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Reflection on Study Group
July 8, 2011
One Student’s Reflection upon Vedanta Santa Fe Study Group
- Todd Kelly ( Raman),
A Beautiful Experience
The sounds of shoes being removed, happy Hari Oms! and greetings, hearty laughter and hugs, gathering books and seats, tea and snacks being made; all herald the arrival of study group time. Someone lights the lamp and incense and offers to Swami Chinmayanandaji and Adi Sankaracharyaji on the altar. Small talk subsides as the Sevika reaches for the book being studied. It all begins with three Oms heartily chanted with the Santi Pathah, ‘Om Saha na vavatu...’, following.
After a brief introduction, the participants each read aloud a paragraph from the text around the circle till the selection is finished. Respectful dialogue and debate follow with timely cues and directions from the Sevika. When everyone has spoken and closing remarks made the Santi Pathah, ‘Om Purnamadah...’ is chanted.
I love this repeating scene in my Spiritual Life! It is a harmonic chord playing again, echoing our precious time with Shubhraji when she teaches here in Santa Fe. I learn so much from each and every one. Like the many facets of a diamond contribute to its ultimate brilliance revealing the clarity, so are the study group participants to me.
I’ve noticed over the years that the gunas (moods) come and go. Sometimes the weight of the world or the joys and excitements of a holiday season will be there with the group. Yet at the end of every gathering I continually notice the same transformation. During the course of study and dialogue we become more unified, clear and energized. Agitations that we come with are lessened and we leave with more peace in our hearts, eager to return again.
Sometimes confusion arises or a samskara9emotional imprint) prompts an individual to ask for more guidance. Invariably, someone always remembers a quote from Shubhraji or one of her stories of Swamiji. Because of our duties and obligations in life, not everyone can come to every meeting. It always ends up being so perfect, the right energy for that specific gathering.
We are able to help each other through our remembrance of the teachings, our understanding of the text being studied and our courage to express our experiences openly. There are times when we all throw our hands up in the air in wonder to a question. Then one or a few in unison say with glee “that will be a good question for satsang with Shubhraji!”
A Brief History
Study group began soon after I first met Shubhraji in July of 2003. The first gathering was at Shubhraji’s senior student Sivani’s (Wendelin) home. With her stellar guidance as Sevika, we began to study Self Unfoldment by Swami Chinmayananda in the style set forth by Him so many years ago. Each paragraph was read aloud by all around the circle till finished. Then discussion followed with comments being restricted to five sentences that related to the text, being encouraged to include quotes from what was just read. In this way we learned to express with focused clarity.
In those days, we gathered in a different home every study group until the book was completed. We studied Self Unfoldment twice and Tattva Bodha once. We are currently studying Self Unfoldment and in the second year of The Art of Man Making, a transcript of a series of broadcasts of Swamiji and his talks on The Bhagavad Geeta.
After a couple of years, Ariana who we loving call Annamma, became Sevika and has been leading study group ever since. Her clear understanding of Shubhraji’s teachings has helped many during reading and discussion. In recent years, we’ve been meeting at our home, which is centrally located. I have been blessed to be able to attend almost every gathering, only missing a few here and there. We are now in our seventh year of meeting together in study group.
Satsangatve: A Lifeboat on the Ocean of Samsara
Often, when the yagna has finished and Shubhraji has left Santa Fe, the next months are filled with waves of inspiration, heated internal debate, and intricate thoughts as this heart-mind makes successive attempts to integrate the teachings. Personal reflection and contemplation have been good companions for me. It is really only through the regular attendance of study group, I have found, that the internal churnings and graspings of the mind begin to settle and come to peaceful resolution within my heart.
My most memorable and cherished experiences in study group have been the reflections back to me of ‘The Blessed Divine Self.’ All perspectives upon the reading at hand and the recent teachings are relayed so beautifully by the expressions, both spoken from and visually on, the faces of Shubhraji’s students. Then, I remember from the teachings, when I see and accept the ‘Truth in all’ I experience the ‘Saksi’, this Divine witness. This helps me to see we all have something to offer each other and there is really no separation. I believe this has helped me to stay firm on this path called Advaita Vedanta.
One of my favorite verses that Shubhraji has taught us comes from Adi Sankaracharya’s Bhaja Govindam in which a core essence of my experience with study group is described:
Satsangatve Nissangatvam Nihsangatve Nirmohatvam
Nirmohatve Niscalatattvam Niscalatattve Jivanmuktih
(Bhaja Govindam Bhaja Govindam….)
9. Through the company of the good, there arises non-attachment; through non-attachment there arises freedom from delusion; when there is freedom from delusion, there is the Immutable Reality; on experiencing Immutable Reality, there comes the state of ‘liberated-in-life’.
Study group has become for me like a sturdy lifeboat plying the churning waters of this ocean of ‘the world of change’. The students keep the boat afloat by their sincere intentions no matter the weather and the waves. The teachings of Shubhraji, Swamiji, and Mother Shruti (scriptures) guide the boat directly to the goal ahead, ablaze with the light of Truth. Our most fearless captains are the Sevikas showing us strength and conviction so that we may choose not to abandon ship before the goal is reached. I am very grateful for Sivani and Annamma who have given so much of their time in dedicated effort. With their heartfelt, single-pointed and unwavering attention, we are continuing the Journey much stronger, closer together, and are moving swiftly ahead.
Thank you Shubhraji for coming to Santa Fe and bringing us this gift of sacred knowledge, the value of which I feel I am beginning to understand. I give my pranams to you.