Kerala, Southern India
God’s Own Land
On Monday, April 2nd, at 4:00 a.m., the ringer on my cell phone woke me up instantly after a sleep that was peaceful in spite of the numerous dynamic flash-like sequences of my oneiric subconscious.
I'm sweeping and washing the courtyard of the Dharmikam Ashram, I'm watering the flowers, the tropical bushes and the areas which must be purified by the force of the water that springs from 200 m below Kerala's surface.
An enjoyable fresh breeze, carrying exotic fragrances of burning sandalwood sticks in high chandeliers made from polished brass surrounds me, accompanied by a chanted prayer that can be heard from afar, from another Ashram.
At 5 o'clock sharp, the audio station inside our temple starts working, bringing a pleasant competition to the birds flying around, which fill the morning with their noises. Heard through the leaves of the coconut and banana trees, they give the impression of an ongoing argument, and sometimes it is just as they’re throwing harsh words to the dogs that happily bark towards a morning which announces a torrid day.
The pavement of the temple is still warm since the day before. The streaming warm water which rushes out of the tube I carry moistens the vegetation that suddenly regains its vigor and elasticity. I have the feeling that, besides my inner contentment, the plants are talking to me by means of the vivid language of their leaves and their trunks which often carry a spider web as a garment and shake their petals down after I swept, having as only purpose to annoy me.
I said it was Monday and, strictly speaking, I think that the old Romanian saying that ‘not even the grass is growing on Monday’ has its full application in India too. The entire Ashram is quiet. I noticed that the weekend is marked here by a fast-paced activity, whereas the first days of the week are ruled by a relaxation in which work is done “slowly and thoroughly”. On both directions, roads are crowded with Indians who talk, drink their “chaya” (black sweetened tee with milk) or simply lie down in the dust of the road and manifest a serene attitude of “dolce far niente”.
…About 6 o’clock I’m on my way to the Kalari (the practice gym), where I start my morning exercises, which include elements of yoga, breathing methods and the practicing of the basic techniques learned here.
A month has already passed by, filled with spiritually and emotionally new events, a month of hard work in an ambience of a tropical greenhouse which, to my astonishment, I do tolerate well enough. I think this is also due to my focusing on every event, given the fact that I behaved just like an all-absorbent sponge or like a candle that just doesn’t want to go out.
Swami Nair Balachandran is a prominent figure of Kerala and conducts the “Indian School of Martial Arts”, an excellent school known worldwide and mediated by the Discovery Chanel and by other Western TV-channels, but also known due to its conservative line and its ancestral heritage. Southern India has given to mankind a specific line of thinking, Buddhism and the seed of Oriental Martial Arts. Among the variety of the schools of yoga, Guru Ji Balachandran Nair is the continuator of the Bhakti-Yoga tradition, a divination yoga, a yoga of the entering of the divine world of the Indian pantheon. By means of the Nama Japa technique, through the repetition of the Divine Name, one attempts to contact Him in order to attain revelation of His person and His intentions.
“In a certain way, each and every human being born on earth is a reincarnation of God. The difference between all men has only to do with the degree of divine manifestation in each of us”. (A.N.Balasubramanian, about Yogi Ramsurat Kumar) The “Puranas”explane (more precisely Sri Bhagavatham) Bhakthi Yoga, as a love towards God, manifested repetitively and continuously (through Pooja-prayers) as a “simple and easy” technique within the spiritual Sadhana.
Starting with an astonishing resemblance, it goes as far as to be identifiable with the “Prayer of the Heart” of Lord Jesus Christ.
This devotional yoga applies three rules in its approach towards perfection:
1.– learning and faith
2.- love for God (Bhakthi)
3.– Nama Japa -> technique of repetition, carried out through recitation or cantillation of the holy name
Indian faith (especially in Southern India, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu – neighboring states) considers the mantra “RAM” as being extraordinarily powerful and effective when chanted.
“Ram” comes from the very same Rama, the hero of the “Ramayana” , or, according to more recent discoveries, from the same Rama who was presented by Nicolae Miulescu in his “Daksa – Land of the Gods”
Following my desire to “drink directly from the fountain”, I’ve elaborated the project: “Dacia – Bharatyia – Line”, which determined me to contact in the fall of 2011 the master from Kerala, at the same time being also stimulated by the resemblance of our names. I was happy to be accepted in the Ashram for a period of three months of study.
…And now here I am at the half of this period, a sojourn that wouldn’t have been possible without the extraordinary financial help of the “Fundaţia Transilvania” (Transilvania Foundation) and of some very generous friends, the names of whom I will mention at the right moment.
…The Zephyrus moves the big leaves of the palm trees, shedding a warm light into the courtyard of the Ashram, a light which combines a green color from above with a vibrating warm ambience that carries slight nuances of a lower cooler breeze and becoming therefore of an unseen red stemming from the earth.
At the roots of the palm trees, just like gifts, the coconuts fallen from so high above (a height of more than a 6 store block of flats) could be a real threat to anyone passing by at ground level, if some sort of divine protection didn’t watch over them. During my first night here, as I was lying in my bed with the windows wide open, every now and then, between mantras and religious chants, I heard a brutal bump which led my imagination to some “ninja” action, to a night attack…
Only the following day, as I got out to take some pictures within the yard of the Ashram, I noticed the coconuts, motionless, full and green.
During my first days I felt like being in the “The Jungle Book”, a somewhat older Mowgli who came from Transilvania.
Let’s imagine this location as being a surface you can only comprise with your eyes as far as it is allowed by the huge plants which display their colors in luminescent reflexes. Here, it is not at all difficult to perceive the aura of a leaf on the background of the bright sky.
There is water in abundance; it springs out on the surface of the estate and it follows a vast hydrographic circuit which also encompasses sewers and small water reservoirs.
The fan works 24/7 in the rooms, and the light bulbs of the lanterns cast baroque shadows on the hot ground at night… The architectural concept and the exquisite taste displayed by the gardens surrounded by big walls of different heights and of the interior courtyards especially made for flowers and trees belongs to Swami Balachandran, an entity that still wouldn’t reveal itself to me, only enriching the mystery that way.
The humid tropical climate is suitable for the cultivation of all sorts of spices, and this area takes the second place in the world at pepper production (I think), whereas it is not even cultivated in an industrial manner, but only collected from the spots where nature has left it.
The Ghats mountains reach 2500 m in height and isolate the region from the rest of the country, representing therefore a natural geographic barrier. Kerala opens its wide beaches towards West and South-West to the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, having Tamil Nadu as a neighbor state in the East.
Coming on a national road from the international airport Trivandrum, situated in the capital of the Thiruvanathapuram state, I discarded all second thoughts about the quality of the Romanian road infrastructure and I relaxed completely as I witnessed a totally new way of driving on public roads. Obviously there are taxis, but the cream of the traffic is the riksha, a motorized tricycle, covered, and with two seats in the back, from where you can see everything. You can detect every scent of food from within the courtyards, the spices or the flavors of the small boutiques lined up on both sides of the roads. My road has two lanes, in two directions, and people drive on the left. The traffic consists up to 98% of motorcycles that come in “swarms”, honking wildly. I counted up to five people on a motorcycle…
There’s a continuous line between the lanes which doesn’t stop the circulation on the wrong lane, nor does it hinder the sudden turning of the riksha in the middle of the road if it pleases the driver. They have a way of circulating without any of the Western rules, but which shows some natural manner of mutually avoiding each other or of yielding the right of way, a manner that is closely connected to politeness and to a fine sense of circumstances. It is interesting to see how the driver of the riksha you’re sitting in cuts the curve on a continuous line and from the other direction a bus and about six motorcycles do the same… But believe it or not, there are no collisions although everybody runs at minimum distance. There are also buses without windows and people are clinging to bars and stairs, with their blouses waving in the wind, defying a danger that cannot touch them.
…A mélange of cultures and religions which tolerate each other in a context of modernity and conservatism. An interesting architectural combination that puts together the eclectics of ages and the material existing at a certain point in time finds its frame in a natural environment… It stretches from houses with battlements, small towers, terraces and cast iron gates with flamboyant floral motives, to the slim and enduring simplicity of a bamboo tree…
…And always: NAMASTE, a magical formula, which brings the smile on the lips and a feeling of unconditional love.