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Vikasa 2016 – A Microcosm of Life’s AlaCarte packed into 7 days

Vikasa 2016 – A Micro­cosm of Life’s AlaCarte packed into 7 days

Anu­va Agar­w­al, Vision India Foun­da­tion


A bright yel­low jack­et clad some­one scam­pered across the two train boo­gies booked for the par­tic­i­pants of Vikasa 2016, try­ing to remem­ber each per­son­al­i­ty she met, absorb­ing each name, and fail­ing mis­er­ably in con­tain­ing her won­der when she first shook hands with the super­cal­ifrag­ilis­tic­ex­pi­ali­do­cious and awe-inspir­ing Sh. Adi­narayan ji. Lit­tle did she know that the walls of aver­sion owing to mis-con­strued con­no­ta­tions attached to words such as Dhar­ma, Kama, Artha, etc., would come crash­ing down and instead be replaced by flu­id bound­aries. Fast for­ward 7 days and she strug­gles to assim­i­late the expand­ed sense of real­i­ty that had just begun to engulf her – an ode to a time when each of the 24 hours felt longer, with an expe­ri­ence where each ses­sion opened doors of the mind, that she didn’t know, exist­ed.

Hav­ing lis­tened to one who describes yoga as a hackathon of the body’s ‘soft­wares or process­es’; talks of bore­dom as a huge­ly self-lim­it­ing con­struct and that if one feels bored, tells them to “Be ful­ly bored and then see the ‘you’ emerge out of this bore­dom – your new­ness will amaze you”; mea­sures the robust­ness of a sys­tem – mind and body in par­tic­u­lar, through its abil­i­ty to cor­rect itself; main­tains a vision of equal­i­ty but expres­sion that is con­text appro­pri­ate (eg. a teacher treats one child with a kind word, anoth­er with a severe rep­ri­mand – all for their ben­e­fit), empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of ‘bha­va’ or inten­tion; etcetera, had me hooked before I knew it. What real­ly struck me was the depth of the frame­works — right from under­stand­ing the sci­ence behind hav­ing a mean­ing to a name – using the pow­er of thought toward growth path­ways, to draw­ing from extra­or­di­nary admin­is­tra­tion and lead­er­ship lessons from the Mahab­harat, to the con­cept of iden­ti­ty as some­thing that is not just lim­it­ed to what we cre­ate but in many ways what is impressed upon the sub­con­scious over time, to under­stand­ing the fal­lac­i­es of aim­less intel­lec­tu­al­iza­tion (which by the way seems to gov­ern a lot of our mind­space in con­tem­po­rary times) of every process instead of an action ori­ent­ed approach. As an explor­er of beliefs, an athe­ist and rebel, being exposed to the essence of the Indi­an Sci­ences from a sci­en­tif­ic lens, devoid of reli­gious under­pin­nings was new. The var­i­ous aspects of these sci­ences – right from astron­o­my, to the lessons drawn from the Mahab­harat, to health, food, yoga, body con­sti­tu­tions, med­i­ta­tion, spir­i­tu­al­i­ty, human psy­chol­o­gy and phys­i­ol­o­gy — were just the tip of the ice-berg and for me to elab­o­rate on every aspect of what was, would be hard. This camp was just for a sneak-peak into our ‘shrunk­en real­i­ties in des­per­ate need of per­spec­tive’.

To make learn­ing inde­pen­dent of the event, once it is over, is imper­a­tive for per­son­al growth. Whether heart­break or a ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemon­ade’ sit­u­a­tion, we feed off each other’s idio­syn­crasies, at times draw­ing sadis­tic plea­sure, at times just being our­selves, con­fused at what is the course of this ‘unknown’ bal­ance — this Ala Carte even­tu­al­ly boil­ing down to the path we resort to, to move toward our san­er selves. Even if I haven’t got to the ‘giv­ing words’ stage, it final­ly feels as if I have hit the right cur­rents after being aim­less­ly adrift in the open sea, not know­ing where they’ll car­ry me but sure of the direc­tion of the flow and ener­gy they pos­sess. #Faith

If some­one asks some­thing about ayurve­da, our most like­ly response will be that of guilt at not know­ing instead of mere dis­missal say­ing “I am not an ayurve­da prac­ti­tion­er”. We as a civ­i­liza­tion are not known to oper­ate in bina­ry spaces, but instead, in holis­tic ones. Bina­ry exis­tence which hails absence of action as the root cause of con­fu­sion is indeed mind bog­gling in its sim­plic­i­ty and depth. Con­sid­er the prac­tice of walk­ing on water attained due to years of ‘sad­hana’ aka prac­tice — the act in itself serves no pur­pose, one might as well take a boat. But the key lies in the process of hav­ing cul­ti­vat­ed a taste in repeat­ed ‘sad­hana’, and it is this taste that becomes all-con­sum­ing and that’s when results cease to mat­ter. Like­wise, the ‘taste’ for lead­er­ship is not just about influ­enc­ing peo­ple but also as much about influ­enc­ing spaces to achieve what is envi­sioned. Con­ver­sa­tions with peers who were patient with my ideas of athe­ism — teach­ing me instead to be con­fi­dent and unapolo­getic in expres­sion, respect­ing my aver­sion to sub­scribe to labels despite believ­ing in some them­selves, was plu­ral­ism at its best and formed one of the many mem­o­rable moments for me at this Lead­er­ship Camp.

There is a ten­den­cy to treat each inter­ac­tion like a project where as soon as we see dimin­ish­ing val­ue assigned, over and above the ‘cost of engage­ment’ we cease all com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Draw­ing from per­son­al expe­ri­ence, it brought me face to face with how frag­ile and del­i­cate the human(‘s) bal­ance of emo­tions is. It is as if the cen­tre of grav­i­ty of this dis­play is nowhere in the cen­tre but held, in part by each of its con­stituents. The true essence of each aspect of what had been shared on each day, is com­ing to the fore­front only one day at a time, with every expe­ri­ence post Vikasa. We are often con­front­ed with sit­u­a­tions we nev­er wished we were in, or peo­ple we always wished were as nice to us as they are to oth­ers, latch­ing onto past expe­ri­ences just as if they were as fresh in the mind as when they first hap­pened. Imag­ine a stick that was your com­pan­ion for a long trek, falls into a riv­er. When you feel sad about it, the prob­lem wouldn’t be the loss of the stick but the attach­ment to the lost stick. This is actu­al­ly the whole essence of vairagya or intel­li­gent detach­ment i.e., not asso­ci­at­ing raga (attrac­tion) or dwe­sha (repul­sion) to an event, once it has occurred. This is not to be con­fused with a state of emo­tion­less sto­ic­i­ty but instead focus­es on rev­el­ing in the fullest aspect of feel­ing (because that’s what makes life worth it!) but know­ing to ‘let go’ when the moment is passé.

The eye of this explor­er, cloud­ed by the lens of a rebel, now feels clear and shiny with a pal­pa­ble sense of expan­sion of the con­scious­ness in com­ing face to face with ques­tions that were always there but refused to sur­face or con­vert. Mind you, these are not the rant­i­ngs of an evan­galised mind but the mus­ings of a thought­ful one. As Sh. Adi­narayan ji says, “The eye for appre­ci­a­tion comes from knowl­edge”.

Some­things, as they say, are meant to be and they couldn’t have been any bet­ter — to expe­ri­ences, con­fes­sions and expand­ed con­scious­ness to push­ing the lim­its of a ‘always-been-wear­ing shoes-city bred’ self, strug­gling to walk bare­foot on the peb­bles from the Ashram build­ing to the din­ing hall which was bare­ly a 15metre walk. The con­clu­sion of Vikasa has made me under­stand the full cir­cle that life is – not dis­con­nect­ed con­cen­tric cir­cles, but more like an upward spi­ral­ing helix! Thank you Sh Adi­narayan ji and Smt Smrithi ji – you make me want to bow down to all that is there around me with the deep­est sense of grat­i­tude, re-instill­ing a respon­si­ble exis­tence that was meant to sus­tain. As they say, you often need a frame­work to fit a lot of what you know in life — to actu­al­ly enjoy the grub in the larder, the shelves you put them into affects acces­si­bil­i­ty and taste. The clean shelves feel fresh and the aware­ness that comes from this ‘arrange­ment’ has left me empow­ered at the core. The feel-good is sim­ply a part of what is spilling over. The true essence is yet to be unlocked, acquain­tance with its exis­tence only a begin­ning.

“I’m here for the sanc­ti­ty of what the teach­ings here are about, and not for the social bag­gage nomen­cla­ture might assume affil­i­a­tion to…”

- Anu­va S. Agar­w­al

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