Even though I’ve been coming to Amritapuri for 27 years, every day is still filled with new experiences and learnings.
On the evening of Nov. 28, a friend told me that she had found a garden in the ashram that she thought I would want to see. It is on the north side of the ashram, but is only a five-minute walk from the ashram’s center. The next day, I went to look. When I walked into the gate, I gasped. For me, it was like walking into heaven. (The photo on the top of this post is from that garden.) I will be writing many posts on this topic but here are some photos to wet your interest! (You can click on the gallery to see an enlarged version of the photos.)
I also saw the projects that are being done inside the Saraswati house. They have looms for weaving, a room for dying fabric, and a room for block painting. So many items are being produced here and then sold in the ashram stores and on Amma’s tours. All proceeds go towards Amma’s humanitarian projects.
I look forward to sharing more about the handmade items with you later.
One of the things that I enjoy most about being in Amritapuri is how many synchronous events occur. So often when you need to find someone, your path crosses theirs a moment later.
Every year, there are people who I see constantly. Sometimes it feels like they are on the other side of every corner. Around 5,000 devotees live at Amma’s ashram and there usually hundreds to thousands of other people visiting each day, so constantly seeing the same people must be more than chance.
The people I have the “around every corner” experience with are usually individuals who end up becoing a major part of my trip. Starting on the first day of this visit, I’ve had that experience with three people. Two of them were in my Tai Chi class last year. I have since discovered that the third person is responsible for organizing work in the Saraswati gardens!
I’m seeing a different person “around every corner ” now. She is a long-term friend, but I’ve never passed by her so often. It’s gotten to the point that we laugh every time we see each other.
At 6:30 each evening, we sing bhajans (devotional songs) for 1 ½ hours. Whenever Amma is away from the ashram, the women sing in the temple and the men sing in the auditorium. I have always felt drawn to the men’s music, but have stayed in the temple. Last year I observed there were increasing numbers of women sitting on the side of the auditorium during the evening bhajans. This year, I saw considerably more women sitting in the auditorium. In fact, I think there were as many women in the auditorium as men. Next, I noticed that most of the ashram’s elderly women were sitting in the auditorium. That is all I needed to see. I have joined them!
One night on my way to bhajans, I saw a group of people looking up into a tree. It was dusk, but there was a man with a huge camera taking pictures. When I was close enough, I asked the photographer what was going on. He told me a fox bat was in the tree. He said that these bats are only seen seven days a year, during the short period that the figs are ripe.
When I researched “fox bat” on Wikipedia, I learned they are the largest bats in the world. They are also known as flying foxes or fruit bats. I didn’t take any photos but I found one on Pixabay.com.
I stopped by the recycling center the day after the floor had been changed from concrete to tile. I imagine the devotee’s feet will be very happy to no longer be sorting garbage standing on concrete.
I noticed that the cages of sick birds being nursed back to health are no longer located in that room. I wonder if they are in a different part of the center or have been moved to another location.
Behind the recycling center, I saw many nets full of recently washed milk bags drying in the sun.
Gardens in the central part of the ashram
I know I will be showing you photos of these gardens throughout the trip, but here are some pictures to start you off!
San Jose programs
We were able to see Amma conducting the Atma Puja on the last day of the San Jose programs via live feed. It was 7 p.m. in the evening there time, and 8:30 a.m. our time. That evening, we listened to Swamiji chanting the archana that occurs towards the end of each program. After the archana we watched as Amma gave darshan until the program ended. (Darshan- Amma gives her blessing through hugging each person that comes to her. At this point she has hugged 36 million people worldwide. We call that hugging process darshan.)
(When I first came to India I had to take a rickshaw to a town twenty minutes away to use a telephone. It sat on a table in the middle of an alley. A crowd gathered around to watch and listen as I made the call. I never would have dreamed that 27 years later, I would be watching Amma live from halfway across the world.
Lessons in patience
In my last post, I talked about receiving lessons in flexibility, equanimity and letting go. I will add patience to that list.
One of my favorite activities last year was doing Tai Chi. I have been very eager to start taking the daily Tai Chi classes again this year. Before I came, I knew that the main teacher, Dave, would probably not be coming this year, but I hoped that Stephanie, who is in teacher training with him, would be here. She was very instrumental in teaching our class last year so I know she is very skilled and dedicated.
Two days ago, I talked to a devotee who had seen Stephanie’s husband at the end of the European tour, so I knew she was indeed coming. Then yesterday, I was told she had arrived at the ashram, but I have not seen her yet. It is certainly an opportunity for me to practice patience.
I’m also having to try to find some patience within me in regards to the Wi-Fi hook up. It is so frustrating to have posts ready but not be able to publish them! There is no way to know when the company will send me a text saying I can activate it.
(You can tell by the fact I’m publishing now that I found another way to do it. That story will be in the next post!)
To read the rest of the posts in this series click here.