Archive for the ‘RKM’ Category

Travel to places connected with Sri Ramakrishna

January 7, 2014

For a long time I wanted to go to Kolkata and visit places connected to Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: Belur math, Kamarpukur and Jayrambati.  This became a possibility when a friend called up inviting me for his marriage in Kolkata! I booked tickets but the train was full and I was kept on waiting list (WL).  I could have tried to get the tickets through the emergency booking facility, tatkal but I thought I will leave it to destiny. I will travel only if the tickets get confirmed!  Air travel was possibility but too expensive given my current financial condition. I did not book hotel accommodation thinking that, if at all my train tickets are confirmed, I would stay at an old friend’s house.  I sent a mail to this friend informing of my visit.  This was 21 days before travel.

3 days before travel date my booking status was updated from WL to RAC.  So I could travel but I have to share the berth with another passenger!  There was no mail from my friend with whom I expected to stay in the even that my tickets get booked.  So I call him and tell him that I would be around for 4 days but mostly will be touring places connected to Sri Ramakrishna.  He thinks! and tells me in the most humble way that it will be difficult to accommodate me!   But then he also informs me that Belur math has a guest house and that I could book it.  I did not know about it. There is no information on the Belur Math page about the guest house! I search again but in vain.  He searched and found a page where one could give feedback about the Belur Math website.  In the ‘feedback’ he wrote about my need for a guest room gave my name, email address and phone number.  We decide to wait for a day before taking any other action.  A day later I get a message that my request is forwarded to the Maharaj(Swami) who takes care of matters pertaining to the guest house!  Another day later I get a message from the Maharaj asking me to give arrival and departure details in an attached form.  I am excited. I fill the form. A day left for my travel and no communication from the Maharaj. I consult my friend. We agree that absence of a confirmation mail implies that it is confirmed!  Looking back I can see how optimistically deluded we were.

Location of Belur math guest house

Location of Belur math guest house

The train reached 1 hour late. It is 6:45 in the evening but already dark.  The taxi-wallah takes me to Belur Math and asks where I wanted to be dropped. I had no idea that Belur Math would be such a huge campus.  We went inside the big arch entrance and then I got down thinking I could walk and ask for directions to the guest house.  To my good fortune I crossed a young monk who tells me that if I have not got a confirmation mail then I do not have the guest room.  In fact I am supposed to be carrying a print out of the confirmation! The guest house keeper would not accept me without a printed confirmation letter.  Besides, the procedure is to apply 2 months in advance!

However, since I am single and with only a backpack for luggage the guest house authorities may consider me on compassionate grounds!   The monk takes me to the math office for guest house accommodation.  It is closed. They close at 6:30 pm. Then he takes me to the guest house. It is a small walk outside the math compound on a lane that leads to the ferry ride to Dakshineshwar.  He leaves me at the guest house gate indicating that now it is between me and the guest house keeper.  Here is the google map showing the location of the guest house. It is useful because the guest house building does not have a name board!

As pointed out by the monk, the guest house keeper asked me for a print out of the confirmation e-mail.  I told him I had not received any.  He was visibly unhappy; I did not have a document and I was ignorant of the procedure!  He called up the Maharaj  in-charge of guest house related matters.  I told him I had come from Bangalore, had intimated the math a few days ago about my need for a room, and that I had not received any reply from the math office.  He must have got annoyed,  ‘we also have other works to do’, but quickly recovered and asked me to hand over the phone to the guest house keeper. I was allowed to stay but should vacate the following day.   A single room, probably reserved for monks, was given to me!  I was supremely grateful; I was saved from the trouble of going in search of a guest house that late after 26 hours of train travel. I would have agreed to sleep even in the courtyard!

A board inside the single room accommodation.

Instruction board inside the single room accommodation.

Breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and lunch at 11:30 a.m. are served in the guest house. In the morning I toured the Belur Math campus: temples, museum, Sw. Vivekananda’s room and the place where remains of several of the first disciples were interned.  When I was back for lunch I was told that I was to meet the Maharaj.  Though, it was closing time for the office the Maharaj agreed to meet me immediately because I had decided to pack off late afternoon.  The Maharaj took down my name, searched Microsoft Outlook and gave me the print out of my mail. Then he took asked me to accompany him to meet another monk, his superior.  I sat outside the office, when he went in and spoke to the senior monk.  The senior monk apparently dismissed it; it was not necessary for me to meet him.  There was more good news for me.  I could come back the day after the marriage and another room in some other place could be arranged for me! I was humbled at his efforts to accommodate me even after I had thrust myself on him, though out of ignorance. Truly grateful.

I was back early next day.  The guest house keeper who had by now become friendly gave me the key to a different single room in the same guest house.  I had no sleep the previous night-the marraige got over by 2:30 a.m.  So I slept. A lot.   The guest house keeper told me meet another Maharaj if I wanted to book the car to Kamarpukur and Jayrambati.  But before that I wanted to got Dakshineshwar.  However, by the time I came back from Dakshineshwar it was time for the prayer in main temple at Belur Math.  The office closed by the time I was out of prayer hall.   When I returned to the guest house for dinner the keeper was annoyed that I did not meet the Maharaj. How was I to go now? I pleaded. He spoke to the Maharaj and yet again he obliged,  ‘was I ok with joining 3 others in the car to Kamarpukur the next morning?’  Of course, I was. The Maharaj also suggested I stay at Kamarpukur. The accommodation in Kamarpukur could be arranged!

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa source:

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

The car was ready at 7:00 a.m.  The 3 others were a devotee, his mom and nephew from Andhrapradesh. The driver was good at conversation and regaled me with stories related to Sri Ramakrishna’s life.  He was driving devotees since 1974! and knew Ramakrsishna’s life story like the back of his palm.  Among other things he told me the story of Rani Rasmani, which is not in the Gospel (at least not in the English version).  We reached Kamarpukur at 11:00 a.m. after a break for tea-the best tea I had in my 5 day trip, on the way.

The Maharaj in-charge of the Kamarpukur math was happy to note that I had a research background,  ‘more students should pursue science’.  He was aware that the nation highest honour, Bharat Ratna, was conferred upon the leading scientist Prof. CNR Rao.  I informed him that it was possible now to do good research because more funds are allocate for research. ‘Yes, but it is not enough.’ I was surprised.  It is the first time I heard a non-scientist saying that more funds should be allocated for research.  Usually it is the scientists who complain of the lack of funds.  There were others waiting to meet him.  So we decided to meet again but for now I was allotted a room usually reserved for monks!  I was given a special lunch coupon with VIP written on it!  It being a weekend a large number of people would queue for lunch. With the coupon we could skip the queue. It did help me save time.  It was unbelievable. Having a degree in research can also be an advantage. Who could have thought in India!

In Kamarpukur, after seeing the Jogi Shiva temple, Haldarpukur (the pond) and the main temple, which is built in the place where Sri Ramakrishna was born, we went to Jayrambati a few kilometers away.   Holy mother was born here and spent several years after the passing away of Sri Ramakrishna.  We attended the evening prayer there and were back before dark to Kamarpukur.  I spent the evening until dinner in the prayer hall where a Maharaj was reading from the Gospel. It was in Bengali language; I tried to follow the language but soon realised that I cannot understand beyond the simple pleasantries in Bengali.

Places to see in Aantpur. Board in Aantpur math

Places to see in Aantpur. Board in Aantpur math

The next day we had breakfast and started for Aantpur as suggested by the driver. It was in Aantpur that the idea of starting the Ramakrishan math and misson occurred to Swami Vivekananda.  The Maharaj in-charge of Aantpur math offered us fruits and asked to leave only after having lunch.  We saw Swami Premananda’s house (now belonging to the math) and the dhuni (fire place) where Swami Vivekananda along with other monks decided on the idea of the math and mission.  We then went behind the house to see the pond that was used by Swami Vivekananda.  There seemed to be ponds everywhere and in fact all along from Howrah to Kamarpukur and Jayrambati.  Having spent my childhood in a relatively dry region of Maharashtra I found this much water beyond imagination.

I was back in Belur by early evening.  There was time enough to visit the Kali temple at Dakshineshwar once more.  But before that I met the Maharaj, who had arranged the car, and paid the car charges.  My stay and food in the guest house at Belur Math and Kamarpukur and food at Aantpur was free!  I donated modest amounts for my own satisfaction in all these places.

  • I have not included descriptions of the places here.  Please read here and here for exhaustive and minimal information, respectively of both the places.
  • There is a private lodge in Kamarpukur.  It looks good though I haven’t checked the rooms. Here are the details: Relax Lodge, Ph. no. 03211 244699
  • On a walk around the Belur Math compound I came across a good lodge near the main gate. The rooms are good. They even have AC. It is called ‘Om Plaza’ , Ph. no.  26540378
  • If you want accommodation in the math guest house please contact the math office 2 months in advance.  The guest house is available for devotees. It helps if you come with a recommendation from a monk. For instance, if you are from Chennai you should have met or known the Maharaj in the Ramakrishna Math in Chennai.

Water Divination

November 23, 2013

I joined a cousin in inspecting a land to be purchased. Well…not inspection but just to see that the land is physically present and not just on paper. A friend’s acquaintance owned the land. He knew the place and was taking us there in his jeep. We crossed the city limits and were on the highway for nearly 2 hrs when we took a diversion. The road was bumpy and so time slowed.  After an hour or so we were on a narrow road that went between fields and land that was not cultivated.  Our friend spotted a stone and a barren tract along side the road and identified that as the beginning of the land under consideration!


One view of the tract of land we visited. The branch rotated near the trees seen in the far end of this photograph.

We got down and walked along. In the distance and much nearer on our left were hillocks. Some trees and wild grass interspersed the land. The land was arable but the soil had little pieces of rock mixed in it.  Suddenly, our friend pulled out a branch from a nearby tree. The branch was Y-shaped. He held one arm of the branch in his left hand and the other in his right.  He now walked back a little distance, turned, and started walking towards us with the branch loosely held in his hands and the tip pointing outward. As he walked the branch started rotating in his hand! I couldn’t believe my eyes. If one were to rotate it manually/physically one would have to twist the wrists. It would be a tedious task if at all it was possible! I tried it. As a matter of fact he had not even gripped the arms of the branch. Each arm was light held in the circle/tubular cavity formed by the curving of the fingers in the palm; like when you hold a bicycle arm.  My cousin thought he would give try. He took the same branch and walked the same path.  The branch did not rotate but he felt it trying to wriggle in his palm as if to rotate. He was holding a bit too tight. The friend showed it again. I was skeptical. I took another Y-shaped branch from the tree and walked the same path. Nothing. No rotation. No feeling at all from the branch!  Apparently, it happens only with certain people. I don’t have it in me.

The incident stayed in mind until one day when I chanced upon theDSC_0088 book ‘Brihat Samhita’ by Varahamihira in the Ramakrishna Math library. Brihat Samhita is an ancient(~500 AD) encyclopaedic work in Sanskrit which covers various topics of human interest including architecture, medicine, physiology, zoology and other subjects.  The 54th chapter is entitled Dakargalam which means ‘the exploration of water springs’ or ‘water divination’.  There are about 125 Slokas (verses) describing the signs on land of water being present under ground. The depth to which one has to dig for water is also mentioned.  For instance, Sloka 8 says: in a waterless tract if there is a Jambu tree then water will be obtained at a depth of 10 cubits at a distance of 3 cubits to its north. It further describes what one is to expect on digging up to 5 cubits.

Several types of trees, rocks, presence of ant-hills and other such data have been connected to the depths at which water can be found even in desert regions. Simply incredible!  But, there was no mention of a Y-shaped branch, when held in a particular manner, rotating if there was water underground.  I had seen with my own eyes that the branch rotated in our friend’s hands at a moderate speed if not rapidly. And that too only in a particular patch of land. I wish I had taken a video. I looked up YouTube for videos on water divination. there are several where a person with a coconut placed on his palm walked on a tract of land. The coconut stood up where-ever there is water underground. But no video showing what I had seen. The YouTube links are:

The videos show that the coconut stood up on its own, but it is not clear if they dug  there and found water. Did you come across water divination using a branch of a tree? Let me know if you did.

For those interested in Brihat Samhita, the book is available online here.

Kanjilal and Sanyasa Diksha

October 27, 2013

Today at Ramakrishna Math, a junior swami gave the lecture.  The following anecdote is from the notes I took during the lecture.

Kanjilal was a householder devotee of Sri Ramakrishna and frequented the Belur math.  During those visits he spent time conversing with Swami Brahmananda and other monks.  One day he asked Swami Brahmananda for sanyasa diksha. Swamiji told him that sanyasa was not for him. However, he kept asking time and again for sanyasa. Eventually, Swamiji obliged but told him that he would be given the Kaul Sanyasa diksha and not the Dashnami Sanyasa that the Ramakrishna order follows.

The date for the sanyasa was fixed. It was an amavasya. The time was middle of the night or past midnight.  Someone who knew the procedure was called to perform the rituals.  The time to offer the bali came.  However, when the bali was offered out of nowhere two huge jackals came picked the bali and threw it in the ganges river. This was a bad omen. The bali should not be touched by anyone and here it was thrown into the ganges! So the ritual was called off. Swami Brahmananda remarked to Kanjilal that he had warned him that sanyasa was not for him.

However, later after Swami Brahmananda passed away, he got sanyasa under the grace of Holy mother and Swami Sharadananda.



About the category RKM

September 9, 2012

RKM stands for Ramakrishna Math. In the RKM discourses are held in English on Sundays. I attend the discourses whenever i am in town. The posts in this category as essentially stories/anecdotes from the discourses that were new to me. I must admit however that I don’t carry a note book to the discourse. All that i have written here is from my memory. Though i have reproduced it to my best abilities, it is possible that i may have misquoted/misrepresented the words of Swamiji.

Notes and Anecdotes from some discourses

September 9, 2012

It is mentioned in Gospel (english translation of Kathamrit) that Sri Ramakrishna (SRK) used to weigh the hand of a person to know their nature. Swamiji is of the opinion that SRK must be feeling the vibrations rather than the weight of hand to know the extent of the Vairagya in the person. He added that NIMHANS actually has a machine that can film the vibrations in the body.

Once when SRK was traveling in a palanquin when a few robbers attacked it. The palanquin bearers ran to save their lives. SRK came out and and shouted so terribly loud that one robber died on the spot! and the others ran away.

Swamiji narrated the peacock and opium episode. Once SRK with a bunch of kids laughed as soon as M entered. SRK explained the cause of the laughter. A man fed a peacock with opium in the afternoon. The next day at exactly the same time the peacock came back. It had felt the intoxication and returned to have another dose. M too was like that peacock who got intoxicated by SRK and would keep coming to Dakshineshwar.

In 1978 The Hindu carried a news article about a Sadhu from Punjab who lived in a cave. One day he called all his disciples and with them surrounding him sat in meditation. Soon a blue flame, yogagni, arose from within him and consumed his body.  Such a form of giving up one’s body also finds mentions in the purana, where Parvati, unable to bear the insult of Shiva by her father, gives up her body in yogani.

Talking of places being holy Swamiji mentioned the incident about the Ramakrishna Ashrama at Ooty. Swami Shivanada (direct disciple of SRK) went walking around Ooty and at one place he stopped and asked that the ashrama be built there. Apparently, long ago Rishis did tapas there.

Ramakrishna’s first photograph

July 3, 2011

Today during the discourse swamiji narrated how the first photograph came about. Bhavnath, one of his devotees, got the photographer and asked Ramakrishna(RK) if he could take his picture. RK apparently did not like it and went and sat in the radhakrishna temple. Narendra (Vivekananda) happened to pass by and offered to help Bhavnath. He asked him to wait and went in to meet RK. RK, as always, was jubiliant on seeing Narendra. Narendra started asking him difficult questions in advaita. While answering him RK went into samadhi at which point Narendra asked the photographer to take the picture. However, RK’s posture was slightly inclined and the photographer tried to get the posture straight. However, when he tried to do so RK’s body floated up like a piece of paper. Narendra intervened, asked him to not touch and offered to correct the posture. The picture was taken. Later when the picture was shown to RK he was delighted and said that that was how people in a high state of yoga looked like. He added that this picture would be worshipped by lakhs of people. An enlarged version of this picture is in the main worship hall at Bangalore RK math.


October 11, 2010

Yesterday, swamiji narrated the story of JadabhArata.
Most people may know that the name BhArat (or BhArat Varsha ) comes from the great King Bharat who once ruled over India. But what was the name before him? Swamiji noted that before him the country was known as ‘ajanAbhavarsha’. He did not venture into the details of how that name came about.
The Jadabharat story and the former name of Bharat may also be found here.

Redirecting the mind

April 28, 2009

A quote a day by e-mail is an old concept.  Back in India i used to just save them in the ‘to be read’ folder (had different mail id and service then).   However, having been in Seoul for more than an year i find it refreshing to read ‘a quote a day’ from spiritual big shots. Especially Swami Vivekananda, whose quotes carry that extra punch.
You can subscribe to ‘a quote a day from Swami Vivekananda’  here, a site maintained by the Ramakrishna Vedanata Society of Boston.  The site also has many lectures, letters, photographs and more.

Who is Sunda

January 22, 2007

‘da’ in Sunda has to be pronounced as ‘the’ with an aah. 

Swamiji crossed this story in a lecture 2-3 weeks ago; I do not remember how we stumbled on Sunda.

Tataki, the commonly known rakshashi, and Sunda were a gandharva couple with two children.  On Sunda’s demise Tataki with her children takes shelter in Agastya’s ashrama.  It so happens that Tataki misbehaves with Agastya and as a consequence faces his wrath.  He curses her to be a rakshashi. 

The two children of Tataki are none other than the well known Marichi and Subahu.

Lucknow to Mysore

October 29, 2006

Today, a swami from Mysore narrated an interesting event in his promotional talk on Viveka Prabha, a 10 page magazine published by the Mysore ashram.

A person passing by one of the lanes of Lucknow saw at some distance a crowd in heated arguments in front of a house. He suddenly found a book, flung from the house, which landed in front of him. He picked up the book and carried it along. Being ignorant about the book he thought he would give it to someone who may find it useful. This person, when he returned to Mysore handed it over to a Doctor friend. The doctor, not having time for the book, stacked it on her shelf at home. Her son, however, got curious and browsed it now and then. He got interested and started visiting the Ramakrishana math and soon took vows of Brahmacharya. He continued so for ten years,  took sanyasa and went on to head (my guess) the math at Mysore.  The book was, ‘The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna’.

This story was told to the swamiji, in one of the night classes condcuted by the swami in the story above.

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