Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Blogger meets Sahaj Marg in Manappakkam!

Taken and and translated from an article: "Une bloggeuse a Manappakkam", on Elodie's blog in Europe: Pour Que Vive Le Sahaj Marg

Comments and additions (for clarification in translation) by 4d-Don are in "red Italics"

April 2, 2012

A blogger at Manappakkam

From: Curry Kulfi and Chapati

Setbacks and adventures of two ex-patrriots somewhere deep in the Indian subcontinent (and poolside).

Excerpts from the blog:

I visited a Cult.

I'm an atheist, I am interested in the discovery of all religions, from near and far. A few weeks ago, I found myself in the heart of what would be called in Europe "a cult" but which here seems to be much more commonly accepted. Far from being frightened, I remembered those words of François Cavanna: "A religion called "universal" is a cult that has succeeded, commercially speaking."

It all began as an attraction I had for meditation. Having discovered six months ago a meditation technique focused on breathing that I could not exercise alone, I really wanted to find a spiritual master who could initiate me into the mysteries of the study of my karma.

(One can imagine) What was my happiness in discovering in the best friend (female) of my brother-in-law, who was serendipitously staying in India at that time, was initiated to the practice of Sahaj Marg! Obviously, I did not know at all what was "Sahaj Marg", also called the Shri Ram Chandra Mission, and still today, I am regularly wrong on the spelling of these names.

The girlfriend's of my brother-in-law - neither, did not know what it was, except that she practiced every morning the practice of meditation and that it did her much good.

One morning, then, we went by rickshaw to the largest Ashram of this organization. It was a haven in the heart of the busy city. I knew Chennai but from that noise, pollution, car, cows and beggars, I was very surprised to find a place so quiet, so peaceful, so nice, even if botanised, and so friendly.

The Ashram immediately suggests a very large park. In the center, there is a kind of temple where people go to meditate. No statues, no object of prayer, nothing religious but just a little platform for the master to come to officiate from time to time and a very large empty space so that the faithful can meet. Many chairs are left at their disposal. Upon entering the sanctuary for the first time, the novice is first much surprised at the tranquility that prevails. This feeling of peace is explained by the unusual silence that is imposed on initiates. Without being an expert in the art of this exercise, it is fairly obvious to everyone that the meditator sits down, closes his eyes and is silent. So I submitted to the rules of this site, engaged myself for once in my life in an activity that would have made the happiness of my darling husband, if he had been with us that day: I said nothing.

And we passed in silence before this small temple of peace to go to another place no less interesting, though somewhat noisier: the cafeteria.

The cafeteria is a very nice place where one crosses almost all nations. Babuji's Ashram is the largest center of Sahaj Marg and many of the faithful, from India and abroad gather here. I met two French women who had each left everything behind to come here, the first, through love for the Ashram and the second, for a teaching job she had never left, having married after the year of her contract, with an Indian.

A little later I visited the library, which contained only books on Sahaj Marg, and I discovered that in addition to the common dormitory that was under the temple where we could stay for free, provided one is part of mission, there was also the possibility of renting small single more comfortable rooms.

Each place I visited was run by volunteers. Nobody gets paid to work here, which explains why the rooms are not expensive. There are those who cook, who serve coffee, who do the dishes, who manage the library, or deal with registration ...

At first glance, the Ashram is a utopian microcosm where everyone is happy, everyone is nice, everyone loves. The initiates are called "brother" or "sister" to symbolize the great brotherhood that prevails.

What worried me was how they spoke of their spiritual master Chariji.

I was profoundly shocked by sentences like "The master has a country house" or "You know the best part of Chennai? The master has a house there too."

It seems that the master has a heck of lot of secondary dwellings!

And then, when I visited the library, I was unable to resist leafing through a few books on the practice of Sahaj Marg. There are three, in the morning, we must meditate for an hour. In the evening, one has to practice another form of meditation called "cleaning". This is to cleanse the emotions of the day. Before bed, one should recite the prayer to the master, and there, I am downright horrified to discover that the text is the apotheosis of the master!

And what's that habit of calling him "master" ... "spiritual master", one can understand, but "master", alone, without an adjective, it's a little slavish, right?

I left the Ashram, not without having recuperated the phone number from one of the sisters in the hope of being initiated into the meditation. Cult or not because I had things to learn from these meditators and I had the feeling that the impenetrable mystery of meditation could bring me a kind of quiet.

Discovering meditation

After discovering Sahaj Marg and without yet knowing what it was, I absolutely wanted to be initiated into the strange mysteries of meditation.

So I contacted a charming young English woman, married to an Indian, who accepted with great enthusiasm to proceed with my initiation and gave me an appointment for three "sittings", ie for three sessions. They had to take place on three consecutive days to be effective.

So I was thrilled and it was with joy in my heart that I went to my rendez-vous at the Ashram.

Alas, this joy was short lived. Barely arrived, the guards refused to let me in and I had to wait forty-five long minutes for my initiator who was late to pick me up.

I learned that in order to enter this peaceful place, I had to show my acceptability and also to prove my belonging to the Babuji fan club with a membership card. The same membership card would be given to me after my three sitting.

We went to a place of total silence. Only a few birds were breaking the tranquility with their soft songs. Their soprano was accompanied as by a base, by the
unbearable low buzzing mosquitoes, but that day, nothing could alter our good mood.

We sat opposite one another and she told me what I should do, which is not much. I had to close my eyes and seek what is divine within me by letting go of my thoughts like unwelcome guests that we do not want, but we can not push too hard. The metaphor she used was that of children in a park.

"If you cross a park, she said, and there are children, you will not drive them out! You're going to cross by passing aside. Well you do the same with your thoughts."

So we were sitting for half an hour in front of one another, eyes closed, to seek the Holy Spirit. For the first time I played the game to the end and I was looking for "something divine" which I could not find. However, I learned to ignore my thoughts. I remained philosophical: half an hour, it was very long. Better to forget the passing time and try to focus on myself.

At the end of the session, I was relaxed and I felt calmer.

The same evening, I decided to do a search on the Ashram and I discovered with some fear that it was considered a cult. I had already been questionning because some words I had heard in the temple but after my reading, I became openly suspicious.

The next day we had the same experience. This time, I changed my technique. The fear of getting my brain lobotomized by a very effective process of meditation made me replace the search for the divine that anyway I could not find, by a focus on my breathing.

The result was identical to the previous day: I felt good, relaxed and rested.

I found that what was common to these breathing techniques/meditation was their ability to make us let go by focusing on ourselves, whether on our holiness or on our breathing.

The third day was identical except that my appointment was held at seven o'clock in the morning. I reached a state of exhaustion as I was unable to perform the exercise correctly.

Finally, my initiator invited me to the big event of the week: Sunday meditation. I had to be there at 7:30 to see the master and feel the collective passion. I went there and I practiced meditation for the first time in a group, accompanied by a hundred people. The session lasted one hour, which seemed very long, and was followed by a speech in English with a wonderful Indian accent that made him incomprehensible to the English themselves. This time, I was really feeling of not being in my place.

What must have passed through my head to make me get up at 6 AM on a Sunday to go play the religious fervent in the temple of Babuji? Curiosity, perhaps a little misplaced.

Following this session of collective uncomfortable nap, I met other brothers and sisters. Some offered me to join them for another
group sitting. I agreed, smile on my lips, I promised to come back with my fingers crossed and I finally left to find the familiar place that I never should have left so early on a Sunday morning, to find my cozy bed.

Since, I received some messages that I have not responded. The people I met were really friendly and I would have liked to see them again but I definitely can not bring myself to seek the divine that lies within me.

This experience has nevertheless helped me familiarize myself with breathing mindfully as I had never managed to practice alone before.

This is a technique that seems difficult at first, but brings a lot in terms of appeasement when it is properly practiced. Just sit back, relax, and leave aside the thoughts that come, always deferring attention to one's breathing. From what I've seen, it seems to me that merely accepting to leave one's daily life for half an hour to relax by doing nothing is a big step toward wellness.


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