Winter Retreat with Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya
About Ninety participants gathered at Amma’s DC Ashram to attend a weekend retreat led by Br. Dayamrita Chaitanya, one of Amma’s senior disciples. Some participants chose to spend the night at the Ashram Friday and/or Saturday night. Others arrived in the morning for one or both days of the event.
Saturday’s program began with the chanting of the 108 Names of Amma and the Manasa Puja. Afterword, Swamiji led a Scripture Class focusing on the Guru Gita, specifically on the thirteen verses that are most commonly chanted as the Guru Strotram. Swamiji explained that these verses, manifested as a conversation between Lord Shiva and Parvati, enlighten us to the role of the Guru as one who removes our internal darkness. The Guru dips a knife into the ointment of knowledge and removes our cataracts of ignorance. By shining light into our darkness, the Guru reveals the ultimate reality: that what pervades the whole universe is nothing but the Supreme Consciousness or Brahman. The Guru takes us from duality to non-duality, helping us to realize that we too are ultimately one with creation, the Supreme Consciousness.
After a brief break for tea and snacks, the program resumed with Swamiji leading meditation and rousing bhajans. After a delicious lunch of homemade soup and salad, participants watched a video of Amma from Amrita Television. Swamiji rejoined us for an entertaining “Question and Answer” session.
Participants submitted a variety of interesting spiritual questions. For example, someone asked the importance of chanting the Lalitha Sahasranmah, the 100O Names of the Divine Mother. Swamiji explained that the words of the mantras have power. Amma recommends chanting the 1000 Names of the Divine Mother each morning to cleanse the subtle body. If one cannot pronounce the mantras, they may listen to a recording of them and respond “Om Parashaktiyai Namaha”.
Afternoon tea was followed by some fun indoor games, such as the men vs. the women in a lively match of identifying bhajan tunes by ear. In the evening, beautiful bhajans were followed by a sumptuous Indian meal.
For those available early on Sunday morning, the day started with a Hatha yoga session at 6:30 am. The Laltiha Sahasranamah Archana was chanted at 7:00 am.
Sunday’s schedule of events was similar, beginning with the 108 Names of Amma, a continuation of the discussion of the Guru Strotram and the completion of the Questions and Answers. On Sunday afternoon, the retreat attendees were blessed with warm, sunny weather. All went outside for recreation and games on the lawn of the ashram.
The wonderful retreat came to a close with a final moving round of bhajans. Amma’s presence was deeply felt. Most lingered for a final tea break, reluctant to leave the divine atmosphere, before helping clean up and heading home. Everyone was truly grateful for the blessed and peaceful weekend.
Om Amriteswarai Namaha