Looking down the semicircular coastline, one can see Malabar Hill, an Indian yuppie area containing the most expensive real estate in the world. Bet you didn't know that! Bombay is huge, 18 million people, and growing as scores of poor people pour into the city, hearing of its wealth. But I am located in a spot where there are western restaurants, and even a Bank of America branch! The women dress mostly western and are by far the best looking in India, IMO.
But the beggars are the most aggressive and annoying so far. Karve Guruji Karve Guruji is a man of many talents, an astrologer, a psychic, a healer, and to many people their Guru. I was told of Karveji by a friend and fellow Vedic astrologer, who told me that Karve is a must see in India. As luck would have it, I called to see him on only one of two days he would be in Bombay for a while.
I got through to the place where he was staying around , and the person says, bring your chart and come over right away.
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So I grab a cab, fight with the driver over the charge, and I'm off, on my first day in Bombay to see this extraordinary man. He is staying in the Kurla east area of Bombay and on the way I see miles of the shanty towns that Bombay is also famous for. With my money and western lifestyle, I feel so priveledged - there must be so much despair in this towns, but then perhaps I shouldn't rush to judgment and lay my ethnocentric values on these people.
On the other hand poverty is poverty, and it is staggering beyond your imagination here in India.
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When I arrive, after going up an extra filthy hallway it just blows my mind! I reach Karve's room, and soon discover that I'm not gonna have a one-on-one, it is more of a satsang venue, with many people coming to see him after work. While standing in the doorway, Karve sees me and asks me to sit down right near him, another white-guy from the west special priveledge - I got to cut ahead of many people.
Many people were there to have certain problems worked on by Karve, others are just there apparently just to hang, and since the whole thing is in Hindi, I'm thinking, "Toto, we're not Kansas anymore! Karve seems to work in Indian chaotic fashion, answering the phone and doing phone work in the midst of working on a person, but it seems ok. Karve is one of those saintly people that you've may have read about - someone who is partly here, partly in communication with some inner state, like he's gonna faint like Ramakrishna any minute.
But he is also right there with people at the same time, in a very soft way. Karve's forte is one to readjust people's birth time using psychic means. Now the skeptic in me can scream bloody murder, but when he worked with me, he told me my birth time was one minute off. But what was amazing, and this is not psychic, but based on a lifetime of studying astrology, people tell him where each house each planet is in, and then he tells you the year, month, day, hour and minute you were born. To an student of astrology, that is amazing. Sitting there, I felt the top of my head was being blasted wide open in an ascending spiritual current, which gave me an insight into his kind of gifts.
He seems to be a man bound for the yellow or blue realms of the cosmic mandala. Through an interpreter, he told me a number of things about me and my wife's past, present and future, which is not worth saying here, but suffice to say, if you have had a chart done, and he comes to your town, especially when he tours on the east coast of the US, you may be given useful information that you'll not receive otherwise. Ramesh Balzekar Ramesh Balzekar had a tremendous influence in my spiritual life via his most famous book, a compilation of talks call Consciousness Speaks. Sometimes a catalyst in your spiritual process may come through a non-human form, and Consciousness Speaks was such a catalyst for me - it came at a time in my life when I was, by some grace, ready , and the book took on a transmittive power in my life, leading me to very extraordinary experiences, such as formless samadhi in To say that Guru can come in the form of a book, flower, child, etc.
But since that time, I've felt that I've really got the message of Advaita Vedanta in my bones, to the point where listening to Advaitic talks can become painful. So it was with mixed emotions that I went to see Ramesh this day, located in one of the more affluent neighborhoods in Bombay but nevertheless, the hallways of the building were still dirty!
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Ramesh being a former Vice President of some bank, has an entire floor of his building to himself, so satsang at his home is most convenient. The small living room and large adjoining porch was filled with mostly westerners, as I expected, but there were a significant number of Indian devotees around. The years have treated Ramesh well, and he speaks with a youthful exuberance which is quite enchanting. He repeats many of his central tenets quite often, which doesn't mean that people are getting it - as he says, the total acceptance that you are not the doer, nor an individual "entity" inside a body, can only occur by grace or chance, and it is not in control of the aspiring student.
He uses some theistic themes in his talk, using "Thy will be done" in a way to emphasize the impersonal nature of existence, which is a neat twist. However, to be honest, his talk did wear on my after a while, and I did want to challenge him on some points, but I'm here for one time and it's not worth it. He ends his satsang with a half hour of singing, some English songs, and some Indian bhajans, which surprised me.
At the end, many people leave by doing a pranam to his feet, and Ramesh blesses them, which I found surprising - the level of devotion to Ramesh by his Indian and western students. It was actually refreshing and juicy - as you may know, Advatic talks can become quite tedious and dry. In any case, it was enjoyable to see Ramesh Balzekar, an authentic Advaitic teacher and a link to Nisragadatta Maharaj, and if you're ever in Bombay, I'd recommend you go to satsang with Ramesh, but sooner than later, he's getting on in years. There is another teacher nearby, an associate of Nisargadatta Maharaj named Ranjeet Maharaj, who has begun teaching at the age of 80!
Ganeshpuri: Muktananda, Nityananda Many months ago, when I was setting up this journey, a friend said to me, "since you were a devotee of Adi Da, you may want to investigate his teachers and lineage" - this meant going to the samadhi sites of the famous Swami Muktananda, his Guru Bhagwan Nityananda, of huge belly, and Shirdi Sai Baba. After getting some info from the Gov't of India Tourist Office, I decided to do the whole trip to Ganeshpuri as well as my next stop, the city of Bangalore all by myself, sans travel agent, which was stretching the limits of my experience. So I purchased a second class commuter train ticket from the downtown Churchgate train station, and got my first experience of second class existence on India's huge train system.
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It definitely was an experience in itself, especially the return trip at late rush hour - at each station the newly arriving play this comical game of musical chairs, rushing to find an open seat. And a bench for three takes four people in this realm. At times it was sardine city, and I could just imagine what it is like when the temperature is really hot out in the summer. The trains have special ladies compartments, since I wouldn't want to subject the smaller women to the free-for-all madness that can go on, and I don't think they'd like to be squeezed up against strange men.
So I arrived at the Vasai Road train station, by some miracle, and negotiated with a rickshaw driver for the 30 km trip to Ganeshpuri. After an hour's bumpy ride along two lane roads and one of those big Indian "highways", I reached the entrance of the Muktananda Ashram, which is now in the control of his successor, GuruMai Chidvilasananda , a young woman with an eye for good clothing, which makes sense now, being so close to Mumbai. That whole organization is a whole other story, and suffice to say, I wanted to avoid their numbers while I spent time at the samadhi sites.
But as soon as I got to the Muktananda ashram, I had to "check" in with reception, which seemed way too over-oganized, especially for India. When I told the woman I simply wanted to visit the samadhi sites, there was a kind of "well, this is most highly irregular! But I could go in on my own. And there were lots of westerners around doing a one month mimimum retreat stay.
I stopped by a life sized brass statue of Bhagwan Nityananda before entering Swami Muktananda's samadhi site next door. It was a 30 foot square room with the large white marble crypt of Muktananda in the center. A rare occurance, I noticed people meditating in the hall, women on the left side, men on the right, as customary in the Muktananda as well as other sangha - at least this time I won't be so out of place meditating at a sacred site! A large picture of Muktananda hang at far end of the room.
I circumambulated the crypt three times as customary in India, and sat down first on the womens' side Muktananda, was a devout Shavite devotee of Lord Shiva and there are numerous pictures of him with the horizontal markings on the forehead.
And as I sat there, I could feel the "in your face" kind of force that is reminiscent of Shiva, but not of the ascending Kundalini force that Muktananda could also dish out in 'shaktipat' sessions. It was joyful to sit as long as I wished in the site, and could feel the force of the place quite easily.
Many devotees came in for a blessing, both Hindi and western, kissing a small paduka statue in front of the crypt. I spent about a half an hour in the samadhi site hall and was markedly changed by the time hey, after an hour on an Indian train, it could only get better! Right across the samadhi site in the compound was the hall that held numerous satsangs for many, many years. I was reminded of the story of my former teacher, Adi Da, when he first came to Muktananda's ashram and thought of how much history that hall must hold. The guide that was dispatched finally caught up with me, and she began going through the 'talk', but was shooshed by a guard, since you're supposed to keep total silence on the ashram compound.
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