March 2015 By Shivi Verma Shivi Verma visits the LOTUS dedication ceremony in Coimbatore, and comes back with the insight that gurus keep working for their disciples even after passing away Leaders of all faiths inside the sanctum sanctorum of the LOTUS shrine There are ways and ways of celebrating the birth centenary of great souls, but there was only one perfect way to commemorate the birth anniversary of the venerable Swami Satchidananda, founder of Integral Yoga, and one of the great spiritual teachers of our time. One of Swamiji’s most laudable achievements was the construction of the LOTUS (Light Of Truth Universal Shrine) in Yogaville, Virginia, USA, a unique interfaith place of worship with altars for all religions. Swamiji, a staunch supporter of interfaith initiatives, had said, “All the religions coming together, respecting each other is yoga in religion. To bring the religions together is LOTUS.” He had prophesized that someday, there would be LOTUS shrines all over the world. And on his 100th anniversary on December 22, 2014, the second LOTUS was inaugurated in Chettipalayam, Tamil Nadu, where he was born. As my plane landed in Coimbatore the night before, I was whisked off from the airport in a luxury car. The invitation and the next day’s programme was handed to me on reaching the hotel. I was given the keys to my plush room, and requested to attend the release of a special Cover and postal stamp on Swami Satchidananda the next morning at the Integral Yoga institute. Lotus Natya by the students of Satchidananda Jothi Niketan, Mettupalayam Along with other visitors from America and Europe, I was conveyed to the venue by a mini bus. I encountered many familiar faces from the Life Positive fraternity, including Life Positive president, DR Kaarthikeyan, the acupressure maestro, Ketan Shah, and Sunyogi Umashankar. There were a host of dignitaries and disciples from all over the world. including countries like Italy, UK, Taiwan, Bali, USA, and Thailand. The stage was taken over by some of the pillars of the organisation, Swami Lalitananda, Swami Anubhavananda, Mr OA Bala Subramaniyam, Swami Karunananda, and K Ramasamy, managing trustee of the Swami Satchidananda Foundation. Manju Pillai, Post Master General of the Western Region, released the stamp with great pride. She said, “Stamps are called paper ambassadors. They carry their message all over the world. Whenever anything big happens the postal department is the first to come up with a stamp.” Extolling the contribution of Swami Satchidananda, DR Karthikeyan said, “Dr Dean Ornish said that he owes his knowledge of self-healing to Swami Satchidananda.” Said Swami Anubhavananda, “Swami Satchidananda is a centre whose circumference is infinite.” After the ceremony was over people thronged the stall to purchase the stamp and the postal covers. From there we moved to the main venue where the LOTUS dedication ceremony was to take place. A big ornate archway made of leaves, fruits and flowers, and a broad underlying red carpet welcomed the devotees effusively. Some posed beneath it to take selfies and group pictures. Inside the pandal, a stage was set for the inauguration and other cultural events to take place. The thronging crowd was composed of more foreigners than Indians. “Swami Satchidananda’s maximum work was in America and other countries; naturally people over there are more familiar with him,” said Jitender Baldev, a devotee from Hyderabad. A choir comprising Indians and foreigners began to sing, ‘Truth is one, paths are many,’ and ‘Om Sachidananda Guru.’ On the right side one could glimpse the unfurled pink lotus petals of the temple. Shaped after a semi open lotus, the LOTUS is an exact replica of the LOTUS temple of Yogaville, Virginia. His Excellency, the governor of Tamil Nadu, Dr K Rosaiah, launched the proceedings by lighting the lamp, along with delegates of all faiths. He also launched the HH Swami Satchidananda Centenary Drinking Water Scheme. The book, Swami Satchidananda: A Yoga Masters’s early Days in India and Sri Lanka, written by Mr DR Kaarthikeyan was also released on the occasion. One by one, all the leaders of various faiths spoke about their religion, their unifying beliefs, and their contribution to humanity. As the solemn ceremony concluded in dance and celebration, I sneaked into the temple to see it for myself. Its base was circular, and carried the images, symbols, holy books, deities and sacred sayings of all religions of the world in separate wall-fixed glass enclosures. Foreigners were taking particular delight in clicking pictures of their own religious symbols. A spiral staircase led up to the first floor where a beautiful view awaited the onlooker. Manicured lawns and fountains emerging from lotus petals, and waterways simply took my breath away. On entering the dome, I saw a pillar of light emerging from the centre of the room, rising to the roof, and splitting into a myriad smaller channels that tapered down the arching walls, in a vivid depiction of the many paths to truth. Devotees sat at the end of these light channels and meditated. As I went down the ramp, I took in the pictorial biography of Swami Satchidananda on the walls of the newly constructed house built for this purpose. Swami Satchidanandaji, then named C K Ramaswamy, was the son of Sri Kalyanasundaram Gounder, an acclaimed poet, and Tamil scholar. He showed his precocity by giving talks on spiritual matters in the midst of stalwarts at the age of seven. He dabbled in science, agriculture, management and the life of a householder before becoming a renunciate after the death of his wife. In 1949 inside the Vashista Cave, Rishikesh, he had an enlightenment experience. In 1966, Sri Swamiji left for the West and sowed the seeds of classical yoga traditions at a time when America was going through the flower power revolution. He worked tirelessly to promote interfaith harmony through means like interfaith dialogue, interfaith worship service, interfaith ministry and an interfaith kirtan. The dome with the light pillar, symbolizing the many paths to truth Teary-eyed devotees talked about the influence of Swami Satchidananda on their lives. Said Swami Priyananda, an elderly female disciple of Satchidananda from the USA. “I met Swamiji in 1972. I knew that he would always be truthful. I liked the essence of his philosophy, which was that there is only one truth but many paths. Christianity said that unless I did what it said, I would go to hell. I never believed that. Swamiji said that all paths led to the same source. For me he was Christ himself.” Said Swami Saradananda, another woman disciple, “It is hard to capture the essence of Swamiji in words. It was just his presence, and you felt the presence of God when with him. His way of teaching was very individualistic.” Swami Satchidananda may have passed away but he lives in the hearts of his disciples who are committed to spreading his message all over the world, and having the LOTUS bloom everywhere.
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