Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Hello from Bangalore!

Dear Ones:

Bangalore is the most western town in India I've visited so far. At MG Road, Gandhi Bazaar, and Commercial Street indian woman use jeans, ride motorcycles and talk on cellular phones on a fast food vegetarian restaurants. The roads are hole free and not so dusty. The cows are kept out and there are not thousands of autorickhaws, bicycles and beggars competing for the same space on the street. Walking by the shops I don't hear the "come to my shop madam", "good prices here", "please come inside" and a constant pestering to buy things. The prices are also more or less fixed and the autorickshaws actually use the meter. My energy here can stay more or less inside as I don't have to constantly fight with everything and be so much on guard all the time. I was told Bangalore is the fastest growing city in the world. At the same time I am very glad the indians are getting more wealthy I wonder what this is going to do to the wonderful ancient culture that India is breathing and exhaling to the whole world for so many thousands of years. As I am typing at this speedy steady computer, I hear american music and the guy right in front of me is wearing jeans.

But I didn't come to Bangalore in the Karnataka State to enjoy western comforts although I am ever so glad to be able to use a fast computer and travel in a car no older than 10 years. I came to go to Puttaparti, the abode of Sathya Sai Baba and to meet Karunamayi another Amma, or mother, also an incarnation of the Divine Mother- Devi. As an aside, I also visited an astrologer who reads our past lives on leaves and gives guidance about the future. The things he revealed to me blew my mind and I am still trying to digest it. As many things in India, the process he uses is very misterious (the writings come inside the leaves where he reads from) and also very accurate of past events that I know of.

I arrived in Bangalore January 9th early in the morning with the Bangalore Express Train. I am not sure the reason it is called that as it took 16 hours to travel about 850 km. That is probably fast for indian standards. It was very comfortable though, except for the air condition that froze my bones. I travelled in a small compartiment and was able to sleep all night at the berth and a thick blanket.

My appointment with the astrologer was on the same day I arrrived and later on I met Karunamyi at her Mathrudevi Vishnas Shanti ashram. Her middle class, educated followers made me feel underdressed for the first time in India. Karumayi is not as effulgent and radiant as Ammachi, but I can definetely feel her divinity. I like her esoteric lectures and calm relaxed demeanor. She seems to address questions I have about my practice. She has also given me lots of personal attention as I usually arrive early and sit right by her feet. The contact is very easy and obvious that way. Last night we celebrated Vaikunda Ekadasi and priests performed a Saligrama Abhishekan Puja (sacred ritual). She then gave us a lecture (in telugu followed by english translation) about the meaning of saligramas-special stones with powerful energy. At the end she gives us blessed water. As the translations were going on last night she looked right into my eyes, followed by a bright smile and a little shake of her head. At first I thought she was feeling sorry for the way I was dressed--a casual long skirt and turtleneck sweater under a bright color long sleeved batik type -beach blouse. Of course she was not feeling sorry for me that, maybe for other things. But what I really felt was an expression of compassion. Somehow I felt she knew my inner nature and my deepest questions. The energy she transmitted to me with just that look made my body relaxed and my mind completely silent. I could not hear the translations for a few minutes. My eyes were lightly wet and I closed my eyes to meditate and feel the energy fully.

I was at Puttaparti from January 11th until yesterday. I left at 11am to arrive in time for the puja at Karumayi yesterday (it is about 3 hours by taxi). The morning at Puttaparti was also busy with celebrations. They celebrated Sankranthi or worship of the sun and there were a lot of students there receiving awards. Sai Baba's ashram reminds me of Disneyland by the sheer number of people transiting there all the time. I woke up everyday at 3:30am to get in line to enter the Mandir (a huge temple) but could never be lucky enough to see Sai Baba close. They use drawing to determine what line goes in first, so in a way it is useless to wake up so early, but I used that time to meditate in line using my thermarest for backsupport and cushion. Although the masses of people inside the ashram and hundreds of kashimirian and all kinds of shops outside, I could feel Shatya Sai Baba, or swami as he is called there, represents something extraordinary. His charities alone speak for themselves. Excellent hospitals both at Puttaparti and Bangalore completely free of charge to all, many schools and his message of love and spiritual development being practiced all over the world transforming millions of people cannot be overlooked. I met many brazilians there and shared a room with a lovely woman from Parana State in Brasil- Darlene, which saved me from having to stay in a dormitory. The rooms are only available to two people.

So, tonight I will return to Karumayi's ashram in the evening for Makara Sankranti celebrations. I bought a most beautiful silk saree this morning and I am waiting for the tailor to make the blouse and inner skirt. It is light lavender with some dark sky blue and golden designs at the end and throughout all handwoven. I will not feel so underdressed but maybe not so clean as I will probably have to get dressed at the shop and cacth an autorickshaw straight to the ashram. The earlier the tailor could finish was 5pm and I want to be there early to sit close.

Tomorrow at 8am I leave to Tiruvamalai, Ramana Maharshi's abode (for those who don't know him, he is an important indian master not in body anymore). I will be able to see Arunachala (the sacred mountain) and meditate in the cave where Ramana used to. It is my first time there but many people told me it is a wonderful place. If I am lucky I will be able to also visit Bench Swami and Yogi Ramsuratkumar.

I will return from Tiruvamalai January 19th at the night train to Kerala and will arrive just in time to receive Ammachi back from her South Indian Tour. I didn't feel that is something I wanted to do (accompany her on her grueling travels). Instead, I am exploring and also learning from different teachers.

As the internet at the ashram and anywhere in Kerala for that matter is almost impossible to deal takes sometimes an hour to just read and send a message, I may only write again from Mysore where I plan to take yoga classes in February.

I will definetely be back in the Bangalore area for more Sai Baba and Karumayi while Ammachi is doing her North India Tour.

I hope this did not bore my friends and family that are not at all interested in swamis, or indian saints but this is what I've been doing out here in the this crazy blessed place. Those of you can wait for my secular reports in Thailand, Bali, Australia and New Zealand. Maybe, because if I find a temple or ashram I may want to enter.

I hope you are all well. Many blessing and Much Love to All!



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