I came to sway with the music, to the rhythm of silence I ended up dancing.
I came to rediscover myself, with a sparkling rendezvous I ended up reliving the real me.
I came to enjoy every moment, with a rejuvenated spirit I ended up celebrating.
I came to smile, with his blessing I ended up experiencing laughter blissfully.
Rejoicing “the me”, with him I am writing.
My Guru, the master.
“I am really going to miss this place; I am going to miss my Ashram days.” What memories! As this song still reverberates beyond the ashram and in my room, it’s not the most difficult thing to visualize several moments of this “historic” eight day fun filled adventure called Winter Break 2010. Though flashback might not be the correct word as it all seems to be in the so called “now”, it still is close enough to be appropriate. So, here it goes…
No full time job, disappointed after not cracking the GRE, agitated but lazy, also getting frustrated with my own self, all I knew was “It was time!”
This time I really wanted to meet Guruji. I don’t know why but my desire to meet him was as strong as the time when I met him for the first time in Aurangabad.
Three advance courses done including Summer Magic ’10, I was experienced enough to be certain that the phrase “All said and done” does not apply to the Art of living for a sole reason that every volunteering experience, every advance course or even a repeated DSN provides a breath of fresh air which offers you an experience worth storing in your sump of memory. Thus, I was looking forward to another adventure.
The history repeated itself once again (don’t worry, I am not George Eliot writing ‘Scenes of the Clerical life’, all I am writing is my advance course experience). It was an advance course and one that once again was so different to what I had thought it would be, thereby, giving me memories to cherish.
The Winter Break as a whole challenged the intensity of Winter Break ’09 and it easily beat the silence maintained during Summer Magic ’10; it sure was the perfect break provided to me by life and Guruji during the winter of 2010.
Although I was working as a phone football commentator with Real Time Sportscast, thereby earning money but you know how it goes, my parents still had to be convinced on me spending my own money for going to the Ashram.
Call it grace or whatever but like always, it just does happen somehow. Right from convincing my parents, to filling up my YES!+ Advanced form, to packing my bags for Bangalore, it all happened in the span of a week. It was also a week of crazy partying which provided a perfect build up for the Ashram trip.
The Train Journey
December 26, 2010: Boxing day! This time it was a very special gift that I received from my Santa who has a black beard and does not travel across the world on his reindeers but still showers his blessings to everyone in the world – my train ticket somehow had got confirmed. Thus, my smile erect, me buzzing with enthusiasm and overfilled with energy, I reached the Pune station where the teacher, Shashank along with both the Pooja(s), Krishna, Sandeep, Neha, Vishal, Varshada, Vinaya, Purva, Jhanavi and others were waiting.
This time there were several new faces, in fact I hardly knew ten from the forty odd who were traveling.
Oh my god! Bizarre it was. I was dressed in T-shirt and shorts. Just imagine this guy comes to serve Chai (Tea), looks at my knee region, first laughs, then, passes a “wicked” smile and goes away which eventually leaves everyone in my compartment laughing their hearts out. Pooja then tells me, “Finally, someone is hitting on you.”
Soon, the entire train knew as Pooja Gaikwad publicized the incident as if someone had won an Oscar.
But apart from that, combination of satsangs, guru stories, basketball (with a tennis ball and compartment’s glass holder) and hours of dumb sheraz made for a decent train journey.
Hours of traveling and we had reached Bangalore at about 5:30 AM. A couple of hours away from the “heaven” on earth, I couldn’t stop smiling. An hour in the bus and….yes…I could see the International Centre of the Art of Living. As the bus entered the gate, I said in my heart, “I’m home Guruji!”
December 27 – Advance Course Reporting
When we were in the train, there was this chap called Pranay, the biggest “Pakau” ever. So, when we were being allotted rooms all I told Guruji was, No Pranay! He obliged again, I didn’t have Pranay as my roommate. In fact, I had Krishna and Vishal (my first YES!+ friend) as my roommates, really decent people. So, I thanked Guruji for that also.
We soon did our Kriya and Padma Sandhana and Sumeru and it was very special in its own right. Ashram food!...It was amazing. After singing songs and having a mini satsang at Radha Kunj, it was soon evening and by then, there were almost a thousand youths in the Ashram already. Evening also meant that it was time for the real satsang. This time the satsang was in Vishalakshi Mantap (VM) and not in Yagyashala. I felt “wow!” as I have always considered VM to be the place for satsang or meditation!
Although, he wasn’t present physically but it was absolutely magical to feel his presence in the satsang. Well, it is an unmatchable feeling that gives you an experience of a minor Sudarshan Kriya and your Prana does a moonsault a hundred times inside your body.
With an absolute feeling of bliss, I walked back to my room at Vishala, unlike the last time during Summer Magic when I would walk and walk and walk with bliss till the time the bliss wouldn’t disappear and still not reach the Chinese Dorm but again that was fun in itself.
December 28 - Day of the Upgrade
Now, if you know, Vishala has eight toilets and four bathrooms for about 200 people.
The next morning, it was quarter to 4 and I was up only to realize that there were more than a dozen people waiting to let go! I was confounded. I thought, “Extremely enthusiastic people, what dedication to the course!”
Suddenly, I was reminded of Shahrukh’s Pepsi advertisement as I waited in the queue telling myself, “Mera number aayega.” 15 minutes of wait and I had finally got the green card. I said, “Thank you Guruji.”
A couple of minutes on, people started banging on my door and saying, “Kitni der laga raha hai.” I was like, what da!
But I said to myself, accept! and that’s what I did - no matter how much they banged, didn’t get out J for sometime.
Several minutes later, with a bright smile again I was at peace with myself and sure it felt good. Though angry people surrounded me but this was important!
As I came out, I saw a longer queue for taking bath. So, it was a different acceptance this time but again I had to accept and so I waited. Finally, I was done with bath and wow, it felt so fresh. Sudarshan Kriya was “The Kriya” and yes, I was up for the upgrade. After the breakfast as we reached the VM, there was buzz around the entire auditorium for the second upgrade. Alien to even the theme - Back to Gurukul - I loved the dilemma and the excitement of the moment.
Even the thought of nerve-wrecking challenges gave me butterflies in my stomach but I felt gratitude towards Guruji for making me be a part of this enthralling venture called Winter Break 2010. With a smile we ran and sat and the groups were formed. My will to be away from my Pune group in order to cross my own boundaries made me remain separated. Well, not completely. As I looked at my group, I saw that a couple of Pune people had “tapko-ed” in my group, including Pooja, who carried the train “Chai-wala teasing” into the upgrade. But that was ok, I had gotten used to all the teasing.
Our group was no. 42 and our group leader was unusually odd. Guess what, the first thing that she tells the group was, “I am from IIT, Delhi.” I was like, “Ok” thinking - so, what do I do. Our group (minus me) was full of over intelligent people – like people from the IITs, NITs, BITS, etc. at least they thought they all were intellectuals. This was vindicated as the tasks were assigned to the group. A bunch of people said they knew Vedic Maths, some said they were good at Zoology and Botany and a couple said they knew the foreign language. As for me, I said, “I know non of these bonus tasks so which ever sub-group within our group needed my support, I’m there.” The entire group looks at me like - dude?
I gleefully joined these two girls – Medaline (from Philippines, who knew Spanish) and Varsha (who knew French) – in the foreign language bonus task. Somehow we found the location which was Devi Place.
Medaline was able to do her Spanish to English conversion. Varsha, well, she only knew some words of French, so, for us, that was that! As for me, I just gave my best shot at convincing volunteers to do (not help but do) the conversion.
Believe me, for once, they all got together in a group started to “willingly” ask for bribes and what was the bribe – Corn Mushroom Mayo Sandwich from the canteen. I said, “That ain’t happening!”
Though I didn’t have the greatest skills but I was smart. I spotted that other groups were trading the conversions. That is, if one knew French and the other Spanish, they would exchange the conversions so that both the groups ended up with two conversions.
I took Varsha to this guy, who was copying French and asked her to read the entire knowledge sheet. She did that and we were done with two now. German left, we again cheated or should I say, we “used our resources” well. Languages done and we had got six stars.
We were the first group to complete the foreign language task and as it’s so very characteristic of me, I did more than required show-off. I went to each and every group and asked how was it going, they all told me their problems with the conversions. All I said was, “Ah, that’s ok, we just got six stars.” While leaving also, I shouted – “We got six stars!”- Show-off – totally worth it!
We three ran faster than Usain Bolt in an extremely excited manner shouting, celebrating, dancing and showing off as though we had won gold at the Olympics. It sure was fun.
As we met the others from the group, we got to know that the “confident Vedic Maths” people from the group had suddenly forgotten their Vedic Maths and Botany and Zoology suddenly appeared to the “intellectuals” like it was anything but Biology. The rest of the group was going great; in fact better than how I thought they would go. I tried to help the group with suggestions (which they did not take) and somehow we were done with four-ish tasks. Ten minutes to two and we rushed to the VM, patting ourselves on the back so as to say, “Well done”
The rest of the day made us aware that we are here for an advance course as Dinesh Bhaiya made us meditate. Dinner followed by a super satsang in Swamiji’s presence made way for a good night’s sleep.
December 29, 2010 – Advance course start
The day had arrived; it was the start of the advance course. For a second day in succession, I got up at 3:45 AM smiling away to glory as I knew, it was the day that we were to go into silence.
This time, the morning was more normal – by that I mean no crazy amount of people at 03:50 in a line right in front of the loo. I really felt freedom and so, I smiled.
Just imagine, I smiling so that I don’t have to wait in a queue, weird? But it did feel like freedom. Well, like it happens so many times, I got excited just a bit too early. As I opened the door, I found that the toilet wasn’t flushed and I wasn’t going to be the one to do the honors.
Although it took time, I was ready for Sadhanna.
First Surya Namaskars and then, Sadhana filled me with joy. Breakfast and then seva at the VM turned out to be quite immaculate.
Before sadhana, I told Guruji, “No Girls! Like Summer Magic, silence has to be silence”
The vintage advance course processes went on throughout the day and it was really absorbing to experience once again what an advance course offers.
I had lunch at the canteen, ah sorry, the café as Bawa calls it - Café La Khana. I had Corn Mushroom Mayonnaise sandwich and Oges (hot). Now, I knew why were the upgrade volunteers ready to get bribed. The sandwich was WOW!
The dinner in the kitchen was different from normal but as usual, it was amazingly brilliant – it was Pasta, fried rice and sweet corn soup. Can you believe it? I couldn’t then.
Dinner was followed by a great satsang, where we got driven by the energy of the mantras, songs and VM to sing and dance more and more and joyfully go into silence.
December 30, 2010 – January 1, 2011 – Silence
I was up early again and it felt extremely good as I was maintaining silence. I don’t know if you have ever come across guys who take an awful amount of time in the bathrooms and if I hadn’t in the past, I certainly did on December 30 morning.
This guy while entering the bathroom had every possible brush – Shaving brush, brush for brushing teeth, etc. - that you would carry on your trip anywhere in the world. He even took a shaving cream inside. Can you believe this, it was silence and I had already waited for more than ten minutes (which seemed to be more than ten hours).
An irritated me still stood and kept on standing for don’t know how long when the noise of water splashes had come to what sounded an abrupt end. I thought, finally!
But again, I always get excited early.
Suddenly, I started to hear an awkward noise, something which you would not notice when a person usually goes to take bath at five in the morning, especially in silence. It was a sound of someone washing clothes with a brush. I knew it was him.
My irritation reached a different degree all together. As he came out, I couldn’t look at him also, as I wanted to maintain a perfect silence. So, I said, forget. It was one of the quickest baths that I must have ever taken but that ensured that I was on time.
Surya namaskars, sadhana, breakfast, seva, it was all so awesome. So, occupying, so much fun.
The conventional advance course processes continued and it was a brilliant mix of silence, lunch, silence, seva, dinner, seva, silence. Meditation on the first day of silence wasn’t the best, probably because I had been partying for a week before going to the Ashram, thereby, being on a complete Rajas diet.
Although, I was super satisfied with myself having maintained a perfect silence on the first day, there was one thing that I wasn’t really satisfied with – my seva contribution, I knew I had to give in a lot more.
The next day, once again I was up early but this time I had no adventurous day-beginnings.
The day, December 31, 2010 provided me was with another opportunity to do seva, and seva I did and believe me, it was simply fantastic. My meditation on day 2 of silence was super cool and super deep. Dinesh Bhaiya was spot on when he said, “More seva, deeper is your meditation.”
From rising to the Surya Namaskars, to flowing in the wave of the Sudarshan Kriya, to sweating it out during seva, to dancing to the rhythm of bhajans and yet maintaining silence, with Guru Pooja we went into the new year in silence.
We saw Guruji, and wasn’t it absolutely scintillating to see him wave his hand, it sure was. He didn’t say much nor did he do much but whatever he did, he touched each one of us present there. It was so awesome to see him.
January 1, 2011: Yes, it was a new year! Rather late but I had just realized that we had welcomed the New Year in silence. What a feeling it was!
We soon started with the Surya Namaskars and the Sudarshan Kriya. Soon after the Kriya ended, Dinesh Bhaiya asked us to open the silence and it was “The Thing.”
I smiled and smiled and smiled and thanked Guruji for making me experience my best silence so far. Feeling of gratitude was flowing like never before, more like love. I continued to smile.
We soon went for breakfast where I saw some of my friends from Pune celebrating. I was content on being quiet and didn’t join them, instead walked away. Although it took me an hour, even I began to celebrate.
The afternoon session with Rashmin Bhaiya was a peach of a session. His guru stories and his experiences while taking the ART EXCEL course entertained majority of the crowd.
Soon after, we were a pleasant surprise, it was announced that La Khana would offer an unlimited buffet from six in the evening. Now, even if you have a part of your intellect right, you never miss stuff prepared by Bawa and so, everyone in VM got excited and began to shout in excitement.
In the evening, some of us from actually got together to celebrate the New Year. We started with about ten of us – Krishna on the guitar + vocals, Shashank and Purva on the vocals and the rest (including me) contributing - singing outside the café – La Khana like crazy. We sang everything from Hindi music, English Music, Bhajans, everything that you could imagine except metal, obviously. Soon, from being only ten, we had become about 50.
I still remember singing, “I’m really going to miss this place, I’m going to miss my Ashram days.” It did get some of us sentimental but again it was a lot of fun.
January 2, 2011: A glance at Bhakti and Bawa’s Q/A
For a change, on the 2nd, everyone was sleeping for long (including me). I reached VM at 6:15 and had a great experience with Kriya and Padma Sadhana. In later sessions, Rashmin Bhaiya and Avinash Bhaiya got together for an eventful session. It was a session in which they shared their experiences and told several Guru Stories. The way Avinash Bhaiya spoke, it energized me from within and gave me enough inspiration to achieve whatever this world had to offer by working hard and believing in Guruji.
Later in the day, Bawa’s Q/A session was the highlight of the course for me. I remember he said, “If you only want to do what your parents are doing and live in a 3 BHK apartment, then, do what they ask you to do. If not, do what you want to do. But by doing what you want to do, you are risking that 3 BHK flat as well.” When he said this, the valor within me grew and I actually started to believe in my dream of heading the Sports Commentary Section for Sky Sports, UK.
It’s just astonishing to see, how every single time he inspires me and answers every single question that I desperately need an answer for. I needed someone to shake me and make me believe me in my dream, Bawa was the man.
As the day went on, the excitement grew as the master was to come back home. Everyone in the Ashram was bubbling with energy, anticipating the man to whom we all pray.
It was soon time for Bhakti and what a Bhakti it was. As it was a Sunday, the Ashram satsang, (now Bhakti) was in the amphitheatre and welcomed people from all over Bangalore city.
Krishnan, Eben, Anagha, Divya and the rest gave everyone present a time of their lives.
They performed a number of songs dedicated to the divine including Piyu Bole, Mitwa, I Have a Dream, Vande Matram, etc. Each performance was greeted and appreciated by the crowd. The crowd’s appreciation was evident when they danced their skin off.
(Dinner time and yes - In Ashram, even I do eat with hand)
January 3, 2011 – The last day – Guruji’s meet
I woke up with mixed feelings. On one hand I was sad to leave the Ashram but on the other, grateful to Guruji that he had given me some unforgettable moments this time around. I was also more excited than ever as my wait was to be over; Guruji had reached the Ashram and was to meet us!
It was my last day in the Ashram and as I had done for the last two advance courses on their respective last days, I took bath early and went and sat on the lake to kick start my day. Lake was quiet but still singing a song and the wind that was blowing surrounded me and drove me into meditation like never before.
Rudra Pooja was also awesome but Guruji didn’t show up. As the day passed, anticipation grew among everyone whoever was doing the Winter Break. And finally, it was time!
After an awesome session by Dinesh Bhaiya, we were all set to meet Guruji.
Now, Dinesh Bhaiya had clearly specified that no one should pounce on Guruji and we must wait for him to come to us.
The wait was over; Guruji was finally going to meet us.
The moment the people at the back saw Guruji coming, the last three rows of the VM got themselves glued to the VM windows. It was like them getting driven by a wave.
As Guruji entered the VM, my heartbeat grew faster and my smile grew wider. He moved slowly among a barrage of people and finally, he was visible to me. He approached the VM stage, and yes, now I could see him properly.
He sat on his singhasan and started to play with an electronic helicopter. It was funny, cheering, puzzling and more so a paragon of enthusiasm because it was like watching a kid play with his toy. It also reminded me of my childhood days and made me feel that you are never too old. Frankly speaking, if you ask me, watching him, even now I feel like playing with remote controlled cars and other toys.
Minutes on, I said “YES!!!” to myself as I saw him making a move to come and meet everyone.
Again, I was too happy too early. Just as he was to walk down from the VM staircase, about a hundred idiots (if an idiot is not an understatement) surrounded him with flowers. I don’t know if I’m being rude but it was very frustrating as Dinesh Bhaiya had clearly said, “No one must pounce on Guruji, we must let him come to us.” But some people just never listen. It was as though, Art of Listening had gone out of the window. As a result, Guruji did not meet anyone of us personally on the 3rd.
A dejected me was sitting when everyone around me was going crazy for Guruji. All I did was looked at the master told him to meet me. As I did that, he looked at me, moved his hand so as to say “Hi.” Now, this time I was an idiot as I took too long to realize. I kept on sitting with an extremely upset frame of mind. The moment I realized that he is saying ‘hi’, I thought it was for someone else. So, I looked at the person sitting next to me - who was going mad, and I mean absolutely mad. I then looked at Guruji again and he was he was still looking at me and saying hi.
He continued with the action for a couple of more seconds as all I continued to tell him was, “What Guruji, I really wanted to meet you this time.”
It was then that the entire knowledge came right in front of me – it’s not only about his physical presence, he is ever present – that wasn’t a healer at all.
I was still irked and completely disheartened. I had suddenly started to blame my Karma. But it was okay, though I didn’t initially take it in my stride, the anguish of some morons spoiling everyone’s experience gradually settled down.
So I say a little prayer,
And hope my dreams will take me there
Where the skies are blue, to see you once again... my love (Guruji).
All the seas from coast to coast
To find the place I Love The Most (Ashram)
Where the fields are green, to see you once again... my love (Guruji).
Now, you might read this and say, “Westlife” but this is how I feel now.
Tell you what, I realize now, more than ever that he is just super-super special.
Dinesh Bhaiya soon made us chant “Om Namah Shivay” and as it turned out, I soon had to leave for Kolhapur to cover Mumbai FC v/s East Bengal.
I took back with me teachings and a bundle of memories about which I’m writing now. YES!+ Winter Break 2010 has been a learning curve, making me experience the true meaning of inner silence and centeredness. Deep inside, I just feel grateful that I at least got to see him and be a part of an enthralling venture in Winter Break ’10.
Jai Gurudeva J
A special thanks to Srivi ma’am, Manoj, Krishna, Vishal, Vinayak, Shashank, Advait, Rajashree Pooja, Dipti, Ruchika, , Sandeep, Pallavi Bharadwaj, Neha Mutha and plenty of more people for making this experience a very special one. (Kalpak Gandhi, Sumit Patil, Vibhu Arora, Mihir Joshi, Aarushi Goyal, Mandar Bhosale, Ajinkya, Saiyam Sally, Aditi Dhaka, etc. – you guys were really missed)