My goal of going to Shantikunj was to volunteer for 2 months at their university: Dev Sanskriti Vishv Vidhyalay. I had been in communication with some people and it seemed a like a done deal – meaning that they had some projects for me. Since this was my first time at Shantikunj I was advised to attend the 9 day shivir (at Shantikunj) so I could get an idea of what it’s founder Acharya Sharmaji’s philosophy was all about. I was ready for that. Once I had decided to volunteer, I was ready for anything.
After arriving at Shantikunj, Haridwar, on 25th May, I took a break for a few days in Dehradun with family, since the shivir was starting on the 1st of June. I came back to Haridwar on 31st to start my shivir on 1st June.
I was thinking the shivir will be something like getting up in the morning, having breakfast, going for lecture then lunch and more lecture, some bhajan and so on. But I was quite mistaken. I was told that the following was going to be my program for the next nine days:
1. 3:30 am: Get up to get ready for the meditation at 4:30 am.
2. After meditation is yagya for about 30 mins, if you are early, or 15 mins if you arrive after 6 am. (The first yagya is longer because the fire is ignited which includes more mantras.)
3. Then you get a break till 8 am (which is really not a break – see point 11)
4. You have to visit the “akhand deep” once during the day. This deep (lamp) was lit by Acharya Sharmaji more than 70 years ago and it has been lit since then.
5. 8:00 am: lecture, followed by lunch at 10 am.
6. 10 -11:30 am: lunch time and a general rest break till 1:30 pm. (Again – not really a rest break – see point 11. Although we were advised to take a short nap here.)
7. 1:30-2:00 pm: meditation followed by a lecture till 4 pm.
8. Then there is free time until 6pm. (This could be real free time, but not for some of us - see point 11.)
9. 6:00 pm: 15 min meditation and then lecture till 8-8:15 pm. That is when the day is over.
10. In all these days, one is supposed to have satvik bhojan only once a day. I could eat fruits or drink milk other times if you get hungry. Food is provided by the bhojnalay at Shantikunj.
11. Lastly……one is supposed to do 30 maala jap of Gayatri mantra daily, that is saying it 30 x 108 times. So now you can see there is really no free time or break time. This number of jap can take anywhere from 4-5 hours depending on your ease and speed of saying the mantra.
So that is how it was supposed to be. I knew a few of the things I would be required to do, but I was not ready for the 30 maala jap! I was already thinking, what is the point of that?? I am used to listening to speakers, so lectures were not going to be a problem, neither was getting up early. I can do all that….but jap thing was bugging me a bit. But in the spirit of things and with the notion that this is what I am here to do, I dove into the shivir.