India can be overwhelming. As a nation and as individuals there is less of a sense of boundaries than perhaps other countries. There is a strong sense of connection to history, cultural history, the gods time is evident in the number of temples and the religious observances practiced by the people. The national and state boundaries have always been a moveable feast. There have been boundary disputes over the centuries based on language, religion, philosophy the standard excuses for territorial incursions, when the underlying theme is often an area’s resources. On a personal level, there is no excuse to be by yourself, Indians are usually surrounded by people, at home 3 or more generations live under the same roof, Indian work practices are people heavy, so there too people abound, and in their own place Indians often share rooms, or sleeping areas with family members.
From the little child demanding to know your name, to the elderly gentleman on a stroll or outing with his family you will be inquired upon. I have been given some very good travel advice sitting on temple steps and taken to lunch places or temple pujas by random strangers all extolling the virtues of their very good country, must admit I totally concur. Still it’s difficult to get a quiet moment in this land whose main export is the quiet of meditation and the symbol ॐ (om). I am fortunate to be staying in a quiet village near a river. Every day I walk to the river and watch and draw the washer women (dotis) flaying garments, children playing, sadhus from the temple washing themselves and the younger men wash the temple ornaments daily. I sit under a sacred tree dedicated to the god Shive, the lord of the dance, master of yoga, lord of destruction, friend of snakes.
One day a great commotion erupted in a nearby well house, a worker had found a king cobra in the well. A snake guy was called and in due time he arrived, by this time, with a large retinue. The forestry guys arrived in a jeep and more villagers. The snake guy was a bit of a rock star, slim, longish hair, no facial hair ( in this country of nonsense under the nose he was a blessed relief) and handsome. He was wearing jeans and a red long sleeve shirt. Our rock star went into the well house alone and emerged a few minutes later with a five foot cobra in his hand. His attention was on the snake and I watched his arm and hand turn with the snake a dance of poise and relaxed attention. The crowd was pressing and the snake needed to be dealt with so our snake rock god man walked off down a nearly path, flanked by the forestry guys in their karki uniforms, a few jolly men and a large woman carrying what looked like a load of washing, she of course may have just been on her way home, but seemed to be, from my view point, an integral part of the group. I suppose they walked until they found a spot to let the cobra go, quiet rightly after all he was found near lord of the snakes shrine. Patanjali Yoga Sutras (I Sutra 47) “Nirvachara vaisharadye adhyatma prasadaha” Nirvichara = thoughtless, a state of being hollow and empty; vaisharadye = undisturbed pure flow; adhyatma = spiritual; prasadaha = grace
“The experience of the state of thoughtlessness, being in the undisturbed state of hollow and empty, spiritually brings the grace of the being.” This sutra arrived in my mail box the day after the snake incident and I couldn’t help think of the focused attention of the man and the grace with which he handled the cobra. It took my yoga practice to a new level and my meditation inspired by rock god’s focus was quietly empty for which I am eternally grateful. Have a fabulous new year, the year of the snake is nearly over.