In early June 2016 I spent three days in New Delhi, India, on my way from Japan to Belgium. Loud, noisy, polluted Delhi can be very intense. However, it is also India and imbued with a subtle omnipresent devotion to God. When walking down the cracked sidewalk, quick on my feet to jump over piles of trash and move around carts selling bread dipped in egg and deep fried, the vail to experience and taste the ever present Source of all is thinned, God becomes tangible.
The Sri Aurobindo Ashram is a quiet oasis in the midst of the madness of Delhi. Built on the principles of sacred geometry the complex contains six building all with six sides each containing sacred geometric patterns.
On the back my room key, 031, was written “don't use the ashram as a hotel, get involved” and the reception upon getting key told me “this is an ashram, please do sewa[Selfless service]". I decided to offer Seva in the kitchen. On the second day of my Seva I found myself removing the tops and bottoms of small apples and cutting them in half for the lunch salad that day. Sitting on a small plastic stool I bent my legs slightly to avoid water damping my white dhoti. Next to me a young woman named Chandrani cut apples. As we worked together in silence, a lady, who I presumed was one of the kitchen leads approached and squatted next to us. Dark haired about five foot 2 inches she possessed a radiant smile and a gentle heart. The previously day she had sought me out to give me some prasad, blessed sweets.
She began asking me questions about where I live, what I do, how long I was there, etc… After several minutes of conversation she asked me if I had a wife back at home. Her response to what I said gave me a penetrating insight into the God focused nature of this lady and a tenderness of heart that I carry today.
When I replied “no"to her question if I had a wife. She asked me "why not?”. “Life style of Brahmachari [monk]” I replied, cutting another apple and placing it into the large metal bowl between us. Immediately her demeanor changed, she got quiet and an almost solemn look overtook her cheerful face. In that moment I speculated over this dramatic shift and wondered if she considered my lifestyle inappropriate for a young man, and that I should have a wife. This speculation was quickly put to rest.
She returned her eyes to mine, opened her right hand palm facing upward, a common gesture in India and said softly “Only God”, half statement half question. Stuck by the simplicity and profundity of her word I simply said “Yes”. This immediately brought me into the presence of my life commitment as a life for God. After another few moments of poignant silence she brought her hands together in namaste, representing a moment of acknowledging the divinity in the other and with a tenderness and a depth of love said quietly “thank you”.
I felt stuck to the core of my being by the simplicity and gratitude expressed to me for my life commitment. A deep feeling of contentment as well as responsibility arose within me. So impacted by her statement and the sincerity behind it all I could do was place my hands together in namaste and reply “thank you”.