The soft and mellifluous notes of a Flute penetrated my consciousness. My mind desperately clutched at this straw to swim up from the depths of unconsciousness to which it had sunk. I alternated between a few seconds of consciousness and a few of total blankness. At last, after what seemed a struggle for eternity, the will of the mind triumphed and the sweet and ethereal music of the flute completely filled my consciousness. But along with the sweet music also came the awareness of a dull and almost unbearable pain at the back of my head. I tried to get my bearings back.
Where was I? What had happened to me?
I remembered a stream of clear flowing water and a rock, I had slipped and hit my head against the rock, and after that I had plunged into dark oblivion.
What was I doing at the Stream? Who was I?
A chill went up my spine as I realized my mind had no answers to these questions.
Guruji, there he is! I heard a voice saying, and then a number of voices talking excitedly. I tried to move my head in the direction of the voices, but my body refused to obey the commands of my brain.
“Relax, son”! Don’t move, you shall be alright, said a soft, husky voice.
Strong arms clasped my unresponsive body and I was carried on the shoulders of an able bodied man for about half a kilometer, before we reached our destination.
An hour later, I sat on a straw mat, inside a thatched hut, leaning my back against its mud wall. In front of me on another straw mat sat a man with a flowing pure white beard and besides him a woman of about 30 odd years. Both of them sat cross-legged with ramrod stiff backs in the classic Padmasana Yogic posture.
Where am I? Who am I? Who are you?
The questions that vexed my mind burst forth in an impatient and excited volley.
The man with the white beard looked at me and his large eyes seemed to have a hypnotic lustre and filled with compassion.
“Calm down son, all your questions shall be answered” he said, in a sweet and husky voice.
“You are now the guest of XYR, a Yoga retreat and it is our duty to take care of you and make you as comfortable as possible” he said.
“XYR, stands for Xanadu Yoga Retreat” he answered my unspoken question as if he were able to read my mind.
“Oh! One of those expensive Yoga retreats, frequented by the Rich and Famous, I hope they don’t charge me an exorbitant fee” I thought.
“Yes, our retreat is very expensive, it is the most expensive in the World, very few can afford to come and stay here” said the man with the white beard, again reading my thoughts.
“You need to give us your ego and your love” continued the sweet and husky voice of the man with the white beard, smiling benignly at me.
The man had some kind of an ethereal glow around him and his eyes shone with the brilliance of two suns and exuded joy and compassion.
“This is Vega, and she is your buddy mentor for the course of your stay in the retreat”.
I now looked at the woman sitting silently in front of me, her doe like eyes bore into me, they shone with the same brilliance of her companion.
“Yes Guruji! I will take care of him and teach him our code of conduct”, said Vega, with the hint of a smile in her eyes.
“Fine, I leave you in the good hands of Vega and you should be absolutely fit in a couple of weeks to be on your way”, said Guruji, as he rose and strode out of the hut with a majestic swagger.
“A couple of weeks and on my way”, where to? I thought, tugging at the vestiges of my memory.
A typical day at XYR
Waking up in the morning
The day starts quite early at XYR, there are no wake up alarms, you are woken up by the sweet and mellifluous tunes of the flute which is played in turns by a group of people who have been assigned this duty. It was my second morning in the retreat, I remembered my first morning and how the music of the flute had brought me back to consciousness. Today, I felt much better.
Vega entered the hut where I was put up, she did not knock, for the simple reason that none of the huts in the retreat had any doors! She held a large glass filled to the brim with a greenish liquid.
“Are you awake? Come on, drink this and get ready, we leave for the stream in 15 minutes” was her terse command.
I stared apprehensively at the glass and sheepishly asked. “What is it?”
“It is the juice of the leaves of the Sanjivani plant blended with extracts from the lotus and other flowers. We start the day with this juice, and believe me, it does wonders for your body and mind”, Vega said, her eyes shining with lustre and with a hint of amusement.
“Don’t you have the option of Coffee or Tea”, I asked hopefully.
“No tea, no coffee, no milk, the Retreat is completely Vegan”, she said laughingly.
Left with no options, I picked up the glass and quaffed off the contents in one go. Surprisingly it was not all that bad, in fact it had a pleasant aroma and a taste that was at once bitter and sweet, a sensation that my palates had never experienced before.
Bathing in the Amritdhara at the Yoga retreat
We walked towards the stream, a few kilometers away, it was still not yet day and the sky had that ethereal look, which you associate with twilight. There were men and women, all dressed in white, walking silently in front of us. In a pair of blue jeans and black tees, I stood out incongruously as we moved towards the stream.
“Don’t you worry, you too shall be wearing the Retreat uniform, after the bath”, said Vega, reading my thoughts.
We had now reached the stream, and I stared with incredulity at the scene before me.
Men and women were bathing in the crystal clear and flowing waters of the stream. But the reason for my surprise was the fact, that they were in the water without a stitch on their bodies!
Vega ignored the question on my face and said:
“This stream is known as amritdhara, which literally means Flow of nectar. The water flows across lands rich in rare medicinal herbs and hence has magical properties. Bathing in this water guarantees a glowing skin and rich and lustrous hair. The antiseptic nature of the water and its fragrance ensures that we do not need any artificial soap, shampoo or conditioners”. Having said that, Vega took off her white robes and jumped into the water, beckoning me to follow her.
I looked at them in wonder, they laughed and played in the water, like children, totally oblivious of the bodies and without even a hint of self-consciousness.
I too took off my clothes and jumped into the water.
Morning Prayers, meditation and Yoga at the Yoga Retreat
A large circular room served as the prayer and meditation hall. I was seated cross-legged on a straw mat with Vega by my side as Guruji entered and sat down in the center of the hall on another straw mat. The prayers started. There was no image, no picture, no symbol.
It was a soundless prayer as a hush fell on the hall and it was instantly enveloped in a womb of total silence. No one moved, not a limb stirred, except for me as I moved to get myself into a more comfortable position on the floor. I glanced at Vega, besides me, she sat like a statue, back straight, face thrust slightly forward, eyes closed.
At this moment, I felt a soft, tender caress on my head. It was Guruji.
As soon as he touched my head, I felt a surge of electricity passing through my spine and I was transported into another plane of consciousness. I could sense all my being rise and focus on one single point between my eyebrows. I fell into a deep meditative trance. I lost all sense of my body, I felt that I was just a point, and I concentrated on that. Soon a strange calm fell over me, all sound ceased and I could only see a brilliant light, all around me. I felt that somehow I was not distinct from the light, I was part of it. I felt a strange sense of bliss and freedom as I floated in space free from the shackles of physical bondage. I wanted this state never to end.
The soft gentle caress of Guruji’s hand on my head, brought me back from my trance.
Vega, helped me to my feet and I followed her groggily outside, to a wide open space, which was where the Yoga exercises would be practiced.
Each person had a mat in front of them and Guruji led the exercises. I watched as I was a novice and it was decided that I would be given special lessons later by Vega.
The group did the various asanas or postures of Yoga, one after the other in perfect synchronization and ended with the posture of obeisance to the Sun, just as the Sun rose majestically in the horizon.
After the Yoga exercises, I followed my Buddy mentor to the dining area for breakfast.
Breakfast at the Yoga Retreat
The breakfast, as expected consisted of a huge platter of fruits, there were bananas, apples, mangoes and some fruits that I had never seen before. I ate the fruits, feeling ravenously hungry. They tasted like heaven and had a sweetness that I had never experienced before. The fruit was followed by a glass of the Sanjivani juice.
After breakfast, everyone went on their way to do their assigned chores of the day, some went off to work in the fields, and some went to clean the premises of the retreat and some to work in the gardens, and so on. Each person had an assigned role to play in this self contained commune.
Vega looked at me and said, “You can have a look around the Retreat and be back at your hut in exactly an hour from now, I will be there to start your Yoga lessons”.
I nodded and turned to explore the retreat. I breathed in the fresh air and felt waves of elation pass through me. I wondered if it was the Sanjivani juice or the Meditative trance that seemed to have injected me with some unknown energy and a sense of well being. My mind had not even for a moment thought about the past or the future, it was reveling in the happiness of the moment.
I wandered around the Yoga Retreat, it was a beautiful place, colorful and exotic flowers swayed in the breeze which carried the fragrance of these very flowers. The sun shone benignly in the eastern skies and the ground was adorned by a green carpet of grass. As I wandered in the gardens, in the distance, I saw animals moving around freely, dogs, cats, deer and even elephants. I froze when I saw a lion approaching me. The lion came majestically towards me, swishing its tail. Today is my funeral, I thought as fear transfixed me to the spot. The Lion came and nudged its nose against my knee and with a soft purr, like a cat, vanished into the bushes.
I ran like hell towards my hut. Vega, stood at the door as I rushed in past her, and collapsed on the mat, trying to catch my breath.
“Lion! Lion! “, I finally found my voice.
Vega laughed out loudly and then sensing that I was literally shaken, laid a reassuring hand on my shoulder, saying, “the lions will not harm you or anybody, neither will the tigers, elephants and bears, we all live in perfect harmony here”.” It is simple, we don’t harm them, and they don’t harm us”
I was still in a state of shock and did not respond.
We started the Yoga lessons, with Vega teaching me the nuances of the basic Yoga postures. Soon it was time for lunch.
Lunch at the Yoga Retreat
As expected, lunch too was a Spartan affair, consisting of a platter full of multi colored cut vegetables, semi cooked and sprinkled with natural spices, without a hint of salt or oil. This was eaten along with flat, circular pancakes made of wheat flour. The wheat was cultivated in the fields within the Retreat premises. The vegetables were from the Retreat’s vegetable garden. Again I had a ravenous appetite, and I polished off my food quickly. The meal was followed by the ubiquitous glass of Sanjivani juice. Vega had informed me that 4 glasses per day of Sanjivani juice were a mandatory requirement for all the residents of the Retreat.
After lunch, the others including Vega went off to their individual huts for a brief siesta and later to attend to their assigned duties.
Evening at the Yoga Retreat
Evening saw me and Vega make our way to the banks of the stream, this time towards the western side. The sun looked like a flaming ball of orange as it slowly made its way across the western horizon. As we reached the banks of the stream, we saw the residents assembled in neat rows before a small rock, on which sat the benign form of Guriji. Vega informed me that every evening Guruji answered questions on philosophy and spirituality and would expound on the meaning of life and truth. I sat spell bound as Guruji waxed eloquently on the meaning of life, Karma, spirituality and death.
He looked at me and again reading my mind answered my unspoken question.
“Love is a very powerful emotion, more powerful than hate”. He said. “The wild animals around us do not harm us, because they feel the aura of the love we exude, and know that we will not harm them”. “You would have heard the story of Daniel and the Lions, the lions did not harm Daniel, as he felt no fear, just love, even for the wild lions”.
I looked at Guruji in amazement as he revealed this unique truth to me.
The sun had set by now and we all made our way back to the huts. Earthen lamps were lit, and after a brief session of prayer and meditation, followed by another Spartan meal and a glass of Sanjivani juice, the Retreat went to bed at 8.00 PM.
Time flew in this utopian land, I was happy and my spirits soared, like never before, I had lost all idea of time and who I was. It was probably about 3 weeks since I had first heard the mellifluous tunes of the flute and woken up to this wonderful world called Xanadu Yoga retreat.
It was evening and I again sat on the western banks of the stream listening to Guruji. The dutiful Vega, sat besides me.
Guruji was explaining the ephemeral nature of life, saying that life was an illusion.
“Life is Maya, an illusion, let me tell you a small story which will make this clear”, he said.
“Once God, with his faithful servant was touring the earth when he felt thirsty. The faithful servant, seated God on a rock and went in search of water. He found a small stream and was about to fill water in it, when he saw a beautiful girl filling water on the opposite banks of the river. He was smitten by the beauty of the girl and followed her in a trance. He had fallen in love with the girl. They got married and had two beautiful children, years went by and the children grew up. His wife died, and overcome by grief, the servant sat near the banks of the stream. The flowing water of the stream seemed to suddenly stir something in his mind, and he immediately got up.
“God is thirsty and waiting for me, he thought as he ran towards the rock where God was seated”.
God smiled at him, saying; “What took you so long, son, it is almost 15 minutes, since you left me”!
“I hope the meaning of Maya is now clear to everyone”, said Guruji, directly looking at me.
Something stirred in my mind, I could feel veil after veil dropping off my memories. I remembered a woman! My wife! She was waiting for me on that rock! We were on a hike and had lost our way, we needed water desperately. I had set off in search of water, found the stream and had slipped and fallen, and lost consciousness and my memory.
I looked at Guruji’s compassionate eyes as comprehension dawned on me. He had known from the very beginning about my past, present and future. The story that he had narrated was aimed at rekindling my lost memories at the correct moment.
They escorted me to the outskirts of the deep jungle and showed me the path which would lead to where I had left my wife and life. With a last glance and wistful wave at the dutiful Vega, I turned my back to the Utopian heaven – the Yoga retreat that had been my home for almost a month now.
I found my wife sitting in the exact spot that I had left her in. As I reached her, she turned at me, and with a reprimanding look, said; “what took you so long, it’s almost 15 minutes since you went in search of water, did you find it?
I looked at my wife incredulously, as I thought about the yoga retreat where I had spent more than 3 weeks. Was that Yoga retreat a Maya or is this Maya? If this is the reality, what was that? Was that a dream? Or is this a dream? Have you ever been to a Yoga retreat? What was your experience at the Yoga retreat?
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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