Friday, April 19, 2013

Sadguru Aniruddha Upasana Kendra, New Jersey

Our Beloved Bapu: our Sadguru, our Protector, our Guiding Light, our Mentor, our Friend …..

In the twenty eigth chapter of Sai satcharitra,Hemadpant narrates the stories of three devotees, Lala Laxmichand, the lady from Burhanpore, and Megha, the brahmin cook of Rao Bahadur Sathe, and explains graciously how these devotees were drawn to Shirdi and to Sai.  Sai Baba often said that, “let His devotee be at any distance, even a thousand kos (an ancient unit of distance) away from Him, he (the devotee) will be drawn to Shirdi, like a sparrow, with a thread tied to its feet”.  Our beloved Bapu has shown us the path and the means to be drawn closer to Sai.  His discourses, teachings, scriptures and selfless love have been the “thread” that has connected us devotees in New Jersey, USA, to be drawn closer to each other as the Bapu parivaar and closer to Sai.  The Sai is none other than our Bapu.  P.P. Bapu has explained the significance of congregational worship; so the establishment of an upasana kendra (worship center) is a direct implication of those teachings.  The New Jersey upsana kendra was first formed in Jersey City, NJ in the year 2003.  The congregational group started in baby steps with 6-8 families.  The devotees got together once a month on Saturdays to conduct the upasana followed by gajar.  The sheer opportunity to conduct such a peaceful prayer with the teachings of a Sadguru brought joy to all devotees and we got connected to each other via the sacred thread … our Bapu … and connected to Bapu.  In this age of cell phones, laptops, and other fancy gadgets, to be able to hold a zaanj, or a chipli and to chant the Lord’s name, in unison with co-devotees was a mentally humbling (bhautik mun) and spiritually elevating experience (adhyaatmic mun).  During one of the upasana sessions, devotees had a discussion on Bapu’s discourse on Gayatri mantra and its practical significance in human life.  This and other discourses of Bapu were the seeds that germinated into this growing tree of faith, love, devotion, freindship and respect for our Sadguru.  With Bapu, Dada and Nandaai’s grace, the upasana kendra was also able to celebrate events such as Vardhapan din, Ganeshotsav, Sachidananda mahotsav, Ram Navmi, Datta jayanti, to name a few. With Bapu’s grace, the upsana kendra moved from Jersey City to Sayreville.  The number of devotees increased slowly and steadily, so the new venue with a larger space was able to accommodate more devotees comfortably.  All devotees took part in the celebrations and preparations for the events.  Devotees performed chinmay paduka poojan at their respective homes.  Other devotees joined in this wonderful event and made it a memorable event.
In 2005, the NJ upasana kendra took a pioneering leadership role in hosting one of the biggest events at the time, the “MAHOTSAV", a one-day celebration to remember and honor our beloved Bapu. The event was held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The event was attended by approximately 60 devotees from different states including New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Michigan, North Carolina and Illinois, Kansas. Coordinating the logistics for an event this size, including the program design, children’s program, decorations, food, hotel, transportation and parking took a great deal of effort on everyone's part, but it was done with great passion, love and discipline following the teachings from our Sadguru. The men’s performance was heartfelt because of their diligent efforts. The children's participation and enthusiasm was overwhelming. The ladies wore beautiful “Nav-vari” sarees and the men were dressed in traditional Maharashtrian attire to celebrate this grand event. With Bapu’s grace and with the unanimous efforts from all devotees this event was a grand success and we devotees wish that we can organize a similar event in future.
In 2009 the Upasana kendra was moved to North Brunswick, and in 2012 the upasana center was moved to Plainsboro due to shifting of residence by the host family. The upasana is held every Saturday. As in the past, other festivities such as Ganeshotsav, Hanuman jayanti, Ram Navmi, sachidananda mahotsav are celebrated with the devotion, love and commitment. The devotees draw out an annual calendar commemorating important monthly events such as "Namasmaran" program, religious celebrations, Bhajan Seva and other events. The devotees perform seva at the Arista Care Center (rehabilitation center for senior citizens of Indian origin) by engaging in an hour long chanting session wherein the senior citizens join as well. At the end of the event, P.P. Bapu and Sai arti is performed with the intention that Bapu will grace the lives of the senior citizens who are rehabilitating at the care center. The Ganeshotsav is celebrated with great devotion and passion. P.P. Bapu’s blessings help us in making the event memorable. The maha-arti is attended by more than 60 people. The arti handouts are prepared in advance so that the devotees can follow in a unified manner. Many guests who attend the arti, experience the same kind of joy and grandeur as experienced in India and they return back with Bappa’s and Bapu’s blessings. The namasmaran programs are also planned in advance denoting the sequence of the chantings. Devotees contribute towards the food arrangements. Other chanting events such as Hanuman chalisa pathan, Ghorkashtodharan stotra pathan, Shubhankara stavan pathan are organized as per instructions from Gurukshetram. Mangalchandika Prapatti, Navaratri Jagaran are also organized at Upasana Center. All devotees work as one family for every event conducted at Upasana center. Currently, there are approximately 13 families at the NJ upasana center. On certain occasions devotees from nearby sates like Pennsylvania,Connecticut, long island join us. Many devotees from the NJ upasana center observe the Sachidananda mahotsav and the Vardhaman vrat. Thanks to modern technology, the shraddhavaans in the US are able to receive timely updates from Mumbai regarding instructions from Bapu, and other events.
We devotees have the same feelings (bhaav) as the “sparrows” described in chapter twenty eight of Sai satcharitra. We feel blessed to be able to follow Bapu’s teachings and path and be drawn to Bapu like the “sparrows” drawn to Shirdi. With the current global climate around terrorism shaping up monstrously in different forms, our Bapu is the only guiding light who will sail us through this bhavsagar to safety and we thank Him for every moment of our life. Through the chanting of the Hanuman chalisa we ask for his support and protection of all His shraddhavaans.
                Ek Vishwaas Asaava, Purtaa Kartaa Hartaa, Sadguru Aisaa