Nature and spirituality in South India

~ Excerpt from From Dior to Dharma by Shruti Bakshi. Available on Amazon

October is not a fallen month in South India. Unlike in temperate lands, there is no surrendering of the leaves first to non-verdant hues and eventually to the ground. The trees don’t avert their gaze like they do in Paris in autumn, embarrassed by their state of undress. On the contrary, with the worst of the summer heat beaten into retreat and rain clouds standing on guard, ready to burst when needed, Nature seems to run amuck, setting the environment afire with life, creating a flora as intense and flavourful as the South Indian curries. In fact with plump jackfruits lazing on tree-tops, the excitement of pepper vines bursting into tropical fragrance, chili plants trampling aggressively over weeds, and coconut trees stumbling drunkenly into every other plant and tree around, one beholds, smells and almost tastes an uncooked curry of a forest. Unlike the faded and often insipid hues of much higher latitudes, Mother Nature here, sweating with inspiration in the humid warmth, pushes colours to their most vibrant extremes.

This was so also in the small town in southern Tamil Nadu where Guruji has his ashram. Since I had recently decided that if I was unable to come up with a blue-print for my future anytime soon, my back-up option would be to retire to an ashram in the forest, I thought that I should at least check-out the place to assure myself that I could indeed, if push came to shove, comfortably spend the rest of my life there. And so here I was, spending two weeks in Guruji’s ashram before making a trip all the way north to the Himalayas.

Sprawled across many acres in the lap of forested hills, the ashram was a peaceful spiritual oasis. The establishment could almost be mistaken for a tropical resort if it wasn’t for the strict regimen laid out for residents regarding diet, recreation and waking up times. The programme I had signed up for required us to wake up at 5.30 a.m. every day, spend many hours of the day in learning and practicing meditation, yoga and pranayama, eat light sattvic vegetarian meals only twice a day and join in on sathsangs which involved spiritual discourse and sometimes devotional singing. Although the regimen had looked quite formidable on paper, remarkably, I found it all quite doable, partly because of my personal practice of the last many weeks involving quirky dietary restrictions, obsession with spiritual literature and other habits assuring my future unpopularity as a dinner guest, and partly because I suppose it’s easier to do these things when there is the company of other people.

~ Excerpt from From Dior to Dharma by Shruti Bakshi. Available on Amazon.

Read more excerpts:

  1. Read Excerpt from Chapter 6 – Burgundy epiphanies: enlightenment and me?
  2. Read Excerpt ‘And now, yoga’
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