I am sitting in the colorful gardens of the Yogoda Satsanga Retreat Center in what used to be the village of Dakshineswar, but today we would probably call it a suburb of Calcutta or, more correctly Kolkata. My spiritual teacher for the past 30 years, Paaramahansa Yogananda, bought this property in 1939 with the help of his disciple, Rajarsi Janakananda. There is a Ramakrishna ashram, Yoga Math, for women just down the road with stunning architecture. Dakshineswar is a pilgrimage site where India’s great Kali temple honoring the Divine Mother is located.
India is always loud and noisy, but there’s a stillness in the ashram so tangible I can almost taste it on my lips. Several times a day I can hear the Muslim call to prayer from across the river. Dogs in the street bark and horns blare. In the background is the constant putt putting motor of the ferry crossing the Hoogily River leaving the scent of diesel fuel in its wake. It sounds like it’s on its last legs, but it sounded that way three years ago when I was here. I swear it is the same Evinrude motor as my father’s old fishing boat. I would know that sound anywhere.
Like a beautiful southern mansion, the temple building is white with dark blue trim. Marble tiles cover the portico across the front. Pillars have a stately Grecian feel but then explode into exotic Indian carvings at the top. Intricate lattice work make up the railings.
We meditate every morning and evening. All my worldly obligations are put aside for awhile—stealinig time from maya. I feel I am stashing money in the immortality bank.
Sitting in the silence,
On the sunny banks of my mind,
Sitting in the silence with the Master by my side.
When my thoughts have gone to rest, that’s the time I see Him best.
The words of this chant keep running through my head. Thirty years of meditation attempting to calm the mind, and here it happens easily. I am divinely happy –not full stomach satiated–not bought a new dress happy– not in any way sensually satisfied– but a deep, sing for joy contentment.