I had planned on writing another ashram living post several days ago but have had more health challenges. I will give you details about that later in this post, but wanted to acknowledge that I believe this one is overdue! At the same time, I know that many of the lessons that come in Amritapuri are about learning to be flexible and not attached to plans so not being able to adhere to my self-imposed timetable should not be a surprise. Amma often encourages us to be like a bird on a dry twig, ready to fly at a moments notice.
I looked at the ashram Facebook page yesterday and was excited to find that it had many photos that fit this post. All of the pictures below come from that site. To see the page go to: Amritapuri – Home. The photo at the top of this post comes from pixabay.com.
In my last post, I mentioned having had the opportunity to be a prasad queue assistant. I had planned to find the sign up sheet for that position so I could do it again, but I had no luck locating it. The next darshan day, I was standing next to Chaitanya when someone walked up planning to ask her to call me. The prasad line lead had just discovered that the devotee who had the 8 p.m. shift had left the ashram earlier in the day without telling anyone she was returning to her home country.
I was asked if I would work the shift, which started in five minutes, and I agreed to do it. Sometime during the shift, I was offered the opportunity to have that shift until I returned to the U.S. I was delighted to accept it.
There were several components to the job. Not only did I have to call the people from the prasad line on the auditorium floor to come to the stage at the appropriate time, I was also responsible for seeing that any first time givers were trained and that there was always enough people sitting in the downstairs part of the prasad line. That meant that in addition to calling people to the stage every two minutes and seeing that they sait in the right place, I had to go down to the downstairs prasad line to see if there are any first timers, train them and if necessary walk into the main hall to recruit more people.
I felt a bit muddled during the first two days, but I know I will figure it out in time.
Tuesday was India’s Independence Day. I understand there were several activities related to that event in the morning before I came downstairs. I didn’t see those, but I did enjoy watching the children carrying their tiny flags around the ashram.
Tuesday meditation day
Tuesday is also the day that Amma spends with the ashram residents each week. She joins us for meditation, leads a question and answer session and then serves us lunch.
You can see from the photo above what a feat it is to feed everyone lunch in a short period of time. The photo below shows some of the devotees who put the food on the plates. The plates are then handed to Amma and she blesses the food. From there the plates are handed to devotees in lines that snake throughout the auditorium. The plates are passed in this manner until everyone has been served.
No one eats until everyone has their food. As that process nears completion, we chant a chapter from the Bhagavagita. When everyone has been served, Amma leads the meal prayer.
I started a Tai Chi class on Wednesday. It meets six days a week from 7 to 8 a.m. The teacher will be here until the end of August. He is from Spain and is an excellent instructor. I am so happy to be taking Tai Chi classes again and I can tell the practice is helping to heal my wrist.
On the first darshan day after I arrived in Amritapuri, I was drawn by the sound of a large group doing vedic chanting. When I made it to the front of the auditorium, I saw about 100 residents chanting in unison. As I looked around the auditorium, I noticed many others participating. I understand that those who are part of the group are learning them in a class. I decided I wanted to join the chanting but not the class. Over the next few days, I found out they were chanting;
- Guru Stotram
- Guru Paduka Stotram
- Om Ganaanaam
- Prano devi Sarasvati
- Ganapati Atharvasirsa
- Mantra Pushpam
- Na Karmana
At one point, they alternate between these chants:
- Sri Rudram
- Narayana Suktam
- Purusha Suktam
- Medha Suktam and Durga Suktam
The order of the chants above change and I think other chants are added as the class learns them. I haven’t been able to follow, or even find, all of them in my booklets, but I am able to participate enough to feel satisfied.
Sometime last week, I noticed that there was a redness on the skin above my left eye. Over the next few days it spread. It didn’t itch or hurt, but I was concerned when it seemed to be getting worse rather than better. On Saturday I decided I needed to have it checked. We are blessed to have a small hospital on the property so I went there. Before long, I was with the doctor. She was concerned by what she saw and wanted a specialist to take a look. I thought that meant I would have to take a three hour drive to Kochi to go to AIMS, Amma’s multi-specialty hospital. I was pleased to discover that they used a different process. The doctor’s assistant took a photo and sent it to the specialist. I was then told to come back in an hour. When I returned, I sat in front of the doctor while she talked to the specialist and answered his/her questions over the phone. The specialist recommended a combination of antibiotics, ointments and an allergy med. The combination is working and my skin is significantly better. I am so glad medical care is available so readily when I am here.
This was another be a bird on a dry twig experience because I did not believe it was appropriate for me to do the stage job until the skin problem was healed. Hopefully by Wednesday I will be able to start it again.
On Saturday evening, the darshan line was finishing sooner than Amma wanted the program to end, so she instructed the token team to give darshan tokens to visitors who had not received her hug that week. Needless to say, I was happy to be one of those peope. It had been a stressful few days for me and it was wonderful to be in Amma’s arms once again.
The café is moving into the new building on Thursday. I look forward to seeing what the new space is like. I drastically cut my sugar intake in early July so haven’t had many bakery times since I’ve been here, or at least haven’t had the cakes and cookies. I always make an exception for the Sunday morning cinnamon rolls though. Those are a priority for me. Yesterday afternoon, in a moment of weakness, I decided to have a piece of chocolate cake!
While I was eating my chocolate cake, I watched a crow that was perched nearby. I imagined he was watching me, looking for an opportunity to take away my treat. If you leave food unattended here, a crow is likely to steal it.
At one point in the past, an eagle visited the western canteen during every meal. It perched in the rafters above the tables, patiently waiting for an inattentive devotee. If someone casually held up a piece of toast while they were talking, the eagle would swoop down and snatch it from their hand. That eagle was a regular guest at the canteen for years. In those days, even crows were known to snatch an omelet off a plate as a customer carried their food from the café to the dining hall. That may still happen, but I haven’t seen it for a long time.
One of the things I love about coming to the ashram in August is that it often rains. The rain may last only a few minutes, but it really pours. A lot of the buildings here have structures with metal roofs so the metal really magnifies the sound of the rain. I find the sound exhilarating. I also appreciate how much cooler it is on days that it rains.
When I hear the rain now, I remember a time when I was in the auditorium a few years ago. It happened to be December, which doesn’t tend to be a rainy season, but that day it poured. Every time I didn’t think it could rain harder, it did. The rain intensified over-and-over again in a fifteen minute period. The next day, we learned that there had been devastating and deadly floods in Chennai around the same time.
The rain photo above doesn’t show the rain when it was heavy but I really liked the image.
To view the previous posts in this series click here.