Monday, December 29, 2008

Indulgence!

Coming home to Abu Dhabi the last 5 days have been complete indulgence. Abu Dhabi is the capital emirate of the desert kingdom of United Arab Emirates, 180 km from its more famed cousin, Dubai. Although the economy here is literally fuelled by oil, this place is full of shops and restaurants and more shops. Pleasant past memories keep coming back as i did my schooling from 8th to 12th here. 

I arrived on the 23rd night and dad, mum and tanvi were here to pick me. Tanvi was sweet enough to arrange a Starbucks blueberry cheesecake for the welcome, which she later ate. Home has been overhauled completely with a brand new 46 inch
 Samsung HDTV, and new furniture. It all seemed very impressive when entering. Mum, dad and tanvi were concerned with the weight loss as usual. Thursday was the day of our Abu Dhabi satsang, and around a 100 devotees were at Mr Menon's place at 7 pm. Deepa (Menon) is here with her husband Kartik and they have been doing amazing seva in washington DC. Deepa is busy organizing big AOL events in US while Kartik is teaching there. The satsang was nice. 

Day 3 was a shopping trip to Dubai. The roads are amazing so we covered 180 kms to dubai in 1.5 hours. We had a nice multi-cuisine lunch covering papaya salad (thai), grilled haloumi (lebanese), submarine sandwiches, thalis, pasta, enchiladas, fries and doughnuts. That folowed by the purchase of a brand new PS3!

The next day was about setting up the ps3 on the HDMI port to get the full-1080p output. Man
 the TV really came alive when playing the games. I had asked dad to bring a blu-ray edition of Dark Knight rom the US. The images look so real, you can even discern the strands of Heath Ledger's hair. It was indeed a merry christmas :)

And we saw ghajini yesterday, which i personally did not like. But the caramel popcorn and nachos with cheese dips at the theater made up for it. God, i had to jog nearly 5kms today to burn off some of those calories...

Total indulgence, total holiday...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Superb Advance Course!

Behind Closed Eyes
Lie Infinite Skies

Where Emotions dance
And Stress drains

Where Hearts bloom
And Silence Reigns

Where Bliss pours
And Love rains

Where Truth dawns
And He reigns still and blissful
 
The last weeks advance course was the  perfect tonic after a long field trip. It was my 10th course and am awaiting number 11. That said, i was also preparing to get home to abu dhabi, which i did last night. The flight was pleasant, jet airways from bangalore to mumbai and then mumbai to abu dhabi. Jet had a huge selection of movies and i saw singh is kingg which was decent fun.  Today, i conducted a volunteers meet and there is our long weekly satsang tomorrow.

So things are happening here. Wil update soon [:)]

The first day has been a good one. Already








Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Small Issues

Coming back to bangalore was pleasant - a nice volvo bus with spacious seating, and then a spice jet from guwahati to bangalore, followed by anoter volvo from the airport to woody's. Had a pizza after 2 months, and well i realised i was quite well off with the food in Itanagar :)

Am just tying up loose ends, getting last minute formalities done. Had a weird experience with Reliance Money. I had applied for the demat account and all formalities were done. By the time they finally sent the welcome kit, i had left for arunachal. I got a call from their executive that once i was back in Bangalore i could collect the kit. When i went ther today, the executive at the desk checked her records and told me it is alrady delivered. Now a demat account is almost like a pasport, you cant just deliver it to anybody without proper identification, and these people had done just that. On asking why they did not check for identity, they coolly replied that that is how the courier company operates. I was bemused by how coolly they just pass the buck. Am working on resolving the issue at present. Lets see how it shapes up.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A New Begining

Guruji has a grand vision of seva for Arunachal and several teachers are involved, working to make it happen. A DSN, Advance Course, and a TTC have been announced at the new ashram. Work is picking up again.

Personally, it has been an invaluable learning being here. Shall be headed back to Bangalore soon and then will see how things progress from there. Have my MBA this year for which Guruji had also enquired.

Although it has only been two months, but something indescribable has been experienced in this short span. I had come to Arunachal hoping to do something adventurous, something deeply meaningful, to contribute and give to my Master. Instead i am going back with full hands and a full heart, laden with His abundant blessings and gifts. Man, it feels amazing! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dec 4 & 5: More time with Guruji

On dec 3 Guruji returned from Tawang. Our group of volunteers and teachers were happily busy since the morning to recieve all our family who had come for the advance course from Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Manipur. The buses started coming in by 5.30 am and we had our stall up at Ganga market, recieving and directing the entrants to their guest houses/hotels/etc. An important learning to note is that having alphabetically-sorted state wise lists is a much better idea to quickly complete the formalities so people may comfortably proceed. The morning program lasted till around 8.30 am. Then Guruji visited our Art of Living school, which also served till yesterday as the Art of Living office, and he met all the kids and others who had assembled for his darshan. His cavalcade was bigger that day because others had joined in from Guwahati. I got to meet many close friends from Guwahati and the atmosphere was festive. In the afternoon, there were about 15 of us volunteers who worked at the Banquet hall, cleaning the room for the advance which was to start the next day. 

Loads of work was done that day, with the setting up of  the PDS venue for which around a 100 odd volunteers worked the whole day and night. People had interesting experiences. Alok narrated how Bhavesh and he had to wake up a shopkeeper at midnight to buy plastic.

The PDS started as scheduled, and so did the ad
vance course. I had the privilege of conducting Long Kriya for the 370 Advance Course participants in the venue. Pankaj Bhaiya was a treat to be with throughout the program. Dixon and Deepak joined us at the center in the evening.

Dec 5 was another yummy day. I was sitting inside his kuteer the whole day, and had a chance to carry and lay his asan. I witnessed a press conference and 4 important meetings that day and again, it was a treat to watch him in action. So gentle, so skilful yet, fortuantely for all of us,
  Guruji always gets His way. He left for the ashram in teh afternoon and promised he would meet us all in the evening. I had some personal difficulties i wanted to speak to him about and he smiled and told me we shall talk about it in the night.

There were many important messages Guruji sent across in all his meetings, one He is extremely concerned about 
preserving the indigenous culture and traditions of Arunachal, which many sociologists claim to be as one of the richest surviving traditions. Second, he was very clear that China should extend its hand to shake hands with all of India, and not try to cut off a finger of the hand by claiming Arunachal. he also mentioned about the need for Arunachalis to start growing their own crops instead of importing from Assam, and for exporting the delicious kiwi fruits and pineapples grown here to all the country. Arunachal kiwis taste better than the NZ ones and cost only a fraction. guruji emphasised hwo important it is from Arunachal to build roads and connect itself with thes rest of the country. And he has told all Art of Living members to contribute to work for Arunachal.

The evevning meditation and stasang was bliss. Guruji spoke on Shiva, who is worshipped
 diligently in Arunachal. And he had more meetings in the night. He must have met close to a
 1000 people through his personal meetings that day, and yet he ahd enough sparkle and mischief left over. He is so patient when listening to the smallest of things.

And when he left in the morning, he took our hearts away. 

Now, in the aftermath of his visit, we are getting started once again. Feels like a Monday
 morning...

Dec 2 : Seva and Radio Interview


On Dec 2, Guruji left for a day to Tawang, called the switzerland of india because of its beautiful landscape, its still rivers, its snow, its pine trees and lofty monasteries. There were entertaining moments when he was leaving and certain members of his entourage without seats wanted to travel with him and were trying to exchange with others who were. I had a wonderful chance to meet with some teachers and organizers who have with Art of Living for a long long time. One lady, Shashi ji, who is a pillar of art of living since 1985, used to organize apex courses for Guruji way back in '87. The power of the lady was phenomenal and her conversations with Guruji are almost like two close friends talking to each other. At one point, she ws telling Guruji "Aaaj aap pareshaan lag rahe ho. Jo bhi problem hai mujhko de do." :) (You seem tired today. Give me all your problems). And there were other teachers who have been working wonderfully for so long in the North East.
My afternoon seva was to take our guests from Canada on a tour and on shopping. There were 4 ladies from Canada, who belong to the indienous community there, and who mentioned how with conversion the entire local culture is being wiped out with escalating stress and problems in the society. Hitu, their Indo-Mauritian teacher did the translation between french and english for our sake. We went and saw the local museum which highlighted the dressing, weapons, early statues and paintings of the 26 major tribes who inhabit Arunachal even today. There is a huge diversity in the people here, from the monk-like Monpas of Tawang (in Eastern Arunachal), who build monasteries, work businesses and are more docile, to the hunter Wanchos of Tirap district, in western arunachal, who depend p
rimarily on hunting and have elaborate war helmets adorned with boar tusks and bear hide. We also saw the main Gompa, the Buddhist temple, of Itanagar, which was filled with paintings of all the Bodhis and the Yakshas. The temple was very serene.

After the touring, we went shopping for local handicrafts. We found a small Apatani shop and the ladies spent close to 2 hours shopping for all manners of local skirts, shawls and trinkets. We had lunch at E&K's, the Cafe Coffee Day of Itanagar, and we parted in the evening at their guest house.

On returning i was given the very pleasant job of escorting Vikram Bhaiya to the local FM station for a radio inerview, and i was off to the ashram to pick him up. Vikram bhaiya was to be interviewed in the most popular radio show here between 9 pm and 11 pm, and we arrived to a warm welcome at the radio station. After the initial pleasantries with the owner of the channel, bhaiya was headed to the interview, at which point RJ Samir asked me if i would also come along. Man, it was quite a thrill to be sitting inside a live studio with the big radio mikes. Although it was to be Vikram Bhaiya's interview, but the RJ introduced me as a 'youth specialist' f the Art of Living and asked me several questions on youth. This was totally a blast! Vikram Bhaiya is so perfect at everything he does, and it was a teat to watch his smooooth answers to all the questions that were posed.

After the show, i went with him to the ashram and we had a fun conversation on topics ranging from radio shows to macs. Was an unforgettable day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dec 1: A Day with the Master

In the company of a sadguru, when we are truly ourselves, time seems to slow down. Sights, sounds and words seem magnified, every happening is redolent with nuances, and life seems so much more special. One moment spent with him seems like a day, an hour feels like a month, a day like infinity. The last 5 days have changed something within. It feels like all the wonderful profound experiences, all the learnings of a lifetime were magically lived through in 5 days. And this is one of many more to come.

The first day he landed, Dec 1, we were all at the helipad waiting like mad for him. The weather 
was surprsingly (or maybe not) cheerful in the anticipation of his arrival. The sky shone azure, the verdant hills seemed to be dancing in stillness. His white and orange chopper made a nice, slow landing and he glided majestically. I got a chance to welcome him with a flower and gift him a white woolen cap. When recieving the cap, he remarked "Humein topi pehna rahe ho?" (tr. pulling a fast one on me?), at which we all laughed and i replied "Guruji, sar aapke havale hai" (Guruji, i am at your command) at which he laughed:)  The Tribal Women performed a traditional welcome dance and then we all rushed after him to inaugurate the
 new art of living center here. The elcome was done in Dyoni Polo ceremony (this is the local religion, which literally means worship of the sun and the moon). He spent some time here and then we were off to the Banquet Hall, the VIP guesthouse, where he occupied suite 110. He was resting, reading his emails and newspapers after a long day of travel and told me to read certain articles out to Him. After the newspapers, Guruji slept awhile and in the evening there were rounds of meetings with the local politicians and imprtant dignitaries. It was a treat to watch him so close in action. There is not a wasted comment, a wasted look or a wasted gesture. Everything He does, there is so much significance behind it. Sitting in his presence, i was feeling so charged and focused. He retired to rest around 10 in the night, and that was the end of a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2 Magical Days!

Over the last two weeks there has been frenetic activity in Nahar Lagun for his visit. We did midnight postering around town, and followed up with repostering because some miscrant group had done an organized vandalizing of our posters, we did a seven day divine shop stall to sell art of living stuff and PDS passes. That wasinteresting, as peoplewould come with all sorts of requests, and would want discounts...

And finally, at the end of the long wait, HE arrived yesterday. Technically he never landed because he reached at 2pm at the nahar lagun helipad, welcomed by traditional dancers belonging to both the Nyishi and Galo communities, and he floated in. I gifted him a pretty white cap, which he accepted an said "Humein topi pehna rahe ho?". I culd only smile and reply "Guruji sar aapke havale hai". He laughed at this. He headed to the newly constructed Donyi Polo mandir next to veterinary hospital, and inaugurated the place. Then the procession moved to the Banquet Hall and i read aloud the newspaper for Guruji while he sat right in front of me.
I got a full 8 hours with Him yesterday...Cant even begin to describe how it felt like..

The fu continued ntop th4e mcornin. But all the jazz in anohet mail

Saturday, November 29, 2008

More Pics








The last 3 weeks have been an education, in people, practices and in myself..It was almost like being back in IIT again! As a snapshot, we covered plenty of homes inviting people for Guruji's PDS, i set a divine shop stall in the midst of Nahar Lagu's takkar complex for a week, and took lots of pics:) More detailed post coming soon. Some pics in the meantime !...enjoy


Friday, November 7, 2008

Some musings on people here

Hmm, although wisdom lies in not judging and classifying people, but being Indian, it is inevitable that you scan people from head to toe and try and put them into different baskets...

 Ok first difference, am reminded of the brutal old expression "Barking dogs don't bite". So in Bangalore i have seen furious debates, threats, exagerrated gestures and general coldness being thrown about. The people in Arunachal are simpler, if they like you, they will smile and be happy with you, if you throw too much attitude or piss them off, they would beat you up. Very little barking.

 Second, "Chikna" factor. People here seem like you could put a drop of water on their skin and it would slip right off. They are shorter on an average, well built and have great dressing sense. In Bangalore, people are much more intellectual. 

 Third, most jobs are sarkari, so there is a sarkari atitude to living life (which is commitments are meant to be made but to be followed at ones own leisure). Life is literally 'laid back'. Can't really blame the people for that as there is no real industry or jobs here and the ambitious youth usually look for opportunities outside arunachal. Also, the government inhibits outside investment into the state.

 People here are very free and open in their behavior, if they feel something they express it and do not get into mind games. Also, Arunachali people are divided into many tribes and they retain their tribal identity also. The dominant tribe here in itanagar is nyishi, who are more inclined towards gundagiri and want to have things their way, but are very friendly if they like you. Girls don't live with inhibitions or insecurities and are very well dressed most of the time.

 Hmm, will update as other thoughts come to mind

 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

YES Course, PDS passes, et al

People around the world have some things in common - all around the world parents force their children to brush, men always want the remote to the TV, and individuals suddenly realize that they dont have time when it is time to enrol into art of living courses. Thanks to working for YES+ courses, there are plenty of antidotes i have learned as a volunteer for that kind of behavior. Doors banged shut not withstanding, we have been getting positive vibes from people generally for the upcoming PDS - the first time our beloved Master will be conducting a PDS in North East India. Work is on in full swing and teams of teachers, volunteers, devotees are going door to door canvassing and enrolling people for the course. 

I also recieved a pleasant surprise on Sunday night, after completing the previous course, that i would have to conduct a YES course and here are 30 wonderful kids at the Royal International School here who now belong to me :) Will post pics tomorrow. The YES course is just so much fun that everyone should experiee this. We have been having rounds of suryanamaskar relay races, om games, etc etc. Will have an intro talk for PDS for all the students tomorrow and am hoping that we have a great turnout here....

Happy blogging and ciao for now

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Youth course at RGU


Last week's course at the RGU in Itanagar went off well. There was a bit of drama when itstated out with some students noisily demanding the use of the venue when the kriya was going on, and i had to calm them down. The kriya went well with the participants. Disucssions were interesting and they were all moved by Love Moves the World'. Two interesting facts about the course, in the intro talk given at the girl's hostel 10 of them registered out of 21 on the spot. Secondly, the only guy in the course dropped out because he was too shy. So we had an all-girls course. Was great fun to teach, and many learnings. I returned on sunday night and am now reachable on my phone. Have started a YES course yesterday, so its back to back courses at present.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Updated Snapshots of Heaven

NEWS UPDATE: As i have no internet connection or phone avail at the university, hers a quick upate. we started with a course for 10 students in the campus....it was a lot of fub considering that i was working alone there and they have not had any aol presence in the campus before...
today is the kriya day and i hope for a great course ahead..

Also i saw clouds floating through mountains and drove through a cloud for the first tinme yesterday ! this place is gorgeous...
 
Finally pics from gorgeous Arunachal Pradesh. Enjoy! All these pics are taken from a mobile phone from our AOL center here, so you can imagine how it must be , specially after a beautiful long kriya or sadhana session! Nature walk simply means going to the terrace here :)




Friday, October 24, 2008

Rocking Rajiv Gandhi University

Hi, some delays in bloggin activities as i am presently put up in the Rajiv Gandhi university where i dont have an internet connection. So here are the latest happenings.

The Rajiv Gandhi university campus can be mistaken for a hill station resort. It is situated atop a small peak of the low lying Rono hillocks. I am here working towards hopefully the biggest youth course yet in Itanagar. The view all around the campus is gorgeous, As far as the eye can see there are green hillocks in every direction. The university has been very warm and gracious by offering me a stay in the special suite of their guest house, which has all amenities, including a TV, AC, sofas, double bed, dressing tables, study table and a view in 3 different directions. I landed here on Wednesday and met with the vice chancellor, Mr Belliappa, who has worked for 15 years with the Mysore university and then with Aatung, my friend and guide in the university. I have been traveling everyday to the town of Nahar Lagun, 15 kms away, to conduct knowledge sessions for my students from the last week’s course and it has been a blast so far. We conducted our first rounds of intro talks in the subansri and the lohit boys hostels yesterday and the response has been amazing. Most students wanted to enroll for the course. We have around 40 confirmations already. On Monday, I would approach the women’s hostel for intro talks and also start getting the forms filled and the money collected. The venue would be finalized on Monday for the course which shall be from Tuesday 28 oct, my birthday, to Sunday 2 November from 4-6.30 pm. Looking forward to a huge turnout. Will put up pics as soon as I get my camera. In the meantime, wishing you all happy blogging.


One thing i really enjoyed was conducting my first yes+ intro talk in hindi. Could not really translate ability to focus and relax and ability to handle doubts completely, as this may have killed off the effect somewhat. But you are welcome to offer suggestions for hindi points.

Another thing I immensely enjoy about the university, I get to jog down and up the 2.5 km hill atop which the university is situated every morning, and man, this is an experience to be had J

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jogging Meri Jaan


Guruji, man mein khayaal bahut aate hain? Kam karne ke liye kya karein? (Guruji i think a lot. What may i do to resolve this?
A. Khayaal ate hain? Aisa karo roz 5 km daud lagao. Sab theek ho jayega (Jog 5k a day. All thoughts would vanish!)

My dil went baag baag. Ma kasam if i could have whistled, i would have made it a hoot to remember that day....Ah jogging, jogging is my favorite favorite exersise. I had started it back in 9th std (to lose weight), and had stopped in between, but this habit really took off in the 2nd year of engineering when i was striving to find a balance between brutal academics, hostel life and personal aspirations at IIT Delhi. While many of my friends took to smoking and alcohol for the same, i was looking for something better. Plus i realy really wanted to be in the IIT basketball team and my fitness levels were in violent opposition to this aspiration. 

As the saying goes, if you sleep with a problem, you wake up with the solution in your hands (double meaning intended, courtesy Sarin Suares from IIT). I have so many fond memories of the 5, sometimes 7 rounds, that i would take at the SDA ground next to the IIT campus. Jogging hard, followed by stretching and push ups, would be a liberating experience. Saare din ki tension would be expelled from my dimaag and i would feel so fresh and rested. I found jogging so effective that i started it in the evenings during exam days also, and it actually helped relieve anxiety and tension in those days. Of course, it could have never been so effective had i not learnt the Sudarshan Kriya, because the Kriya really established the rhythm in the breath.

Bangalore was not so friendly towards my jogging, as the high pollen count would make me sneeze frequently. But jogging 3ks downhill and uphill in the pristine mountain air in itanagar, with green hills bounding the road, is sheer bliss. Jogging completes the awesome experience that is gained from Surya Namaskars and Sudarshan Kriya.

Go ahead, try it out!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Sun Rises in the land of the Rising Sun

The first youth course here in itanagar was a blast, with His presence flowing. Cries of ‘Gurudev rocks’ and ‘Jai Gurudev’ simply would not stop on the last day of the course. 15 chosen ones from  the Mass Communication department of  the Rajiv Gandhi university took up this 6 day transformation and what 6 days these were. The first day was conducted by Bhavesh ji and I started teaching on the second day, having landed in itanagar just 4 hours earlier. The first Long Kriya conducted that day was a bolt for the participants. Their energies settled somewhat on the next day with the second kriya. By day 4, we were all more at ease, and the games and Surya namaskars were more fun by now. Things really took off on Saturday when we conducted a long session at our itanagar center. The center has a beautiful hall and we had tons of processes and discussions topped by the wonderful vegetarian lunch. We discussed a bit about Guruji and the symbolisms of Krishna on the day. Sunday was the grand finale where we were joined by YES participants from the previous course and we had a superb joint kriya and games session.

 Guruji’s Australian video brought tears of gratitude and we had a beautiful meditation. The experiences shared by all of us amply established that our lives had been deeply touched and Guruji had taken his first stride, one of many more to come before his visit in december, in the hearts of the youth of itangar and nahar lagun.

Here are some of the experiences shared about the program:

“Yes plus course is something which is different – enjoyable, knoweldgable, fun, etc. After doing this course one realizes the importance of living in the moment. My heart noticed a change inside. The teachers always had a radiant smile on their faces and shared their wisdom and experiences which will forever remain in my heart. I joined 

this course because I wanted to know more about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar after having read his book “Wisdom for the New Millenium”. Each and every day here was beautiful as we came to know more about each other than before. I want to be a part of Art of Living forever. I want to meet my Guru, I want to touch, I need his love and blessing. I want to follow the path he talks and shows the world. Love moves the world.”

 Heres another - “Earlier we never knew about the course but after attending the 6 day program we gain lots of knowledge and ideas. Specially the thing I liked was we were learning by playing, enjoying which is very interesting and memorable.”

And another -  “Since the day I started this course there were many changes in me. I’ve learnt so many things about life, about love, joy and happiness. I’ve learnt that love can move everything.

 This course has calmed me down so much, I feel like a newborn person. I feel complete. Love is the greatest thing in the world. It unites everything.

 Everything and everyone looks so good to me. It calms me down when I smile and when I see other people smiling even if they are not smiling at me. The world would be so much better if everyone started smiling and shared their smile with everyone and living their life fully. It would be a great place to live in. A simple smile can melt everything and smile is equal to great life!”

An adventure begins

Day 1 : You will never walk alone 

As they say, the defining moments in life are not one-off things, but are the climax of a journey that started earlier. Monday, October 14 2008 was one such defining moment for me – the day I set out for Itanagar to work for my Guru. Even waking up at 4.30 am seemed pleasant that day. I finished my packing and left at 7.10 from home. I called up as many of my relatives as I could on the way.

 Loaded with a ton of things, I was mentally thanking Ritu for having spoken to her friend who had waived off 40 kgs of my luggage. On the way, the momentousness of the journey I had begun caught up. I was off on the greatest adventure of my life till date, to work for my Guru! I called up atul chacha and dadi in the US for their blessings, omi bua, then ma and papa. They showered such abundant blessings. Then Guruji sent a reminder in His style. While I was speaking to mum and dad I looked out of my window and saw a pulsar standing next to the car. On its fuel tank, was a sticker which read “You will never walk alone.” I was so blissed.

 There was a bit of an adventure at the airport and the luggage was not waived off but that hardly seemed to matter as I boarded the aircraft. The spice jet flight flew via kolkata and I was in guwahati 1.45 pm. Gurujis grace was evident once again as Vinay, whom I had met during navaratri in the ashram was also on the flight and he dropped me in his car to the guwahati art of living center. I parked my luggage in a small and cosy teachers room built inside the center, had a light lunch and a short nap and had a nice evening walk by the brahmaputra in the evening. I left the center at 7, picked up some amazing cheese loaf and milk loaf from JBs, and reaced the bus depot. The driver, dilip amazed me with his questions on spirituality, enlightenment and Indian legends. We had a long and interesting drive and chat and he was looking forward to doing the next art of living course available. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the bus I was o take to itanagar was a fairly spacious Volvo. Boarding the bus I had my ‘dinner’ on the way and sipped into a happy long sleep , awaiting the next day. 

Day 2: Welcome to Itanagar 

Morning 6.20 am, as I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by beauty I had dreamt of. Lush green rolling hills on the roadside, clear skies. Beauty, so much of it. Then we reached a grand gate which read, “Welcome to Itanagar”. The rest of the adventure follows in the next post.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Some Navaratri Buzz

Plenty has been spoken (and written) on the wonders of Navaratri. Here is one of the best articles, in Guruji's words, on Bau's blog. 

Navaratri is a time of rejuvenation. In the Bangalore ashram, we experience the transformation and the divinity. We hear of th
e power of silence but how can one express the blooming of infinity which unfurls here behind closed eyes! Waves of silence wash over your emotions and your mind, dissolving all rajas and tamas leaving you in bright, joyful sattva.

The divine showers love in mysterious ways. On the day of the Chandi homa, I was sitting rapt in meditation in one corner of the yagna shala. The silence and the energy were so beautiful that i decided that i would not move nor open my eyes. No sooner than i had thought this, a fly came and sat on the corner of my left eye. As i had committed to keeping my mowna, i did not move. The fly mistook my stoicness for silent assent and it decided to utilise the opportunity to make its presence felt more prominently - so it started walking on my eyelashes, fluttering both its wings to beat on my eyelids. In this moment of heightened awareness, i remembered Guruji's words, "In satyuga, apsaras would descend from heavens to disturb the meditation of rishis. The role is taken up by mosquitos and fleas in the
 kalyuga." Assuming that my present tormentor was an apsara in some past incarnation greatly simplified things. 

Mysteriously, the fly read my thoughts and it slowed its pace, s-l-o-w-l-y reaching and settling down in the corner of my left eye. By now my eyes were watering, not entirely out of bliss. I felt more determined to keep my eyes shut and my meditation steady. The fly 
was completely enjoying this unopposed freedom and it decided to tour around my eyebrows. So off it started, walking slowly and beating its wings, tracing the line of my left eyebrow. Even the apsara fantasy was not very helpful this time. Strangely, I was also feeling very calm 
somewhere, as i watched the intense discomfort rise and rise. By then, the fly was bored and it hopped off onto my right eye and started it routine again. This drama had already lasted 5 minutes and i allowed my baser nature to prevail as i took a huge swipe at the fly, who flew off.

I was feeling a bit low to have given in and was thinking maybe i could have been more patient and allowed the fly to go away on its own. Instantly, the buzzing returned and something familiar landed atop my left ear. The fly had started another flapping serenade along the contours of my left ear. This time i was less agreeable to share myself, and i shood the fly away almost instantly. 

Once it was gone, i was at ease. However, a faint voice whispered "I am tough. I could have probably put up with it." And instantly, it was back, tickling me on the side of my neck. This time, there were no murmurs of protests within me and i felt a beautiful acceptance dawning within me for myself as i planned how to murder the pest. The mind-reader fly flew off and did not return this time.
I remembered my first visit to the ashram when someone had told me that "The air in the ashram is full of love. You can just 'feel' it." He did not specify how.

Despite all this happening my heart was completely at rest, nourished by the mantras and the pooja. That day i experienced how it is possible to be peaceful and loving even in the midst of intense discomfort. And i felt gratitude towards Guruji, who despite being so pure and perfect, is always present to take care and to lighten your burdens no matter how rough your behavior, situations or speech may be. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

'Slip' of Tongue


This is one funny story i had to share. Balwant, Amit, Ballu's sister - Jagmeet, I and a certain Mr X were returning from the ashram today after a fantastic navaratri satsang. The atmosphere at the ashram is absolutely electric - you just need to close your eyes for a few seconds and you can feel the energy coursing through you! Some people do get affected in funny ways by the energy - so here goes...

In the car, we were having a freewheeling gossip session in progress, and the topic eventually
 veered to Balwant's desire to buy his Japanese friend a birthday gift.

Balwant - "Yaar i need to get something for her. I wanted to buy her a sari. But, Guruji has instructed Japanese nationals to not wear indian clothes. So i will have to look for something else. Ratna, kuch bata?"

I - "Er, maybe you can look for a kurta.."

Ballu - "No yaar no indian dress"

I - "Nahi nahi, i meant a small kurta - the kind they can wear with jeans"

Ballu - "Haan thats a good idea. I can look for a skirt in Fab India"

Jagmeet - "Or something in khadi.."

Ballu - "Haan thats a good idea. Hmmm"

Suddenly, Mr X, who had been silent all along, spoke significantly - "Andar ke kapde de sakte hain kya? (Can we gift her inner wear)"

I was in splits, Jagmeet had (hopefully) not heard the comment, ballu was in shocked silence praying that jaggi had not heard it, and Amit said "Yaar X you have a weird sense of humor"

Mr X, confusing Ballu's silence as a sign that Ballu had not heard anything, spoke more forcefully (in a voice that carried to the next car as well) "ANDAR KE KAPDE DE SAKTE HAIN KYA?" Jaggi definitely heard it this time because she was half blushing half choking with laughter. I was laughing my head out. Ballu and Amit started admonishing him.

Sensing the opportunity, i started - "Ballu, you know you have been speaking so sweetly about this female. You are going to be in Japan for a long time, and you may consider settling there"

Amit, cottoning on, added "Haan and if you marry a japanese you can get a Japanese pasport real quick and you can settle there without hassles."

I - "So, as you already know this chick well, and it makes sense for you to look for a commitment in Japan, it could be a good idea for you to buy this person andar ke kapde...."

Mr X was nodding in wholehearted agreement, amazed at the profoundness of his suggestion.

Ballu bellowed, in his most sardarlike voice "OYE...RATNAAAA"

Amit and I, half cackling, added "Cmon ballu, it would be a stylish way of proposing. You might end up married and with a Japanese passport. You can do all the seva you want"

Ballu "OYEEEE!"

However the best was yet to come. Mr X, had another brainwave and he loudly blurted - "Achchha jisse shadi kar rahe ho woh ladka hai ya ladki?"

By now everyone in the was rolling in doldrums of laughter. This is one conversation none of us would be forgetting in a hurry....:)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The first YES+ at ISBR Bangalore


The YES+ course at ISBR was adventurous and fun! Thanks to the management at ISBR who were co-operative and supportive all the way, 28 chosen ones started their party/adventure with YES+ on 22 Sep. For Gauri and myself, this was the first course we taught. 

With the rules set on Day 1, we had a deep and fascinating meditation. The Kriya was deeply beautiful and left the participants enchanted. There were comments aplenty, with nice jokes, 

compliments and learnings on the notice boards. Gauri was extremely affectionate towards 

them all, and conducted different processes and knowledge sessions with grace. 

For me, it was a deeply moving experience and the depth of connection and the sense of sharing that develops between teacher and student in an Art of Living course needs to be experienced as it cannot be put into words. On the final days trip to the ashram, we had immense fun with Devang and then with Bawa, who was totally

 brilliant, as usual, in answering questions ranging from how to choose careers to keeping oneself motivated. Looking forward to the next course at ISBR from 16 oct!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

YES+ happenings at Bangalore

Itsbeen a long time since the last post primarily due to fantastic action happening here in Bangalore...First up, the YES+. Devang had conducted a superb meeting where we decided that all courses should start simultaneously in the city, and so it has been. 3 courses started in bangalore from the 22nd of Sep 08. I am happily teaching one of them with Gauri from the ashram at the International School of Business and Research (ISBR) in Electronics City and the first 3 days have been an absolute blast. The participants were so kicked with their first kriya! I shall post a more detailed entry at the end of the course..

Also i am really looking forward to travelling to beautiful Arunachal Pradesh to work towards Guruji's visit in the end of November. Am happily engaged at present in making arrangements for the same. Lots of fun and running around. Awaiting Navaratri.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Ashtavakra Gita


Invaluable secrets of maintaining your enthusiasm, dynamism, keenness of mind and well-being are revealed in Guruji’s commentary on the Ashtavakra Gita. Once, King Janaka, one of the mightiest rulers of ancient India, slipped into a nap during one of his routine administrative sessions in his royal court. He saw a dream of poverty which was so powerful and immersive that it felt real. He awoke with a start and had a deep question – what is real, the dream, or the court? What defines reality? Leading scholars, intellectuals and philosophers from around the world came 

to his royal court to address the topic, but Janaka still looked for more. It was then that he learned of Sage Ashtavakra, named so because of eight deformities in his body, who was a brahmagyani – a knower of the supreme Brahman/divinity. Janaka invited him to his royal court, and the dialogue that happened between the two of them is considered a treasure of the supreme wisdom of creation. Guruji’s commentary on the text is probably even more precious, because as He speaks, the knowledge comes alive. Every word of His becomes an experience, and the highly complex dialogue, where every sentence is loaded with meaning, becomes so simple. It is like a cheat code into the supreme knowledge.

 

The Ashtavkra series of talks is in 33 tapes/CDs and should be watched preferably in a group. Watching it after meditation and yoga is highly recommended, simply because every sentence of Guruji is a new experience and you would catch much more of it.

Tree Plantation is fun!

I had the titular experience a few days back when KK, Abhay, Sabari, Srikanth, a few others and I went planting trees in Bannerghatta road as a part of Mission Green Earth. The government is providing us the saplings (at a charge, despite us doing their work J). We took a left a km down from IIM Bangalore and entered the Royal Residency where we planted the saplings. Planting trees is a good deal of physical labour, which left us pleasantly awake at the end of the exercise, with our banter and jokes during the planting providing interesting background score. Some of the highlights were KK befriending a couple of cute Tamil kids – Kanakraj and Kanakavalli, children of some masons staying in the area. The kids watched us intelntly when we were initially planting the trees, so we called them over and named two saplings after them. They were so thrilled that it was a sight to behold and they also adopted the saplings as their own. The residents were very warm and supportive of our endeavors and we had a pleasant 2 hour planting session in which 7 trees were planted. To top it all, K had brought a birthday cake with her, and we ended the planting session with many helpings of yummy white mousse cake.

What Happens in Vegas - a Review


I usually hesitate from watching romantic movies, light comedies, dramas, real-life inspired movies, and am usually inclined to watching larger than life characters in high voltage, high adrenaline stuff. The funny thing is, that I do so despite feeling good and satisfied after watching romantic/ comedy/ drama/ spiritual stuff, and mostly need something to wash the aftertaste of an action flick. The reason for this reflection is a nice movie I borrowed from a friend and just watched. This is the Cameron Diaz/ Ashton Kutcher starrer – What happens in Vegas.

 

Their real-life relationship generated a lot of media attention, and the movie is a nice showcase for their chemistry. The movie has an interesting story about two dejected individuals from NY meeting in Vegas to party off their misery, getting drunk and married and winning a USD 3 million lottery. In the morning when the two are back to their senses, they wish to separate. But after winning the lottery both want the money for themselves. Due to an interesting twist in the tale, they need to come to terms with each other and learn to live together over 6 months. The initial part of the movie is full of cheeky and laugh-out loud moments with both Diaz and Kutcher trying to irritate/trick the other into submission and into filing for divorce. As the movie unfolds, the two begin to found common ground and love begins to blossom between them. The later parts and the ending are warm, senti stuff that leaves you with a pleasant feel good factor.


 All in all it is a nice American love story (with plenty of clich├ęs though) and an interesting watch.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom - a review


When Jackie Chan and Jet Li star together for the first time in a movie whose plot spans the heaven (the Chinese version of it) and Earth and 5000 years, you may expect something interesting. And The Forbidden Kingdom' (director: Rob Minkoff, Action :Huen-Woo Ping of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame) lives up to the promise.

The story involves Jason (Michael Angarano) stumbling upon a mighty artefact from ancient days, the legendary staff of the Monkey King (Jet Li) - mystic, warrior, spiritual seeker, who is invincible and wise. The original story of the Monkey King is written in the Chinese legend, A Journey to the West, which is quite an interesting folklore and quite downloadable. There are strong parallels between his tale and that of Shri Hanuman. On his discovery, Jason is transported back to ancient China, where the Jade warlord, the commander in chief of heaven's armies and a sorcerer, has unleashed a reign of terror on the people and has imprisoned the Monkey King in stone. Jason meets Lu Yan (Jackie Chan), a drunken master and the venegance seeking sparrow girl (Yiefei Liu), and together the unlikely trio begin their journey towards the mountain of heaven and earth and the palace atop it where the Jade Warlord holds sway. On e way they run into adventures and misadventures aplenty, and a mysterious monk (Jet Li again) joins them in their quest.

The kung fu action is spellbinding, the camerawork excellent and the backdrops are visual treats. The plot, which is quite entertaining, could have been infinitely more engaging had the director retained the spiritual metaphors that are so abundantly present in the Monkey King's tale. The same can be said about the dialogues. Still, it is an interesting action flick and is definitely worth a watch.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The wonder of ancient Indian stories

Stories can evoke love, peace, excitement, thrill, joy, anger, pride, resentment, greed, jealousy, gratitude, generosity, lust, creativity, grandeur, despair and redemption. But in the ocean of stories that have been told over the ages, Indian puranas and itihaasas offer that rarest of gifts to the reader – they take him on a voyage of spiritual exploration, one that cleverly reveals the most profound knowledge of the creation and the universe.

The Indian literature and tradition is the longest unbroken chain in known human history. The rishis of ancient India, the greatest scientists of humanity, hid the gems of their invaluable knowledge in stories, anecdotes and historical records. Sanskrit, their lingua franca, is widely regarded as the mother of all languages and the most perfect language ever known to mankind. In the most perfect language, with the most perfect knowledge, the rishis created an immortal tradition of passing the greatest treasure of humanity, their knowledge. I say immortal because the same stories and traditions have been passed down thousands and thousands of years and generations. Even more remarkable is the fact that these traditions and stories were often modified through the influence of different times and attitudes, but their core, the spiritual knowledge, has remained intact and as profound and relevant as they were at the beginning of time.

Unfortunately, as English became the language of the Indian intellectual over the British Raj, and the British began to systematically destroy India’s spirit by purposely mistranslating and misrepresenting our heritage, generations of Indians were bereaved of the true wisdom that had survived all these millennia. (I would recommend a reading of the works of DK Hari and Francois Gautier to explore the facts. You can google their names.)

However, as the wheels of time have turned, we are witnessing a global reawakening of spiritual awareness. A new generation of Indian writers, more adept at English than the original English speakers, are now translating our Sanskrit texts into relevant, everyday prose that can be picked up at most leading bookstores.

Personally, I greatly admire the retelling done by Ramesh Menon. I am a happy and proud owner of his translations of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Devi Bhagvatam and Krishna. I look forward to picking up a copy of the Shiva puraana once I am done with these.

The Mahabharata by Ramesh Menon comes in two volumes. On its jacket, are the words of Ved Vyas, the original narrator of this Mahakavya, stating that “What is contained herein is everywhere. What is not, is nowhere.” This is probably the best summary that comes to my mind after I went through the volumes, rapt. The epic characters embody every human virtue and flaw. The heroic pandavas, Krishna - the lord himself, the treacherous Kauravas, Karna – the antihero, Kunti, Dhritarashtra, Shakuni, scores and scores of other characters – humans, rakshasa, gandharvas, devas, rishis, yakshas, nagas - seem to live and breathe like they were right here. Reading their conversations and interactions is like witnessing the entire pageantry of human behavior passing before your eyes. The descriptions of the scenes blend astronomy, gemology, physics, philosophy, botany, zoology, architecture, and so many more sciences with poetry and beauty. The narrative sweeps you. The feeling of redemption at the end of the book is amplified by the fact that there is plenty of historical evidence supporting that the Mahabharata actually happened! Even Guruji openly proclaimed it to be true.

The Devi Bhagvatam deals with the most ancient of Indian folklore, tales of the very beginning of creation, of the first races of devas, asuras and men. In its pages, you will find physical descriptions of the events of the creation of the universe, its destruction along with timelines associated for each! It speaks of the hidden divinity that governs existence. The most ancient of mantras are mentioned here. Of course, there are plenty of stories about how the devi destroyed the most powerful of asuras, how the devas lived, along with tales of Vishnu. The sweep of the narrative across eras and characters is enormous.

Krishna delves into Krishna leela, his life story. It is written in a very interesting style with the focus shifting between two different arenas of action – the prakriti, or the circumstances that Krishna lived through - his life story, and the purusha, a description of what Krishna stood for. The purusha aspect is commonly known as the Bhagvat Gita.

I am yet to read Shiva and complete the Ramayana, but I can say that the Ramayana has been an engrossing read so far. Ramesh Menon has preserved the dialogues and has translated them faithfully. He has used his imagination and superb prose to set the pace and backdrops of the stories. The combination is mindblowing.

In a nutshell, his skilful translations have given us an opportunity to enjoy and discover the grandeur and vastness of ancient Indian tales. And they are cracking good reads. Go grab your copies today!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

‘Confusion’ keeps volunteers locked in








The Monday morning TOI carried this story about how KK and Amrita were locked in at Bangalore’s famous Christ college. The article claimed that ‘confusion’ kept our volunteers locked in at Christ college. This is an unprecedented event in history. As the newspaper did not elaborate much on how ‘confusion’ locked in KK and Amrita, we may, for the time being, assume that the warden at the Christ college's girls hostel did so.

Here is the actual account. At 9.00 pm on Saturday evening, Amrita and KK entered the Chirst college campus to register a participant in the Girl’s hostel for Utsav and to speak to a few students about the course. They went in without incident and when they were leaving the warden confronted them asking where they were going so late. So KK and Amrita described the situation to her. At the mention of the Art of Living, the warden panicked and immediately began to threaten the two girls even saying things like “the official time for meeting guests is between 6.30 pm – 7.00 pm”. She conveniently forgot to mention that she had given the oral consent for our volunteers to visit their campus. Usually such circumstances would result in strict remonstration followed by letting the volunteers leave but the warden forcibly detained them overnight without their consent. She even tried to confiscate their mobile phones, which KK and Amrita bravely refused to concede to. The girls, were so caring even in their predicament, that they were ready to go back in the morning without disturbing anyone lest they create unnecessary panic.

It was in the morning that the authorities showed their true colors. Even at 9.30 am the girls were not being allowed off the campus. Realizing the gravity of the situation, KK called up Bau and Dinesh Bhaiya, who promptly guided Devang and Guruprasad, one of the senior members of our YES+ team in Bangalore, to handle the situation. Guru called me and I contacted some of our senior Art of Living faculty who also rushed to the college. At first the security would not let us in, but he relented when we told him that either he let us in or we call the police. 5 of our senior teachers and volunteers, Radhika Ji, Santa uncle, Smita didi, Guruprasad and later Uchil uncle went to discuss the issue with the warden. In the meantime, as per Dinesh Bhaiya’s instructions, all Bangalore YES+ volunteers were informed and urged to come to the gates. In less than an hour, by around 12 pm, we had more than 100 YES+ team members at the gates of Christ college. The discussions were underway inside, and Savitha one of our journalist devotees had even got the crew from Times now at the college gates. At 12 pm we discovered that the girls had still not been offered food and water and we rushed to get something for them. The security, who had come to their senses by then by seeing the congregation outside the gate, were still a little hesitant to let us in but we marched ahead. We later discovered that Amrita, who had informed the warden that she needed to eat before her medicines had been denied food till then, and had fainted. It was only then that the authorities at Christ college brought them idlis. Till about 2pm, our representatives inside were kept waiting, while the Father at Christ college, unmindful of the girls’ condition, took his own time getting to the campus. Finally, at about 4.45, the girls were let off and they described their plight in an interview immediately afterwards.

Is it justifiable to lock up two adults without their consent when they pose no threat? Even our jails offer food and water to the inmates, but ‘Christ’ college would not do the same for two girls who posed them no threat. None of the girls’ families were informed. The warden kept changing her statements every 5 minutes in the discussion with out people and we could gauge that she had no logical reason for her actions.

In contrast to their attitude, our volunteers and teachers, who had rushed to the campus as soon as they heard the news, consulted the senior authorities in the government and the Apex body to quickly prepare the best course of action. There was no commotion or disturbance created at the campus gates, and the police who had been called to ‘control’ the situation looked about rather foolishly on what to do with a bunch of people meditating outside a college gate. We even joked to each other that this was the biggest YES+ volunteers meet we have had in Bangalore till date. After much discussion and deliberation till late night, we decided to not take legal action against the college authorities because we have had cordial relations with them in the past.

Now, Jesus Christ embodied love, forgiveness and total compassion. It is surprising that the people who built an eduational institution in his name seem to completely miss the point. Clearly, these values reflected in the actions of the other party completely.
PS: Here is another article on the same event

ShareThis