A Weekend of Hindu Spirituality
Christian and I attended a weekend event filled with Indian spirituality at Christian's home, Greifenstein, in Switzerland. Greifenstein turned into a sea of bright colors as two swamis in their orange robes and over 40 participants in their saris and other colorful Indian garments filled the grounds around the Meditation Hall for two full days of learning and praying.
Swiss-born Swamini Vishwakishori (right) and Italian-born Swami Vishwaaniruddhananda (left) came to Greifenstein to lead a program comprising of many different aspects of the Hindu spiritual practice such as Om Chanting, the Ayurvedic way of life, and the fire pooja(prayer), a very prominent form of ritual in India. The event was organized by the Swiss Om Chanting group.
The weather was simply gorgeous throughout the weekend while the program was taking place - the perfect kind of weather for the participants to be outside and enjoy the exotic Indian rituals against the backdrop of the beautiful Swiss nature. There was a sweet moment when even the cows in the pastures below showed a great deal of interest and came up to the hall when the pooja was about to be performed.
The program started on Saturday with an introduction and Om Chanting in the Meditation Hall. The hall was packed with participants who sat in two concentric circles facing each other. When the chanting starts, I'm always a bit aware of the cacophany created by the different tones and pitches in the room. But my experience has been that as time goes on, I become less aware of other people's sounds but my own as I gradually slide deeper into myself. Om Chanting lasts 45 minutes in total and is divided into three 15-minute parts as the participants switch their positions. By the time the third 15-minute segment starts, there is a certain sense of harmony as each and every sound that the participants make somehow merge into one grand Om.
After Om Chanting, Swami Kishori gave a lecture on Ayurvedic food and lifestyle. Unfortunately, it was in German so I did not attend, but Christian gave me a summary of her lecture. From what I understood, Swami Kishori follows a strict diet and lifestyle regime, and I had an interesting conversation with her about healing over lunch. I could not help noticing her wonderful skin, and was surprised when she told me that she was 74 years old.
The highlight of the weekend was the fire pooja which started at 10am on Sunday and went on until 1pm. The two swamis performed the pooja outdoor, behind the Meditation Hall, overlooking the green pastures. Although the poojas I had seen in India were grander, the orange color of the swamis' robes, the white umbrellas that provided shade in the sun, the vivid green color of the Swiss pasture and the blindingly blue May sky all combined to create a beautiful scene.
The lunch, which was healthy vegan food, was served on a temporary table created on a long manger from the days when the Meditation Hall was a cow shed.
After the day's program was over, Christian and I invited Swami Aniruddha to the house for a cup of tea. He was a large man, as big in his expression of friendliness as his frame. We talked about the ways in which spirituality can bring people together, how we can contribute, and the need to transcend the differences of the religions.
In all, it seemed that everyone who came to participate had a happy experience. We were grateful to the organizers who worked hard to put on the program. The program ended much later than planned as music and the singing went on and on. I could not resist taking one more picture of the people who were still hanging around even after all was over, looking tired but content and not so in a hurry to go back to the daily grind.