Monday, August 04, 2008


At 2:30AM I was awakened by some chanting blasting form the loudspeakers at a nearby temple.

I awakened again at 4 to the alarm; time to get up and get ready for led primary series practice at 6:15 shala time.

I put the heating coil into a glass of purified water and turned on the TV.

Bad decision.

They were showing a classic Kamal Hassan film on the Tamil TV station.

I couldn't turn away. He is a great actor – and a handsome actor – and hence a great distraction from the path of brahmacharya. (Bindi turned me onto him in 2004). As they would say here, He is too handsome.

Fortunately his fillum ended at 4:30 - just as I was brushing my teeth - which gave me plenty of time to do a little sit before going to the shala.

As I was turning off of the Gokulam main road, I saw a woman scurrying - running - towards a nearby house. Where had she come from? And where was she going in such a hurry? She certainly didn't look like a maid. And it was so dark outside.

I was the fourth person to arrive at the shala; I staked out a spot on the stairs and proceeded to sit still for the next 30 minutes.

During the middle of it, I heard the most beautiful bhajans (devotional singing), which sounded like it was coming from a procession going down the street. Perhaps that's where the woman had been going.

Once inside the shala, I put my freshly-washed mat in the front-and-center spot. There wasn't time to go to the bathroom before class (the line was too long), plus I was constipated. The goal was simply to make it through class without leaving, FAH-ting or crying. Fortitude and all that - like we learned at Dharma's.

Before we started, Sharath spent some time rearranging the chairs on the stage. Then he led the opening chant. As soon as he finished, Saraswati stepped up and began leading the class. She sat down on Guruji's throne, just inches from my mat.

Her count was more consistent than it had been in Florida. Steady and slow. Still, there was very little sweat.

At Marichyasana D, she got off the stage to help people, and Sharath also appeared and gave some adjustments. I did not see Guruji.

By Navasana, the body felt like its old self, and the full bladder and coolon were no longer in the forefront.

During Utplutith (a long arm balance that requires a lot of strength) Saraswati went around the room, encouraging people to "Lift up, lift up," just as her father does. Then she got back on stage. "Backside is cheating," she said.

("Backside" is one of my favorite expressions here; it seems to mean "rear" or "in back." On Friday when I was confirming the location of the bathroom, the man pointed and said, "Backside." Indeed).

After about four seconds of "Take Rest" pose, Saraswati said, "Sorry, you go home. Next class starting," and that was that.

After two coconuts, I went back inside to watch the intermediate series class. I wanted to make sure I'm doing (and teaching) the correct vinyasa. It seems I'm about 97 percent on the mark.

On the way out of Gokulam I stopped at the Ganesh temple. The priest more or less ignored me; there was holy water and aarti for everyone but the sweaty westerner. I tried not to take it personally.

During breakfast at Green Leaf I finally saw some familiar faces - including the gentleman who reads the newspaper over my shoulder and asked me to give him a gift before I left Mysore last year (instead, I simply stopped going to the restaurant).

On the way home I stopped at the Ramakrishna ashram. Then it was back home for a bath and morning nap. After lunch at Shiva Prasad (I still don't know what American Chopsy is), I spent some time a the browsing center and then headed back to Gokulam for conference.

This time, a couple of psychiatrists who work with children with learning disabilities spoke about their work. Their group receives funds from Guruji's charitable trust.

Midway through their talk, Guruji himself came out and starting moving towards his big chair. He was rather spry, and moving fairly quickly. After sitting, he looked out over the group and smiled. I kept sneaking glances at him and doing the guru mantra in my head – and smiling.

Later we were able to go up to him and pay our respects. THIS is what I came to Mysore for.

When it was my turn, I said "Tumba santosha," which means something like "I"m so happy."

He seemed to recognize me. "Your birthday?" he asked.

"Last week" I said. "26 July. Same as you. Same-same."

(NOTE: Guruji was born 26 July 1915, a full moon day or Guru Purnima. Caca was born on a non-auspicious 26 July. For those keeping score, David Roche shares a birthday with TVS Krishnamacharya)

Guruji smiled widely. "Oh, good good," he replied.

I was smiling so hard my face hurt.


* * *

After dosas at Gokul chats and cake at Cubs with Ursula (and a brief chat with J and S on Gokulam main road), I decided to stop and get petrol, or gas, at the 24-hour petrol bunk across from the Hotel Metropole (aka the "Petropole Bunk").

To open to the gas cap, you must get off the scooter and lift the seat.

This area under the seat also serves as storage, and is where I keep the orange rain poncho, orange yoga mat, and papers for the scooter.

The gas station attended wasn't very attentive. He didn't just overfill the tank - he sprayed gas all over, dousing the poncho and yoga mat.

It was almost like he was aiming for them.

To add insult to injury, he shrugged unapologetically when I showed him the doused items, as if to say "Yeah? So?"

“Jasti doo-doo,” I scolded, pointing towards the poncho and mat. “Very bad. Ruined.”

Strangely, I wasn't angry - just annoyed. For some reason I wasn't taking it personally. This is a new one for me.

The man made a halfhearted attempt to wipe off the poncho.

And then he proceeded to try to overcharge me.

At least he failed at that.


There's no way I can practice on a gas-stinking mat tomorrow. I tried to wash it when I got home - it takes a full day to dry - but could not get the petrol stench to come out. So I tried to air out the backup mat, which has been on mothballs for the last year. It too has a terrible stench, and is giving me a sore throat at this very moment.

Petrol or mothballs, that is the choice.

Either way it'll be an interesting practice tomorrow.


Later I was reading a story in The Gospel of Ramakrishna, about a snake that met a satguru, who told him how to behave in order to reach enlightenment. He was told to remember God always, and to not harm anyone. So when some boys came and caught him and beat him, he did nothing. They beat him nearly to death. He somehow survived, and subsisted on weeds and other plants for a year. When the satguru met him again, he was barely alive. “What happened?” he asked. The snake said he’d been subsisting on a vegetarian diet. But the satguru persisted, “Something must have happened to you.” The snake scrolled through its memory, until it recalled the incident with the boys. The satguru was disappointed. “I told you not to harm anyone,” he agreed. “But why didn’t you hiss in order to protect yourself?”

I thought that was very important to remember - that it’s OK to speak up and protect yourself, as long as you don’t hurt anyone. So perhaps my mild scolding if the petrol bunk (in)attendant was OK after all.


  1. That truck tire looks familiar, a
    10 x 20 if mem serves, probably one we retreaded, or more likely, retreaded on the machinery we sold that ended up in India and S. America.

  2. No self serve petrol in India?

  3. Anonymous11:42 PM

    Do you need a new mat? I have experience and could send it more quickly!