Pandit Yoga presiding over the Janam Ashtami celebrations at the Sanatan Dharma Mandir of New York 2009
MEET PANDIT YOGA RAMNARAIN - ONE OF OUR INTELLECTUALLY SHARP SPIRITUAL MINDS
Pandit Yoganand Ramnarain, who migrated from Whim Village, Berbice, now resides in Queens, New York with his family. He is a very dedicated, selfless, committed and intelligent young spiritual leader. Pandit Yoga, as he is popularly known, spends alot of his time, working tirelessly to uplift Hindus and non-Hindus alike, in the New York Tri-State region. He spreads awareness among our people, talking to them about the richness and vibrancy of Sanatan Hindu Dharma - a religion that is unparallel in this world today.
He is the President of the Sanatan Dharma Mandir of New York, located in the vicinity of 101st Avenue, Richmond Hill, Queens.
Pandit Yoga’s love for religion and his desire to construct temples started at a very tender age. This trait was imbibed into him by the older people of the village and his parents. His Agee (father’s mother) was a direct inspiration. She saw in him the love for Dharma and urged him forward. His father, Pandit Baljit who was busy with other pujas on Sunday mornings charged him with the responsibility of conducting hawan at the Lancaster Govinda Mandir at about 9 years of age.
In Guyana he reflected on the old women and young children who come with a special glow in their faces to do worship on Sunday mornings. To picture some of the Sunday mornings regulars these comes to mind: Badam aaji, Ronie aaji, Dolly aaji, Roop big mama, Betta dada, Broda dada Ruby bhougie, to mention a few. They would be dressed in their simple clothing and most of the times bare footed or wearing a simple pair of rubber slippers.
They will come with a few fruits and an abundance of flowers in their thalee. Everyone will go to the Shiva Mandir and adore Lord Shiva with flowers and fruits. The unleashing fragrance of incenses will attract the minds of the passersby. The older ladies will have me sounding the Ghariaal (gong) with a wooden mallet at the gate of the Mandir with the intention of reminding the people of the village and those of the neighboring villages that it was Sunday morning and God should be foremost on their minds.
There were villagers who would attend services in the evenings. There were others who were special occasion attendees. There was also a large quantity that never went to any service at the temple. These patterns were continuous on almost every occasion and repeat itself in every community.
While the few devotees at the Mandir are silently lost in their routine devotion to God, their concerned minds were constantly fixed on the other people of the villages who were not fortunate enough to reach the doors of the temple. Some of those villagers were the children, parents and in-laws who choose to sleep late or simply never in the habit of worship. Those people who worship at the temples will always find a reason to go to the temple on the contrary those who don’t find it a taboo. There will be a new reason everyday not to go to places of worship. The few that come to the temple sees the need to build temples and provide a place of worship for others.
This love for Dharma and temples are not started in our hearts but it is a unique garland that is in continuous construction and you are one who is fortunate to be a selected rose in its formation. He feels this special love was given to him from the older people of the village. Most of these people can only be remembered by a simple black and white picture or no picture at all. Whatever we do today may not be recorded by today’s technology but will live pass the technology of tomorrow.
Pandit Yoga started his devotional service as a pandit after high school at about 18 years of age. There were no pandits to conduct services at the temple since his father had migrated to the United States. At this time he was only serving his village mandir. His passion for priesthood attracted the people of Whim village (neighboring village) to him where he commenced a special service for them.
He quickly realized that the people’s needs in other villages were the same, and his services extended to cover a larger area. Whim has two Mandirs, Bushlot Farm, Alness 1, Alness 2, Bushlot, Crommerty. He found that there was no temple in Friendship Village; he started a mandir in the yard of an old lady (Aunty Sakal). She donated her yard at no cost and had her boss a Muslim family (Hack) donated the shed which hosted approximately 80 people every Monday evening. Devotees from these different mandirs visited each other since their services were scheduled for different dates and times. Not long after there was a large family of Hindus who helped each other builds and rebuilds their temples.
This pattern was also created in other areas by Pandit Deodat (Tain), Pandit Sunil (Albion), Pandit Vidyanand (Hampshire). The mandirs were organized under the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha of which Pandit Deodat was the president of the central Corentyne Praant and Pandit yoga was the secretary. Pandit Rishi Ram joined after returning form India where he was studying.
Together with the pandits and other vibrant members of other mandirs, we hosted Deewali parades, weekly Satsangs, Phagwa Samalans and Indian Arrival Day celebrations where thousands of people assemble to feel the serge of devotion and Hindu unity. This trend continued for about 8 years before Pandit Yoga migrated to the United States.