A long and leisurely walk through the Spiritual Park to acquaint ourselves with the many additions and improvements since we last visited in 2014. The Park has many visitors, up to 10,000 come here on Ganesha Chaturthi, and many do not know that it was Gurudeva who founded it. So they placed this founder's pavilion right at the front where everyone enters.
The tour was so informative. We were especially impressed with the three new pavilions, designed in Mauritian style with wood and thatch.
A quiet walk through the park:
After a grueling series of flights, from Malaysia to Singapore to Dubai to Mauritius in one lone 25-hour day of airports and long flights, Paramacharya and Tillainathaswami arrived on the island of Mauritius. Senior sishyas greeted us with affection and drove us to a remote cottage right on the beach. It had been nine years since our last visit (delays caused by COVID), so there was much to catch up on. A short rest, then off to an Indian restaurant to share a welcoming meal. Then sleep. Ah, sleep.
Mauritius is an island off the coast of Africa, about 50% larger than Kauai, but with 1.5 million people, 52% being Hindu. It is renowned for its lush forests, white sandy beaches, and volcanic mountain ranges. Notably, it has a significant Hindu population, constituting nearly half of the total residents. This Hindu community profoundly influences the island's culture, festivals and architecture.
Our wandering monks held a Malaysian youth day in Klang, fully orchestrated by Sivajnani Nagappan. It was a sweet event, conducted at the Iraivan Illam (home), a Saiva sanctuary and cultural center dedicated completely to Gurudeva's mission. It contains shrines, meeting halls, classrooms, kitchen, offices, and more. After an arti by Tillainathaswami, the youth gathered. Parents were sitting at the back, expecting to observe, but Paramacharya (in consultation with the young men and women) excused the parents, explaining that this way the questions for the swamis would be more open and uncensored. Big smiles illumined the faces of the fifteen participants as their parents, with great understanding, left the room.
The program was officially titled "The Power of You." Paramacharya told a few stories and offered some empowering tools for their teen life, based on Gurudeva's life and teachings. These, he said, were divine arrows in their quiver, to be used to face challenges, resolve issues, and meet the craziness of life with joy and wisdom. Many present were involved in sports and dance, so Paramacharya shared insights into how they could develop a core strength of spirituality, just as great athletes follow regimens to strengthen their core muscles. He also stressed ways to awaken and use intuition in life.
Questions followed, with some being shy and others eager to challenge the swamis with tough questions. The two swamis took turns answering. At noon, lunch was served followed by a break.
After the break, things changed. The once-reserved youth came alive with questions, courageously asking about stress in their life, verbal abuse, gaming habits, smut (their word for porn), the value of virginity, how to deal with criticism, and friendships gone wrong. They seemed to enjoy the answers, loudly applauding the swamis if some real insight was offered. Tillainathaswami took them through a simple Shum preparation for meditation session.
To conclude, four sweet Tirumurai songs were sung by one of the girls. The parents were invited back into the room and came forward for vibuthi prasadam, short personal discussions, and photos with the sannyasins.
In his opening statements, Paramachaya read the following poem, written in lesss than a tenth of a second by ChatGPT and untouched by human hands:
In Hawaii's sunny, palm-sway groove,
Two swamis live, always on the move.
They teach of yoga, karma, and love,
In their peaceful monastery, skies above.
"You know," said Swami One with a grin,
"It's time to pack; a journey's to begin!"
Swami Two nodded, "Let's take our show
To lands afar, where oil palms grow."
With orange robes and beads, they flew through sky,
Landing in Malaysia with a heartfelt sigh.
Kids gathered round, a youthful, eager crew,
"Teach us," they said, "what the power of 'you' can do!"
Swami One spoke first, "Harness your will!
Like surfers ride the waves, with skill to instill.
Your life force is sacred, let it not drift away,
Control it, and watch your troubles go way."
"Karma is but energy, your actions make it so,"
Swami Two added, "Learn this and you'll glow.
Use your intuition, be wise and be free,
And you'll float through life like a leaf on the sea."
Boys and girls listened, their eyes shining bright,
Playing soccer later, but now with more insight.
Acing exams, with focus so fine,
Singing hymns of love to God Siva, divine.
Relationships flourished, friendships grew pure,
Each little squabble, they'd easily cure.
"The power of you' is the power of me,"
They chanted in chorus, as grateful as could be.
Swami One and Swami Two, mission achieved, took to the sky,
Off to Mauritius shores, waving Malaysia goodbye.
Yet the tale's not over, for this much is true,
The power of "you" is a magical key that turns every lock you pursue.
Vishvanathaswami and taskforcer Tarun Nathoo planted a special variety of banana by the new Siddhidata Kulam shop. This will provide food, and privacy for the building. Not to mention it will look very beautiful. Thank you Tarun for your hard work!
Saturday morning was a full and fulfilling time with our Malaysian members. All gathered in the home of Rishipati Murugesu and Rishimata Valliamma. Traditional preparations would have made Gurudeva proud, complete with a Tamil-style welcome. Padapuja for Bodhinatha was conducted jointly by Tillainathaswami and the senior kulapatis of the country. There followed stories by Sadasivanathaswami about our beloved Gurudeva, a talk about the chakras, and singing of Natchintanai. Importantly and auspiciously, Poongkodi Vellasamy came forward to become a Vrata Shishya in Saiva Siddhanta Church. It is a deep spiritual commitment, and she had worked hard for years to qualify, bringing her ever closer to the Satguru and the paramparai. A feast followed, and all gathered at the home's entrance for this family photo.
Off the visiting swamis went to a marvelous temple famed for being in an area with lots of judges and lawyers who would go to Ganesha's shrine before their cases to get blessings and guidance.
One of the remarkable thing here is they do 108 or 1008 conch abhishekam everyday! Morning and afternoon! On this day it was 1008. They say there is a siddhar interred beneath a bilva tree trunk that sits right in the temple chamber (it was there before the temple was built and they did not want to remove it, though it is no longer living).
We had been told to expect a small surprise, but it turned out to not be small at all, as you will see in the slide show.
Recently, our traveling Swami's who are currently in Malaysia, woke up early and made their way to Batu Caves before sunrise. This famed pilgrimage site for Lord Murugan is a large natural cave structure in a small mountain, the entrance of which was thought to look like Muruga's Vel.
Our Swami's first stopped at the small Ganesha temple down below. It was still dark when they began their climb up the stairs. Tillainathaswami noted, "I headed up the stairs a few minutes early from the group. It's a good exercise to scale those tall steps and was very much worth the huffing and puffing. Arriving at the top before even the priest, I was able to spend a few serene minutes completely alone in the whole of Batu Caves. Just the cool water dripping off the cave walls and the bat-like chirps of the cave swallows. The monkeys were still asleep. No mumble of people, no music. A very, very special experience. I went up the high steps in the back of the cave and found an overlooking spot at one end of the top step, nestled in a vertical cone-like formation that exaggerated the subtle sounds of the wind as it blew through the heights of the cave. As you may know there is one small opening hundreds of feet up in the main chamber, and a huge opening to the mountain top in the upper chamber, replete with green jungle plants. Sitting in this unique little spot allowed me to hear the softest wind coming through the cave which, in the morning, comes in quiet pulses like a breath or heartbeat. It felt like all the temple-structures and shrines were simply decorations, and that it was actually the cave itself that was Muruga. I meditated there for a long while Paramacharya enjoyed some special meditation time in front of the main shrine—a Vel in the side of the cave. It's an area where the cave walls have been gilded in gold, and a temple built around it. After a long mediation I made my way down to sit there as well. Other Malaysia shishya had arrived, and a beautiful crystal-light-filled alankaram was revealed."
The Muruga that is placed there for the puja was holding two Vels. A silver one and a bronze one. At the end of the puja, the priest took the bronze one from the shrine and gave it to our monks to take back to Kauai. Before leaving, below at a Palani shrine, another bronze Vel was gifted.
After heading down from the cave, talking to the monkeys along the way, our swami's also had a short sit-down with members and then the priest of the small Siva Temple that's there, brought our swamis over for a blessing from the Sivalinga.
Paramacharya and Tillainathaswami held a long morning session with the Malaysian ladiesl It was a time of stories (some never told), sharing, questions and a great Thai veggie lunch at the end. The written questions were anonymous and so all felt free to ask some tough ones: about the karmic implications of imperfect japa (what if I left out one of the 108 names?), how to reincarnate in Hawaii, dealing with difficult people and situations.
As a fun beginning, Paramacharya read a little poem written by ChatGPT with a simple prompt (untouched by human hands):
In Hawaii, two swamis did dwell,
Who knew the ways of Siva quite well.
In Kuala Lumpur, they found women so grand,
With wisdom and power, they took a strong stand.
In worship they did so excel.
Their love for Siva and guru so true,
Brought them together, a spiritually rich crew.
In stories and questions, they all took part,
With devotion and love, they spoke from the heart.
"Blessed are we," they sang, "for this path we pursue."
The Malaysian members were eager to take Paramacharya and Tillainathaswami to a famed temple, one Gurudeva visited often.
The Bricksfield Temple is known for its intricate architecture and lively festivals, a spiritual retreat amidst some serious urban chaos. It offers locals and tourists an intimate glimpse into the soul of the city.
The manager took the swamis around the shrines, and then a puja was performed. One of the main purposes of the visit was then quietly performed (without photography) over near a remote pillar. It was the signing of the "Solemn Aspirations," the first and simplest vows of a monastic candidate. Kodiswara read aloud his pledge to follow the monastic path, and then signed the bookss in the presence of the swamis. The kulapatis then took the monks to a special restaurant, Annalakshmi, run by devotees of the Temple of Fine Arts, which has a section downstairs where food is served and you only pay what you can or want to pay.
A short flight from Singapore brought our swamis to Malaysia to be met by senior kulapatis at the airport. Paramacharya had not visited for several years, and Tillainathaswami had only been inside the airport, not in the country. After a happy reuniion, off we were swept to our hotel which looks out over the city which has about 8 million citizens. We will be here for five days, with opportunities to be with members as our primary goal. Gurudeva came here often and it is easy to feel his presence in the faces of the shishyas who want to talk about Gurudeva, listen to Gurudeva stories and be with other Gurudeva devotees. So we feel right at home.
Archives are now available through 2001. Light colored days have no posts. 1998-2001 coming later.