With immense joy in our hearts, we wish to inform you about the 2020 Sadhana Sangams of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (YSS). To facilitate participation of a greater number of devotees, we will be organizing several Sadhana Sangams this year in five different locations, instead of conducting just two annual Sharad Sangams at YSS Ranchi Ashram.
These Sangams will be held at YSS Ashrams in Ranchi, Noida, Dakshineswar, and also at Ananda Shikhar Sadhanalaya, Shimla and Paramahansa Yogananda Sadhanalaya, Igatpuri. These Sangams will be spread across the year. Devotees may choose to attend a Sangam at a time and location that is convenient for them. However, a devotee may attend only ONE Sadhana Sangam during the year 2020.
We wish to share with you the legacy of the Sangams, chronicling their evolution over the years and the factors compelling us to introduce Sadhana Sangams.
History of Sharad Sangams at Ranchi
Gurudeva always wanted that once a year there should be a programme in which Yogoda devotees could come together for a period of spiritual renewal and fellowship in order to deepen their understanding of his teachings, and receive the guidance and inspiration necessary for spiritual growth. Therefore, in 1950, Guruji held the first Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) World Convocation at Mother Center in Los Angeles — an event that today attracts thousands of devotees every year from all around the globe.
Sri Sri Mrinalini Mata (centre), fourth president of YSS/SRF, during the 1977 Diamond Jubilee Celebrations at Ranchi — the harbinger of present day Sangams.
A similar event was initiated by YSS for Yogoda devotees in 1977, the Diamond Jubilee year of the founding of YSS, when a Sangam was held at our Ranchi ashram for the first time, in which a few hundred devotees participated. Thereafter, these events became a regular feature in March every year, and were known as Founder’s Week as they would be held during the week that coincided with the Foundation Day (March 22) of YSS. From 1984 onwards, these events were shifted to October-November (the autumn season, or the Sharad ritu), and were termed as Sharad Sangams.
Since then, YSS has been organizing Sharad Sangams every year. As Guruji’s teachings spread across India, the initial attendance of a few hundred burgeoned into much larger numbers in early 2000s, prompting us to organize additional Janmotsav functions in different parts of the country. This way a devotee could attend either the Sangam or Janmotsav function.
Even after introducing Janmotsav functions, the demand for participation in the Sangams kept growing every year, resulting in an increasing number of devotees being turned away each year from the Sharad Sangam. To accommodate the growing numbers, from 2011 to 2013, Sangams were also held at additional locations — Noida, Igatpuri, and Kuppam. For various reasons, the Sangams at Igatpuri and Kuppam could not be continued, while the Sangams at Noida became a regular feature. However, as this was not sufficient to cater to the growing demand, it prompted us to conduct two back-to-back Sharad Sangams in 2014. Although two Sangams every year were a substantial stretch on our resources, facilities, and volunteers, it was our hope that these two annual Sangams would take care of the growth for at least the next ten years.
However, in a short span of four years, we noticed such an unprecedented increase in registration requests that in 2018, we had to once again resort to turning away devotees from attending the Sangams. Further, because of the large number of participants in each Sangam, devotees were being put to inconvenience because of overcrowding of the accommodation facilities, auditorium seating, and ancillary services such as dining, bathrooms, etc.
The queues outside the dining pandal during meal-times were growing longer with each passing year. We also received feedback that because of the overcrowding, devotees were finding it difficult to meditate and even sleep in their rooms. Overwhelming participation during YSS/SRF President’s India Tour in 2019 (where nearly 5,000 devotees attended the functions at the three locations: Noida, Hyderabad, and Mumbai), was another testimony to the continuing growth in attendance.
All these factors made it quite evident that we would not be able to continue holding the two annual Sharad Sangams at Ranchi in the same manner, and that a novel approach had to be considered.
Much thought and prayerful deliberation led us to the conclusion that if we are to make the Sangam a more comfortable and spiritually rewarding experience, we will have to solve the problem of overcrowding and pressure on the ashram facilities. Since the facilities at Ranchi cannot keep on growing, the only way out was to conduct a Sangam-like programme at more than one location. We also realized that the Ranchi ashram facilities are severely stretched only during the Sharad Sangams, while during the rest of the year, they are under-utilized. The same is also true for the YSS ashrams at Noida and Dakshineswar. Thus, if multiple small Sangams were to be held at our Ranchi, Noida, and Dakshineswar ashrams, we would be able to cater to a larger number of devotees every year than what we are able to do through the two Sharad Sangams at Ranchi, and at the same time solve the problems of overcrowding, pressure on ancillary facilities, and the need for a large number of volunteers, associated with them. We also considered the YSS retreat facilities at Shimla and Igatpuri as additional venues for these smaller Sangams, since they have all the infrastructure for conducting such programmes comfortably. The idea of smaller Sangams at multiple locations gradually evolved into the concept of Sadhana Sangams, the details of which we are sharing with you below. In making this change, it is our endeavour to expand and build on our ability to better serve Guruji’s devotees, to help them improve their practice of the YSS techniques, and deepen their relationship with God.
About Sadhana Sangams
The main purpose of the Convocation, as envisioned by Guruji when he started it in 1950, was to provide a spiritual opportunity to his devotees where they could come together, dive deep in their sadhana, and then return to their homes spiritually recharged, fully ready to face the challenges of the world with their hearts and minds anchored in God.
Gurudeva said, “My mission is to awaken love for God in the soul of man. I prefer a soul to a crowd, and I love crowds of souls.” Guruji always emphasized on the qualitative rather than the quantitative growth of his work. We wanted to stay true to this guidance given by Guruji, and at the same time provide a “Sangam”-like spiritual experience for YSS devotees (realizing how eagerly they look forward to Sangams each year) while designing and planning the Sadhana Sangams in the year 2020.
Similar to Sharad Sangams, these programmes will provide YSS devotees an opportunity for spiritual rejuvenation, and for improving their understanding and practice of Gurudeva’s teachings and meditation techniques. The main difference between the two is the number of participants. While more than 1,800 devotees would attend each Sharad Sangam in the past, the participation in each Sadhana Sangam will be limited to at most a few hundred. This will enable us to provide more spacious accommodation to each participant, with a smaller number of devotees per room. It will also eliminate many problems experienced by devotees in Sharad Sangams, such as long queues, overcrowding of the dining pandal and inadequate seating space in the auditorium. Devotees will also be better able to enjoy the pristine environment and the beautiful gardens of our ashrams. As the number of devotees attending each programme will be small, there will be a greater opportunity for each devotee to receive personal counselling and spiritual guidance from monastics.
Sadhana Sangams will be conducted every month starting from March until December in 2020, except for the month of June. They will include all the activities that made Sharad Sangams so attractive and spiritually rewarding, such as daily group meditations, classes on meditation techniques, Satsangas, Cosmic Chant sessions, and a video show. Some of these Sangams will be held simultaneously at all the five locations, while some of them will be held simultaneously only at Ranchi and Noida Ashrams. The programmes will also include livestreaming of Satsangas by senior YSS sannyasis from one location to all other locations so that all participants benefit from them.
These events will begin on a Thursday morning, and end by Sunday at noon time. Devotees will have the option to stay for four additional days — they may arrive two days prior to the event (by Tuesday morning), and stay for two extra days after the programme closes (the following Tuesday night). In spending up to eight continuous days in Guruji’s Ashram / Retreat centre, devotees will receive ample time for rest, relaxation, and spiritual rejuvenation.
Having the same programme at several different locations simultaneously, and also at different times during the year, provides many opportunities and options for the devotees to choose from. At the same time, it enables us to cater to a larger number of devotees without compromising on the quality of our service and comfort provided to devotees. In fact, we envisage improvement in these areas.
To begin with, the technique classes in all these Sadhana Sangams will be either in English or Hindi, except one Sangam at Ranchi where the technique classes will be in Telugu and one Sangam at Dakshineswar where the technique classes will be in Bengali. However, in future, it will be possible for us to have Sangams in other regional languages also, providing an opportunity for devotees to participate in Sangams conducted in their mother tongue. As some of the Sadhana Sangams will also include Kriya Yoga Diksha ceremonies, the number of opportunities to attend a Diksha ceremony will also be much more.
Registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis. We shall be providing options to register both online, as well as offline. Complete information with details of the programme, month-wise Sangam dates, the dates of Kriya Yoga Diksha ceremonies, and other relevant information for registering for the Sadhana Sangams was announced in the first half of January 2020 on our website: yssofindia.org/programmes/Sadhana-Sangam-2020
As we get ready to implement this new initiative, we request your prayers and cooperation for the success of this venture. With the advent of the New Year, may your love and joy of the Divine receive a fresh inflow that will help you feel closer to God and the Gurus. Our prayers and friendship are ever with you.
In divine friendship,
Yogoda Satsanga Society of India