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Report: Ganga Dussehra & National Youth Day

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Ganga Dussehra, Youth Day and the International Day of Yoga celebrations coincided with the June Yoga Camp on Sunday 16 June 2024. Youth Day in South Africa is a day on which South Africans honour the youth. Every year, 16 June is a South African public holiday. There are Youth Day celebrations country-wide to empower youth and all South Africans. Divine Life Society of South Africa has been celebrating Youth Day for several years. The teachings of Sri Swami Sivananda, as well as his advice to youth, form an integral part of the Youth Day programmes. Our youth coordinated and participated in the major part of the day's programmes, which commenced at 6am and concluded at 2.30pm.

More than 250 devotees, well-wishers, donors and members of the public gathered at 6am at Sivananda International Cultural Centre (SICC), in La Mercy on Sunday 16 June 2024. The morning's Sadhana programme in Ganga Rani comprised Invocation, Mantra chanting, meditation using the Tibetan bowl and Ganga Arati. Participants then adjourned to the Yoga Asana venues for a special mass Yoga Asana session, in commemoration of the International Day of Yoga.

The International Day of Yoga is celebrated annually on 21 June since its inception in 2015. An International Day of Yoga was declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly. The International Day of Yoga focuses largely on Hatha Yoga, a physical, mental and spiritual practice which originated in India. It nurtures the mind, body and soul. Indian Prime Minister, Sri Narendra Modi, in his United Nations address suggested the date of 21 June as International Day of Yoga, as it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The practice of Yoga Asanas is a regular feature of the Society's monthly Yoga Camps, as Gurudev, Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda both strongly advocated its practice. Sri Gurudev says that the practice of Yoga Asanas and Pranayama ward off diseases and help to maintain vigour, vitality, alertness, mental and physical health. Whilst International Day of Yoga focuses mainly on Hatha Yoga, Sri Swami Sivananda advocated the practice of Integral Yoga, comprising Bhakti, Jnana, Karma and Hatha Yoga, for a complete development of the head, hand and heart.

A Havan was conducted after breakfast to thank Sri Gurudev for protecting and saving many lives during the devastating tornado that ravaged Tongaat on 3 June 2024. The Havan was to also pray for those affected by the tornado, so that they are able to pick up the 'pieces' of their lives. Surprisingly, properties in the vicinity of our Sivananda International Cultural Centre were extensively damaged, but our Ashram was intact. This is indeed Sri Gurudev's and Pujya Swamiji's Grace and protection.

Ganga Arati was conducted in Bhagirathi, after which Ganga Dussehra Satsang ensued in the prayer hall. The programme comprised Kirtans, Bhajans, a reading, Pujya Swami Sahajananda's audio message and a special musical item by the youth girls.

The reading focused on the significance and beauty of Mother Ganga, revered and worshipped by millions in India, abroad and even in South Africa – thanks to the vision and foresight of Sri Swami Sahajananda who introduced Ganga Ranis, Mother Ganga and Ganga Arati to South Africa. Both Sri Swami Sivananda and Pujya Swami Sahajananda had the greatest reverence and love for the eternal Mother Ganga. Sri Swami Sivananda's reverence and love for Mother Ganga are evident in his words, "The Ganga is the most sacred river of India". The Master says that the origin of the Ganga is ascribed to celestial glory. Lord Krishna says in the Gita: "I am the Ganga among rivers".

Swami Sivananda explains the origin of Ganga Dussehra as follows, "Taking Her course into the interior of the Himalayas, Ganga was about to wash away Rishi Jahnu's Ashram. Sage Jahnu was naturally more powerful than Her and simply sipped the water. Bhagiratha was much disappointed. He did severe penance again to please Rishi Jahnu. At last, the sage let Ganga through his ears. Flowing from this outlet, Ganga flowed with entire modesty, and all-embracing filial love and motherly affection. By Her Divine Grace, She uplifted all the sixty thousand princes to the highest abode of immortal bliss. This day is celebrated as the most sanctifying Ganga Dussehra".

Pujya Swamiji's message focused on the power of Satsang, faith and self-surrender. He said that if we surrender to the Guru, then we have nothing to fear, and that, "If you want Gurudev's Grace to help you, you must do your share". He illustrated this point, when he said that a devotee, while driving during the Inanda riots, was saved due to his calling for Gurudev. Pujya Swamiji also advised that we should also make the best use of all our facilities and that we have to be mindful of the Law of Karma, and not incur fresh Karmas. To explain this point, Pujya Swamiji narrated the anecdote of a cyclist on one of the busy streets in India. The cyclist went to the side of the road to repair his bicycle. He was knocked and killed on the side of the road. Pujya Swamiji also emphasised total surrender to the Guru. He said, "Wherever the Guru leads us, we follow", and that the Guru is ever ready to guide and protect us". Satsang is a necessity for all devotees. In this regard, he said, "We must have regular Satsang at home", and "The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra is a must for everyone" for protection. The Mantra should be chanted at least 108 times daily

An array of games for children, an amazing race wherein participants had to find clues leading to hidden treasures around the Ashram campus, and a stimulating programme for the senior citizens, were held after lunch. Participants enjoyed the relaxing yet stimulating events, the first two, though fun-filled and enjoyable, challenged participants' physical abilities. Parallel to the children's games and amazing race, was an interesting programme, "Brain Gym" which comprised a series of hand exercises intended to enhance brain function and coordination. These exercises included activities such as finger tapping or clicking, hand clapping, to stimulate neural pathways. They aim to improve concentration, memory, and learning abilities by promoting better brain integration. Regular practice of these exercises can help reduce stress and increase mental clarity. By engaging both hemispheres of the brain, these exercises facilitate more efficient information processing and cognitive performance.

Symbolically, the aforementioned events also coincided with Father's Day. In order to add resonance to this International Day of Yoga, Youth Day, Ganga Dussehra and Yoga Camp, we salute, offer obeisance, prostrations and adorations at the Holy feet our beloved Fathers, dearest childhood companions, our gentle teachers and Lords of our hearts... Beloved Sri Gurudev and Pujya Swamiji! They are our eternal Divine Fathers and Mothers – our source of spiritual sustenance, and the very fibre of our physical beings and souls. Sri Gurudev and Pujya Swamiji, bless your children on this day and always as we try to cope with many the challenges of this material and spiritual world – a world ravaged by natural disasters, emotional and mental trauma, spiritual decrepitude, poverty, social ills and helplessness. Bless all with fortitude of mind, body and soul, to follow your teachings diligently to the very end!

The fun-filled, stimulating and spiritually elevating day ended at 2.30pm with refreshments.

May this Yoga Camp, International Day of Yoga, Youth Day and Ganga Dussehra inspire us all to aspire to greater moral and spiritual regeneration.

Last modified on Saturday, 22 June 2024 12:46
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