Jnana Yoga

The entire second floor was carpeted, including the bedrooms. The bedroom I had been assigned was very clean and orderly, decorated in a simple manner, but in earth colors that harmonized. It was like a modest version of those cozy rooms they have in some little bed and breakfast hotels in Mendocino and other similar charming towns in Northern California. There was a wash basin inside the room and a nice desk to one side of the bed with a lamp on it. The room was very well lighted, as it had two large windows overlooking the grounds outside. The windows had curtains and shutters you could close if you so wished. In a nutshell, the room was perfect, particularly for my purposes.

After I laid my small bags on the bed the man asked me to follow him to the kitchen, as he wanted to show me how everything worked down there. As we were walking down the stairs I noticed that the first floor was fully carpeted too. The first thing that impressed me when we entered the kitchen was its size. It was quite large and it had a correspondingly large rectangular table in the center with half a dozen chairs around it. The floor was covered with linoleum and, along with the laundry room, was the only section of the house that was not carpeted.

There were two large modern ovens and a large stove at one end of the L-shaped pantry above which hanged all kinds of pots and pans, with utensils, silverware, plates and cups in the pantry’s drawers and compartments. There was also a microwave oven, one refrigerator and one freezer, all of them in perfect working condition. He showed me how to turn everything on, gave me some instructions regarding the refrigerator and how to store my food in there and then told me that if I needed anything I should just come ring the doorbell by the barn door and someone would come out to help me. Having said all this, he just turned around and kindly wished me a good day as he walked out of the house.

The kitchen was well lighted and pleasant, but I hardly ever used it. I had not gone there to cook or to socialize with any of the few people I occasionally found in there. I had a job to do and I intended to dedicate as much time as possible doing it. And I did. I spent hours on end without leaving my bedroom, stepping out only when I thought I should better eat something, or when I considered that a walk around the grounds would do me good. Going for a walk, however, did not entail dropping my practice. At times I could feel the holiness of the house, as if it had been imbued with a saintly spirit, which is probably the case.

That first night I practiced until 2 or 3 in the morning, only to wake up at around 7 AM to start my practice all over again. Around ten I took a shower and then went down to the kitchen to have some of the orange juice I had brought with me. Walked up to my room, finished my daily clean up and went for a walk, all of this with the Atma Vichara in mind. As a whole, out of the 28 hours I spent at the center that first time, I must have practiced over 20. In time, the ratio of practice-time over hours spent at the center would grow higher.

I must have gone half a dozen times to the Vedanta Center in the span of the following year, sometimes staying for three or four days instead of just for two. My routine would vary according to my mood each time I went there. Sometimes I would go spend a couple of hours sitting under a particular tree I liked, which is located about a mile from the house. Other times I would walk for hours within the 2000-acre grounds. In general, however, I would always practice the most inside my room, which was not always the same one, but was always equally quiet and comfortable. I often spent some time in the main living room on the first floor, where there is a photo of Ramakrishna in the center of the main wall with a painting of Buddha on one side and a painting of Jesus on the other.

They usually burn incense in the living room and sometimes there were small groups of people practicing collective meditation there. I spent short periods of time at the library as well, where they have a few books on most of the major religions of the world. There are also some books on philosophy in those shelves. Vedanta is itself a philosophy that encompasses all the major religions and philosophical schools, such as Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Taoism and Zoroastrianism. But my main purpose for being there was not to read. I was there because that is a holy place and I had a job to do there. I had to find out what my true identity was.

Otherwise, when I was not practicing at the Vedanta Center I was practicing wherever I went. I had developed such level of concentration by then that I was now able to practice even on the freeway while I was driving. There is no danger in doing this, as I can be perfectly conscious and aware of my surroundings while immersed in my practice; thus, I am able to drive perhaps even more responsibly than many of the other drivers around me, whose minds are probably immersed in their own thoughts, thereby not being able to concentrate totally on the road. I got so accustomed to practicing on the freeway that sometimes I would suddenly realize I had not breathed for the previous two or three minutes.

My mind was already developing a relatively steady state of void, which was providing me with a fairly constant level of internal peace. I had, of course, to abandon such state of mind whenever I had to address things involving other people or matters regarding my job and other things of that sort. But my mind was quick to return there where it knew there was a sea of peace. And now it also knew it did not need much effort to get there.

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