We Visit the Golden Temple

On the morning of November 10, we were invited to attend Shree Jayendrapuriswami's daily Sri Chakra puja, an elaborate two-hour puja made fascinating by two young boys, barely 8 and 10, who handed each item to Swami in perfect timing and grace.

As we were departing, Swami took us up to the roof, where he has installed a solar field and a solar steam generator which used four 9-foot-in-diameter concave mirrors. The steam is the main energy for his kitchen. We departed Bengaluru with Senthil and Thurai heading to Sripuram in Vellore to visit Shakti Amma and her Golden Temple. 

We tour the massive complex, beginning with an anthill where Narayani Amma had a profound spiritual awakening at the age of 16. Then off to several temples. Finally we reach the Golden Temple, a breath-taking gem sitting in a spiritual garden and surrounded by a 1.5 kilometer six-sided prakaram that we follow to reach the sanctum at the enter. The guide tells us it cost 300 crores of rupees. The full story of this spiritual oasis and its remarkable founder was published in the January 2011 issue of Hinduism Today. 

At 9pm we are taken to meet Narayani Amma, offering a gift of Hawaiian Macademia nuts and a terabyte drive containing nearly a million palm leaves that we digitized two years back Amma tells us, with a big smile, that this is the "the best gift Amma has received all year," then asks lots of questions about how we achieved this important feat. Lots of questions followed about our life at the monastery, every detail seems important to Amma: when we wake up, how and what we eat, how do the kulams work and more.

We joined Amma for a "light dinner" that will take care of our breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next day as well! 

The next morning we attended Sri Puram's daily cow puja. We note how much cows have been present in our travels, probably because at the outset we were faced with the journey and decided to go for it. After saying aloha to Senthil and Thurai, we are greeted by Nellaiappan who takes us  off to Chennai, writing this report on the highway. 

We conclude with this recent news report which shows that the Indian government itself is taking cow protection seriously:

Modi Govt. launches $107,000,000 project to protect Indigenous cows.
Towards fulfilling the Bharatiya Janata Party's poll promise to protect the cow and its progeny, the Government on Monday announced the Rashtriya Gokul Mission to protect the ‘indigenous' breeds.

Our Visit to Kailash Ashram

[Seeking forgiveness for the typing here, as the post was composed on an Indian road in sometimes wild traffic]

The family gathers at dawn in the shrine room for a short tutorial by Yoginathaswami, who gives them detailed insights into the Atmarta Puja which they perform each day as part of their diksha sadhanas. The puja follows and a true South Indian breakfast.

Off for a day and night at Kailash Ashram and our dear brother Shree Jayendrapuri Swami, successor to the great guru and Maha Swami, Trichyswami, whom Gurudeva loved so deeply. We are greeted with such love and taken on a long tour, shown the new Rajagopuram work, the Trichyswami Temple of Health (an amazing pyramidal healing center they are building), and more. Swami is erecting a pyramid shaped building which will serve his medical center. It is exactly 1/5 the size of Egyptian pyramid, 151 feet on a side and 90 feet tall. Inside the ashram he is building and has almost completed another smaller (45 feet on a side) pyramid for meditation within the monastery. 

We are then taken to the head of the ashram, Jayendrapuri Swami, whose love of his Guru is legendary and who is masterfully evolving every aspect of the ashram. We are a bit stunned by the scope of the work they have undertaken and the commitment to perfection in every detail.

Swami has responded to our call for help, with the design and fabrication of a golden crown for the Swayambhu Spatika Lingam, and introduces us to Alagapa Raja and his father. Raja has been a devotee and jeweler for the Ashram for 30 years. Swami directs us to adjourn to our cottage and work out the details for the crown, which we do.

The moment I present the vision, Raja pulls a pair of scissors from nowhere and cuts a shape which becomes the crown, proceeding immediately to draw the designs. We tell him which gems are Agamically associated with which of Siva's faces, and he masterfully incorporates it. Amazing to see such a gifted artist at work. I give him the title of Gold Sthapati and he smiles appreciatively.

We are called back to Swami. He wants to see and approve the drawing, and then he himself hands over the first offering of gold for the project. He approves, and Raja is thrilled that within an hour we have accomplished such a complex task together.

Swami suggests we rest a bit (translation, we take time for catching up with email). Around 5 pm we meet Swami again, then attend his daily evening puja to Shree Rajarajeswari. Afterwards we are entertained by padashala boy performing a tabla and flute concert! (they were actually practicing). Swami joined us to enjoy the concert. At the end, Swami and boys chanted Siva Mahima Stotra beautifully!

We had dinner with Swami and retired. In the morning we again are invited to his private nitya puja, performed with such grace and detail. Two boys, ages 7 and 10, perform a virtual dance as they assist Swami with the many details of this two-hour puja to Sri Chakra. After breakfast, Swami take us up to the top of the buildings, to show his solar field and his steam-producing system (four giant mirrors) that provide all the steam for cooking. He is setting high standards here. With arms filled with gifts and hearts filled with shared purpose and Swami's blessings, we set off, with Senthil and Thurai, for the four-hour drive to Vellore, where the famed Golden Temple awaits us.

Jai Gurudeva! Jai Trichyswami!

Siddhaganga Mutt

The Rajasankara family has a beautiful shrine room which follows Gurudeva's ideals: a central room decorated better than any other in the home, kept pure and immaculately clean. They asked Yoginathaswami to hold the morning atmarta puja, which he did for two days. There were leisurely moments each day for the swamis to "talk story" with the family and share informally, interspersed with Kanmani's world-class cuisine.

The first afternoon five Master Course students came to the home to meet for two hours with the swamis to talk about the spiritual path. Lots of good questions came, questions about commitment, about affirmations, about meditation. I showed the 15-minute Keynote that will be presented on November 21st at the World Hindu Congress in New Delhi, a rehearsal that proved useful as several little errors were discovered.

On November 8th we drove to the Siddhaganga Mutt, a 1,200-year-old monastery that today is a strong educational institution, with over 10,000 students, several colleges and technical schools.

This is the home of our 2013 Hindu of the Year, and we have come to personally hand the Renaissance Award to Siddhaganga Swami. It's a great privilege, especially since swami is 107 years old (108 in April we are told). Swami is seated in a small office right off the road, bent with age but alert and radiant.

We offer a large tray containing 18 kinds of flowers that Jayendrapuri Swami has sent with us, and give Swami the plaque and a copy of the magazine. To our amazement he opens it and begins to read the articles, without glasses!

We tour the complex and meet the successor. See details in the photo captions.

Bengaluru Worksite

The Rajasankar family came out to greet us as we arrived in Bengaluru, welcoming us with loving smiles and flowers. Off to their home which is the headquarters for Iraivan carving here in India. After an arati by Yoginathaswami, we feasted on real food, which is ontologically different from hotel food.

At the site stones are everywhere, mountains of stones, rows of stones, stacks of stones. A long tour ensues, and some of the photos are in the slideshow.

Worksite & the Mutt

We began or first morning in Bengaluru with a meeting with long-time journalist R. Kesava Mallia who has written for Hinduism Today since 2002. It was only our second meeting in all those years, and much was discussed about articles for the future. He is a life-coach for major Indian institutions, and a Vedanta teacher as well.

One of our primary tasks here in India is to visit the Iraivan carving site and work with Jiva our manager, Selvanathan, our master builder, and the silpis. Several hours were spent on the projects, which include our Perimeter Wall (the most time-consuming part of Iraivan still to do), and smaller works.

Details were discussed about the panels that will display scripture, the history of the temple and Gurudeva quotes and insights. This is a happening place, with remarkable talent. It is, we are told, the one place in all of India where the highest quality granite carvings are found.

After a seven-course lunch prepared by Kanmani, Swapna and Nisha, we were off to Chunchunagiri Mutt, amazed by the fine roads here in Karnataka, as good or better than California's small highways.

The new head of the mutt is Shree Swami Nirlalanandanatha, successor to Balaganganathaswami who was so close to Gurudeva and such an essential supporter of Iravan.

We were not prepared for the magical evening that unfolded. Turned out (we were not aware) this was Purnima, and on this full-moon night each month Swami does a Siva Puja and Homa and then leads a massive procession around the mountain, fully four kilometers. Most go on foot, but we were invited to sit in Swami's seven-steed silver chariot. Drums and nagaswarams played all the way, boys danced furiously and all enjoyed darshan of their Satguru. We were taken to the Bhairava Temple (Bodhinatha and I were here for the Kumbhabshikam years back), and had sweet moments with Swami afterwards in his private quarters. We took note that the silver throne we had made for Balaganganathaswami in Nepal was his favorite chair.

Swami is the leader of one of the nation's most important maths, and one can see by all of the construction underway here that he is dynamically building the institution. A residential school for an additional 5,000 students (free to the poor) was just being painted and readied for the next semester.

Quite an adventure for Yoginathaswami and I, both a bit overwhelmed by it all.

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