To Jyotir Math
Late May, dusty dry hills, scrub brush, months before monsoons would come bringing green relief.
The ashram, quiet, in the fading sunlight, was impressive in these Himalayan foothills; ancient, two-storied cream stone, with saffron orange trim, the Shankarcharya’s colors, and flag flying, nestled against a hill beside Shankara’s cave and banyan tree, the same cave and tree where Shankara sat 3,000 years ago writing his commentaries with the disciples—Trotaka, Hasta-Malaka, Vartika-Kara, Padma-Pada. 3,000 years ago.
The air, though tired and dusty with summer heat, vibrated with ancient wisdom, lively still in that remote valley, hidden from time.
The great gong sounded from the ashram at sunset, calling the villagers to meet, poor peasants—the men road workers, wearing their army uniforms like badges of honor; the women, their good saris ragged to our eyes, glittered with tinseled trim and brilliant blended hand woven colors—scarlet, blue indigo and jaded greens.
They flowed like water into the meeting room—a small room, filled with greatness. Shankarcharya walked slowly into the room, an immense presence, pundits extolling his holiness with Vedic mantras. His gentle gaze, meeting our eyes, greeted the pale Americans who had come with Maharishi. He sat on Guru Dev’s throne, like a statue of stillness, waiting for us to settle, then beckoned to us gently to move forward so more of the villagers could enter the room.
The women to one side, sat apart, protected by their gentle warm togetherness, shifting, hushed whispers, pulling their saris as Maharishi and the great western scientists spoke of the dawning of a new age.
I had been there before, perhaps in a dream, of walking these hills, knowing with liquid clarity what would be around the curve, in the next cave, in the small Devi temple. I knew that holiness.
It was late, and we left quietly. Ahead of us, the village women walked slowly, heads together, chatting and laughing, apart from their men, gathering their tired children in their strong brown arms.
—Sally “Sali” Peden
Around 1995-96 Sali took some classes in the MA in Professional Writing program at Maharishi University of Management. The poetry writing class was taught by poet Rustin Larson. It was there that she recalled and wrote about her journey to Jyotir Math in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which had taken place some 20 years earlier, in May 1975, the year Maharishi had inaugurated the Dawn of the Age of Enlightenment. For an explanation and further developments …. (more…)