What You See Is What You Get. This is a journal blog, an explore-blog, a bit of this and that blog. Sharing where the mood takes me. Perhaps it will take you too.

Menoculayshunal: Towards Evening

By four in the afternoon, everyone would start to emerge and mingle once more, and the second Vedanta class of the day would begin at four-thirty, lasting for an hour (plus the odd fifteen minutes here and there). 

Between the end of class and six-twenty-five, we would return to rooms, shower and change, then head up to the mandir (temple) for evening aarti (prayer service), followed by satsang. The ashram is situated on the side of a surprisingly challenging hill, and the mandir is at its peak! First, the road to the office took one up the initial half of the climb. Then one could take either of the staircases... or use the 'backroad', without steps. That last stretch from the main 'road' became twice the steepness. (Eventually, arthritis did prevent me from making this trip, which was a loss, for the evenings were a joy.)

Quite often, we would arrive in good time to be able to linger and watch the sunset...

Inside, we would all gather first at the small shrine behind the main 'garbh-graH' (translates as womb home - it is the central altar and ceremonial area), where resides Sri Ganesha.

Here we would chant, "Sri Ganesha, Sri Ganesha, Pahimam; Jai Ganesha, Jai Ganesha, Rakshimam," for a full five minutes, bringing in clapping in the last few chantings as the lamp was waved and the bell rung... it had all the joy and innocence of a childhood rhyme, but all the depth and meaning of devotion and Love. 

From here, we would circumambulate to the main hall and gather - boys to the right, girls to the left, Nandi, hundi and palvala  (the Bull, collections box, and pond) between. There, the pundits would be ready to perform the physical aspects of the puja. The prayers and chants were a set routine and one in which the students all played their part. Everyone had to learn, and each would take a turn at being the lead in the chanting. There was a microphone. Nowhere to hide. As my first name initial is close to the end of the alphabet, it was a long time coming for me to perform this role. By that time, I had more or less mastered Sanskrit pronunciation, that I got pats on the shoulder and congrats from some of the more serious students. Relief indeed!

After the aarti, a reshuffle as we settled in for satsang - a more informal gathering than class, where one hears from such books as the Srimad Bhagavatam (mostly that) and the aachaarya would elaborate and entertain in the tradition of all story-telling through the ages. Samvid-ji was a wonderful weaver of words to explore and expand devotion. Sometimes, we would have guest speakers for satsang. It was always very special when our aachaarya, Sw Advayananda, graced us with his presence and reminiscences of time with Gurudev, Guruji and other such tales.

The podium for this was also placed with the image of Sw Tapovan Saraswati Maharaj behind it - he was the teacher of HH Pujya Gurudev Sw Chinmayananda, for whom the mission was founded. Within paramparaa (tradition/lineage), I am the third generation removed from this mahatma - his writings sing from the page and are highly recommended. The tradition of verbal teaching reaches far into history and is important for tracing authenticity. The Saraswati parampara goes all the way back to Adi Shankara via the Sringeri Math (pronounced 'mutt' - ashram centres). The designation Saraswati proclaims the learned nature of the bearer - "professor." 

The Shankaracharya connection is placed to the next wall, and on the opposite wall is the image of Gurudev, without whom none of us would have been sharing in the privilege of having this knowledge handed down. At the close of the evening's satsang (8 pm), we would turn to that place and offer aarti to Gurudev, taking turns to wave the lamp.

The dinner bell would chime at eight, and we would saunter down in amiable silence, or at least subdued conversation, often glowing from the tales shared in the evening, or simply from the genuine sense of family that pervaded the atmosphere. Whatever had happened in the day that might have soured a mood here and there or caused any hurt or disturbed the flow... all worry could be left in the mandir at the feet of the mahatmas and burdens lifted.

After eating, homework/study was done back in our rooms, writing of journals, and then... to bed...


  1. How beautifully you convey the sense of peace and family.

  2. that is interesting.... maybe if we could adopt some of thishabits our world would be a little better...

  3. That does to me sound the best part of the day - leaving aside the requirement to chant into the microphone!

  4. It's the sense of common purpose, shared wonderment or enjoyment of it that rises from the 'page' in your description of you life at the ashram.

  5. This is really interesting. I've not experienced anything like it!

  6. YAM Aunty your days were full of beauty and tranquility.
    Hugs Cecilia

  7. Busy yet comfortable ending to an enlightening day.

  8. sharing a sense of family is good, that is what i did this morning at the YMCA by chatting without mask with several people. in the 2 room school of my elementary days, we learned by verbal teaching, not exactly like this but it made me remember it when i read. you have truly led a magical life

  9. Thank you for sharing the inner workings of this life. It is very interesting.

  10. You guys sure had full and interesting days! Thanks so much for sharing. It is like a window into an entirely different world.

  11. I love reading your journal entries. They are most interesting.

  12. long, full days. namaste, janice xx


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