The Seventh and Final Tale from Tamil Nadu – The Ashram and Madurai

By Nick Goslett
Tailors in Madurai Temple Tamil Nadu,
Tailors in Madurai Temple

There is not much to tell but …On Saturday the evening’s mediation and chants was followed by a talent show, including three wonderful Indian dancers: one with no music interpreting life in a village on the island called Majuli on the Brahmaputra river for about thirteen minutes (10 more than allowed but no one cared it was so good) and very moving, and two classical Indian dancers with the normal music: also good. The organisation was hysterically bad but we all loved that and cheered any glimmerings of a computer actually playing the music hoped for.

Sunday morning’s mediation was a walking one with chanting under a gigantic banyan tree which was jolly. The Indians on the side of the tree away from the swami (from the cave) all had their mobiles out and the Westerners dutifully tried to sing along with the chants. I returned to the Intermediate Class and am much better after just a few days. The challenge will be continuing when I get back home. Word was that there would be a really good teacher at the Beginners in the afternoon and so it proved.

The evening meditation turned into a marathon of chanted Sunday prayers which few knew well enough to sing along so it went on and on and was turgid in the extreme. It was the longest two hours I can ever remember. All the Westerners thought the same. I asked an Indian girl on the Teacher Training Course what she thought and she said she loathed all the evening ones and usually stretched out and slept!

On Monday I was knackered so took it easy at the Beginners which is in a lovely open thatched area. As soon as you lie down the flies gather but after a few crawlings and nibblings they have had enough and leave one in peace.

Having difficulties with meditating (I have tried so many times in Brighton without success) I asked the swami for help. He asked me whether I believed in God and upon getting the negative answer did not bat an eyelid but told me that I could not use a chant…full stop…but he told me what to do and I am getting there a few seconds at a time.

The Lotus Flower

I had a long conversation with a Canadian lady who wants to train to be a clown. Fascinating! Dylan tells me that there is a clown school in London and they do performances.Last night’s meditation/chanting session was changed to a study session to allow those on the Teacher’s course to do their homework. I decided to study the Card Trick book which raised a few eyebrows amongst the holies as I shuffled the cards but then they smiled beatifically! The bird song this morning as the sun came up was marvellous and I spent the last ten minutes of the meditation just listening. Most of my muscles and bones have flexed but not the wretched knees (and more mobile hips would help); sitting cross-legged is much done and not easy especially during the meals trying to get the food into my mouth without it spilling onto my trousers! My osteopath told me not to do shoulder stands; the swami said give it a go; I think the osteopath was right!

I am on the bus to Madurai (and the temple and some candle-lighting) and am really sorry to be leaving the Ashram. I can see how people stay for many weeks except that each class has the same breathing and postures with only the occasional variation and I think I would find it frustrating – so different to what goes on in England but I suppose with people coming and going that is all they can do. One of the Indian teachers tried to add a few variations yesterday and got severely reprimanded! I did tell management that I didn’t consider the Indian teachers who spoke little English good enough and suggested getting in a conversationalist to help them (as we will be doing for the Venkat graduates to help them with job interviews). Without that knowledge they cannot add those little nuggets of help which makes so much difference, for example “Remember to turn your knee out.” It will probably come to nothing but all the crowd I mixed were of the same opinion.

Some very fond farewells and hugs. “You come for the yoga and stay for the friends.” Such a laid-back happy atmosphere; everyone wants to talk to anyone. I think I’ll go to the one in north India next time.

The temple was wonderful. The train leaves at 22.45. I am on my second Kingfisher.

Many hugs

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