With great joy we share the news of the inauguration and dedication of “Sevalaya,” the new Administration Building at our Ranchi Ashram that has been under construction for the last three years.
Nearly three hundred devotees — from Ranchi and from Kendras and Mandalis across the country — visited the ashram to witness this momentous event on March 22, 2015, the 98th anniversary of the Foundation Day of Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.
The dedication of the Sevalaya was made possible by the tireless efforts of several monastics and devotees. What made the day all the more memorable was the “presence” of some senior sannaysis and sannyasinis from Self-Realization Fellowship: Swami Achalananda, Swami Vishwananda, Swami Chidananda, Preeti Mai, and Bhakti Mai, who joined the YSS devotees through a live video link.
We have been sharing news of the planning and construction of the Sevalaya through our magazines and our newsletters from time to time. This building, designed to become the nerve centre for Guruji’s work in India, houses all the offices that were earlier spread out throughout the ashram. We bring you a brief report of its dedication ceremony.
The morning of the event found a large gathering of devotees at the Litchi Tree Vedi to participate in the Prabhat Feri led by sannyasis. Students of the Yogoda Satsanga Boys School, Ranchi also joined this entourage that wended its way around various sacred spots of the ashram to the rendition of soulful bhajans, concluding at the main entrance of the Sevalaya situated in front of the main gate of the ashram. Here, they were greeted by live images, on a large LED screen, of Swami Vishwananda and other SRF monks and nuns — who in turn, were watching the proceedings live from Mother Center in the USA.
Sri Sri Mrinalini Mata, Sanghamata and President of YSS/SRF, conveyed a special message for all devotees in Ranchi, which was read out by Preeti Mai. In her message, Mrinalini Mataji said that the new Sevalaya is both beautiful and functional and it blends with the other structures on the ashram grounds. She invoked the blessings of God and Gurus and consecrated it to their sacred work, adding that this building would continue to benefit earnest seekers of God for many years to come. And with Ma’s blessings the dedication ceremony began!
To the sound of the gong by Swami Vishwananda, opened the main door of the building, revealing a large picture of Guruji placed on a carefully-designed water-fountain described thus by Swami Lalitananda: “The water (of the fountain, flowing from below Guruji’s picture) represents Guruji’s blessings flowing into the five-pointed star of the spiritual eye (represented by the star-shaped marble pool) encircled by blue and golden-yellow stone.” The curtains were pulled away to reveal a plaque bearing the name given to the building: “Sevalaya” — meaning abode of service. Swami Suddhananda performed arati inside the building which was watched by devotees outside on the LED screen.
The gathering was ushered into a large hall on the first floor where a special film about the building was screened. It featured Swamis Lalitananda, Smaranananda, and Shraddhananda who explained the design, structure, and making of the Sevalaya building.
Swami Ishwarananda presented a brief history of the ashram. He pointed out how a small family of only 15 monks in the 1980’s had eventually blossomed into the considerable number of 60 monks at present, apart from 20 resident sevaks as well as many full-time employees.
Swami Smaranananda felicitated around 30 individuals who made significant contributions to the Sevalaya project through their expertise or their monetary or material support. They received words of gratitude from Swami Vishwananda.
Swami Achalananda of SRF then spoke to the devotees relating anecdotes from his first visit to India, adding his loving counsel, “Keep on keeping on.”
Swami Chidananda revealed that the SRF monastics were addressing the gathering from the same room where Guruji had greeted the Indian Ambassador ahead of his mahasamadhi and where the entire dedication ceremony of the Sevalaya in Ranchi was being telecast live.
The function was concluded with a vote of thanks by Swami Shraddhananda, following which 700 devotees and friends partook of the Maha Prasad in the basement of the new building. Centring the heart, mind, and soul on God and Gurus, the day’s events were concluded with hundreds coming together for a six-hour-long meditation held in the Sevalaya.
Devotees had the opportunity to explore the interiors of the new three-story building. From the elegant lobby, to the offices, the conference room, the monastic cabins, and sevak desks, the sound studio, the veranda, the rooftop, to the sun-lit corridors — one could see the efforts invested in the design of the building: modern from the inside, yet traditional in the façade.
Hard work, intense pressure, overtime, many a sleepless night, are some of the phrases that monks and devotees involved directly or indirectly with the construction and dedication of the Sevalaya use to describe what went behind the scene towards the fulfilment of this long-cherished dream. Our heartfelt thanks reach out to the devotees and volunteers, without whose magnanimous efforts, a project of this magnitude could never have been possible.
We share with you comments from a few of the devotees who participated in the dedication programme:
“As we entered the main foyer… I was standing rooted to the floor just gazing at the huge picture of Gurudeva in the centre of the room. The entire lobby area emitted a quiet aesthetic simplicity and charm. Guruji’s mesmerizing gaze almost transfixed me.”
“The Sevalaya has been very thoughtfully designed taking into consideration the present and future needs of the organization. The work areas have been carefully planned and optimized for space and functionality….As we took leave of the Ashram the lingering feeling was that our beloved Gurudeva’s work has taken a giant leap forward and the Sevalaya has made things better and easier for all those who are helping his cause.”
“I was amazed that the vibrations during the long meditation were so high that despite the fatigue of the day it was so easy to slip into the stillness and feel the presence of the Great Ones. It was as if every brick laid, every action performed, had been done in a spirit of overwhelming love and devotion, so that there was no need to wait for the building up of vibrations — the vibrations were already there, with each brick of the Sevalaya singing in silent unison: Om Guru! Om Guru! Om Guru!”