I wish I could stay longer in Ayodhya. I wish I could recreate the scene of an ancient fable. Perhaps if there was Ayodhya Disney, Epcot Center with Mickey Muse Raksanas (demons) scaring children and an actress dressed as sexy Sita between her shifts at the waffle house.
But alas, this tendency to turn an inner experience into something I can touch is part of my own chains to maya.
It’s the same disease as praying to a cross instead of meditating in silence, the same laziness of criticizing others instead of critiquing our own stray footsteps from the path, the same absurdity of bombing other countries instead of the enemy within.
I feel like I could run out of time. I have to be on the other side of the country in seven days. The unreliability of available trains, the chaos of traveling, stampeding hordes and my dwindling funds bring out the demons of anxiety within me.
I catch an eight p.m. train from Ayodhya back to Luknow. ‘Catch’ is being used literally here. The train is so packed that I can’t get in. No amount of physical exertion or professional New York City style shoving can penetrate the great Hindi wall of bodies. I’m not missing this train. Who knows when another will come to this remote outpost of humanity? Along with other braver souls I clinch my talons around the doorway handle and refuse to budge. Off we go. I try not to consider wandering cows that could possible gore me in the dark whoosh of the night. I ignore the chance of other trains scraping me off the side like poo from my shoe. I cling barnacle-like for three hours. I have on the past seen others do this here and wondered what it was like. Now I don’t wonder any more. I stopped wondering quickly. Not having slept for three days now, my mind concentrates fully to fight the fatigue and the cold and my demons.
George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, an Armenian mystic, taught that we must see our demons, or unconscious habits, before we can conquer them. But before we can see, we must be awake. We spend our lifetime unconsciously, never noticing our habitual thoughts and reactions, making us no more than automatons.
Experiences like this, that demand conscious effort, bring our demons into clear view. Do I battle these demons or do I invite them in for Grey Goose gimlets. Do I invite the divine to stay or do I too often push it out of my crowded house. I don’t have room for divine love when I am surrounded by all my demons of fears, jealousy, and unworthiness.
Rama always seems to know what’s right along his yama. He never veers from his vows, nor questions his place in the grand scheme of the gods. He is constantly battling demons that mean to defile the sacred pyres, the fires that burn in our souls, the burning knowledge of our oneness with Atma. “Lest we forget.”
Yoga is not a religion, unless practiced religiously. Patanjali, an Indian yogi, propagated the science of yog (to unite), or yoga before any organized religion was founded or funded, as a method of liberating our soul, as Rama liberated Sita from Lanka. Hatha Yoga, all the twisty stuff, is the outer language of inner silent conversations between us and the divine. Continuity of practice crystallizes a jewel of energy, strength and consciousness deep within, shining it with the friction of our contradictory behavior. “My inner peace is the most important thing to me, it is my only focus…unless Oprah is on, then it can wait till later.” What am I wiling to sacrifice for everything that I say I want?
Here’s another traveling tip: Luknow is the worst train station ever. When I arrive at eleven p.m., cold and tired, I’m not in the mood to screw around. I am on a mission, Mysore or bust. The ticket counters have long since shut their shutters so I head to the Station Masters office. Roger number one told me that because I’m a foreigner, the Master is required to help me himself. The three guys sucking betel nuts must not have read that book.
“I am trying to get to Mysore,” I point to my train map. “Second class sleeper, please.”
They all look at the map it’s a hidden treasure map.
“Reservation office opens at eight tomorrow.” Handing the map back to me.
“Can you do it for me, please?” I smile sadly like a lost and lonely waif.
“It is O.K., you need to make reservation at reservation window just there, eight.”
I pretend not to understand, “I’m sorry?”
This whole thing is repeated several times, so just read the last couple of sentences to yourself till your adequately tired of it.
“You go to S.S. Booking, now, just over there, second door.”
“Can they help me now.”
This yes, yes thing is what tourist hear the most and does them the least good. It means no, no.
I wander into another office. Read the last few sentences again please, while I have some chai. O.k.?
“You must go to other station, train leaves other station.”
“There’s another station?” my eyes are wide. “Where?”
“Just there. Go out and go left to other building”
“Right here somewhere?”
“Yes, yes, other station, you go there, train to Mysore.”
I thank them, not knowing for what, or how far I’m going to have to run, taxi and rickshaw. Will I have time? I leave the building to the sleeping families and dogs, look left and start walking, then stop walking. There is another station in the same building. There is someone in the window so I put my best smile on, “I need a ticket to Mysore?”
“Mysore, reservation office other station, eight o’clock, opens seven forty-five.”
I close my eyes and find that inner peace that keep people from stabbing strangers.
I am bounced around, demanding and petitioning for help, between two stations until nine the next morning. That’s ten hours of trying to get a correct answer or anyone to get off their lazy ass and do something. I think of how friends back home are envious of my traveling.
When I finally get a ticket, something doesn’t feel right. I take it back to the Station Manager.
“Is this a ticket to Mysore?” pointing again to Mysore on my map.
“Yes, yes….Bangor.” Pointing to a completely different part of India.
“No, no! MEYYYSOORE.” Point, point, point.
“You don’t want to go to Bangor?” This is the guy I’ve been talking to all night long.
“NO! MEYYYYYSOOOORE.” Stabbing the map with my sharp, point finger.
“Did you ask for a ticket to Mysore?”
“Yes, yes. Mysore.”
This takes another hour and two more managers, three Inquiry personnel and some spaced out old man who leads me inside the ticket booth and prints me a ticket to Mysore. The train leaves from a third station no one seemed aware of.
Luknow is the worst train station ever. I laugh out loud at absurdity.
Yoga is a science of the mind, body and soul. A Consciousness for Dummies full of meta-psycho-physical schematics for making our automatons comes to life, like Pinocchio. The Gurdjieff didn’t call his teaching yoga, but it is. One of the Niyamas (things to avoid) of his yoga is the non-expression of negative emotions. How much time do I dwell on negative mumbles, how much energy do I waste rueing and stewing what happens to my bodies, when I forget that I am not this body, but divine conscious energy never disturbed or dissipating.
Rama loses Sita every day to attachment, to sensed entitlement, to the forgetting we are not many but all, the One. I am ready Rama, let’s go.