Uniqueness of Hindu Dharma and importance of spiritual practice
Mahant Swami Shankarananda Saraswati is a Self-realised Guru in the Siddha lineage. He is the director of the Shiva Ashram in Mt. Eliza, and a representative of Hinduism around Melbourne and internationally, including the recent Parliament of the World's Religions. Originally from New York, Swamiji travelled to India in the early 1970's where he met many great saints and sages including his teacher, Swami Baba Muktananda.
Swamiji is regarded as an authority on meditation, Self-inquiry and Kashmir Shaivism. A prolific writer, his books include the best-selling guide to meditation, Happy For No Good Reason. Swamiji regularly tours internationally and has trained many teachers to participate in his work.
Because of his many years of service towards spreading the Sanatana Dharma, Swamiji has been invited by the Mahanirwani Akhada to become a Mahamandaleshwar in India this November.
With the blessings of Saints and Sree Krushna, Forum For Hindu Awakening (FHA) held the first Hinduism Summit in Melbourne Australia, on 16th May 2010 (Akshay Trutiya, Nija Vaishakh Shukla Trutiya 5112 as per Hindu calendar) the auditorium at the Shirdi Sai Baba temple in Camberwell.
Mahant Swami Shankaranand expressed in very nice simple words how unique Sanatan Dharma is, how God is in each and every person and that we need to connect to everyone.
As my Guru, Swami Muktananda, used to say, “With great respect and love I welcome you all with all my heart.”
Every religion has its rituals, its concepts and ideas and its ways. My Guru always said that the essence of the universal religion, the Sanatana Dharma, the religion of humanity, is to welcome another person with love. It is a matter of heart. It is about our relationship with God, which we cannot separate from our relationship with other people. And these two things cannot be separated from our relationship with ourselves. So in that spirit, I welcome you all.
I also welcome the members of the Forum for Hindu Awakening. I’m deeply honoured to receive the Vishwa Hindu Ratna Award (‘World’s Jewel of Hinduism’). To serve the noble Sanatana Dharma is my great privilege.
It is probably obvious to you that I was not born a Hindu. How did I end up being a Swami and the head of an ashram? The answer is simple: it is because I was searching for a path to God. I wanted to find a direct and immediate way to know my own Self.
I found Hinduism. I was not looking for a religion. I was looking for spirituality. Every religion has its own tradition of spirituality. Spirituality is the hidden core of every religion, a secret held in the heart of the religion. Nowhere did I find a spirituality as powerful as within Hinduism. I am not alone in this. In recent times many Westerners have turned to Hinduism for spiritual growth.
The West has learned to meditate from the Hindus. The West has learned yoga asanas and pranayama and the philosophies of Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism from Hinduism. Many elements of Hinduism have spread like wildfire in Western countries, especially since 1970. There is a new international Hinduism that is taking birth and this is because of the spiritual greatness of the Hindu tradition. The whole world is learning from it.
The revered Forum for Hindu Awakening has described its objectives. All are worthy goals, but among them I believe that the last one is the most important: to promote spiritual progress and God-realisation.
Many are concerned about the degradation of Hinduism. Within the Hindu community many customs and time-honoured practices have been lost. In the Hindu diaspora many individuals have lost their way, being strongly affected by Western materialism and atheism. On the other side, there is too little understanding of Hinduism in Western society. Because of this there are many misconceptions and wrong characterisations of Hindu history and culture.
I believe that the worst degradation of Hinduism occurs when we forget that it is a living path to God-realisation offering the actual experience of Divinity.
Hindu Dharma describes the duties we have to society, family and community. There is also a higher dharma that we all hold in common. This higher dharma is called svadharma, the dharma of the Self. This is the duty to realise the truth within ourselves. This is the spiritual core of Hinduism and it must be valued and emphasised and passed on to each new generation.
We are gathered in this beautiful temple of the great Sai Baba of Shirdi. Along with my Paramaguru, Bhagavan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri and the sublime Ramana Maharshi of Arunachala, he is one of India’s three greatest saints of the 20th century. The real wealth of Hinduism is nothing but its Great Beings. These are men and women who have realised God, who live and breathe the Divine in every moment. They bring God close to earth and make him available to all of us.
So, I would put first on our agenda to preserve Hinduism, the reverence and acknowledgement of our great saints, sages and yogis. I give salutations to the great Sai Baba. I have been to Shirdi a number of times and the vibrations of spirit there are second to none.
When Hinduism focuses on the God outside it is a religion. When Hinduism turns its focus to the God inside, it becomes spirituality. It is only then that Hinduism becomes worthy of being called by its true name, the Sanatana Dharma.
As Sanatana Dharma, Hinduism is a universal creed. Professor Aravind Sharma of McGill University says “As a Hindu, one is free to belong to more than one religion at a time but not as a Christian or as a Muslim, at least not in their mainline versions.” What the good professor is pointing out is that to a Hindu all paths and all religions are part of the same, larger, all-inclusive path, the Sanatana Dharma.
Once a seeker went to a Guru. He said, “Oh Gurudev, please initiate me.”
“Certainly,” said the Guru. “Tat tvam asi. Thou are That. God lives within you as your own Self.”
The seeker said, “But Gurudev, I just read that in the yoga magazine. I know it already.”
The Guru said, “Well, that’s all I know, that’s all I have. If you want something different try another Guru. There are plenty in Byron Bay.”
The seeker went to another Guru and asked for initiation.
The Guru said, “Not so fast. I can’t give you initiation just like that. You have to serve me for 12 years, picking up the elephant dung in the ashram.”
“Wonderful,” said the seeker.
He worked for 12 years. Then he went to the Guru, “Oh Gurudev, you promised me initiation in 12 years. 12 years are finished, please give me the initiation.”
“Certainly my son. Tat tvam asi. Thou are That. God lives within you as your own Self.”
“But Gurudev, my last guru gave me that exact teaching the first day I met him.”
The Guru said, “The truth has not changed in 12 years.”
But now a miraculous thing happened. The Shakti of the Guru entered the disciple. We call that Shaktipat or the Divine transmission. In that moment he became enlightened.
The Guru said, “Before you were only practicing a religion. ‘Thou art That’ was only an idea. Now because you have done sadhana, you have done practice, you are practicing yoga, you are practicing the Sanatana Dharma and you can have experience, you can have realisation.”
In the Gita, the Lord says, “O Arjuna, become a yogi.” To be a yogi means that we should practice. We should meditate every day. We should practice the atma vicara. We should spend at least 15 minutes repeating the Divine name, the holy mantra.
I was born in a Western land and through great good luck I discovered the teachings of yoga and the Indian sages. Every day I bow to the greatness of Mother India. She is the mother of spirituality and the spiritual guru of the world. Indians, as well as Westerners, should follow Sri Krishna’s advice. So I also urge you, with him, “O my friend, be a yogi.”
Don’t give all your energy to the world and the externals of life. Do pay attention to your worldly affairs, but also seek within yourself for the great treasure of the Atman. Awaken the Divine Kundalini Shakti that dwells within every one of us.
My Guru used to say,
“Apko dhyao, apko pujo, apko vando,
apko sammana karo.
Ap mein hi apka ram,
apka hokar rahata hai.”
Meditate on your Self, worship your Self, kneel to your Self, honour your Self. God dwells within you as you.
Thank you for the award and for your kind attention. On my side, let me invite you to visit the Shiva Ashram in Mount Eliza.
- Mahant Swami Shankarananda Saraswati, Pandit Abhay Awasthi and Bhakta Das among the awardees for the ‘Vishwa Hindu Ratna’ at the Melbourne Hinduism Summit!
- Prominent Hindu and spiritual leaders to gather for the Hinduism Summit (Hindu Dharma Sabha) in Melbourne
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