Friday, May 10th: Since I arrived at Parmarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh I noticed an old man who lives in the ashram and used to take part to the Ganga Aarti, the fire ceremony in honour of Mother Ganga, every evening. He just got my respect at first sight not really knowing why… he seems to be so much inward whatever he is doing, even when he is just sitting around in the ashram talking to people. He always dresses in the sadhu orange garment now for me so familiar and he always walks around with his own pot for food, though he is very skinny.
After more or less one week in the ashram, Aude (a French girl who had spent 6 weeks at the ashram) told me he is commonly addressed as ‘Guruji’, he is 105 years old and still teaches yoga in a yoga school here in Rishikesh (Om karananda Om, in Lakshman Jhula) once a week.
“Better reserve your place, he only teaches on Sunday mornings and his classes are packed” – Aude, told me. And then she added: “Sometimes he also teaches at the ashram on donation basis”.
After that, I have heard often of him so I really wanted to try one of his classes, but… he has been away for more than 10 days, supposedly travelling to Shangai (indeed! at 105 years old!).
Now this morning I was going to my usual and supposedly last class with Kamal when my attention was caught by 2 rishikumars – the boys that lives, studies and attend ceremonies at the ashram recognizable by their yellow clothes – peering in through the windows of one of the ashram halls. As lately there was a mourning there, I wanted to see what was going on out of curiosity and… here there was Guruji in just a loin-cloth teaching a yoga class to 10 and more students! But I didn’t want to be late to my class so I kept going.
After the ashtanga yoga practice, and the carrot-banana juice in my favorite juice place, I was on my way back to the room when I saw Guruji sitting at the ashram entrance, for once on his own. I did not even realize what I was doing when I knelt down next to him and heard myself asking:
“Guruji, are you teaching yoga in the morning?”
“Yes, in the Mandir Hall”
“At what time?”
“How long is it?” but I realized he didn’t understand my English… “1h?”
He smiled, moved the head in the so typical Indian way and said: “2h”
That was my turn to smile, I thanked and bowed to him… in doing that, he put his hand on my head as you do with small kids; I got it as a blessing. When I came up I saw he had a big smile on his face. I was just a few steps away when he added ‘Come!’.
While taking those few steps, my mind was in a turmoil though my hearth was at peace. Why in a turmoil? Eventually today was not the last class taught by Kamal! Just at the end of it he said to us: “tomorrow you come, same time same place… don’t be late!”. So, I had this conflict within: “Kamal or Guruji tomorrow morning?” when I heard the word “Come!” and, in that moment, I knew I would go to Guruji’s class…
But now my mind is again in turmoil… I haven’t said goodbye to Kamal and would not feel happy to leave without doing it after a month of practice with him. And I’m already trying to figure it out how I can come back and do an ashtanga TTC with him.
On the other side, I’ve been waiting for all this time to get the opportunity to take a class from Guruji, who – at his age – must have gone through a lot of experiences. I also want to see how a really traditional Hatha Yoga class is run (assuming his class is a traditional one!), on top of just feeling a natural sense of reverence towards him.
So, great dilemma for tomorrow morning… though inside I feel a choice has already been made, I just need to figure it out how to handle the other half. Can you guess what choice is that?