1. Workshops on Spirituality were festivals of Anand (Bliss)
Workshops on Spirituality taken by Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale were festivals of Anand (Bliss) for seekers because there was something new to learn each time. He would enlighten us on the theoretical aspects of Spirituality and then conduct subtle experiments. Discussions on experiences and spiritual experiences of seekers were an integral part of these workshops. These interactions were learning exercises about the correct and incorrect aspects of spiritual practice.
2. Speaking about mistakes and narration of aspects learnt
At the onset of every workshop, Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would speak of His own mistakes. He would then explain aspects learnt in meetings He had with H.H. Bhaktaraj Maharaj or other Saints since the last workshop. It would include various topics such as implied meaning of aspects learnt, reasons why Saints behave in a particular manner, what sort of humility is expected while meeting Saints, how should our bhav (Spiritual emotion) be etc.
3. Narrating the importance of chanting God’s Name, seva, sacrifice, love etc.
Whenever there were incidents regarding chanting, seva, sacrifice, love etc., He would tell us what was correct or incorrect about the incidents. Later, He would narrate the importance of chanting, seva, sacrifice, love etc. He would name seekers who had done good seva or succeeded in sacrificing etc. This would encourage other seekers, and they learnt how to perform seva etc.
4. Implanting sevabhav in seekers
He would tell us about the types of sevas that could be performed, such as – arranging chairs at the workshop venue, making arrangements to put up loudspeakers, putting up hoardings, hanging display boards, offering tea to everyone during the interval, washing teacups later. Thus, sevabhav (Attitude of selfless service) was implanted gradually in the seekers who were attending workshops. Later, some seekers would perform seva of their own volition of making arrangements for workshops.
5. Getting the spiritually curious to experiment
A. Looking at an object and noting what is perceived from it
In every workshop He would impress upon us that Spirituality is a practical science. He would get experiments conducted by seekers, such as asking what they felt while looking at an Idol of Shri Ganapati with His trunk towards the left or right, two seekers standing side by side, two objects etc. He would then analyse the results of observations.
B. Keeping an object covered in paper and concentrating on what is perceived
He would ask seekers what they perceived upon looking at two objects covered in paper and later unwrap and show the objects. He would try to tell the seekers that Spirituality is a science that transcends the mind and intellect, and then would conduct this experiment. Thus, He would teach us how to identify subtle aspects without using the mind and intellect; then He would narrate the underlying science.
6. Suggesting remedies according to the problems faced
A. Sometimes, a seeker would say that he was not able to chant. Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would ask others to say what they felt upon looking at that seeker, and depending on the answers, He would analyse and explain if the problem was due to lack of sattvikta (Purity) and advise the seeker to perform remedies such as seva, visiting temples, reading Holy texts etc.
B. When someone did not feel like performing seva, He would tell him, “Seva, sacrifice, love are advanced stages of spiritual practice. As the sattvikta increases, these will become possible automatically. Till then, efforts should be made to perform these as is possible; this will ensure fast spiritual progress. If we rely only on chanting, it will take a lot of time to progress spiritually. If God realisation is to be attained in this birth itself, seva, sacrifice, love and obedience are very important”. Thus, He would explain the theoretical aspects and get them performed through us.
C. If any seeker was suffering from severe spiritual distress, He would guide attendees in conducting an experiment on that seeker. The seeker would stand as other seekers would take a subtle reading of the seeker and express it; thus, He trained seekers develop their subtle perception ability. He would ask questions, such as ‘Is the distress due to positive or negative energy ?’, ‘If it is positive energy, is the distress due to Kuladevi (Family Deity), Gramdevi (Deity of the town) ?’, ‘If it is negative energy, is the distress due to ancestors, karani (Black magic), planetary positions ?’
D. Whenever He was told that a certain house had many Idols (of Deities) in their daily worship, He narrated the principle of ‘Going from many to one’, and advised on which Idols should be retained in the temple in that house. Besides, He would teach how to explain this principle to others without hurting their sentiments.
7. Teaching seekers what they need and not what they want
The workshop used to be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Even this time would be less ! After all the abovementioned aspects were taught, Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would run through topics, such as various Paths of spiritual practice and different bodies such as pranadeha (Vital body), manodeha (Mental body), karandeha (Causal body) etc. in the last hour. Seekers would be reluctant to learn new aspects taught initially, instead of the main topics covered earlier in the workshop; however, He would give seekers only what was needed and not what they wanted. In the later lessons, He emphasised on practical aspects, as a result of which seekers started progressing spiritually and getting spiritual experiences.
8. Analysis of spiritual experiences
By telling seekers that Spirituality is a science of spiritual experiences, He would analyse spiritual experiences of the seekers. By understanding whether the experience was at the mental / spiritual level or was due to some negative energy, seekers attending the workshop started learning the science of spiritual experiences. This encouraged the seekers and gave them Anand.
9. Everyone attending the workshop
receiving guidance according to his/her basic nature
Those attending the workshops would narrate their experiences and ask Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale questions. While replying and discussing their experiences, He would have prembhav (Love) for every seeker. He would identify the basic nature of every seeker and guide him accordingly in precise words. If someone had erred, He would explain how his act was spiritually incorrect. As a result, the seeker would feel love instead of feeling upset. However, some critics also attended these workshops and asked hypothetical questions. Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would tell them to perform spiritual practice and get the related experiences.
10. Taking care not to waste the time of seekers
After the workshop, some of us would sit with Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale at Mr. Gurunath Borkar’s house. Some people would come to meet Him for personal matters. At that time, He would ask us to sit outside and discuss some topic selected by Him. Later, He would follow up on the discussions. He would thus ensure that our time was not wasted.
11. Visiting ailing seekers and
attending the weddings of seekers in Goa
During His visits to Goa, He would take out time to visit ailing seekers. He would also make it a point to attend the weddings of seekers during His visit to Goa for conducting workshops.
12. While visiting Saints Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would take
seekers along and teach them the etiquettes to be followed
Whenever He would learn about a Saint residing or visiting someone in the vicinity of the venue of the workshop, Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would go to meet Him and also take seekers along. Then, we were not even aware that there were Saints still living in the society. He would introduce the Saint to us and teach us the necessary etiquettes, what to learn from them etc. Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would also tell the Saint that He will send seekers to Him in the future. After the visit, Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would tell us the unique features of that Saint, such as His Path of spiritual practice, His spiritual level, the proportion of Shanti and Anand in Him etc.
13. Bringing sweets for seekers while coming from Mumbai
While coming from Mumbai to Goa to conduct workshops, Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would bring special sweets for each seeker who had assisted in the organisation of the workshop and in doing the associated sevas. There would be a separate box for each seeker with his name written on it. This taught us true prembhav. Later, seekers developed a bhav that it was His Prasad for them.
14. Creating a sense of belonging among seekers through the workshops
There would be interaction among seekers during these workshops. Some of us would gather at the local residence of Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale, and we would learn a lot of things from Him. Gradually, we developed a sense of brotherhood and a sense of belonging to one family.
15. Implanting a quality of thrift in
seekers by setting personal example
In preparation for the workshops, Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale would write points on small pieces of paper and bunch them topicwise. When we wrote letters to Him, He would read them the same day, classify the aspects and write replies on the same letters. Thus, we could learn the importance of planning and thrift from Him.
– Mr. Vivek Pendse and Mr. Prakash Joshi (Ponda, Goa)