The Sri Karunamayi Research Institute of Meditation (SRIM) Center in Monroe County will host the Guru Purnima Retreat & Celebration for the first time July 12-14. This is an annual event that is held in different cities around North America. The SRIM (pronounced shreem) Center off of Johnstonville Road has grown and added more facilities but will have the event at Monroe County Conference Center this year in order to accommodate the more than 250 participants expected in an enclosed, air-conditioned building.
Guru Purnima is a celebration that actually occurs on July 16; it is set by the date of the most perfect full moon of the year, which is usually in July or August. Leigh Moore of the SRIM Center explained that Guru Purnima is a day to honor those, such as teachers and leaders, who have guided us. For those at the SRIM Center Amma Sri Karunamayi is their ultimate teacher; so they particularly want to honor her even as they honor others who have made an impact in individual lives. “Sri Karunamayi” means “mother of compassion,” which is how Amma is known to her followers around the world.
Amma is on her annual North American tour and will be in Forsyth for the Guru Purnima Retreat & Celebration. She has designed the retreat to help people learn to meditate in ways that help them remove themselves from the many distractions that interfere with meditation. On Friday, she will teach Chakra Cleansing, which was previously only available at her ashram in India. Saturday will focus on Shaktipath: divine radiance transmission. On Sunday there will be special pumas (worship ceremonies). Time restrictions will prevent one-on-one meetings with Amma during the retreat.
There are fees for attending the discourses and activities on Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning, with a 10 percent discount for early registration by July 8. Visit karunamayi.org to register. Visit www.srimcenter.org to learn more about the center in Monroe County.
However, there is no charge for the Guru Purnima Grand Celebration at 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 14. All are welcome at this program, which will focus on thankfulness for those who have led and guided, especially Amma. Moore said people will be able to receive a blessing from Amma at the celebration.
“She is really here to uplift people. She teaches us to live a righteous life by embracing higher values,” said Moore. “ At the retreat she will teach meditation techniques that free us from anger, greed, jealousy… These techniques are very powerful. They chip away at these [feelings] and free us from them.”
Moore encourages everyone to read Amma’s biography on the srimcenter.org website. From about age 20-30 Amma retreated to a remote area in India of dense jungle populated by wildlife including tigers, monkeys and snakes and immersed herself in meditation without regard for physical comfort or safety. She emerged to share the insights she gained over the 10-year period. She has championed many humanitarian causes and has established charities to help throughout the world, especially in the U.S. and India.
A group bought the 28 acres off Johnstonville Road after Amma visited and approved of it; they built a temple there in 2014. The SRIM Center celebrated the 5th anniversary of the consecration of the temple the last week of June. In April 2014 people from many countries came for a 10-day World Peace program, which was the first large event at the site at 285 Julie Lane.
Building at the site has continued, slowly but steadily, since then. There is now a large enclosed meeting room/worship area, although it will not accommodate quite enough people for the upcoming Guru Purnima Retreat. Two priests live at the site, and there is a regular schedule of programs daily. The temple is open from 7:15 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. Saturday is a volunteer service day when people come to work at the Center.
Moore, who is secretary of the Center’s board of directors, moved from the Atlanta area to Forsyth to be near the Center about a year-and-a-half ago. She said that others have moved to Monroe County because of the Center and that many others would like to move closer to the Center but can’t because of commutes to their jobs. People come regularly from Atlanta, Forsyth, Macon, Barnesville and areas in between. Often people who have heard about the SRIM Center from as far away as California come to visit. One woman said a dream led her to the spiritual center.
The annual celebration in May, when Amma visits, brings people from around the world to Monroe County. Moore said more than 100 countries were represented this year. Amma delivers her discourses in English at the SRIM center because most of the people who come understand English. The mantras are chanted in Sanskrit.
“[Sanskrit] is a very pure language,” said Moore. “We find a way to communicate. The events are very harmonious.”
She said there is a very positive energy in the temple and at the SRIM Center; “You can feel that people have prayed here. That feeling is the reason people come back.”
The SRIM Center is beginning to offer classes and has just launched a series of talks by one of the priests, Vamsi Krishna Swami, who holds a doctorate. The two current priests came to the Center from India earlier this year. Moore emphasized that the SRIM Center is not affiliated with Hinduism. People from all religions are welcomed, and there is no effort to influence anyone to change his or her faith.
“We are very inclusive, a spiritual center for all faiths,” said Moore. “In meditation, we focus on being quiet inside and hearing God. Everyone wants to experience God.”
Forsyth and Monroe County have welcomed the many visitors, and some new residents, the SRIM Center has brought. Mayor Eric Wilson will give a personal welcome to those attending the Guru Purnima July 12-14. Forsyth’s Convention & Visitors Bureau has awarded the SRIM Center a grant to help publicize its celebration in May for several years. Local hotels, restaurants, shops and other businesses have been pleased to host the visitors it brings. Hotels are offering special rates and arranging shuttle transportation for those attending Guru Purnima.