Steve was in India to teach at a training event. Before the training started, he joined a G-Adventures tour of South India.
I hadn’t thought of her in years, my voice teacher from Berklee College of Music. The last time we spoke, it was the early 90s, and Jessica told me she was following a guru from India. In fact she had just returned from that guru’s tour across the United States, where she had been his assistant. Thinking about Jessica makes me feel old, I was 19 (about the age of several of the kids on this tour) and I have trouble remembering who I was then. Back to the here and now, the G-Adventures tour has come to this ashram to gawk at its large utopian golden golf ball, and I’m wondering could Jessica be here?
Officially this golf ball is called “The Matrimandir” and is for “those who want to learn to concentrate,” which sounds like their word for praying. In Sanskrit, Matrimandir means “Mother Temple”, which according to the literature, “is what helps the humanity to overcome their limitations to the supramental consciousness”. I expected to be weirded out and cynical, but instead I feel curious. Not so much with the golden golf ball, but with the reaction of my fellow tour-ists. The Matrimandir is off limits to tourists, and even those who live in Auroville, the community surrounding it, can wait years to be allowed inside for concentration. On the walk back, I try to engage anyone in a conversation about it, but the conversations go nowhere. Tour etiquette requires us not to speak much about our lives back home. I can know where people are from and what they do, or did, but speaking on matters of faith is as protected as The Matrimandir.
[Sign to the Viewing Point]
This region surrounding Pondicherry. is former French India. The architecture could be reminiscent of New Orleans but for the occasional Hindu shrine. Three story red brick buildings with wrought iron grill work, markets with elephants waiting bless you, priests blessing new cars, and then suddenly an absurdly quiet street. No honking, or hooting of horns, and no touts. So quiet in fact I see twenty or more very mellow dogs in various stages of rest scattered on the street like rose peddles scattered by a flower girl at a wedding. Normally aggressive Tuk-tuks even slow down, and swerve around the reclining dogs like tires on an obstacle course. Like tires, the dogs do not flinch nor move as they pass.
[Car Blessings] – I’ve prayed over cars, motorcycles, vans, trucks, and homes, but never used fire, nor flowers and dry paint.
The source of this intense mellowness is Sri Aurobindo Ashram, of Auroville. Its the outfit that launched The Matrimandir and if the street outside was mellow, inside is nearly catatonic. Hundreds of of devotees or maybe jet lagged tourists sit in various forms of the lotus position, meditating toward what I assume is the guru’s grave. There are flowers everywhere, and their smell is maybe what the poppies smelled like in Wizard of Oz, promising eternal peace and slumber or apathy and complacency. I’m not sure which.
[the grave people seemed to be praying toward, from http://indiantoursandtravels07.blogspot.in/] – sorry my camera was not allowed, but clearly someone else’s was.
Joining them in prayer, I mean concentration, I feel like an imposter, going through the motions of praying Lord, I worship the part of you that is worshiped in this place. From outward appearances, I am in deep concentration but then I look up and notice an older Indian woman watching me. I assume she is a devotee. She winks at me, and smiles a toothless grin. Busted, and so is my concentration. I get up and poke around the bookstore until the everyone else is done with whatever they are concentrating on.
Descriptions of this place promise to transport your mind to a heavenly abode…to feel as if the eternity is here, but pretenders like me can’t reach that level of concentration, but maybe my old voice teacher has reached her heavenly abode. I wish her well and hope there is singing.