This past weekend, I chose to stay put while my classmates returned to Isha, a temple and meditation center that we all went to last weekend. I enjoyed myself thoroughly the first time we were there, but I didn’t want to leave Vaidyagrama again, at least not for awhile. In so many ways, this place feels like home. Deeply home.
In addition to that gravitational pull, there are other reasons to stay put. We are currently surrounded by the most amazing community of teachers, practitioners and Ayurvedic luminaries who seem to have flocked to Vaidyagrama en masse to receive treatment. Two weeks ago, our very dear teacher from the Institute, Dr. Claudia Welch, arrived with her husband Jim to go through treatment for a month. She was the one who originally recommended Vaidyagrama to all of us, and by a wonderful coincidence, we have ended up here at the same time as her. It is so sweet to see her here and to catch the occasional conversation with her on the pathways. Her very presence is inspirational, and to feel her presence here makes a sweet connection between our lives at the Institute and our education here. It really is all connected anyway.
And if we needed further evidence that this place is exceptional, the renowned American Ayurvedic scholar and teacher Dr. Robert Svoboda arrived shortly after Claudia and has taken up residence here in the very same building as us. We’ve all been to his workshops and lectures and read his books (I am actually reading one right now), so when we pass him on the pathways, it’s like passing a celebrity. We try to play it cool. More than once, though, I wished I had a camera on me when I saw my shoes sitting next to his by the building entrance.
I have also met a patient, Kathleen, who works at Banyan Botanicals, the fantastic Ayurvedic herb importer/supplier based in Albuquerque that was started by graduates of the Institute there. There has been some publicity in recent years about heavy metal contamination of herbs imported from India, as well as some herbs driven close to extinction by unethical harvesting practices here, so having a safe, ethical and sustainability-oriented importer in the U.S. is a tremendous thing. Last week, I was wondering if I could find a particular herb in the States that Dr. Ramdas suggested for my sister-in-law Jeri Lynn’s morning sickness, and it was just too coincidental to be able to simply walk down the path here in Southern India and ask Kathleen if Banyan carries it. (They do). It’s like the epi-center of the Western Ayurveda scene has picked up and moved to Vaidyagrama.
Dr. Svoboda and Claudia have been close friends ever since they met here in India decades ago as two of the few white people studying Ayurveda here. We hear them periodically playing cards in his room and chanting on the roof. Dr. Svoboda recently announced his retirement from public life and gave his last Stateside lecture in Austin in December, which I attended just before leaving for India myself. His last lecture in India will be next week in Rishikesh at a conference that Punarnava Ayurveda (Vaidyagrama’s parent company) has organized. We felt even luckier, therefore, a few days ago when Claudia brought Dr. Svoboda in to our classroom/dining room after dinner to talk with us about jyotisha (vedic astrology) and Barack Obama’s chart. According to Dr. Svoboda, President Obama’s chart is remarkable in a number of ways revealing a propensity for power, good judgment and intelligence. In jyotish, there is an aspect of chart-reading that lays a person’s life against a timeline and allows rather precise prediction of events and states of mind. In July 2012, apparently President Obama will enter a period marked by self-doubt and second-guessing. However, he will come out of it quickly, and it appears that by October – just before the election – he will be in a position of power again. Here’s hoping.
After Dr. Svoboda left the room, we all looked around at each other with stars in our eyes. To have a mini lecture from one of the biggest names in Ayurvedic scholarship while kicking back after dinner… it’s like somehow we graduated from the kids’ table at Thanksgiving and got invited to the grown-ups’ table. In more ways than one, it continues to feel like a Thanksgiving feast around here.