|Netherlands Sterksel Ashram|
Holland Centenary Program - August 4 – 13
Kriya Yoga Centrum, the ashram in Sterskel, The Netherlands hosted a ten-day Centenary program from August 4 to 13, which included Kriya initiations, guided meditation, insightful daily discourses about Gurudev’s life, and enlightening question and answer sessions under the guidance of Baba Paramahamsa Prajnananandaji assisted by Swami Mangalananada Giri and Yogacharyas Peter Baba of Holland, Christine Ma of Vienna, and Durga Ma of Chicago.
The program was held in a specially constructed tent on the ashram premises, which was surrounded by beautiful trees, shrubs, and a large pond. Inside the tent was an exhibition display of Gurudev’s life and teachings as well as the many charitable projects of Hand in Hand and Prajnana Mission. More than two hundred kriyavans from various European countries attended, including Germany, Poland, Belgium, England, Ireland, Austria, and the USA.
Later in the afternoon a music concert, held in the Village Hall, with professional artists from Holland singing devotional and spiritual songs thrilled the audience. This event concluded with guided meditation by Baba Prajnananandaji.
Another musical concert was held after dinner with performers from Amsterdam singing Indian Classical Bengali music. This eventful day ended with everyone remembering our beloved Gurudev and his unconditional love and compassion for all.
Excerpts from the Inter-Faith Panel Discussion
Rajarshi Peter van Breukelen, from the Holland ashram and a longtime disciple and yogacharya of Gurudev, mentioned in his opening remarks how the Holland ashram was Gurudev’s first ashram in the West. He then introduced the distinguished speakers.
Prof, Dr Witteveen, vice-president of the Sufi order and a former minister of Finance in Holland was the first to speaker. In his invocation, he pointed out that Allah is the name given to symbolize perfection, love, and harmony. This name, also known as God, is given to the spirit that pervades the whole universe and resides within everyone and is the essence of our being.
He said that many religions are not able to come together under that one God, which has resulted in the many names and forms adopted by different teachers to make it easier for the people to communicate and express their devotion to God. Throughout the centuries, people have unfortunately become attached to these names and forms and have been deeply convinced that the form they adopted was that one God, and discounted the God of others. This has lead to many religious wars.
He said that Sufism clarifies this “God Concept.” He explained that the images and idols are only to help us along the path, but they are not the reality, which is beyond name and form. We should remember we are all the children of one God. He said science has done some good in bringing people away from their old-fashioned religious practices. Although fewer people attend church services, it is heartening to see a growing interest in spirituality. Spirituality and spiritual experiences can come in many forms through prayer and meditation. All the different scriptures are only different wave expressions of one voice speaking to us and pointing to the one goal — God. He complimented the wonderful work that Gurudev did as a world teacher and hoped that many more illumined souls would follow.
Jeroen Witkam, a monk of a monastery in Holland and a pioneer who introduced the combination of Christian tradition with Zen meditation in the monastery, said it is true that there is only one God. But which God? People have their own idea of God to penetrate that one reality. God is like electricity and we are like bulbs. The full power of God is deadly and so we need to first transform to a higher voltage to be able to receive God. We can find oneness in this multiplicity only as we discover the magnetic receptivity in each of us. God is imparting and human beings are receiving. This receiving should be done freely and consciously. He concluded by paying tribute to Gurudev Baba Hariharanandaji for his great contribution to humanity on how to reach the higher voltage to realize God.
Reverend Kunnekkadan Avarachan SVD, a catholic priest from the state of Kerala who extensively studied Hindu philosophy and Sanskrit and is currently stationed in Amsterdam, spoke about how religions, which are supposed to bring unity among people, have instead become a source of contradiction and conflict. He said the world has gotten much smaller and the time has come for all to understand the real meaning of God. The solution is not one religion for all. God should be understood as a living and loving relationship enriched by other religions and the religious plurality. He paid a tribute to Baba Hariharanandaji coming to Europe and distributing the crème of Indian spirituality to the West through Kriya Yoga, which is very important in this multi-religious and multicultural pluralistic society.
Paramahamsa Prajnanananda began by addressing humanity as the children of immortality. Then he spoke about how modern science and information technology have made the world smaller. Although it reduced the distances from place to place, it has increased the distance from person to person. Family members have no time for each other. All barriers between mind to mind and heart to heart should be broken in order to make us spiritually one.
Baba Prajnananandaji spoke about Gurudev often quoting, “God is one, and religions are many”, and how his birth centenary is giving everyone the opportunity to come together at the Holland meditation center. He said, “This great noble son of India sacrificed his life for the spiritual upliftment of all people. He traveled to the West in spite of his failing health and taught Kriya Yoga. Gurudev said breath is his religion, and all of us are connected through the breath. Breath unites the body, mind, and soul, and we are all breathing the same air.”
Baba Prajnananandaji also said: “Religion means reunion, and separation is caused due to ignorance. All religions are like different petals making up the same beautiful flower. We should face life with a smile. Paramahamsa Yoganandaji said we should carry a portable heaven wherever we go.”
He gave a new meaning to the often-quoted Bhagavad Gita verse, in which the Lord said:
sambhavami yuge yuge, “He would manifest in every yuga (period of time) to protect righteousness. Paramahamsaji said, “yuga means a set of two — our inhalation and exhalation and divinity is waiting to be manifested in our every breath.” He concluded by saying, “The challenge of the times is to live and let live and serve without ego. God is everywhere and God is in all. The sutra of breath binds us all. Through love you can experience oneness.”