. Teach us to love all beings equally, in thee.”
They stood up, placed their right hands together above the fire – while the ministers covered their joined hands with their right hands – and addressed each other, “Dear beloved, I will be true to you as I pray always to be true to God. I will love you without condition, as I would be loved by you, and as we are ever loved by God. I will never compete with you; I will cooperate for our own, and for all others’ highest good. I will forgive you always and under all circumstances. I will respect your right to see truth, as you perceive it, and to be guided as you feel deeply within yourself. And I will work with you always, in freedom, to arrive at a common understanding. All that we do, may we do for God’s glory. May we live and grow together in his love and joy. May the offspring of our union, whether human children or creative deeds, be doorways of the inspiration we feel from him, through each other! May our love grow ever deeper, purer, more expansive, until, in our perfected love, we find the perfect love of God.”
The exchange was so beautiful and touching, I found myself seeking my husband’s hand, and repeating the vows along with the couple – renewing our own sacred bond.
The couple exchanged the rings, and our son repeated after the minister, “I, Shurjo, take thee, Narayani, as my wife, to love, to serve with joyful harmony, and to honour all the days of my life.” She repeated, “I, Narayani, take thee, Shurjo, as my husband, to love, to serve with joyful harmony, and to honour all the days of my life.”
The minister pronounced, “In the name of God and the great masters of all religions, I pronounce you married in the eyes of man and of God.” The couple embraced and planted kisses on each other’s forehead. The minister added, “May the blessings of God and his holy saints be with you all the days of your lives. Go with the blessings, also, of all of us here assembled,” and showered the couple with rose petals, as symbol of divine blessings.
My 80-year-old mother, who watched the entire ceremony sitting about 2000 kilometers away, in the comfort of her home, exclaimed, “This is the way to get married in the New Age. It feels just right.” I could not agree more – it felt just right and continues to feel right.
A ‘brahma-chari’ (a male, who abides in Brahma), wed a ‘brahma-charini’ (a female, who abides in Brahma), to create a perfect whole.
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