International Yoga Day is approaching and consequently there was an intense discussion amongst our diverse group, that involved yours truly foraging in the murky forests of my Indian-not-at-all-devout-Hindu upbringing and serving up dubious explanations. As we leaped and scoured the real and mythical worlds alike, the venerated Vanars would have been proud to see us. We started with lofty enough topics, but ended up – well, see for yourself where we ended up.
The discussion started with Yoga-in-the-park for International Yoga Day. Why must it be so early? said a colleague and I sympathized. Regular readers of this blog know that I am not at my brightest in the mornings. I am best left alone to peek out from behind my coffee and quickly pull myself back into the cup, peek from the c., pull back in, and then slowly, like a snail, venture out into the world.
I deplored the state of affairs in India and how we deify the early-riser and leave the poor late-risers feeling somewhat inferior and catching up with the early-risers for the rest of the day. We traipsed around early morning rituals and temples and why meditation in the first place.
Just as I was patting my back on the spiritual plane the discussion could reach from the lofty stepping stone of Yoga, it slid straight down the slide to idlis, dosas & sambhar. It was like playing Snakes & Ladders in the thick Madhuban forests, I tell you. From the spices of the foods, it was but a natural stop at yogurt.
After moving to the USA, I like flavored yogurts such as strawberry or apricot yogurt, but I also told them about the slurpilicious plain-yogurt and rice. There was a sticky moment when folks could not see the appeal of plain yogurt against the Apricot yogurt, but I scored a goal by bringing up mango pickles.
When you bring yogurt and rice up to a South Indian at lunch-time, she can’t but help talking of mango pickles. Other colleagues of Asian origin chimed in with durian and jackfruits, and we all sighed collectively at the exotic fruits and tropical vegetables of the East. Some bright person then said something about lotus roots and another said that Buddha sits in a lotus.
Spiritual-plane-wise, we were getting back up from the hard fall into dosa, sambhar and curd rice territory, so I felt I had to wade in.
“For some reason, the lotus holds a special place in Indian Mythology”, I said.
I turned and looked at the awed expressions on my co-conversationalists, and this gave me the confidence to plunge on. It is a knack. When people expect something profound from me, as if they are making up their mind to see whether or not I am intelligent, I say something like this and dash all hopes.
“Most goddesses I know like to sit in one. Although the lotuses I have seen are pretty small – I don’t know how goddesses sit comfortably in them. “
“Really? Goddesses sit in lotus too? I don’t know much – I have seen some pictures of Indian Goddesses, but never saw that – maybe hard to make out from the saree and all, but Buddha I know.” said a colleague who has taken the Myth of the Mystical East to heart.
I summoned up the picture of Saraswathi and Lakshmi in my visual eye. I don’t remember seeing their saree flowing over their lotus seat. I mean, they were caparisoned in beautiful garments and jewelry, but the lotus was apparent too. I have never seen the saree flowing all over the lotus hiding it from view. Have you?
Somewhat befuddled, I prodded on. “No, I am pretty sure the Goddesses sit in lotuses. I do remember seeing some stylistics paintings of Buddha in a lotus, but mostly he is under a Bodhi tree, looking happy, right?”
This must have been interesting to watch, if it wasn’t me, sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. Anyway, neither of us backed down, and both of us were equally sure of our lotus occupants. The birds stopped twittering to watch the great philosophical debate. Apricot yogurt or plain yogurt with rice: Which one would emerge the victor?
“Really? I don’t know. I have always seen Buddha in Lotus Asana – except for some statues in Pier 1 Imports, of him lying down.” said she.
Wait a minute. I knew what was going on. I observed, deduced and felt that faint feeling of relief and comprehension dawn on me and the birds twittered again. I asked, “You mean the yoga posture Buddha sits in? Lotus Asana?”
“Yes! Isn’t that what you have been talking about? “
“Oh when you said you couldn’t make out the lotus in the Goddesses, you meant, you couldn’t make out whether their legs were truly crossed in Lotus Asana with the saree and all that?”
And then, I laughed as I told her that I was talking about the seat in which the goddesses sat, although, I conceded they may have been sitting in lotus asana too.
So, both of us were right. You can have apricot yogurt or plain-old-curd-rice-with-mango-pickle. Yes, in the Lotus Asana, if you like.
Maybe that will remind us to be truly humble while talking of Lotuses or anything else. We are, after all, a fraction of the small blue dot in the Cosmos, like Carl Sagan said.
Now, if you will excuse me,I need to practice my half-lotus position for International Yoga Day.