The truth is I come to India for the tea. Just kidding. The real truth is I come to meditate at the Dakshineswar temple of the Yogoda Satsanga ashram, the Indian wing of the Self Realization Fellowship. It’s north of Kolkata along the Ganges. There are about three monks that live here, several brahmacharis (monks in training) and retreatants from all over the world.
The temple faces the Ganges. The marble tiles across the portico remind me of a front porch of a grand Southern mansion. The pillars start out as classic Greek and then explode into ornate Indian carvings at the top. The little blue temple is narrow—only five people across can sit on faded orange wedge pillows laid in orderly rows on the dark blue carpet. The windows go from ceiling to floor. Tiny mahogany meditation chairs (for the foreigners) look a bit austere but are surprisingly comfortable. In the distance a ferry boat put puts across the Ganges taking passengers to and from their work. It has the same sound as the Evinrude motor on my dad’s fishing boat some 40 years ago. I would know that engine anywhere.
Here I can corral my wild stallion of a mind easier than anywhere else. Great souls have meditated here and still do every day. they sprinkle their love and devotion on this temple– not visible, but as real as the scent of river on the breeze. I am deeply content here—not new dress happy, not great restaurant satisfied, but a clarity that truly feeds me.
Last night, all over India, it was Divalli holiday.
Everywhere in the city, lights are hanging from the roofs of buildings, paper and fabric temples erected to honor the mother. Divalli celebrates the birth of the Goddess, Kali. That’s about all I know about it. You could feel the excitement building even a week ago in Jaipur where our drivers were talking about the shopping they needed to do. Sound familiar? One more element of Indian holidays that is more over the top than anything else—a love affair with fireworks.
All day long the maintenance crew was spiffing up the ashram and putting candles out– on the fountain, every railing, along the walkways and fish pond. Families began to appear about 5 PM. We did our normal exercises on the portico and went in for meditation. While we were meditating, the children and maintenance men began lighting the candles. When we came out, it was magical. Everyone gathered in the courtyard and soon fireworks were exploding. The monks and adults were as excited as the children. For me, the most outstanding part of the whole event was that the maintenance crew (low members of the social totem pole) were the heroes—managing the fireworks. One of the men even made all the big elaborate ones.
Yogananda’s picture was in the center of the fish pond The finale was almost 2 stories high and reflected off the water. Prasad (a special blessed treat) was then passed out. The whole evening had almost a feudal feeling —where people brought their families to share with other like minded people and the ashram provided it all.
PS My camera has a setting for fireworks. This is what turned out,. Interesting huh? Internet is crappy. Even the hotels that say they have good connection, don’t really. Pls excuse the grammatical mischief.