Sunday, October 24, 2010

the meditation thief

The yoga teacher lived up a couple flights of stairs in an alley by Baga Beach, Goa, in a spare apartment with a serious flat screen in one corner and a poster-sized photo of Osho framed on the opposite wall.

Prati had met him on her last trip to the area and described him as a deceptively fat man who led excruciating asana practices. I expected a bumbling ancient along the lines of the Indonesian holy man in "Eat Pray Love" (now playing in Indian theaters). The man that greeted us was on the younger side with a head full of unruly curls and fun gleaming in his eyes.

He embraced Prati, served us some cinnamon tea and told the following story about leading a meditation retreat on the bank of the Ganges:

Every day, the little group would go to the river around 4 a.m., enter meditation on rocks dotting its edge and remain still until the rising sun's warmth snapped them to awareness a couple hours later.

"You naturally expand just sitting beside the river," he told us, cross-legged on the cot beneath Osho.

They meditated each morning, but something "freaky" began happening: every day, one member of the group would awaken to discover something missing. A scarf disappeared, and a flashlight. Nobody could figure out why items vanished.

The teacher investigated, and a local informed him that, every morning before sunrise, one wild elephant ambled down the hill to drink from the Ganges right where they meditated. It appeared he was departing with the yogis' belongings. The teacher decided not to tell his students that their mystery thief was not an astral body or a God playing tricks, but a thirsty, potentially dangerous elephant. If they knew, their proximity to such a massive wild creature would make meditation impossible.

On the retreat's final day, instead of trekking down the hill to the river's edge, he told his students they would watch sunrise from the top of the hill, and that with it would come Ganesh, the Hindu God who takes an elephantine form. The students watched, and soon the elephant appeared for its morning drink.
They never recovered their goods, but the elephant never hurt or bothered the crew, leaving that morning, once again, in peace after its thirst was satisfied.

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