Monday, January 3, 2011

I have arrived in the woods... it is peaceful, wet and wild

Home sweet home
When the hero Rama and his devoted wife, Sita, were banished to the Woods in the Epic Hindu Saga The Ramayana, they took off all their silks, gold and jewels to don tree parts and vines.  Ouch, scratchy! As if banishment weren't enough?

"Doffing then their royal garments Rama and his brother bold

Coats of bark and matted tresses wore like anchorites of old."

Well, I guess I get it.  There is something about embracing the dirt once you get to the woods.  I certainly have!  I arrived in Sadhana Forest this morning just after sunrise.  And like Queen Sita, I have tossed off my city clothes and sandals.  I am a barefoot rustic, grimy and dirty and gloriously happy.  There are 90 or so other people living here in the ashram now.  They are all dirty, too!  The Sadhana Sadhus who have been here for awhile are a motley, bedraggled, blissful lot.  People are in dirty shorts from working in the forest, toes are mud encrusted, a gentle rain falls on the greenness all around us keeping our world wet and funky and cheerful.  

I am struck by the wonderful words of the Ramayana, written over 3000 years ago.  A story of a gallant young prince and his beloved who are forced into exile by an evil stepmother Queen.  Ramayana goes willingly without fear or protest and his faithful wife and brother go to -- giving up all the comforts of civilization and all things royal and rich, they have known...

Therefore bid me seek the jungle and in pathless forests roam, Where the wild deer freely ranges and the tiger makes his home,

Happier than in father's mansions in the woods will Sita rove, Waste no thought on home or kindred, nestling in her husband's love!

World-renowned is Rama's valour, fearless by her Rama's side,
Sita will still live and wander with a faithful woman's pride,

And the wild fruit she will gather from the fresh and fragrant wood,
And the food by Rama tasted shall be Sita's cherished food!

Bid me seek the sylvan greenwoods, wooded hills and plateaus high,
Limpid rills and crystal nullas as they softly ripple by,

And where in the lake of lotus tuneful ducks their plumage lave,
Let me with my loving Rama skim the cool translucent wave!


herefore let me seek the jungle where the jungle-rangers rove,
Dearer than the royal palace, where I share my husband's love,

And my heart in sweet communion shall my Rama's wishes share,
And my wifely toil shall lighten Rama's load of woe and care!"

Vainly gentle Rama pleaded dangers of the jungle life,
Vainly spake of toil and trial to a true and tender wife!


Welcome to a hermit's forest, be this spot your place of rest,
Where the meeting of the rivers, makes our sacred asram blest,

Live amidst these peaceful woodlands, still on sacred rites intent
Till your souls be filled with wisdom and your years of exile spent!"

These ancient scriptures speak to me in a profound way they haven't before when I've read them.  Sitting here listening to the soft winds and the rain pelt the thatched roof of our hut.  While this is hardly banishment and I am, happily, sticking to my cotton (bark makes me itch) I do feel a kinship with Ram and Sita.  I am in exile of a sort (although no evil queen step mom was involved in this one) and I am looking for peace amidst the sacred woodlands.  

The other PSU folk arrive at midnight to the airport in Chennai and will join me here in Sadhana Forest before dawn.  They will be exhausted and it will be dark... the jungle will seem fearful and full of toil and trial.  However, when they awake they will see this place and it will be like a paradise to them.  And we will take a day of rest before we go into the woods to work and sweat and get more dirty and blissful.  

The rain is picking up, the WiFi is holding strong, and I'm laughing with fellow Sadhus who have come from the US to share the experience.  They come from universities far and wide...  Lewis Clark (Portland, NE), University of Lincoln, Nebraska, Sierra College (Lake Tahoe), Cornell University (New York), St. Lawrence University, NY, etc.  I type from the grand loft above out sleeping area, watching the trees sway in the wind and the lush greenness wet with loving drops from the heavens.  This moment is perfect.

View from my bedroom window of neighboring huts...

View from the upstairs window, facing the back of the hut

View from the side window on the top floor

View of neighboring hut

View from the other side!
View from the top of the stairs going to the 1st floor
2nd story of our sleeping hut where we can hold meetings and classes, and enjoy the Wi Fi.  This is where I'm typing from now (see my little lap top on the lone mat to the left?) -- we keep our valuables in the tin chests on the side and there are plugs on the right to re-charge.  This is the Living Roots Group pictured here, with whom we'll share the hut and meeting space.  They seem like a wonderful group of students from all over the USA and one student from Indonesia.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely amazing! I would love to find myself in the Sadhana Forest... India is my dream place to live, and the Sadhus of India are truly inspirational.