Tomorrow is Diwali. The largest secular festival in India. Not only is it a festival of light, it is also the Indian New Year. The ashram is decorated with lights and flowers strung over doorways and archways. This festival is similar to Christmas as it is a time of giving. The ashram will be feeding 21 monks and we will be distributing blankets for them for the winter.
My muscles are organizing a rebellion today. Rested through most of the yoga sessions. special fire puja this morning with Swami Yogananda. He is 100 years old, a vibrant man who made sure we knew that he has all of his own teeth. He talked to us about the benefits of yoga and that we will all live to be 500 years old if we follow the yoga path. He then demonstrated how he could turn his body into a pretzel. Found out that this ashram is affiliated with a movement to return to the vedic traditions sans intermediaries like priests. In Hinduism the priests take over the rituals. The fire puja is the central practise and Om is the only symbol of reference.
Tonight is quite a spectacle of fireworks and bells ringing. I'm hunkered down in my room with ear plugs. Thought I would escape Shiva's Revenge but NOOO....
11/3 I've been working on my essay comparing Kabbalah to yoga and have been puzzled as to how to end the essay. I knew there had to be a deeper connection between yoga and Kabbalah but couldn't quite grasp until awakening this morning. This revelation occurred in my waking dream.
The creation story of the snake offering Eve the secret to the Tree of Knowledge is no different than the snake image coiled at the base of the spine and the rising of the kundalini energy rising through the nadis/chakra system. It is no accident that Kabbalah and yoga are so similar.The yoga path is much older than the Judeo-Christian path. The story of Adam and Eve must have been created to prevent inner inquiry and self realization. Politics and control was the leading factor in developing the creation story. Kabbalah, which continued orally in secluded selective sects, must be some transmutation of the yoga system brought over from India with allusions to torah in order to make it more palpable to the ascetic 14th century Jew. There are so many Chassidic Jews that have moved here to Rishikesh. It is ironic to think that they may have returned to the place of the origins of their story...my story.
This program is drawing to an end. This will be my last entry here in Rishikesh. Next destination-Varanasi, also known as the City of Shiva. It was previously named Benares. It is over 2,000 years old. Mark Twain said this about Benares, "Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together."