A Warm Welcome in Leeds!

Swami Shubamritananda’s programme in Leeds

As I sat near the exit of the hall at Leeds Temple smiling people came and went. I felt an uplift of joy in my heart. What a wonderful experience the Shubji Leeds programme had been!

I had barely had a second to contemplate the enormous benefit that this event would have during the previous two weeks. In this moment, as the final tidying took place, the lasting effects of Amma’s Grace took even deeper root in me.

I cannot express the gratitude I feel! After these several years of lockdown and the Covid pandemic, there have been no Amma visits to the UK. Many of us have enjoyed immensely the connection with Amma via Zoom over this time, and also connecting with the MA centre in London, as well as our own small local Satsangs.

The physical presence of Swamiji, his Satsang, and the gathering of people together brought so much of the Amma UK programme experience to me. Not only that, but this was the first time that such a strong Amma experience was here, in my part of the UK! I had not had the six-hour drive, the extensive planning and arrangements.

After a number of years of conversation and ideas (Shubji declared his desire to visit the North some time ago!), we received the news that he would indeed be flying in to attend a programme in Leeds. We had TWO WEEKS' notice!

As you can imagine, there were some sleepless nights, a great many Whatsapp messages, exciting conversations and generous offerings of time, money and energy. We lept into action to visit venues, secure funding, organise food, music and leaflets and everything else that goes into it.

There was a wonderful unification of efforts, especially between London devotees and the Northern regions. People travelled from far and wide to attend including London, Birmingham, Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, Barnsley, Newcastle, Manchester, Cumbria, Cheshire, North Wales and…wait for it…the Isle of Man! (Yes, really).

During the hours before the event, the programme hall in Leeds was buzzing with activity. Devotees had started working in the kitchen very early in the day while more and more people arrived from their widespread places.

A tea stall went up, a greeting table, a sound system appeared, an altar was carefully decorated and tended, flowers arranged, tables and chairs shifted, and Amrita stalls set up. Fervent discussions and last-minute communications happened whilst an occasional missing item was frantically searched for. In the end, all was ready for Swami’s arrival.

I remember joining another devotee and looking out of the window to the car park, the gentle and expectant murmuring of the hall behind me. I could see Kuldeep waiting in the car park for Swamiji.

I returned to my seat and noticed a palpable hush which let me know that Swamiji had reached the top of the stairs. Leeds Temple provided a spectacular entrance with traditional drumming. The atmosphere as Swamiji walked the length of the hall was reverent and Amma’s Grace shrouded us all immediately. We stood in silence and gave our full attention
as Swami lit the lamp and offered rose petals.

As soon as we began with meditation I felt the familiar peace and joy that I associate with meditating at Amma’s programmes. Swamiji’s beautiful voice guided us, and then gave us a meaningful talk on “The Joy of Living”.

I reflected on this man’s life, his early devotion to Amma and his many talents. I felt such gratitude for his willingness to travel to us and then onwards around Europe. His talk contained such wisdom and its’ impact is still apparent in my life and everyday thoughts.

Swamiji made five main points during his talk. I will relay the essence of these points as I recall them, however, impress upon you that they come to you through my own translation, and not as the direct words of Swami, and possibly not in quite the correct order either!

The Joy of Living

  1. Love yourself. Be willing to fall in love with yourself, this is important for the Joy of Living. How can we expect to be happy if we do not love and care for ourselves? When we refuse to love ourselves it is an act of self-destruction. We can find things to love about ourselves, it is not immodest!
  2. Pay attention to your thoughts. Too often we carry around old pain and negative thinking in our minds, which we continue to react to in everyday life. We respond to present situations from a position of old pain. What would we do if we spill coffee on a cloth? We would wash the cloth so it does not stain. Old pain is like stains on a cloth. We must pay attention to our thoughts and wash the stains from our brains!
  3. Get help. Be willing to receive help. No one can do everything on their own, especially in times of difficulty.
  4. Be grateful for life. In moments of everyday life, we can remember to be grateful, such as appreciating the sky and nature.
  5. Be inspired to give. Giving to others as an expression of true love and generosity brings us joy.

We continued singing Bhajans and the music was wonderful. Swami, the musicians and singers expressed such a feeling of pure Grace and love through their instruments and voices. I noticed that even people totally new to Amma joined in with singing when they could.

We moved on to Arati. By this point in the programme, true peace and gratitude permeated the gathering. People received Lindt chocolate from Swamiji for Prasad and then lingered at the Amrita stalls and talked.

Devotees working hard in the kitchen provided an incredible meal of Indian vegetarian food which was abundant and delicious. People new to Amma left the hall with huge beaming smiles on their faces and expressed a solid desire to attend local Satsangs. Some of them offered Seva after their meals and spent a long and cheerful time washing up in the kitchen!

The President of the Temple at Leeds was enormously inspired by Swamiji! He expressed an open invitation for everyone to enter the Temple and was extremely welcoming. Members of the Temple community had attended the programme and loved it. Swamiji then visited the Temple and gave a short talk.

Temple goers also were welcomed into the Programme Hall to eat the food that Devotees had so conscientiously prepared. There had been an explosion of love and good energy in this Northern City! Smiling people connected and talked and new relations and friendships
were begun.

As always with Amma’s Grace, there was an intensity and uplift in energy which affected all of us. I personally felt honoured to have witnessed with compassion a number of people expressing challenging feelings, many people touched deeply with peace, some joyous connections with new friends (thank you from me to you gorgeous London people!), some inspiring conversations, some moments of deep reverence, a delicious flow of synchronicity and one extremely special moment of Amma magic (you know who you are).

As I finally left the building it was after 9 pm and there was still a warm and lively atmosphere with many people lingering. The resounding words from people attending were “please come again!”

I cannot express my gratitude enough that this occasion happened. My husband and I have been celebrating Satsang for many years up here in the North. Devotees are still currently in small numbers and scattered at distance around the regions.

At times, when we have returned from an Amma programme in London, it has felt as though we were heading back to an almost foreign country far, far away. The large cluster of devotees in London has seemed quite cut off from us, and Swamiji and Amma in India even further distance.

Whilst it’s true that true love has no barriers, and we have felt Amma in our hearts, it is also true that this monumental visit from Swamiji to the North has forged new pathways in the vibrations of this country, and created stronger physical connections between North and South.

We are trusting that our fresh Northern air, friendly honest outlook, greenery and space will draw you all up here for more programmes in the future. Meanwhile, we are busy rehearsing bhajans and we’ll see you again soon!

— By Ilana Amba Alix

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