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Arsha Vidya UK hosts Pujya Swamiji's visit, April 2008

The visit of Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati to London, 22-28 April, has opened a new chapter for Arsha Vidya UK.

Two types of events were organised for Swamiji's visit. The first was a series of evening talks co-hosted by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in West London. The topic was 'Dharma or Discord'. Over three evenings the audience was taken step by step through an unfoldment of the true import of Dharma. “When you rub against the order, the order rubs back,” Swamiji said, using an ancient London Plane tree he had visited just that afternoon to make his point. “This tree, which is valued at £750,000, is very old and its bark is very rough and tough. If you rub up against it, you will not change it, but it will certainly make a big impact on the skin of your back.”

It was touches of profundity coupled, like this, with topicality and Swamiji's characteristic humour, that had the audience that packed the Bhavan's 350-seater auditorium coming back for more. Between a fifth and a quarter of the audience were Westerners. Most of them said that they had never heard the concepts of Vedanta expressed with such clarity and placed within such easy reach of the mind.

Following the Bhavan talks was the second event: a three-day semi-residential retreat in a country house hotel in Hertfordshire, on the edge of North London. 75 people were invited, but it was impossible for the organisers to turn away the ardent pleas of people who heard about Swamiji's visit – on one day 97 people attended! The main topic for the 12-hour days was the unfoldment of two verses of the Dakshinamurti Stotram. The delegates received a rich diet of Vedanta, meditation, chanting led by Swamini Atmaprakashananda, and satsang where questions could be put to Pujya Swamiji.

From all responses from retreat attendees – some still coming in weeks after the event – people were inspired, uplifted, engaged and educated. Words like, “It was an honour to have been in the presence of such a master” are characteristic of the feedback. This was the first time the UK had hosted such an extensive and in-depth programme. And Swamiji's endorsement of the work of Arsha Vidya UK in general – and his disciple Swamini Atmaprakashananda in particular – has opened a new chapter for our fledgling organisation.

In addition to groups studying the Gita and Upanishads (following Adi Shankara's Sanskrit commentary), there are regular classes in London studying 'Introduction to Vedanta', 'Vedic Hymns', 'Vedic Vision and Values', and 'Shaankaram' (a unique programme for learning Adi Shankara's stotras with their meanings).

The aim is to further extend the work through the establishment of several 'Gita Home Study Centres' across the country, as well as groups for mothers with young children, as the need arises.

Swamiji's visit in April has broadened the network of interest and enthusiasm in our work. And, with Bhagavan's grace, the teaching of Traditional Vedanta is well set to take root and flourish in the UK.

There was also a report on the visit by a BBC journalist.

Also, another UK first… the May issue of Hindu Today carried their first ever full-page profile of a Swami – indicating the esteem accorded to Pujya Swamiji and his activities.

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