“Who am I ? Ask yourself.” She exhorted. “Are you the flesh and blood that you are now or are you the mind that is in you?” I did not see it even a shred necessary or imperative to fret and send my brain on a hunt seeking answer to this monumental ask. She continued her monologue at the group that we were, about a score of virtually bewildered people. Bewildered more because of the strange introspection the petite French lass with shaven head and in white kurta pyjama implored us to engage. We were all seated on the forest floor and in the opening strewn with dried leaves and a perfect canopy lend by huge trees to shade us from the noon sun.
The group was confounded and that enhanced their pleasure in a strange way. It happens when you are dumb struck with jargon and entwined sentences and meanings that are the arsenal of God men and women. Your bewilderment is fanned by virtual curiosity and hope of something about to break open as revelation. A fool’s paradise where ignorance is bliss and more mystifying more the bliss.
She continued her monologue in accented English. She spoke about SreeKrishna and dwelled on his alleged sorcery She soon turned to lecture on a verse from the Gita and began to decipher for us its intricate meaning. It was amusing to think what depth of knowledge would life and experience besides the five years she spent in the congregation render this young woman in her twenties to indulge in the audacity of lecturing on Indian and oriental philosophy. It was a different coin when it was her master-her guru in the ashram. The guy had such powerful and haunting eyes that can only be surpassed by the pair of eyes of the late Rajneesh. He was tanned and brown complexioned. The turban on his head addressed the probable baldness. But the flowing white beard and whiskers added to the captivating gaze.
I was to live with the congregation inside the sprawling but Spartan ashram for three days as a participant in what was termed as engineering of the inner self. I was pulled in there by a distant acquaintance and had to shell out fifteen thousand Rupees as participant fee in the sessions and the chance to correct my inner self. (sic) To be fair the food was strict vegetarian but was heavenly in taste and richness. The ashram was at the foothills of the Western Ghats and was well designed. The guru or master as many called him was a Shivaite but I did not sense any bigotry or an iota of religious tone in his lectures. His discourses were matter of fact, thought provoking and distanced from conventional beliefs and had a syncretism that was encouraging. He was a master of yoga. I could hear and see inmates up well before daybreak and engage in asanas.
The first evening after dinner, I and my acquaintance went exploring the periphery of the ashram. We were warned to not wander far out as the periphery was frequented by wild animals. The surroundings with the mountains silhouetting in the late moon rise was fascinating and awe. At about five early in the morning, I was waked up by the live beat of traditional drums, cymbal and evoking flute. It was the ashram’s way of wake up call or alarm. It was a beautiful way of saying the day was about to dawn.
Some days after I was at the ashram I happened to meet a friend who was living in the city for a few decades and with whom I chanced to discuss about this ashram, its founder guru and inmates. His reaction was bordering derision. He said it was fine with just yoga but matters generally don’t end with that. “Ha that fellow, the Guru was roaming around this town a few decades back on a Java motor cycle. I knew him personally. One day he went missing and when the Rip van Winkle came back he was a master, a guru. He has a penchant for the good things in life; you know what I mean and the euphemism. There are a lot of innuendos about his abode and himself. He is a jet setting fellow and has high influence and contacts. Just leave things as it is and do not get entangled in the web they weave”. He said. The conspicuous part was he mentioned the man in the first person and used his name that was from his motor cycling days.
The captivating thing about the three days sojourn in the cloister was I was virtually levitating for a few days after. The amazing hypnotic effect of the man and his words will ensnare one in a trance, until the power of the opium and his aura ebbed away in the incessant pounding of matters of life outside.
I noticed that his eyes were hauntingly transfixed sometimes. I observed that he has the orgasmic look in his eyes and that is especially directed to women. The companion who was with me was ploughed under by his gaze. And I sensed that she was beguiled by him. She was wealthy and he has a knack for wealthy elegant women.
She chose to let the enchantment get better of her and began to frequent the ashram. She was obsessed. She wrote off a fat cheque for the ashram and that was not endearing to her family. She even went on a journey with the monk and his caravan of followers to the Kailas -Manasarovar in the Himalayas through the luxury route via Tibet. When matters began to threateningly move towards her getting embroiled with the ashram and when she was almost decided to write off her wealth to the Guru and perhaps spend her remaining life in the congregation, her people hit the panic button. I’m not privy to what transpired after, within her domestic confines. But her honeymoon with the ashram that was menacingly obvious waned at the combined onslaught from within her family. It is a guess what panicked them- her obsession or her apparent plan for largesse.
It will be unfair however to not to accept the vast knowledge the monk seemed to have and his candid aversion to the traditional religious order and self appointed holy men.