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Friday, February 29, 2008

At the Ashram of Gurudev Janglidas

We arrived in Kokomthan, just 8 km outside of Shirdi, and were lovingly greeted by Guna (Satya Mai), who is one of Janglidas' personal assistants.  She showed us to our rooms and we were then invited to have darshan (personal greeting) with Janglidas. 



We were ushered into a private room in his very simple home and sweetly greeted by him.  History says that he is somewhere around his late 70's, but you wouldn't put him much past 60 if you saw him.  He's a very small, agile, fast moving, super lean Guru, with a great smile and tremendous sparkle in his eyes.  Here he is in the center of this photo, with two of his swamis on either side, and E-pod in the background too...



Here is a video from another devotee (from the web) in one of his smaller rooms.  He loves great devotional bhajans to be sung...



Just last year he finished the "Soul Temple", a large magnificent hall here that seats at least 600 people and where the Aratis and some of the meditations take place.  Janglidas himself designed it - he is very attentive to details and has a keen eye and sharp interest in everything going on.  Most of the other meditations happen in another smaller, darker hall.   Mark commented how he loved how the main hall was filled with emptiness



Janglidas has a handful of men saints that look very much like you would imagine an Indian yogi would look.  Long white beards, white hair, deep eyes and only wearing white. 



What is unusual is that he also has a mandali (inner circle) of women saints who have reached enlightenment.  These women are very powerful and they sit on the stage during Arati (sing and make special prayers) and you can clearly feel the intensity of their meditations.  They wear all white except for some green bangle bracelets.



Everytime Janglidas is greeted by his devotees, they say "Shri Sadguru Vishvatmak Gurudeva Ki Jai".  Devotees gather 7 times a day to do meditation and/or Arati.  Each one of these sessions corresponds to one of the 7 chakras of the body.  When Janglidas isn't present, they face this large photo of a man with extra long arms.  He is shown extra large to symbolize the primary importance of the soul.



Janglidas' teacher was Maharaj Jangli and Das means the servant or devotee of Jangli.  We heard about Janglidas through our teacher Mark Griffin.  Three years ago when Mark took another group on spiritual retreat, they came and stayed at this ashram.

Janglidas visited with us and gave us sweets and fruits to eat.  He was very happy that we had come to visit him.  When he heard that Joss was a tabla player and singer, he told Joss that he must play music three times a day at the Aratis.  That was his command and wish for Joss so Joss happily agreed.

We spent 3 days here and each day we went to Arati, meditated, ate and slept.  We were the only Westerners here.  There was also a small group of eight Polish people here because Janglidas has quite a following in Poland.

True to the Guru's command, Joss played tablas and harmonium for 3 daily Aratis and sometimes even sang beautiful bhajans (Indian love songs).  He was even called onto the stage and honored with a beautiful shawl and flower garland from one of Janglidas' saints in appreciation for his offering of beautiful music.  We were very proud of him.



Here is Joss singing for the devotees.  The song is:
Sundara Suru Janawa Sa-i-re Sa-i-re Manapa-i-re...



The food is decent and simple.  We either eat in the main dining hall with the children or in a private dining room in our dormitory.  Here are some examples of what we've been eating while staying here.



This is the trolley that holds the food as it is served down the line of hungry devotees.  100's of people are served at each sitting.



Our room was very simple with an extremely hard bed (1" mattress on a board) and our own bathroom with squat toilet/shower combination.  We have a lovely bird's nest with attendant birds in it just outside our window.  It's fun to get a 'bird's eye view' directly inside the nest.  It provided an appreciated respite for the senses to the otherwise austere setting, shall we say...



Janglidas has a school for children here.  There are over 2000 children who study Marathi and English and live here full time in dormitories.  Each of the students is given the choice of whether they want to study in their native Marathi or study in English.  In the evenings they have spiritual instruction as well. They come when they are 6 or 7 years old and do not see their parents for 3 months.  After that, the parents can come once a month to visit.  The children wear uniforms and there is about a 4:1 ratio of boys to girls.  Here is their dining hall and the kitchen that prepares meals for thousands 3x a day.  They sleep on the floor in dorms. 


We were invited to come to the school and meet the children.  First they had a band of drummers waiting to greet us.  They had a WELCOME sand painting too.  And beautiful young girls are putting kumkum and rice on our 3rd eye chakra centers.



And they had a big stage where they had us sit behind Gurudev Janglidas.   The children all sang and chanted to him and then selected children read their compositions to him.  The children also played music and sang special songs to him. 



Here is how the children looked and sounded...



One of the saints spoke to the children and told them that it doesn't only matter how well they do in school; what matters most is knowing their soul.  They teach these children that in order to attain God, the simplest and easiest way is to meditate in the Self, the Atma.  "Don't look at the self but meditate in the Self to attain God."  Whatever you think, act as though the Guru can hear your thoughts, whatever you say, say it as though you were saying it to the Guru, whatever you do, do it as though you are offering it to the Guru.  Very powerful and sage advice.  The next day we were taken to the English school in a big bus and again serenaded by the children chanting and saying prayers in English as well as Marathi.

As we were leaving the school, the formality they had shown was let down and they ran after us with such delight.  We must have shaken hands with about 100 of them - all at once!



Janglidas' next project is building a hospital/clinic and college.  He just secured the government loan and land for this, so construction will start shortly.  He is one who is giving much back to his community and we have lots of admiration and appreciation for his great work.

Our driver Adinath came back to get us the next day and drove us to Ganeshpuri, home of beloved Baghwan Nityananda, Muktananda, Gurumayi and Hard Light's new Ashram.  Janglidas would later come for the opening ceremony of the new Hard Light Ashram in Ganeshpuri.  It was a wonderful honor to have him come for this since it was very rare that he would agree to participate in such events.  It was a statement of his respect for Mark.  While he was there, he gave a short speech, emphasizing that the purpose of life is to realize the Soul, Atman, and that the way to do this is through meditation, meditation, meditation.  And then he said he was "impressed and surprised" by the depth and power of the program that Mark was running, and encouraged us to give the training our all. 

Of course, for a great saint like this to say that - he is not simply looking with the kind of normal vision most of us are used to, where all we see is the outer physical body and what it's doing.  Coming from a state of supreme enlightenment, with his vision completely rarified, he looks at us and is also seeing the subtle body of pure energy.  From that place, we each appear as varying degrees of light and dark energies.  It is simple for a realized person to see how close a person is to becoming Illuminated or Enlightened, simply by seeing how much light they are holding and manifesting in their subtle body.  It is literally the process of filling with Pure Light, and a master can follow the progress of their disciples by watching this ongoing process.  So for Janglidas to say he was "Surprised and Impressed" means he was acknowledging that Mark is running a remarkable and aggressive program of pumping us full of light in a way that is seldom seen in either the east or the west in spiritual training.  We feel so blessed!



If you'd like to read more about Janglidas, here are two web sites:  click and click