The shivir was a very good way for me to get to know Shantikunj, if I had not done it I would not have understood Pandit Sharma ji’s philosophy. Even though I am reading his books, listening to some of the speakers was a great experience.
The speakers were 99% great. Some did not speak loud enough or with enough conviction. But by and large all of them had charisma and had good command of what they were saying. What was impressive for me was how they all conveyed their message in a nice flow of thoughts. I don’t know how much they wanted to cover, but whatever and however they had to cover, they did. No one brought any notes or guidelines. I got some really good insight into Sharma ji’s ideas and I realized that he believes more in action than just mere words. He is revolutionary in his thought and is all about promoting righteousness in all aspects of life. His seven pillars of action for the society:
1. Self development
3. Health awareness
4. Self reliance
5. Environmental awareness
6. Women empowerment
7. Getting rid of old school of thought and andhvishwas
All these actions have been part of my life also one way or another. Being in the education field I feel I try to promote not only my discipline but hopefully instill some good habits of learning in my students. I have always been protecting the environment. I have worked on programs of women empowerment for the longest time. I strongly feel that women should be independent and be able to stand on their own before they take responsibilities of others. Health wise I take care of myself and promote healthy habits in everyone around me. I have also done all these through all my volunteer activities at my college and also my local organizations. After listening to all the lectures I feel I am on the right path in life.
One thing that was a little hard about the shivir was the daily 30 mala Gayatri jap. Initially I had a really hard time with it because of jet lag and my sleep was not set, but later I got with the program. Getting used to the food was another thing. Eating once a day is not a problem but the food was not palatable! I understand satvik food but come on – it can still be made tasty. Maybe it is hard to cook tasty food for thousands of people. I don’t know. In any case eating that for nine days was a challenge but I managed it. Fruits helped a bit. After my sleep and food were adjusted then mala was not hard to do.
Funny thing was that so many of the speakers mentioned about the mala jap. It seems that it is a challenge for everyone and in order to finish the daily jap they will not listen to lectures. Well, my suggestion is to reduce the jap so they listen to the lecture. Both are important so give enough time to people to do both things. Besides they are in Hardwar, they will want to go around so it is granted that they will miss some lectures or jap. So many times I would see all these people doing jap and not listening to all the good things the speakers were saying. I think it is more important to do things (karm) than do jap in life. Once one starts to live life in a certain discipline then jap will come automatically. I don’t think jap comes before self discipline. But I think most people believe that at least get people to say the Gayatri mantra, that will give them sadbuddhi, and that will make them do good karm in life. I don’t think it works that way. Unless their mental make up is right no amount of Gayatri jap is going to do anything. But what do I know?!
I thought that most people who came just came to get energy for something – but definitely not righteousness. Very few of them seemed disciplined for the kind of life Sharma ji wants for them. I did not get the feeling of cooperation, helpfulness, kindness, discipline or politeness in many people working or visiting Shantikunj. It means they have not internalized anything that their guru has asked them to do except for the jap. What good will that do? Maybe it will in their future lives – not this one.
I still don’t think I understand the concept of yagya. I attended the first one and got disappointed by the actions of the women in the line. There was so much line jumping and pushing that it was virtually impossible to really do the yagya peacefully. Not one of the speakers mentioned the usefulness of daily yagya in life, although they promote it all the time.
A speaker later on mentioned that life should be yagya and not just saying swaha in a yagya. True – so now I feel that is what I will do instead of swaha. Living life is the hardest thing in this world. So I would prefer to learn how to do that rather than how to do swaha.
My biggest peeves during the shivir:
1. The ringing cell phones!! Turn off the phones people.
2. The ladies coming late and then wanting to squeeze in the middle where there is no space to sit.
3. The young children getting restless and the mothers trying to play with them instead of listening to the lecture. Don’t come if you have that small children – or sit in the back.
4. The constant coming back and forth of young kids with their parents, for keys or water or whatever. It is disturbing to other people.
Granted there are so many people and one cannot control such a crowd but my suggestion would be to at least have a concurrent program for the young kids while parents are in lecture. It should be mandatory. Kids should then learn about what they can do in their lives or learn how to sing songs or whatever. Just not play around wasting time and disturbing everyone.
All in all it was a good experience with lots to learn and implement in life. I had to adjust to sitting on the floor for all the nine days. The first three days were hard….but then I got used to it. As an Indian living abroad, I could enjoy this more because I was in a comfortable housing. I don’t think I could have enjoyed it so much if I had to share my bathroom with 15 other people daily for 9 days at least. I was blessed and lucky to have my space and privacy.