Sorry guys for having disappeared without even a mention. Apologies due. But, I have been away… Away to heaven on Earth! 🙂
No internet, No TV, No mode of entertainment, complete silence… and yet, one thing that was omnipotent there: Bliss
I was off to participate in the Navratri Advanced Course in the Art of Living Ashram in Bangalore. Somehow, I have always been sceptical of “Ashrams (Hermitage)” and “Sants (Saints)”. It was taught to us right from childhood not to get swayed away by these so-called mahatmas. But, when my parents got involved, I knew it was different. So, when I got a chance this time to attend a 5-day course, I decided to go for it.
And I am so glad I made that decision. Those 5 days at the ashram were blissful, with a feeling of contentment and happiness washing all over you!! 🙂 It felt so nice just to be there!! 🙂
Now, all the 5 days involved waking up at 6, reaching the Yagya shaala at 7 (sometimes at 6), do yoga and Sudarshan kriya (A patent of the founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, it is a kind of breathing exercise) for about 1.5 hours. You would get the break for breakfast after this for almost 2 hours. Would be needed to come back and then start meditation (Samadhi). After this would be lunch break of another 2 hours. In this, people would eat, rest or do service (Seva).
And then come back for a session on Srimad Bhaagvat. The swamiji who was taking the session was one of the most effective and powerful speakers I have seen and yet so simple! I would be very sleepy when I would come for his session and surprisingly, the moment he would start, I would go in a trance and sleep would disappear (This is quite surprising, since I cant concentrate for more than half an hour straight and am hardly mesmerised by any speaker). In that session, he would tell us about Ramayan, Mahabharat, Bhagavad Gita and also about our Vedas and Upanishads. And he would tell us how each one of these is so relevant in our lives today! Beautiful 🙂
After that, some more meditation, Rudra pooja and then Satsang followed by Gurudev’s knowledge session! In between you would get an hours break for dinner. After which, we would go back to our rooms and sleep.
Now, for the most interesting part of the whole course: Maun!
Maun means Silence. So, we were supposed to observe silence for around 4 days, out of the 5 days! And initially, it was very very difficult. The talkative person that I am, it was a pain to actually keep silent. I have this obsessive need to always tell something at the time it happens… So usually, my family and Noobie are subject to my constant chatter all the time… Now, suddenly, you cant talk – not one word! You could only sing bhajans during Satsang, but not talk!
So, initially it was very difficult… I would try and make up for it by talking to myself in my head… That really dint help things much. So, for the first one day, I was very restless… But, then I would get so involved in seva, that I would stop noticing that I am really not talking!!
My most favorite parts of the course were the knowledge sessions and seva. Knowledge sessions were very profound and interesting. They made you think. Think real hard about actual problems the mankind is facing these days. And how was it back in the days of yore! 🙂
And seva was the best amongst all. Ashram is one of the most operationally excellent places I have ever seen! To give you an example, on payroll, ashram has about 11 people in housing department and around 550 rooms in the Ashram. All these rooms are cleaned daily. Almost 10000 people eat in the kitchen, which includes people who stay in the Ashram and visitors. And yet, there are only 17 people employed in the kitchen.
So, who does it? How does it happen? How are all those rooms cleaned? How are all those people fed?
It is all done by people. people like u, me… anyone who visits Ashram and wants to do something for the people – wants to do seva! Seva or service could include anything from cutting vegetables to making prasad laddoos to cleaning the kitchen floor to washing the utensils to sweeping the road to picking the stones to wiping the toilet floors… It could be anything. And people who go there to do the course do it… and do it willingly. The best part about the ashram is that you are the king/queen of what you want to do – No one forces you to do anything. So people voluntarily work and make the ashram function!
I did most of those things while in the ashram and you would feel so satisfied and content at the end of it, that you would end up meditating a lot better!
All in all, a wonderful place, wonderful people, a wonderful experience and over and above that, a wonderful Guru that I have found in Sri Sri! 🙂
God bless us all! 🙂