When my driver and I arrived in Pune, what I started to notice was
women in saris on motorcycles. Pune is in love with the motorcycle, reports the Times of India. The second thing was the towering canopies of trees.
The streets are dirty, noisy, and chaotic, but smaller than those of Mumbai and shaded by towering, far-and-wide-branching rain trees, umbrella trees, and magnificent others that I’ve not yet learned names for. The raintrees are covered in brilliant orange blossoms
and many others are in bloom. In Mumbai, you’re shaded mostly by buildings
if at all. I’m also seeing wonderful new birds that inhabit these canopies and wake me in the morning singing. (No AC, windows open.)
We called K, a disciple of Ma Indira Devi’s. (I’m going to use initials, until I find out from everyone if they want their name on the internet!) We were very close to her flat, where I would stay. My driver turned down a street, pulled over, and turned off the engine. Soon a statuesque woman with long dark hair was walking toward us down the street. It must be K! Over the past year, K has been my guide, mentor, and spiritual friend, helping me make this trip possible in so many ways—practical and spiritual. In addition to all of her advice and inspiration, she is also letting me stay in one of her flats, which is close to the ashram.
Thank you, K!
I got out of the car and we shook hands and exchanged greetings. Then, she
says, “First, we’ll go to your flat. Then, I’ll take you to Ma. Ya?”
Then, we walked around the corner to the ashram. As we approached the “mandir,” another word for ashram,
I could hear singing coming out of the open windows. It was Sunday, and monks and nuns and local people were singing bhajans–sacred songs. We went inside, took off our sandals, and went into the temple hall. A monk was playing the harmonium and leading the singing.
I did whatever K did. We knelt and touched our heads to the carpeted floor and then sat cross-legged, everyone facing the front, where there was a shrine with statues of Krishna and Radha, Hanuman, Shiva, along with photos of the two gurus of the ashram, Dadaji and Ma, and on the walls pictures of other spiritual masters, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, the sacred heart of Jesus, too. About twenty people were sitting, monks in orange , nuns is orange saris, local women in colorful saris, men in ashram white or street clothes, most on the floor, some in chairs.
I tried to sing along. I looked around and saw all the pictures of Ma Indira Devi, and my eyes spontaneously filled with tears. Before long I settled into a meditative state, sometimes singing, sometimes closing my eyes and feeling the energy. The thought that kept coming to me was, “Here I am at the center of the universe.”
Of course, from a spiritual perspective, every place is the center of the universe. St. Augustine defined God as “a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” And yet, some places seem to have a palpable, powerful spiritual energy that’s undeniable. I’ve felt it at monasteries in Spain and the US, at native American sacred places. The Celts called these “the thin places,” places where the veil between the material and spiritual worlds is thinner. Many of the great cathedrals of Europe are built over ancient, pagan “thin places.” There is a powerful energy here. very subtle, very bright, clear, clean . Like electricity in the air. I’ll be here for ten days.
The next day, I meditated upstairs in the room where Ma used to give private talks to the monks and main devotees of the ashram. I meditated for two hours just floating in the beautiful energy, not wanting to stop. I could understand why K told me that people sometimes meditate there for seven hours or more.
After meditation, I went out and walked in the gardens.
More soon! Thanks for reading.