My Experiment with Shantivan– Brahma Kumaris Ashram : Mount Abu
A Serene Environ; Healthy Transformation
It was an afternoon of mid-August when I was told by my staff that someone from Brahma Kumaris Ashram has come to meet me. I welcomed him and promptly recognised we had met earlier also. Mr. B K Amarchand ji had also visited last year, with the invitation of a four-day media conference-cum-meditation session at their headquarter Mount Abu, Rajasthan. Inspite of my best intentions and efforts, the programme could not be materialized last year due to some inevitable situation. Again, he was here for the same type of programme with a little different theme from September 11-15, 2015.
Amar Bhai, as he is popularly known in his circle, which I came to know later, told me that you will love the ambiance, the deliberations, the quality of life and the simple yet effective practice of meditation, which will be a long lasting effect on your life. The theme to be dealt in these days of conference was interesting—Value-Based Media for Healthy & Happy Society. I promptly gave my nod and assured him that I will try my best to attend this year’s programme at Mount Abu. It will benefit me two ways—an interaction with hundreds of media and PR professionals from different part of the country and the discussions on the subject, and to know the Brahma Kumaris, their life, and their doings closely.
Journey to Mount Abu
It was about 10 PM when I, along with my wife reached at Agra Fort Railway Station. Ashok Navratn and his brother Sanjay Navratn of Aligarh also met us there. They were going to Mount Abu for the same programme but their reservation was in some other coach. We had our reservation in AC III, B-1 Coach and to our pleasant surprise, both the berths were lower (we did not know it because the tickets were booked by the Amar Bhai, as complimentary). After settling down in the seats, when we were trying to ready our bed, the family of three—two ladies, alongwith a 7-8 year old boy, was also preparing for their long journey to Ahmedabad, which is the terminating point of the train. The lady requested my wife, if we could exchange one of our lower berths with one of their middle berth. She asked me to exchange mine with her. I had no choice and agreed to go to middle berth, though I do not like travelling in the sandwich state!
Cooling inside the air-conditioned coach was fine, the beddings were ok, power points for mobile charging, fans and lights were working properly. Since the train originates from Agra Fort station itself, so, there were no hassles, associated with the transit stations.
The train reached at 9.45 AM at Abu Road railway station, with 20 minutes delay. Later, I came to know that Ahmedabad is about 180 kms away and the train passed through Jaipur and Ajmer, when we were in sound sleep. We de boarded the train and came outside the railway station where few people with white attire were standing near the vehicles of Ashram. I introduced them; one of them took my luggage and kept it inside the boot space of the bus. We entered in the bus and occupied the seats. In a few minutes, more delegates joins and the bus started to the Ashram.
Abu Road Campus: Shantivan
It reached an imposing, grand, yet serene and beautifully looking campus Shantivan in about 15 minutes drive, and covering a distance of almost six kilometer through the city. Shantivan—the campus of Brahma Kumaris Ashram is a part of the different campuses of the Ashram, which are spread in Abu Road, and Mount Abu—the hilly terrain, about 45 kms away. The magnificient complex Shantivan- the forest of peace, is used for hosting various spiritual-cum-educational retreat programmes. Situated on a beautiful 50 acre landsite, at the foothills of Mount Abu, it combines the graceful charm of a well laid out setup with freshness of nature and lovely backdrop of hills.
We were greeted by Amar Bhai in the reception area of the complex. He had arrived a day ago, to supervise things. He took our baggage, arranged a car for us, put the baggage in the boot space of the car, and handed over a computer-generated slip which mentioned that we have been allotted suite number 708 of Diamond House. It was about half a kilometer away from the entrance. The person manning reception requested us to fill up the columns in a register and handed over the keys of the accommodation.
He also sent an accomplice to take care of our luggage. The nicely furnished, one-bedroom with attached toilet accommodation was situated on second floor. It had an almirah-cum-wardrobe, a table, a chair, two single beds with side racks, a fan tubelight, two bulbs with a night lamp, a cooler, with filled-up water, and provision to infuse more water directly from the tap, a balcony which offers beautiful view of hills spread all over and the grandiose view of the campus from the other angle.
There were no telephones or intercoms in the rooms. The intercoms were available at the reception and other common areas, throughout the campus. There were provisions of water coolers with glasses, ironing board with electric irons on every floor. We were feeling urge to sip a cup of hot tea. I went downstairs via the lift and enquired from the reception. The person indicated me that there was a pantry room on the ground floor itself and you could avail the services of the pantry by yourself. It sounds interesting. I located the pantry which was furnished with a three-burner LPG stove, a two-door 365 liter refrigerator, modular almirahs where utensils for preparing tea and coffee, boiling milk and crockery as well as crockery was available in sufficient quantity. Sugar, Tea, Coffee and some spices which are needed for day to day use were also available there. Everything was properly labeled. The milkpot was available in the refrigerator with ample quantity.
It was a nice and pleasant experience. I prepared two cup of tea, in full milk, poured into the cups and took the cups in a serving tray to second floor to serve it to my wife who also liked it the way they have offered the services of the pantry to the inmates. There was a condition: You will require cleaning up your cups and the utensils after use! It was a logical and quite a normal condition. I enjoyed the pantry service of the Ashram, till the last days of our stay. I also discover, you yourself can take clean bedsheets, blankets, towels or other item which were available in an almirah, earned for these items only.
The Days of Conference
The first day was limited to make yourself acquainted with the Ashram. We were introduced to the role of spirituality and rajyoga meditation in everyday life. Who am I?, was the theme of a video film where delegates were made to aware with their inner self. It is said that to know your soul, is the necessity of yourself. If you know yourself better, you can do anything with a new vision and better perspective.
The Shantivan complex of the Ashram, which was established in the year 1996, has a magnificient 20,000 seats pillerless auditorium, known as Diamond Jubilee Hall. The campus has large dining facilities, and serves 16,000 people at a times, usually. It has a training centre with five halls of varying capacities. A lotus shaped meditation room and Prakash Stambh adds to the beauty of the area.
The cooking of food system is based on the solar steam cooking techniques. The centralized kitchen has a strict quality control which serves 10,000 to 16,000 people almost every day. The menu differ everyday with pure vegetarian diets and the cuisines ranging from typical north Indian food to Gujarati and South Indian preparations. All vegetables, spices and other ingredients are procured keeping in mind the strict code of quality. Everyone from a normal worker to high ranking dignitaries, who participates in the activities of the Ashram is served the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The quality of the food and the healthy intake of a diet is taken care of by the kitchen staff. The food which is not regarded as healthy like fried stuffs, aerated drinks and other such foodstuffs which is called junk food is totally prohibited in the campus.
The dining halls are not attached with the guest houses. There is one huge complex which serves as the cooking place cum dining center. The ground floor is used for cooking purpose and the rest three floors are utilized for serving food to the inmates. The timings for breakfast are: 8 to 9 AM. Lunch is served from 12.00 PM to 2.30 PM and the dinner time is scheduled for 7.30 to 9.00 PM only. Similarely, tea times are also earmarked in the dining area. Separate dining floors with separate halls are manned by the volunteers of the Ashram who serves cuisines to the inmates.
Smoking, consuming of alcohol or any other intoxicant like paan masala or chewing up of paan is banned in the complex.
Godlywood Studio, with three wings of high tech studios having international standard equipment is functioning from the campus. Side by side, these studios cover live shows, documentary films, talk shows. Post production facilities like editing; mixing, animation and dubbing etc. are also available here.
The Sessions: Meditation and Media
On September 12, 2015 the theme of meditation session was ‘Exploring the Self’ , while the inaugural session of the conference dealt with the theme of value based media for healthy and happy life. Justice E. Eshwarariah, B K Narwair, B K Karuna, Prof Kamal Dixit, Dr M S Parmar, N K Singh, Rajeev ranjan Nag, Prof Rajiv Sharma dealt with the subject. B K Shielu, a senior rajyoga teacher of Brahma Kumaris offered insight into the meditation experience.
In the evening session there were dialogues among the cross-sections of print media representatives which include delegates from newspapers, magazines, PR and publicity wings. With Sarla Anand as chairperson, B K Urmina, Pulak trivedi, Kamlesh Meena P K Gupta and Vinod Bharadwaj discussed on the theme of values and ethics in media and PR profession. Later, a few participants also shared their views on the topic. There was an exclusive session for electronic media only. Overcoming cultural pollution: role of mass media was the theme for the representatives of the radio, TV, film, cable TV, IT and Telecom sector. Dr Suresh Verma, Dr Kunjan Acharya, B K Poonam Verma, Pramod Kumar Pandey, Devendra Sharma and Parikshit Mishra dealt with the theme. The dais was also shared by the participants who aired their views.
For those who came in the pursuit of stress free life and happiness, the most important sessions were those which lasted from 6.30 AM to 8.00 AM and 5.30 to 8.00 PM daily. The morning session of the very first day was based on role of spirituality and rajyoga meditation in everyday life. B K Manju, Rajyoga teacher from Bilaspur described the spirituality and its connection with a human being, its soul in a very beautiful and logical manner. A few simple exercise of meditation were also conducted by her to connect one to the supreme power. Second day of early morning session was devoted to the topic on exploring the self. Rajyogini B K Geeta, a rajyog teacher from Mount abu very well dealt with the subject. She made us think and reassess ourself with the yet unexplored vistas of our life. Similarly, on Sunday, the senior rajyoga teacher, Mount Abu offered insight into the topic of Awareness of the Supreme Being. The one hour and thirty minutes speech was such that it touched the hearts of one and all. The fourth meditation session was devoted to the art of Rajyoga. The topic Rajyoga—A link with the Supreme Being provided the much needed insight to get closer with the God.
For The Happy Life, Change the Life Style
Dr Prem Masand, Radiation Oncologist, Global Hospital, Mount Abu in a one and a half hour lecture, and interactive session offered simple ways and means to remain happy, lead stress free life and keep away various illnesses. He underlined the need of positive thinking to remain happy. He stressed that one should live in the present and try to build a better future by doing commendable work in his present times. He also told the delegates to change their lifestyle for maintaining a good health and become free from all worries.
Dr B K Shrimant Sahu, Diabetologist and Holistic Care Physician of Global Hospital and Research Centre, Mount Abu said that diabetes has become an epidemic and nearly 10 lakhs of Indians die every year due to this disease. Terming it a lifestyle disorder, he warned, unless we alter our lifestyle, not only diabetes, but other killer diseases like hypertension, stroke, cardiac arrest and cancer will take us in their grip. He said that junk food and fast food are the killer food and one should avoid them, if he or she wishes to remain healthy and fruitful life. For a better health, one should avoid aerated drinks, so called bottled pulps fruits juices, all sorts of addictives beverages like coffee and tea and lead healthy life style by regular walking, exercise and stress free living through meditation.
All the evenings remained colorful with the beautiful presentations of cultural troupes. They performed on popular dances of Punjab and Gujarat and even Karnataka. Some deaf and dumb students of local schools presented beautiful skit which was appreciated by the audience with the thunderous clapping and waving of hands.
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Departure: Towards a Transforming Life
Ultimately, the day of 15th of September came. We prepared to say goodbye to the transforming time which we spent in the Ashram. The serne environment, soft and smiling attitude of everyone, positive thinking behavior coupled with exercises of meditation and lots to learn—everything leads to a transformation: a change for betterment and healthy life. Thanks Brahma Kumaris for providing us opportunity.
Before parting our ways, I did not forget to buy audio CDs of devotional songs, few Video DVDs of the Rajyoga Meditation and important discourses by the practitioners of Brahma Kumaris Ashram. These are reasonably priced from Rs. 20 to 50 only. A number of souvenirs like key rings, pens, bags, paperweight etc were also available there with only a token price tag attached.
And the journey from Abu Road campus of Shantivan, towards railway station to board the train to Agra begins at 8.00 PM. Amar Bhai arranged a vehicle for us. Bharat Bhushan, his accomplice met us at the platform who came alongwith packets of dinner which we had skipped fearing delay in reaching station.
And we are back with lots of good memories, a new beginning ahead with lots to explore to connect to our self with the Supreme Power!
(P.S. : The programme was organized at Abu Road campus only, not Mount Abu, which is about 40 kms away. The Ashram offered us a sight seeing visit on the last day of the conference. It includes their Mount Abu complex, the Global Hospital and Nakki Lake, which we will deal later in a separate write-up)
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