…..'A sense of humour lends you poise, it gives you balance and it helps you to bend without breaking'…..

(HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda)

Menory Lane - Kolwan A

This is an ANL 'redub' taken from the lengthy letter produced at the time. It is being broken into dated entries here and some piccies being added.  This was a definite highlight in the two years!

A thought-flow journal of the 3-week trip to Chinmaya Vibhooti Ashram of the 15th batch Vedanta Course from Sandeepany Sadhanalaya.  Such adventures away from our closeted life in Mumbai are to be treasured. Not to mention that there will be a heap of vedantic activity to keep us focused.

Vibhooti is Guru-ji’s great project for a hill-station ashram which pays homage to his Guru, (and our Gurudev), Sri Pujya Swami Chinmayananda.  It is situated in the Sayadhri hills of Maharashtra, by the town of Kolwan, some 3.5 to 4 hours’ drive from Powai and about one hour from Pune.  The countryside is stunning, very rural and as we drove here this morning, the hay and straw harvest was happening – hand cutting and stooking as well as good old basket threshing of the seeds from the stalks – at a distance I would guess it was wheat only, but India does grow some different grains. Yours truly travelled with other ‘elders’ in a minibus with well sprung seating – but very cramped.          We
stopped a couple of times to stretch the limbs. One was in the village of Powainagari, where I picked up some bananas and sitaphal from one of the several fruit stalls. Six pieces altogether for 15 rupees – around 30c aussie. The ‘nanas were warm and sweet from sitting in the sun and the sitaphal (custard apple) at perfect ripeness. These formed part of my picnic lunch whilst others had the food on offer at the ashram.

We had left nearly an hour behind schedule from Powai (so what’s new?!), but being in the wee vehicle we made good time – some hair-raising moments on the road as our driver was determined he was going to deliver us first… Arrived at Vibhooti around 12.45pm. As the others popped into Annashree (Honoured Food), I made up my sandwich - (had bread in my bag.  Doesn’t everyone?)

Then we got our keys and settled into our rooms. I am in 103 of Yashoda – dang, it would be have been fun to have 102 here as well as at Chinmaya Vihar! But actually, I think I got the better room insofar as the main window here faces away from the main settlement right over Kolwan to the hills.  Sigh.  As I type at 4.15pm there is chanting of names of lord coming from loud speaker somewhere in town. It’s carrying some 2 miles. That’s how quiet it is here. Actually, it would have been called silence, but when sitting in such a calm, lots of small stuff makes itself noticed. Many birds and can even hear the insects! Just now there was the merest sprinkling of rain and would never have noticed at Powai, but heard the few drops hitting the leaves of the large grasses outside the window. As the evening progresses, the loud speaker gets more animated and I suspect the entire population of Kolwan is sitting entranced at some open-air theatricals. It is Friday night after all.

The buildings here are of high (Indian) standard – there are several different halls of residence each of two levels only. Yashoda has only 15 rooms and I think this is the norm for each bldg… but each of these rooms can sleep up to five visitors.  Anyway, I have one of these beauties all to myself!  Most are doubling up, but a few of us classified as ‘infirm’ (HAH! images of ambulances) have scored single status.

As had to defrost and switch off the fridge before coming, I carried with me some cheese, tomatoes, spread and curd that was too much just to dispose of. Oh yes -and bread!  Had purposely bought a bagful of oranges and pears, so as to have at least 10-12 days of fresh fruit still. Not likely to be allowed out to Kolwan to resupply. Packed a box of dry goods such as noodles, crackers and packet soup so that have backup if food not suiting – or just can’t face the walk over to food hall. Everything is significantly more distant than we’re used to and also over different gradient.

Have brought the hot water bottle – even now at 6pm am sitting with shawl over shoulders and the legs are starting to feel chilled. Will need to pull out a couple of the blankets from the cupboard over there to ensure comfy sleep tonight.

Before leaving for his own business down at CIF, Acarya-ji spoke with us all and outlined our schedule here. We will not be having vedic chanting early morning, but at midday instead. Vedanta will be twice daily, time to be confirmed by Swami Advaitananda who is the acarya here. Sanskrit is to be Monday, Wednesday and Friday. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday we will have in that 10-11am slot, self-directed discussion groups on the text by Adi Sankaracarya called Vakya Vrtti. Having completed Vedanta Sara – intense but rewarding – we should now be able to draw out lots from this text based upon our understanding from that. We will be asked to make presentations on it when we return to Sandeepany. In addition, we have 4 tasks to complete based upon Vedanta Sara AND we are to prepare an assignment on Atma Bodha (from the beginning of the year!)  So if anyone thought they might be having a holiday at Vibhooti, that was wiped out thoroughly! The text to be studied with Advaitananda-ji  is Advaita Makharanda.

We are having tomorrow free to settle in, see the sights (such as Jeeva Darshana – a diorama exhibit of Gurudev) and generally refresh ourselves, ready for the fray that begins on Sunday.

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