A Letter from Tamil Nadu

The attached photo of devotees at a kumkum-reddened shrine to Hanuman is just a taste of the extraordinary things I have been privileged to experience and witness in this journey.  I think that there as many reasons to go on a pilgrimage and as many experiences of it as there are people.  For both the challenges and the wonders, I have been given a chance to feel and shift and explore myself at the deepest levels.

As you know, I had planned to take a mini-sabbatical from posting photos and writing while I was on the trip.  I was faced with an opportunity, though, from a lesson in both non-attachment and gratitude that opened up this opportunity to share.

On our first full day in Madurai, we went to see the famous Meenakshi temple.  The experience at this temple was different from that we had in other temples for two significant reasons.  The first was that the inner sanctum was rigidly restricted only to Hindus.  Ironically, this correspondingly led to a permission to take photographs within the temple (usually forbidden) because we who are allowed only in the other parts of the temple are viewed more like tourists than worshippers.

Right before we went to the temple, my camera reported that the battery was exhausted; intermittent power the night before must have prevented my getting it properly charged.  I took out my Blackberry as a second best alternative.  It had somehow turned itself on and depleted the charge looking for a radio signal even though I had turned off both the phone and Internet connections.  I couldn’t imagine making it through the rest of day without being able to take another photograph, and it appeared that I had no choice other than to call in what I have learned from yoga practice about non-attachment.  (Yes, I recognize that for even the most avid of amateur photographers, this was not a big loss).

As grace would have it, though, a fellow enthusiastic photographer on the trip hearing of my predicament understood completely.  He had three cameras and his fiancee also had one.  He handed me the extra camera and showed me the basics.  The next day, he uploaded the photos I had shot onto my IPad, giving me a lesson in technology, along with the loan of the camera.  I may have avoided having to practice non-attachment for this minor moment of potential disappointment, but I was definitely gifted with a big opportunity to practice gratitude.  Having been the recipient of this gift, I wanted to share a little with you.

I look forward to sharing more images and stories when I return, especially with all of my students when winter classes resume in January.

Devotees of Hanuman

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