"Why are you going to India again? You have been twice already. Isn't that enough?" These are the questions that my husband asked me when I first told him that I was going to India again. These are the same questions he asked again, when the trip became a reality, instead of just something that my friend and I were talking about doing. Several friends and family members have also asked these questions.
Why am I going to India? I ask, "Why not?" It is a wonderful adventure. My first flight to India I had never been on an airplane before that trip. My first flight on an airplane took 22 hours to get to our final destination of Bangalore, India. We flew out of Little Rock, Arkansas. My husband assured me that if I didn't like flying, I could get off of the plane and fly home from either of our first two stops---Atlanta, Georgia and JFK in New York. For a month before we left, my husband made sure that I knew about every plane that crashed any where in the world. He was really afraid of my flying, especially since it was to several foreign countries. This was in pre-911 days. Security was different then. From what I have seen, I don't know that it is any better but the restrictions are a lot more complicated. I forgave him because I know his fear comes from his love for me. When I went on my first cruise a few years ago, he reminded me about the movie The Posedon Aventure. You know the one where the ship gets hit by a tidal wive and turns upside down. It is a good thing that I love him too. I would think that he really doesn't want me to go. I have invited him along for each trip. He has his own things he wants to do, going to India isn't one of them.
My friend Sherryl and I are going to fly to Bangalore, India where we will spend two days in a hotel before hiring a taxi to drive us to the small village of Puttaparthi north of Bangalore. The main ashram of Satya Sai Baba is located in Puttaparthi, the small village that Sai Baba was born and raised in.
The main ashram, Prasanthi Nilayam, which means Abode of the Highest Peace, is located there. Puttaparthi is located 180 kilometers north of Bangalore. I don't know how many miles that converts too. Sai Baba's mission is "to help humanity wake up to the innate divinity within themselves and all creation and to see that the principles of Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Love and Nonviolence govern all human relations and activities." This information and quote came from the book, JOURNEY to Sathya Sai Baba, A Visitor's Guide written by Valmai Worthington, Leela Press, Inc. Faber, VA, U. S. A., 1995.
My friend and I will be gone from September 24- October 15, 2007. Three weeks seems like a long time and it is, but I am never ready to leave when the time comes. I miss my family while I am gone. I don't usually call more than once or twice while I am gone. Because of the time difference, it is difficult to find a time to call my husband Daniel when he is awake and not working. Also, southern India is 11 1/2 hours ahead of Arkansas time. Calling home isn't a simple matter of picking up a phone and calling. There is one place in the ashram that has phones for calling out. You wait in line until your turn. The operator connects you and then you put in the phone number. You talk to whoever you called and then you pay for your call and it is someone else's turn to use the phone.
Being in the presence of Sai Baba is wonderful. I don't see auras on a conscious level but people who do say that his extends outward a long, long way. Most of us have auras of just a few inches out from our bodies. Sai Baba tells us that he is God and so are we. He says the difference between him and us is that he remembers who he is and we have forgotten our Divinity. He tells us to stay home and worship the God of our choice. He says something that I have always felt in my heart and that is that we are all God. The Divine is in each of us, not "out there" some place. If I don't have to visit him, why do I, and so many others, travel every year to see him? Being in his presence reminds me of my own Divinity and that connection feels wonderful. A friend from church saw me soon after I got home from my first trip and he told me I was glowing. How could I be around that purity of energy and not be glowing. It is very difficult to come back into the fast paced life of an American after spending 3 weeks in India.
I see these trips as Spiritual Retreats for me. I come home rejuvenated and refreshed. I come back home to green salads, a soft bed and a hot shower. In India, you drink bottled water to keep from getting sick. You don't eat any food that has been sitting out for the flies to get to. If it isn't hot, don't eat or drink it. At the ashram, you do a lot of walking. Showers are luke warm, at best. There are two types of bathrooms. The India bathrooms you squat over a hole in the floor and you clean yourself with water and your left hand. You do not extend your left hand to anyone to shake hands. (My friend is left-handed and she forgets this rule occasionally.) There are also English bathrooms where you have regular commodes. You take your own toilet paper with you to India. I buy the biggest rolls of toilet paper that I can find and take three rolls since we are there for three weeks. On our first trip, our bathroom shower came from a bucket and a dipper. We had a faucet in the wall and a drain in the floor for the water to drain away. Man, do I look forward to a hot shower when I get home. I do not like cold showers. I appreciate my creature comforts more when I get back home.
For our beds, we go and watch some Indian man put straw into a mattress that he then sews together. When you leave the ashram, men come and collect the mattresses to be taken apart, refilled with a new cover and resold to the next person. The beds weren't too bad if you piled two mattresses on top of each other. All you need for cover is a sheet and mosquito net. Don't forget your mosquito repellent. I make my own or buy those made from essential oils. I don't like the regular store bought kinds.
Travel in India is much more difficult than in the U. S. Most people when they find out that we are going to India want to know if we are going to visit the Taj Mahal. No, that is in northern India and we are way down south just above Bangalore. It just isn't that easy to travel the distance from southern India to northern. We would spend a lot more money and take a much longer trip to do that.
Every where we travel is by either taxi or motorized rickshaws. Traveling the streets and roads of India is an adventure all its own. Everyone drives by using their intuition and their horns. You have air pollution and noise pollution combined. In the U. S., I would be terrified to drive the way they do in India. It is a highly evolved skill to drive solely by your instincts. Instead of frightened, I felt exhilerated. It truly is incredible the way that they drive. In both of our first trips, we only saw one minor accident. A motorized rickshaw had lost a wheel. Traffic consists of big trucks, buses, taxis of all shapes and sizes, motorized rickshaws, motor scooters with one-three people on them, bicycles and pedestrians all moving in every direction at the same time. That is where horns come into the picture. They honk "hello", "good-bye", "I'm coming through." "Look out." "Get out of my way." and probably a little cussing through in for good measure. It really is exciting. Americans couldn't begin to think about driving this way. Sometimes you find yourself holding your breath. Sometimes you have to gasp. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the thrill of some of their seemingly narrow escapes.
Do not think that I am making fun of anything Indian. I am not. I have mixed feelings about what I have seen of the country. It is a harsh looking land. Our first trip was in the summer and I don't remember seeing any green, not even grass. Everything was shades of brown. That trip we followed Sai Baba to KodaiKanal, a small mountainside village that was cooler during the summer months.
I have at least two past lives in India. One I got from a dream. In the dream, I was an Indian man from a rich family. I know this from the clothes that I was getting dressed in. I was on my way to a party wearing heavy, rich, brocade like material with a turbine on my head. I had this dream during my first week of my first trip to India.
The other Indian lifetime, I was a very sick little girl who was healed by Krishna and became one of his devotees. That is all of the information that I have about that lifetime. It came from an acquantance who is a psychic.
I have mixed emotions about the country but not about the people of India. I loved the people that I met. Some of them were quiet and shy. Some of them are loud and boisterous, especially the young boys who want you to buy their wares. I had one man who insisted upon selling me a bracelet. I said no. He actually put it on my wrist as I was walking away. I laughed and removed it and put it back on his table. Another man tried following me on to a bus to sell me a dress that I wanted but thought his price was a little too high. He was still trying to get me to buy the dress as the bus drove off. Some of the children just capture your heart. Some of the beggars will break your heart if you let them. Before you get off the plane, you are told do not give money to the beggars. We gave them food occasionally but no money. Our first trip to Bangalore, I cried as we drove along because of a beggar lady and her baby. You want to help them but giving them money just perpetuates the beggar businesses. Sai Baba and the Indian government want the beggars to find other ways to make a living. I had to close off a part of my heart in order to deal with this part of India.
Well, I guess if I am going to have anything left to write about when I return then I should stop writing. I didn't know that I was going to tell you all of this when I sat down to write today. I ask that you envision my friend and I having a wonderful adventure and learning whatever lessons come our way from this visit. You will hear all about them when we return from India. In the mean time, while I am away, have a glorious three weeks. I know I will. Namaste.