Monday, April 30, 2012

Guru's Birthday

Instead of going trekking, I decide to hold off a day and go with Sheshila to her ashram for her Guru’s birthday.  Her Guru is currently out of body, but his spirit is still present. This ashram has connection with Sri Aurobindo and Mother Ama, which is intriguing for me and makes me want to check it out.  It has a place for yoga and meditation hall with availability to stay overnight. I thought to myself maybe I could stay for a few days depending on how I like it.  
After two buses packed in like sardines, we arrive at her ashram.  It looks more just like a local, community temple, but it is an ashram.  There are pictures of the guru, the original guru, Shiva, and mother ama.  They sprinkle holy water on our heads when we arrive and are very welcoming with kind smiles.  Sheshiela is on the board association so she has some people and tasks to attend to inside.  I go inside and sit in on the chanting and meditation.  Just wearing Indian chulita and not wearing a red sari, I immediately stick out in the crowd. It is mainly a crowd full of ladies with a few men.  Throughout the ceremony, the ladies perform various rituals-bowing down touching their head to the ground, covering their eyes with both hands, handing flowers to one another as a warm gesture, and touching their nose.  I follow along with rituals, but keep failing on bowing my head down to the ground.  The lady next to me laughs at my failed attempts.  I just kept watching the lady next to me with a divine sense of pleasure on her face-looking up as if God was sitting and staring right down at her. 

After this ceremony part 1, there is part 2 outside with all devotees surrounding the fire.  We get rice in a bowl and throw it into the fire in between chants.  Everyone is picking on me telling me how to sit, to use my pinkie finger and ring finger when picking up the rice, to pick up two grains rather than three grains. I am thinking to myself just leave me alone and let me be.  One lady is nice and trying to help, but the other two are just being annoying and obsessive(This little moment contributes to the religious conflicts that people have as people are rigid and not willing to accept outsiders in-I see this frequently with the tourist interaction with locals). 

Sitting two rows behind the fire, we have to drop the rice from the bowl to a piece of newspaper.  At first, I tried to throw it between people in the fire. I did not know and was just trying to follow with everyone else-poor Priscilla ha.

The man chanting just kept going taking only a couple seconds to catch is breathe.  I was able to follow most of the chants and some were so fast I kept getting tongue twisted.  The heat from the fire was very hot as I began to sweat.  The devotees are sitting directly in front of it sweating, but expressing no regard or care for this happening.  They just keep on chating and along with them I just keep on chanting too. 

After an hour of chanting, we finally stop and have another worshipping ceremony followed by my favorite part dancing and singing “Happy Birthday Guru” while throwing confetti in the air. Ramjeet showed up too and joined in on the festivities.  Everyone warmed up to the one outsider joining in the festivities and I was dancing with my new friend Mia and Shesheila.  There were many young children and a specific young group of boys about 5th standard who kept following me around all day asking my name and just being silly.  I thought nothing of this thinking, “Oh just boys being boys." It is time for prasad consisting of my favorite milk rice with vegetable, potato, and lentil side.  For desert, we each get a blessing and a slice of vanilla cake with vanilla icing-delicious! Towards the end people were still singing and chanting so I went to the meditation room for some private time. 

From my observations, these women and their families represent a great group dynamic.  They are cohesive,effective, respectful with positive regard towards one another, loving, and caring.  A group like this is what a community really needs.  This is what has the power to provide support when people are need-when people have a bad day and need someone to lean on or a place to go and feel supported.  It is a simple yet special ashram.  If only Mother Ama was there that would make it an even more spectacular day.

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