A Human Peace Mala in India
8 September 1987
by Kanti Devi
The years spent with Swami Vishnudevananda leave an indelible mark. His words and the moments spent with him come back to me time and time again. I would like to share here one of those special times with Swamiji. His fervent love that he had towards his Master and his longing to bring peace to the whole of humanity drove him to organise a unique event in 1987. September the 8th 1987 marked 100 years of Swami Sivananda’s birth and Swamiji had a wonderful idea! He had a vision of uniting the whole of India through a peace mala – a rosary where each bead will send out the vibration of the peace mantra “Om Namo Narayanaya.”
And thus, during his stay in the first TTC carried out in Uruguay, South America, in October of 1986, Swamiji conceived and organised each detail of this event. The programme in India would begin with a pilgrimage to different holy cities and would end in Rishikesh. Over 80 people from the West came to be part in the event, and thousands more joined from all over India.
Moving around with a large group of Westerners, many of whom were not accustomed to India, was no easy task. Only Swamiji’s loving energy, and his firm determination to fulfill this mission, would make him contemplate such a challenging undertaking. Every day we would meet with Swamiji at the lobby of the hotel. Swamiji would always create an intimate and familiar environment. One would feel so good by his side that one would not want to go anywhere else. His presence, profound words and warm smile radiated peace and a tranquil joy. Also his teachings were very practical and would touch deeply on details that we would not have been able to grasp otherwise.
There were many challenges during the trip, and everyone had to constantly adapt, adjust and accommodate. But amidst all these difficulties and resulting fatigue and emotions, Swamiji remained attentive to everyone and everything, gave clear instructions and organised the next day, and carried everyone to the next place.
It was incredible to see how we overcame the mental laziness and the physical fatigue once we started to meditate and chant mantras. It was as if a stream of divine energy reached each one of us and touched us at the most intimate part of our being, so that we could get going joyfully. The most important day of the Yatra arrived and Swamiji was radiant, taking care of every detail. Other Yoga centres in India and Swami Sivananda’s devotees supported us in different cities and areas, but the central place of the event would be Haridwar, a holy city in North India on the banks of the Ganges.
It was wonderful to see the children from nearby villages, with their school uniforms, by the side of the road, holding hands and chanting the peace mantra.
The plan was that everyone would gather there, joining hands, while repeating the mantra for an hour. Food would then be served to all sadhus and pilgrims. After that, we would return to Rishikesh. We left Rishikesh on time so that we could reach Haridwar by noon (about 20 km distance). Swamiji was travelling in a van ahead of us and the rest of the group were on two buses. Other cars and buses joined the ‘caravan’. Besides praying before leaving, Swamiji asked us to repeat the mantra for peace “Om Namo Narayanaya” during the whole trip until we arrive to our destination.
It was wonderful to see the children from nearby villages, with their school uniforms, by the side of the road, holding hands and chanting the peace mantra. Many locals, farmers, youngsters and ladies were there standing supporting us with their presence. It was moving to hear so many people chant the mantra. On crossing the bridge and entering the city, the scene was that of a great ant’s nest, where the ochre and orange colours would stand out. In the middle of all this crowd, we felt lost and not sure where to go or what to do.
But Swamiji appeared, moving fast and with a strong voice, placed us standing along the bridge and asked us to hold our hands firmly and to repeat out loud the peace mantra for an hour. Many people joined us and we all chanted. Suddenly, it was not us and they, but we were all one, united by the mantra and its powerful divine vibration. The whole city vibrated with the mantra and Swamiji’s presence. Towards the end, Swamiji along with staff and helpers, gave out food to thousands of people.
From there, he went down the steps that led to the Ganges where he performed the traditional ablutions and then sat to meditate. Swamiji then offered his gratitude to Swami Sivananda for all his service to humanity, and encouraged all those who came with him to pay homage to his beloved Master. This was a highly intense and magical moment, where we could feel so clearly how he saw himself as a mere instrument carrying out the mission of his Master with complete faith and surrender.
Kanti Devi is a direct disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda. She is the Acharya of the Sivananda Centers in South America, and directs the Teachers’ Training courses taught in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. Since December 2015 she is part of the executive board members of Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers worldwide. She translated several books of Swami Sivananda. email: [email protected]