A Spiritual Journey in India
Waking up to dogs howling in the night; an early morning walk up a sacred mountain to meditate while passing monkeys hoping for a banana; the joy of finding a bucket and hot water in a bathroom; laughing with cheeky boys who want to be in a photo; enjoying the company of the gorgeous girls and their friendly welcome (with camera) at the beach; and everywhere the chai wallahs pouring me their tasty brew … it was good to be back in India!
I returned in January 2019 for 2 weeks to support Karl-Heinz Finke with the first Indian Biography Gathering as well as to participate actively in the Foundation course at the start of another 3-year training.
In our first week, we settled into the Montford Spirituality Centre in Bangalore, which provides the venue, accommodation and meals for us all, and then the two of us travelled further east with our driver Ganesh. First a stay in Tiruvannamalai: with a community lunch at the Sri Ramana Ashram; an early morning walk up the sacred mountain Arunachala; late afternoon walks around most of the mountain; and a visit to the ancient Hindu temple, Arunachaleshwara (dedicated to Shiva). We experienced this beautiful countryside at the holiday time of Pongal, the harvest festival, and our journey was marked by markets and music, decorated temples and special food offerings. Such a privilege to enjoy holiday time with southern Indian families.
Then on to Auroville, long on the wish-list for both of us. This intentional, sustainable, spiritually inspired community was founded by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in 1968 and recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Nearly half of its population is Indian, and the other half comes from all over the world. The community provides significant employment for the region and is engaged in meaningful research, development and activity in many aspects of life. Red earth has become a treed inviting oasis.
We walk to the Matrimandir, the golden temple located in the heart of the community, and it is here that we encounter the cheeky boys; photos compulsory.
The following day we travel to Puducherry (aka Pondicherry) on the Bay of Bengal and stop at our local beach; here we meet the gorgeous girls and take more photos.
Before we leave Auroville, we join a group meditation within the all-white Inner Chamber of the Matrimandir. At the apex of this temple the Sun’s light is guided through the centre of a large glass globe in the Inner Chamber to a smaller globe in a lotus pond at the base of the building. This a concentrated beam of sunlight as our point of focus; very special!
The entire building is covered in small discs of gold leaf fused between 2 layers of glass and then glued to larger stainless-steel discs. From the distance it looks as though spiritual beings have landed in their own space ship.
By now our driver Ganesh is taking us to local cafes and I progress from being a ‘spooner’ to eating my food on banana leaves with my right hand.
Back at Bangalore, Rosalind the cook at Montford, wins my heart with her diverse offerings of southern Indian food and regular flasks of masala chai. It is so nice to let someone else look after me.
This Indian Gathering consisted of us and 8 graduates sharing our biography work experiences with each other over 2 days. A core group are forming an association for the biography work in India, and this impulse was launched with a beautiful ceremony at the Gathering. A highlight for me was singing and teaching Steiner’s Michael morning verse and the Victorious Spirit verse (both verses by Steiner I have set to music).
There are 9 Trainees being mentored. They plan to complete the 3-year training cycle again with many of them planning to teach courses themselves. Four of them will join us near Budapest for the World-wide Biography Conference this July and meet with members of the International Training Forum (ITF). The Indian trainings will be placed firmly on the global map.
The Foundation Course that follows the Gathering introduces another 16 students to the biography work, and many of them plan to complete the 3-year training.
It is clear to me that Karl-Heinz has a special connection with his Indian students. When I asked them to recommend a jeweller so that we could buy rings, they immediately asked how we were planning to exchange them and with our permission set about creating a special ceremony. We exchanged sandalwood garlands, our rings, and sang special songs to each other. I will not forget our engagement party, being dressed in my sari with Karl-Heinz in his kurta, and the meal that we shared with these Indian students.
Our Indian colleagues are keen to further the biography work in India and are willing to help organise a regional Biography Gathering. This would welcome participants from throughout the region, including Australia and New Zealand. Some aim to deepen their understanding of anthroposophy by becoming members of the Society and eventually members of the School of Spiritual Science. There is such acceptance and appreciation of the basic philosophy underlying anthroposophy and the biography work.
If such a Gathering eventuates in 2021, then here is an opportunity for us to experience more of the delights of this part of India.
We would be very happy to return to Tiruvannamalai (and Sri Ramana’s guidance toward self-reflection and self-awareness), and to Auroville with its emphasis on karma yoga and the necessary balance of individual with collective needs.