Enlightened Living ‘Walking the Inner Path’
an Intensive Residential Retreat based on Upanishads & Bhagavadgeeta
WHEN 15th to 30th November, 2015
WHERE Centre for Inner Resources Development (CIRD) Jamshedpur
From 15th November to 30th December, Swami Nirviseshananda Tirtha conducted the third annual residential retreat for pre-registered participants (in the age-group 25 to 50). This unique programme is intended to give serious spiritual seekers an experiential insight into the vast spiritual treasure of India contained in the Upanishads and Bhagavadgeeta and learn how to apply Vedantic knowledge to attain excellence, peace and fulfilment.
Fourteen participants from different parts of India and abroad stayed at the Centre for Inner Resources Development (CIRD) for two weeks. They were heartily hosted by a core group of dedicated devotees from Jamshedpur who offered their loving service at the Centre, enabling each day of the retreat to be a valuable and enriching experience for all.
On 14th Nov, the inaugural evening, participants and devotees were welcomed by beautiful devotional singing of bhajans followed by special bhakti-bhog (vegetarian feast). Nutan Swamiji commenced his discourse, speaking about the significance of the great knowledge treasure that has been the cultural back-bone of the country: “We should feel blessed to have inherited the lofty thoughts and discoveries recorded in the eternal literature, and handed down through generations by the lineage of realized Teachers. We are not aware that it is due to this stock of the eternal knowledge and the inner power generated by the seekers who lived this knowledge, that our civilization is still surviving.”
The following day after morning prayers and breakfast, Nutan Swamiji started the daily Upanishadic class in an intimate setting exclusively for retreat participants. They were exposed to the lofty dimensions of Nachiketa’s mind and intelligence that made the little lad of Kathopanishad a rare and deserving seeker of Brahmavidya. Knowledge from books and lectures is easy to gain, but absorption and realization of the knowledge is possible only if a seeker has the requisite qualities, the saadhana chatushtaya, in ample measure. The mythological story illustrates through Nachiketa’s behaviour the real meaning of each of these four-fold qualities.
Immediately after morning class, participants did silent introspection, writing their understanding of concepts presented and evaluating their own personality. Spending time everyday in focused introspection was found to be beneficial:
“…Before attending the retreat the concept or practise of looking within was overlooked or forgotten. I was doing it initially but couldn’t progress, or rather I misunderstood it so had given up.”
“…The stay at CIRD is different from life at home and work. I had lots of time to look into myself and make changes.”
“… The purpose of opening up to share one’s inside is beneficial indeed.”
In the afternoon, there was a Sanskrit chanting class. First participants were introduced to pronunciation of the Sanskrit alphabet and then learnt to chant both in a group and individually from the 15th Chapter of Bhagavadgeeta. This chapter was particularly useful because it is chanted in the Annakshetra (dining-hall) before taking lunch and dinner. Participants shared their enthusiasm for Sanskrit chanting at the end of the retreat:
“… Sanskrit chanting classes have given me hope, inspiration and encouragement to learn Sanskrit and uncover the treasures the language hosts.”
“… I could never imagine the progress that I could make in 15 days.”
“... Sanskrit chanting was something very new for me. I would never have picked it up properly if I did not attend the retreat. I will continue to practice chanting every day.”
Part of the afternoon session included an in-depth study of saadhana chatushtaya (the four-fold qualities for a spiritual seeker.) Participants listened to a series of Prabhaata Rashmih (morning talks by Poojya Swamiji) explaining each quality, and also read Maa’s articles with practical examples of titiksha (forebearance), vairagya (dispassion) and viveka (discrimination). The Ashramites who were present discussed with the participants about the difficulties they face in cultivating the virtues, shared insights and day-to-day lessons from their Ashram life.
The spiritual discussions often continued during the evening walk with Nutan Swamiji. This was an informal time when Nutan Swamiji would shed light on various aspects of spiritual life, as well as stories from his childhood (in Jamshedpur). Indeed, the entire 2-week retreat is a rare opportunity for serious aspirants to stay in the close association of a Saintly person and clarify their doubts through discussion and interaction with Nutan Swamiji.
In the evening was a series of public lectures on Bhagavadgeeta Chapter 3 – The yoga of Enlightened Action or Karma Yoga. The emphasis was on how spiritual knowledge can become applicable and beneficial for everybody, and how through proper understanding and introspection we can make our life and interactions “enlightened”. Nutan Swamiji revealed the intricacies of Karma-yoga as a path to expansion, integration and freedom.
Swamiji led listeners deep into the meaning of Sanskrit words through poignant chanting of slokas and cross-reference to various chapters of Geeta as well as other scriptures. Even though we may be familiar with the concept of Karma-yoga, Swamiji explained: “There are various levels of understanding each word in Bhagavadgeeta. I am trying to expose the ultimate transcendental meaning in practical terms so that the words become living experience. It is not an academic study.”
Through this exposition, the synthesis of Karma, Jnaana and Bhakti was understood as a wholesome pursuit to transcend the constrictions of our body-mind personality and expand to the Universal Identity. Nutan Swamiji highlighted the indispensability of “yajna-bhaavanaa” in performing all actions. “Yajna in Bhagavadgeeta means doing whatever to be done with an attitude of sublimating our constricted ego; doing with the awareness that whatever my body-mind personality does is only a part in the universal Yajna of the Supreme Lord.” Swamiji explained that whether we call it “Samatva” or “Yajna-bhaavanaa” or “Surrender”, it means the same “natural state of being” in the ultimate understanding.
As we go through the feedback forms, we understand that the intensive residential retreat was a life-changing exposure for most of the participants:
“…This Retreat has changed my entire belief system .... Till this Retreat, I had never known the supreme importance of mind and intellect for the growth of spirituality... The selfish attitude in doing anything has been challenged and broken into pieces.”
“The retreat was an awakening to the rich treasure of our ancient Indian knowledge which is to be practiced and pursued for a fulfilling and contented life.”
“Clear and penetrating insights, coupled with love and compassion … A life-transforming retreat!”
“Even though I have attended discourses and satsangs before, the clarity of the concepts has become better after this retreat. I now understand the need for intensity of saadhana, sloka chanting and importance of scripture readings.”