Living and Learning in Amritapuri (Dec 14-17, 2015)

green flowers
Elephant, Dragonflies, Eagle

Lakshmi, one of the ashram elephants, has been out three times since I’ve been here. She is led into the courtyard by her trainers/attendants and the devotees, especially children, feed her. I love watching her take a whole clump of small bananas with her trunk and eat them all at once. These are some pictures of Lakshmi and Amma from 2011.

This morning during my Tai Chi class big dragonflies flew overhead. When I did some more Tai Chi in the evening, the eagles were soaring above us.  Both scenes were so beautiful.

Play Preparation

Play preparation is happening everywhere. Practices, creation of the set design, costumes, backdrops, slides in Malayalam and English, lighting, sound, all occurring simultaneously. I generally go to one of the practices each day.  So far they have been learning and reviewing one scene at a time.  Starting on Sunday they will be putting it all together.  It is so exciting.  From my room I can hear many of the practices I don’t attend.  In fact, at times I can hear the music even better from my room.  The sound goes up I guess.

I am spending more time sewing costumes than last week although I only work on them 2-3 hours a day compared to Jani and Sumati’s night and day work.

There is one part of the play I am very eager to tell you about but will wait and until after it is performed on Christmas Eve.

Leelas abound

It is amazing how I can “lose” as many things in this one room as I do in my house. For several days this week I was not able to find my iPhone cord (and was very thankful I sensed I should bring two cords to India, and did), the Fitbit gadget (I don’t know what it is called) I put into my laptop’s USB port, and some tweezers. I looked for them for days and took everything in this room apart several times. When I couldn’t find a receipt I needed on Tuesday, it felt like the “last straw.” Within minutes of reaching that level of frustration, I found the phone charger and the Fitbit piece in places I had looked for them many times.  They were practically in plain sight.  I also remembered where I put the receipt. No tweezers though.

This scenario felt like something we call Leela (God’s play). No other way of seeing it made sense to me.

Soon after I wrote this section yesterday, I noticed that my meal card and my time card for Amma’s darshan (hug) had disappeared from my wallet. I felt sooooo frustrated and tired of this kind of leela.   There will be more to this story later in the post.

[Note: Tokens are distributed to get Amma’s hug. It is a way to create some organization in the darshan process; there is no charge for the token.  Yesterday the tokens for Westerners were given to people who had just arrived at the ashram, were leaving soon, or were new devotees.  The rest of us who hoped to have darshan later were given time cards which would probably be exchanged for darshan tokens sometime in the evening.]

Journey to town

Yesterday, I had to go to town for a variety of reasons. Prior to 2006 when we went to town we had to take a canoe. When the tsunami hit in 2004 Amma transported everyone in the village and ashram to the mainland by boat because there was no nearby bridge. Over the next two years, the ashram built a bridge so people could get off the peninsula in an emergency. Having the bridge has also made it possible for us to walk to town whenever we want to go there.


The view from the bridge is gorgeous. This is what I saw when I went to town yesterday.

On the way back, I stopped at a shop and bought some fruit and crackers. The picture of the cashew crackers on the front of the box made them look so good. After I purchased them, someone asked what the ingredients list said. I took a look. No cashews at all! I imagine one of the “flavorings” that are mentioned on the ingredient list is something that tastes like cashews!


I remember hearing this year in the U.S. that one fast food company, I think it was McDonalds, was going to start using more real food. The example that was given was that they were going to use real black pepper! I was perplexed. Why would anyone use fake black pepper?  It didn’t seem like black pepper would be an expensive ingredient, certainly not as expensive as cashews.


I saw a t-shirt I liked the other day.  On the back it said:

                                                                                               Love & Serve

                                                                                               Give & Forgive


More Leelas

While leelas mean “God’s Play,” they don’t tend to be fun.  I see them as challenges, tests, lessons, etc.  They can lead to an emotional roller coaster.  Sometimes when one happens over and over like what I described above, all you can do is shake your head and laugh, and continue riding the wave, roller coaster, or whatever metaphor you want to use.

I felt sad after I lost my time card.  I knew the crowds would be really big starting this coming weekend, and I thought that last night would be the only time I would have a chance to go for Amma’s hug until just before I leave the ashram in January.  For the next couple of hours I looked for the man who was in charge of the tokens for Westerners.  I didn’t think he would replace the lost time card, but it never hurts to ask.  I never saw him, and it was getting late.  Even though it was only about 8 pm I was so tired.

I decided to go talk to my daughter Chaitanya and see if she had any advice.  She has nothing to do with tokens in India but she is one of the people in charge of them on the foreign tours so I thought she might have an idea.  I really wanted to go for darshan that night.  As we were talking, Chaitanya glanced out of the cafe window and saw that the token person was standing right there!  She asked him if he was going to be able to hand out more tokens that night and he said only to people who had just arrived or were leaving.  I told him I had lost my time card.  He said “Oh, you had a time card?  Here, you can have the last of the ‘regular’ darshan tokens!”  I was happy and relieved.  I could have my hug, and the leela was over, maybe.

For the next hour or so I waited in the line and got my time with Amma.  So nice.  I felt content and headed for my room.  As I got near the elevator, I looked for the key to my room and discovered it was gone.  That was another one of those shaking my head times.  To me these experiences are practice in staying calm, going with the flow, being patient, being persistent, letting go, and/or learning to do whatever it takes.  I reviewed where the key could possibly be.  I had locked the room when I left it and put the key in my bag.  The only thing that made sense was that I must have dropped the key when I pulled my wallet out of the bag to buy some fruit to give Amma during my darshan.  I walked back to that table and found the people who staffed it in the last stages of putting everything away.  I asked the woman if she had found a key and she handed my key to me!  I was very thankful that the leela was short lived.

This morning, I discovered this set of leelas still aren’t done, which is no surprise.  I had not gone to the morning prayers the day before, so forced myself to get out of bed for them this morning.  When I was ready to leave my room for the temple, I discovered my chanting book was not in the place I leave it EVERY day when I return from the prayers. I quickly looked around the room and it was nowhere to be found.  Did I drop it when I came back from the prayers two days ago?  Or will it show up out of nowhere like the other items? Who knows.

The only chanting book I could find was a copy I have that is written in Devanagari script (Sanskrit).  By then I was so late for the prayers that there was no way I was going to find where they were in the book, particularly when I would be reading it in Sanskrit script.  I haven’t studied any Sanskrit since I’ve been here so thought maybe I was supposed to be working on that.  I stayed in my room and read the chant from that book, slowly, until the people in the temple were finished with the morning prayers.  Looks like it is going to be another day of challenge.  Oh…. and I found the lost tweezers within a minute of finding out I had lost the chanting book!

“I will accept each challenge as it comes and will learn and grow as a result.”

“I will accept each challenge as it comes and will learn and grow as a result.”

“I will accept each challenge as it comes and will learn and grow as a result.”

“I will accept each challenge as it comes and will learn and grow as a result.”

“I will accept each challenge as it comes and will learn and grow as a result.”

“I will accept each challenge as it comes and will learn and grow as a result.”

To see the earlier posts in this series go to:


8 thoughts on “Living and Learning in Amritapuri (Dec 14-17, 2015)

  1. Wow! Kind of like an overdose of leelas! Thanks for the reminder to breathe and come back to center. Aside from the spiritual aspects and the lessons that come with these sequences of leelas, I tend to think of them like falling into an astrological black hole! Kind of like Alice in Wonderland 🙂


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