Thursday, May 28, 2009

2009 05 28. Thursday.

2009 05 28. Thursday.

Woke up around 5:20am feeling much better. Very refreshed. Got a good night's sleep and slept right through all the morning wake up bells. I think all my meditation, mantras and sadhana has allowed me to develop one special siddhi; the ability to sleep through all the bells and clangs that indicate early morning sadhana. I have a hunch this siddhi, nice as it is, may not be so ideal in taking me toward God realization. To which my advaita friends would say "How can you move toward That which you already are?" Yes, yes, thats completely true of course, but I still wish I wasn't such a lazy, sleep addicted Amma devotee.

After I got back to my room sipping my morning (unsweetened) chai I heard the distinctive call of one of the sea eagles coming from the 10th floor balcony on the south side of the building. I imagined it was saying something like "OK, pigeons, talk amongst yourselves and decide which one of you will be my breakfast."

Hopefully that eagle is going after the pigeons rather than dive bombing the food plates at the western cafe the way a few of the eagles like to do. The last time I was here, it happened to me and scared the poop out of me. Because this is a PG rated blog, I will refrain from revealing my real thoughts about that eagle. Doesn't look good for an Amma devotee to be expressing seething egoic anger. I think that incident is written up in an entry from '05 or '06.

At breakfast one of the Indian food guys was serving small spoonfuls of some dark sauce. Putting my two brain cells (I like to have a spare just in case) into high gear, I immediately surmised that if they were only serving small spoonfuls of it, then it must be hot. Throwing caution to the wind and taking my life in my hands, I went and got a tiny dab of the stuff. I was right. It was really hot. Mein Gott! Pure fire! How can they eat this stuff? Must be some Indian cultural heritage siddhi passed down from generation to generation. But after I mixed my tiny amount into my watery rice and curry it was actually pretty good (not that the usual curry they serve here needs any extra spices to begin with). Bear in mind I had not much more than a homeopathic dose of the stuff. The Indians had a full spoonful and some of them requested two (I think they were showing off). The guy serving it knew me or knew the tastes of westerners and wisely only gave me a very small amount when I held out my plate for some. Smart man, good karma on ya.

The exact same Indian guys who were serving the food in '06 are still here. They pretty much know exactly what portions I want and instantly remembered it when I showed up again.

When I was taking my empty breakfast plate to wash I noticed there was a jug of chai available! Wow! Sweet chai after breakfast! I never saw that before when I was here last time; maybe a new thing. Cool. And there was still some left in the jug after sitting out for 15 minutes or more. That was a miracle. Feeling vaguely like maybe there was some reason I wasn't allowed to have any (sometimes hard to know what the rules are here), I somewhat furtively got my cup, twisted the handle and watched the hot, light brown liquid flow into my cup. I guess Amma wanted me to have some sweet chai this morning after all. I restrained myself with some serious willpower and only took half a cup (I decline to reveal the size of my cup, however). A serving of sweet chai after the usual Indian breakfast is really good. Bliss! I sat back, sipped and yet again (as I do so often) bowed down and offered puja to my way-too-large and very well maintained inner altar of egoic sense pleasure. Amma's trying to slowly knock that altar down, but I'm fighting Her tooth and nail. A devotee like me really makes Amma earn Her paycheck. But She loves a challenge. Without Ravana, would there be a Lord Rama?

(Apologies to my non-Hinduphile readers who aren't familiar with all the Hindu words, allusions and metaphors I pepper throughout this blog. I've been simmering in the Hindu cultural and religious soup long enough now that a lot of Hindu mythology is now second nature to me. And I've only barely scratched the surface.)

At the recycling center I keep finding useful little items. I gotta be careful or soon my room will be filled to overflowing with little things that "may come in handy some day". Yesterday I made myself a note to stop by Ram's Bazaar (the ashram second hand store) later today and get myself a cheap wallet to hold my wad of rupees. So naturally this morning, as I was sorting trash, I saw one of the other guys toss something through the air into to resellable items bin. I glanced into the bin and lo and behold, a nice wallet! Upon careful examination, I determined it was in great shape. It even had a change pocket (very handy). I wiped some dirt off of it and, glancing around like an experienced shoplifter, put it into the little bag I keep handy for stuff that "may come in handy some day". Actually, its totally OK for us in the recycling team to swipe any items we may find useful. Some of the other guys are even bigger pack rats than me. Nothing quite like the visceral satisfaction of finding something useful in the trash.

One of the more seriously gross things at the recycling center is the bucket where we pour all the personal care and medicinal oils, lotions, potions, tonics, ayurvedic concoctions and various liquids. The Indians love their vast array of ayurvedic potions. Even the ants and crows won't go near that bucket. I'm afraid to ask what they do with it when its full. One of the many things in life that's better left a mystery.

Its been a pretty clear day today so now I'm getting a taste of the Indian summer. Hot but very manageable. The constant ocean breeze makes a really huge difference. Even in the hottest part of the day, there's salty breeze to keep everything from getting too stifling.

After lunch and doing laundry, I walked over the new bridge into Vallikavu (the town next to the ashram) to hop onto the internet and catch up on emails, etc. Its gonna be a challenge, but I want to see if I can keep my internet time to a bare minimum. Last time I was here back in '05 and '06 I spent a lot of time reading all my science and technology list emails, browsing the news and generally killing time. Its a tough habit to break! I think I've got mild ADHD or something cause I get very easily distracted by TV, radios, internet, etc. If there's a TV or something like playing within sight of me, its very hard to turn away and focus on whatever else I may be doing. A TV pulls for my attention like a powerful siren song. So in that sense its very nice being here at the ashram where there are essentially no distractions like that.

Without all the distractions that I used to experience, I'm finding that I can practice my Amma mantra A LOT better than I could at home. Its much more easy and natural here to keep it going in my mind. The last time I was here, for whatever reason, it was difficult to keep it going. But this time around it seems to be flowing much more smoothly. The are signs around the ashram reminding us to chant our mantras. I think I'm feeling the potential power of the mantra more than I used to.

A bit of background for those not familiar with mantras: In the Hindu tradition, a mantra is typically a short phrase (one to a few dozen syllables) usually consisting of sacred Sanskrit syllables. "Mantra" literally means something like "collecting the mind". Traditionally a guru (like Amma) will offer to give a mantra to their disciples. The theory is that a true guru like Amma can look deep inside to the inner condition of the disciple and give them just the right mantra they need to speed up their spiritual growth. Also the guru will imbue the mantra with their sacred energy, making it more powerful and effective. Usually the guru will whisper the mantra into the ear of the disciple (Amma does this. Its wonderful to remember when Amma whispered to me my mantra.). The mantra helps create a strong spiritual bond between the guru and disciple. After getting the mantra, the disciple keeps it secret and chants it as often as possible. The theory is that after chanting it many many times, the mantra will start to run on automatic, always playing and repeating in the background of the mind. Thus the mantra is one of the practices that clears away old karmas, purifies the mind and carries the disciple to God-realization. Mantras can be used for other purposes (even nefarious purposes, surprisingly), but that's too much to go into here. Feel free to research.

This evening around 8:30pm or so I gave a quick call to my friend Vera (about 11am her time). It was really nice talking and sharing and hearing her voice. I miss the long conversations we had. Since I've only been here a week it was kind of like being in two different worlds at the same time while talking with her. So recent and yet it seems like so long ago that I was back in the states. I guess its because I was here before and could pretty much effortlessly step back into the ashram groove. The world here is so different and also so familiar and comfortable. Now that I think about it, there's a lot less stress here for me. Rather then so many outside demands on my time and attention, the discipline now must come from the inside in that its now up to me how I spend a lot of my time. That feels really good. The discipline feels easier because I'm doing the things I feel the most passion for; those activities like sadhana and seva which I feel will have the biggest payoff for me in the long run. Well, I'm not sure I actually feel a passion for seva, but I do know its a great way to dissolve old karma.

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