After International Youth Conference in Vadodara, I went to Belur Math during August 14-17, 2013 as a pilgrimage.
Whenever I went to the Belur Math and walked on its ground, I always remembered that Swami Vivekananda, many of the direct disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, and their disciples had walked on this ground. The place is truly holy with their holy thoughts and prayers. Also, Mother Ganga brings holiness from all the places starting from the Himalayas to this place. Each time, while sitting on the bank of the Ganga of the Belur Math, I think that few years ago, Sri Ramakrishna was looking at the same Ganga from the other side of the river, just a little bit on the left. Sri Ramakrishna loved Mother Ganga immensely and he had to see her every day.
The days I stayed at the Belur Math guest house, I used to get up at 3:00 a.m. and get ready for the early morning arati. From morning, the mind started thinking about Sri Ramakrishna. At 3:45 a.m., when the gate opened for the guest house people, I quietly went and sat in the back of the prayer hall. While walking towards the prayer hall, one could not resist looking at Mother Ganga and salute. One may see couple of Sadhus walking around on the Belur math ground. In the prayer hall, I used to do japa, till the doors of the Shrine of Sri Ramakrishna opened and the quiet morning arati began. It was so pleasing to the eyes to see Sri Ramakrishna adorned with a beautiful cloth and flowers. The presence of all Ramakrishna Mission Swamis and Brahmacharies seated in the front was inspiring all to follow the life and teachings of Sri Ramakrishna; the essence of his teachings is ‘realize God and serve all seeing God in them.’ The entire morning time was only about ten minutes, but those ten minutes used to fill my mind and heart with a surge of spirituality.
After coming to my room, I used to read Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. Because of the environment and the state of my mind, the words of the Gospel touched my heart more and I felt the meaning of Sri Ramakrishna’s words was more revealing. After breakfast, I used to go to the prayer hall again (when all were allowed to come) to sit and do japa in front of Sri Ramakrishna.
Also, I attended the evening aratis. Due to August 15th holiday, the Belur math campus was filled with people. The chirping of hundreds of birds flying around the trees of the Belur math campus reminded all that evening is falling. All three evenings, at the arati time, the huge prayer hall was completely packed. One evening there was a heavy rain, but that did not deter people to attend the arati. The sight of the devotees eagerly waiting for arati brought devotion to my heart. The arati sung in the melodious voices of Swamis along with various musical instruments including pakhawaj charged the environment with spirituality. One has to be there to feel the environment. It cannot be described in words.
During day time, I was fortunate to meet couple of senior Swamis and see places associated with Sri Ramakrishna in Kolkata about which I will talk in the following posts.
As advised by Sri Ramakrishna, for spiritual development, every now and then one must go to a secluded place or a place of pilgrimage and focus one’s mind on God. This secluded place could be in our house (say, a prayer room in quiet time) or in our mind (without making any show of a devotee if we can withdraw our mind to focus on God for our spiritual development). Sri Ramakrishna said that at such places, we have to think what is permanent and what is impermanent.