Volume 10 - Issue 09
September 2012
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Posted on : Sept 28, 2012



- An exclusive conversation with Mr. Vajko Kerchen, Slovenia

part 01

Slovenia, the South Central European country, is known for many things, right from its limestone caves to World Cup skiing competitions, to castles and of course, its fabulous mountains, 300 waterfalls and breathtaking lakes. Now however there is something more beautiful sweeping across this country and infact this entire continent, thanks to two dedicated Sai devotees.

Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004 but these two Sai youth are now trying to bring about another union – the Veda Union. And one of this inspired duo is Mr. Vajko Kerchan. In this conversation which was recorded as part of our Radio series “Tryst with Divinity”, Vajko shares with Radio Sai's Bishu Prusty, how along with his Sai brother Branimir Gonan from Croatia, they have been inspired to start this unique Veda movement in Europe.

Presented below is the suitably adapted transcript of this conversation which was conducted in July 2012.

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part 02


Radio Sai (RS): Welcome brother Vajko to the studios of Radio Sai.

Vajko: Sairam.

RS: It is really fantastic to have you here in the studio. I was really excited when I heard about Veda Union the other day and felt this is a message that has to go out to the world. Not many know about it, including people in Prasanthi Nilayam. So please tell us what this Veda Union is all about – its genesis, goal and mission.

Vajko: Sure, Veda Union came as a simple idea two years ago, when my Sai brother, Branimir and myself set ourselves on a path that we should do something together concerning the Vedas.

Both of us have been long-time devotees of Swami as well as long-time devotees of the Vedas. At a certain point, the idea crystallised about Veda Union. And we called it so because we felt Europe has united in many secular and monetary ways, and now there was a need to unite different groups across this continent through Veda chanting and the message of the Vedas. That was how Veda Union came to be.

RS: Wonderful, so when did you actually get interested in the Vedas?

Vajko: Well, I have been coming to Prasanthi Nilayam for ten years. Actually, this Guru Poornima day was my small anniversary with Swami.

RS: Beautiful!

  Vajko Kerchen, Slovenia
  Mr. Vajko Kerchan at the Studios of Radio Sai at Prasanthi Nilayam

Vajko: It was exactly 10 years ago that I saw Bhagawan.

RS: A decade with Bhagawan!

Vajko: Yes! A decade with Bhagawan. And I got really interested in Veda Chanting right from the time Vedas began to be chanted during darshan sessions in Prasanthi Nilayam.

RS: Veda chanting during darshans started probably in 2004. However Vedas used to be chanted before this also, especially on many festival occasions.

Vajko: Yes, correct. Even before coming to India, I had heard of certain mantras - the Gayathri Mantra which everybody hears everywhere and the Tryambakham yajamahe... mantra as well. But at that time they were just some nice sounds; I didn't have any deeper connection with them.

But after coming here, to Prasanthi Nilayam, and hearing these sacred words and mantras, I developed a certain liking. So I thought, let me try to learn one and picked up a book and a CD. I learnt the first mantra maybe in two weeks, when I was here.

RS: Which was this mantra?

Vajko: Narayanopanishad

The Homecoming

RS: So you saw Bhagawan first in 2002. How was that experience?

Vajko: I was travelling for the first time to Puttaparthi and I already knew, I was coming home, that was for sure.

RS: You were just coming here and you knew you were coming home, even before reaching here!

Vajko: Yes. My mother came a little bit sooner than I, maybe a couple of months before and I followed her; it was really coming home.

And at that time, for some reason, Swami was not coming on the gents’ side during darshan. So, I stayed here during that trip for a short while, maybe 14 days. Ah! The yearning was so great to see Swami coming to the gents’ side but He did not come until the last day.

And finally He did come. I was sitting in the back and as He was walking Swami literally stopped there so that I could have a full view of Him and that was love. From then on, I noticed that Swami opened in me something that I didn’t know before - the love for God.

RS: He just unlocked that treasure of love, which was in your heart.

Vajko: Yes.

RS: Fantastic. Were you brought up in any religious or spiritual way?

Vajko: No, my parents were not religious. They did not go to any churches and only after coming back from India did I start developing an interest in churches in our country.

RS: Slovenia is full of churches I guess, and there are a lot of Catholics in the country, right?

Vajko: Yes.

RS: I read somewhere that 97 per cent are Catholics…

Vajko: Yes, quite a lot.

RS: But you were not really brought up as a Christian?

Vajko: No, we were not brought up as such. So actually, Swami gave us all the religious practices and views on religion. I learnt all these here and when I am back home, I try to observe in a similar fashion whatever is happening in India and here.

sathya sai baba with students at prashanti nilayam  
Bhagawan's Students from the Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School, Prasanthi Nilayam, Chanting Vedam in the Divine Presence  

RS: Fantastic. Learning about religion from Prasanthi Nilayam is the best way, you don’t have to unlearn anything.

Vajko: Correct. This is true religion, the religion of the heart.

RS: Absolutely.

Vajko: So, it went from the heart to the outside, not vice versa.

RS: You will never ever get confused with religion, if you start learning about religion from Prasanthi Nilayam.

Vajko: Correct, correct, correct!

RS: So, that was really such a sound foundation that Swami laid in your heart about Vedam and about love for God and that love for God translated into doing something for God and into Vedam.

Journey With the Vedas Begins

Vajko: Actually, ever since my first trip, I do not think there was any year when I have not come three times to Prasanthi Nilayam.

RS: Hmmm… You have been coming every year.

Vajko: Yes, every year and maybe for a couple of months. And all these years my inclination towards Vedas kept increasing; I wanted to learn and study more.

There are so many questions for which one wants answers once you start hearing Vedic chants; you don’t know what they are, how to approach them, where to study them from and so forth. So, as the years pass by, with a lot of prayer and dedication, the answers come.

RS: So, you were able to learn Vedam even in Slovenia?

Vajko: Yes, at the beginning you have a book, a CD, and you try to imitate the sounds. Later, I concluded my basic Veda studies at Chennai.

RS: Oh! You came to India to study the Vedas?

Vajko: Yes.

RS: You learnt from a master, from a gurukulam?

Vajko: Yes, I learnt from an institute in Chennai.

RS: Vedic Institute?

Vajko: Yes, a Vedic Institute in Chennai that gave me a great basis to build on. We went through all the pronunciations, the rules of Vedic chants, how to approach them, so on and so forth.

So, all what I have been doing, mostly on my own in my room, with Swami of course, was getting refined when I was going to Chennai.

RS: So, it was becoming clearer now.

No festival at Prasanthi Nilayam was complete without the holy vibrations of Veda Chanting.

Vajko: It became clearer and structured. And that is what I needed.

RS: You were doing something but you didn’t really know if it was the right way. Now for sure you knew it is the way.

Vajko: Exactly.

RS: Now, you are in a position to actually guide others.

Vajko: Correct. Initially I had so many questions to ask, but nobody to answer them. Even after concluding my studies in Chennai, I connected with different people from all over India to know a lot of things I wasn't aware of. So I went through this hard process, as a result now I can help others.

RS: So, eventually, you got your answers.

Vajko: Yes, I did.

RS: When did this happen, coming to Chennai and learning from a Vedic institute?

Vajko: From 2008 to 2010.

RS: You were in India for two years?

The tiny tots of the Sri Sathya Sai Primary School posing with Swami
for a picture after chanting Vedam

Vajko: No, this is a course I was visiting. So, I was home, came here for 2-3 weeks, went back, so on and so forth.

RS: So probably, when you were in Chennai, you must have made trips to Prasanthi Nilayam too.

Vajko: Every weekend, almost. Luckily, my school was near Sundaram. (H2H Archives: You may want to read the Cover Story - Sundaram)

RS: Oh, near Sundaram? Swami’s abode.

Vajko: Yes, I was so glad about this, I used to walk from my school to Sundaram almost daily for bhajans. So it was a great time.

RS: So, you had a really good spiritual time, learning the Vedas and then, going for bhajans to Sundaram. It is a place where Swami has stayed and visited so many times.

Vajko: Yeah, they used to have excellent bhajans there. Every Thursdays and Sundays, I was there.

RS: Wonderful! In some way, Swami was orchestrating all this.

Vajko: Correct.

RS: His invisible hand was working. And, when did you meet the Sai brother, Branimir Gonan from Croatia? (H2H Archives: You may want to see the Croatian Choir)

Vajko: I am from Slovenia, and he is from Croatia. See, I was so eager to chant with somebody. So I was asking around and heard that a Sai brother in Croatia had his own group. I called him and said, “Sairam, I want to meet you.” He said, “Come.”

I went and we met, I also saw his group. At that time, I found out that he had already presented Veda chanting to Swami in 2007.

RS: So, he had come with a group and chanted in front of Bhagawan?

Vajko: You are right. And this is how all these groups came to be there. So slowly, our relationship developed. He began in 2000 and I started in 2010 and we decided to do something together and that’s how the Veda Union evolved, I would say, a little bit on its own. We were not even controlling it, we were just going with the flow. And it was evolving itself, growing and giving us the path where we should go.

Project - Rudram 2012

RS: So, you tried to give it some structure and thought of a particular project, and that is how Veda Union came into being?

Vajko: Correct. After 2006, Athi Rudra Maha Yajna happened in Puttaparthi. That was such a powerful event!

(H2H Archives: You may want to read the Cover Story - The Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam)

RS: Yes.

Vajko: It resonated all over the world.

RS: You were here?

Vajko: No, I was not here.

RS: But, you felt it.

Vajko: I got so inspired by the messages on all the 11 days that I thought we should chant Rudram here every day. Let’s learn and teach others also. So we decided our first project would be to teach a number of people, especially devotees to chant Sri Rudram in two years. That would be called Rudram 2012. And we completed it this year.

RS: You completed it?

Vajko: Yes, we completed it. It lasted two years.

RS: So how many groups and in how many countries did you teach?

Vajko: Seven countries and seven different groups.

RS: So this is Serbia…

Vajko: Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, some German groups, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the like. The idea was that I counted the number of verses and divided them approximately into two years. If every group was capable of learning two to four new verses a week from the Sri Rudram; in two years we would be in a position to comfortably chant the mantra together. We charted a timeline and proposed to meet after every major or couple of anuvakas (Vedic paragraphs) and do a workshop. All in all, we had five workshops.

RS: Five workshops?

Vajko: Yes. What we tried to do was that each group would learn on their own for two to three months and after that period when the set of anuvakas was completed, we meet at a certain place. So we met at Zagreb for the first time, then Lithuania, Slovenia, Budapest and the last meeting was in Serbia.

RS: Wow!

Vajko: All these different groups from Europe came to a certain place and then we had 100-120 people chanting.

RS: Together, at public events?

Vajko: Yes, these were all public events.

  Sri Rudram 10th Anuvaka workshop, Prague, Czech Republic, 1 October 2011 

RS: Let me ask you this. Was it really a very challenging task trying to teach Vedam to all these people in different European countries with diverse cultures and diverse tongues? Because getting the intonations right can be difficult, sometimes many Indians also don’t get it.

Vajko: From my experience, when I am now also working at home, teaching or chanting with the Sai devotees is different from those who are not. That is the first difference. This is because many people who come here, even if they don’t chant, they listen to these all the time.

RS: Yes.

Vajko: So that is the difference. That is the first major thing which is very good for us; it is easy to work with Sai devotees. But, yeah, it was challenging. So we do repeat plenty of times – we take one mantra, split it in half, or sometimes, even split a word. At times we first chant without the intonation marks and then slowly learn to get it right.

Yes, we do make mistakes. That is why we come to these workshops together so that we can correct ourselves and can align our chanting in the right manner. So, we come together at one place for one day, now it is in Serbia, from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m.

RS: The whole day?

Vajko: Yes, the whole day. The morning is spent learning new anuvakas and revising the old ones. After lunch, we chant two to three times depending on the time and conclude with bhajans.

RS: Wonderful! So it is a spiritual Veda retreat.

Vajko: [laughs] correct, correct.

RS: After you mentioned about the website, Vedaunion.org, I did visit this site and watched all these clips, I must tell you, it is so impressive. First of all, the website is done so well, I don’t know who manages it, apart from you two. But it is really nicely done.

Vajko: Thank you.

RS: And even the videos which go along with the write up about the public events is so impressive, it is so nice to see such a big group of people dressed in milky white sitting on the stage and chanting Vedam with so much clarity. Even though, I am sitting here and watching the video, it really filled me with such good vibrations. It is wonderful!

Images from the Veda Union's Sri Rudram Public Event held in Zagreb, Croatia, 29 May 2010



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