Saturday, June 13, 2009

2009 06 13. Saturday.

2009 06 13. Saturday.

Nice little leela today around the afternoon chai. I was waiting for the chai in the big hall when an older Indian man called to me and said "Sweet raagi." and pointed to one of the brahmachari buildings. Raagi is a really delicious sweet pudding thats sometimes served as a special treat. I said "Cool." and started to head in that direction. Then one of the other Indian men stopped me and said with a serious expression "No. That raagi is only for the brahmacharis." Feeling a little disappointed I replied "OK, no problem." So I sat back down to wait for the chai to come. Then a minute or so later, another young German guy (who is very obviously NOT a brahmachari) said to me "Go and get some raagi. They're serving it over there." I told him what the other Indian had said and he replied "No. Its really OK, you can have some, they don't mind." He held up his cup of steaming hot raagi as proof. Feeling slightly nervous, I got a small cup and went up to the raagi pot. Some Indian brahmacharis were there crowded around and one of them casually handed me the ladle so I could serve myself. I got a cup and snuck off before anyone could bite my head off. Then I got my chai. So now I've got a cup of sweet raagi and a cup of hot chai in either hand. And people wonder why I love this place.

So here's the kicker. I've finished my raagi and I'm now sipping my chai and chatting with the German guy. Then one of the young Indian brahmachari sits nearby and says to me "Please. Go get some raagi." To scope out the situation, I asked "Isn't it only for the brahmachari?" He frowned and replied with the usual incomprehensible south Indian head waggle that can mean almost anything and said "No, no. Please come with me." He stood up and motioned me to come with him. So to pursue this leela to its mysterious conclusion, I followed along. He led me back to the raagi pot and served me another full cup. The mystery of the raagi leela only added to its deliciousness. I sipped the hot dark raagi and chewed on the little slivers of coconut.

This little leela is fairly typical of how some things operate here. Someone, usually an Indian with great seriousness, will tell you one thing and then later some other Indian will waggle their head (meaning god knows what) and say just the opposite. Just an example of why its really wise to keep a loose attitude toward some of the rules here. Now many of the rules, of course, are clear. But lots of little things can change on a dime for totally mysterious reasons. If you should ask an Indian about it, they'll just waggle their head as if thats all the explanation that is required. The Indians seem to have a deep aversion for explaining the changes or even acknowledging that they happen. The bottom line: go with the flow and be prepared for unexpected leelas and changes. For me, its actually very good practice. My usual nature is to be uptight and think that rules should be clear and good reasons provided for any changes. So flowing with the leelas here is VERY good practice in helping me let go of my usual uptight habits. When in Rome, fart like a Roman.

After I got my second cup of raagi I hung around with three other young western guys who were there. A German, a British man and a Frenchman. We were chatting about various casual topics for about 10 minutes. I became slightly uncomfortable cause I felt the conversation was pretty trivial and not connective. So I bowed out and took off.

Since I've been back, I've had only a very few short conversations that have felt authentic and meaningful to me. Most of the westerners here, IMO, are really good people with deep spiritual aspirations, but for whatever reason, I only feel an authentic connection with very few people. They're definitely people here I deeply respect and admire, but for whatever reason there's no real chemistry for deeper conversations. Truth be told, thats OK with me. As I've described earlier, I feel very much at home here even with very minimal socializing. With so many people coming here, I'm sure I'll make all kinds of deeper connections as time goes by.

One thing that seems to help me concentrate during the evening bhajans is to drum along with the rhythm with my left hand while tapping along with the melody with my right hand. Now my drumming is definitely not accurate with the correct rhythm, but this little technique seems to help me focus more on the songs and reduces my wandering mind. I'm not really feeling much devotion during the songs, but for now at least the focus practice feels worthwhile. In a number of little ways, I trying to practice focusing and being more present when participating with the various daily group chanting periods.

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