Yogoda Satsanga Society of India/Self-Realization Fellowship President Swami Chidananda Giri recently embarked on his first trip abroad as spiritual head of Paramahansa Yogananda’s society. He departed October 28 from the SRF Mother Center in Los Angeles and made a brief stop in London before reaching Paramahansaji’s homeland, where he stayed until November 18. During this time he visited YSS ashrams and presided at some of the key events during the 2017 Sharad Sangam. His visit is made even more special by the fact that YSS is celebrating its centennial this year.
Swami Chidanandaji was accompanied by Swami Vishwananda, a longtime monk and member of the YSS/SRF Board of Directors, and Brahmachari Saujanyananda.
Following are some highlights of their trip. Please check back in upcoming weeks for more coverage on this same web page.
As they depart the SRF International Headquarters in Los Angeles, the monks are showered with rose petals during a heartfelt farewell from the monks and nuns who reside at the Mother Center.
Visit to SRF London Center, October 29
An eight-hour stopover in London affords an opportunity for a brief visit at the London Center of SRF. Swami Chidananda gives a short talk and leads a meditation for several hundred SRF members from throughout the U.K. The monastics then don Indian garb in preparation for the next leg of their journey.
Arrival in India, October 30
Swami Chidanandaji and party arrive in New Delhi and are welcomed at Indira Gandhi International Airport by senior YSS monks, including Swamis Smaranananda and Suddhananda, and members from the YSS Delhi Kendra (Centre). He and his monastic companions then are driven to the kendra, where they are joyfully received by a large gathering of YSS devotees.
Satsanga at Noida Ashram, November 1
From the Delhi Kendra, Swami Chidananda and his monastic companions made the twelve-mile trip to the YSS Noida Ashram, where more than 100 devotees were on hand to greet them. That evening, some 1,500 devotees gathered for a satsanga with Swami Chidananda Giri. The program began with an hour of meditation and kirtan, followed by an inspired talk, during which Swami Chidananda mentioned the strong desire he felt to visit India after becoming YSS/SRF president, and his deep appreciation for the overwhelming welcome he had received in India.
Sharad Sangam at Ranchi, November 2–5
Swami Chidananda arrived at the YSS Ranchi Ashram on November 2nd, where he addressed the Sharad Sangam for the first time on the morning of November 3rd. At the gathering, he introduced the YSS edition of Visiting the Saints of India With Sri Daya Mata by Sri Mrinalini Mata.
On November 5th Swami Chidananda gave the closing satsanga of the first week of the Sharad Sangam, where he was accompanied by senior YSS monastics on the stage. Again he gave a soul-stirring and practical talk on applying Paramahansaji’s how-to-live principles in daily life.
Afterwards, the approximately 1,700 devotees in attendance came forward to receive from him prasad and a memento of the occasion, and also a laminated picture of the YSS centenary logo with a rose petal on the back blessed by Sri Mrinalini Mata. “His is a remarkable, glowing presence that inspires everyone,” one devotee wrote of Swami Chidananda, expressing the sentiment of so many in attendance.
Swami Chidanandaji at the Smriti Mandir on the grounds of the YSS Ranchi Ashram with (from left to right) Brother Vishwananda, Swami Krishnananda, Brahmachari Saujanyananda, Swami Shraddhananda, and Swami Nirvanananda
Arrival at Dakshineswar Ashram, November 6
Swami Chidananda’s next destination was the Dakshineswar Ashram, where he arrived on the morning of November 6th to a rose petal reception from the YSS monks, sevaks (volunteers), and lay disciples. After the performance of aarti and words of gratitude, Swami Chidananda was taken on a tour of the ashram, beautifully decorated to honour his arrival.
A Visit to Paramahansa Yogananda’s Childhood Home, November 6
That evening Swami Chidanandaji and his party visited the YSS Garpar Kendra in Kolkata, and also Paramahansaji’s childhood home at 4 Garpar Road, a short walking distance from the Garpar Kendra. Sri Somnath Ghosh (grandson of Paramahansa Yogananda’s brother Sananda Lal Ghosh) and his wife Srimati Sarita Ghosh received the monks with utmost hospitality.
Serampore and Dakshineswar, November 7
Swami Chidanandaji and party visited the Sri Yukteswar Smriti Mandir in Serampore, built on part of the grounds where Sri Yukteswar’s ashram once stood. This Mandir was dedicated in 1977 by Sri Mrinalini Mata as part of the YSS Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Returning to the Dakshineswar Ashram in the evening, Swami Chidanandaji gave an uplifting outdoor satsanga to about 600 devotees.
Second Sharad Sangam at Ranchi, November 14
Swami Chidanandaji returned to the Ranchi Ashram to participate in the second YSS Sharad Sangam, held November 12–17. More than 2,000 devotees and friends attended, the largest number in the event's forty-year history. Swami Chidananda addressed the assemblage on the morning of November 14 and afterwards distributed prasad.
President of India Releases New YSS Book, November 15
On November 15 at the Ranchi Ashram, the President of India, Sri Ram Nath Kovind, officially released the Hindi translation of God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, Paramahansa Yogananda’s masterful commentary on this beloved scripture of India. Accompanying President Kovind at this special event were the Chief Minister and the Governor of the State of Jharkhand.
All stand as speakers and dignitaries are introduced to the audience of nearly 3,000.(From left to right) Swami Ishwarananda; Swami Nityananda; Swami Chidanandaji; Srimati Draupadi Murmu, Governor of Jharkhand; Sri Ram Nath Kovind, President of India; Sri Raghubar Das, Chief Minister of Jharkhand; Swami Smaranananda; Swami Vishwananda.
Following a singing of the Indian national anthem, Sri Kovind and others light the symbolic oil lamp.
The government dignitaries are welcomed to Ranchi with the presentation of flowers and shawls.
The honored guests are presented with copies of God Talks With Arjuna.
(Left) Swami Chidanandaji spoke about the genesis of Paramahansa Yogananda’s God Talks With Arjuna and how a scripture of this magnitude can spiritually uplift the world.
(Right) Sri Kovind addressed the audience in Hindi, speaking about Paramahansa Yogananda’s immense contribution in spreading India’s Raja Yoga science to the West. He also and praised YSS for its role in the dissemination of Yogananda’s teachings and its many charitable activities.
Many media outlets reported on the visit to the Ranchi Ashram by the President of India. This article appeared in the Indian newspaper The Telegraph the day after the event.
Return to SRF International Headquarters, November 18
Swami Chidanandaji and his companions returned to their home at SRF International Headquarters to a warm and joyous reception by their fellow monastics.