Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Saylorsburg Ashram

Hello everyone. I’ve been in India since 08-Jul-13, but have had virtually no internet access until now.  I have kept very busy, and have truly had the experience of a lifetime. I would like to briefly thank the donor and UM staff for making such an amazing opportunity possible, as well as everyone in India and the U.S. who has helped along the way. I’ve taken hundreds of pictures, but my connection speed will prevent me from uploading many of them until I return home to Michigan. I will only be able to upload a few low-resolution photos here, so I will create a public photo album when I return. 

I’m going to double up on my blog posts because before describing my Indian activities, I would like to share about the unique opportunity I had in May which is related to my academic endeavors here in India. One of my mentors for the trip, an Indian physicist and Vedanta scholar who lives in New Jersey but frequents India’s ashrams, informed me that the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in Saylorsburg PA, an ashram associated with the one in Anaikatti, was having a Memorial Day weekend event with Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati hosting as the guest speaker. We arranged to meet there to discuss my project and so I could gain a sense of what ashram life might be like in India. Although this experience would be an additional expense for me (as I had to travel there from Michigan), there was no way I could pass up such an opportunity. So I made a road trip out of it and stayed there for 3 nights. It was an incredibly worthwhile experience.

Besides the fact that the place was beautiful (nested in a valley surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains - I took pictures but they're on my laptop back in the states) and the Indian meals were delicious, I learned a lot about the culture. I became comfortable with being the minority in a crowd (~98% of the people there were Indian), which was a foreign situation to me thus far. Everyone I spoke to was very kind and helpful in offering advice for my upcoming trip, including my mentor, who provided some technical insight. I experienced religious proceedings, cultural preferences and etiquette, and gained knowledge from the lectures of Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati. All in all, even though it was a far cry from life in India, I found this trip to be an enriching form of preparation.   

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