LIFE IN SADHANA FOREST (INDIA)

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Next to Auroville is Sadhana Forest. The word sadhana means spiritual practice. According to the founder, who was an ex-philosophy professor from Israel, the forest should be a place where people spend their time in total contact with nature, far from everything that sounds modern, like electricity, running water, and stone houses.
There were almost 200 volunteers from all over the world in Sadhana Forest, who had come just to spend some time plunged into a primitive environment. Their task consisted of planting trees and preserving the forest from fires, which can break out due to the dryness of the area.
We arrived in the forest by bus in the afternoon. The Israeli professor gave a speech about life in the forest. He said that many families lived there. One of the visitors asked, “What about your children? Do they go to school? Who gives them an education?”
“Our children,” the professor answered, “have home schooling. Then, if they want to go to school they can, but if they don’t want to go we don’t force them to have compulsory education.”
The professor led us around the forest and their tiny village, which was built on pilings. The dormitories for the volunteers were just over the pilings. There was neither running water nor electricity, except in one or two pilings. They produced power by a bicycle and solar panels.
They offered us a vegan meal and showed a film about life in the forest. We also saw how mercilessly they grow chickens and pigs in developed countries, which are fed inside very narrow cages until they are killed.
In the evening, when we got off the bus, a young man gave us a flier. Once at home we read it. The young man complained about having been expelled unjustly from Sadhana. Apparently, despite human endeavors, it is not possible to create a perfect society where everybody can live happily and without conflict, even in the forest.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

VISITING RISHIKESH (INDIA)

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The weather in Rishikesh changed radically the following day. The sun was shining and it became much hotter. We walked along the same lane as the day before and arrived at a narrow bridge. Only pedestrians and motorbikes could use it. Monkeys stood along the handrails, hoping to get some food.
We crossed the bridge and walked along the other bank of the river, which was also full of shops and restaurants. While we walked on the bridge, I admired the river in all its majesty, and noticed that the olive-green color was constant, even in stretches where the banks were surrounded by houses, when the trees were far away and the sky was cloudy. Its wonderful green color remained even at twilight. Obviously, the constant hue depended on some phenomenon that I didn’t know about, but there had to be something mysterious in the amazing Ganges. It could be considered sacred not only by Hindus, but by everybody. It cannot be ruled out that God, who is the same for all people, regardless of the race, becomes manifest in different ways so that He can show Himself through those holy waters.
Cows wandered freely in the narrow streets, while donkeys and mules were used to carry river sand, gravel, and red bricks to building sites. I hadn’t seen this kind of transportation for at least seventy years, when long lines of donkeys, mules, and horses carried goods and people from the countryside into Enna.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

CLIMBING ARUNACHALA MOUNTAIN

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We set off at five o’ clock in the morning. It was dark, but it was possible to see people in the street. Apparently, life in India never stops. There were four of us: our guide, a girl from Korea who was also staying in our guesthouse, my wife, and me.
We followed our guide in the darkness and I asked, “Why is this mountain considered holy?”
Our guide answered, “The Hindu trinity is formed by three gods: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. One day a dispute arose between Brahma and Vishnu. Both of them claimed to be superior. To settle the dispute, Shiva manifested himself as an infinite column of light so dazzling that it was impossible to look at. Brahma and Vishnu prayed to Shiva to take a less dazzling form, so he took the form of Arunachala Mountain. This place is sacred to Lord Shiva, and represents the element of fire.”

While we walked, the magnificent temple of Arunachaleswara appeared in the distance. “What a grand temple! It is one of the five temples associated with the five basic elements: water, air, earth, fire, and sky,” said our guide.
We got to the hilltop at daybreak. I felt as happy as a mountaineer that had climbed the highest peak in the world. The sun appeared faintly on the horizon, and I was a little bit cold. The top was exposed to the wind, but from there I saw a vast landscape that stretched to the horizon. Our guide showed us two footprints that had been impressed by Shiva. There was also a trident to symbolize that the mountain was sacred to Lord Shiva.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

WHERE IS AUROVILLE?

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Auroville is near Pondicherry, which had been a French colony. The French name, Auroville, means the city of Sri Aurobindo, who is the founder of the community along with a French lady called Mirra Alfassa, and also known as “The Mother.”
Sri Aurobindo invented a kind of yoga called “Integral.” When my wife and I visited his ashram in Pondicherry, we bought a booklet about it. But after having read it, I couldn’t find a method to practice it; in fact, I couldn’t understand what it was. The book talked about the creation of a super mind. Maybe, according to Aurobindo’s Integral yoga, the supermind is intended to transcend materiality and be one with the universe.

I don’t know exactly what the residents did to make a living. I heard that they had some kind of job. Some are teachers, other farmers, and so on. A Korean lady, who now is an Auroville dweller, invented a job to get by. She made and sold kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean health food.
There were neither temples nor churches in the area. Apparently, the founders had intended to prevent the erection of any place of worship that might discriminate against the residents on the basis of their creed. To carry out the ecumenical end, a round gilt building called the Matrimandir had been erected that encompassed all religions. People who are both from Auroville and the outside are allowed to enter just to meditate. But while residents can go in anytime, nonresidents need to make a reservation.

We entered the building and followed a circular walkway. I didn’t see any statues or religious symbols. We were told that we would see a prismatic crystal on the top floor of the Matrimandir that emanated special energy. When we at last reached the top floor, people were meditating facing the crystal. It was dark inside. I didn’t see the prismatic crystal; my wife spotted it, but said she didn’t feel that it emanated any special energy.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

VISITING SAI BABA’S ASHRAM

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We took a bus to Bangalore, and from there another bus to Puttaparthi. As soon as we arrived in town we headed for Sai Baba’s ashram. I had never seen such a large and well maintained ashram. Furthermore, it was the cheapest place I had visited so far. We could have a good meal on ten rupees, the equivalent of a few cents.
People say that Sai Baba is an uncommon man. He has the power to make golden rings and necklaces out of thin air. It was said he was able to create a special holy powder in the same way. At the entrance, a lady who said she was from Switzerland directed us to our room. She asked us not to have sex while we were staying in the ashram. Moreover, she asked me to buy a traditional Indian dress for my wife. In fact, it was not possible for ladies to stay in that holy place in casual Western clothes.
The meeting place with Sai Baba was a large hall that could hold 10,000 or more people. The meeting happened in the evening. Men and women were not allowed to stay together in the hall, so my wife took a seat on the right, while I sat down on the left side of the hall. Sai Baba was sitting in a wheelchair. I couldn’t see him because I was far away, but my wife spotted him and got the sensation of seeing a very weak man.
Later, at lunch I exchanged a few words with an Italian guy whose wife was a devotee of Sai Baba.  “I’ve come here for twenty-five years!” he said. “I have seen Sai Baba’s materializations many times. He gave my wife a golden ring, which she keeps at home in Italy.”
Before leaving the ashram, my wife bought a booklet that described Sai Baba’s teachings. Food is God was the title of the small book. The first line said, “You are what you eat.” By reading that booklet, I learned how to purify my body and mind just by eating natural, sound food, which obviously doesn’t include meat.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

LIFE IN ARAMBOL BEACH, GOA (INDIA)

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The Arambol beach has a different look in the morning than it does in the evening. Usually my wife and I went to the beach at daybreak. The sun had not risen yet behind the hills, and the fishermen strained to beach their heavy boats. Sometimes I helped some of them with that hard effort. Some people enjoyed jogging, while others did Tai Chi. I noticed that a great many had themselves tattooed. An old man even had a tattoo on his face, while other tattoos on his body depicted barbed wire and scenes of violence.
Each person seemed a separate world. It happened that a man who brought his chessboard to the beach invited me to play with him under the scorching sun. I didn’t feel like playing chess at the time and kindly declined his invitation, but I later saw him playing with someone else.
What struck me was the solitude of many people in Arambol. I observed the solitary souls in the early morning at the beach and in the evening at the restaurant.
“I would not be able to spend my holidays alone at a beach resort,” my wife said.
“Me either!” I answered.
Indeed, during my youth it was quite unusual to see a person walking alone in the streets; a lonely person was considered mad. In the summer when I wanted to go to the beach, I was careful not to leave Enna alone. I feared that if someone from the town saw me alone they would have pity and say, “Look at poor Vincenzino. He is alone like a madman.” Therefore, I was never alone, and it didn’t matter if my fellow traveler was smart or cheerful. The important thing was that I had a companion. One year I went on holiday at a seaside resort with a companion who wasn’t very intelligent, just so that I wasn’t alone.
In Goa, I had the opportunity to see the absurdity of my previous behavior. There is a basic distinction between solitude and loneliness. The former is free choice, while the latter is feeling, usually linked with melancholy or sadness. You can be in solitude without feeling sad. Many people in Arambol were living in their freely chosen solitude, but I didn’t get the feeling that they felt alone.
Walking along the beach, I saw a lady that danced before the sea, a man playing the flute, and a group of Indian young men who played cricket. As for us, my wife suggested saluting the rising sun and imagining that its golden light pervaded our entire bodies, healing and purifying them.
In the evening, the atmosphere was completely different. Many people walked along the beach. It was like being at Belvedere in Enna during the summer, where people enjoyed strolling on the crammed public walk. Little by little daylight gave its place to night, and every now and then the disgusting smell of marijuana wafted in the air. It happened that some drug peddlers approached to try to sell us marijuana. I was looking for natural paradise, not an artificial and transient pleasure like that given by drugs, so I refused.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

CROSSING THE HIMALAYAS BY BUS

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There is a mountain pass from Manali to Lee. It is the highest pass in the world  at 5,500 meters above sea level. It is difficult to breathe at that altitude. You have to drink a lot of water. There are also no toilets on the road, so the bus stops from time to time along the way.
“Our bus broke down, and we were given the option of spending the night in a marquee at an altitude of around four thousand meters or continuing our way with another bus that had a few vacant seats. I opted for continuing my journey, because I couldn’t endure the altitude. I was very dizzy and had the feeling that I would collapse at any moment.
“The bus travelled on a vast plateau. No roads or paths were visible, but the driver seemed to know the way very well. I never imagined that there were such vast tablelands in the Himalayas. It was almost like a lunar landscape. The soil was dry, and needles and rocks emerged from the ground here and there—no trees, not a blade of grass. I had the sensation of having landed on another deserted planet in our solar system. Apparently, the monsoons can’t overcome the mountain range. Nevertheless, now and then I spotted some isolated green areas.”
“How is it possible that there are only patches that are green with trees? I asked a person sitting next to me.”
“It is like an oasis in the desert. Somehow there is water underneath the ground. The city of Lee is just an oasis. It doesn’t rain there much, but the area is rich in underground water, he answered.”
“We reached the maximum altitude of the pass and I felt relieved,” the woman continued. “From then on the bus would go downhill. The worst had passed, and gradually  I started breathing normally.”

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo