Thursday, August 7, 2008
These events took place in 1983, I think, and this is my recollection of them. I was staying in Rishikesh in India when I met Ramanand as I was walking to Muni-Ki-Reti, a small town some two kilometers outside Rishikesh.
Ramanand was an unhappy and disillusioned yogi. He had once been an engineer and his specialty had been air-conditioning and ventilation, but he had left his career to become a sanyassin, a monk. For years he wandered about looking for the truth. He came from Tamil Nadu in the south but had somehow ended up here in the north. For some years he had been a meditation teacher in Maharishi Mahesh’s ashram but had got tired of the place and left it. For some time back he had stayed in the Mangal nath ashram, which wasn’t an ashram really, but a very low class guest house. He helped the owner to bring guests to the place and had a room there for free as payment. Anyway, he asked me if I needed a place to stay and I said yes, so I moved to the Mangal nath ashram.
For months we discussed life, often at night in a night open tea shop for truck drivers in Rishikesh, smoking Panama cigarettes and drinking tea in the light of kerosene lamps. When we went home we always had a pack of growling wild dogs after us.
One late afternoon we visited some other people who stayed in another ashram on the other side of the river Ganges. This was a bigger place, near to the Maharishi Mahesh ashram but I can’t think of its name. I remember that they had a hospital for cows there, an old cows home. This place was more like a real ashram but it also served as a kind of hotel. You didn’t have to pay rent for a room there but you where expected to pay a donation. I think the donation fee was 10 rupees a day.
One of the guests was a Canadian woman but I can’t remember her name, which is very unfortunate because it would have been so interesting to get in touch with her to confirm what happened there. She was Armenian by birth, had lived in Egypt for many years, but had eventually moved to Montreal, I think, and she worked there as an art teacher in an art college. She was a big, very loud and intense kind of woman. She wore brown corduroy pants and a dark blue sweater, and she had very bad hearing. Previously this day she had lost her hearing aid and she was very upset about it. She couldn’t hear almost anything.
We were sitting there, a bunch of people, on the porch outside one of the “rented” rooms, discussing things and drinking tea. The room was a small studio really, a room with an adjoining kitchen and a bathroom. I can’t recall any of the other people but we must have been six or seven all together. They had just finished their meal when Ramanand and I came. When Ramanand learned about the missing hearing aid he said that he would see what he could do about it. So he went into his Kali meditation, as he called it. This meditation began with an hour or so of what looked like just “normal” meditation, a yogi sitting there with eyes closed in a lotus position. We soon lost interest in him and went on with our discussion about this and that. But after some time he gave up an incredible howl and fell down looking dead. What the hell was going on? The managers of the ashram came running, wondering what we where doing. When they saw Ramanand lying there on the floor they became as alarmed as we were. He was clearly dead. They couldn’t hear any heartbeats and didn’t know what to do. So they carried him to their office and tried to wake him up. They didn’t have any success with that and Ramanand was just lying there on the floor when he suddenly sat up and shouted from the top of his lungs:” GO TO THE BATHROOM! GO TO THE BATHROOM! GO TO THE BATHROOM!” And then he fell down again, but now he wasn’t “dead”. He was breathing and fast asleep.
When we went back to the studio and went in to the bathroom the hearing aid was there on the floor. The concrete floor was completely dry but the hearing aid was wet and probably ruined.
Isn’t all this very strange? We had been coming and going to the kitchen and the bathroom all evening without noticing any hearing aid there on the floor.
When Ramanand woke up in the morning he had absolutely no idea about what had happened. He didn’t remember anything, but he was very happy and a little bit proud when we informed him.
These events took place 25 years ago. As I write about it now I realize how poor my memory is. Some parts I can remember clearly, some parts I have faint memories about but much of it is completely hidden in a haze. It makes me think of the Gospels. Mark,the oldest of the Gospels, is written more than forty years after Jesus´ death. How much of these stories are real memories and how much are later constructions?
It would be very interesting to get in touch with some of the people who were there and who can help to confirm this, and maybe fill in where my memory is failing, but how can I find them? I don’t even remember their names. And where Ramanand is I have no idea. He left Rishikesh many years ago.
Ramanand was very adept at meditation but he wasn’t very happy with life. To conjure up hearing aids for tourists wasn’t enough for him. And though he loved the stories about the God Krishna he was very displeased with Hinduism, yoga, and the caste system that permeated it all. The Vedanta philosophy didn’t appeal to him. He used the expression: mental speculation. It was all mental speculations, not simply speculations. And to find happiness or bliss wasn’t enough either. Happiness could just be another self deception. Many people in Germany, for example, became incredibly happy when Hitler came to power in the early thirties. They had finally found a meaning and a direction to their previous empty hand to mouth existence.
I also learned many other expressions from him, for example: the false ego. A false ego implies a true ego, but with the true ego he didn't mean the Atman, he simply meant the true ego,the one you are when you are not lost in some crazy idea about life. Atman is the eternal soul. The body, the mind and indeed the whole world is but an illusion or a misperception, only Atman is eternal and real. This concept along with the karma theories and the caste system has caused endless miseries in India. Today India experiences an incredible economic boom. But the rich middle class hesitate to spend money on the poor. They just want to spend enough to ease their bad conscience and to take the edge off the arguments of those that criticize all the injustices. UNICEF has recently criticized India for its reluctance to build a proper health care system for the poor. India has a much higher rate of child death than both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. And one third of the women in India are malnourished which leads to that they give birth to malnourished children, which makes them much more susceptible to all kinds of painful diseases. So what? This world is but an illusion and if someone suffers it is because of the bad deeds he or she did in a previous life time. In this way the Indian philosophies of life cause a lot of misery.
And I also learned from him this, for me, very meaningful and interesting expression: Yoga connection. With this expression he didn’t mean how to connect oneself to the greater source. He meant a special kind of synchronicity, a mysterious principle which makes it possible for people, who need to meet and who are supposed to meet, to find each other.