When the bells toll at five we are assembled in the hall sitting crosslegged on the floor and chanting mantras from the Vedas. Despite my initial indifference Sanskrit's a powerful language and its hard not to be moved by the surging voices of 40 sleep deprived souls ! We sit quietly for an hour trying to tame the wild monkey inside, the mind. Before breakfast i do neti( pouring water through one nostril and out through the other) and try to master shirshasan [the king of all asans(postures), where you basically stand on your head and try to look cool and relaxed while youre contemplating how not to break your neck while coming down]
The 'morning' session proper consisits of a series of lectures on various topics like Patanjali Yoga Sutras, The Upanishads, Religious Consciuosness, Western Philosophy, Indian Philosophy, Bhagwat Geeta, Narada Bhakti Sutras, etc. The teachers vary in age from 25-85, most are sanyasins of some stature spiritually. Evenings are spent doing half an hour of Karma yoga ( doing a job to perfection but without attachment to the result ). Hatha Yoga ( The Yoga of postures and breathing) follows at 5 in the evening. Dinner's at seven and its lights out at 10 pm.
Breakfast's a simple affair with a small katori( bowl) of upma/rice. There's a smile on everyone's face when idlis(steamed south indian rice cakes) are dished out, which happens once a week.
Ok it doesnt look as esthetically tempting as above, but for a South Indian idlis in any arrangement is welcome! Now lunch is interesting. As in breakfast we all sit on the floor crosslegged with empty plates and katoris. The sanyasins are served first. Rice roti , sabji( vegetable curry mix) ,dal, buttermilk or curd and on lucky days when a rich dude happens to drop by and donate, we are spoiled with absolutely ravishing gulab jamuns and custard ! Ok imagine all this stuff on your plate. The sight and smell's killing you but you can't touch it unless the mantra chanting is finished, which takes an agonising 10 minutes. But soon the go ahead is given and this is when the real meditation happens. Everyone single mindedly concentrates on stuffing the food down within the alloted time of 20 minutes. There's no restriction on the amount of food but wasting any is frowned down upon. Another short prayer and everyone's up to wash their plates and burp away contentedly.
Next: Love comes univited...