Of course, education (in the bookish sense of the word) is also going on here.
Every day from 6:30 to 7:30 PM in Swami Chidanandaji’s room I have a class with him. Our classes switch off on a daily basis; one day is Sanskrit, the next day is Vedanta. Our Sanskrit classes are just me and him, but the Vedanta classes… once people learned that we were having them, they decided to join (with permission) too. But there is one class every day regardless, and it is quite interesting.
In Sanskrit class we are reading the Vaalmeeki Raamaayana (in Sanskrit, of course). This is quite possibly the greatest epic ever written. It is about the adventures and quests of Rama, the son of Dasharatha and prince of Ayodhya, written by Sage Vaalmeeki. It is so interesting in the original language that it was written, because not only is it all written in perfect meter, but it is so detailed and dispassionate! It is interesting to see the differences between the original work and all the remakes after it. Many remakes are made with such devotion to Lord Rama that they fail to portray him as a man, ultimately transforming him into a God and praising him thus. But the original Vaalmeeki Ramayana simply portrays the attributes of Rama, as a man… a perfect man, but a man nonetheless. Dispassionate, truthful, and never ceasing to be interesting, Sage Vaalmeeki writes such a great story! Of course, the ultimate goal of the class is to learn Sanskrit from the reading, and naturally that happens too, because within the story there are so many vocabulary words and usages of different tenses, etc.
I’m fascinated by Sanskrit…
Next comes our Vedanta class. Vedanta is a subject that I have been deeply involved in my whole life. Vedanta is the culmination of the teachings of our most ancient scriptures, the Vedas. It is simply a stating of the Truth that underlies all of creation. The difference between the way I have been studying it since I was young and since I came here is in the approach to knowledge of any kind. I am approaching Vedanta as an “exploration” now rather than seeking an end, which would have been liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth. I am learning that it is in the exploration that the freedom lies, not in expecting a goal to be fulfilled… for it is in that very expectation you are caught up in the future, and in trying to measure how much you have achieved, you get caught up in the past... which inevitably takes you away from being free and in the present.
Each Vedanta class, Swamiji takes a new topic and discusses it for one hour. It is always an interesting discussion, and it leads to intense contemplation on the topic later. I am glad that Swamiji is my teacher, for he is extremely intelligent/smart and very fun to listen to. He always makes jokes and will never let you feel bored. I like his classes, because I am in fact learning a lot in them.
Never a dull moment here!