Living and Learning in Amritapuri- Dec 10-14, 2014

Arabian Sea
Arabian Sea

Know that every day here is packed with experiences, so I will be sharing some of the highlights! 

December 10, 2014

Prior to December 10th, I had attended two regular Sanskrit classes in Amritapuri plus six hours of make-up classes. We are studying the case matrixes. Each noun has eight different cases and each case can be singular, dual or plural. So there are potentially 24 different endings for one word. The classes here use a much more traditional approach than my classes in Seattle. The teacher will take one word and read each case in singular, dual and plural form.  After the teacher reads a line, the students repeat it.

When the teacher finishes all eight cases, he wanders around the room and hands a student the microphone. The student will then read each line in the same way the teacher did, and the class will repeat what he/she has said.

I was so new to these classes, I believed I was safe from that particular challenge. Not so. On my third night in the regular class, the teacher walked right over to me and handed me the mike. Was I ever surprised! I made a few mistakes but believe I did well considering the circumstance. I was not nearly as nervous as I would have expected myself to be.

December 12

I haven’t been working with the worms much; I’m too busy with other things. But on this day I did go to the worm composting area for a brief period. In my last long post, I told the story of finding the gigantic grub in the worm-compost mix. This time, when I disturbed the clump of worms in the center of the mound, I saw something scurry under them. I decided to ignore it for awhile.  After I separated the worms from the compost in the rest of the mound, it was time for me to find out what kind of bug it was.  I took a piece of cardboard and carefully picked up the rest of the worms.  A segmented beetle about an inch and a quarter long came running out of the clump and took off. I had never seen anything like it. I looked on the internet and this is what I think it was.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

December 13

Sreejit was 40 years old on this day! It is so hard to imagine him having passed that landmark. The years have been well used by both of us, but it is still seems hard to believe that we could be that old. I had been working on a birthday post for him ever since I arrived in India. It was very powerful for me to look at his life as a whole (A Tribute to Sreejit).

The night before, he had decided to write a post of his own (40 Years of Lessons and it Always Falls Back to Love). I saw it when I got up in the morning.  Reading it was such a surprise and I was very touched by the things he said.

Sreejit didn’t want to have a birthday party, but did want a treat (ice cream!) so I brought some to him in the afternoon. While I was there, he showed me a tap dance routine he had learned! After I left him, I went to a birthday party for a friend of mine. That was fun too.

Later in the evening, I was sitting in the dining hall with a friend when Swami Pranavamrita started singing a Swamiye Ayyappa bhajan in the nearby hall. It was a song that Jagati and I sang for Amma about five years ago. I went into a deep trance and my tears began to pour. I felt like I was crying from the very core of my being.  This was the type of experience I used to have 20-25 years ago. I felt very grateful to have a friend present to sit with me.  The trance ended soon after the song finished.  I felt exhausted.

Exhausted or not, I attended my Sanskrit class an hour later! It turned out that the teacher has to go to an unexpected meeting so sadly it was to be our last class until the 27th.

December 14

What a day; packed from beginning to end and full of special experiences.

I decided not to do worm composting and had breakfast with friends instead.   There is still so much sewing to do so I started at 8:30 instead of 10:30 or 11:00. Around noon, I went back to my room to take a phone call from the U.S.

Afterwards, I picked up some lunch at the canteen and took it to the play practice.  They were rehearsing the scene where St. Francis visits a leper colony.  I wasn’t prepared for the impact it would have on me; I cried the whole time.  Every single interaction in that scene was noteworthy and deeply moving.

I have mentioned that I have cried numerous times since I’ve been here. You might think that is a normal occurrence for me, but the fact is, in my daily life I rarely shed a tear.  I grew up with my father saying, “If you are going to cry I will give you something to cry about!”  As a result, I pretty much shut down my tears.  But when I am with Amma, my tears flow easily.  Rarely are they tears of sadness.  They may be tears of longing or they may be tears of gratitude, tears of bliss, or tears of compassion.  Often I don’t have any idea what my tears relate to.  It doesn’t matter.  They feel healing and important.

After the practice, I walked back to the sewing room and Jani and I talked about the monks’ costumes. I decided to see if I could find any drawings of what Franciscan monks wore during the 13th century.  I was able to find pictures and I loved the look, but when I took them to Chaitanya she said they would not work. Apparently when that first order formed, they dropped a lot of the teachings of St. Francis and he wasn’t happy about it at all. He himself wore rice sacks!  So back to the drawing board.

I was feeling exhausted from the emotion of the day before and from having watched the leper scene so decided to go back to my room after I finished talking to Chaitanya about the costumes.   I walked by the area where Amma was giving darshan and noticed that there was almost no one in the prasad giving line. I have committed to myself to give prasad every darshan day if possible, so got into the line. As I waited, there was  a bhajan group singing that was REALLY rocking.  I loved it. They sang a Vitthala song, a Swami Ayyappa song and many others. After giving prasad, I went into the auditorium and sat in the front row near the singers. I couldn’t believe I was sitting there. For the last three years, I’ve had to sit a considerable distance from the auditorium because of my sensitivity to the volume of the music, and now I was sitting in the heart of it and having no problems. What a miracle this is for me.

The tabla player was incredible. His playing reminded me of the beauty of the tabla in the song Unarunnaru. Later, I asked someone where that group came from and found out that the tabla player, who was also the leader of the group, was Amma’s brother!   I probably have seen him sometime in the past and had no idea who he was.  He apparently writes many of the songs that Amma dances to on the tours.  His group sings every Sunday from 4-6 p.m.  I know where I will be at that time next week!

Lakshmi, one of the ashram elephants has been in the courtyard almost every day this week.  I always enjoy seeing her!

lakshmi-elephant

Lakshmi when she arrived in Amritapuri in 2003

11lakshmi-11

Amma and Lakshmi 2011

Later in the evening, a group from Bali danced. It was so interesting. The leader asked Amma to PLEASE come to Bali, over and over again. He must have said it twenty times in the fifteen minutes I was watching. It was so funny!   I remember that group dancing last year when I was on my way to the hospital to get treatment for a bad cold and very high blood pressure. I felt so grateful for the shift I’m experiencing.

I decided it was time for me to go to bed, even though I knew the program would go on much longer. Soon after I returned to my room, it began to rain. It was as if the whole sky opened up and all of the water in the clouds dropped at once. Apparently, when it started, the man from Bali told Amma the rain was a sign she should come to Bali! 🙂 The downpour continued as I fell asleep. I love that sound. What a day it had been.

*****

Here is a list of all of the posts from my 2014-15 trip to India.  The most recent one is at the top.

14 thoughts on “Living and Learning in Amritapuri- Dec 10-14, 2014

  1. What a gift to sit so close and hear the music now!! Your father’s comment about crying was exactly my father’s saying too…but it never stopped me from crying…I just cried more…haha…I can imagine the welling up of emotion being near Amma too. I am really enjoying reading your stay there, Karuna:) Thanks for being so generous in sharing.

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      1. I sister shut down and pouted most of her youth…she still gets annoyed when I cry. On our father’s deathbed, I wailed and she was not happy with me…it is difficult to unlearn things sometimes.

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