If this is your first visit, PLEASE START HERE.
Chett is a guy I met a few months earlier. Turns out that he did a pre-University year at the High School I had just graduated from, in 1994.
But I didn’t know that.
I only heard of him because he went to school with Gaza, who was one of my close mates from my University days in Cape Town, around 1996 to 1999.
Now Gaza, somewhere around 2010, told me about Chett and that he was writing a book and that I should connect with him. So I did, on Skype and Facebook. And we chatted and found common ground because we were both releasing our books around the same time. Anyway, a virtual friendship began forming and that was that.
But this is where the scenario gets weird … the really good type of weird … the kinda weird that is foolish to ignore …
Chett’s girlfriend, this firey-hot South Korean babe, Jay, becomes my Facebook friend and follows me around like a stalker And then, she notices that I’m in Bangalore.
The next thing I know, I’m getting a message from Chett:
“Hey Phil, I hear you’re in Bangalore. You should come down to Kerala, dude, that’s where I am … in Amma’s ashram. And Amma comes back from tour in a week’s time, so the timing is perfect.”
That email came, the day after I had phoned the ashram and booked myself in.
The day after I had found AMMA on Google … or was it AMMA who found me?
The weirdness was triggering memories deep within me … memories of a mystical life I had once lived, but had long since forgotten.
“Hey Chetty. Sure, dude, I’ll see you there.”
The Backpack … 20 years of travel later … arrives at the bridge that leads to Amritapuri Ashram
So I took my first Indian train ride (I’ll detail these with photos, a bit later on) and cruised down to Valikavu, Kerala and into Amritapuri Ashram.
I didn’t know what to expect, but what I saw wasn’t it. There were heaps of foreigners all dressed in white;
there were massive posters of this old Indian woman, looking all Buddha-like … to be honest, the very first idea that came to mind was … CULT!!!!!
I was coming from a westernised, Christian background. I was a former Christian missionary, Bible School founder, worship band leader, youth pastor, blablabla.
I had my religious worldview well-established.
So when I saw all this stuff, my judgement was quick to kick in … despite the fact that I am the last born son of the last born son of a Hindu brahmin, who was born in India and came to South Africa when he was 6.
Chetty and Jay are at the entrance to meet me and through these guys who have grown to become my dearest friends and siblings, I am quickly orientated. I throw my stuff down in my dorm and head off with Chetty and Jay to join with their mates from the Recycling Team (I’ll explain later), for dinner.
It’s Thanksgiving Day, apparently. Those of you who know me, know how much I love America, so you can imagine how super excited I was to share one of their commercial holidays … in India.
But I went along with it.
Little did I know that by the end of my stint, my dearest sister/sibling and some closest friends would be ‘goddamn yanks’
Right, where was I?
I met these guys on the day I arrived and they became my dearest friends, walking with me along the most intense path of spiritual awakening that none of us ever imagined. I love you guys so much!
So we get to this table, adjacent to this massive 10,000-seater hall, and there’s a bunch of peeps already there. Americans, an Italian, Danish, Finnish, Ozzie, Korean and South African … with a young token Indian. I mean, we were in India and all, so it was only fitting that we had at least one Indian in the group. That’s what we thought.
But in the recesses of his mind, what one could hear was (and say this in a thick Indian accent), “Oh my god, these white girls are soooo HOT!”
Krishnanji actually became my first and dearest REAL Indian brother, who I love even until today.
Anyhow, everyone knows each other and they’re all sharing food and Chetty introduces me and they welcome me … and I’ve got my wild backpacker hair that is unkempt, which goes perfectly with my unkempt and free-spirited nature … and some of them are dressed in white … and all talking the religious ashram lingo, and I feel completely like an alien. But they’re all very friendly, and they feed me and I do my little “I’m thankful for …” bit, which I wasn’t prepared for, but was quite cool actually, and then that was that.
Back to my dorm, for me to process things… Continue reading