Friday, June 15, 2012

Vedanta - 2012 camp

Attended Vedanta - 2012 spiritual retreat at Krishnalaya (of Chinmaya Mission West).

Camp was from June 1 to June 8. 

Fantastic experience. Highly recommend it to anyone seriously interested to learn about Vedanta, learn about meditation, be with spiritual people, hobnob with the likes of Swami Tejomayananda etc.

I am in some group pictures but not easily identifiable. If you do find me, you must be one of my dearest ones! :)

This was my first time. I was looking for a relaxing retreat and came across this place. I have not been a follower of Sri Swami Chinmayanada or anything. I had read his excellent commentary on Indian spiritual classic 'Ashtavakra Gita'. That was about it. I had liked the book very much. It's a great commentary on a great book.

Krishnalaya retreat is located in Piercy, California. Around 250 miles north of the bay area. Right on US-101. The retreat center is off of 101. Just a mile or so inside. It is surrounded by beautiful forests and Eel river flows right behind the center. It's just a 5 minute walk to the Eel river which bends beautifully around the ashram and forms a delightful cove. Perfect for swimming or just to sit and relax. I have not come across more beautiful relaxing area.

It was a wonderful retreat. The retreat house was once a motel, I am told. Dorm like living arrangements. I shared my living space with two other gentlemen - Ravi and James. We met as strangers and by the end of the retreat we became good friends. It's always like that. Right?

Swami Tejomayanada was present on all days. It was such a blessing. He is the current head of Chinmaya Mission - world wide. He is the direct successor of Swami Chinmayanada and was his ardent disciple when  the senior swami was alive. I have only best words for Swami Tejomayanada. He is so well read, so well traveled and truly multi-talented. His talents range from spirituality to Indian classic music to great sense of humor.

What's a typical day like?

6 AM - guided meditation.

7.15 am to 8.15 am - Discourse by Swami Tejomayanada 

8.30 to 9.15 am - Breakfast (veggie continental)

10-11 am - group discussion. Groups of 10-12 people. Facilitated by one of the junior swamis.

11 -12.30 am - personal time for reflection, reading etc.

12.30  - lunch (pure Indian)

3.30 - tea

4.30 to 5.30 pm - another discourse by  Swami Tejomayanada 

6.30 to 7.30 pm - Pooja, aarati, songs etc.

7.30 - dinner (pure Indian)

8.15 to 9 pm - Satsang (lectures, bhajans, light entertainment etc.)

Although the schedule looks pretty demanding, everything is optional. You can pick and choose what you want to attend. 

For me, twice a day, hour long discourses were the best part of the whole week. Swami Tejomayanada is superb. He can really deliver awesome discourses. Sense of humor - just awesome. Thoroughly enjoyed each minute of his lectures. Truly enlightening.

So much free time. Such a beautiful setting and what more you can ask for. I got so much reading done. So happy. 

Connectivity is good if you want to go online etc. But, I recommend not to do that and just unplug and relax. I go to the extent of keeping a week before and week after very lightly plugged in to rest of the world so as to make the best out of that one divine week. Life goes on even without you. Just unplug and immerse yourself in the bliss - free of work, e-mail, internet, phone calls. Truly relaxing.

If you think spiritual retreat is all mediation and no fun, you will be surprised. On the last evening, my fellow retreatants put up a fantastic light entertainment program consisting funny skits, music, recitals and what not. It was really a light entertainment by en'light'ened people.

I can not thank everyone enough for making my retreat experience such a wonderful one. It's all staffed by volunteers. They do everything without asking for anything in return from cooking to office work to maintenance. Great job. Thank you folks.

As I said, place is simply superb. It's in the redwood country. Just a few miles north are the famous redwood tree forests. Great place to go and enjoy the nature. Retreat center itself is like heaven on earth with beautiful forests and Eel river. 

For $800, it's indeed a steal. 

I still go to my ever favorite retreats with Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. I am happy to have discovered this one too.

Just a note. When there are no programs, it's not recommended to visit the place without making prior appointment. They do let people come and stay even when there are no planned events but you need to call and make reservations. Also, when there are no planned events, you are on your own for your food and drinks etc.. Nearest town is like 10 miles or so. Great place to go and relax even by yourself. Just plan ahead and call in advance.

Go to Krishnalaya sometime. You will enjoy!


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