Yoga is a profound part of the Vedic culture. Yoga practices underlie at the heart of all Hinduism (Sanskrit "Sanatan Dharma") schools. Sanatana Dharma means "the eternal law" - the law of all beings’ evolution.
Advaita is an ancient doctrine that tells us about human nature as divine initially. "Advaita" can be translated as "not two". Soul is not separated from God. God is a reality that permeates everything.
«RG» correspondents have visited unusual Center for Vedic culture Divya Loka (in Sanskrit – «wonderful land»), which is situated three hundred kilometers away from the Volga capital in the Vetluga district of Nizhny Novgorod region.
On the edge of the area
The Vetluzhsky district begins with woodland and is considered to be as one of the most beautiful and ecologically clean region. Probably that’s why it is here that Vedic culture followers from Ukraine and many Russian cities have decided to build their monastery, where engaged in cultivation of body and spirit, professing Hinduism. Officially it is called Center for Vedic Culture «Divya Loka» and is located on the side of three abandoned villages - Chuhlomka, Valovo and Krivosheiha.
It took us 4 hours to get here from the center of Nizhny Novgorod. Neither roadway markers are left, nor does Chuhlomka village itself. The navigator helped little. We reached the place thanks to the detailed instructions of novice Ilya Kurylenko. He met us and immediately warned that in the monastery they do not drink alcohol, do not smoke, do not use foul language and refer to each other as «you».
Ilya has come to Divya Loka from Moscow, where he taught yoga.
- I was immediately struck that there was no chase to attract new followers. The doctrine itself and the yogis are so self-sufficient that they do not need to run after someone and shove the book in his hands. The doctrine we follow, the practice of yoga and the philosophy, they are as a jewel. It would be unwise to impose someone valuables. We conduct seminars and round-tables, if one is interested, they can join - said Kurylenko.
In Hinduism to become a monk, one needs to carry obedience for 12 years. He himself has lived in the walls of Divya Loka as a novice for five years.
- Any adult person who is close to our philosophy can come for obedience to the Center. We are fed up enough with «religious tourism», so for the curious we can make an excursion. To come here, people younger than 25 years have to have a written permission from their parents and blessings. We are very respectful to the older, - said Ilya Kurylenko.
The Center's territory is rather big, about 300 hectares. I asked whether the residents of the community are engaged in agriculture, the answer was:
- We tried to grow potatoes but on the third Colorado beetles sack, which we had to take out to the woods, as our religion does not allow us to kill, we gave up. We buy milk and vegetables from local old ladies. We themselves grow here some strawberries and flowers.
One cannot say that monks and novices live very austerely. Each member of the community has a small house with heating, hot water and all conveniences. They have a meal twice a day being vegetarians. No alcohol, no drugs. They practice different types of yoga and pray to their deities.
Permanently about 40-50 monks and novices live here. Spiritual teacher Swami Vishnudevananda Giri preaches around the world and sometimes comes here, too.
There are several temples, landscape compositions and various statues of Hindu gods on the territory. There is also a house for VIP guests, a library and a good asphalt road. All is built on the donated money. Although law enforcement agencies have periodically raised financial questions in «Divya Loka», the inhabitants of the monastery are trying to do some charity: organizing a competition for the best front garden for local old ladies from neighboring villages, buying stationery for house for the blind and toys for orphan home. In the center of Vetluga they built a wooden gazebo.
One of the external activities of Divya Loka is developing creative project «Collections of Vedic high fashion». Representatives of the center have already created three such collections. In 2012 it became a prize-winner on the 8-th International Competition of high fashion national costume «Ethno-erato» held at the Moscow Government Grand Concert Hall of the.
Tourists - not Hindus
Such an unusual monastery for the Nizhny Novgorod taiga attracts a lot of touristic groups who come here almost every day. Entrance is free, and the owners are always willing to give a tour. We ourselves have met tourists from Murmansk, whom brought here a Vetluga resident Irina Golubeva.
- I come here ten times a year, - she says. - I like the atmosphere, so I bring here my guests.
I met with local servant, a 62 -year-old, jovial and cheerful Elena Simonova. She told me how the life goes in the monastery: «Everyone does what he can. Clean, cook… I am myself an architect and have developed the projects temples that you can see here.
This woman comes here from Ukraine twice a year: two months in the spring and one - in the autumn.
On the question about the payment for living here she answered evasively: one comes with gifts or something he can afford - vegetables, fruits or anything else.
On our way back we picked up a woman Galina voting on the road to Vetluga. She turned out to be a Divya Loka parishioner, too.
- I built a house in the village of Pustosh and I go to monastery temples every day and help the community. I do not want to become a nun, but this philosophy is close to me. I'm sure that I have found my way. But in the future I want to start my own business and have children - said Galina.
According to her, the locals do not mind this neighborhood, because they are often paid rather well by the standards of the Vetluzhsky district for their job. Many young people have become «Divya Loka» parishioners.
Incidentally Divya Loka has become a limelight for journalists, government officials and the Interior Ministry after the scandalous story on one of the national TV channels. The TV authors compared the community with «Aum Shinrikyo» cult and the Hindu spiritual leader - with Shoko Asahara.
Religious expertise on Divya Loka, which was carried out by authoritative religious scholars (a member of the expert council of the State Duma Committee for Public Associations and Religious Organizations Anatoly Pchelintsev and a leading researcher of the Institute of Europe Roman Lunkin) has shown that it is only a flow called Advaita Vedanta within Hinduism and nothing more. The Nizhny Novgorod police inspection has revealed no violations of the law by villagers of Chuhlomka and Valovo considering the Vedic Center.
However, the local authorities are not happy with this neighboring.
- The members have bought 43 private households in the village of Chuhlomka. It is the monastery is built and covers about 40 hectares of land. They also bought 350 hectares of the agricultural lands (shares holders), but do not cultivate them. This year they applied to the investment council of Nizhny Novgorod region to allow them transfer the land for building private houses. Local authorities were against it and the investment council refused, too. Now the land is registered as a collective farm, although in fact, there's nothing grown there, - said Konstantin Usenko, the head of the Vetluga region board.
He expressed his fear that it may soon happen that followers of Hinduism from all over the country occupy Vetluga.
- Their future plans also make alerted. They said they were going to put five thousand cottage houses. If in each of them only one person settles, it would make up a third of the population in our area! They are young and able-bodied people, but they do not work and do not produce anything. There is no return from them to our area. The only thing that they pay is a tax on land and buildings.
The head of the local government expressed his opinion on the neighborhood with Divya Loka:
- We have a multi-national and multi-religious country, so we are obliged to abide by its laws. I cannot say I utterly support «Divya Loka» and its future plans, as well as I cannot say that I’m against it. My position is alertness.
Galina Shirokalova, religious scholar, professor, Doctor of Social Sciences:
- Those who live in Divya Loka are people who do not accept the cruelty of the world. They have no choice but to seek asylum. When they find it, it saves them from personal destruction. In my opinion, this is the main value of such settlements. Many found interest in the rich Indian culture under the influence of their parents. After the USSR collapse they tried to find the meaning of life and turned their eyes onto the Eastern tradition, which seemed to them more spiritual than a Western one. Conversely, the older generation is interested in the East after meeting with enthusiasm of their adult children. One example: a doctor who did not accept the realities of the modern Russian medicine, found herself here. She will both help here and be useful around. All is in tune with her mind that’s why she lives in «Divya Loka» not for the first time and for several months. The Monastery shows an example of careful attitude to each other and to nature.
Sergei Ivanenko, a leading Russian religious scholar, Ph.D., a member of the International Religious Liberty Association (MARS):
- Divya Loka is a very interesting experience of creating a Hindu religious organization in the heart of Russia. I find it useful that here the monks and parishioners are for the principles of freedom of conscience and interfaith contacts. I think it ought to be appreciated by our society and public authorities.
Vedic culture is based on the Universe laws of evolution described in the scriptures of Hinduism "Vedas". They guide a human life, leading to harmony, happiness and creative prosperity.
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