When I was discussing about these ‘experiences’ I was asked this “does these blogs include details of your study period?”. Now, I will discuss it here.
When I came to Virakth Ashram on August 15 what I had was only some box of books, which I had purchased and was in a hope to study. So, I started studying under Shanti Dharmananda Saraswati (SDS) swamiji, Rishikesh. He used to stay at about a kilometer from Virakth Ashram.
After a year or so, this was my schedule – it begins at around 4.30 in the morning, the ashram had only a single loo for we 7/8 persons, so, we had to fix a time :), atleast in the morning (on other times, if it is occupied we used to throw a small stone from far-off). From 5 – 6.30 I used to perform, Sandyavandhana, Puja and Japa. After this I will have a cup of Black Tea, sometimes with ginger or lemon grass. I had an old stove, which was left by some old occupant of the ashram. This stove is almost an antique piece, and I learnt to use it only in this ashram. Not just this, this period was a formidable period, during which I learnt many things. After this at about 6.45 am will leave for Satya Darshan Ashram, the place of my acharya. From 7-9 will attend two different classes, and after the class will have to rush back for the biksha. I used to take biksha at Shanti Bhavan, which was very close to Virakth Ashram, in the morning before going to class I w=used to leave my kamandalu (a steel vessel with a handle and not the coconut shell one). They no longer give biksha, and I think the ashram itself is sold to somebody. This is the place where we used to get 4 tikkadd. A tikkad is a thick roti, which is half cooked on top of a tava/pan and the other side on the burning coal. The taste of this is something only someone who has tasted can understand. Sometimes I will not have time to eat it, because I had to go to Sarveshananda Saraswati (SS)swamijis class, first on the insistence of SDS swamiji to complete laghu, and later to study the Prastana Traya. And on those days I had to call it a lunch instead of Brunch. This class will be from 10 AM and I will have to go to this Ashram called Mangal Ashram which is about half kilometer from Virakth. When I come back will have a siesta for some time. And for some period I also stopped eating morning biksha, for want of time. Until was scolded by an old sadhu for it.
And then used to teach from 1-1.45 PM, after which will go again to SDS swamiji for the class from 2-4 PM. Swamiji used to take 4 classes , 2 in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, generally. After coming back from the class, had to run to Madhuban Ashram for the biksha. They used to give biksha for quite a few people, and later decided to only give it to old Sadhus. Or, should do hare rama bhajan for an hour, I declined the offer, for the sake of food I could not make myself to do it. Though there were some ashrams, which provide food, I preferred this biksha system, there are no strings attached or ties created. After coming from biksha, generally I go to Tirupathi Balaji Temple, Andhra Ashram about a kilometer, where I used to study Yajurveda under Sri Srinivasa Tatthacharya ji. Until he was in Rishikesh, I could study some portions of it (I think a little more than 4 chapters).
After coming back from this class used to perform evening Sandya and Japa. After having the biksha, used to go to a nearby ashram to have a class in the night, from 9 o’clock. This was partly because, before coming to Virakth Ashram, I used to read till 10/10.30, and it was difficult in Virakth Ashram, not because and in-charge, but because of lack of power :). Viraktha Ashram did not have electric supply. It was very difficult, though I can brag, I too studied under a kerosene lamp (like some great scholars). For a brief period in this schedule I had Music class, learning flute, though had to give up not just because of lack of time for practice, but didn’t get the basics right/clear.
Survival in Virakth Ashram was very difficult, not because of the neighbours though. And it made me even more strong mentally and physically, other than the padayatra which I did. Living in a place infested not just by mosquitoes, but lot of scorpions and some snakes actually removed the fear over them (for quite a period, maybe around six-eight months, I had a small bottle of homoeo antidote for scorpion bite, which was never used). During this time I didn’t have money, nor was I going to any Bandara. Bandara means inviting Sadhus (they have tokens distributed) for food and give them money and materials. This is referred to as Narayana Seva or Maheswara Puja in the south. Normally, these Bandaras were done for the pitrus (dead ancestors). And the rich food, will make one drowsy. So, even to buy kerosene was difficult. Sometimes, knowing my position, my neighbour (late) Sw. Ranganathananda ji used to check the cans and get it refilled. Buynig books was another problem, for which I used to resort to getting the books from nearby Kailas Ashram, where Vishudda Chatanya (now Sw. Vishuddananda) ji the then librarian used to supply me with whatever and how-many-ever books which he used to take in his name.