WEST ELMIRA, NY (WETM) – The global Hindu group that recently moved into a former Catholic church in West Elmira welcomed its leader and spiritual master for a blessing ceremony on Wednesday night, drawing people from around the world.
Bhakti Marga, who bought the former Church of Our Lady of Lourdes on West Church St. in West Elmira earlier this year, held a Darshan ceremony open to the public on September 7. The leader and master of the group, Paramahamsa Vishwananda, made his first visit to the United States in six years, leading participants in songs, teachings and offering blessings.
Guru Vishwananda describes darshan as looking into the soul to gain insight into the Divine. “When I look at your soul at that time, what I see is your Self, your True Self,” Vishwananda described on Bhakti Marga website. “And what I see is the beauty of what you hold within. That’s what I want you to see and that’s what I want you to realize for yourself.
The West Elmira Ashram – another word for a Hindu temple – is the first of the group in the United States. The crowd included more than 100 people from across the country, including states like New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan and Washington. People from all over the world were also present, from countries like Canada and Portugal.
Sitaram, a football coach from Portugal, has been part of Bhakti Marga for ten years. He traveled with his family and friends to Elmira for the celebration. He said the guru’s non-judgmental philosophy is what drew him to the group.
“It touched our hearts when you come here from the other part of the world and see this, and you see these new people, too, with an amazing expression that they had when Guruji was singing,” Sitaram said. “Being new is cool, you know? And you like to experience, you like to live it, you like to learn, how it will be, how it will be.
The group will hold an open house on September 10 and 11. The weekend will include teachings, chanting, singing and brunch.
The group has operations all over the world, particularly in countries in Europe, South-East Asia, South America, Africa and Australia. Learn more about Bhakti Marga in West Elmira here.