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Rishikesh, India

Back to the Swami Darmandanda lectures. Today I arrived early and Swami said he was pleased with the class, though there weren’t as many people there today. About 20, when usually there are 30, though nobody showed up late.

On the way there the baba without a blanket who turned down my offer of 5 Rupees a few days ago – I can’t buy a blanket with 5 Rupees – called me over to him again. He made out he just wanted to chat to me, but he tried the same thing two days ago when I asked him if he had a blanket. He said he did so I kept on walking.

After the chanting Swamiji (that’s how he refers to himself, or it’s how people address him in the stories he tells) started by asking where modern science says matter comes from. Matter comes from energy. But where does modern science say energy comes from? Someone says the Big Bang. In the science of yoga energy comes from mind. Universal mind creates universal energy. He talks about pure consciousness splitting into consciousness and energy. I want to question him on this but I know if I try it won’t come out right. Something splitting into consciousness and energy is okay, but you can’t call the thing that splits pure consciousness. If it can split into consciousness and something that is not consciousness (energy) then it can’t be pure.

He says the science of yoga is complete. There is nothing to be added to it, which I guess means it can’t be criticized. Not in this class at least.

Pure consciousness is the ultimate substance. It is not created. It is God.

Maybe the problem is just calling it pure consciousness. There should be a different word for it. But not God. God is too emotive. How about consciergy? a mixture of the words consciousness and energy.

The soul, atman, is located in the centre of the astral brain, the Sahasrara chakra, a thousand petal lotus. The soul is also omnipresent. I don’t know how it can be in a place and omnipresent but that’s what he said. You westerners are too leff-brain, too logical.

When you become enlightened you realize that your consciousness is everywhere, and when you’re really enlightened, not just intellectually enlightened, your consciousness really is everywhere. But there has to be proof of this.

A choti is the tuft of hair that many Indian men leave growing at the backs of their heads. There’s a restaurant here called Chotiwala, with a fat guy with a big choti sitting outside it. (It’s a bit overpriced and the rice is served cold.) The purpose of the choti is to protect the chakra at the back of the head, the bindhi, which is very sensitive to sunlight. The bindhi is the point where consciousness (or consciergy) splits into consciousness and energy.

He talks about a lecture series a while ago with a lot of Israelis. During the first week they were all shaking their heads vigorously at everything he said. During the second week they were still there and still shaking their heads, but not so much. By the third week they were nodding when he spoke. At end of the course an Israeli woman sitting at the front crouched down. He said he thought she was tying her shoe lace so he carried on talking to whoever he was talking to, but then she says to him: Swamiji, I’m touching your feet and you just carry on talking. This is against everything in my culture, we never bow down to anyone but here I am bowing down to you and you ignore me.

I’d like to ask him about something he said previously, about ego-reduction being the most important step on the road to enlightenment, but now would not be a good time. He said the other day, when people were showing up late, that he was already enlightened, so maybe it’s okay for him to have an ego. Perhaps when you’re enlightened it’s not ego, it’s honesty. Then he said he could make the class much bigger if he wanted to, advertize it and use the large hall in the ashram rather than the small room we’re now in, but he doesn’t want to. He’s always been in this room and has always, for the past 16 years, charged just 50 Rupees (70p) per class.

I would also like to ask him about time. Not so much the fact that the clock in the classroom is three minutes fast (so that’s why I’ve been late) but more about what he was saying earlier about mind creating energy. Where does time fit into this? Causality implies time, time cannot exist without events which require energy so time and energy are inseparable so how can energy have a cause? But it would take too long to ask a question like that and it wouldn’t come out right. And when he does get asked tough questions he says he’ll answer that when he becomes more enlightened.

Sometimes he can sound arrogant and at other times he can sound quite modest. Either way, he tells good stories. The moral of them is not always clear, but his stories are much better than his poetry, which I was having a look at in one of the books outside the classroom. In the poetry the meaning is way too clear.

He talked about when he was a young man, about 32, just out of the army, and he came to Rishikesh. He had never smoked, never drunk, never taken drugs, never had a girlfriend. He was sure he would very soon be enlightened and be the next Buddha or the next Jesus. He promised himself he would get up at three o’clock each morning, bathe in the Ganga and then meditate. The first morning he did this, when he started meditating: Aum, sweet… sweet… I really want a sweet. I’m a Bengali. We Bengalis we like our sweets. I had 4 Rupees so I thought I can buy four sweets. I walked the 3km into Rishikesh, bought the four sweets and walked back. I thought what a waste of time. One hour to walk there, one hour to walk back. I wrote down 500 times: I will not take sweets. But each time I meditated I wanted sweets. I read a book that said the mind is like a child: sometimes you have to deny it, but sometimes you have to give in to what it wants. I thought good. I can have sweets when I want sweets. I begged and raised 40 Rupees, walked the 3km into town and bought myself a big jar of sweets. Half way through the jar I vomited. That’s when I prayed that I not be a slave to my passion for sweets, Now I will not run after sweets, I will not walk 3km just to buy sweets, but if a sweet comes to me, if someone offers me a sweet, I will take it and I will enjoy it.

As I’m walking the 2km back to Laxman Jhula where I’m staying it feels like there’s a storm coming. A strong wind is blowing up the Ganges and there are spots of rain. I go into a cafe where a grey haired guy is rolling a joint, or filling a pipe – I can smell it better than I can see it – someone else is playing Oasis songs on a guitar and another guy, who was playing the drums but fortunately has now stopped and is doing a head stand – supposed to be very good for the throat chakra, where all the energy lines in the body merge or something.

I’m leaving for Dharamsala tomorrow. I’ve been in Rishikesh for a week but haven’t actually done any practical yoga. Just these hour and a half theory classes. I have tried getting into the lotus position a few times but find it quite painful. Swamiji showed a series of photos today off the ashram’s guru, on his hundredth birthday, demonstrating various yoga positions, including standing on his head, the fish position, and a number of others. There’s a website link on the poster: – perhaps the pictures will be on there. Would’ve thought he’d have a .org rather than a .com, or a .aum, or .om.