On the second evening at the Svami Gitananda Ashram in Italy, Svami Yogananda Giri gathered all the mathavasis together to meet with us in a hall. He
invited Paramacharya Sadasivanathaswami to give a talk to them all. It was clear that this was a rare event in their life and each one was yogicly attentive.
Paramacharya spoke about the centrality of paramparai and the paramount importance of the guru-shishya relationship. He offered that the monks here are blessed to live a traditional life with a remarkable guru, then added that Swamiji is also blessed, for it is not easy to gather together such dedicated and competent monks. Swamiji laughed heartily. Details of our Kauai monastery and mission were briefly mentioned at Swamiji's request and then Paramacharya addressed the younger monks, all seated on the left. He spoke of the importance of a life without conflict and conveyed the message that Gurudeva would always tell another monastic order when invited to speak to them: "Obey your guru… Obey your guru… Obey your guru."
He also shared about how we maintain harmony in our monastery through such practices as settling all disagreements before sleep, something Gurudeva mandated that we follow strictly, and which works very well for us. Harmony isn't a given, even in a monastery. Our monks--and theirs--are intelligent, strong-minded people, and sometimes naturally we bump up against each other a bit and hurt feelings are caused.
It is through living together in a community, as a spiritual brotherhood, that our karmas come up to be resolved. And if we don't resolve them, we're not doing our job as monks. Gurudeva asserted that spiritual work cannot be done when there is conflict in the air. And unresolved experiences go into the subconscious mind only to fester and result in greater problems later on. Thus, harmony has to be worked at to be maintained. the young ones smiles and quick glances to each other told of their knowing.
Svamiji clearly liked the topic (not one any other visitor would dare explore) and even though it was made clear that we were not suggesting that they follow our model, the look in Svamiji's eyes told that he was seriously thinking about what was said!
At the end, to our surprise, Svamiji approached with shawls and gifts for the traveling swamis. We gifted him with a special Rudraksha mala made by the Wailua Mission (ten were made and have been our gift of choice throughout).
The parallels between our two orders, even with the monks being almost all female (17 out of 20) at the Italian monastery and all male at the Kauai monastery, are remarkable. They work through their publications to educate Italians and Italian Hindus about Hinduism, to dispel myths and misinformation. They divide up the work at the monastery so that not any one person is responsible for too many areas, just like us; they have a grounds group, a publications group, an administration group, a temple group.
They also work with the Italian government through the Italian Hindu Union that they helped found, in order to advocate for proper recognition and treatment of Hindus in this old, conservative country inside of which the Vatican is located. Just this year they accomplished something enormous: full recognition of Hinduism as a religion. Thus, starting next year when the new law goes into effect, Hindu marriages will be recognized in Italy, along with all the customary benefits typically afforded an officially recognized religion. This achievement is enormous and will transform the lives of every Hindu in Italy in the years ahead.
We hope you're enjoying reading about this unusually parallel group of Western-born monks as much as we enjoyed visiting with them. More tomorrow of their temple sadhanas.
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