The one day monthly Yoga Camp, held at the Sivananda International Cultural Centre, is attended by 300-400 participants, from pre-school children to senior citizens. The camp session commences at 06:00 and terminates at about 12:00pm on a Sunday.
The Yoga Camp has two main aims: Firstly, to impart to all participants the most inspiring and practical teachings of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda. The second aim is to teach and encourage participants to do spiritual practices daily, not just once a week or once a month.
For this purpose the Society devised a simple spiritual diary in which the Spiritual Darlings record their daily practice of Japa, Pranayama, Asanas and Likhit Japa, as well as Smaran (remembrance of God during the day).
Spiritual Darlings from pre-school age to University students are trained to keep the spiritual diary. Some senior boys and girls spend even up to one and a half hours daily in their morning prayer and Japa.
The spiritual diaries are scrutinised at the Yoga Camp and colourful stamps are awarded to the children. The group that produces the highest percentage of diaries is awarded a floating trophy.
Participants at the Yoga Camp are divided into the following groups:
Pre-School Group: This group has to memorise the simple sentences from a delightful book especially prepared for them, called God is My Friend. It is beautifully illustrated with multi-colour pictures of Hindu Deities, birds, flowers, animals, etc. Lord Krishna's stunningly beautiful picture adorns the cover.
Grade 1-3: Divine Life for Children is the textbook for this group. It contains useful moral lessons and life-stories of our great saints and Rishis. Spiritual Darlings of this group are given tests based on their textbook, which is also illustrated with multi-colour pictures. All the matter contained in the book is from the writings of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda.
Grade 4-6: Yoga Lessons for Children, containing 53 lessons must be studied by this group. The lessons are given in 9 glorious volumes, containing more than 1400 multi-colour pictures.
Grade 7 â€“ Post Matric: The senior Spiritual Darlings must also study Yoga Lessons for Children and answer questions based on them.
Adults: The adults study the Science of Yoga series in 8 volumes, containing 24 topics, all from our Master's writings. The lessons are very practical and informative and give one an overview of Hindu philosophy.
Senior Citizens: The Divine Life Society takes care of the senior citizens also. They are given some useful tasks to keep themselves occupied. Their birthdays are lovingly remembered.
In keeping with the ideals of our Divine Master, the Society pays great attention to physical education. During his youth, the Master took part in sports and games and was very enthusiastic in his gymnastic practices. In later life, when he renounced the world and became a monk at Rishikesh, India, he never missed his daily Yoga Asanas. Sometimes he did a little jogging also and swam in the Ganges.
At the Sivananda International Cultural Centre we have well equipped playparks for our Spiritual Darlings. Swings, roundabouts, slides, etc. are great attractions. In the beginning some of them appear a little nervous in using the equipment, but soon they get over it. The playpark teaches the little ones concentration also and develops in them self-confidence.
Soccer, volleyball, cricket, swimming, athletics and other games are organised for the senior Spiritual Darlings. The mass drill displays for all age groups enables them to develop concentration, co-ordination, obedience and how to interact with others-qualities which will certainly prove invaluable to them later in life. Drill practice is an important item at the Yoga Camp. About 100 participants, both male and female, young and old, participate together in the gymnastic mass drill display performed to the most melodious Ram Siya Pati Ram Bhajan. It captivates the hearts of all.
In accordance with the instructions of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, the first of each month is observed as "All Souls Day" at the Sivananda Ghat. The function commences at 5pm and ends about 6.30pm(Summer times) and from 4.30pm to about 6pm in May, June and July.
1. First illuminated lights are floated in the Ganga fountain at Sivananda Ghat while the Ganga Arati is played over the sound system.
2. This is followed by a short havan performed by a qualified Pundit. Members of the bereaved family are encouraged to sit for this mass-havan for the peace of the departed soul. Enquiries can be made at the Ghat.
3. Then devotees of the Society and members of bereaved families sing in chorus some extremely sweet and soul-elevating Bhajans while walking around the building.
4. The soul-stirring Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram Mantra is chanted for several minutes at the end of the programme. Bereaved families can repeat this Mantra at home for the deceased. It will bring great peace to departed souls.
5. Seats are provided for the aged and those who find walking strenuous.
6. The function ends with Shanti Paat and distribution of Prasad and spiritual literature.
7. On the same day there is poor feeding in some school or charitable institution in the name of the departed souls for their peace and happiness.
Procedure for Christian Families
Since Christians also cremate in the nearby crematorium, an illuminated shrine of Jesus Christ has been mounted on the wall next to the shrine of the Deities. Recently two Christian families brought ashes of the deceased.
Devotees of the Society adopt the following procedure in the case of Christian families:
While the ashes are being deposited our devotees and members of the bereaved family utter the following verse, which our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, incorporated in one of his universal Kirtans:
O My Jesus, O Lord Jesus, Hail Hail Jesus, O Saviour Saviour!
O My Mary, O Virgin Mary, Hail Hail Mary, O Mother Mother!
Before or after the deposit of the ashes members of the deceased are free to utter some prayers.
Our Master has written an inspiring account of the life of Lord Jesus. This is distributed to Christians who come to the Ghat as visitors or to deposit ashes of the deceased. Since our Master's teachings are universal in appeal, many Christians also read his writings and feel greatly inspired.
A few months ago a Christian family had a tragic experience when some dear ones were killed in an accident in Cape Town. They were very downhearted and depressed. One of our devotees gave them a copy of our Peace book. After reading it they felt relief at once. After reading one of our Master's books, a Muslim woman also overcame her depression because she could not go to Mecca.
How Ashes are Realeased into the Umgeni River
1. There are containers with basins on two sides of the Ganga fountain.
2. Water from Ganga is poured into one of the basins.
3. Before the ashes are deposited into the basin by a member of the bereaved family, devotees of the Society repeat some Mantras and the Master's name.
4. While the ashes are being deposited into the basin by a member of the bereaved family, all utter: Hare Hare Gange, Jai Ma Gange several times.
5. Other members of the bereaved family also pour some pure Ganga water into the basin from a small brass vessel.
6. The water from the basin, together with the ashes, is then released into the Umgeni River.
7. All then sing the sweet and melodious Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram or Om Nama Sivaya Mantra in chorus while going round the Ganga fountain eight times.
8. The procedure ends with Shanti Paat, distribution of Prasad and free literature to members of the deceased.
9. Before or after the deposit of the ashes members of the deceased are free to repeat some prayers or perform simple rituals.
Tribute from Mrs Christine Pillay:
"I am humbled to be writing to such an awesome person as yourself. I am a Christian since birth and so is my family. When my brother recently spoke of the Ghat and explained its amazing wonder, I never fully understood its beauty and serenity until I visited it and had a life-changing experience."
"I am certain every person who has the gift of visiting the Ghat will appreciate and bless you for having the foresight to give the departed the highest form of respect and dignity after all the turmoil and sadness that we so often face in life. I was blessed not only to have had my son with me, but my family sharing this wonderful experience. The peace and tranquillity we encountered when entering the Ghat left us feeling so serene and humble, and left each one of us in perfect peace."
"You, Swamiji, are an extraordinary being, and may God richly bless you and keep you strong to continue all your wondrous deeds. I have not had the pleasure of meeting you, nevertheless I am a better person for having heard and seen your great dedication to mankind."
"A divine place to face all trials and troubles with courage and calmness."
"A beautiful way to leave the world. God bless you."
"Very peaceful and pleasant place. Well maintained. Good communication between devotees in charge and the public. It feels like 'heaven'."
"Absolutely brilliant. Shining example of what humanity can achieve and of the potential we possess."
"Inspiring and informative for all seekers of God."
"This is a divine magnet that pulls me closer and closer to the merciful divine lotus feet of Pujya Swamiji Maharaj. Thank you all."
"This place is heaven, Swamiji. You have always given me faith and courage in all that I do and I want to thank you for everything."
"I am a Christian and I believe in my Saviour, Jesus Christ and I respect every religion. This is an excellent set-up. We should have more "set-up" like this."
"Seeing this beautiful ending to one life has assured me that death takes us all to a beautiful place."
"A calm and inspirational place that gives one a soothing sensation in the mind and soul at this trying time. Thanks for making this possible."
"At the Lotus Feet of God Almightyâ€”this vibration is an experience."
â€œI think that this place is amazing. Only God can do this. I think that this spiritual need is God Himself."
"There is a lot of cheer and light surrounding this place."
"Brings peace of mind and soothes away pain and grief."
About Sivananda Ghat
(To make use of the facilities at Sivananda Ghat, kindly contact us on 031 262 2314)
Sivananda Ghat is a post cremation public facility situated alongside the Umgeni River, next to the Clare Estate Umgeni Hindu Crematorium. It was constructed by Divine Life Society of South Africa after a request was made by the Minister of Education of KwaZulu-Natal, during the birthday function of our Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, held at Sivananda International Cultural Centre, La Mercy in September 2002. The Minister himself suggested the name "Sivananda Ghat" as a fitting tribute to our Divine Master for having contributed to the development of the country through the Society's projects for people of different faiths and race groups as well as the disadvantaged.
With great enthusiasm Divine Life Society decided to undertake the project. The inspiration came mainly from the Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, who had spoken about the Shraddha ceremony and rituals for the deceased at his Ashram. The Master had said:
"From now onward the first of every month will be observed at the Ashram as "All Souls Day". We should offer special prayers for the peace of departed souls. In this modernized materialistic world, Dharma has long ago been lost. Many religions have come into being in India itself that vehemently condemn the practice of ancestor-worship, Tarpana and Shraddha. The departed souls are in great grief. They naturally look to us to help them. We must do this."
On the first of every month, Havan and Satsang are conducted for the peace of the departed souls. Those attending, walk around the Ghat singing melodious Bhajans and repeating Ram-Nam. About 2000 poor people are fed on this day in the name of departed souls.
Sivananda Ghat is managed by Divine Life Society and its band of sincere devotees. It is fulfilling its primary function of providing a safe and dignified facility for the disposal of the cremated ashes of all race groups, including Africans and Christians. Facilities are also provided for the performance of Shraddha and Tarpana rituals at no cost. Instead of the use of clay pots the Society has now provided metal vessels for disposal of the ashes into the Ganga basin and then into the Umgeni River.
Sivananda Ghat is a place of solace and comfort for bereaved family members who have lost their beloved ones. Furthermore, it is a highly educational and cultural centre. Both Sivananda and Vishwananda Halls have extremely beautiful illuminated display cabinets with lovely pictures of exotic birds, flowers, animals, scenic wonders, etc. accompanied by short, inspiring sayings from our Divine Master's writings which captivate readers. There are sayings from our sacred Hindu scriptures, like the Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita. The lovely shrine with illuminated duratrans of Lord Rama, Mother Saraswathi, Swami Vishwananda, our Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, Lord Ganesha, Lord Krishna and Lord Siva enthrall all.
Mother Ganga Shrine at Sivananda Ghat
Two illuminated shrines of Ganga Mata are mounted on the beautiful Ganga fountain with its lovely water sprays. There is also a small duratran shrine of Sri Hanuman. A shrine of Lord Jesus has also been installed. From the comments and response of individuals, Sivananda Ghat is bringing about a spiritual awakening and transformation in the lives of many visiting the centre. Visitors and members of bereaved families invariably comment about its serene and tranquil atmosphere. Several remarked: "This place is heaven on earth."
The large amount of spiritual literature taken clearly indicates that today, many who are confronting serious problems, are looking for spiritual guidance. In this respect Divine Life Society can confidently state that our Master's spiritual writings, which are so highly inspiring, universal in outlook and practical in application are unparalleled when it comes to instructions and guidance for the ordinary man. We get reports of how his writings have helped Muslims and Christians also. Now they have been translated into Zulu and are having a wide appeal.
The divine atmosphere of the Ghat is helping people to cope with difficulties and sadness due to loss of their beloved ones. The booklet, Pathway to Peace & Happiness and other spiritual literature contain illuminating information on how to overcome depression and suicidal tendencies, alcoholism and drugs, etc. is distributed. Also, the Master's book, What Becomes of the Soul After Death answers many queries about the soul after it leaves the body. It contains valuable information on reincarnation, etc.
The ashes of the deceased are deposited into one of two basins consecrated with holy Ganga water situated on Ganga Fountain in the Ghat. From here the ashes are transported directly into the Umgeni River. While the ashes are being disposed, members of the bereaved family pour Ganga water into the basin and all utter the invocation, Hare Hare Gange Jai Ma Gange. After the disposal all chant the sweet and melodious Om Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram or Om Nama Sivaya Mantra while walking around Ganga fountain eight times.
Shrine of Lord Jesus at Sivananda Ghat
In the case of Christians, while depositing the ashes, our devotees repeat melodiously lines from one of our Master's universal Kirtans, invoking Lord Jesus and Mother Mary. Members of bereaved Christian families also pour Ganga water into the basin. One of the greatest blessings that departed souls receive is the Grace of Ganga Mata, whose holy water is poured into the basin by members of bereaved families while the ashes of their beloved ones are being deposited into it. Furthermore, the Umgeni River also gets purified and sanctified by Ganga Mata's water.
Sivananda Ghat and its precincts are maintained and serviced regularly by experienced and trained individuals. The system is highly efficient as it is a gravity fed system. The ash is mixed with water and this is carried into the river via pipes. More than 20 000 ash disposals have been conducted since 2005 and the Ghat is becoming increasingly popular for its service to all race groups and diverse religious affiliations. The area where the ashes enter the Umgeni River is regularly supervised and cleaned to ensure that the natural environment is maintained.
Since its official opening in 2005, Sivananda Ghat has been having a spiritually uplifting effect on all those visiting it.