Written by Tatyana Povarnitseva
I was cleaning the windows and sweeping the floors of two charming, small, white buildings. It was a beautiful sight, with Nature and lush, green surroundings. I had never felt so excited and grateful while cleaning before, because these buildings were actually temples with marble statues of deities inside them. They were positioned right at the centre of each building, but for now, they were still carefully packed up and hidden from view. I felt incredibly honoured and excited to serve this way, putting my heart into every sweep of the broom.
Just an hour before, my husband, his niece, and I had arrived from Macedonia, and without wasting any time, we headed straight to the Mohanji Peace Center in Obrenovac, Serbia. We were eager to join the other volunteers in preparing for the grand opening of the Peace Center. The place was buzzing with activity as everyone worked tirelessly; fixing, cleaning, painting, and decorating. We jumped right in enthusiastically, getting our hands dirty with whatever needed to be done. As I focused on cleaning the windows of one of the temples, a feeling deep in my heart told me that it housed the idol of Dattātreya, even though I couldn’t see it because it was still packed up. I feel a special connection to Dattātreya, and in some inexplicable way, I sensed that He was present right there in that temple, and it actually turned out to be true later on. There was an overwhelming sense of reverence within me as I cleaned those sacred spaces, meticulously sweeping the floors around the statues. I couldn’t help but realise that the next day, they wouldn’t just be pieces of marble anymore. A ceremony was going to take place, infusing the breath of life, the divine essence, into the stone.
Then, the day of Prāṇa Pratiṣṭhā (infusion of vital life energy into an object representing a deity or Master) arrived. Many devotees and guests came to the Mohanji Peace Center early that morning. This Center is in an incredible spot, secluded from nearby houses and villages, surrounded by forests and fields. It had a really special atmosphere. I especially liked how the buildings were arranged on the land. They formed a circle, with an inviting open space at the centre, and right between the Dattātreya and Shirdi Sai Baba temples, there was this magnificent tall tree that reminded me of the ones you’d find in Indian āśrams (places dedicated to spiritual practice and the cultivation of higher awareness). Also, there was an amazing rose bush near the Gaṇeśa Temple that caught our attention.
When the ceremony began we all gathered outside, joining about a hundred other people, sitting in the space between the temples under a big tent. The actual ceremony took place in a small building that could only fit about a dozen people, including Mohanji and the priest, Sulake Maharaj (former chief priest of the main Sai Baba temple in Shirdi), so the rest of us watched it on a screen. Once the initial part of the rituals was completed, Mohanji, Sulake Maharaj, and the other participants exited the building and made their way outside. They came to the Ganesha Temple first. Inside, there was a mūrti, a statue of Gaṇeśa with a cloth gently covering its eyes. The priest and the ceremony assistants carried various items, the significance of which I didn’t fully grasp. There were lamps, flowers, powders, and even a large mirror.
We all gathered together in front of the temple, ready for the ceremony to commence. As Sulake Maharaj began his chants, we listened intently, opening our hearts to the experience. It was overwhelming as if the energy were pressing down on my entire body, making the air feel dense and the atmospheric pressure increase tenfold. My eyelids grew heavy, closing naturally, and I found myself unable to move. Despite feeling physically immobilised, I also felt an expansion within. After a few moments, the priest instructed everyone to close their eyes. Since my eyes were already closed, I continued to witness the unfolding ceremony on a subtle level.
I sensed that incredible energy was flowing in the idol with astonishing speed. Somehow, I knew that the priest had placed the mirror before the idol and was gently removing the cloth that veiled mūrti’s eyes. Although I had never participated in such a ritual before and was not familiar with the procedure and its meaning, I sensed that once the Higher Consciousness had descended into the idol, it first needed to witness and recognise the form it had taken. Because naturally Higher Consciousness doesn’t have any form as it is omnipresent.
At a certain point, the energy changed, and I regained control of my body. Opening my eyes, I found myself gazing directly into the eyes of the mūrti. Describing what happened is challenging, as I had never experienced anything like it before. The intensity of the mūrti’s gaze was tremendously powerful as if the energy emanating from its eyes surged into mine like an electric discharge. It propelled me out of my body into a state of pure bliss. Gradually, I returned to a normal state and found myself still gazing into the eyes of the Gaṇeśa mūrti. Even now, those eyes linger vividly in my mind, unbelievably graceful and mesmerising, beyond what a mere piece of marble can possess—they were truly alive.