It has been a few months since I last posted on my blog. I apologize for the irregularity of my posts this year, but thanks to the support and patient nagging (oxymoron?) I received from a few key people (you know who you are), I am inspired to continue writing. I came to Bilaspur on November 2nd, 2011, and stayed for approximately a month and a half in the “first round” of my studies. In that time, I became used to Mataji’s teaching style (refer to this post for some info on Mataji), the environment of her home, and my own study method with her. Since I am the only student studying with her currently, she teaches me at my pace. This is very different from when I came in May 2010, when it was a camp/crash-course environment with around 30 students. Then, it didn’t feel like a home, but a school. I did not attend the same camp in May 2011 (it is a yearly crash-course in Sanskrit grammar taught by Mataji), but I can only imagine that it felt even more like a school because there were approximately 70 students! Now it feels like a home, because I help out around the house, doing certain chores whenever I can, fixing things whenever I can, and taking walks around the town whenever I get a chance. It is truly the gurukul style, because I am literally living like a son here.
Mataji does not accept payment from students. Period. I am not allowed to pay for food, for lodging, or for teaching. It is all provided for free. Mataji believes that education should be free, especially in the gurukul format, because it is not a business. It is what makes our world grow. When the student starts earning for himself, then he is collectively responsible (with the other students that studied with him) for the maintenance of the gurukul that he studied at. I personally believe that if this were the way that education worked today, then the opportunity for the uplift of entire societies would be possible; nay, it would be inevitable.
On December 20th, 2011, I went on break to Mumbai, attended a friend’s wedding, and then stayed at the head ashram of Chinmaya Mission, called Sandeepany, for 3 days. After that, I attended a spiritual camp (run by Chinmaya Mission) in Kolwan, Maharashtra, near Pune, for a week. The topic of the camp was a text by Shankaracharya called Atmabodha, which deals with the nature of the Atma, or that underlying substratum upon which all creation is based, and our true nature. The text was taught by Swami Tejomayananda, the current head of Chinmaya Mission. I had some extremely deep insights, lots of fun, and make a lot of friends during this camp. [These were all beautiful experiences, and if you want to know more about them, contact me; I’ll be glad to share.] At the end of the camp, on January 1st, 2012, I returned to Delhi to spend time with family.
In the meantime, I also attended the 15th triennial World Sanskrit Conference held from the 5th to the 10th of January in Delhi (complete with book fair!). It was a beautiful event, where over 1500 delegates from all over the world came to present their research in the field of Sanskrit in the format of 30-minute sessions, in which 20 minutes were allotted for the delegate’s speech, and 10 minutes were allotted for q and a. There were 10 simultaneous sessions at any given time, with a different topic in each hall. Delegates had to choose which topic suited their fancy at the beginning of any session and find the corresponding hall. I had an amazing time observing presentations on some very exciting and cutting-edge research in the field of Sanskrit and science/technology, some extremely deep ideas in the field of Sanskrit-related philosophies like Advaita Vedanta, Shaiva, Vaisheshika, etc., some interesting debates about the future of Sanskrit, and meeting loads of extremely inspired individuals in the field of Sanskrit and related subjects. Although I did not present anything in this conference, I hope I will get the opportunity to do so at the next World Sanskrit Conference in Bangkok in 2015!
After spending a decent amount of time with family in Delhi (including a weekend trip to Jaipur, Rajasthan), I have returned to Bilaspur to continue my studies with Mataji. In my travels, I have been blessed to have the opportunity to witness and live in the conditions of the super-rich, the middle-class, and the downtrodden alike. Each situation independently has taught me lots about life, and the synthesis of these experiences has given me the courage to face whatever may come my way.
Fortunately so, for living in Mataji’s house is no cakewalk.
I am back to the cold showers, the manual washing of clothes, the traditional garb, the tenacious mosquitoes of Bilaspur, the hard bed, the interminable study, the long days, and the lack of modern equipment that makes life comfortable.
At the same time, I am also exposed to the wonder of human ingenuity, coming up with solutions to simple problems which modern technology removes the need to solve. These simple problems help the mind grow in its logic and reasoning, making the person who solves them more aware of the natural resources available to him and all the more confident in his ability to tackle life’s challenges as they come. One day our technology may stop working, but the power of reasoning that is well developed will not. The most recent example of this ingenuity that I witnessed happened earlier today. It is quite cold in Bilaspur at the moment (no, not Chicago cold, but cold enough nonetheless to make me wear a sweatshirt and a scarf, even inside), and it is common for people to light a fire in an earthen fire-pot inside their homes for warmth. Babuji (Mataji’s husband) has broken a large earthen vessel in half, with the upper half turned upside-down to act as a stand, and the lower half resting in the upper half with coals in it to act as the fire-pot. There are countless other examples of makeshift objects, inventions, and trinkets in this house born simply out of a combination of necessity, miscellaneous items, and a beautiful mind.