I went to the Art of Living Ashram last evening. And no, this is not going to be one of those spiritual, self-realization of my inner self, etc article. This is going to be more of a recollection of a night spent clubbing.
The suspicions started rising when the friends who were taking me there changed into shorts before setting off for the ashram. Weren’t we going to a divine, sacred place? I was used to the cell-phone banned, quiet and meditative ashrams with mandatory salwar-kameez dress-codes. However, where I was headed to turned to be a party-house, complete with a ‘shiny disco ball.’ (The top dome of the lotus shaped Satsang centre changes colours every 5 seconds.)
The Satsang hall was choc-a-bloc with devotees, and we couldn’t even find a place to sit in this hall with human flesh lumped together cheek-by-jowl. But surprisingly, no one seemed to mind or even notice the crowd because everyone was immersed in the Narayan bhajan being played from the DJ room (which I later saw was complete with a synthesizer, electronic percussion octapad and those cool boards with lots of switches you can slide up and down you see in sound recording studios). “Narayana Narayana…” children as young as 7-8 years to old men and women who were bent and broken joined in with their enthusiastic voices. I saw students just sitting there writing notes, doing homework, professionals working on their notebooks, couples who had given up snide kisses to be part of this mass hysteria almost. As the bhajan reached the crescendo, the people started clapping; they got off their seats and started dancing as if they were possessed. Those who were in mourn vrata waved their hands madly in the air (being forbidden to speak or clap or dance. And I just stood there with my jaws gaping. This was a spiritual ashram?
I had never seen a bunch of people dance at Underground or Tantra like these 60 year old men and women at the Ashram. I have never seen those tight-butt, tiny-waist chicks shake ass to hip-hop like these youngsters were hip-shaking to bhajans. ShambhoOO! And Guruji? He’s an absolute rock star! People were whoooing and whistling as he made his grand entry, not with a namaskara typical to the spiritual guru, but waving and blowing kisses. He was Bono in a beard! And then the rock star started singing a Krishna-bhajan with two and a half thousand people head-banging to the beat.
Here was bunch of people who rose above their worldy sorrow and joy, desires and the worry of not fulfilling them, forgot sex, lies and video-tape for 3 hours. Was this not spiritual awakening? Yes this was it, this was where it happened; not at stifling temples where you have to reach the lord through the hands of the priest because you are considered too impure to offer your prayers directly to the sacred almighty. This was where they shed their inhibitions, bare their souls to show off its purity.