Dhyan Kutir — Inter-Spiritual-Dialogue Point
By Lissy Maruthanakuzhy
Mumbai: Adjacent to Gyan Ashram on Mahakali Caves Road at Andheri East in Mumbai sits a small cottage called, Dhyan Kutir (cottage of meditation).
Small, simple, unnoticeable from the road the 65 year old structure almost hides among trees. From the outside it looks like a green house, a conservatory with a tin roof. Green plastic sheet wraps the cottage as if encompassed by a large mosquito net.
What immediately catches visitor’s attention is the nameplate at the gate: Inter-Spiritual Dialogue Point.
Once inside, the visitor would suddenly notice the cottage’s unique space, silence, peace and presence. The energy inside is harmonious and blending and it has a calming effect on the visitor.
According to Cardinal Oswald Gracious of Mumbai, “The people of Mumbai need a place of silence amid loud noise, a clean place in the middle of pollution and a place of healing as tensions tear life apart.” He also hoped that Dhyan Kutir would become an island of harmony and quiet for those seeking God and inner peace.
Dhyan Kutir provides all that along with a place for interiority and integration in a world of conflicts, according Father Ittoop Panikulam, the director. People these days look for easily reachable spiritual oasis along with their hectic and multi-tasked life-styles, the Divine Word priest told Matters India.
The Ashram was begun by Divine Word missionary Father George Proksch. He bought an entire hill with the help of benefactors in Germany, his native land.
The German missionary with the zeal to spread the message of Christ built on top of the hillock an open worship place. Below that temple of God, lived Guru Gyan Prakash, (his Indian name) wearing a simple Indian attire.
He gathered a group of young men and women who shared his vision of evangelization through dance and songs. Within a few years they moved around various villages of India with the message of Christ. The troupe also performed in Europe. The finest moment of his dreams of presenting the message of Jesus in the Indian style arrived when he staged “Anuttam Prem” (ultimate love), a ballet at the International Eucharistic Congress in Mumbai in 1964.
Pope Paul VI, the first head of the Catholic Church to visit India, and more than 50, 0000 Christians and others watched the show. The cast then included 300 dancers, a choir of 1,000 singers and an orchestra of 100 musicians.
Some 20 years that altogether new and successful missionary adventure, the founder returned to Germany because of old age and ill health. His vision would then be carried out through different people.
His successors gradually cleared the jungle and put up various centers for spiritual, social, educational and intellectual ministries.
Years later, local bishops realized the need for an authentic spiritual place like an ashram. They discussed the matter with the then SVD Provincial, Fr. Gregory Pinto, who invited Father Panikulam, who was then the director of the congregation’s international renewal center in Rome, to take up the new task.
Panikulam transformed an old house that Father Proksch used as dining hall, kitchen, and storeroom of his troupe, into a Dyan Kutir, creating prayerful ambience within. Since then it has been a center where a seeker could recharge, with spiritual energy.
People who have come to this place are full of praises.
C Balwant, a Hindu, says, “I had been visiting a doctor since some time. The doctor advised me to be very regular with the medicines and to go for meditations. That’s what made me seek for a place to meditate. I have been coming to Dhyan Kutir regularly for the past five years for meditation. I cannot thank God and Fr. Ittoop enough for what is positively happening to me. And you will be surprised to know that I have never gone back to that doctor again. Now I can prescribe meditation as the best medication for most of the diseases.”
According to Father Panikulam, Dhyan Kutir envisages inter spiritual communion, aware of the desire of Jesus, that all be one just as Abba and He are one, (John 17:21)
It aims at creating a home for seekers irrespective of religion, of spiritual life and faith, space for solitude and spiritual harmony for people of all religions and a place for contemplation, healing and integration through dialogues, meditative practices, retreats, personal accompaniment, guidance and counseling, he explained.
For Afrid Patel, a Parsi, Dhyan Kutir is among the most valuable places he has come to know. “I know millions of rupees cannot give us a place like this. I can feel vibrations of positive energy as I reach here. I do not want to miss the meditations here that constantly renew me.”
Even the gardens at Dhyan Kutir invite visitors to an inward journey.
Lawrence, who looks at Dhyan Kutir as a place of peace and healing says, “This center provides me with peace, calmness, a place totally different from what the world outside gives. After I began my mediation, my personal life has changed. People who had kept away from me began to greet me. I experience calm in the troubled situations. My attitude toward sickness has changed. The best thing that has happened to me is I see the presence of Jesus.”
Father Panikulam, sitting in his office overlooking the meditation area, explains, “Here we have made a humble attempt to sow the seeds of a spirituality that harmonizes, unifies and helps build earth family consciousness with a belief that human beings are essentially similar at the core. All beings are inherently spiritual and interconnected. We have begun to build a small spiritual traffic island where all true seekers of meaning and purpose of life are welcomed to experience God, self and life meditatively in an atmosphere of silence and contemplation.”
Explaining the various activities carried out from this center, the priest says, “Bi-weekly meditative sessions are being given on every Tuesday and Thursday to people of all religions, in which around 30 people participate. These meditations are designed to get rid of negative energies that accumulate in our bodies because of tensions, to experience mental and physical relaxation and to realize one’s own true self and God.
“The guided meditations are based on traditional, mystical and classical Eastern methods; however it is given in an altogether new, creative and rather easy to experience ways which the participants can follow up step by step. In the concluding phase of the sacred gathering, the group is helped to silently participate in the presence and blessings of inter spiritual sacred synergy of everyone gathered in prayer. ”
“Coming here has helped energize myself, says Rakhi, a Hindu.”I am experiencing a beautiful synergy. I find this place is very appropriate for meditations, designed perfectly for deeper experiences of oneself. The aura of the place is so harmonious and nearly perfect like, for spiritual experiences.”
From the beginning of 2014, another spiritual seed was sown as a new group was born here. The name given to that group is HiCoC (Higher Consciousness Circle).The circle presently consists of 33 members most of whom had been or are professionals in one field or the other including line dancing, psychology, engineering, theology, philosophy, medicine, law, journalism, chiropractic and nuclear science.
Father Panikulam explains, We belong to 7 different religions: Hindu, Jain, Parsi, Catholic, Sikh, Moslem, Protestant and two of us are Agnostics. However something common is very visible in the group. Everyone was a seeker, great seekers or small, but seekers all, seekers of truth, of self and of God. While we are different in various ways, a great spiritual and human bonding has taken place among us in the HiCo Family. We want this circle to move on and evolve with an all-inclusive Kingdom of God approach.
The two youngest in the group are 24 year old Bhavik Muni, a Hindu, and Rubina Hundal a Sikh, who while being full time working persons have chosen to go to the poor villages with a focus on empowering women, creatively using very effective ways of passing on simple techniques of meditation. “We aim at multiplying the circles once we ourselves get grounded in higher consciousness,” Hundal told Matters India.