USA and Canada Dharmayatra 2016

Live with Bhaishree

USA and Canada Dharmayatra 2016


Day 1:

Mumbai: 24th July

As Param Pujya Bhaishree departs from Mumbai on his Dharmayatra to USA and Canada, devoted disciples see him off at the airport. 

Param Pujya Bhaishree is accompanied by Br. Minalben, Br. Vikrambhai, Br. Lalitaben and Atmarthi Rohitbhai on his journey. Br. Rasikbhai will be joining them directly in Wichita, USA.

Seekers in North America await to hear his wisdom. The rising anticipation heightens the devotion, quietens any distraction and opens up the heart to receive the divine connection. 

Wichita

Wichita: 25th July

As mumukshus gather from far and wide to welcome Param Pujya Bhaishree, feelings of elation, excitement and spiritual rigor fill our hearts with eagerness for the weeks ahead.

Finally the wait is over as Bhaishree and Co. arrive at Wichita airport! Despite an arduous journey spanning almost 24 hours, there is not a trace of weariness in his eyes - just the same patient, calm, loving radiance towards one and all.

We head to Mumukshu Paarul and Raju Ghelani's where Bhaishree will be staying over the next few days. They extended a heartfelt, devotional welcome to all the guests from India.


Day 2

Wichita: 26th July

Morning Swadhyay: Well begun is half done.

In very first Swadhyay Bhaishree with all His compassion and love said, "Oh beloved soul seekers do not forget that each one of you is a Yogi."

We may not have renounced the world, we may not be doing penance, we may not be wearing the attire of a yogi, yet we all are yogis.

Time and again keep reminding yourself that you are a yogi. Though you may be living between many relationships but still, fundamentally you are born to live a divine spiritual life.

Expounding on many definitions of who a true yogi is, alert Bhaishree said.

1) A yogi is one whose mind is serene and most of the time it remains calm and quiet.

2) A Yogi is one who is in complete control of himself. Righteous conduct is fruit of his inner awareness.

3) A yogi is one who lives in present.

4) His awareness continuously keeps on scanning his thoughts and will perfectly analyse and discriminate between bad good and divine thoughts. Shedding away the bad ones he shall ever remain sublime.

5) Yogi is one who follows 8 limbs of yog.

6) Food, Sleep, Fear and Various Desires including sensual ones are present in all human beings as well as animals and birds. A yogi too has all of them, but with divine intellect, pure mind and compassionate heart he deals with all of them in a proper manner. A pure mind and divine intellect is empowered to perceive, differenciate and make him righteous in whatever he does.

 

Nature Trail

Walking on a Nature Trail this afternoon, Param Pujya Bhaishree sat under a tree and observed:

"When we are surrounded by the beauty of nature we feel the difference compared to urban living. We resonate and connect with nature, we feel its naturality, its energy. Nature's strength evokes positivity and happiness.

When surrounded by urban living we often feel safe, secure and happy in its comforts. However this is illusionary and temporary. Observing the lifeforms that live in nature they live free, unrestricted and in harmony with their natural habitat. True inner happiness is found residing in the midst of nature. Those who live in the heart of nature continuously enjoy its beauty and cannot live elsewhere as it has no comparison. They live where they are meant to be, in their rightful existence.

Our soul is imprisoned in this body through its delusional identification with it. It cannot obtain and enjoy the bliss of its own true nature. If the soul truly experienced its own nature, its own strength, its own beauty, if the soul came to permanently reside in its own natural state it would experience the permanent bliss of its own existence. This is what we need to achieve."

Evening Swadhyay: Bhagwan Ajitnath's stavan by Shree Mohanvijayji Maharaj Saheb

This evening Bhaishree addressed a gathering of seekers at the Hindu temple of greater Wichita.

He explained the beautiful poem composed by Mohanvijayji Maharaj Saheb dedicated to the Second Tirthankar Shree Ajitnath Bhagwan.

O Ajit Jin, you are indeed the knower of my mind,
Bowing my head down, I wish to make a request sincere;
Thou art the Lord, my beloved,
And so I present to you my heartfelt desire. 1

Eons ago, in our state of ignorance, we were both the same;
Now why have you become so distant from me ?
Due to the accumulation of merit you have become a Lord Jineshwar,
Alas I have remained the destitute seeker since time immemorial. 2

What can be denied to you O Lord ?
You are the master of this play, you are enlightened;
We seek none other than you,
You who are worshiped by one & all. 3

You make one seeker into another you,
And another seeker remains as he was, how is that fair compassionate one ?
Just as everyone treats their right & left eyes equally,
Why do you not do the same 4

Who do you keep a distance from me O Master,
Do you see any shortcomings in this humble servant ?
The one cannot attain the respect of his Lord,
Shall only be ridiculed by all. 5

If you leave us behind and head to the formless abode,
We shall still worship your form O Lord;
Even matter is considered to be formless,
But does it not attain a form when atoms combine ? 6

Even when the pauper sincerely worships the Gods of wealth,
He is blessed with gold & jewels;
So also I worship you with the aim of attaining my self,
It is now in your hands to bless me. 7

My mind has turned towards thy lotus-feet,
Now how could it ever leave you and go elsewhere ?
Just as a honey bee sits on a flower,
And revels in the ambrosial nectar. 8

O Lord, you are the bearer of a lofty title - ‘the deliverer or all’,
How then could you turn me away ?
Says Mohanvijay, the disciple of Rupvijayji Maharaj Saheb,
Someday, I shall attain the bliss of self-realisation. 9

- Mohanvijayji Maharaj Saheb

Day 3

Wichita: 27th July

This morning Bhaishree consecrated the idol of Tirthankar Bhagwan amidst a joyous 'pratistha' ceremony at the residence of Mumukshus Parul & Raju Ghelani in Wichita.

Post the ceremony, P.P.Bhaishree proclaimed that "the crystal of this pratimaji was purified with a special process. Today after establishing it in this beautiful wooden temple it has become even more divine. The pious aura, the divine spell of this idol is so so great that not only Rajubhai's home but all of Wichita village shall benefit. Lord Mahavir's consecration in this home will tremendously help in progress of the whole town. He congratulated Rajubhai Parulben and his family and wished that they would work harder for their spiritual progress.


Day 4

Wichita: 28th July

Over 2600 years have passed since Bhagwan Mahavir walked this earth. Over time true spirituality began to fade.

However just 400 years ago, enlightened saints who depicted and preached the philosophy as professed Mahavir, revived the path of truth.

Just 150 years ago Shrimad Rajchandraji was born. He became a guiding pole star in the eternal skies of spirituality.

On the devout occasion of establishing Lord Mahavir at the home of Jasmina and Ernie, Param Pujya Bhaishree took the first verse of Shree Devchandraji Maharaj's stavan on Shree Mahavir Swami:

"Oh! Lord Tirthankar Mahavir, I plead and request you to hear the cry of my soul, I have been imprisoned for time too long. Oh Mahavir Bhagwan help me, relieve me from these shackles of delusion. If I gain freedom then the world shall sing your praises. You are my master and I am your lowly humble servant.

Oh compassionate one, I seek your divine love. I am aware of how terrible, how filthy my soul is, but I am assured of piety under your reverent shelter"

Bhaishree's serenity had a magical influence on all who were present.

 

Swadhyay: Letter 200

At the Satsang this evening, Bhaishree explained letter 200 from the Vachanamrut - a letter that entails the entire path to liberation.

Letter 200

Mumbai, Bright half of Maha, 1947

Aphorisms for reflection

1.The self has forgotten its true nature, and is therefore devoid of eternal bliss, all religions are in agreement with this.
2. The ignorance of having forgotten oneself, shall vanish upon the attainment of enlightenment, know this without any doubt.
3. Only from an enlightened soul can such enlightenment be obtained. This is naturally understood by all, yet the soul does not let go of the company of the ignorant, largely due to social pressure, and this is the root cause of intense bondage-causing passions (anantanubandhi kashay).
4. Those who yearn for the attainment of enlightenment, should conduct themselves in accordance with the will of the enlightened masters, thus preach all the Jain canons and other scriptures.
5. Conducting oneself as per ones own self-righteous will has lead to infinite transmigration.
6. Until and unless one has not adopted the will, that is to say the commandments of the enlightened master, it is impossible to get rid of ignorance.
7. Only that seeker shall be able to diligently adopt the word of the enlightened master, who shall surrender all attachment to body, mind and wealth and be filled with loving devotion to the master.
8. The enlightened master certainly doesn't wish for the seekers' devotion, but well aware of the fact that without such devotion the seeker of liberation shall never be able to manifest within himself the precepts of the master, and shall never be able to truly imbibe and deeply reflect upon these precepts - they advocate such devotion as a must for all seekers.
9. All the scriptures concur with what I have written above.
Rushabhdev had preached exactly this to his ninety-eight sons as the direct path to liberation.
10.This is precisely what Shukdevji had preached unto King Parikshit.
11. Even if the soul were to engage in intense practice by its own will for all of eternity it shall never attain enlightenment by itself, yet the humble adherent of the enlightened master's commandments may even attain omniscience within the hour.
12. The commandments contained in the scriptures are indeed indirect,and are only meant to cultivate worthiness within the soul, for liberation one has to follow the direct commandments of the enlightened master.
13. Thus I have elucidated hereby the sequential path to enlightenment, without attaining it there shall be no liberation by any other path.
14. The one who shall worship this esoteric truth, shall attain the ambrosial nectar of immortality and shall eventually become perfectly fearless.

Thus attain the absolute


Dallas

Day 5

Dallas: 29th July

This morning Bhaishree consecrated the idol of Tirthankar Bhagwan at the new residence of Mumukshus Neelam & Chetan Shah amidst much pomp and fanfare. Vikrambhai stirred up the aura with his soulful vocals and spiritually uplifting reverberations.

Swadhyay

In today's afternoon Swadhyay, Bhaishree's discourse delved into the immeasurable value of our human birth, one that even the dev from devlok envy. As he has, numerous times before, he reminded us that we possess in these seemingly insignificant bodies the same power as Siddha Bhagwan. Bhaishree tells us that by merely being born as humans, we are already halfway along the path to Moksha. The journey has further been lessened by our attainment of satdev, sat dharma and sadguru. Our progress on the path will be based on our efforts and our desires to focus our attention within ourselves. He who has ever wanted true happiness has only been able to attain it from this human birth. And once this happiness is attained, it is a happiness that never will go from those who have experienced it.

Bhaishree closed his Swadhyay by wishing Chetanbhai, his family and all mumukshus God -speed in their adhyatmic efforts to attain this unmatched happiness.

 

Dharmabeej Swadhyay: Maitri (Universal Friendship)

In the first of four swadhyays which will take place at the Dallas Jain Derasar, Bhaishree had selected a discourse from 'Dharmabeej', literally translated to the 'Seed of Religion'. The series of swadhyays began this evening with Maitri Bhavana: it is, simply put, the profound ability to view all living beings around us as our friends and the wish that each of these living beings attain Moksha.

In expressing the importance of Maitri Bhavana, Bhaishree explained the other three Bhavanas to follow are contained within Maitri Bhavana.
The effect of seeing all those around us as our friends, is our own immeasurable mental peace. And it is this very mental peace of mind that defines our true wealth.

Maitri Bhavana, Bhaishree told us, is desiring to rid away the suffering of others during our own most difficult times, thereby pulling our mind away from our own difficulties and instead onto the sufferings of others.


Day 6

Dallas: 30th July

Dharmabeej Swadhyay: Pramod (praising the virtues in others)

Kicking off this morning with renewed energy and eagerness in continuation of the 4 bhavanas.

Param Pujya Bhaishree began by revisiting Maitri bhavana, reminding us that since each one of us has begun this adhyatmic friendship with one another, we need to now focus on is how we are going to keep it going in each one of us.

Br. Vikrambhai sang an uplifting pad and had the audience open their hearts, with no inhibitions, and sing along Vasudhaiva Kutumbakum.

Pramod bhavana

The act of looking at someone's good qualities and being happy for that person while working on cultivating those qualities in ourselves.

Often we let our ego and pride get in the way and instead choose to see the negative. If we can let that negativity go and refocus on the virtues of one another, we can progress on this path very quickly.

Bhaishree stressed the importance of having guna drashti and the many benefits it provides spiritually.

The power of seeing the good qualities in others is such that it can stop the influx of further karma and help break down our ego and pride. For a sadhak experiencing various obstacles in their efforts, Pramod bhavana can remove those obstacles and allow them to progress towards salvation.

We should take the smallest good quality of others and enhance it to the point that it is the only thing we see. In the same respect, take our smallest vice and make it so large it is the only thing we see and continue to improve upon.

Bhaishree discussed the sanctity found in the delicate relationship between Guru and Shishya. It is the ability of the Shishya to scope out the virtues and pious qualities in his Guru. The Guru in turn seeks out the qualities that need further development in the Shishya and once the Guru finds these areas, He works tirelessly to cultivate and mature those virtues in the Shishya, always being certain to drive out the flaws. This beautiful, sacred interaction defines the Guru-Shishya bond.

As we continue on this path, we have gained Maitri bhavana, and now need to cultivate Pramod bhavana in all of us.

 

Dharmabeej Swadhyay: Karuna (Compassion)

Param Pujya Bhaishree discussed the various forms of Karuna. For instance, feeding the hungry because they are hungry regardless of whether they are good or bad (one form of Karuna).

However, the Karuna of a Gnaani Mahatma, an enlightened saint, is to free other souls from suffering. With all other Karuna you offer temporary respite from suffering. But only with atma gnaan, knowledge of the soul, or self realisation, will you get permanent end to this suffering. Just achieving this once and all suffering will end for eternity. This type of Karuna is what is brimming in a gnaani purush. They want all souls to see the end of their suffering by achieving atma gnaan.

Bhaishree also explains that we need to have compassion for ourselves. That we have suffered birth and death for so many lives. Just as we try to help ease the suffering of others now we need to turn this focus inwards towards permanently ending our suffering through enlightenment.

Bhaishree brought things full circle from the earlier swadhyay stating that a true Sishya or disciple has Pramod Bhavana towards their Guru, and the Sadguru in turn has Karuna or compassion towards their disciple.


Day 7

Dallas: 31st July

Prior to Bhaishree's Swadhyay this morning, Br. Vikrambhai sang 'Fakiro Ki Duniya', a longtime favorite bhajan for the younger mumukshus in the US. Vikrambhai chose this Pad as a prelude to Bhaishree's discourse on Madhyasta Bhavana, singing the extent of the madhyasta found in a Gnani.

Beginning His Swadhyay today morning, Bhaishree explained the need and the importance of this Bhavana - the contemplation upon Equanimity under all circumstances.

If we recognize that our mind is the root cause for our unhappiness and our likes and dislikes, then we can begin to bring Madhyastata into practice. Most of the time we don't recognize this simple fact and continue to allow ourselves to be effected to by things, persons, and actions.

If we truly focus on Madhyastata, whether we are confronted with happiness or unhappiness, we stay unaffected and in turn begin eliminating our karmic bonds. Madhyastata also will strengthen our efforts in dhyan and gives us the right perspective to make right judgments. The benefits of cultivating Madhyastata in us are many.

Gnanis, Bhaishree explained, become ecstatic on facing difficulties in their lives. They await such moments in fact, as they view it as an opportunity to shed themselves of karmic bondages.

He continued to explain that one who wants to liberate his should must begin with bringing peace in this home, and fully diminishing like and dislike between him and those of his own home. Only then can the journey to self realization commence peacefully in his own home.

In a room of pin drop silence, Bhaishree in his ever loving and compassionate voice, spoke in his typical manner of quiet but filled with infinite importance. He spoke of the strange nature of karma, with one having more than he can use in his entire lifetime, while he who is next to him will have nothing. One had a lifetime of health and he who is beside him will have a lifetime of illness. Pondering about this gives us the strength to be pensive of our soul and to instill in ourselves Madhyasta Bhavana.

Bhaishree concluded with addressing the Dallas mumukshus with love and with great calm. He reminded us all of the power of Maitri, Pramod, Karuna and Madhyasta Bhavana - their ability to truly transform our lives. These four Bhavana are the Dharma Bhij. If we want to eat the fruit of moksha, we must plant the seeds of Maitri, Pramod, Karuna, and madhyasta Bhavana.


Calgary

Day 8

Calgary: 1st August

High up in the serene mountains of Banff National Park in Calgary, today Param Pujya Bhaishree explored nature with us. We travelled to ancient glaciers such as the Athabasca glacier on the edge of the Columbia Ice Field.

Just as the giant reservoirs of ice feed fresh water into rivers that flow far and wide sustaining life for so many, Bhaishree's love flows steadily to sustain us all.

Just as the mountains provide shelter to plants and animals from the harsh winds and the bitter cold, sitting with Bhaishree we all felt protected from the harshness of our inner turmoil.

Just as the tall alpine trees reach up high to soak up every drop of sunshine, may we too grow in our spiritual striving to absorb every drop of Bhaishree's compassionate teachings.


Day 9

Calgary: 2nd August

These towering Canadian Rocky Mountains in their stoic, regal, static and unwavering nature intrigues one's curiosity.

Bhaishree reflected that different people seeing these mountains would see them from different perspectives. He offered one perspective:

What if we were to see these mountains as Yogis. Each different in their outward appearamce, some bare and barren and others forested with many alpine trees. They have stood for many thousands, millions of years undertaking their sadhana in a solemn, disciplined manner.

Yet they are still here. Their goal remains unfulfilled. Enlightened teachers have said that sincere striving for just 6 months or less can lead to our goal of self realisation. So what is it that is preventing this from manifesting?

Whatever the outward appearance and no matter how much the spiritual efforts without the inner path and true guidance on the journey the fruits of spiritual enlightenment will continue to elude us.

However, Bhaishree explains, we have the path and we have the guidance but disciplined and sincere striving is lacking. Seeing the sadhana of the mountainous yogis we should be inspired.

They stand tall and unwavering no matter how much they are battered by the harsh weather.

They are silent and still. No matter the movement around them they remain an observing witness.

They are humble and equanimous. No matter what grows on them. No matter whether humans tread on them. No matter if they are praised for their beauty or denounced for their hard, ugly and cold appearamce they remain as they are content in their true nature and accepting of their circumstances.

So inspiring to be surrounded by the Canadian Rocky Mountains here with Bhaishree.

On Courage

Today Param Pujya Bhaishee inspired us to develop more courage in facing challenges. He first reminded all of us that, for the most part, we enjoy great fortune in our lives and face very few obstacles in our external situation. Yet despite this, when we do face even the smallest of difficulties we feel so unfortunate and incapable to tolerate it. We tend to feel sorry for ourselves and share our woes with those who we believe may comfort us, even though this may not help to solve the problem.

What would it be like if we instead confronted our difficulties with more courage, looking at it straight in the eye? If there is a solution we should pursue it. If there is not, we should practice patience and give things time. Bhaishree reflected that most of us run around and busy ourselves, but instead just by thinking deeply, with a focused and clear mind, the next steps would reveal themselves.

Bhaishree then acknowledged that fear is often what cripples us during such times. He spoke about the importance of overcoming this fear. Even when we see nothing but blackness in front of us at this time we should firstly keep our vision clean and clear, and secondly maintain unshakeable faith. Ultimately this allows us to make the right efforts. We can turn the rocks of challenges into solid stone steps upwards towards a resolution to our situation.

There is a story about Swami Vivekanda meeting a recently widowed woman. The Swami told this woman that she is very fortunate. The woman didn't understand and asked "why do you say that?" and he responded that she should figure it out herself! Asking oneself "why am I fortunate?" is the key to success. We must become alert to the blessing in the midst of an external challenge. We must turn our failure into a success for ourselves. Every difficulty provides us with an opportunity to develop this skill.

Bhaishree concluded his compassionate message with a warning that if we are not careful during the troubling periods of our lives, our boat can veer off in the wrong direction and take us to an even worse place than we started off in. Then we will struggle even more to recover from the situation.

We must all learn and grow to become alert, discriminative and capable of handling difficult situations skillfully. This is an art that is necessary for our worldly lives and far more so for our spiritual lives.


Day 10

Calgary: 3rd August

The stillness of the lakes quietens our minds and brings us back to the present moment. As we pondered the history of these lakes, we reflected on how the ground was eroded by the ice, carving out basins and filling them with water. So many factors collaborate in harmony to create a lake but perhaps the most important requirement is that the ground must be soft enough to give way and transform. May we too surrender our ego and allow our guru’s love to mould us and fill us, just like these beautiful lakes.


Day 11

Calgary: 4th August

Over the past few days immersed in nature, Param Pujya Bhaishree has been encouraging us to reflect on the many ways in which nature inspires and teaches us. Here is one of the reflections shared in our group contemplation...

It is curious that we perceive nature to be green and the oceans to be blue. It is quite the opposite. The leaves absorb all light except green which they reflect back. This reflected green light falls in our eyes and so we see leaves as green. Yet our perception is quite different to the real phenomenon.

As we gaze upon the world around it begs the question: is everything as it seems?

Perhaps the leaves are not green or the oceans blue. Perhaps the body is not me and the senses the source of my happiness. Perhaps my name is not my identity nor my address my residence.

What is reality? What is consciousness? What is mind? What is thought? What is seeing? Who is the see-er?

What is colour what is shape and what is form - if vision is the perception in the eye of the beholder?

What is reality? What is true?

Perhaps truth is the only truth and only truly understood by one that personifies truth.


New York

Day 12

New York: 5th August

This morning Param Pujya Bhaishree met with Roopchandji Maharaj Saheb in Livingstone, New Jersey. We find it quite poetic that almost a decade and a half ago these two great souls had met for the very first time here in the USA during the centennial celebrations of Krupaludev's Dehvilay.

Roopchandji Maharaj Saheb was drawn to Shrimad's teaching as a young Jain Monk when he first stumbled upon the Atma Siddhi Shastra. His life has been one of devotion to the Jain faith and to living and upholding its principles. He runs a humble Ashram on the outskirts of New Delhi where many a young seekers are imparted wisdom for a better life.

Thereafter Bhaishree visited the Jain Center of New Jersey and did darshan in the very beautiful Deraser there.

After a bhakti-filled Sthapana of Bhagawan Mahavir, Bhaishree peacefully sat in front of all gathered in Jayantbhai and Jayuben's home for Swadhyay.

In telling us the importance of shraddha (faith), Bhaishree tells us that we must continue our efforts in meditation and in understanding the separation between our body and soul. As our efforts get deeper, we begin to realise that nothing is our own- not our body, or clothes, or wealth. But our truest wealth is the treasure chest of our soul, and it lies in realizing the separation between body and soul.

But this journey begins with understanding that our true nature is without any relationships to anybody around us, and without any bondages to anything around us.

Bhaishree told us as he regularly does, that the immense value of the human birth is incomparable to any other, as this is the only birth in which we can attain Self Realization.

On Happiness (Letter 738) - New Hyde Park Deraser Swadhyay

Over 150 New Yorkers gathered this evening to hear Param Pujya Bhaishree speak about Vachnamrut letter 783, focusing on the universal subject of happiness.

Firstly he reminded us all of the marvelous and fond story of how Shrimad Rajchandra and Saubhagbhai's relationship began. It is a story that has many a times enchanted us all. Bhaishree, as he always does, told the story in a way that begged us to rethink the value of what we have been given.

When Shrimad was a young child, he began to have special powers and abilities due to his efforts in past lives. In spite of these abilities which drew huge crowds and had the potential to give him wealth, Shrimad decided at a very young age that these special powers were an unwanted distraction from his true goal of Samyak Darshan, Self Realization.

At age 23 Shrimad had his first meeting with Saubhagbhai, and from that moment, they established the Guru-disciple bond that is so sacred. Shrimad meeting with Saubhagbhai was there catalyst for him to attain Self Realization. He decided that he wanted Saubhagbhai to experience the same, and filled with immense compassion, so He began to hold Saubhagbhai's hand and shortly thereafter, Saubhagbhai experienced his own soul as well.

All beings long for happiness. The primary focus of our lives must be to achieve this happiness. And indeed it is what we all strive for, our common goal. But our yardstick for measuring happiness is external and linked with wealth, societal praise, and physical comfort. Bhaishree pointed out that this is our main motivation for us or our parents moving to a country like the USA in the first place. Only a few rare people know the true meaning of happiness.

Shrimadji's story is a perfect example from someone who was focused on his goal of true happiness and acted accordingly. Despite having many much desired powers he realised that they were a distraction for him so he gave it up.

Bhaishree then prompted a thought experiment: if we take someone who seems successful and happy and we enter his or her mind, in there would we find peace? Probably not as there would be many worries. In contrast there will be those who are much more peaceful despite having little wealth.

What does it take to achieve true happiness? Most importantly there must be a deep desire to achieve this. Bhaishree said that we do not normally feel this genuine desire, and if we do it doesn't last long.

Finally Bhaishree referred us to the great Uttaradhyan Sutra and explained to us why we find it so difficult to progress on our path towards true happiness. The reasons can be summarised in four great difficulties:

1. Manushyapanu: those who have the qualities of a true seeker such as compassion
2. Recognition of a true self realised Guru
3. To believe in the Guru's words with true faith
4. Purusharth: making true efforts and following Gurus instructions (agna)


Day 13

New York: 6th August

On Mumukshuta (Worthiness) - New Hyde Park Deraser Swadhyay

This morning at the Hyde Park derasar many eager mumukshus once again gathered from far and wide to hear from Param Pujya Bhaishree. His topic was "mumkushta" which means the worthiness or preparedness of a seeker to benefit from a Guru's teaching and free himself.

He illustrated several qualities that a seeker must have, referring to the beautiful stanza from the Atmasiddhi shashtra which mentions seven core qualities: Daya, Shanti, Samata, Kshama, Satya, Tyaag, Vairagya (Kindness, Peacefulness, Equanimity, Forgiveness, Truthfulness, Renunciation, Detachment).

Bhaishree then drew our attention carefully to the fact that the path is simple but made difficult by the fact that we are full of ego and hubris, believing that we know best even and harbouring doubts at the back of our minds. We are unable to fully accept our guru's teachings.

He then told us the story of a seeker Lin Chi who was instructed by his Zen master to work in the kitchen doing nothing but grinding rice. While the ashram was full of philosophical debates and discussions he continued to do his work quietly and diligently for 12 years without ever questioning his master's instructions.

Totally absorbed by his work his mind purified and emptied completely. In this way this humble student gained self realization without anyone knowing. His mind was dissolved, or in the words of Lin Chi "mind is without a mirror."

In this afternoon's swadhyay Param Pujya Bhaishree lovingly explained a devotional poem composed by Mohanvijayji for Parshvanath Bhagwan, who is the principle idol (mool nayak) of the Jain temple we were gathered at in New Hyde Park.

*****
Oh my Lord Parshvanath. Please don't keep me far from your sight and shelter.

Oh Lord Parshvanath. In your presence even a snake such as Dharanendra becomes poison free. Then surely you can remove the poison of delusional Mithyatva from my existence.

Oh Lord Parshvanath. Moh the king of illusionary attachment is unable to stand your strength. Your infinite strength destroys enemies of truth and reality.

Oh Lord Parshvanath. You are able to lead so many souls to salvation. By creating the framework of Shravaks, Shravikas and Sadhu, Sadhvjis you have framed my path. Be my guide on this journey and instill your depth of knowledge in me. The colossus of truth you dwell in inspires me across this ocean of sansaar.

If you are with me, if you cast your eyes on me then through you I can enlighten my inner virtues. You have the power to inspire my strengths to come to force.

Oh Lord Parshvanath. Many come to you and like the tide fall away. Devotees continue to ask for things. I as your devotee ask for only just 48mins of your time. Can you not give me just this? In 48 mins one has the power to achieve Samyak Darshan and even Kevalgyan.

Oh Lord Parshvanath all we are asking is that just as we have love, prem for you please keep your love and your loving eyes on us.

Mohanvijayi asks for the pratyaksh darshan of the Lord. Please Lord Parshvanath be with me continously, do not be seperate from me for even a moment.

Brooklyn Bridge Park

Param Pujya Bhaishree blessed the home of Sagar and Jahnvi in Brooklyn. Their hearts overflowed with joy at Bhaishree's presence. When your living God, your enlightened teacher enters, your home becomes a temple, your welcome becomes a puja and all food becomes prashad.

The evening was spent picnicking in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The skyline of Manhattan provided a magnificent backdrop with the setting sun colouring the sky like a paint brush on canvas. Our hearts are still echoing with Brahmanisht Vikrambhai's melodious rendition of "Tu Pyaar Ka Sagar Hai" (You are the ocean of love).


Day 14

New York: 7th August

This morning Param Pujya Bhaishree visited the Jain Center of America on Ithaca Street in New York. In his swadhyay he distilled the essence of Updesh Chhaya 14 from Shrimad Rajchandra Vachanamrutji.

The core point that Bhaishree reiterated throughout is how important it is to identify with the atma and not the body. This first of the 6 pads (affirmations) that seekers read daily is greatly important to absorb and imbibe.

Pujya Bhaishree explained what we all know that the body is temporary – it takes birth and it dies - yet we do not live in accordance with this truth. One’s true goal needs to be self-realization, knowing one's soul, which is the only permanent entity in this universe.

Despite knowing we are atma we spend so much of our energy on looking after body but ultimately we each have karma uday that will play out. For example, we could be really healthy and still get a heart attack. There are no guarantees. In light of this Bhaishree asked us: “Why do we have so much attachment towards the body?”

A true test of one's mumukshata is when one goes through any bodily pain or illness. If one has realised his soul, then we would not feel the restlessness associated with illness or indeed the death of a loved one.

To make this shift in identity we have to be reflect carefully. In the Yam niyam pad that we recite daily we are asked to contemplate on what we have done so far, what we have achieved so far, and what we must do differently now if we want a different outcome.

Countless times we have come within a hair's breadth of achieving samyak gnaan, how can we ensure that in *this* life, we are able to successfully achieve our goal of self-realization?

Bhaishree said:

We are suffering from delusion. If one needs to cure a disease, one needs to understand the disease, it's cure, it's medication, and also be aware of the foods that can worsen the condition. If one is careful to avoid these foods but does not medicate correctly, then there is no way one can be healed. The disease can be alleviated only following treatment by a true medic who is aware of all these facets of the condition.

But knowledge alone is not enough. A book about fire kept next to a stove will not ignite the stove. Only a real flame can engender another flame. Similarly, merely gaining knowledge from the scriptures will get us nowhere.

The path to self-realization can only be laid out perfectly by those that have walked on it themselves and by following in the footsteps of our enlightened guru, we hope and pray to make this life the one that brings us into the light.

 

Arriving in Albany

A spiritual family of 70 seekers have gathered here in the home of Rajnibhai and Bhaviniben Shah in Albany. Tomorrow we start our four day shibir. Param Pujya Bhaishree and Brahmanisht Vikrambhai reminded us of our objectives.

Just as moving from Dallas to Calgary felt like moving from one world to a completely new world, tomorrow we start our shibir. We are embarking on the most important four days of this trip. We may feel tired or uncomfortable at times but we must not let any minor hindrances hold us back. Most of our problems are made by the mind. We must all carefully prepare our mind for this experience.

We must make all resolve to use this opportunity for strengthened striving, and sincere efforts. Let us not waste a precious moment. Let us be disciplined and undistracted. The more silence we practice the better our sadhana will be. We are moving from this outer world to explore the completely different inner world. Let us move from residing in this body to residing in our soul.


Albany

Day 15

Albany: 8th August

Day 1 Meditation Shibir

Today we excitedly began our US shibir, a four day residential meditation retreat. Bhaishree's prep talk to us last evening has invigorated all attendees and inspired us to absorb every drop of nectar in his words.

Bhaishree's subject is Shaant Sudharas by Shree Vinayvijayji maharaj. He described it as a "peaceful melody to awaken our souls". The melodies can be sang and slowly eat at the Moh that is plaguing us. In this first swadhyay Bhaishree took the upodgaath (preface) and 8 shlokas prior to starting the 12 bhavanas explored in this sacred scripture.

Vairagya (detachment) is the foundation and the Guna (quality) that should be utilized for sustainable adhyatmic progression. In good or bad circumstances the mumukshu that has ingrained vairagya in his life will not fall. Bhaishree emphasized these 12 bhavanas (contemplations) will prove to be a valuable tool at all levels of this journey.

Explaining how we got here in the first place Bhaishree explained that the rain of ashrav (influx of karma) has prevailed for lifetimes as our karmas continue to dig deeper and deeper without any way out. This has been ongoing for many lives. Bandhan (bondage) and Moh (delusion) form a darkness surrounding us. Agnani, ignorant, souls become lost in a maze and have been enduring continuous cycles of life and death and suffering.

While we do not choose to live in a dangerous forest with threats lurking ranging from lions and tigers to lack of shelter and food, we are ignorant to the dangers of sansar. We look for happiness in sansar but do not understand that true happiness lies within. The biggest obstacle and illusion has been thinking that everyone and everything is me and mine, including this body, and this has caused us infinite unhappiness.

In his infinite compassion for lost souls, Tirthankar Bhagwan has graced us with these 12 bhavanas. The Tirthankar Bhagwan's anubhav (experience) and embodiment of each and every bhavana is a treasure that has been captured and shared through the scriptures.

So now that we have been shown a way out then without becoming frustrated, depressed or overwhelmed we should boost our faith and pursue our sadhana consistently to attain samyak darshan and then moksh. This is at our fingertips in this life or a maximum of 15 lives.

Bhaishree emphasized that all 12 bhavanas should be reviewed and reflected upon constantly by all sadhaks. If our mind is empty for even a bit, we should reflect on one bhavana as they are a means to sambhaav (even mindedness). We should absorb these bhavanas and lock them in our hearts.

We were all inspired by the story of Narveer daku who under the guidance of a true guru, was able to shed his strong karmas from a lifetime of robbery and completely transform and achieve samadhi.

Bhaishree encouraged all mumukshus to begin practicing sambhaav immediately. He said our understanding of swadhyay would be deeper and our dhyaan would be more focused. With sambhaav, it is not difficult to achieve atmagnan. But we must practice it, and we must start now!

On Anitya Bhavana

Param Pujya Bhaishree's swadhyay was about "Anitya bhavana", the transient and impermanent nature of all things. He spoke of the temporary nature of youth and how it will remain with you for a short time, just as the sun only stays in the sky until it is ready to set. We know death is certain but we don't know how long our bodies will be in this world, whether it will be taken in our youth or into old age. Then what is the reason for our foolish pride in such transient bodies?

Our wealth, family, house and all things visible by the eye are all temporary and not going to stay with us forever. Bhaishree asked "Why do we continue to tie ourselves to these things, knowing that our lives are as transient as a water droplet on a leaf?"

Bhaishree likened youth to the tail of a dog. It is crooked, similarly youth listens to no one. Youngsters do not think of consequences. Bhaishree compassionately noted that youth showing an interest in the spiritual path despite all the temptations available is no small feat given all other worldly distractions, and this itself must be a boon gained from prior lives.

He acknowledge the constant "tug of war" we are all familiar with. During Shibir we truly want to rid ourselves of Moh, our attachment to temporary objects, but when we get back into our worldly lives we are again filled with Moh. This is why our True Guru continuously reminds us to remain committed to our spiritual goal.

For meditators (sadhaks), our sadhana practice given to us by our guru is the strongest tool we have to remain peaceful in all circumstances and make a success of our short lives. We must never underestimate the strength of this rare and precious sadhana.

‘By absorbing the instructions of God and saints into ones life, they become ours’
- Shri Pramukhswami Maharaj

This evening Param Pujya Bhaishree visited the BAPS Shree Swaminarayan temple of Albany and the Hindu Temple Society and Cultural Centre of Albany where Shree Mahavir Swami idol is present alongside beautiful Hindu deities.


Day 16

Albany: 9th August

Day 2 Meditation Shibir

On Asharana Bhavana

All the strength, wealth, and prosperity in the world can not protect us from death. We are all "asharan", without shelter and protection.

The emperors Chakravartis are the conquerors of all six continents. But all this power comes to naught and they are helpless when the impermanence of the body catches up with them. Their glory is lost, their strength is crushed, their peace of mind is snatched away. Not only that but when they cry out for help as the jaws of Death are closing in on them, no one in the universe possesses the power to save them from this inevitable reality of life.

Today Param Pujya Bhaishree asked us to contemplate this fundamental truth through a number of stories and poems including the thought-provoking ballad "Maara maran waqte" which imagines Alexander the Great instructing his retinue on the steps to take following his death. They were told to lay out all his wealth in the graveyard, have a legion of his army lead the funeral procession and have his huge team of doctors bear his coffin to his grave. He wantes to give everyone a clear message that none of these assets could save him when Death came calling.

Param Pujya Bhaishree continued to focus our attention on the human body's lack of protection against old age and death.

He said it matters not whether we lock ourselves into a house made of incredibly thick and strong walls of steel, whether we are monarchs or mendicants, whether we are strong as an elephant or weak as a blade of grass, whether we acquire divine powers or learn divine rituals, whether we eat healthy foods and strengthen our vital systems, whether we cross oceans or scale tall mountains. One day our hair will turn white, our joints will ache, we will be plagued by disease.

When this happens, we will endure it alone. Just as when when the moon eclipses the sun, all the other stars and planets in space cannot and do not get affected, no one that cares for us can take away any of it. If we do escape any of the above, Death will, without a shred of doubt, come for us one day.

One moment is all it takes for us to go from "is" to "was".

With this stirring talk we are all moved to focus inwards and transcend this fragile and unprotected bodily existence.

Evening gathering

After the day's shibir schedule was completed, all mumukshus and jignashus gathered around Param Pujya Bhaishree and the Brahmanishts for a larger than typical 'tea party'. All of us in the shibir love this part of the day sitting beside Bhaishree, and observing his interactions with those around him in a relaxed, jovial setting.

Ankoor had the idea that all of us should introduce ourselves, and where we are from. It soon turned into a very emotional and bhaav-filled evening as one-by-one all present expressed their immense gratitude to Bhaishree and the other Brahmanishts for the tireless efforts they make in uplifting our souls and for providing us with the vigor and much-needed boost of inspiration to remove the curtain of our delusion karma veiling our soul within.

Bhaishree, much to everyone's surprise introduced himself too! He said "I am the shishya (disciple) of Ladakchand Bapuji" exuding such humility and grace in his magnificence.

The evening turned into a very special and tender one in which we all came closer as a spiritual family. Bhaishree wished for us that we should always support each other on the path.


Day 17

Albany: 10th August

Day 3 Meditation Shibir

Sansaar Bhavana

Param Pujya Bhaishree spent many hours today illustrating with great emphasis how - contrary to our usual belief - there is great suffering in this world. Most of the time we tend to think that overall we are enjoying life but this is a game played by Moh Raja, the king of delusion. In reality we are constantly weighed down by unfulfilled wishes and expectations and feelings of helplessness as destiny unfolds.

Additionally the soul does not remember all the suffering that it has encountered in its previous lives. Otherwise, we would not be so complacent in striving towards final liberation from the vicious cycle of births and deaths.

Bhaishree compared the soul being trapped in our body to a bird being kept in a cage. Similar to how a cat roams outside the cage waiting for its chance to pounce and capture the bird, death is waiting to pounce at anytime, and take the body away from the soul – the same body that the soul wrongly believes belongs to it.

This fundamental misconception about who we are is the result of continuous attractions and aversions, “raag” and “dvesh”, carried out by our soul which in turn serves to make the bondage of sansaar stronger. In essence, the soul is trapped in a vicious cycle of its own making.

The solution to free the soul from this constant suffering is first and foremost to recognise our suffering and the cruelty inherent in worldly life. Only then we will be motivated to strive hard to detach the soul from all material attachments and achieve inner freedom.


Day 18

Albany: 11th August

Day 4 Meditation Retreat

Ekatva and Anyatva bhavana

Yesterday afternoon Param Pujya Bhaishree began talking about "Ekatva bhavna" and today delved into "Anyatva bhavna", two sides of the same coin. Who am I? Who am I not?

Ekatva bhavna teaches us that our soul is alone, it carries gnaan, darshan and chaaritra (right knowledge, perception and conduct) with infinite happiness. All else is just a dream and imaginary. But do we truly feel this? And if so why do we run elsewhere to seek happiness?

Bhaishree compared the soul to a ship, moha (attachment) to a hole in the ship, kshaya (passions) to the water that creeps in through this hole ultimately causing it to sink in the ocean that parallels to sansar.

On the flip side with anyatva bhavana Bhaishree focused on all things anya (other) that we look to for happiness, but in reality they only carry unhappiness. Like the musk deer who is searching elsewhere for the scent that is actually coming from his belly button, we too are looking everywhere for the very happiness that lies within. With so much compassion he asks us, aren't you tired yet?

On a practical note Bhaishree explained that sometimes we blame our lack of time on duties even though we actually prefer doing certain activities more than we enjoy our spiritual pursuits. As an example he referred to grandparents that busy themselves with caring for their grandkids and fail to make time for their spiritual work. In such a gentle way he shows us how we need to embed these contemplations in our practical lives.

This problem can be aptly described as a love affair with external non living objects, "pudgal prem". Through sadhana we must turn our rays of attention (upyog) inwards. Like gold can be purified from its impurities we too must seperate our true self. Like a painful splinter must be removed entirely we too must extract our attention entirely from the outside world.

Bhaishree pleaded with us to take care of our own home, our true self. We must drop identification with this body before it forcefully leaves us at death. "Chetan! Nij gher sambhar."

Lastly, with all these talks of ekatva and anyatva leaving us feeling very solitary, Bhaishree clarifies that he is not telling us to get angry and leave our home or relations. Instead the key is to learn to remove the feeling of ownership or mine-ness of others while still loving everyone selflessly. We pray that we can learn to love in this way from him.

Closing ceremony of the retreat

As our beautiful retreat comes to a close today and many seekers are leaving tonight, the wise words of Dr Seuss comfort us: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Many moving feelings were shared expressing deep gratitude to Param Pujya Bhaishree and the Brahmanishts, as well as the host family here in Albany for making this retreat possible.

We were delighted that Brahmanisht Minalben and Harshaben shared their own poetry with us too - soul stirring "home truths" flowing from those residing in their true homes.

To close we'd like to share some sentiments that were shared by Sagar who beautifully expressed feelings that resonated with us all. As he was speaking many eyes were moist and when he finished there was a golden moment of awe and silence before we all clapped.

"What words are there to say to God as He comes down and graces my own undeserving eyes? What can I possibly muster up in my miniscule vocabulary that could do justice to His profound presence?

A thought came to me- these last two and a half weeks, I awaited for every moment Bhaishree's eyes would fall on me, or when his hand would fall on my back after bowing at his feet. It was much the way a young child begs for validation from mother or father. So often, the child misbehaves, yet a mother and father will never turn their back on their child. How many souls can Bhaishree be a Guardian to? Bhaishree, unlike our parents has limitless patience. We feel as his children that we test his faith in us daily, yet his love for us amazingly continues to only grow more and more.

Each time when he yearns and begs for us to open our true eyes and begin to see Sansar for what it is, Bhaishree is made to be away from himself and his home of Peace, in order to be with us.

The Brahmanishts - what words are there for Bhaishree's pillars Vikrammama and Minalmami? They served as our first connections to this Marg and today they serve as examples of how we are to conduct ourselves as reflections of our Guru."


Toronto

Day 19

Toronto: 12th August

Today we visited the Niagara Falls with Param Pujya Bhaishree en route to Toronto.

Many from our group had been here 9 years ago with Bhaishree and vividly recall how he had shared with each of us a profound thought:

"See the way that the heavy water starts at the beginning of their downward fall with such force and strength. But see how that very same water behaves with stillness and supreme calm upon reaching the end of its journey. This way we too need to still our jumpy mind that travels with great vigor from thought to thought."

On Satsang

In the first of four swadhyays in Toronto, mumukshu Bhanuben Mehta welcomed Param Pujya Bhaishree, introducing Him to the large crowd of mumukshus and jignashus alike. She reminded us of the unlikely fortune of having a Gnani as Bhaishree in live form in front of our eyes.

In his Swadhyay, Bhaishree took 'Satsang' as his discourse topic. Satsang is a literal sense a "meeting with the truth" and the highest form of it is a meeting with he who has realised the truth, an embodied, enlightened master.

Satsang is the root of all happiness. It is the ultimate spiritual tool. It that which colours the atma with truth. Just one moment of such satsang reaps invaluable benefits (amulya labh). Bhaishree referred to Shrimad Rajchandra's Mokshmala chapter 24 in these striking introductory remarks.

For time infinite, all that we have known has been delusion. It is this very delusion that has made us adamant about the nature of dharma. It is this adamance that we are trying to destroy with never-before-experienced 'apurva' faith in a true Gnani. In becoming a clean slate, we begin our journey toward ridding ourselves of this delusion and inculcating proper understanding at our core.

As Bhaishree continued his Swadhyay, he took Letter 609 from Shrimadji's Vachanamrut. The letter fortified a fact Bhaishree emphasizes time and again to us all. The soul within each of us- our true identity - is identical to the souls of Thirthankar Bhagwan. It is, however, our delusion accumulated over countless lifetimes that has forced us to forget the true nature of our Soul and its never-before-experienced beauty and potential.

Satsang is the key to dispelling this very delusion. And in spite of having been exposed to this in past births, we have failed to recognize its value.

Param Krupaludev lists the reasons for failure in recognizing Satsang in past lives as well as within this one. We can overcome these with devotion and faith and by understanding the priceless value of 'Satsang' for an aspirant seeking liberation. There should be nothing in the world we value more than satsang.

Hand in hand with this is the ability of the aspirant to see his own shortcomings. It is in seeing this in ourselves that we begin to develop the 'patrata' and worthy eyes to see a Gnani for the compassionate fountain of knowledge that he truly is.

O aspirant! When will you see that even a fraction of a moment in Satsang can alter the course of your priceless human birth?


Day 20

Toronto: 13th August

On Mumukshu

A mumukshu is one seeking moksh or liberation. However titles are easy to apply, a true mumukshu is one that has the true qualities of a seeker of liberation.

A mumukshu is one who surrenders himself in humility to the instructions of his teacher a seeker seeks to be cultivated and shaped in the image of the Lord.

A mumukshu quietens the ripples of doubts and deluded concentrations of the mind one can discriminate between the illusionary superficial surfaces of worldy life and see through to the depths of truth of reality and one's own existence.

A mumukshu welcomes his guru's instructions into his heart and practically instills them as the main priority in life giving his existence meaning, objectives and goals.

A mumukshu in which "svachand", self righteous thought, is reduced or removed becomes worthy of Bodh beej, the seed of true knowledge. When planted by a enlightened teacher and cultivated with true striving this seed can sprout, grow and flourish into a tree of knowledge, the achievement of kevalgnan.

A mumukshu empties his ego and opens his mind, discarding insistence on the practices that he may have known all his life and offers himself at the lotus feet of their sadguru. Absolute surrender of thoughts, words and actions to the enlightened master melts always the hubris, the opinions and the stubbornness of the mumukshu.

A mumukshu takes hold of an enlightened master's hand to to eventually be led to the ultimate siddha status as countless Tirthankar Bhagwans have done since time immemorial.

A mumukshu that is knelt at the teacher's feet in humility has no interest in showing his importance to the world but instead is observant in absorbing the importance, the meaning from the world around them.

A mumukshu maintains lifelong unshakeable faith in a True God (Sat Dev), a True Teacher (Sat Guru), and True path of enlightenment (Sat Dharma). This faith steers one towards purity extending a hand of guidance to stop one wavering off in the wrong direction.

For a mumukshu vinay (respect) and bhakti (devotion) is their religion, their dharma.

A mumukshu contemplates deeply.

A mumuksu removes oneself from acquisition and hoarding (aramb and parigrah) in order to keep himself immersed in spiritual contemplation and learn to still the wavering mind.

A mumukshu, as described by Shrimad Rajchandra says in the Atmasiddhi Shastra has the virtues of Daya, Shanti, Samta, Kshama, Satya, Tyaag, Vairagya. Compassion, peace, equanimity, forgiveness, truth, renunciation and detachment. These qualities are naturally and continuously present in a mumukshu.

A mumukshu progressing on his spiritual endeavor gradually begins to prefer the company of fellow mumukshus over other social interactions.

A mumukshu displays neither joy nor remorse in worldly matters. A mumukshu understands the impermanence and insignificance of the body and other worldly matters relating to it. They know that the soul is separate from the body and therefore unaffected by unfavorable circumstances.

A mumukshu celebrates when unfavorable circumstances surface as they perceive these as a means to move closer to their goal of liberation.

A mumukshu is impartial in assessing our own shortcomings and continually strives to remove his own faults.

A mumukshu, must take note when Shrimad Rajchandra mentions in letter 254 of Vachnamrut that what we really need is the highest humility (Param dainyata).

The eyes of a mumukshu will recognise the enlightened soul of a True Guru.

Oh Mumukshu!

Free yourself from trying to understand the universe and all within. Just understand the one self, the soul. All will then be understood. There is no need to travel the world and read all the books, the scriptures. Just understand the meaning of the self in the depths of contemplation of the bodh of a true teacher and reside in the knowledge of the self.

Feeling blessed to be here listening to Bhaishree we each shared a silent prayer for ourselves. With all our love at his feet may the rains of humility wash away the hardened impurities of our self righteousness (svachand) preparing the soil of our minds to receive the divine seed of knowledge which, when nourished by the waters of our faith (shraddha) and the fertilizer of our efforts (purshaat), will eventually reward us with the sweet fruit of enlightenment.

On Bhakti

Bhaishree took his second Swadhyay today on bhakti or devotional love.

The path of bhakti as an approach to spiritual purification welcomes one and all, from scholars to the simpletons, from the toddlers to the elderly and physically ailing. It is easiest route among all the routes to attain the ultimate truth.

Bhakti is to still the mind and put it at the feet of our Guru, which is what we must practice through love, devotion and meditation.

The gopis that loved Lord Krishna are a wonderful example of bhakti. They were busy from morning to night with their worldly duties, yet their minds were forever connected with their Lord.

Bhaishree's guru's guru Shree Kalidasbhai used to say that we all have plenty of love within us but the problem is we have spread it thin between our family, friends, wealth and other worldly possessions. We only offer our leftover love to God!

Bhaishree explained that devotion to the enlightened master is the same as devotion to Parmatma. It is for this reason when we say the Jain Navkar Mantra, we first bow our heads to Arihant Bhagwan, who possessed a body and was therefore able to be a living teacher and guide, and then we bow our heads to all the formless Siddha Bhagwan who have attained freedom.


Day 21

Toronto: 14th August

On Letter 47, Shrimad Rajchandra Vachnamrut

In today's final Swadhyay at the Jain Centre of Toronto, Param Pujya Bhaishree delved into the nuances of the Samyak Darshan (Right Perception), the path to self-realization and liberation, explaining Letter 47 in Shrimad Rajchandra Vachnamrut, written to Khimji Devji:

Our mind has a tendency to constantly get attracted towards untoward thoughts and contemplation that takes us away from our goal. We are all trapped by the intricate knot of delusion that this body and all it experiences is our true identity. The knot is held together by the four kashay of anger, ego, deception and desire and further strengthened by mithyatva karmas (delusion) that keeps us from rising above all attachments and acquiring self-realization.

The first goal of any mumukshu is to dispel the fog clouding her perception and see the truth; she is the soul that is residing within the body. Once the rays of knowledge pierce through this fog and clear it, she can free herself from the knot of delusion with minimal effort.

Bhaishree then gave us a simple and profound definition: to live ones life according to the understanding that we are not body but soul, that is samyak darshan. Whether walking, talking or eating we should be able to observe our body as a witness.

How can she achieve this state? The seeker has never found herself in a position where she had all the requirements for Samyak Darshan come together: firm faith in a true God, devotion to a true enlightened master, walking on the true inner path, motivation from satsang, wisdom from true scriptures, unbiased perception and discrimination, and the fruition of her good karma to be able to value and utilise this incredibly rare situation!

But the day starts once we have woken from sleep. Shrimadji assures us that it is never too late!

Shrimadji reminds Khimji Bhai that the true path to self-realization is elusive. It cannot be found by looking outside, as we have for our entire existence. The answer lies within us. Unprecedented introspection is fundamental to crossing that one last barrier before we find the Truth.

The letter closes requesting the seeker not to foolishly attract immeasurable suffering over innumerable births, just for the sake of false happiness in this one life. For this fleeting and false happiness why do we forsake eternal peace?

A true seeker (mumukshu) must understand this principle and abandon all lethargy in her efforts to achieve self-realization. "Do not give any room in your life for lethargy" Bhaishree said once again, full of compassion for us.

This evening after a beautiful ceremony at the home of mumukshus Shashankbhai and Pritiben in Goderich, Param Pujya Bhaishree walked to the shores of Lake Huron to watch the sunset. With his example we learn to keep the heart full of love, the mind clear of worries, and to celebrate each divine moment.


Day 22

Toronto: 15th August

As the USA and Canada Dharmayatra comes to a close and Bhaishree boards his flight back to Mumbai we reflect back on his journey.

From Wichita to Dallas to Calgary and then New York, Albany for shibir and finally Toronto these past few days. From the stillness of the glaciers and peaks of the Rocky mountains to the thundering waters of Niagra. The cool crisp air of Calgary to the humid summer of Albany and the awe-inspiring colours of sunset over Lake Huron.

So many souls have been inspired.

Bhaishree has explored Dharma Beej, Shant Sudharas and topics of Mumukshuta, Satsang, Bhakti alongside key letters from Shrimad Rajchandra Vachanamrut. Record numbers of seekers attended swadhyays in Dallas, New York and Toronto and the largest Raj Saubhag shibir was held in America to date.

Most of all though we have cherished this close personal time with Param Pujya Bhaishree and Brahmnishts Minalben, Vikrambhai, Rasikbhai, Lalitamasi and Harshaben. Their guidance, compassion and love has been overflowing. Not only do they inspire a spiritual thirst, they quench it too.