Monday, March 4, 2013

Kolkata to Gurgaon

Dear Friends:

Forgive me for taking so long to write to you all again. For the last three weeks I have been giving classes almost every day, first in Kolkata, followed by Delhi and Gurgaon, with brief visits to our centers in Rajouri Gardens and Noida (both in the Delhi area).

Meeting so many new people, and teaching everyday seemed to use up most of my communication energy. Thus the long silence.

I haven’t seen Swamiji since he left Kolkata. Jyotish and Devi have written about their time with him since then, so all the news here will be about my travels. And even though this has been a joyful and expansive time for me, I am not sure how much of it I can put into words.

I have sometimes spoken about the Nation of Self-Realization, which I believe is the true citizenship of all of Master’s children, no matter what official passports we carry. But it is quite another thing to come to the other side of the world and meet your brothers and sisters in God, and feel such kinship, even though we are meeting (in this lifetime) for the first time.

The illusion of nationality and culture is dissolved by shared discipleship and love for God.

The Kolkata talks went very nicely. As I explained in my last letter, we did one class a day for about 6 days and the magnetism built every day, even though not everyone came every day. By the end, we were all quite comfortable together and that sense of family made it all deeper and more fun.

The uncertainty I had at the beginning about teaching in India has dissolved and I feel as much at home here as I do in California. Most of all, what I am aware of is the privilege of sharing Master’s teachings, Swamiji’s inspiration, and the joy of seeking God.

Now a few details, just so you can have a picture of what these weeks have been like.

In Kolkata, we held almost all our programs at the Birla Planetarium. Alas, not in the round room with the stars above, but in classrooms arranged around the outside. It is centrally located, and quite a nice space in which to teach. For a while I was staying in a hotel that was within walking distance. It is winter in India, and in the Delhi area the weather is quite pleasant.

The 20-minute stroll through the crowded, noisy shopping area to reach the Planetarium was a pleasant spiritual exercise in staying calmly centered in myself despite the bustle around me, and also in dissolving inner boundaries, seeing and feeling God in all His various forms, including my own.

After Kolkata, we flew to Delhi.

It turned out, there were no other demands on Bryan’s time, so he came with me, and was able to stay through the whole rest of the program. There was fog in Delhi so our plane was delayed for hours. His company is delightful, so we sat on the floor of the airport and chatted happily for half the day.

He has also been able to make videos of all the classes. They’ll be posted on Ananda India site and also Ananda Palo Alto. I’ve been talking faster than he can edit and upload, but soon they’ll all be there.

Ananda started in 2003 in one house in Gurgaon. In those first years, Biraj and Lahari traveled at least once a week, for almost 2 hours in a car, to a city called Noida on the other side of Delhi to nurture a group there. The soil of devotion was rich and the result has been a thriving center ever since, led by Mr. M.B. Gupta, a deeply devoted disciple.

Another group started in an area near central Delhi called Rajouri Gardens. Although most of the people in the center also speak English, all the teaching is done there in Hindi (except, of course, when someone like me comes in who can only speak English).

Both Noida and Rajouri Gardens have a permanent, dedicated center, beautifully set up, with a deeply uplifting vibration.

I went to Noida twice and to Rajouri Gardens once and for me those experiences were among the deepest that I have had in India. There was some karmic link, either with the places, or, more likely, with the people, that lent a unique quality to the evenings. I am deeply grateful to Master and to all the devotees for the time we shared together.

At Rajouri Gardens the topic they wanted was Raising the Kundalini. There had been some shifting of titles and I confess to having been a bit inattentive to the details of my program, so I found out in advance, but not that far in advance. Since my talks come out of the inspiration of the moment, it didn’t matter, but it was interesting to balance the deep feeling of devotion in the center with this more metaphysical topic. But God finds a way and I think we all enjoyed ourselves and felt the evening was worthwhile.

In Noida, I was invited for lunch with the core members and then a satsang afterwards. Mr. Gupta and his family live in a beautiful flat on the top story of a relatively new development in an area called Greater Noida. It is some distance from central Delhi where we were staying, but some of the devotees came to pick me up and talking about God, Guru, and the spiritual path makes time pass effortlessly.

Nowadays, there are fine highways all around the Delhi area, so travel is different from America, but not so different as it used to be.

The way housing is being constructed in this area is in defined communities, with multistory apartment buildings surrounded by walkways and perhaps, gardens. Some complexes, like where Mr. Gupta lives, include hundreds of apartments, but in this with lots of beautiful common space where people walk, and gather, and the children play. Quite lovely.

A few days later, I went to do the Sunday morning satsang at the center itself, which is a few kilometers from Mr. Gupta’s home. For that event, I went on Saturday night and spent the night in the home of two devoted members, both doctors. The ground floor and basement of their house is a medical clinic; the family lives on the upper two stories. This was in a more established neighborhood of individual houses, rather than the newer apartment complex where Mr. Gupta lives.

The devotees hosted me with such love and care. I felt as if I were in my own home with my own family. In the morning we had a deep meditation together in their temple room.

We are all citizens of the Nation of Self-Realization. It couldn’t be more self-evident.

There is something about these neighborhoods and Indian homes, with the narrow streets, and the buildings close together, the balconies and marble floors, the indoor-outdoor living that touches some deep memory within my soul. A very happy memory I must say.

Mr. Gupta decided to celebrate Master’s Mahasamadhi a week early, so our Sunday Satsang included a flower offering and a blessing ceremony. Every altar here is lavishly decorated with fresh flowers -- garlands and bouquets. So lovingly done. Having such a devotional theme made the morning utterly blissful.

As it turned out, that was the last public program for me in India. I couldn’t have imagined a more fitting way to end this tour.

Now, back to the airport in Kolkata, to give you some of what happened before that final event.

Eventually the plane took off and when we got to Delhi we were met by Daya, who, with her husband Keshava, runs what is now the Delhi center.

For years, Daya and Keshava have been guiding this center in central Delhi, even though they lived about an hour away in Gurgaon. Last fall the decision was made to move full time into Delhi.

By the grace of God they were able to find a perfect location. Land in Delhi has skyrocketed in value. On one small plot people can build a four or five-story building, each floor its own flat which can be sold for an enormous sum.

So they were astonished to find a single story house with a garden right in the middle of Delhi. The owners had been transferred to another city and the house was for rent.

It is on a narrow, but quite busy street, between two contrasting neighborhoods. On one side, is an established area of individual homes, built around a large park. It is an older neighborhood, with many large trees.

The street fronting the house where Daya and Keshava live is extremely noisy with cars, and motorcycles and constantly honking horns. You step through the gates of that neighborhood -- just a few minutes from their front door -- and it is suddenly quiet and tranquil. And the park is an ideal place for a morning or evening walk.

Go the other way out their gate and you come into an old traditional neighborhood. Even though the property is of great value, the government also protects these older neighborhoods from being exploited. Generations have lived there. It is, in a real sense, an urban village and few living there want their community disturbed.

In that direction, a few blocks away, there is a beautiful Jain temple, and along the way one passes a temple to Sirdi Baba, and a small Krishna temple as well. All around there are small shops, and smaller dwellings, and the usual bustle of Indian life.

The house where Daya and Keshava live, along with Sangeeta, one of the earliest Ananda members, who now runs the publication business, is about the size of the ground floor of Chela Bhavan, for those who know our house in Palo Alto. And the garden is about the size of the back yard. All of it, though, is walled in, either by the adjoining buildings or freestanding walls. Once you come in the gate from the busy street, you are entirely in your own world.

Everyone is astonished to find in the middle of Delhi a house and garden of this type. The house has a large living room, which has become the Temple for the Delhi center. And the garden provides outdoor space, which, especially during this season, is an extension of the house.

Near the gate there is another small building which houses the publications office and the kitchen.

We slept inside, but took all our meals, and our morning tea in the garden.

I have heard it said (I don’t know how reliable the information is) that in the astral world sometimes you are given a home that matches you imagined ideal. I think in the astral world I lived in a house very similar to the Ananda Delhi center!

Daya, Keshava, and Sangeeta were the perfect hosts and for almost a week we had a delightful time together.

And, oh yes, we had classes every day, and informal gatherings as well. The group is wonderful. I feel very at home with the devotees in this area of India.

Every event was at the center except for one. For that we rented a hall nearby, right across from the park where we took our daily walks. They did a lot of publicity for that one and we had a good crowd, about 130 or so, and at least 1/3 were people we didn’t know. We are experimenting to see how, in future, to reach out beyond our own crowd. It went well and bodes well for the future.

Bryan stayed at the center also. He had a slight cold, which, in our conversation, we exaggerated to life-threatening proportions, planning to use it as an excuse to stay in that house forever. Teatime entertainment was the composing of various telegrams (although no one sends telegrams anymore, but the “plot” worked better as a telegram) was that Bryan was “too sick to be moved” and all plans had to be cancelled until his recovery at some date in the future yet to be determined.

All a pleasant fantasy, I hasten to add. Bryan is fully recovered, and when our scheduled departure day arrived we bade a fond farewell to our Delhi home and drove away in the taxi.

Our next destination could hardly be called a hardship duty! One of the reasons they decided to move out of the house in Gurgaon was because the center, which had been in the basement of that house, was able to move to a much more public, and expansive location on the top floor of a local community center.

These are a feature of all the neighborhoods here, constructed at the same time as the houses themselves. There are large meeting halls for weddings and other ceremonies and events.

In this particular building, the ground floor is used by the area residents, the top floor is entirely dedicated to Ananda. Spacious, airy rooms, a terrace, an outdoor lawn. Simply wonderful. Very attractive, easy to access, entirely quiet, lots of parking.

When Swamiji arrived, they were able to rent for him a beautiful house which is a half a block from the center. When Swamiji isn’t here, Dhyana and another devotee live in the house. And there is also a perfect guest room. That is where I am staying; Bryan is housed with friends nearby.

Once again we’ve had daily classes and the group has been wonderful. I don’t mean to endlessly repeat superlatives, but there are no other accurate words. It has been a joy to meet so many fine, dedicated souls. I am deeply grateful that Swamiji suggested that I come to India and share in this way. It has been both a privilege and a joy.

Today is a rest day and Dhyana and I are going to take a long walk in a nearby garden and then have lunch together with a friend. Tomorrow morning early I fly back to Pune. (Bryan went yesterday.)

I’ll be there for a few days, including the weekend celebration of Master’s Mahasamadhi. A big crowd is coming, including the 30 Americans traveling with Hriman and Padma on pilgrimage, so it should be a joyous event.

Swamiji is scheduled to fly to Europe on Monday, March 11, and on the same day I leave for California. He has had some challenges to his health, but he seems to be recovering well and we are all praying that he will be able to travel as planned that day.

My heart has begun to move ahead of me back to California and I am eager to see all of you there.

Much love in Master,

P.S. We have a few more photos from these last couple of weeks posted online.