After all of the aforementioned travel, I settled down for the next three weeks at the ashram in Anaikatti, Arsha Vidya Gurukulam. It was here where I conducted the majority of my research in India. I arrived during the final months of a three year course in Vedanta and Sanskrit which was being delivered by Swami Dayananda Saraswati to hundreds of students from all over the world. It turned out to be the perfect place for my topic of study, in fact far better than I could have ever hoped for.
With a better understanding of Vedanta under my belt I was able to interview several people at the Ashram, most of whom had an extensive scientific background as well as an appreciable understanding of Vedanta. In general, questions pertained to the varying perspectives on the nature of thoughts and human consciousness in the Vedic and scientific contexts. In addition to receiving valuable insights on this topic, I was able to compile a fairly comprehensive database of additional resources. When not conducting interviews, much of my time was spent gathering, organizing and reviewing said resources, all the while strengthening my understanding of Vedanta in both my everyday conversation and in studies of the Tattva Bodha (which defines much of the Sanskrit terminology while explaining the underpinnings of Vedanta).
My time at the ashram was loaded with several other unique experiences. On 22 July the Ashram celebrated Guru Purnima, a day in which the gurus of India are honored. Many of the evening Satsangs featured traditional Indian musical performances. I went on several walks and hikes around Anaikatti and other neighboring villages, through the mountains and local farms, and to local places of interest such as hole-in-the-wall dosa restaurants, an Ayurvedic hospital and a private children’s school, Vidya Vanam School, which recently hosted a TedX event. It was especially interesting to see a successful rural education program in action. We were treated with some special dance performances by the students who were practicing for the upcoming Indian Independence Day on 15 August.
Although this area is well known for its elephant population, I didn’t get to see any in person, but I did see peacocks, lizards, goats, wild pigs, cows, and several other wildlife species on a daily basis roaming freely through the tranquil ashram environment.
My last 10 days in India were split between further segments of research and some tourism. I spent 4 days with a friend in Chennai whom I had met in Saylorsburg. We traveled down India’s east coast to visit the ancient rock carvings at Mahabalipuram, which were of an impressive scale. We also visited the towns of Pondicherry and Auroville. In Chennai, I was able to do some shopping in town and see the Government Museum of Chennai. I visited the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis where my host was doing an internship, and was able to speak with some geneticists and other doctors there for my project.
I then spent another 4 days on the other side of India in Mumbai, where I was invited to stay by one of the students from the Vedanta course. I attended a historical talk on India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, did some more shopping and local sightseeing, did some picking at Chor Bazaar (a.k.a. Thieves’ Market), saw some of Mumbai’s clubs, and on India’s Independence Day, 15 August, I attended a traditional Indian music concert with Mala Ramadorai and Rahul Sharma. My host arranged for me to meet several interesting people to further investigate the nature of the subtle and causal body, including a pranic healer, a yoga guru, a doctor with an aura scanning device, and a channel. I learned a lot of interesting information from them and have more follow up research to do here as well.
My final day in India was spent in Agra, on 18 August. I wanted to see the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort before leaving this beautiful country, and I’m glad I did, although I got sick from the food there. I’ve been traveling around Europe since then, but due to the sickness have been unable to post till now. I already miss India and I’m definitely making a return trip one day. Although I was often busied by my research efforts, this led me down some interesting roads and I don’t think any future trips could ever compete with this initial experience. Again one final thank you to everyone who made this experience what it was. I’ve barely put a dent in the amount of research that will be required over the next several years, but the most important goals of the trip were accomplished; there is now a strong foundation to work from, and a vast network of resources at my disposal.