Monday, April 29, 2013

The Forest of Honey is My Home

My roommates.  From L to R Nadhi from Sri Lanka, Ashoka from Italy, Daniella from Italy, Anais from France,
Agnes from Philippines and Dola Po from Nigeria

Mount Abu, Rajasthan India-  There were seven of us in the dormitory from five different countries- Italy, France, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Philippines.  For three days, we’ve been billeted in one dormitory room yet we still don’t know each other’s name, more so speak more than one sentence at a time to each other.  When we all came to the Brahma Kumaris' spiritual university in Mount Abu, more fondly called as Madhuban (meaning The Forest of Honey), a silence retreat was going on.  In adherence to the set guidelines, we would only greet each other by nodding our heads, we’d whisper if there’s really something important to be said, ate in silence, and went about the routine in the campus quietly.  

Come fourth day, the silence ban was lifted as we prepare for the huge gathering of meditation students from India and foreigners from different parts of the globe.  I thought the quiet and peaceful atmosphere in the room will remain.  I’ve grown accustomed to it and I enjoyed the serenity.  I was wrong.  Agnes, our roommate from the Philippines instigated a pageant of nations.  She started calling off the countries, asked us to parade in the small aisle in between the 2 rows of bed, and prompted each one to come up with signature wave.  “Miss France!”, she bellowed.  “Miss Nigeria show us your wave!", she hollered.  Everyone willingly complied.  The silence of the last three days was replaced with gobs of laughter and a loving camaraderie.

Why We Came
Our very enthusiastic host then went on to each one’s bed and did her one-on-one interview.   That’s the only time we knew that Miss France’s name is Anais, Miss Italy is Daniella, Miss Sri Lanka is Nadhi, Miss Nigeria is Dola Po, and Miss Italy/Sri Lanka is Ashoka. 

Frankly, in Madhuban (how we fondly call the university in Rajasthan) a lot of things don’t matter- name, age, country, or position.  Often, we are unaware what day it is.  Also, we rarely talk about our work.   We all came to the headquarters to bathe in study and yoga.  Going to India is a treat and a retreat for all of us.   It is the time to focus on our spiritual growth. 

Ashoka, a retiree from Milano, Italy said, “I came here to find God.” Dola Po, a young professional from Nigeria on the other hand related, “I am very happy here.  I’m filled to the brim and I’m ready to give when I come home.”  Anais, from Paris,France aptly said, “I feel at home here.”
As soon as one enters the gate of the university, a waft of peace can be felt.  I usually feel instantly refreshed even after more than 24 hours of travel- as though I've come to the ocean shore.  This may be attributed to the vibration of tapasya (intense meditation) and atmosphere of love in Madhuban.  The residents in the campus have lovingly filled the place with powerful yoga even as they go about their daily tasks.  Meditation students all over the world flock here to go into the depths of the knowledge and silence.  The senior brothers and sisters who have been practicing raja yoga for 25 years (or more) guide the younger students through classes and meditation experiments.  More than a university, here on the mountain top of Abu, we are a family helping each other progress in our respective lives and spirituality.
Anais helps me tie the sari while Dola Po looks on
Song of Happiness
It is the farthest thing from boring because a yogi life is a life of balance.  We are taught to take care of our inner state, so we can remain stable in the face of any circumstance.  We practice silence to be able to connect to our true selves, the one filled with the virtues of love, peace, purity, power, and bliss. Then, we bring these in our interaction with others. 

We love solitude but we can just as easily move from stillness to celebration.   After the huge gathering, Dola Po (Miss Nigeria) came out of the hall waving and greeting everyone she met like a crowned princess.  A huge crowd of locals gathered around her mesmerized by her charm (and hair weave).  We had to usher her  out as she was creating traffic (around 24,000 people were trying to get out of the hall).  When we got back to the room, by unanimous vote, we declared her the winner of our mini pageant. Instead of the ceremonial walk, she sang “I have the strangest feeling that I’ve been here before…Something tells me I have come home…it tells me I belong.”  We gave her a huge round of applause not only for the beautiful rendition but also because she sums up the whole Madhuban experience of us all.  

Miss Nigeria, Dola Po waving to the crowd
* All photos courtesy of Agnes Roque

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