When I feel overwhelmed by work I often imagine myself sitting by a river with nothing to do but meditate, alone. The river Tansa is nearby and I realize I have been given a cherished wish.
I wake up early and meditate outside on the veranda. The mornings are cool and I rug up in shawls. Sounds of creatures waking are abuzz: Arati bells ringing, crows cawing, roosters crowing, hens clucking, kites screeching and woodpeckers pecking. Sudarshan the new cook at Kothavala, who lost his parents when he was young, has adopted Guruji and I as his spiritual mother and father. He chants mantras as he brings chai and biscuits. I breathe in the atmosphere. This is where I want to be.
At 7:00AM I head for Kailas and meditate in one of Bhagawan’s many bedrooms, which is only open in the morning. I take darshan of his funky chair and head for the temple. Shop owners are quiet, not yet hawking their wares. The chai stalls are opening but each has their own takers. The same faces are there every morning. The rest of the day my routine includes chatting with people, Arati, lunch, rest, writing, dinner, hot baths, arati at the temple and sleep. Many villagers are surprised I am here alone and wonder if I am okay. I find myself getting to know some more intimately. I like this inner movement of friendship. I relax into the tempo and find the days pass quickly.
Bhagavan’s Samadhi shrine is my favorite place to meditate during the day even though there are more comfortable and quiet spots. There is no logic to my preference. Devotees are chattering, children are running freely, bells are clanging, flower girls are shrieking, devotees are praying and priests are chanting. The outer world is busy, chaotic even, but inwardly I am blissful. Activity here arises from the highest Consciousness, undisturbed by disturbance. I imagine this is what it would have been like to be in his physical presence.
My sister is having some health problems and I decide to do a Guru Paduka puja (ceremony for the Guru’s sandals) for her in the Temple. I am concerned that I might be faced with a non-English speaking priest and decide to invite Indu, a village elder who spent much time with Bhagawan to join me. She speaks enough English to get me through the awkwardness of not understanding Hindi and the uneasiness of doing something wrong.
Indu, the priest and I will bathe Bhagawan’s sandals in milk and water from the natural hot springs, and then mark them with sandalwood paste, kum kum, tulsi leaves, ash, perfumed oil and flowers while mantras are chanted.
Indu’s company is calming. I find it humorous that my confidence wavers in the presence of the Brahmin priest Devidas. Guruji has nicknamed him Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, because he is tall, slim, and charismatic. His devotional style, when waving the lights during Arati to Bhagavan, is flamboyantly artful and full of devotion. But here now, the language barrier inhibits my ability to connect with him. I cannot ask questions or chat.
Devidas begins by telling me that this day is a most auspicious day, more so than any other day I could have chosen. It is moksha ekadashi, the 11 day of the month of the waxing moon. To do a ceremony today means auspicious blessings, spiritual liberation, for my family and me. The puja is beautiful even though I inadvertently pour the hot water meant for Bhagavan’s sandals all over his lap. ‘Slow, slow’ he says.
As Devidas chants the mantras I embrace Bhagawan’s Shakti and give myself up to the power of this incredible Siddha’s grace. I tune in and the Temple sounds become a distant aum as I open to the moment. The murti in front of me is shimmering with Chiti. I am awed by the power of Shiva’s light.
The other side of Shiva, the dark, is never far away in India. That night I awaken to a puppy shrieking in pain. I vow to pack them up and smuggle them back to Australia. Or, I am going to start feeding them. Neither is possible. I tell myself that next time I am bringing a vet. Most dogs are uncared for and live on sugar treats thrown to them by pilgrims leaving the temples or scraps from the chai shops. Diabetes is not just for humans. Of course they procreate continually. Neuter a dog—it is unthinkable even for the educated.
At night there is the howling of animals being born and dying. How is it that the pleas for food and shelter can be ignored day after day? I could not live here without doing something about it. Guruji often jokes that it is good karma to be born a dog in the West and a cow in India, and bad karma to be born a dog in India and a cow in the West.
One Westerner, an American woman, has been living here for over 20 years. She feeds and tends numerous dogs and cats every day even though her finances are stretched. She is quite elderly, fragile and worries about who will take care of them when she is gone.
Everyone needs something. From a young man in a wheelchair, whose home is unsuitable, to another with five children under the age of eight whose house was washed away in the monsoon and now lives in a leaking tin roof hut—no plumbing of course. There is also a young man needing sinus surgery and a young girl who recently lost her mother and stays with her older sister. There are lots of children and most in need of some sort of medical attention. I cannot forget the line of beggars, who are fed by the Temple every day, but whose desire for human attention calls out to every passer by.
Then there is the problem of alcohol. Made locally it destroys the eyesight of devotees who worship at the palm shrine. Alcoholism is on the rise and there is no AA here. So too is drug addiction and HIV. Garbage and sewage sprawl across roads and pathways. The stench is a constant. One person I meet suggests that India’s biggest mistake was to get rid of the British. By now, he says, they would have an infrastructure; sewage and garbage would be handled. And, there would not be a Pakistan.
My mind spins: I could do this; I could do that. I can get this; I can get that. But I know I can do little or nothing. I accept it all as it is, yet feel the anguish. I look away but I am not indifferent. I give myself permission to feel the pain of existential angst without despair. I have learned I can only help when God allows.
This is India. It can drive a weak mind mad. Heartless on the one hand with death barking at your heels every moment and yet full of the wonder of worship of God. My thoughts turn to home and contemplate how to hold onto this particular experience of the Shakti.
In the early morning I sit on the porch and watch the sun rise. The village is still in the early hours. Soft noises of awakening do not disturb my meditation. I wait for chai and biscuits in awe of the blessings that flow from Bhagawan Nityananda. I am in the mind of Shiva, dark and light emanating from his mystical heart. Mother India clasped me to her breast and fed me her soul. I don’t believe there is another place on the planet quite like this. This is home.