Pujya Sadhvi Shri Shilapiji Maharaj has travelled around the world, giving inspirational discourses and talks to spread Tirthankar Mahavir’s messages to tens of thousands of people, both young and old. Her mesmerising presence, the unique way and the clarity with which she conveys Tirthankar Mahavir’s message has touched many hearts. With her intelligent but effective approach to the tenets of Jainism she dispels our lack of courage and by her unflinching faith in the power of change, she gets to the true essence of this inspiring religion.
The Jain community in London were graced in May 2016 with a ten day visit by Pujya Sadhvi Shri Shilapiji Maharaj during which time various spiritual activities took place.
At a two day shibir set in a peaceful countryside setting in the outskirts of London nearly sixty adults gathered to listen to Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji lucidly explained the ancient Sanskrit text known as the Ashtvakra Gita which is in the form of a dialogue between Rishi Ashtavakra and King Janaka, on the nature of soul, reality and bondage.
One of the delegates succinctly described the learning:
‘I learnt that a simple change in mindset is needed to understand that the body, mind and soul are separate and what the capacity of the soul is, acting as an observer. The aim is to maintain a peaceful mind, detach oneself and observe in all situations. The biggest stumbling block in achieving this is ego, which tends to cloud divinity. I found the meditation sessions extremely uplifting.’
All the participants were truly on a spiritual journey with Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji and were able to reflect on the effort needed to make spiritual progress and how our egos and desires, even for liberation itself, can act as impediment to this. It was as always very inspiring and faith re-affirming.
The two days gave an opportunity for those attending to interact with Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji and included an evening bhakti session enjoyed by all. The children’s shibir was run by teachers and ex-students of the Shri Chandana Vidyapeeth Jain School and was based on the theme of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. It was attended by 20 children who particularly benefitted from teaching by Sadhvi Sumedhaji Maharaj and learnt, amongst other things, the beautiful prayer Man Ka Manav written by Upadhaya Shri Amar Muni Maharaj. One of the many highlights was described as follows:
‘In the morning, the 5-7 year olds had a friendship session with Sadhvi Sumedhaji. After the children had brainstormed what friendship meant to them, Sadhviji tied rakhi’s on all the children. Most of the children thanked Sadhiviji for the ‘friendship bracelet’, but one child added ‘I love you’ to Sadhviji, as in his eyes this was a way to show gratitude.’
Early Morning Meditation
For six days, we started our day with meditation and discussion on Patanjali’s Yoga Darshan. Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji led us through beautiful meditations to connect ourselves to our inner beauty. This was followed by the explanations of some of the most profound verses by Patanjali Rishi. Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji emphasized the importance of having an objective in our life to progress spiritually. We started analyzing how the mind stops us from connecting to our inner beauty and the importance of silencing our mind (we cannot stop thoughts from coming but Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji explained that one has to go beyond these thoughts to connect to our soul). Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji emphasized the importance of continuous practice (abhyasa) and detachment and freedom from desires (vairagya). All who attended felt very energized and inspired – a wonderful start to everyone’s day!
Lectures at Ekta Centre North London
Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji was invited by the Oshwal Association of UK, North West, to deliver two evening lectures on the theme of ‘Transforming Your Life’. She captivated the audience with a mixture of stories, anecdotes, scriptural knowledge and a Q&A session. The lectures were truly outstanding and reached out to a varied audience of adults, young and old, who benefitted from the guidance which she was able to give on how to change our mind-set and behaviour and become positive at all times.
Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji started the talk by saying that people like to obtain spiritual knowledge either by reading or by listening to many spiritual talks. This she said was all very well, however she emphasised the importance of taking small practical steps ourselves to move towards the spiritual path, to internalise the knowledge obtained. The main message was to open the friendship centre within us and thereby see the good in people, and develop harmony at home and with all living beings. Citing incidences from Mahavir Swami’s life, she encouraged people to reduce negativity and more importantly develop a positive mind-set. To achieve this she emphasised the need for daily introspection on our thoughts, actions, attitudes, reactions and recognise where changes are needed within us.
Visit to East London
Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji was also invited to deliver a lecture for the first time in East London by the Shree Jain Sangh of Essex & East London on the occasion of their Silver Jubilee. Amongst many messages she conveyed was an important practical message, that change of certain out-dated rituals was crucial or else the youth may get disengaged and disenchanted with Jainism. Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji was also able to inform the audience of the outstanding work which has been done in the fields of Seva, Shiksha and Sadhana in the last forty years both in India and internationally by Veerayatan. The Jain Community in East London were so impressed with the work which is currently being done in Nepal in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake, that they donated a substantial sum of money towards the relief work being undertaken there. The visit to East London forged new relationships and built a solid platform for future projects to be undertaken between Veerayatan UK and the Jain community in East London.
Shri Chandana Vidyapeeth, Jain School
It was with the leadership and motivation of Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji that the first Jain School in the UK, Shri Chandana Vidyapeeth (SCVP), was established in 1997 to enable this beautiful religion to be taught to adults and children of the Jain community in London. As part of her visit Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji spent precious time with the teachers, committee members, and trustees of Veerayatan UK to discuss progress of the School and new initiatives to be undertaken. Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji graced the SCVP School on two occasions. One evening was spent visiting each of the five classes being run for the children aged 5 -15 and seeing what they are learning in each class as well as giving the children an opportunity to meet her and ask questions and discuss real life issues with her. The second evening was a celebration of the transformational effect which the School is having on both children and adults. A function to which dignitaries were invited showcased the talent of the children and interspersed with this were items from current and previous teachers, current and alumni students and members of the adult class who spoke eloquently about what attending the School has meant for them and how it has changed their lives so positively. There was a deep appreciation by all of the visionary act of Pujya Sadhvi Shri ji in starting the School and inspiring the many thousands of people who have completed the course.