At breakfast I spoke to Sundar, one of the Ashram’s harmonium players. He has a very amiable way about him and his view of life echoes what I have been told time and again in India – according to God’s will, what will be will be, what will not be will not be. We are only instruments of God, and as Jesus pointed out, can of our own selves do nothing. There is a great deal of stress removed from the equation when you see life this way. The process is simplified and confusion is minimized. If it’s God’s will then the totality will conspire to make it so, without any effort required on your part. If it’s not God’s will then the totality will not conspire to make it so, and no amount of effort on your part can change that. Consequently, there’s no need to worry. Several areas of my life have not yielded the results I had hoped for, despite my dogged belief that results would follow in time and my persistent effort over many years to ensure success, which leads me to believe that there is in fact a guiding principle at work of which we have no real understanding. India is all about feeling and faith, which explains why bhakti (devotion) is so integral to life here. Indians are in touch with the heart, and this allows acceptance to take root in them easily. In the West we have no faith in anything except money, which is misguided to say the least. We are ruled by the head, and this means we tend to reject everything. Acceptance has no place in our outlook on life, and as such cannot take a foothold within us. We can learn a lot from India.
In the main bhajan hall there are 3 seats with 3 cardboard cut outs of Swami Satchidananda, Swami Ramdas and Mother Krishnabai sitting on them. When I first walked into the bhajan hall I had to double take – they looked very realistic but the 2 dimensional flatness, and the fact that their facial expressions were frozen, gave it away ;) I thought this was tacky and quite comical, but Nix offered an alternative point of view. To her mind, having a cardboard cut out is preferable to wasting lots of money on a bronze statue, as we had seen in the Yogi Ram Suratkumar Ashram in Tiruvannamalai. Fair comment, that money could be diverted elsewhere to where it is needed most. It also occurred to me that it shouldn’t make any difference if the image is in bronze, cardboard or platinum encrusted with diamonds – the image of the guru is simply there to inspire devotion and contribute to a conducive atmosphere in the hall. It’s what the guru stands for, not what the guru is made out of, that counts.
Yesterday evening Nix and I went to visit the ghoshala (cow shed). The cows must be the best looked after on the planet. There are 16 cows in total, all with name plaques behind them, of which my favourite was Laxmi AKA Goddess of Prosperity, and fans above them to keep them cool in the intense heat of the day. The result of this care is that the milk is pure and extremely tasty. We get milk each evening, as we did at Shantivanam. The Ashram also makes its own milk sweets which are used for Prasad. Did I mention that I like Prasad? If only cows were looked after like this in every country. There is a sign up at the cow shed that reads as follows:
“The cow stands for the entire sub-human world, soliciting man’s sympathies for species beyond his own. Through the cow he is helped to realize his oneness with all that lives. Rishis of old saw in the cow divinity and venerated this. The cow is the best companion one can have. She is a great giver. Not only does she give us nourishing milk but she also makes herself useful to man in many ways. The cow is second mother to mankind. To protect the cow is to protect all the creatures of God. “
Let’s see supermarkets at home put that on their milk bottles....