Sunday, July 19, 2009

Post Kamalashile - Shimoga

Here is the final part of the 5 part series on Kamalashile, Guru Poornima, the Advanced Course and Shimoga. Sunday morning, we were scheduled to leave for Shimoga at 7.15 am. Atleast that is what Mala said to me. After having stayed up quite late the previous night, 7.15 am was really early. Yet, I managed to be up by 5.30 something. Finished with last minute packing, I decided to visit the temple and say my goodbyes to the mother divine. As I was about to enter the temple, I saw Chayanna's room door open. All through the night I was wondering if I will be able to meet Him in the morning before leaving. This was not an opportunity that I was going to let go and so, my direction changed. I ran upto His room and with that beaming smile that lit up the entire room, He welcomed me in and said, "So, tell me. What are your plans?" I was almost knocked off my feet with that question. I slowly and softly said, "Chayanna, I plan to leave now, visit Shringeri and Shimoga. That way, I will be home this evening itself and can get a good night's rest before starting the week again". He thought for a good half a minute and said, "Ok. Have you cancelled your bus ticket". I nodded, did my namaskarams, gave Him a big hug, got a good beating on my back (I just love it when He does that) and off I went. The previous evening, He wasn't very keen on me leaving immediately, but I felt it made good sense to reach Bangalore by sunday evening itself. Little did I know what was in store for me. When the Master says something, or even hints at something, it is best for the student to blindly listen. This I think was the greatest lesson that I got out of the entire experience. No matter who says what, no matter what the situation is, no matter how green the grass is, if He says stay; JUST STAY!

After that, a visit to the temple was followed by breakfast! The bus was late by about half an hour I think and we all finally managed to leave from Kamalashile at around 8.30 am. Surprisingly, even though I had had very little sleep the previous night, I wasn't very sleep in the bus. Next stop Shringeri. Shringeri was an absolutely funny episode. We all got split into different groups. I was in the first group with Mala and Deepak. More about Deepak in a short while. After visiting the main shrine, we went and sat nearby to meditate for a short while. About twenty five minutes later, I open my eyes and pretty much at the same time, Jyothi who by now was also sitting nearby, opens her eyes. Nobody else is around. I don't have my cell phone with me, no wallet no nothing and Shringeri, the temple and the ashram are Huge!!! Wondering where I will go and search for them, I ask Jyothi if she has seen any of them. Not surprisingly, the answer was a no. I was starting to get anxious and got into the most ancient building there. A temple built for Lord Shiva. As I did my round there and got out, I thought I saw three people dressed in orange about almost half a Kilometer away!!! They just stood out from the rest. They were on the other side of a river! Quickly (I pretty much ran across the bridge), I got to the other side. They were nowhere in sight. I just trusted my instincts and continued walking, till I came to a building that announced in great big letters; GURU NIVAS. This was where the Shankaracharya of Shringeri was sitting and so for the very first time in this lifetime, I saw a Shankaracharya face to face. As I entered the building, there about ten feet in front of me where my three angels in orange!!! Mala, Deepak and Rithika. A quick reunion, and Deepak told us a story of how the Shankaracharya does not allow anyone to touch His feet. As we inched furhter down the line and got close to His Holiness, His assistant, inquired where Deepak was from. He quicky answered and counter inquired if he could touch the feet of the Shankaracharya. No, came the quick reply and with a snicker we all left the place. As we got out, two elephants came by to say goodbye to us. We walked back just in time for lunch.

Lunch is a very interesting affiar at the Sringeri mutt and is a unique experience. I would suggest that when they are serving, keep your hands as far away from the plate as possible, unless you want them burnt, cause it doesn't matter to those serving if your hands are in the way or not. They will just keep going mechanically. It was almost a rude shock to see such behaviour, after having seen the serving at the ashram, where everything is done with such love, honour and respect. Anyhoo, towards the end, I found a mosquito in the food, so I just got up. I was starting to feel unwell by now and just wanted to leave. Quick wash of hands, walk back to the bus and change of clothes and we all sat there for the next one hour waiting for a few more people to return. This was when Deepak entertained us. Would educated be a better option? Well, with his jokes now and then and his stories, we were kept entertained.

The drive after that to Shimoga took quite a bit of time. At shimoga, the dam was an experience. The walk close to the lighthouse which had, 'Manju loves someone', the walk further down to the bungalow, toilets without any doors and finally the monumental place; The divine place where Guruji got the Sudarshan Kriya after going into ten days of Silence. We all sat there, facing the river. Lines from the Gurupooja were chanted, songs were sung and tears of gratitude were shed! A quick dip of just the feet in the river and off were again! We drove back to Shimoga and ate at the Mathura hotel. It was the most crowded restaurant in Shimoga, which allowed us to safely assume, it was the best! Further, Manju (Jyothi's mum) had just been there a few weeks ago. A quick dosa and my body had already started to burn up. The fever was paying me a visit after quite sometime.

The time was 9.15 pm and the train to bangalore was to leave at 10.00 pm. I did not have a ticket yet. Rushed, hurried goodbyes and I got my stuff from the bus and took an auto to the station. Surprisingly, there were a lot of cops. I ran up to the booking counter, caught hold of a guy, gave him some money and asked him to buy me a ticket to bangalore. The guy bought 1 ticket for two passengers. I couldn't blame him, he was drunk. So I got another guy to buy another ticket, gave it to my drunk friend, sent him along his way and went into the platform. There, more cops. I learnt that the Karnataka Chief Minister and his bandwagon of safari suit clad men were there to escort my back to bangalore! I quickly went up to the TTE (Train Ticket Examiner) and with my best Art of Living taught skills, spoke to him and managed to get onto the First Class compartment with an unreserved ticket. Once there, I realised finding a place to sleep might be difficult. Sarvam Guru Mayam. I was ready to sleep on the floor of the train. It didn't matter much to me at that point of time. Meanwhile, the fever was gradually increasing. The TTE, about an hour later walks in and asks me if I am ready to share a berth with another person. Not being in a position to bargain, I agreed, climbed up into the berth and fell asleep. I woke up around 4 in the morning, burning with a fully raging fever by now and got home by around 4.30 am. I set the alarm for about 6.30 and fell asleep. I woke up at around 12.30. I checked the temperature, and it showed a nice and steady 103F. Somehow, I managed to pull myself out of the bed and drove down to the doctor without an appointment. The receptionist was adamant that I get an appointment. I said I couldn's stand and so she allowed me to fall asleep in the emergency room, till the doctor came and took a look at me. URTI he proclaimed. Oh! How many times have I seen that before! Upper Respiratory Tract Infection. I managed to drive back home. I made some food for myself, drank some hot water, ate up, took the meds and plopped back into bed. The next couple of days were spent in bed and writing up the blog! The memories all flooding back, the experiences, the people, the silence, the Master, the Love, the joy, the lack of space in the meditation hall, the cold water baths, the lovely nature walks, the caves, the satsangs, the dances, the smiles, the lovely food, the rivers, the rains...
Spread the love, spread the joy.
Jai Gurudeva

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kamalashile - Part 4

Which brings us to day four and day three of the course. I woke up to find that my toilet kit had gone missing! That meant; no toothpaste, no toothbrush, no razor, no shaving cream and no mosquito repellent. 'Sarvam Guru Mayam'! A walk down to the bathroom and all I had to do was stick my index finger out at the first person I met and it was covered with toothpaste! Quick bath, back to the hall, clothed and I found that I was also one of those people doing breathing exercises while waiting for the rest to arrive, and arrive they did! This evening, we were given the freedom to just 'walk free' to any place we wanted to. I had to wait for Ravi again, but my patience wore thin and I just took off on my own with my trustworthy umberella though I didn't need it (Chayanna had mentioned that the rain Gods were particularly nice to us that day). A walk once again right upto the mouth of the cave was beautiful. Walking amidst lush green foliage without any aim, just gazing at the deep, abundant green is one of the most satisfying experiences that I have ever had. As I casually strolled back, a stranger came riding down the hill on his bike. I managed to hitch a ride back to the temple with him and headed out the nearest store and got myself one of those 'use and throw' razors!!!

A quick attempt at shaving without a mirror was quite amusing till Santosh (a young man who works at the temple) offered me his mirror! His mother who was nearby washing clothes, proudly stated that, he was her only son. For the past 52 years, the lady has stayed close to the temple, in service of the divine mother. Mentally, I bowed down to the divine mother in her and in sign language indicated that from that moment on, I was her second son! She was absolutely delighted and it was a really warm moment. A quick bath after that, dinner and satsang time!!! If you are wondering about the keyboard, I got it just before buying the razor! Satsang that evening was an extra special event for everybody! It was particularly extra special for me, for two reasons. One: The energy was so high that Chayanna actually got up and started to dance. The moment He did that, the energy in the place just sky rocketed. Everyone wanted to hold His hand and dance with Him. Everyone wanted to be close to Him! People were throwing flowers, screaming, spinning in pairs, singing, laughing! Two: My friends from Mumbai actually came up to the stage, dragged me to the back, carried me up and threw me in the air quite a few times!!! That was a total rockstar (with Kurtha and Veshti) moment. What was the real icing on the cake was that during none of this, did the veshti fall off! After satsang, that night, im sure a lot of people found difficulty in sleeping because of the intensely high energy. Come next day and it was the last day of the course! By now, I had a regular neigbour in Priyanka to ensure that my chair wasn't getting usurped! Post breakfast and a couple of beautiful meditations, we were asked to gently come out of our vow of silence, yet, be as silent as possible! Another couple of absolutely heart warming processes and after that, chaos ensued! We were exchanging smiles, email ids, phone numbers and what not! Absolute strangers, who had never seen each others faces before, never said a word to each other before in their lives, were hugging each other with tears of joy, love and gratitude. This I think is the most powerful force that His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has given to mankind. Such belongingness, I had never felt before. The presence of Chayanna right there, added so much more force and value to every moment. Group photos and hugs and warm shakes were going on, while I quitely sneaked close to Chayanna. Earlier, He had booked a ticket for me to travel back to Bangalore the same evening. The bus was to leave at 7.45 pm, which meant that I had to miss the satsang that evening. Priyanka did enough of rubbing salt, that I decided to ask Him if I could stay another day. Slowly, after bowing down to Him, I put forth my question and He vehmently agreed and asked me to immediately leave for a very famous temple which was about an hour's drive from there, so that I could make it back in time for satsang! My day was made. I was officially in love with everyone and everything at that moment! Vaidyaji was kind enough to take us (Pattu mami, Chaynna's sister, Shruti; Chayanna's neice and myself) to the Mookambika temple. Vydyaji looks very quiet and frail, but boy, can he drive?! The way he handled that old beaten down Maruti Van can put Peter Solberg or any of the other rally drivers to shame! Priyanka's sister; Deepthi who was looking forward to also join us unfortunately was told she couldn't come because of the sudden lack of space in the car (Pattu mami was a last minute entry and she had better influence than what I did over space in Vydyaji's car). Sorry about that. My bad. On the return, I found my throat was starting to get sore. We almost got lost a couple of times, but managed to keep to the path that brought us back home.

Return from the temple and I ran straight upto Chayanna's room to tell him that I went to the temple and how lovely it was and everything, but He had other plans for me. With a beaming smile He welcomed me in and pointed at the keyboard. The satsang had started about an hour ago, but He was in His room! I felt truly honoured at that moment. I quickly picked it up and ran up to the satsang hall and set it up quickly. 5 minutes later, Chayanna entered. As it was a saturday evening, we had a speical 'Ram' meditation. Satsang closed and during dinner, Mala asked me if I wanted to join them the next day to Sringeri and Shimoga. Post dinner, I finally pulled my guitar out and amidst a lot of teases from Shenoy mama and gang, we started another satsang session. Sudhee, Mrudula and quite a few more joined in and we went on till about 1.30 in the night. I was scheduled to leave the next morning at 7. Final pack up and with teary eyes and warm hearts full of love, we all said our goodbyes to each other. Another course had come to an end, but another beginning was being made. New friends, new situations, new thoughts, new memories... More Love, more peace, more strength, more responsiblities, more joy, more depth, more silence...

Jai Gurudeva

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kamalshile - Part 3

After a good two days of rest, Im feeling slightly better. Hence, continues the Kamalshile 'k'ronicle! On day two, I realised that there were some bathrooms where warm water was available! So, off Ravi and I went again, early in the morning at 5 something, with full vigour just to realise that the early sadhak gets the bathroom!!! There was nice small queue! So, Ravi and I queued up in front of the 3rd door ( had a nice chewing gum blob stuck onto it to cover a hole), wondering why no one else was in front of that particular door! After about 15 mins, we realised why. The person on the inside, was not someone who was willing to 'let go' of the bathroom. He was quite slow, unlike a hmmm.. shall we say, a Suzuki!!! By now, quite a few of us gather outside the door. Ravi changes doors and we continue to wait, patiently knocking on (heaven's) door. Finally, lo behold it opens! Quick bath and I rush up to the hall to get clothed. The hall is almost full with people doing their various stretches and breathing exercises and a few excited aunties trying to communicate with each other in sign language! First session done and my knees are already killing me. Its just day two of the course and Im already silently looking out for a chair. Sumptuous breakfast is followed by the second session for the day! More celebration and more silence (except for those sign language aunties though)!

Next, lunch! Then more silence! Makes me want to say, Silence'er' followed by silence-est! After that, lovely Kashayam!!! Followed by the grandest nature walk ever! We first climbed the hill. Took short cuts. Ravi just took too much time. So I just left on my own and it started to rain. Taking shortcuts through the hill, I managed to get to... "The mouth of the cave", where Kanasu and gang were waiting for us. There, at the mouth, stood a beautiful tulasi(basil) plant. The tulasi is worshipped around India for its connection with the godess Saraswati and also because of its medicinal nature. There is a small almost bus shelter kind of a construction right outside the cave where we all left our umberellas and other accessories! The guide insisted that we leave our footwear quite far away! The Guide who took us into the cave, was a really really funny guy! Also, a very kind hearted person whose language of the heart more than made up for his lack of knowledge of the english language. "25 people only in one group". He was firm about it. At the end, there were about 40 people in our group! The place Kamalashile gets its name from this very cave! I had a very Indiana Jones feeling as I walked into the cave!Holding a lamp, helping all the people go in!!! "Into the caves", I shouted in my head, imagining myself to be the host of "The crystal maze"! The cave just kept going into the ground. Most of the cave was completely wet due to the rains, but there was one dry spot which we were told was the place where a lady ( I forget her name) sat and meditated for 11 years. As we went in deeper, we reached a place where the water was knee deep! Wading through that water, we got to the other end and surprisingly, the earth there was really really soft. Someone held the lamp up and only then did I realise, we were standing on about a foot of 'bat droppings'! "Sarvam Guru Mayam" again!!! The bats, according to our guide, were featured on NatGeo recently. They belonged to a particular variety of bats that thrived on blood, but only the ones from this cave, did no harm to any creature because they were in the home of the Divine Mother! Then came the darkest moment. All the lights were turned out and all of us were given a 'glimpse' of what a blind person goes through. About 100 mts under the earth's surface, and it was DARK. The climb out of the cave was quick. As we were walking back, I suddenly realised it was getting late and off I went. There was no 'fire on the mountain', but run run run I did. I made it in time to get the keyboard, take a bath, have dinner and sit at the satsang!!! Bath was an epic event in itself. As I stood waiting for the gates to open, Ravi joined in. As we stood wondering what was behind door number 3, I thought I could see our friend Suzuki!!! Something made me step aside for a while, while Ravi started to intensify the knocks on the door. All of a sudden, SPLASH!!!! A mug of cold water was thrown out from behind the door on Ravi's face that almost sent him sprawling onto the floor! Everyone waiting there had a really good laugh!

Day two of the course was coming to a draw. That night we all had a special blanket that we were provided with. A blanket that no wool or material could surpass! A warmth that nothing else could provide. A sense of security that no walls could provide. That night, I went to sleep with a smile on my face that no boxer could knock out!

Jai Gurudeva.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kamalashile - Part 2

...and so that brings us to the second day! The day the course began! Nothing will be mentioned here about the processes of course, but things went pretty smoothly. I did forget to mention about the food in the previous post. There is a unique tradition in Kamalshile of serving rasam and rice prior to serving sambhar. The sweets and payasam(kheer; a liquidy sweet) and curry and rasam and sambhar ensured that all course participants added atleast a couple of kilos before they left from the place. Not to mention the amazing seva of cooking and serving food done by Jeethu, Sudhee and gang. After the morning Om Namah Shivayah Chanting, Suryanamaskaras and Kriya which were so beautufully led by Prashant (who somebody thinks I have a lot to learn from), off we headed for breakfast! Guess what?! My favourite!! I almost screamed out of Joy; Dosas!!! Seva was certainly what I had expected I will get!!! I was really being pulled out of my comfort zone!! But luckily for me, I had Ravi to help me and together we managed to undo what a lot of others had done!!! Just as we finished, we heard that the water from all that raining had flooded the temple and had just touched the feet of the Divine Mother and was receeding back. Off we went, rushed into the temple, pulling our pants up and taking our shirts off! We waded into the temple, but alas, the water had already receeded quite a bit. Lunch was then followed by the next session and after enough breaks, off we went on the nature walk; To one of the most beautiful and accessible waterfalls!!! We had to climb a hill, cross a couple streams of flowing water, more climbing and finally, there it was in its greandeur. Quite small, but powerful. Ravi and I made the mistake of walking barefoot! The tiny stones rough terrain made our feet beg for some protection, but then again, hey, "Sarvam Guru Mayam"!!! No pain, no gain!!!

A hasty return from the waterfall, some of us lost our way and entered private property. The owners were kind enough to guide us along the right path and there were no legal issues to be bothered about! Once we got back, we found that the hall was taken by the volunteers who were doing their long kriya and so we couldn't go in to change (we were drenched both in the rain and in sweat- which is not a very comfortable feeling). Some of us were musing on the thought of eating some bajjis, which Mala outright turned down. Finally, the doors opened and after a quick change, we all ran out for dinner. Dinner in Kamalashile is a unique affair. It consists of Kanji (Boiled rice made in the form of a porridge), with salt, some vegetables and some very tasty coconut chutney! I did forget to mention the really nice Kashayam (spiced warm drink that is very good for the health) that we all got before we embarked on the nature walk!!! Post dinner, satsang time!!! Yay!!! Amidst all the nature walk and everything, I had totally forgotten about Chayanna's Keyboard. As I entered the satsang hall, there it sat right in the front. After the satsang, we all officially went into silence. A silence that each one of us celebrated and continue to celebrate within us. A silence that leads one from the gross to the subtle. A silence that takes one into the world of thoughts where the possibilities are endless. Our celebration of silence had officially begun!!! As I picked up the Keyboard to take it back to Chayanna's room, Sudhee walked across the room and gently reminded me that come what may, it was my responsibility to bring the keyboard before the satsang and take it back after the satsang! Day one of the course was over!!!

Jai Gurudeva

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kamalashile - part 1

Bliss!! Bliss!! and nothing but Bliss!!! 5 days of bliss at Kamalashile. When Chayanna walked in to the hall on the 7th, it was not just a sight to see, but an experience in itself. Many of us had the experience of seeing the Lord Shiva Himself entering the hall. Chayanna was Pure Fire!!! After the Guru Poornima celebrations, Chayanna asked us to go to the temple after the temple visit, as we were coming out, He saw me and said, "Ah, come come"! I officially entered a parallel world at that moment. After that, I was fortunate enough to hold the umberella for him as He walked back to His room. The next half hour was spent in general discussions of plans in the near future etc., I then remembered that I had got a Veshti (dhoti) and Thundu (towel) for Him. Excusing myself for 5 minutes, I ran up to the room where I had dropped my luggage and brought the 'stuff'! Another 15 mins spent with Chayanna and He instructed me to go and have lunch. After Lunch, started the honour of serving lunch for Him. Its always great great fun serving while Chayanna eats!!! Its just a simply superb feeling!!!

That evening, the satsang was mind blowing! The mind really got blown and we transcended all the levels of existence and were taken to the higher plane! The responsiblity of bringing Chayanna's Keyboard to the satsangs and taking it back at the end of the satsangs was given to me!!! Wow! That would ensure that I would be able to meet him personally atleast twice every day!!! After satsang, that evening, I also had the honour of meeting Sri. Aravind Hebbar! His voice is amazing! The devotion, the way it flows when he sings, WOW!!! Plus, he sings in C#!!! Later that night, I went back to my room, which I was sharing with the famous Vaidhyaji, the great DSN teacher; Jagadeesh Shastriji, the ever cheerful Rajashekarji. Somewhere after about 15 mins of lying down, our dear friend, Sudee (Sudarshan) walks in and asks us all to vacate the room as a couple of ladies from Bangalore had just got there and they needed the room. So, off we went to the main meditation hall where the Guru Poornima Yagya and happened and happily fell asleep, till about 3 in the morning! It had started to rain and the temperature just dropped down. It was collllldddd!!!! But then, Chayanna's words of, "Sarvam Guru Mayam" popped into my head, brought back a smile and off I went to sleep again! The next morning, Ravi and Chidananda (Chiddu) were kind enough to wake me up and I went off to take a bath. The water was chilling to the bone. But then again, "Sarvam Guru Mayam"!!! It really is a mantra that enables one to withstand anything"!!! The advanced course had just begun. More on it in the next post...

Jai Gurudeva