Experiences and Insights from Twenty Years of Gita Satsang – Kincardine

I would like to share some written testimonials from participants who have been enriched by Satsang in the small town of Kincardine, Canada. This would not be possible without the spirit of selfless service that flows so generously from the hearts of participants, which continues to inspire, refine and uplift the spirit and life of Self and others. I hope you enjoy and resonate with these insights from them.

  1. From Varun Tripathi: The direct translation of Satsang is truth-community. But given there is a religious connotation to its everyday use, a more apt translation would be spiritual gathering; a gathering of like-minded individuals engaging in activities that revolve around the divine, existential/moral philosophy, and devotion. Having grown up in a religious home where prayer was as routine as any other daily ritual, I’m intimately familiar with the concept. We often sat as a family to discuss everything from the purpose of prayer to the value and importance of charity.

    So it was no surprise when my parents started a weekly Satsang in Kincardine shortly after our move. Along with preserving Hindu spiritual tradition, the initiative also helped build and strengthen the bonds between members of the Indian community. But by no means was it restricted to Indians. My dad has always taken pride in educating others on the richness of our traditions and dharm. So members of the broader community from all ages and various ethnicities joined us from time to time. 

Initially, the weekly Thursday evening Satsang took place at the local ashram – a small bungalow in a wooded area just Southeast of Kincardine, owned by a Guruji who split his time between India and Canada. But the bungalow remained largely unoccupied throughout the year, so he had graciously agreed to letting us use the property for religious or cultural activities. In those early years there were weeks when each and every Indian family would attend and the large clearing adjacent to the bungalow would be filled with people stretched out in various yoga poses – we were lucky to have a trained yoga teacher in the group, so the Satsang included a breathing and mobility component. I have many fond memories of us laying on our backs after the session, surrounded by trees, breathing in the warm summer air. The more solemn part of the evening would follow, with a reading of the Gita, a discussion, and eventually, a prayer. In the winters, or when, for a given stretch, the attendee numbers would dip, the Satsang would take place at either our house or the Malhotra household. Malhotra auntie and uncle were the elders of the community. Both emanated a calm that was matched only by the pace of the town in those early 2000s. Uncle didn’t say much, but his presence alone would put you at ease. Auntie, on the other hand, would overwhelm you with her love and kindness. Theirs was a position of tenure. My parents were the honorary elders. A title they had earned through my dad’s sheer persistence of initiatives and my mom’s authenticity and warmth.  

A decade or so later, when the ashram was sold off to new owners, our house became the primary location for the Satsang. It made sense from a practical standpoint – though they could fluctuate in any given week, the attendee numbers were a fraction of what they had been at the start. So, what was the sense in driving to a different location when a basement room at home would be more than sufficient? But more than that, it’s as though our home was always meant to be the ashram for the community. The prayers and bhajans, the Gita and Ramayan readings lasting 24 consecutive hours, the countless yajnas. If structured prayer and ritualistic purification represent the foundation of an ashram’s sanctity, then there is likely no better place in Kincardine to host these satsangs. 

When I was a teenager I couldn’t comprehend the value of these brief weekly gatherings. A few years in, when my parents became more hands-off and my attendance went from mandatory to voluntary, the Satsang was more like background noise. But despite my obvious lack of spiritual precociousness, the weekly Thursday evening Satsang left its mark. Reflecting back on its 20-year run it’s amazing to think how, at different times, it served so many different people. Inspiring, grounding, and maybe even sheltering them from the weight of everyday life. For me, admittedly not having used the opportunity to the extent I could, the Satsang is a reminder that building community and committing to it whole-heartedly has the power to change you and impact those around you, in ways you can’t anticipate. It’s the little things, done over long periods of time, that have the outsized influence we all want from our actions. Two hours, once a week, over 20 years (~ 2,000 hours). Truly amazing.

Varun Tripathi

Varun Tripathi performing Hawan

2. From Joanne Dallman: I was a member of the Kincardine Satsang Group, led by Chandra Tripathi, for two and a half years (2018-2021), and during that time I not only learned a great deal, I felt as if I was included as part of the spiritual family. Once a week our group would gather to chant prayers, sing Kirtan, and study the Bhagavad Gita. In addition, I was delighted by the chance to also study the Ramayana, the Bhagavatha Vahini, and participate in a chanting course taught by a teacher in India. Being a member of the Kincardine Satsang Group opened up areas of study for me that had previously not been available.

Through my participation, I had a chance to become more adept at singing the “call and response” chants. And was challenged to not only learn some new chants but to regularly lead others in chanting. This was a very enjoyable and liberating experience, and one which gave me the confidence to lead Kirtan at the Ashram as well, when I lived there for 6 weeks in 2020.

Prior to joining the Kincardine Satsang Group, I had studied yoga for 15 years and had spent time at the Ashram participating in yoga courses and providing volunteer service in a community organized by Swamis. And even though I had been studying yoga for many years, joining the Satsang Group helped me to go much deeper into the wealth of material that is Hinduism and to admire the depth and breath of the magnificent scriptural writings and practices. I still feel as if I have only managed to “scratch the surface” of all the beautiful teachings that are Hinduism and Yoga.

I want to thank Chandra and his wife, Abhilasha, for being so gracious and inviting me into their home, weekly, to join them in their spiritual practice. They have provided me with memories that will bring me lasting joy.

Joanne Dallman (Divya)

Joanne Dolllman from Vancouver

Photos at different times of Gita Satsang

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