Agra Diary by Martine Clausen PSM teacher from Holland

The beginning 
Delhi, 31st October, 2.50 am 
Home again

2nd November 2000, the first day of the seminar
Today is the first day of the seminar. I want to attend the yoga class. It started at 6.00. The teacher turned out to be Barbara Black, the woman I was supposed to meet at the Radisson. I did not get the chance to speak to her as yet, because after yoga was the first meditation and I did not want to miss that. On our way to the conference room we noticed that on both sides all along the corridor beautiful decorations made of coloured rice were on the floor, also garlands of scented flowers everywhere. The meditation started with a puja, a prayer or ceremony to start the day, it was sung by a pandit and I just loved his deep voice. Then meditation. I had been so much looking forward to this moment, as I have such wonderful memories of the meditations at the Seduction of Spirit seminar in Oxford I had attended in July 1999. So now again I got the opportunity of meditating in such a large group. After meditation, during which I noticed I had been pretty stressed out for I had difficulty in sitting still, we went out for breakfast. That was just lovely. At 9.00 in the morning this wonderful weather, the warm sunshine, no wind. What a difference with the storm and rain on the day I left Europe. I sat down at a table with a couple of American women who had travelled 24 hours to get here. I now realised that my ten hour flight was not so bad after all…
After breakfast at last it was time for the first session with Deepak. He was just wonderful as always. He asked how many people attended a seminar with him for the first time and there were so many of them, almost half of the people in the room raised a hand. He started explaining the god Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. The session was over in no time. I am always amazed to find that Deepak talks so easily, seemingly without effort, no notes. Extraordinary really. He obviously is very special, but he does not like it when you tell him so.
After lunch Sheereen and I took the same rickshaw to the Lord Krishna Yoga Ashram. Two other women came along in another rickshaw. We told him we wanted massages and palmistry, and then he started talking. He talked for an hour so time ran scarce. We decided to start with massage. Sheereen and I went first. There were a man and a woman to do the massage. The woman was to massage me. She was so vigorous in her approach that she actually hurt me instead of making me feel good. Unfortunately her English was practically nil, so I just said: pain, then she said sorry and continued as before. When finally this ordeal was over I decided that I would never have a massage by a woman again. Sheereens experience was much better. She had had a wonderful massage and encouraged me to come back and try again with the man, but I refused this, I was fed up with massage. Afterwards we had a chat with Amit, our new friend, when he heard that we were at the Jaypee with Deepak Chopra, he was totally besides himself. O Deepak Chopra, how wonderful. As he clearly was in awe of Deepak and it was not likely he would meet him, we told him to come around tomorrow and sit in on the lecture. Amit was as happy as a little child.
After meditation we went to the room to call Prahbat for our clothes. He came and brought us our outfits. I was very pleased with the result. This evening there would be a Moghul dinner party and I decided to wear my red outfit tonight. Dinner was lovely. I sat with Leonor from Spain and Canna from England. I spent a very nice evening in their company. Enjoying the music and the food, we sat on cushions on the floor, while the music played and everywhere you looked there were people enjoying themselves. I ran into Barbara Black and we talked about our missed appointment. She was glad to find I made it to the seminar and so was I for her. She is just lovely. I also saw Dr. Krishan Chopra, Deepaks father, of whom I have this book called "Your life is in your hands", I just loved this book and I wanted to tell him that. He was very kind. I went up to the room around 22.00 and Sheereen and I chatted like teenagers and laughed until midnight. Then she wanted to go out for a walk! I stayed in bed and wrote the diary. I may skip yoga tomorrow but I won't skip meditation.
3rd November 2000
Hard to get up after such a short night. However we made it in time for meditation. Unfortunately I was sitting under the air-conditioning and just froze. At 9.15 we went to fetch Amit in the lobby. He was wearing his beautiful Indian clothes and was all excited about this. He wondered where he should pay for this lecture and whether it was no problem that he attended uninvited. Sheereen and I told him that nobody would mind him sitting in this morning and that he should relax and enjoy himself. The lecture started with Vishnu, the maintainer of the Universe. Obviously Amit knew a lot about that already, having been brought up in India, but he loved Deepak and greatly admired him. Don't we all?? After the lecture we saw that some people cued up to ask Deepak some private questions. So I said : how about meeting the great man himself? Amit was enraptured. So we cued also and then Amit sat down with Deepak. Of course we had our cameras ready. After this it was time for lunch, Amit would not join us but told us to call him when we were ready so he could send us a car to pick us up and take us to the ashram so we could have our palms read. By the time we were ready 3 other PSM teachers wanted to come along and so we went in motor rickshaws. I was the lucky one to get my palm read first, while the others waited Amit had opened his library so they would not get bored.
We sat down on a carpet in a separate room, Amit had brought his looking glass. He started jotting down some things and then told me about myself. I was astonished to get all this information from him, some of the things I had only found out recently and here this young man of 24 could see right through me just by looking at my hands. I was quite amazed. He was quite amused at some point but hesitant to tell me why he laughed, so I told him to not hesitate but just tell me what was so funny. He shyly said that he was surprised that I claimed to be a teacher of meditation, as he clearly saw that my head was filled with chaotic thoughts. I laughed heartily myself. Of course for an Indian, a teacher of meditation was something quite different: such a person should be close to enlightenment. I understood this very well, and I also knew that I needed to do something about this chaos, but Amit was going to sort that out for me. He told me that I needed a ring with a pearl which I should put on my little finger of my right hand on a Monday morning between 7.30 and 9.00, then my brain would cool down and I would be able to achieve goals and not get diverted. So I asked him where to obtain such a ring and he said: no probs, I will get you the ring. Then he told me some things about my future and my relationship with my children and husband, and then it was Sheereens turn. I had learned quite a lot of things about myself and had food for thought.
The others were waiting and were very curious to know my experience. They got quite excited hearing my enthusiasm and everybody wanted to get their palms read. After Sheereen had had her palm read, Amit's chauffeur drove us to the hotel. I went up to the room. I ate some cashew nuts which room service had brought up and 15 minutes later I got sick. Now I do not know whether it was due to the nuts or due to some grapes I had eaten, but I was very sick and could not go down to meditation. Sheereen arrived and saw I was unwell. Thanks to the wonderful orchestration of the Universe Sheereen happened to be a homeopath and she had a box full of remedies which she used to patch me up again. I slept very badly that night, but I desperately wanted to feel better in the morning as we were to go to the Taj Mahal. So when I woke up at 5.00 Sheereen said that perhaps it might be better for me to stay at the hotel, but as the Taj was only 2 miles from the hotel I decided that I could take a rickshaw back if I felt too awful. So I took the bus with her at 6.00 am, fortunately I could sit in the front. We had to change buses halfway through, as cars are not allowed near the Taj anymore, because of the pollution. So we were packed into smaller battery driven buses. I was glad I came, because the Taj Mahal is just beautiful, I had never thought it to be this big, television or pictures cannot do proper justice to its beauty and magnificence. It is a mausoleum built out of sheer love of a king for his beloved wife who died young. So it is a monument for love. As I walked towards it, the Universe provided me with a little gift: I found an earring, it was heart shaped and had a pendant on it in the shape of a heart and on it were other little hearts, 15 in total. It was nothing fancy not even silver, but to me it meant a gift of love and I thanked the Universe for this very special souvenir. Actually it was a miracle in itself that my eye happened to catch sight of it as it was half tucked under a stone and clearly had been lying there for a long time. It was my own private little miracle and I longed to tell Deepak, but I dared not as I did not want to take up his time. I sat down to meditate for a while and although I felt rather weak I was very happy to have followed my intuition about this. The Taj Mahal is definitely worth a visit. On getting back to the hotel, however, I went straight back to bed, so I am unhappy to say that I missed one of Deepaks lectures. It started with Lakshmi, goddess of wealth-consciousness, so I need to get someone else's notes. I slept from 9.30 till 13.30. When I woke up, I found the door of the balcony was open and I noticed peels and pips from the grapes scattered through the room. I realised that during my nap a monkey had come into the room and had eaten all the remaining grapes and nuts!
I went down at 15.30, because at 4 o'clock the ceremony with the Shankarycharya of Jyotirmath would start and I did not want to miss that. I felt a bit better, at least not nauseous anymore so I sat outside on the carpet in the garden of the hotel. The ceremony started with the pandits singing or rather chanting mantra's, later Deepak told us that before the Shankarycharya came on the stage, the pandits had chanted 80.000 mantra's, the names of all the gods and goddesses. By enumerating all these, all their specific archetypal qualities were evoked and all the participants would benefit from the ritual. After he had spoken to us and Deepak had translated, we all walked past him offering him a flower garland and he gave us all his blessing. This was quite a ceremony. Afterwards I spoke to some staff of the Chopra Centre, Nan, Jenny and Jude, I wanted their advice for the next day, as we were to go on an excursion to Vrindavan, to a Lord Krishna temple. We had to go there by bus and it was 80 miles away. In my condition I really feared this bus ride. Jude also had been sick and all three of them told me that it was not advisable to come, as there was but one stop on the way and restrooms were scarce. I went to the room to call my husband. I wanted to hear his voice. I felt better after talking to him. Sheereen and I chatted again like schoolgirls. We went to sleep at half past midnight. I don't know what has come over me, at home I usually go to bed around ten.
5th November 2000
I slept like a log tonight. When I woke up it was 7.30. Sheereen decided to stay with me today, so we ran down to grab some fruit and toast from the breakfast table, before it was cleared. Everybody had already left. We went up to the room with plates filled with fruit. Then we sat in our beds and continued our conversation, which never seemed to end. Suddenly I noticed a monkey on the balcony. Sheereen and I wanted to take its picture. But the animal turned the knob of the door and entered the room, it jumped on the desk, took off the napkin and nicked two bananas. He jumped down and sat on the balcony where he started eating the loot completely at ease. I went towards the door, as it was my intention to shut it and then take a picture of the monkey, but he made a threatening face at me and I backed away. Sheereen ran to the corridor to call for help, a man from housekeeping came at our rescue, but the monkey frightened him as well so he called for help on the phone. Next thing we knew there were 5 men in our room trying to chase the monkey. Everybody laughed and I took pictures. This was just fabulous. I could not wait to tell my children about this adventure. So apart from this exciting event we spent a quiet morning and Sheereen called Amit. We were to get our gems this afternoon. We took a rickshaw to his ashram. As we took off our shoes he welcomed us as if we were his long lost friends. We sat down in his office and he asked us whether we would mind paying a visit to his mother. We did not mind in the least as we were honoured and very interested to see a real Indian house on the inside. I noticed the autobiography by Gandhi in his library and asked if I could take a look. I had been trying to lay my hands on this book for 8 months now, but to no avail as it was no longer printed. Amit told me to keep it. He said he would not read it anyway because he knew everything about Gandhi already. This was a very tempting offer, but I told him I would only take the book if I could pay for it.
We then went to his house. He lived there with his mother and during the ride there he told us that wherever he would go his mother would go, as she was widowed and he would take care of her for the rest of his life. She was a lovely lady. Very friendly and welcomed us in her house. We were offered a drink, but I dared not accept any tea or water. So we drank some Coke. We were showed round the house and even could peep into her kitchen. How I would have loved cooking with her, she had all kinds of pots and pans and it looked very interesting. When we left she wanted to give us a present, she took out her jewellery and wanted us to accept some of it. It was impolite to refuse, yet it was also painful to accept. Fortunately I had in my bag some presents I had taken with me from Holland just in case, so I offered her one. It was a lovely visit and I will never forget it. On we went to the jewellery shop. I picked a pearl and a setting I liked and Sheereen picked a yellow saffire and also a setting. We spent hours in the shop. The shopkeeper liked to talk and Sheereen entered into a conversation with his father. I notice in India the families seem to live together, not like us in the West, we are all very individualistic, in India this is quite the reverse. It was agreed that Amit would bring the rings tonight as I needed to put mine on tomorrow morning (Monday between 7.30 and 9.00). On the way to the hotel Amit wanted us to meet one of his friends. He took us to a Kodak shop. The shopkeeper looked like a businessman, but according to Amit this man was a shopkeeper during the daytime and a great spiritual teacher at night. The man was very friendly and started a conversation about a spiritual topic. He told us that in fact we die every breath we take because it holds still for a second. Sheereen felt tired and wanted to return to the hotel, she cannot stand the heat as she is a Pitta whereas I love the heat as I am a Vata. So we left, but first I bought 2 cassettes from him with Indian mantra's and music. After dinner Amit came with his friend to bring us the rings. We sat down in the lobby of the hotel and chatted and took pictures. We had a nice evening, my husband called me to find out how I felt and I knew I had to find some toys for the children tomorrow. That would not be easy as there are no toyshops in Agra. I think the people are far too poor to be able to afford toys.
6th November 2000
 Today is the day of the Tibetan fest. Unfortunately the Dalai Lama will not come, but there are the monks and we will have a guided meditation by them. Deepak started with presenting a friend of his a doctor Karansing, a great scholar in Vedanta. Everybody loved this mans talk. Deepak continued with Shiva, god of destruction. We spent a lovely day. Tonight there was Tibetan dancing and singing. We had such fun. We went to bed at 1.30. Quite unlike me.
7th November 2000
Although it was hard to get up early, I wanted to go to meditation because the Tibetan monk would guide us through this time. Sheereen stayed in bed. I was glad to have gone to meditation as it was wonderful. There is something about the Tibetans that makes me feel very happy. They seem very pure. They laugh like children. Very special. Just like the Dalai Lama, his very presence makes you feel good. After the session with Deepak, starting with Sarasvati, goddess of wisdom and knowledge, the sand mandala which the monks had created all week was to be demolished. It was a token of detachment and every one who wanted could get some of the sand to take home. I liked the symbolism. After this we had a special lunch with the instructors. It was Roger Gabriel's birthday, so we sang. Then there was a group-photo.
This afternoon we went shopping at Taj Market. I still did not have any presents for my son. I did have puppets for my daughter though. At Taj market the salesmen just jumped all over us. At one point I was a bit frightened. They were all talking at the same time and somehow they picked me as their victim. There must have been twenty of them tugging at my arms and standing in my way. They must have the habit of knowing exactly what type of person is liable to give in to their pleading. Sheereen did not seem to have this problem. Anyway I bought a camel for Bob and a little wooden box with a snake in it. I did some pretty good bargaining here, for the first time.
We took a bicycle rickshaw which took us through the back streets of Agra. Unbelievable the way the people seem to live here, they are all together, outside their little shops. Dust everywhere and stench, pollution combined with the heat, children barefoot and holy cows, camels, donkeys, dogs and cars honking. Every person and animal very, very thin. It is something one has to experience in order to understand it. If anything, this week has taught me humility and made me realise how fortunate we are in the West, though a lot of people do not seem to notice the lives of luxury we lead, anyway that is on the level of the material world. I wonder about our keeping ourselves to ourselves, we do not have material poverty, but we do have spiritual poverty… At some point a school went out and all the children were in blue uniforms they all shouted hello to us happily.
Tonight at the hotel was Rajasthani feast night. All kinds of dancers wearing the most beautiful clothes. The music enthused the guests and many of them were dancing. I needed some time to be alone so I eclipsed myself to the room, just to be alone and read a bit. I am not used to having so many people around me all the time. I took a shower and made an inventory of my presents before reading Deepak's "The Angel is Near". Sheereen came up and told me she went out to have her hands henna'd.
8th November 2000
This days session with Deepak was about how to continue our spiritual journey at home. He ended with a healing meditation. That was great. It is just lovely to meditate with such a large group. At lunch I discovered that Leonor from Spain would be in the same plane as me on the way home. She asked if I would join them during the ride to Delhi. I really wanted that, but it depended on the space in the taxi, because Sheereen would also come. We decided to call a taxi for the both of us and follow Leonor.

next page: Home again