January 5, 2017 was celebrated in Noida Ashram not only as Gurudeva Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda’s 124th birth anniversary but also as the commencement and curtain-raiser to the Centenary Celebrations of YSS.
The ashram grounds saw a gathering of devotees of all ages lined up in two orderly rows, braving the cold, tucked in woollens, ready for the Prabhat Pheri. Commencing with jaikaras of all our Gurus, the procession made a parikrama of the ashram grounds singing melodious bhajans and carrying a picture of beloved Gurudeva seated on a palanquin, bedecked with red and yellow roses, yellow carnations, dahlias, gladioli and marigold. Each devotee enjoyed the privilege of carrying the palanquin even if it was for a brief period. YSS sannyasis also joined in the procession.
The procession culminated at the ashram porch where the palanquin was reverentially placed for all the devotees to offer pushpanjali at the feet of their beloved Guru.
The Guru’s gracious presence was very much evident throughout the day as an overwhelming joy felt by one and all. He was tangibly working through his many devotees and his guidance was felt in every minute detail of the event.
About 2000 people turned up to take prasad at the Narayan seva organized on that day for the general public. It was satisfying to see that most of those who came were from the lower economic strata of the society. The happy faces of these men, women, and children after partaking the poori, sabzi and halwa was very rewarding.
The main event was held in the auditorium from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. The Chief Guest for the occasion of the Centenary Janmotsav Programme was the Secretary of the Ramakrishna Mission, Delhi, Swami Shantatmananandaji. Swamiji was received at the porch in the traditional Indian style with a garland by Swami Lalitanandaji, and then he was escorted around the ashram grounds by Swami Ishwaranandaji. Following a brief interaction with the monastics and Ambassador K N Bakshi, over refreshments, Swamiji was escorted to the auditorium.
The centenary special evening programme began with a meditation session conducted by Brahmachari Dhairyanandaji in the auditorium. Swami Vasudevanandaji sang bhajans as Swami Shantatmanandaji joined the programme. Swami Shantatmanandaji was garlanded by Swami Hiteshanandaji and the ceremonial lamp was lit to launch the Centenary celebrations.
Ambassador Bakshi welcomed Swami Shantatmanandaji on behalf of YSS and read out the message sent on this occasion by our beloved Sanghamata and President, Sri Sri Mrinalini Mataji. Ma conveyed her heartiest congratulations to YSS, and highlighted how Sri Sri Daya Mataji had played a pivotal role in nurturing the organization and placing it on a strong footing.
During his address, Swami Ishwaranandaji pointed out that the story of the growth of YSS is a “love’ story – the love of God and Gurus for the devotees and the devotees’ loving service to Them in return. He said that Guruji being an incarnation of Love, the organization established by him is nothing if not a manifestation of that divine love. While acknowledging that thousands of devotees contributed to make YSS/SRF a worldwide organization, he highlighted the special contribution of those great souls who played a key role in the growth of YSS such as Rajarsi Janakanandaji, Sri Daya Ma, Sri Mrinalini Ma, and Hansa Swami Shyamananda ji. Swami Ishwarananda also elaborated on a number of points made by Mrinalini Mata ji in her message.
Swami Shantatmananandaji’s address reflected the reverence and high regard he had for Gurudeva Sri Sri Paramahansa Yogananda; he likened Gurudeva to the mythical Homa bird, which lays her egg so high up in the air that long before the egg can hit the ground, it hatches and the chick comes out. As the chick begins to fall, it realizes the peril it is in and starts to fly and reaches safe heights. Swamiji said that such are the rare great souls like Paramahansa Yogananda whose consciousness doesn’t touch the earth; they belong to higher realms, and endeavour to take everyone to that state. Swamiji’s talk was deeply appreciated by all, and he received a huge round of applause at the end of his discourse. The highlight of his talk was his emphasis on the importance of following the Guru given sadhana with shraddha (devotion), without which no progress is possible.
Swami Shantatmanandaji was presented with a shawl, a picture of Yogeshwara Krishna and a copy of Guruji’s interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita,“God talks with Arjuna” at the end of his talk.
Swami Lalitanandaji then gave a vote of thanks. At the end, an audio recording of Gurudeva’s talk was played, which made Guruji’s presence all the more living to the assembled devotees and guests.
About 1100 devotees attended the programme and were enchanted by the ethereal atmosphere created by the magnificent lighting that decked the ashram gardens and facade of buildings. Guests lingered in the gardens, drinking in the divine vibrations, before proceeding for the Guru Langar where a special meal was served.
The devotees left happy and contented – joy was visibly writ large on their faces; Guruji had tangibly touched each one of them with his unconditional love and boundless joy, thus continuing the saga of Divine Love.