Wednesday, July 8, 2009

2009 07 08. Wednesday.

2009 07 08. Wednesday.

Special Treat Update. (You're probably getting tired of these, but I'll throw in another because, well . . . its *my* blog darn it.) OK, so I'm waiting in line at breakfast and I see a special pot along with the usual breakfast pots. Cool. Maybe some idlis or uttapam or something. Nice but no big deal. I'm in the front of the line so I'll definitely got some (but definitely not seconds; there's a *long* line of starving young wild-eyed Tamil laborers behind me and they can pack away any special breakfast treat like nobody's business). I glance over and I notice they've also brought out a chai urn. Wow. Double cool. I mentally make a quick assessment of my backlog of bad karma and decide that, if I was smart, I would skip the chai, skip breakfast altogether and lay face down down naked on a huge nest of fire ants in the blazing sun. However, I am demonstrably not smart (surprise!) so I decide to have some chai after my meal (if there's any left . . . unlikely). Then, after I get my food (including the first special treat which was some parotas, Mmmm!), I see they've placed another big pot next to the chai urn. Hmmm. This could be interesting. I go and take a look and see inside a large quantity of something dark that looks like coffee. I ask one of the Indian men nearby what it is and he says something in Malayalam. I think to myself "I don't gives a revolving rat's behind what its called. I just want to know if its sweet or not." So I ask "Sweet?" He gives me a vigorous head waggle with a bonus hand wave and says with an annoyed expression "Yes. Yes. Sweet. Sweet!" Triple cool. That's all I wanted to know, dude. Now go take a Valium. I pull out my cup and fill it with the mystery liquid within which is floating bits of spices of some kind or another. After I say my food prayers and settle in I ask one of the Indian men next to me what the dark liquid is. I tip my cup so he can see it and his eyes light up. "Oh! Its jaapi! Ginger, jaggery (dark palm sugar), pepper and other spices. Very good for the digestion." I think to myself "My digestion is fine, dude. I just want to satisfy my sugar addiction." I take a sip and Wow! Its really good! Spicy sweet with a strong taste of ginger and pepper. Yum! Note to my devotee friends; this jaapi stuff looks like its easy to make. Grab the recipe off the net and take some to the next satsang. You'll be a hit.

As I'm eating my delicious breakfast interspersed with sips of luscious jaapi I hear the Indian man next to me say in Malayalam to his friend "(something, something) Thich Nhat Hanh (something, something)". My ears perk up so I ask him "You're talking about Thich Nhat Hanh? The Vietnamese Zen Master?" He looks at me and says yes. I mention that back in 1996 I did a 6 week retreat at Thich Nhat Hanh's center near Bordeaux, France (some of the most beautiful countryside on the planet, IMHO). The Indian man is very curious and starts asking me all about it. I tell him what I know and we have a nice conversation. Brings back memories of the years I meditated with and helped organize the DC Thich Nhat Hahn group from 1991 to 1997. Its where I developed and deepened my passion for meditation and inner work.

After my meal I get some more jaapi (there's plenty left) and, on a whim, test and see if there's any more chai. Yes! Comes out in a pretty weak stream, though. So I end up with a cup of half jaapi and half chai. A match made in Vaikuntha! (google it)

With my cup of ambrosia, I saunter over to the Western Cafe to sign the morning register book. There's a brand new rule that anyone living alone (no roommates) has to sign a register book to confirm you're still alive or can at least pitifully drag your feverish behind to the register book. If you don't sign every day, they'll dress up in black suits and black sunglasses and come a knockin' on your door. Just kidding about the black suits, but I was told they will definitely pay you a visit. "Hi, just want to see if you're still alive. Buy us a cup of chai and we won't tell anyone you're not signing the register book, you sorry excuse for a devotee." Maybe they're running out of useful work at the Ashram Admin Office. I wouldn't be surprised if the rule came from Amma. Actually its not a bad idea because quite a few devotees here live alone and if they get sick or something, someone should check on them. Maybe they'll find some devotee in deep profound meditation only minutes away from full enlightenment when suddenly Bam! Bam! Bam! "Hey! Open up! You alive? Got any chai?!"

"But I was only minutes from full enlightenment!" you cry out in existential advaitic despair.

"Hey! You know the rules. No enlightenment without official ashram authorization. Get the form and get it signed and notarized. The yellow copy goes to the Enlightenment Approval Committee and then the Committee to Endlessly Discuss and Probably Reject the Decisions of the Enlightenment Approval Committee. Should only take a few maha-kalpas."

Little do they know that on the way to enlightenment you have gained the siddhi of turning noxious petty bureaucrats (and most lawyers) into small glow-in-the-dark mice especially attractive to cats and sea eagles.

Some small frantic squeaks are heard outside the door as you sink back into blissful meditation.

(footnote: Of the thousands of different siddhis, this is the only one approved by sadgurus as actually speeding up the devotee's path to ego-dissolution and enlightenment.)

Had some nice longs talks with Mukhunda and Aduren during the chai and snack break after the compost work. Aduren is a short, bald and very nice Indian man from Andhra Pradesh who often helps with the compost. He's also a pujari which means he's been trained to lead various complex Hindu rituals. I say we had a talk but it was almost all me listening to them share. I asked Mukhunda how he came to meet Amma and he told me all about the earlier master he had who helped guide him as a young man and who then led him to Amma. I asked Aduren how he learned to be a pujari and he talked for about an hour about all kinds of incidents from his life. The talk only ended when another Indian man came by to talk with him. I was glad cause it was getting late and I was pooped. I really liked learning more tidbits about Indian culture and spiritual life.

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