Saturday, June 23, 2012

in the wilderness. numbers. vaidyagram

The simple days in vaidyagrama. washing clothes and putting them up on the clothesline become kind of a benchmark in my schedule. like, i started drinking ghee the day i did the last washing.what i want to say is kind of weird but as hwubby says, you are weird, accept it, so what to do but take myself as i am, all of the weirdness. what i want to say is,  as i study the book of numbers which is what we are doing now according to the cyclical design of torah study, i experience what the ancient rabbis said. by the way the hebrew name of this book actually means 'in the wilderness.' don't ask me why it is titled 'numbers' in english. i'm not a bible scholar. anyway this book is about what happens when the israelites are doing in those forty years in the desert. by and large they live by the direct command of the lord who guides them as a pillar of fire. when the fire pillar moves they pack up and move accordingly. when the fire pillar stops that's where they pitch their tents.  for food, manna come down from the sky. it tastes however one desires it to be. one of the ways of the rabbis look at this phase is, those are such marvelous days, we have such direct connection with the lord. somehow this reading resonates with me. as far as i am concerned, in a simple setting, following a simple routine has the power to turn attention within. okay, i am aware that it has not always been this way. for a long time a simple schedule would drive the mind nuts. but, boom, years later, here i am, thoroughly reveling in the sublime sweetness of act such as carefully spreading out a piece of clothing.

 the greens around me are not manicured lawns and landscaped gardens but rather like wilderness. dr ramkumar, one of the founders, is determined to create a forest setting, mimicking as much as possible how the ancient sages dwell. so, in a way, i am in the wilderness when i am in vaidyagrama. the sense of timelessness is pervasive. i love it.

Monday, June 11, 2012

swamiji makes learning so much fun

when we decided to go to vaidyagrama to do panchakarma, and mind you, it was after a couple of years of searching for the right place for this purpose, i thought it would be fantastic if i could just get some great panchakarma. but then, of course, i forgot that a great place attracts great people - a little shout out for myself :). naturally an unintended consequence is hwubby and i have met some marvelous people during our six and half weeks there. including swami pratyagbhodhananda, a teaching swami.

i'm, in the heart of hearts, a bhakta, not a jnani. i don't know anything about vedanta. but i can safely say this much. i know a good teacher when i am around one. for me, a good teacher makes learning a lot of fun. okay, i'm not saying i study vedanta with swami pratyagbodhananda. i just was there when he gave a couple of talks. i like this guy a lot. how can i not when, as part of introducing him, he is referred to as the one who says, the food here is colorless, odorless and tasteless. his full moon face becomes a super full moon overflowing with laughter upon hearing this. i am not exaggerating when i say he is a sweet swami. the simple saffron bag he carries on his shoulder always has a baggie of sweets within. really nice ones too. chocolates. ginger candy. right off the bat of his first talk he says, i'm not in top form because i did not have my afternoon tea. by tea he does not mean the herbal drink vaidyagrama provides in the afternoons. swamiji means the real deal, fine chai. by the way he knows exactly where to get a good cup of chai in coimbatore. back to his teaching. even in a state deprived of 'afternoon tea' he manages to do some shining teaching. he is one of those fine ones who can teach through telling a story. his comedic timing is spot on. i'm not saying teachers should make students laugh but laughter infuses learning sublime scriptures with fun and ease.

you see, when we crack up mental activity stops in their tracks. the mind quiets down and becomes totally still. what happens then? the light of our innermost and highest self shines forth. it is sweet. it is joyous. it is a sense of deep peace. then the teaching in the story simply shine through the mental cracks and touch our hearts. we recognize the truth, we are receptive to the teaching and we laugh some more.

well, it definitely helps his approval rating, as far as i am concerned, that he and hwubby are like brothers and he says, your wife is an even more wonderful person than you are. you go, swamiji. i love you! a special shout out to vaidyagrama. left to myself i would never have met a vedanta swami.