A beautiful retreat discovers the spirituality within

Pic 1. Devotees at Vedanta Retreat at Mangrove Mountains with Swami Atmeshananda, Swami Sridharananda, Swami Damodarananda and Swami Chandra Shekharji

Pic 2 – 7:   Devotees in the idyllic mountain retreat relaxing, talking, consulting and helping.

An Easter weekend retreat every year organized by the Vedanta Centre Sydney is probably the most relaxed way to spend the holidays and also to reflect and discover the spirituality within. The Satyananda Ashram nestled among Mangrove Mountains provides a rainforest setting to calm the nerves, the cascading of rain drops through tall trees and gurgling of water through streams creating a heavenly music to the accompaniment of singing by birds in the background. There is also a visual panorama of greenery of trees punctuated by golden yellow of maple leaves which recede gradually into misty clouds. Closer are flowers of many hues – some mellow and the others which stand out to draw attention towards themselves.

There are leisurely walks along the Mangrove River or tough ones along a steep climb towards a mountain cave for the more adventurous. One could also choose to sit outdoors and discuss life with Kamlesh ji Maharaj or listen to tales by Swami Damodaranandji. The discussions are enlightening as these meander through science with Kamleshji Maharaj emphasizing on the spirituality beyond the logic of science.

The devotees are from all around the world, a family Swami Sridharananda has created. They are from Sydney, Gold Coast, Adelaide, America and Canada who have come to listen to him on ”˜Dhyana yoga ”“ Essential Teachings from the chapter six of Bhagwat Gita’.

“We must work out a methodology to create new ”˜Vrittis’ with a commitment to Divine because we, ourselves, have the divinity within. With this indomitable will we must bring a change in our character,” says Swamiji as he gives five lectures on the topic of ”˜Dhyana’.

Devotees listen to every word Swamiji speaks and make notes for future reference. “Our goal should be ”˜to cogitate’ since only by cogitating we could change the course of our lives. We all live, eat, enjoy and be merry. Everyone does that but to create awareness of the divine within us we must use all the faculties of yoga – Gyana, Karma, Bhakti and Raja Yoga and use all our senses. This will create a deep urge (Mumuktthushuttam) to improve the quality of life only then can we live in the Divine all the time,” he says.

He says that Raja yoga was the king of all yogas because it dealt with the mind. “Controlling the mind is the hardest. We need ”˜manana’ (cogitation) to achieve the control of the mind and thus create new experiences ”“ new ”˜vrittis’ through our indomitable will power so that we could change our lives in a profound manner right here and now and achieve total absorption in the divine within.”

Swamiji’s talks are interspersed with morning mantra chanting guided by Swami Atmeshanand ji which starts with all the devotees chanting ”˜Om’ several times, resonating the vibrations of the tranquil surrounds of the ashram in the early hours of the morning. There are also joint sittings with Satyananda disciples when the large group of nearly 150 devotees sing bhajans, participate in Yoga Nidra sessions, havan and chanting of Shanti, Mahmritujaya and Gayatri mantras. Swami Damodranandaji tells stories of Swami Ramakrishna and Swami Viveknanda and also about his own life how he had decided to be a monk when he was hardly a teenager. Swamiji has a keen sense of humour with which he describes how he developed a deep desire to meet Bhagwan Ramana Maharishi  when he read a pictorial story about the ”˜living saint’ in his university days.

“Right there and then I decided I don’t want to do anything else but live a life at the feet of a divine being,” he says.

There was a great energy amongst all as everyone volunteered their service ”“ in the kitchen, in the hall, in cleaning the place while living for three days in a spiritually uplifting environment away from all the chaos. Fresh air and bird noises woke every morning as people walked and ventured around in silence trying to connect to stillness within.

The ashram volunteers were truly hospitable and karmic in their approach as they smiled, cooked and cared for the retreaters.   One could see them doing their karma diligently, chanting mantras as they carried on with their duties in silence. Mangrove Mountain Satynanada Ashram is definitely a great place to relax and discover the spirituality within.

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