12 to 15 August 2018, Kanha Shantivanam
Preparation, 12 August 2018
The second international youth seminar at Kanha Shanti Vanam unofficially began on the evening of the 12 August, following the evening group meditation. A wave of excitement ran through the group of over 1,000 young seekers from around the world, who were all joyfully anticipating the coming week. A potency in the wind carried the theme for the seminar, which was The Role of the Seeker in Spiritual Evolution.
We were here to clarify and consolidate the basics of the Heartfulness practice, and cultivate a deeper understanding of the practice and its importance. We were given a chance to intensify our practice and find answers to the questions that kept emerging to curious minds.
A week in the silence of Kanha was a precious opportunity for us to journey inwards and make friends with our inner selves. We were inspired to contribute to the silence of Kanha and not the noise, and special emphasis was given to maintaining silence in every possible way in every activity. Simple acts such as walking or having meals were observed in silence.
To further help with inner silence, we adhered to a Digital Detox, with all electronic devices switched off for the entire seminar. This encouraged us to tune in to nature, listen to the birds and discover oneness with the many beings that call Kanha home.
With a brief set of guidelines provided and the schedule discussed, there was an icebreaker to energize everyone. Then, we centred ourselves to recall our condition and dispersed to prepare for the following day.
Day 1, 13 August 2018
After a beautiful group meditation at 6:30 a.m., Daaji lovingly spoke about how each one of us could benefit from the seminar, and he mentioned that another International Heartfulness Conference for youth was simultaneously being held in Nairobi, Kenya, with over 600 participants.
Daaji released the creative efforts of the organizing team, presenting the seminar Diary and Workbook entitled Weaving Destiny, along with the theme of the seminar, ‘The Role of the Seeker in Spiritual Evolution’. He then asked a young boy to describe the idea of ‘Pay It Forward’.
Pay it forward
We are generally acquainted with the purpose of a diary and its importance in keeping track of our growth spiritually and in all aspects of life. Thus, each one of us could gift the new youth diaries to seekers and acquaintances and thus ‘Pay it Forward’ to them. Buying and gifting someone a diary will give us the utmost sense of happiness, gratitude and satisfaction.
After breakfast, we were taken to different sites across the ashram for volunteer work.
Day 2, 14 August 2018
On the occasion of Pujiya Lalaji Maharaj’s mahasamadhi, Daaji conducted the morning meditation in a beautiful environment, and then remembered the day as one of the landmarks of Sahaj Marg: “Today, 14 August, is a unique day in the history of Sahaj Marg and the Heartfulness Way, rather for the whole of humanity.
“What differentiates Heartfulness from other meditations? It is the uniqueness of Transmission. What is Transmission? There are many references in our ancient literatures to Pranahuti and Pranasya prana and often people mistake this concept for Prana pratishtha or the Shakti path.
“For argument’s sake, when a murthi is established they claim that prana has been infused in the murthi through the practice known as Prana pratishtha. Let’s agree for a moment that it is done properly, and the prana enlivens that particular statue and makes it holy, so that whomsoever bows before it will feel emissions of energy and grace, and will be benefited. Now let’s ask a fundamental question: if someone has the capacity to infuse prana into a statue, should he or she not also be able to infuse prana into a living human being? And we should be able to experience it.
“Anyway, to cut a long story short, there have been many occasions on which Pranahuti has been used to awaken the consciousness of individuals who were ready for it. During the Mahabharata war, Lord Krishna did not recite all those slokas. Instead, he transmitted the essence of the Gita into the heart of unwilling Arjuna through Pranahuti, otherwise where was the time on the battlefield to recite? And how could Arjuna listen at that moment when he was ready to launch such a war? Do you think his consciousness was prepared to sit there and listen to slokas to prepare him for war? It’s not possible. It is through the essence of Pranahuti that his consciousness was elevated to a higher level.
“Similarly, when Swami Vivekananda was desperately after his Guru, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, asking, “Please help me to realize God,” how was he initiated? Ramakrishna Paramahansa asked him to take off his shirt and lie down on the ground, and then Paramahansa touched his chest, the Heart Region, with his left foot and transmitted. It was like an electric shock for Vivekananda, and he was in instant Samadhi for hours. When he came out of it, he requested Paramahansa not to withdraw that state, that consciousness, as he wanted to experience it forever. Ramakrishna Paramhansa said, “No, I have to withdraw it from you, and I will give it back to you when the time comes. Meanwhile you have to work, and serve humanity.” That was Swamiji’s Guru dakshina henceforth, to spread the message of his Guru.
“Pranahuti was in vogue 72 generations before Raja Dasharatha. There was a Rishi who was capable of transmitting, and after that the science of Pranahuti was lost to the Hindus. It was our Adi Guru, Pujya Shri Lalaji Maharaj, who rediscovered the technique of Pranahuti, and started imparting this training to whomsoever came to his place.
“He was born on 2 February 1873 and passed away on 14 August 1931. He declared that while some people can immolate themselves like a moth in a living flame, where is the moth that can immolate itself in a dead flame? Only a living Master can guide you and walk you through various states of consciousness. Sahaj Marg is a unique tradition where Pranahuti is set in motion with willpower, with sankalpa, which creates unique results for everyone. So today is a very auspicious day for us, the disciples of this tradition, The Heartfulness Way.”
“In Lalaji Maharaj’s honour, on this day I would also like to dedicate one more thing: our Meditation App. We already have one App, but this new one is quite different. The earlier App was called Let’s Meditate. This new App is temporarily called WeMeditate.”
Daaji then launched the Android application, saying that it will prove to be tremendously useful to new and old seekers alike. We can sign up, register and take sittings any time from a trainer across the world. The app also provides audios and videos on guided practices of Heartfulness, along with talks and articles by Daaji. He then invited us to come forward with suggested names for the application and a tagline that could easily catch the attention of people and encourage them to download and make use of it.
[Editor’s note: it has since been given the new name of HeartsApp]
Mr Shripad Yesso Naik, the Union Minister of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy (AYUSH), visited Kanha Shanti Vanam. Amongst other things, the Union is responsible for conducting the International Day of Yoga on the 21 June every year. He shared his personal experiences and the importance of education, economy, health and spirituality.
He shared the message of working for humanity and humbly answered all the questions put to him by us and mentioned that we all must stay fit, mentally and spiritually, and aim to contribute to our societies and nations in any way possible. The Minister was presented with a ‘Weaving Destiny’ Diary & Workbook and a Youth Seminar Card, as an acknowledgement of his presence at the seminar. He was also given a demonstration of the benefits of the Brighter Minds Program by some of our students.
Awareness-based human flourishing
Another guest presenter at the seminar was Vasco Gaspar, a Mindfulness Corporate Trainer and Heartfulness Trainer from Lisbon, Portugal, who conducted many sessions. Vasco encouraged all of us to embrace openness of the heart and to deeply feel the joy of practising human virtues.
The essence of today’s session by Vasco was a set of activities that allowed the participants to mingle and make new friends. The activities were designed to help us observe ourselves and others on a deeper level, and to identify the human virtues valued by every heart. We were asked to have faith in the heart’s intuition, make note of the virtues we believe shine brightest in each other and appreciate them. By the end of the session, every one of us had a smile on our faces and we left with a warm glow in our hearts. We saw the value we held in the eyes of others and saw ourselves in a new light full of hope.
Yoga sessions were given throughout the seminar by Yoga Acharya, Ira Trivedi. During the afternoon, she enlightened us on the different limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. She introduced the Surya Namaskar and explained the significance of inculcating Yoga into our lifestyle from an early age, and the role it plays in enhancing our emotional and spiritual well-being.
A heartfelt evening group meditation was followed by another Yoga session and then everyone gathered for the next session by Vasco Gaspar.
Working with emotions
The evening was the time for letting our emotions flow without judgement. Vasco helped us to realize the importance of reading our emotions and the reaction of our bodies to a variety of them. He encouraged us to be kind to ourselves and curious about emotions while remaining neutral. We learnt to moderate them and identify them and be aware as to what part of the body they were affecting.
Vasco taught us that, “Anxiety is excitement with wrong breathing.” We learnt instead to, “Smile and breathe.” With Mindfulness and Heartfulness, we learnt to be aware of our emotions and use them to respond intuitively from the wholeness of the Source. We felt content and whole and concluded the day walking and enjoying the light showers.
Day 3, 15 August 2018
Independence Day celebrations
After morning meditation, young seekers of multiple nationalities marched towards the newly-established Kanha Gram Panchayat Office for the flag hoisting and sang the national anthem with pride.
Love and gratitude
Lunch was followed by another intense session with Vasco on awareness-based human flourishing. This session created a journey and placed us all in a safe place. The hall was fragrant with a feeling of sacredness as we endeavoured to truly listen from the heart and increase the depth of our listening. Gradually, layer-by-layer, we opened up to ourselves and to others. The session was aided by an extremely touching video and followed by a workshop that strengthened inner silence and true communication between all of us.
We were mesmerized by the beauty and simplicity of the interconnectedness, as Vasco guided us through a profound exercise of recognizing the humanness in others. Eventually we included the whole world in this exercise.
We were encouraged to ignore the failings of others, and to pay special attention to feelings and accepting that through the heart’s eye we are all the same, no matter how different we are. We feel the same emotions, pain, pleasure, and common experiences, including rejection, failure, love and death. It was a very heart-warming activity filled with love and true gratitude.
AUM & breath
The day’s Yoga session started with the Heartfulness relaxation, preparing for the exercises and Asanas. Ira started with the chant of AUM followed by a yogic mantra, energizing the entire hall with positive energy. She also put before us the significance of the word AUM – that it is composed of three letters that contain the vibrations of all the other letters, creating a high energy level in the environment. The correct way to pronounce the word AUM is to pronounce the three letters from different parts of the tongue. ‘A’ should be pronounced from the back part of the tongue, ‘U’ should come from middle part of the tongue, and ‘M’ should vibrate from the tip of the tongue.
This was followed by exercises and Asanas, including Sukshma vyayaam, Surya namaskar, Sarvanga asana, Kapala bhaati and Anulom vilom. Today we also learnt the Matsya asana and the Padahasta asana, which are very beneficial for the limbs, help with circulation of the blood, and also prevent backache. She emphasized deep yogic breathing to help the body remain oxygenated and to prevent pain caused by an inadequate supply of oxygen to various parts of the body. The session ended with another round of relaxation, helping to prevent injury during exercise.
The main theme for the day’s session with Vasco was vertical dance, also known as ‘Social Presencing Theatre’. We were asked to let go of fears, limitations and conformities, and sense body movements. We had to dance, move, or twist the way our bodies wanted to go, and developed awareness of the movement emerging from the mind and body. The centres of the earth and sky aligned in our hearts.
The session continued with the idea that every one of us is born with innate goodness and the world also has innate goodness, although we choose not to believe it at times. Generally we look for groups of people where we hope to find acceptance, and we conform to those social norms so as to be accepted. We keep shifting from one social group to another over time and eventually let go of these small groups so that the whole world becomes one big group where we seek to belong. We took with us increased acceptance of ourselves and began to reflect upon our interconnectedness as symbiotically linked social beings.