17.09.2014 ►Delhi ►Arrival And First Impressions

Posted: 07.11.2014
Updated on: 02.07.2015

2014 is the year of Acharya Tulsi for the Sangh of Jain Shvetambara Terapanth, as in October was his centenary. Since November 2013 the many facets of this great personality’s work were presented and recognised in numerous functions all over India and abroad. 65 years ago he founded Anuvrat Movement which people irrespective of nationality, creed or gender are invited to join and to take 9 ethical vows. These vows are meant to provide the opportunity for every individual to change the social and ecological climate around him or her through building the own character. An Anuvrati not only accepts the vows as compulsory, but also confirms them with his or her signature on a sheet of paper where the vows are written. In September 2014 Anuvrat International Conference (AIC) was supposed to take place in Delhi, and in April we were invited to participate. After short consideration we accepted.

As usual, all began in Delhi, where we arrived at Indira Gandhi International Airport in the afternoon of 16th September. There we were picked up by a student of economics, very well-versed in English language, especially hired for receiving conference participants at the airport. We were his first job, as he admitted when asked. He was a talented small-talker, unlike those stammering words of welcome, cheerfully picking us up on behalf of our friend Swami Dharmananda. But this was not all that had changed this time. For the first time we had been completely invited during the conference, flight, accommodation & meals included. In the ten days between arrival and start of the conference we had made a reservation in a hotel.

Vikas Chhajer, chief representative of Gemini Corporation which hosted the conference, was confided with the preparation of the conference. He had helped us with choosing a hotel and made the reservation, not without bargaining a good, nearly Indian tariff undercutting even TripAdvisor. Breakfast not included payment in visa or cash at arrival in advance for the full 10 days. On its website the hotel advertises rooms in European standard, AC and 24 hours Wi-Fi in all rooms. Sounded fine to us, further it was not far from Adhyatma Sadhana Kendra (ASK) where HH Acharya Mahashraman stayed during his Delhi Chaturmas. We were rather curious if they had succeeded to finish all construction work in time. In January we still were in doubts.

From the airport to the hotel we drove on a road only recently enlarged, a dreadfully needed work. The road directly passed ASK. Although there was a crowd at the entrance, we could guess a change of the area, but not see it in detail. The visit was scheduled for the next day for Darshan of HH and the monks and nuns. Further we were eager to speak to Swami Dharmananda who had informed us some weeks in an email that he had resigned from the post as director of ASK. Since then neither emails, nor telephone contact with him. From a friend we only knew that he still was giving his daily meditation sessions and seemed to enjoy quite good health. For the moment we had the strong desire to stretch our legs in a bed after a night in the plane.

The “Ocean Pearl Retreat” is in a 7-km-distance from ASK on Main Chhattarpur Road in Satbari. It is booked rather often for marriages and conferences. In the last 15 years the area had dramatically changed. Its rural character completely disappeared, only the cows are still on the road. They camp in groups on the small central lane, without seeming to be stressed by the traffic. As soon as one of them is entering the road, all vehicles are meandering to avoid it. The hotel was a good recommendation. After having paid as requested we checked in and started to unpack and to try internet access. We realised having arrived in India; all advertisement was true, but not everywhere. AC and rooms were good standard, but Internet access did not work, no WLan. Shortly after having called the reception an IT expert arrived, but only to discover that a cable to the connector of the router was damaged. They gave a new room to us, and again we made ourselves comfortable. All seemed to work properly now, and very soon we enjoyed sleep.

The next morning after breakfast we left the hotel and through the greenery on both sides of the access road we went 300m to the main road. From there we took a three-wheeler (50 rupees) to the Kendra. After only 10 minutes of drive we reached our destination. The driver managed to muddle through the dense traffic as best as he could. Opposite the Kendra we got out and admired the newly designed entry. „Adhyatma Sadhana Kendra“ was written in elegant lettering on the archway. An equally new outer wall protected the area. We crossed the road and entered. All buildings were ready in time! But it had changed a lot. In a new building left from the entrance HH Acharya Mahashraman and the monks were accommodated. The monks’ house was easily to recognize because of a crowd of visitors moving in this direction. On the right was an open assembly hall integrated into a three-stored new construction. As we discovered later, it contained the Bhikshu Auditorium, a cafeteria and adjoining rooms.

First we took some time to let sink in the impression we got. All was really done well. We knew from Swami Dharmananda that at the times of Acharya Tulsi there had been vegetable production and dairy cows. 25 years later nothing was left over, after parts of the property had been sold and developed. Now some 21st century buildings had been added for Acharya Mahashraman’s Chaturmas. Anticipatory planning in consideration of the expected mass of visitors. The edifices come across as functionally succeeded, light-flooded and unobtrusive in contemporary steel and concrete design with Indian flair. The new India. The old had taken farewell here.

The morning lecture just was over, and the visitors were streaming to the monks’ house. We called Sushil Bafana, our long time one-and-only HereNow4U correspondent in India. As far as we knew he was staying in a room at ASK, but we did not know exactly where. The evening before he had called us in the hotel, and we agreed to give him a call after arrival. Then we could not yet imagine how many people would be there, looking for relatives or friends, trying to get their attention by waving to or calling them. It was so loud that we hardly understood our own words. After 3 calls only we were able to fix a meeting point. Great pleasure on both sides to meet again after nearly 5 years! Last personal encounter was at Sri Dungargarh, Sushil Bafana’s native place in Rajasthan. More than 10 years ago we came into contact when he offered in an email to support HereNow4U. Since then a continual and reliable cooperation had been developed, which easily can be confirmed by frequent visitors of HereNow4U. Sushil Bafana works apart from this untiringly for the Sangh and is an appreciated Upasak for Paryushan. Like his fellow Upasaks in the Terapanth Sangh he was specially trained for this task in 9-days-camps. Since some time he is executing different tasks from Gemini Corporation, among other he was involved in preparing Anuvrat International Conference. The Chairman of Gemini Corporation, Surendra Borad Patawari, was supposed to arrive very soon for its fine-tuning.

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In the background the entrance, Taramchand Choraria (2.l.) from Tamkor welcomed us very cordially. Our last meeting laid 8 years back. Sushil Bafana (r) busily on mobile informing friends of our arrival.

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Back area of new assembly hall

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Volunteers of Terapanth Yuvak Parishad Kolkata with Surendra Choraria (3.r) TEYUP Kolkata, Sushil Bafana (2.r) are presenting their award.

Meanwhile it was lunchtime for the monks and thereafter rest until 02:00pm. During these two hours visitors are asked to leave the monks. The latter sit down in their groups and taking the food together, collected by two group members from lay followers. In the house where the monks stayed the rooms in the upper stores were let to lay followers, and on the campus temporary huts had been erected for them. Some of them did the cookery, and it was there where the monks collected their food. The Terapanthi monks and nuns are not eating in the presence of lay followers. After the meal the saints are taking rest. No wonder, when the day starts at 04:00am. Suddenly someone approached us with the message that a monk in room no. 6 wants to see us. At the entrance of the building was Muni Akshay Prakash.

2014.09.17 HN4U @ Delhi N5277 Carla Geerdes, Muni Akshay Prakash

Muni Akshay Prakash and we know each other since many years.

Rather often we spoke with him on the connection between spirit and matter, how to implement Jain philosophical teachings into daily life, or he just provided answers to our questions. By now he had completed since more than one year his studies in Philosophy with MA and gives short lectures in HH Acharyashree’s morning discourse. During all our visits we had met him and observed over the years the growing-up of a bright young monk. His gentle character was and is always accompanied by a heart-warming smile. After we had explained to him that a monk in room no. 6 wants to see us he let us in. The room is opposite the entrance, and we crossed the large entry hall normally crowded, but now empty.

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Muni Kishanlal

In room no. 6 Muni Kishan Lal was staying with the 2 monks of his group. One of them, Muni Neeraj Kumar, had waked him up from his after lunch nip, knowing us very well. Muni Kishan Lal welcomed us as if it was yesterday we had met last. Muni Neeraj Kumar did not speak during the rest period, making understandable this in gesture language. We did not want to cause further disturbance and made another appointment for next morning. Actually we wanted to accept Muni Kishan Lal ji’s invitation to participate in a meditation camp guided by him after we had been called by someone in March for this purpose. But in March the date of the camp was not yet available, and we hoped being able to attend. But unfortunately it was over two days before our arrival in Delhi.

2014.09.17 HN4U @ Delhi N5289 Sushil Bafana, Vikas Chhajer, Christian Geerdes

Outside we met Vikas Chhajer (M) for the first time in person.

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Meanwhile we also felt hungry, and Sushil Bafana accompanied us to the big dining-hall on the campus. Ladies’ side on the left  was just getting empty,...

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...whereas gents‘ on the right was still frequented.

There were separate buffets in the middle row for ladies and gents, who took their food on different sides of the dining-hall. Sushil Bafana was still with us and made us familiar with the circumstances. This was his responsibility, as he had put it very often. Only after having placed us at a table and provided chairs he was ready to leave us. Several assertions that we are fine and can manage everything very well had to be made first. Then he agreed to meet again whenever convenient to us in the office of the conference team in the 3rd floor of the monks’ house where he also was staying. We enjoyed the delicious, daily freshly prepared meal. Now the dining-hall was nearly empty and about to be closed. Even the volunteers had finished their lunch. A Terapanth dignitary visited them, as we could guess from their respectful welcome to a gentleman approaching them.

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Dharamchand Lunked, JVB Vice-President (2. l) expressing thanks to the volunteers Mahavir Semlani (2.r), Sanjay Baid Mehta (r).

To be a volunteer during the Chaturmas of their Acharya is for Terapanthi literally a case of honour. Many are trying to be released from their professional responsibilities for a certain time for being able to be close to the saints. If the male members are working in a family business, the brothers remaining at work are partly or even completely taking over the tasks of the volunteer. This means that the volunteer very often is a representative of the whole family. Sometimes even several members of a family are doing the service together. When the photo was taken all hurried back to duty. We also left and took a detailed look around.

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Entry to the dining-hall (r) was closed after we left. We decided to visit our friend Swami Dharmananda.

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In the building in front our friend lives since many years. The left one got a new painting, the right was redecorated.

2014.09.17 HN4U @ Delhi N5304 Carla Geerdes, Swami Dharmananda 

Big joy! Happy to meet again!

2014.09.17 HN4U @ Delhi N5305 Swami Dharmananda

For the next day he invited us for next day lunch to his home.

As it was far after 02:00pm, our friend suggested going for Darshan to HH Acharya Mahashraman. Also for him it was natural to accompany us, although we had disturbed his rest. Happily talking we departed. On the way he explained why he was no more reachable via phone and email. The telephone wires had been renewed and because of computer problem he did not receive his emails. Most of all we were really relieved to see him and his wife Nirmala being well.

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Acharya Mahashraman talking to Muni Abhijit Kumar.

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3 Sadhvis in the room of HH Acharya Mahashraman

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HH Acharya Mahashraman looks seriously and with concentration on the people lining in front of him.

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Time for water

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Always in the company of many people

2014.09.17 HN4U @ Delhi N5318 Carla Geerdes, Swami Dharmananda

Carla Geerdes (l) and Swami Dharmananda also lined up.

But this afternoon we unfortunately were too late. Shortly before it was our turn, the door was closed. Swami Dharmananda explained to us that HH will perhaps receive more visitors in the evening. So we used the opportunity to see as many monks as possible and took their photos. In the room of Muni Sukh Lal, Muni Mohjeet Kumar of his group was visited by his sister (in worldly relations) who is a Sadhvi since many years.

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Visit at Muni Sukh Lal and his group: Muni Mohjeet Kumar (l), Muni Sukh Lal Kumar (2.l), die Sadhvishree, Carla Geerdes.

In this group are monks of all ages, the youngest is under 10, Muni Sukh Lal is group leader and over 80 years old. The latter is an activist of Anuvrat Movement to which he has added a branch where the teachers are taught, Rastriya Anuvrat Shikshak Sansad Sansthan. Already in 2003 I had the opportunity in Surat, Gujarat, to participate in a gathering guided by Muni Sukh Lal and noticed how Munishree understood to talk directly to the hearts of people, giving hope to those living under miserable circumstances in opening their mind for the higher realities.

This first afternoon had plenty of remarkable encounters.

Photos: 17.09.2014