"When you throw your seeds of Desire ..... Thought ....... Ambition ...... Greed ..... into this fire they are burnt. And then, finally, you throw your Ego ....... The most purified Dream ..... That too is burnt. This is real Yajña, real Ritual, real Sacrifice." 'Tantra Vision' Osho Rajneesh "The Wisdom combined with Method is a Path. The Method combined with Wisdom is a Path." 'The Jewel Ladder: LAMRIM" LTWA
Yoga means: To yoke. To tie, to bind, to discipline.
"When my body learns control, my mind will follow." So says the instructor, Bharat Singh, here at Kaivalyaddhama Yoga Ashram.
Practicing the Asanas, or postures, everyday, my body is changing rapidly. Some parts being toned, other parts limbering up. Still, some days it feels as if I am being torn apart.
Yoga is more than physical postures, the Asanas. It is a way of maintaining physical health, a technique for curing disease, a discipline for utilizing the breath of life, a dietary conditioning, a moral code, a meditation practice, a way of life. Yoga is a Path.
Toward Unfinished BusinessFlying out of the peace and tranquillity of Kathmandu back into the hot sweltering crowds of India I felt a pang of cold fear rush through my spine. What was I flying back into this madness for?
I had felt battered and abused for the past few months in India. Wandering aimlessly in the plains. An emotional wreck and physically wasted.
The ravages of psychic storms, searing heat, insufficient diet and the overwhelming frenzy of Indian crowds had taken their toll. Every cell of my body a grain of rice beaten white. I was a husk.
Nepal was the nourishment I needed to regain momentum, regain health, regain spirit. A regimen of cool weather, relaxing walks in the Kathmandu highlands, pasta and chocolate cake can do wonders.
Yet, my healing was not complete. I felt I was not finished with India.
Arriving back in Varanasi, I boarded a train the next day and crossed the continent in thirty hours on a first class express, headed toward Bombay, then south to Lonavla. I went straight to Kaivalyaddhama.
Kaivalyaddhama began in 1929, founded by Swami Kuvalyananda, to study research and promote the use of Yoga for health and healing.
Today, located among the Western Ghats, the hills above Lonavla, the Ashram consists of a teaching college, a physiological and philosophical research organization, a hospital, and a spiritual retreat center. In fact, the spirit of the ashram pervades the whole land.
I have come to this Ashram to relax before more extreme travels, to renew myself as a continuation of the healing process began in Nepal, and to learn Yoga.
I was supremely naive as to the extent of the transformation that was to occur in the month and a half I lived here.
Becoming AsceticMy first morning. Yoga begins at 7:30 a.m. Chai is served at six. The day begins early. A shower is mandatory before class.
Bharat Singh, a young dark well-built and handsome Indian man is the instructor as well as the manager of the hospital. In the Yoga hall he questions me on my past practices. I tell him I have a daily stretching routine that includes some Yoga.
I have acquired a stretching and exercise practice over the years from different teachers. This has served me well during my travels, keeping me fit and limber. He asks me to perform the routine for him and I oblige.
After an hour he looks me in the eye and exclaims: 'It is all External, not Internal. This is Exercise! This is not Yoga!'
Feeling the urge to tell my instructor where to 'Get Off!', I let that drop. No need to start a competition with another Indian. That's not why I am here. I came here to study Yoga. That's my intention.
Once I realize that, everything else just drops away, becomes easier.
Another Yoga session at 4 p.m. This time Mr. Singh instructs me to lie on the floor, belly up, arms and legs slightly spread, in a relaxed position. Shivasana. It is the most difficult pose to master of all the Yoga positions. Total relaxation.
Believing this will only be for a minute or two I lie there, anticipating the next posture. Slowly I begin to feel my body relax. The muscles in my back loosen and sink into the floor. A vertebra in my spine adjusts. I notice where tension resides in my legs, and feel that subside in the stillness.
I am still waiting for his next instructions and continue to lie as the instructor explains that Yoga is about relaxing and allowing. It is not vigorous.
Half an hour later I move to the next posture, and realize this will be a long slow process. Yet surprisingly I am willing to surrender and find out where this takes me.
Mornings begin at six, with chai, toiletries and a shower. Soon I will add the cleansing practices known as 'Kriyas' as well. Then Yoga Asanas, the physical postures, for an hour. After a brief meditation on to breakfast. Lunch is around 12:30, another Asana session at four, then dinner at seven. A cup of chai at three.
On the surface, this looks like a very relaxing, even boring day, with lots of time to do nothing. In the beginning I feel a low level of anxiety as the thought of listlessness looms like a shadow. Yet somehow I find every moment filled.
Mr. Singh is teaching me new Asanas slowly. Sometimes only one in a session. Sometimes none. Now it is Uttanapadasana. Lying on my back, raising both legs slowly, holding them up straight for up to two minutes. Then down. OUCH! My lumbar!
Next is Bhujangasana, the Cobra pose. On my belly, raising my head and back up. I feel tremendous pressure in my lower spine.
Even with years of exercise I begin to feel soreness and muscle pain. I am surprised to discover areas of my body that have not been attended to. This was not supposed to happen to a healthy body!
Mr. Singh keeps reminding me that Yoga is internal, not external. That it is not solely for the external muscles, but works on the deeper ones often unused and neglected by contemporary exercise. The postures apply pressure that massages and refreshes internal organs like the liver and kidneys so they may function optimally as well.
This and the pain tempers my impatience to proceed quickly. I am learning to breath slowly and wait.
The Yoga college at Kaivalyaddhama is in session. The school teaches a nine-month course for Yoga instructors which includes postures, therapeutic routines for curing illnesses, philosophy, physiology, yoga theory, cleansing and breathing practices and meditation. Most of the students are young Indian men and women.
I make friends with two westerners living here, enrolled in the college. Bruno, a slim athletic German. And Catarina, a studious enthusiastic woman from Holland. They both want to take this training into the West. They share with me quite revealing experiences about this school in the Ashram.
Bruno, slim, deep-set eyes and thick glasses, an incurable curiosity along with deep convictions. His frenetic energy is overwhelming at times. He shares with me his experiences enrolled in an Indian school.
He had been living in Ireland for years, studying Yoga and teaching. Now he wants to become certified, and felt the best place to learn was the land of origin, India.
The German likes the classes he is taking. They fill up the day and are intense. A lot of material is covered in nine months. This is more than just teaching the physical postures. He is becoming grounded in the history, philosophy, psychology and physiology of Yoga as a lifestyle as well. He relates well with the Indian students yet has severe criticisms of the college program.
He complains that the prices charged for Westerners here support the Indians, who pay far less.
I agree with him. Indians staying in the hospital pay next to nothing. I feel taken advantage of. Another form of exploitation. There may be a big discrepancy in the economic opportunity available between India and the West, yet even that does not compare to the cost of staying here.
Bruno relates how all the students are separated. The young men and women have separate residences. They are even prohibited from speaking with one another. The administration in the college has watchdogs and spies to assure that no sexual misconduct occurs. Much less casual conversation or anything else.
This creates enormous frustration among the students, and they complain to the westerners constantly. Bramacharya, or celibacy, is big here. And misunderstood.
Even after imbibing the freedom that Yoga offers, many of these students, aged between 21 to 25, will return to their homes where their families will choose a spouse for them according to the accepted Indian practice. The students may have no option but to accept their parents' dictate!
Bruno feels caught in a fence and bound by strict rules of conduct. Many of the students here look to him for advice.
His advice, of course, is to rebel!
I am learning that even here, in an Ashram dedicated to the personal freedom and liberation that Yoga offers, it is still part of Indian society. A society that may be one of the oldest on earth yet has lost touch with its once noble past.
The repression that is pervading is fascist! I have felt a touch of it myself in the way administrators here treat each of us. Like children.
They seem to only be able to relate from a parent-child perspective. I have not appreciated this and when it has occurred, I have stopped them.
There is some amusement for me, observing how the Indians are trying to relate to westerners from an old Indian conditioning! It just does not work.
In a sense, I am thankful for being an outsider simply studying Yoga. Not being enrolled in the college gives me more freedom and fewer constraints than my Western friends. I feel real empathy for Bruno and Catarina. Nine months is a long time to endure!
Yet also feel their presence here will be an awakening experience for the other students. And for them as well.
The Yoga is coming along slowly. Another Asana, another sore muscle. I am continuing with my normal stretching practice so those parts of my body not encountered by the new Asanas can maintain flexibility.
Already the Asanas are working much deeper. Each posture is held for one to two minutes. Not only toning the musculature, but touching the organs as well. My respiratory and digestive systems are changing significantly and I don't quite know what these changes represent.
I am now practicing lying, sitting and standing routines. Most of the Asanas focus on my torso. The pressure is greatest around my lumbar region and sacrum.
While practicing a sitting posture, Mr. Singh relates that the intention is to develop enough flexibility, strength and endurance in the spine for long periods of sitting meditation. Also to clear up the central channel, Sushumna, to allow the Kundalini energy to flow upwards from the base to the crown.
After the first week I begin doing Kriyas in the morning before Yoga. A Kriya is a cleansing practice, designed to remove toxins and unnecessary congestion in the body. I will take this slowly, doing one or two basic Kriyas every day, then adding more as I become accustomed to the daily routine.
The first 'Instruments of Torture' are a small white clay glazed pot. The Neti Pot has a spout that goes into my nostril. Another device is the rubber neti, a long thin rubber tube.
The Neti Pot is filled with warm salt water. Inserted in one nostril, the water pours into my nose, and out the open nostril. I feel the salt in the back of my head. It's not so bad, a little uncomfortable.
Next, the rubber neti ...... Up one nostril, through the nasal passage, into the back of the throat and out the mouth. Hmmm ....... not sure about this.
It seems simple enough as I jam the cord up my nose. And explode with pain like I had just stuck a spike into my body. And a tickling sensation that sets off a round of heavy sneezing. I can't find the entrance to the passage, and the longer I try, the more I sneeze.
Mr. Singh is amused as he helps me. I try to relax my nostrils as he expertly inserts the rubber tube up, in, then down my throat. Pulling the end out past my tongue, my eyes are in tears.
Water is pouring down my face, my eyeballs are turning red, nose dripping, and feeling like I want to gag, I push and pull the rope back and forth.
It is a nasal flossing for the sinuses. Just like dental floss, only bigger! Mr. Singh is laughing at me now. Amidst tears I feel humbled. And hope this works!
Sundays are days off for the staff. I still follow my daily routine, alone. I am thankful for the time. Not quite completely restful, still, it affords me extra time to practice difficult Asanas.
I immerse myself in Yoga books from the library during my spare time. I want to learn more about the background and benefits afforded by this discipline.
Asanas, Pranayama, Kundalini, Tantra, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The library here is extensive and an excellent place for research. The old tantric texts are enlightening. They provide a philosophical basis for existence while I am absorbed in the physical discipline daily.
While I am in the hall doing my stretching routine on many days an old retired Yoga instructor, Mr. Ram, often comes in to practice.
At 80 years old, his body is fit and limber. Moving slowly, quietly, he walks toward a corner of the room. Without any warm-up just places his head and hands on the floor and lifts up into Sirsasana, a full headstand!
Feet straight like an iron bar above his body, Mr. Ram remains there for thirty minutes. I can barely hold a basic pose for three minutes, at half his age! How does he do that?
Mr. Ram is helpful. during my practice, he gently corrects me or encourages me. And while observing my stretching routine, he has been quite uplifting, acknowledging that he is impressed with my flexibility. I feel validated. Not all Yoga teachers are quite so stuck on one method.
The food here is not the best. In fact, unimaginative and boring. I have eaten much better at the Tibetan monasteries. Usually servings of simple white rice, dal (lentils) and an overcooked vegetable. Occasionally a cup of curd.
In the morning, rice or a baked grain and a small glass of milk. I feel a little weak usually, wonder if I am protein deficient. Being on a full vegetarian diet now, there never seems to be enough. The kitchen is always running out of curd.
"No more curd, Baba!" the cook always tells me with a smile.
The Indians call this 'diet' Satvic. It is supposed to be the cleanest, most natural way to eat. No spices and no fancy preparations. Just plain and simple.
They claim that it is the healthiest food available. I don't buy it. And I have become much thinner, lost weight and cannot gain any on the food here.
Bruno suggests I try Chyawanprash, an Ayurvedic tonic. This seems to help. It is full of herbs, plants, vitamins and minerals. A natural preparation which I use to supplement an otherwise dull meal.
The cooks in the kitchen stand by with an amused smile. Mostly they just eat dal.
Catarina is having a difficult time as well. She is used to the personal freedom of the West.
This is her first time in India. She complains of the teachers in class not always speaking English and sometimes addressing the class in Hindi. The social customs, the cultural bias she feels toward women, and her health are also distressing her. Having been in India for over six months, I can sympathize.
I also realize most of her complaints are psychosomatic. They are simply out of fear. She is in an alien environment with little support.
I have certainly been there, away from home for the first time, living in a culture alien to mine. Bruno and I cheer her up. It's good to have a few familiar companions to share the trials with.
My body continues to go through changes. Some do not feel so great, yet with the environment and lifestyle change and with this heavy duty Yoga program I really do not know what to expect.
The other night I discovered a lump in my right leg near my groin. It was a little painful, causing discomfort, and even more fear in my mind.
Is it some kind of sympathetic reaction to the pulled muscle in my left leg? Maybe a cyst, an insect bite or a tumor!
There is also a lot of soreness around my pelvis, yet I am much more comfortable doing the postures learned a short time ago. My body is adapting. To what?
Bharat Singh is introducing me to the Pranayama breathing practices, the discipline of breath and the internal control of my Mind. The breathing practices are supposed to train the Yogin's Nervous System and control Energy flows.
At first, an easy task that quickly becomes difficult. This may be a long process.
At least I am able to use the rubber Neti without assistance during morning Kriyas now. Patience!
Another Guru?In the evenings, before dinner time I walk up to Swamiji's Kuti. It is a small hut, an old yellowing stucco house up in the hills away from the busy college and hospital.
A ten-minute walk past retreat buildings for Saddhus and meditators, past the vegetable fields and buffalo grazing. Up into the cool air and trees. I remove my shoes before entering the sacred space.
I enjoy visiting Swamiji. At six every evening and early in the morning he performs a Puja, or ritual. The evening Ritual is always an Agni Puja, or fire ritual. Lots of incense, fire, chanting.
I usually sit and meditate. The energy of the room surrounds me and comforts me. I am able to sit, half-lotus feeling no strain. My meditation has become surprisingly deep within those walls.
Swamiji always begins by passing around the Sacred Ash, Vibuti. This comes from the fire offering burnt every day. Behind him, an image of Krishna, his Deity, on an altar surrounded by flowers and fruit in crystal vases.
We spread some ash on our foreheads, arms and neck. He places flowers around the clay pot used as a burner, and slowly begins feeding the small flame with sticks of various kinds of wood. Occasionally he pours different incense mixtures onto the fire, and casually spoons ghee, or clarified butter, onto the sticks.
The room fills with the holy smoke as the chanting of a sacred mantra wraps all of us, usually about ten people, in folds of prayer. It is a welcome ending to the day, a time for ritual observation and reflection. Each of us in our own world of reverie, reverence and awe.
There is something here for me, I feel pulled to return almost daily for this ritual observance.
More than just a little solace, yet I don't quite know just yet. Just sinking deeper into a silent space and allowing my Mind to become still.
This has not occurred for quite a while. With all my constant travel and illness, that silence that feels so reassuring has escaped me. More than anything, this startling realization that what I have desired for so long is ... Peace.
Occasionally, thoughts arise, I notice them, and they pass like ships sailing through midnight waters. They come and are gone. No clinging, no inspection. A warm comfortable feeling of silence and still waters.
When the Puja is finished, Ama, a 90-year-old woman, a follower of the Swami, always sings a Bhajan or sacred hymn as an offering to her Guru.
Her voice, still strong, powerful. There is a tone of sadness and a little longing I detect. The strength and tone of her voice entice an evocative harmony within the walls.
I sense she is waiting out her final days here, and still full of life. I feel inspired by Ama's devotion, am appreciative of her simple presence and quiet acceptance.
There were two other Swamis who previously occupied this Kuti. First the founder of Kaivalyaddhama, Swami Kuvalyananda, then Swami Digumbarji.
Their graves lie just outside, enshrined in marble. These are beautiful to behold. Simple and aesthetically austere.
A peaceful serenity washes over me like a mountain spring every time I circle these eternal Samadhis, silently leaving a flower for each as an offering. These are the spiritual guides that developed and nourished Kaivalyaddhama.
Swami Mahesh Ananda is the latest in the line. He was a follower of Digumbarji, and a Yogin. Now, between mid-forties to mid-fifties, he is the secular Chairman of the Ashram as well as its Spiritual Leader.
In our conversations toward the end of my stay I ask him how he 'manages' the Ashram, with all the day-to-day activity, business decisions and interdepartmental politics. I imagine that with any organization, the leader must be overloaded with a multitude of decisions to make.
He just smiles and says "I let the administrators down the hill do everything. I just stay up here out of the way!"
He looks young. Always wearing only an orange robe. Short hair, a thin mustache, pitted face and a quick smile. The Swami likes to tell an amusing story of recent events.
Last year he had the full 'look' of a Guru. Long silver hair down to his waist, a full beard. The students often came to pay their respects, coming by the Kuti to kiss his feet and leave an offering.
One day he cut it all off. Cut his hair short and shaved his beard. The students were caught off guard! They did not even recognize their Swami! A new man!
A lean man with an otherworldly sparkle in his eyes. I have not spoken with him much, yet I felt an instant rapport, a deep connection the first time we meet! There is this sense about him of an accepting nature and open friendliness. I can trust this man.
It rains here occasionally now. The tail-end of the monsoon season. Most days after dinner I take a walk out of the Ashram, and have a smoke. One of the two I allow myself each day.
The other night after the rains I almost step on a snake as I meander down a dark path near the main gate! Still many animals around, kingfishers, small rodents, land crabs, fish, snakes. I feel sad this will not last, with construction growing in Lonavla.
The walks feel relaxing also. A different kind of meditation. Silent, yet there is the natural rhythm of nature all around. I can feel myself slowing down now. Did not realize till recently just how hectic my internal state had been.
In another time this would almost be boring. Now, I feel a naturalness to my casual existence.
I am getting used to the Kriyas every morning. Can now use the rubber Neti without difficulty. It is still a messy job.
The other morning Raoul, a young Indian living here as a patient wanting to cure arthritis was laughing at me as I struggled with the hose. Then he had to swallow a quart of hot salt water and regurgitate! As he stuck fingers down his throat, I had the last laugh!
My meditation at Swamiji's Kuti continues to deepen. In the last few days I realized, deep in the void somewhere, this just came up: that much of my discomfort, pettiness, impatience with Indian society and the day-to-day activities and trials while at times justified, is more often a mirror of my own internal anger.
I am walking in it. Brewing in it. An anger that is ultimately toward myself. Toward my own activities. Or inactivities.
I believe this has something to do with a sense of failure in these last six months. Like: "Within the next year I will return to America! To family, community, work. I have learned nothing of value in these last six months. Nothing useful in a western material world! Nothing tangible. I am doomed!"
I noticed this also had to do with a fear of going back to an 'ordinary job' in a boring world. How can I possibly go back? Where will I 'fit'? I don't even want to 'fit'! Hence, this internal anger that I externalize.
I reflect upon the last six months: Sitting with Poonjaji, doing Meditation Retreats in the Tibetan Monasteries, exploring old Gompas in Sikkim, trekking in Nepal, festivals and oracles in Ladakh, meeting the Dalai Lama, Bodhisattva Initiation, sacred dips in the Ganga, and much more.
Not so bad, really. I am working on releasing this loathing now. Through Meditation.
The Professors who teach in the college are available in the afternoons for discussions. Many have early morning classes, and they can be met in their office with questions and advice. I go to see Doctor Jah sometimes with Bruno and Catarina, sometimes alone.
Dr. Jah is Head of the Philosophy Department. A tall cheerful man in his late fifties. He is open and willing to discuss the history and meaning behind practice. I have many questions. Especially regarding Kundalini and the Chakras.
Dr. Jah explains that Kundalini, the intrinsic Life Energy that everyone possesses, lies dormant at the base of the spine.
For our spiritual development and to become 'fully functioning human beings', maybe Enlightened, this energy must be released and guided up through the Central Channel in the spine, the Sushumna.
Along the way, this powerful charge will clear up any blockages in the seven Chakra centers in the body and provide a path for Bliss or Nirvana to occur through Meditation.
Yoga is necessary in order for this to happen. Along with the breathing practices of Pranayama, all is a preparation for meditation.
He goes on to stress that the breath, or Prana, is the key to clearing blockages in other energetic passages throughout the body, and to calm the Mind. "Control the breath, control the Mind."
I feel enthusiastic from our talk, and also sense that this Path is a long road. Will I be able to follow this to the ultimate destination in this lifetime?
Dr. Jah relates how two paths came about in ancient times as a means to Liberation. Physical Yoga as a lifestyle and a preparation for higher disciplines is generally referred to as 'Hatha Yoga'.
The other, a direct path involving meditation alone. This was the teachings of the Buddha. Using meditation to free the Mind and not addressing the body, or Kundalini. The body is simply matter, or illusion, anyway!
I visit with the Doctor and other Professors at the college often. Their discourses add to my understanding of my body, the physiological and esoteric dimensions of my practice. I know this is only mental understanding. The help is a conceptual ground. What initiates my true transformation is the doing. The experience.
Raoul, the young hip Indian who lives a few doors away from me, is complaining of increasing pain in his joints. They are swollen from arthritis, and the Yoga does not seem to be alleviating his suffering. He has only been practicing the Asanas for a few weeks. I tell him to give it time.
This is not like a western medical treatment, give a drug and expect instant results. Yoga is a gradual process and it takes time for the body to heal itself. He can't expect a miracle cure just because he is on a schedule.
He actually would rather be spending time with his main squeeze, a young girl named Violet who comes to visit every other day. I kid him a lot about his 'Love-Affair'! The Indian scene for kids in their mid-20's is like the dating scene in early High School in the West! That sweetness and innocence bring back memories.
I have begun the Pranayama practice at the end of Asanas now. Doing Kapalabhati, or rapid breathing followed by Ujjaiye, a slow paced kind of exhaling. This is more difficult than it seems. Sometimes my lungs feel like exploding, wanting to gulp air.
Just keep remembering that this special breathing is clearing energy channels and uhhh ..... calming the Mind!
I realize it's just the sympathetic nervous system doing its job. Feel like I will die. And need to master my breath. There are harder things to come! Yesterday, I began to sit in Padmasana, Full Lotus!
Now I am drinking hot salt water and regurgitating early in the morning. Before breakfast, before chai. For the first time I swallowed a full length rubber hose, the 'Dand Dhauti'.
Could feel it down in my stomach as I held the other end in front of my mouth and forced water through it using my breath and stomach muscles. Back up that is!
Still a lot of tears. This is torture!
Somehow, I feel cleaner if not weaker when it's all finished. Some days I wonder why I am going through all of this. It seems like some weird form of self-abuse. Is it really worth it?
I've been feeling more like a patient in the hospital than a student learning Yoga. What with the rigid schedule of practice and meal times, the atmosphere created by old Indians hanging around for a 'rest' cure, and the physical sensations I am constantly aware of.
The staff at the hospital is not very helpful in providing information. There is a holiday period now. No one informs us.
I show up for Yoga practice in the morning, and no instructor. Everyone is gone. Bruno warned me of this! I like the time to relax and practice on my own, yet, I also want to receive as much instruction as possible.
More than that, It's my Western conditioning around communication. Besides, I am paying for this. Yes, I have a few expectations left!
My body continues to change, almost daily, and I notice new areas where I feel more freedom. Other parts are becoming increasingly stiff or sore. Especially my knees and ankles. All this bending and twisting. Is it really good for the extremities, or just the spine?
I have my doubts. Yoga is a discipline designed for specific results. At least the Hatha Yoga, or physical practice is.
What began as a casual interest to learn a few new Asanas has now become a lifestyle! With my body changing rapidly, I have also noticed changes in my attitudes, my psyche and spirit as well. The teachers here make it out to be a universal panacea!
More talks with Doctor Jah. He is providing a background for Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, one of the two ancient and revered scriptures giving spiritual insight around the discipline. Bruno, Catarina and I listen carefully.
The Sutras really advise a way of life, and recommend a particular approach to meditation as a means toward Liberation. There are all the usual actions of doing and non-doing. Advice on right outlook, right livelihood, right action. Also a specific set of practices to be followed in order to advance along the spiritual highway.
Basically a Canon, in code form, Patanjali prescribes a path and indicates the transformations necessary for spiritual progress.
In listening, it seems to me that Dr. Jah, and other professors I have spoken with here, have an intellectual and emotional investment in a system, and are reluctant to consider other points of view. Indeed, are not able to interpret experience in other than the way the books describe.
And, with Catarina around, they have a real fear and discomfort to discuss the sexual aspects of Kundalini and Tantra. Grown men!
At least Dr. Jah has opened up when I have spoken with him privately. I wonder sometimes if anyone here, aside from Swamiji, has had a Kundalini experience? I am totally absorbed!
Swamiji spoke a little today after Puja. He described different ways to receive the gifts of a spiritual practice.
One way is to allow it to happen, when it will, spontaneously. Like spilling ghee into the hand from a bowl. The other way is to dip a spoon into the bowl. To make a conscious effort towards awakening!
He uses novel terms to talk about mundane issues. Like with the connected aspects of giving and taking for example. This implies ownership, something I have to give. And taking implies possession, to get something from another.
He refers to this as 'Receiving and Returning'. Just using for a short time what is provided by the Universe!
The implication makes so much sense to me. I am reminded of the attitude of Native Americans. In ancient times it was not within the cultural paradigm to own land. Much less anything else. All was free and available for use when needed.
During the Puja I felt an awareness that struck my consciousness like a thunderbolt during meditation. It was the awareness of inside/outside that is so subtle, yet so strong!
I noticed that even during meditation, how truly seductive and compelling the lure of the senses are. The abruptness of this struck me so forcefully that I had to acknowledge my unconsciousness. My mind works actively toward distraction!
Pulling me out, noticing sounds, movement, skin sensation. From other awareness and meditation practice I have long been conscious, have indeed, worked for years in staying in touch with the inside. Exploring consciousness around feelings and dropping the outside distractions.
During my meditation, it just became bodily apparent how really difficult it is sometimes to maintain that 'Inner Vision'.
And with that, the discomforting and disheartening realization that I have truly been 'off-center' for months.
Pulled about by the senses and an emotional Roller-Coaster that has led ultimately to psychosomatic distress. I truly created this Reality! Illness and suffering.
I began to cry, and felt a desire to meditate even more. To find a way back. I know the way, yet I don't know the way.
I remembered what Poonjaji, my Guru in Lucknow, told me about the 'Movie Screen'. How everything outside the essential self is merely a distraction, and that I have a choice. To become involved in it or not. This time, my body made that wisdom eminently apparent!
Going Through ChangesI am lying in Halasana, the Plow pose. On my back, feet raised over my head, legs straight. My toes are touching the floor in back of my head. And I feel comfortable!
I can feel a warm rush of energy, like a flame coursing through my body. Starting from my feet, moving up my legs into my pelvis and torso, along the spine into the crown of my head. Is this the Kundalini? It feels ecstatic. Energizing.
Two weeks before this was an agonizing position. My back felt crinkled up and the energy that caromed through chaotically made me feel uncomfortable. It would stop, start, become blocked, then find another path to zoom into. A distressing experience.
Doctor Jah and Doctor Agarwal, one of the medical Physicians, explain to me the relationship between the Kundalini and Pranayam, or breath control.
They emphasize the need to clear up the left and right channels in the body, what they refer to as Sun and Moon. Only then can the Kundalini Shakti, or serpent energy resting at the base of the spine, rise to the final Chakra, Sahasrara. This is God-Realization, or Enlightenment.
Even the Physicians with western allopathic training accept the eastern concepts of body and spirit. The interconnectedness of the two and a different anatomical structure than what is depicted in standard medical texts. I wonder if this is a matter of faith or experience?
They both admit it is still difficult to describe what ultimately is indescribable. That you cannot quantify a subjective experience! Oh Yes, Oh Yes! Amen!
Bruno, Catarina and I took a taxi Sunday to Karla Caves. I 'Went Over The Wall', so to speak. Left the Ashram for a day's excursion away from Lonavla.
Karla Caves, a forty-minute taxi ride from town, is the site of a second-century Buddhist shrine. It's a half-mile steep hike up from the taxi stop. By the time we arrived, many Indians were there for a Sunday celebration. Many were carrying goats and chickens ...... uh oh! .........
The shrine is a magnificent monastery and meditation hall carved into the mountainside. An incredible display of early statuary guards the front entrance and can be seen throughout the hall.
In typical Indian fashion, a Hindu shrine was recently built right outside the main entrance, almost obscuring it. That's where all the Hindus headed. With their animals to sacrifice.
I suspect the Buddhas ashes would flutter if he knew how this sacred site dedicated to him was now being used!
Nevertheless, a colorful escapade. Families with their children and picnic baskets. Kids playing under the rocks, dancing to the beat of their Ghetto Blasters.
Catarina was like a child. This was the first time out of the Ashram and into India for her. It was beautiful to watch as she stared in awe at the women in their rainbow colored saris and at the hawks, diving down, just overhead, to catch a small field animal, or a piece of sacrificial meat.
This brought back memories for me of when I began traveling three years ago. Everything was new and novel then. I felt an innocence about the world and myself. I was an empty cup waiting to be filled. I notice myself returning more to that space now!
Afterward we all went into town for a real lunch! Dosas and Utthapan. Rice-bread-wrapped vegetables filled with Indian sauces. The first food I have eaten outside the Ashram in nearly three weeks.
Even this little excursion is exciting. I feel a little naughty in surrendering to desires of the flesh. What a treat!
Doctor Bhogal is the young bearded turbaned handsome man who is the head of the Psychology Research Department. He prefers to meditate. He has never done therapy with clients, yet has a solid University background, and quietly admits that it is impossible to do any real research here without computers. All the instrumentation is antiquated.
He gives me the usual spiel about Psychological Normal Behavior and personality adjustment through Yoga and meditation. I notice him avoiding the healing aspects and social/ societal influences.
Yet, his eyes light up, there is an inner fire when he begins speaking about the spiritual benefits of meditation. Clearly, for him, the spiritual path heals all!
I have noticed a rift in the college. A political fence that creates barriers and has a definite effect upon students and visitors alike.
It is primarily a division between the Philosophy and Physiology Departments. A kind of Mind versus Matter ongoing debate! Many teachers prefer to focus on the subjective experience of Yoga while others are more inclined to promote the physical health afforded.
This leads to some interesting discussions about the benefits and the ultimate aim. The Philosophers quite often quote from the ancient texts and wish to spread the spiritual gospel. This is a lifestyle and a Discipline for Enlightenment!
More experimentally-minded teachers are absorbed in the quantitative effects upon the body! How Yoga promotes health and well-being. How it cures everything from arthritis to diabetes to heart disease. I feel a little confused. Yet am pursuing this path wherever it leads.
At 5:30 in the morning I meet Dr. Bhogal at the Ashram Hall for a sit. He has invited me to become acquainted with his form of 'Divine Meditation'. I lie on my back, relaxed as he guides me.
Speaking gently, he instructs me to relax completely into the floor:
"Let the weight of my limbs become heavy. My body, letting go of aches and pains, sink deeply into a quiet space. ...... Moving consciousness up into my mind, just noticing and allowing whatever bliss to occur."
After fifteen minutes, I turn slowly to my right side, then another fifteen minutes on my left as well. Finally, sitting in silence.
I can feel myself slip into a deep trance state, recognizing a hypnotic induction. This is also meditation and carries into a silent space inside where all the noise, all the chatter of voices subside.
A restful place to be. Just be. Conscious, and not doing, not thinking. A cool awareness washes over me like a mountain stream, going nowhere. No past, no future, just this present moment residing in abiding potential.
Ahhh ...... Shanti, Peace! I feel lighter and freer after the session. There is a clarity of Mind that is a welcome start to the day. A feeling of being in tune, balanced. I thank the smiling Doctor for his instruction and head off to my morning stretch.
Occasionally, in the mornings after breakfast or in the afternoons I take a walk into the hills. Just above Swamiji's Kuti there are trails that lead back along mountain ridges to lakes. It is cool and peaceful up here. A time totally to myself.
In these walks I am noticing myself becoming stronger and more serene. A definite change is taking place. Where once I felt an abounding tension there just seems to be calmness now. I am becoming aware of the effects of this recovery on my body and my spirit.
I still feel some sadness with the awareness of just how far gone I was, and I am accepting that recognition more and more.
Maybe I had to go out there, leave all sense of harmony, just to be able to come back to my Center. Or perhaps to find a new place within, even more silent and grounded than before. Perhaps, in some way, all my self-created distress was simply a necessary step to be able to return, and to recognize where my Center resides.
The noise around the Ashram and the town fades away into the sound of insects and birds. I come up here for a bit of Nature. Touching the Earth is like coming back Home. It is part of the healing process.
Hawks circle close up in the hills, looking for small animals, their glide a majestic sight as they screech in that wail that sounds so much like an infant crying for milk. Yet I know they are truly rulers of the air!
The side of the mountain is filled with Buffalo trails, spiny thorn bushes and wildflowers. Trees protect against the hot sun and occasionally I spot a snake in amongst the shrubs.
This was an ancient volcanic and oceanic region. It is called the Western Ghats because at one time it was submerged. This makes for some interesting mineral deposits. I find pieces of Crystal and Tiger Eye Agate in abundance. I collect a few stones to keep as mementos.
New VisionsThe time for me to leave the Ashram is approaching. I can feel this pull to move on, and also feel myself preparing, becoming stronger. I have been here for over a month and gradually have absorbed a great deal of wisdom. In the process my body mind and spirit have undergone immense transformation.
Lately I have been reflecting on returning to America.
These are occasionally daydreams, at other times more specific plans. I ponder returning to Esalen, the place I have considered Home for many years.
Have also dropped that wish, just let it go, and fantasized about living in an entirely new land. Finding a new environment for settling down. The funny thing is realizing what attachments I have held onto for so long, now finally are being released.
Also, have began observing possibilities for work. Making money and creating an economic base for myself. What I might do, like open a therapy practice or become involved with another Intentional Community.
I have become aware that it is approaching time to write this book I have been developing for the past three years. This is a BIG undertaking.
This is also strange. At the beginning of my journey I made an intention, an affirmation to not focus on anything that had to do with work or living in America until about three months before ending my travels.
I find I am contemplating this now. Yet, do not feel any distress over it. Also I became aware that I will turn forty next year. Not so far away. I wonder if this has anything to do with my change of awareness focus.
This is a tremendous shift from deep inside. A message or an acknowledgment that my Pilgrimage is coming to an end. I will be closing one door and about to open another. A new chapter is just on the horizon. I can feel it, and a slight tremor of anticipation mixed with fear flickers in my heart. What will the coming year be like?
The first private visit to Swamiji came well over a month after I arrived at Kaivalyaddhama. He had invited me many times before and I felt like waiting. Just sitting at his Puja in meditation during the evenings was enough.
We had this immediate connection, a knowing look in the eyes that tells far more than words. He knew why I was here, and accepted me at my own pace. In fact, more than that, I have felt his tremendous support for the entire time I have been here.
During our talk I share with him my realization that when I first came to Kaivalyaddhama it was for Yoga instruction. That almost immediately after arriving, I knew there was another reason. I needed to remove myself from the world. I had been traveling on the road for years, and in the past few months had collapsed totally.
I had gone through an intensely difficult period, had literally died to an old way of life, yet had not emerged into something new. I needed to find a supportive space to fully heal myself and to integrate. Sometimes the Healer needs to be healed as well.
Swamiji just nodded and smiled. He looked at me with understanding and tremendous caring. He knew all of this already!
Swamiji likes to tell parables in an ironic, amusing and seemingly chaotic style. He will talk in riddle and aphorism for hours, weaving a web of words and stories that becomes strange, almost without any point of view or direction. Then toward the end, amazingly, he ties all the strings together into a complete and solid whole. Coming to the message he has been developing all along in a very clear and concise way. Within a few sentences.
He spoke to me about the polarity of happiness and suffering. That I cannot have one without the other. They are two sides of the same experience. They are like a clock, with one state at twelve noon, the other at midnight.
He emphasized the relationship of choice. That we can choose to stay on the wheel of Samsara, living in the material world with all the material attachments, or we can choose to move toward union with the Creator. With Brahman.
Emphasizing the necessity of suffering, he relates how this opens the door to the Path. That it is necessary to go beyond fear, and to pass through suffering as well. To go straight into the fire.
He also mentions the need to keep giving. Like giving food away, or helping others in distress. This develops the compassion within, for oneself.
I inform him that I will leave soon, that my healing is just about complete. He invites me to stay longer. In fact, urging me to have patience and explore what else might develop within my experience here. Upon leaving I assure him that I will meditate on his offer.
RebirthMy stay at the Ashram will soon end. I have received enough Yoga instruction to carry this on my own. I marvel at the amount of asanas I am doing now. Easily!
Mr. Singh's patience and instruction was a blessed gift. My body has changed considerably. My spine immensely stronger. More flexible. I can feel the space created in other muscle groups throughout my body. Like a breath of fresh air.
I still feel quite a bit of pain in my knees and ankles. I wonder if Yoga is all that good for the extremities. Yet, all else is toned and open.
This practice has certainly affected my internal organs as well. Digestion is smoother. My stomach firmer and my lungs breathe in a deep slow rhythmic manner that feels refreshing and easy. I feel energy coursing like a smooth wave throughout my body.
The Kriyas and the Sattvic diet have cleansed my body of much of the toxins that have resided there for too long. They were like a continual weight carried around, unnoticed until they are removed. I feel lighter and fresher, more energetic.
And the meditation has cleansed my Mind. Here too I feel somehow more spacious and freer. More open and receptive. Like the cup has been emptied of a lot of spoiled drink, washed and is waiting to be filled again.
This process became a gift for me. A surprising one.
I came here for one thing, to learn Yoga! That I immersed myself in the lifestyle as well is fortunate. Only then could I begin to realize the significance of where I had started, and how complete a transformation was required.
At times I felt frustrated that things took so long. Despair at my attempts toward perfection, losing sight of patience. And bored at the seemingly unexciting day-to-day routine I was experiencing.
As Swamiji says, I have truly come through the fire! My whole being feels renewed. Every cell tingling with health and appreciation for life. I feel like a newborn, full of wonder and anticipation. This is the cycle. Death and Rebirth!
I will be leaving for Pune soon. I feel this urge to play and explore. What better place than Osho Rajneesh's ashram. All those celebrating Sanyasins! I want to do a few groups and just experience this new self among other westerners.
My final day I visited Swamiji to say goodbye and to thank him for offering a haven from the rain and cold. I felt ready to leave; it was time and he responded with equanimity and a final lesson:
"You have sprouted a shoot from a tender seed. It is a small plant. Now, like a parent, you must care and nurture it. You must help that seedling grow! Treat it with care and respect out in the world. Swamiji will stay put, in one place. He will be here to take care of the forest. He does not leave the park. He is responsible for, and must take care of the other plants, animals and people! You must go out and experience. Then, when it becomes necessary, return here!"
"Actions are neither white nor black in the case of Yogins." 'Yoga Sutras of Patanjali' Patanjali
Copyright 1994 Steven Gilman
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