Saturday, October 25, 2008

Life in Rishikesh

Not sleeping well, eyes open at 12 AM for two nights. I have been having feelings of mild pervasive anxiety. Thinking of stopping the anti-malaria medication,as anxiety and insomnia are side affects.

Went on a hike to some waterfalls but had to turn back as the hike was too strenuous for me.
Vishva said the hike was only 2 kl, but in reality it was 4 to the trail head. I should have remembered Vishva's tendency to minimize distance. We have 1/2 day off today, tomorrow a full day off and then the program begins.

This week is a special holy time here loud music and chanting of holy texts are blasted over loudspeakers for the whole village to hear from 7 AM to 9 PM.

The roads here are more treacherous at this altitude (2,000 ft.) with narrow one lane winding roads full of people, buffalo, cows, dogs, monkeys, motorcycles, donkeys, tuk tuks, jeeps buses....
bells ringing on the beasts of burden and all vehicles honking when approaching curve on the other side of the curve whenever they see people, animals or vehicles ..or for the sheer pleasure of it - mind you these are very joyful people who love to express their pleasure.

We went o a sunset puja on the Ganga this evening. A puja is a flower or fire ritual conveying devotion to God. The flowers are offered to statues of deities. The stone images represent the enduring presence of God in nature. The flower represents the delicate and spontaneous opening of our heart to it.

The sunset puja was performed on the expansive steps of the largest ashram in Rishikesh. Sons who are destined to be yogis are sent to this school. There must have been 200 boys dressed in yellow and orange Sitting around the fire pit and on the steps.

The steps(enough to pack a few thousand people on them) descend down to the 1st landing and extends out about 50 ft. This is where the musicians, swamis yogis and gurus sit. 8 steps down the second landing extends to meet the Ganga. It was breath taking to look out at a huge statue of Shiva in the Ganga framed by the descending sun.

Thousands of people have crowded in to participate and observe. 5 - 6 people stood around the fire pit lining the edge of it with flowers. The lit the fire and the music and devotional chanting began.The adults around the pit threw herbs and poured ghee at certain periods during the chanting. The boys on the steps and by the fire ere all clapping chanting and swaying to the music.

As the music and chanting increased in tempo, I could feel an energetic field building around us.
People would clap louder whenever certain phrases were sung and then suddenly all arms are raised to punctuate the phrase.(like the wave at a baseball game). The fire pit clears of people and attention is on the first landing. Many metal plates with lit candles are distributed to all present and future yogis(including us). 2 large gold torches on staffs shaped like cobras are lit and given to the Swamis . During the singing they circle right and left holding the torches and we follow circling right and left with our candles. More chanting and then the puja ended.

Every muscle, ligament and tendon is sore. I average sitting on the floor 10hrs. /day. This is the hardest part of my practise.

There is th image of a young, beautiful, Indian woman on the wall of my room. I've been wondering who she is and keep forgetting to ask. While browsing in the library today, I came upon a small book with a picture of this woman on the cover with a sublime ecstatic expression on her face.. Her name is Shree Shree Anandamayee Ma. I am so graced to have her image in our room. The commentary, by Swami Vivikenanda, states that it is India's privilege and role since ancient ages, to guide humanity...India is rightly called the God intoxicated country. He further states that every country has her own God- given mission and India's mission is to provide spiritual guidance to humanity. Shree Shree Ma has been for us a personified expression of India's ancient wisdom. She is considered a Siddah Guru, a superhuman teacher who possess a pure physical body, a realized soul that is accessible to human beings.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Delhi Impressions

Many bicycle rickshaws, chuk chuks (3 wheeled taxis), women with enormous loads on their heads, horse and mule carts with enormous loads. Ferile dogs, Brahman bovine everywhere. This is what I see as we take the bus out of Delhi. There's piles of trash picked over by humans, dogs, cows and monkies. Construction everywhere. These are really busy people. Piles of bricks and piles of flattened dried cow dung. Many sugar cane fields. All of this busy-ness on the road.It's very noisy and dusty. Vehicles are constantly honking. Cars and animals are coming from all directions-one's sometimes on the right side of the road and sometimes on the left depending on who you are avoiding. No traffic lights, no signs, no lines on the road, just intuition and guts. This place is vibrant and teeming with life.

We just past the Ganga(Ganges) in Hardwar on our way up into the mountains. Passed a large statue of Shiva and beautiful temples abundant with parrots and parakeets. We were told this would be a 6 hour ride. It turned out to be 10 hours. You could sense the excitement on the bus as we drove through Rishikesh up through the mountain road approaching the ashram. We arrive at 3 PM. The ashram is beautiful and clean.
10/10 ^:00 AM every morning yoga class begins. It's challenging, refreshing and restorative. Vishva has truly homogenized the best of all the Ashtanga traditions with a lot of Kundalini thrown in. Before we ended with chanting Ohm, we did a laughing meditation we do this at the end of every yoga session. He usually tells us, " We are now going to do a very difficult asana", preceding the laughing meditation. He also says, "We are now going to do something just for fun"-you know this one is going to be a very difficult asana. From the first meeting of Yogi Vishva, I was impressed by his infectious giggle he punctuates at the end of every sentence he speaks. You can see pictures of the ashram at this web site- or

This is the joke Vishva told us before our tour of Rishikesh.
There was a man who wanted to fin God. He looked and looked and asked everyone,"Where is God?" He was told to go to India. When he arrived in India he asked the people, "Where is God, where can I find him here in India?" The people told him to go to Delhi. So he went to Delhi. He asked someone there "Where is God,where can I find him?" He was told to go to the center of the city where it is crowded and very, very busy with all manner of trucks, motorcycles and cars etc. So he went to the center of Delhi and did not see God. He continued to ask "Where is God in the middle of this city?" He was told to stand in the middle of the intersection of the busiest street in Delhi. The God seeker exclaimed,"Are you crazy? I will be killed." "Do you want to find God ?" he was asked. So the man stood in the middle of the busiest intersection of Delhi for one hour and waited for God. All he heard was the cacophony of horns bells whistles and people yelling. He went back to the person who told him to stand in the middle of the street and said "There is no God there, just a bunch of crazy drivers." The reply was, "Ah, but God is indeed here in Delhi-were you struck by a car?" "No."said the man. "Well then, you see that is indeed proof that God is here inDelhi.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Day 1 - Lessons on Judgement

A 3 hour layover in Taipei, I'm sitting in the terminal waiting for the plane to Delhi. The room is full of women wearing sari, men in turbans pinned with jewels. Some men have very long beards rolled and pinned under their chins. While I sit and wait reading a book, two Indian men, one in his mid thirties and one in his seventies. They are in western casual dress. The elders luggage is a hot pink sparkly Barbie backpack. Both , very portly, sit in front of me, joking with each other, eating peanuts.
My thoughts - " Now there's a couple of crude guys." Then, a peanut popped back from them toward me
followed by ingratiating apologies.
An hour later I board the plane and get settled in my seat. Ten minutes pass and I wonder who will sit next to me....The 2 "crude guys" find their way to the seats next to me. My first thought, " Oh no, 6 hours sitting next to these guys.
Two Crude Guys and Their Story
The elder is president of a telecommunications company, the younger is one of his employees. I learned the elder was returning from Taipei completing negotiations with the President of Taiwan on how their countries can elevate the status of poor people ans improve their quality of life. The elder is also President of an international organization for the excellence in yoga. He handed me his business card, then he and his friend moved to other seats. Before leaving the elder told me to call him if I run into any problems in Delhi.
His card states: Love is not a virtue
Love is necessity
More so than bread and water
More so than light and air
May you blossom with millions of roses
And be filled with lots of love, love and love.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I've Arrived

I am sitting in the Lobby of the Hotel Lohias drinking a Lasse (a sweet yogurt) drink. The flight was long, 22 hours. I am definitly in a foriegn land. The first smell in the city is of sweet spice, dust, sweat and urine. There are large modern highways with lanes, lights, signs but they mean
nothing to those who drive them. It's hot, 94 degrees. Time to take a shower.
More later,