Talk given by Swami Suryananda on 16.10.2021.
An ashram is never stagnant! An ashram is a vibrant place which is continually unfolding in the way that the Divine requires it, in order to serve better humanity.
In 2023 we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Skanda Vale. Now that’s quite an amazing thing. I’ve not been here for fifty years, but I’ve been here for quite a long time and seen many, many changes.
When I initially came there was only the Murugan temple – it wasn’t like this at all, it was a little old farmhouse with a very small temple. And now it’s a big ashram, three beautiful temples, another temple in Switzerland, and various other things that are going on.
But it doesn’t stop there, so we were reminded that it’s very important that whilst the people who personally spent time with Guru are still alive that we actually create a place in Skanda Vale that honours Guru.
And when I talk about honouring Guru… you have to remember that to become a maharishi (as he was) requires incarnation after incarnation after incarnation of tapas and service to life.
And those great souls live for the world, they’re not remotely interested in themselves. And it’s important that people actually have an opportunity to understand how Skanda Vale was founded, have an opportunity to be inspired by that grace of Guru.
So there will be a hall which will be built at the top of the ashram, next to the Maha Shakti temple. A beautiful hall, where there will be a statue of Guru and we will be able to have satsangs, meditation, kriya, music, dance.
People will be able to find out about Guru’s teachings – maybe there’ll be an audio-visual part there where people can actually listen to podcasts and all sorts of things.
Just so that we have a space within the ashram where people can learn and understand and be inspired about how this all came about. Because it didn’t just happen by itself – it came about through incredible dedication and hard work by many, many, many, many people over the last fifty years.
And especially in those early days when there was nothing here, people believed in Guru, and they gave their life, literally, to dedicate to the formative development of Skanda Vale in those early years.
So that’s one project – the design of it is happening at the moment and work will begin in the new year.
Lord Murugan’s Vel
This ashram is called Skanda Vale because Lord Murugan (or Skanda) was the aspect of God that gave Guru the power and authority to establish this temple and this ashram. Vel is his weapon, His spear (Vale is also a valley).
We’ve been inspired to install a very large Vel, a twelve-metre high Vel, which will be on the hillside opposite the Sri Ranganatha temple, and the base of the Vel will be a three-headed Naag (a Naag is a serpent).
And the reason why there will be a three-headed Naag there is because that is the form that the Lord took when He first manifest to Guru and gave him that power and authority to establish Skanda Vale – He gave Guru a Vel.
And that Naag and that Vel are actually in the gopuram here, together with the murti of Murugan, a small murti of Murugan. So work has already begun on creating access down to the river and up the other side towards where that Vel will be installed for the fiftieth anniversary.
It will form part of a parikrama circuit, a pradakshina circuit of the whole ashram. For those of you who have been to Arunachala, to Kailash, even Palani… you know, in Palani you’re meant to walk around Palani hill before you go into the temple. Arunachala you’re meant to walk around, do outer kora and then inner kora before you go up to worship the feet of Shiva, the top of Arunachala.
So that Vel will be the second project we have for our fiftieth anniversary.
Shirdi Sai Baba Temple
The third project is a temple for Shirdi Sai Baba, and work has already begun. For those of you who are here, where you are having prasadam after this puja you will see behind that area there is an excavation that has taken place, like a sort of amphitheatre.
That is where the temple of Shirdi Sai Baba will be. So the groundwork has pretty much been completed this week. And now work will begin over the next few months on that temple for Shirdi Sai Baba. Currently, the idea for that is that that will form part of the morning puja for Lord Ranganatha and Dattatreya and Shirdi Sai Baba, then Devi, then Nagaraja.
Guru wanted the whole of this area behind the temple to be an area of beautiful shrines to the different aspects of the Divine. And the different aspects of the Divine are also different aspects of the Guru Parampara. These maharishis who gave everything to humanity and reinvigorated humanity’s desire to want to merge with God. So, Shirdi Sai Baba was one such soul.
Your chance to get involved
And the reason I’m explaining all this is that we would like you to have an opportunity to actually become involved. And by involved I mean stay in the ashram and work towards those projects.
Some of you may be young and fit (younger and fitter than I am) and may be able to mix concrete and make shuttering and build pillars and brickwork and blockwork and stuff like that.
Others who are less physically able may be able to cook and clean and do other things… but everything will support this because it is a massive task to develop those three projects over the next year, eighteen months.
So when I say ‘come down’ – not just for a day or a weekend. Come down for a prolonged period of time. Weeks or months, or even longer.
Changes to our ashram accommodation
We have very beautiful accommodation, and as we move forward that accommodation will be made specifically available for pilgrims who want to come here to do Seva and work in the ashram.
Because in all honesty in the past that accommodation has been abused. Many, many times pilgrims booked it and didn’t turn up, which then denied other people the opportunity to be able to stay here.
So we’re shifting how we use this resource, to make it available for people who genuinely want to come here to do Seva for a prolonged period of time.
And it’s completely free to stay here – at no cost and you can stay for as long as you want. But it’s not a holiday camp. If you stay you’re here and you get involved in the work of the ashram.
Everyone has something to offer
Everyone has some skills to offer, everyone has something to give. And just think that it’s an opportunity for you to actually give something to generations of people who walk through these gates.
In normal times, ninety to one hundred thousand people a year come to this ashram to worship God. And what an amazing privilege it is to participate, to have the opportunity to participate in some way to create an opportunity for people to worship in different ways.
For everyone has a different association. There may be some people in the future who come who have such a special link with Shirdi Sai Baba or a very special link with Murugan and his Vel, or somehow their association with Guru from maybe incarnations past is reignited by looking at his statue and reading about his teachings. Who knows?
And the Divine will bring those people here. So you have an opportunity to participate and be involved in that, to create something really beautiful that’s actually a gift to humanity.
So it’s an open invitation, Divine friends. But we will be quite strict about the accommodation. The way we are going to operate will change, for people who genuinely want to spend a significant amount of time.
It’s important that we do that. It’s a resource that we’ve invested a lot of time and energy in and we cannot go back to it being abused and people phoning up and booking it and not turning up. It’s really not fair, it’s really not on.
So that will change soon.
Other upgrades to the ashram
So I use this opportunity normally every week to talk about these things because also talking about it, it actually makes it real. It begins to happen and we actually do see this, you know, I know it’s not a temple but there’s just been a very large car park built and you think ‘OK, it’s a car park, what’s so great about a car park?’
What’s so great about the car park is that it pedestrianises the whole of this area. You haven’t got cars, noise, backwards and forwards, danger to the pilgrims. This whole area is pedestrianised, it quietens it down.
This means that when people are inside the temple precincts there is more of an opportunity for them to become quiet and connect to that beautiful vibration of the Divine that is here. And the more that there are shrines and different opportunities for people to do that.
Then people aren’t agitated and think ‘Oh the puja’s finished what do I do now? I go on my phone, I look on the Internet, I go on social media’…
They’ll be able to spend a day here, walking up to the vel, doing parikrama, going to the different shrines, and hopefully, those shrines in the field will be open all the time for people to go in there and say their prayers and sit quietly.
It’s the same with Guru’s hall. We want it to be open, that people can use it all the time – different from the Murugan temple and the Shakti temple.
So please join us and get involved in these projects, Divine friends. Whether you’re here in the temple, in the marquee or listening online.
Just think, it is a unique opportunity to actually participate somehow in the building of a building or a shrine where thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of pilgrims over the coming years will have that chance to experience a different manifestation of God, different energy of God.
So it’s a beautiful thing to be able to do, so please come and join us in that, and you’re all now probably very hungry because I’ve been talking for ages, so we’ll get on with the puja, thank you.
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