Daily Life at Adyar

The heavy monsoon weather has passed and Chennai is now in its winter, reminiscent of tropical climates such as Hawaii or coastal Florida, with sunshine, balmy breezes, & sporadic showers. It is THE time to visit if you cannot tolerate heat.

In this post I am sharing the photos of my living quarters and locale. For many of you it may seem rather primitive, yet I feel I am living in a palace; surrounded by Nature, my needs comfortably met. How much of life is spent trying to provide for a comfort level established by one’s upbringing or society in which there are too many THINGS?? Things meant to bring us happiness and eventually ending up in the garage or storage locker! I have lived like a monk for years and do realize it is not possible or desirable for everyone, still, this Christmas we can consider our relationship to the ecology of owning things ?

I do wish you all a wonderful holiday! The meaning of the season whether you are Christian, Jewish, or other, refers to the increased capacity for light. Light in the heart, light in the home, light in the world!! Holiday Blessings and Love!!

Since many of these photos require some explanation, check out the captions below. As always click back and forth for the full view.

Photo Captions:

1. Doorway to Heaven: This is the entrance passage to the second floor of a building know as the New Quadrangle, where my room is located.

2. Bedroom: What more is needed than a bed, a desk, a yoga mat, and an altar ?!

3. Common washing area for teeth, dishes, or laundry. Yes, I am hand washing my clothes in a bucket! There is laundry service however for the less frugal.

4. View from the patio with clothesline: Being among the trees means sharing with chipmunks, many types of birds, and an occasional monkey.

5. Shower Room: cold water only. In these temperatures hot is really not needed, however desirable.

6. Squat toilet: I have told students for years about squatting and hip flexibility. Toilet paper is a different discussion!

7. The beautiful dining room of the Indian Quarters known as Bhojanasala. Krishna as a baby is known as Bala Krishna.

8. Southern Indian lunch: (counterclock wise from the cup) rasa, a thin, spicy vegetable broth; sautéed mung beans; turmeric rice; folded chapatti bread; papadum, a lentil flour cracker; and chayote squash curry. Soooo good!

9. Raja the head cook and a satisfied customer!

10. Banyan tree opposite my building: A banyan tree sends out roots from its branches eventually creating a small forest from a single tree. Here the slender trees are roots of the big tree.

11. The shore along the Adyar property: A lone coconut in the foreground.

12.  Sunset over Adyar: The Theosophical Society property begins at the tree line.


The Theosophical Society was founded in 1875 as an organization to promote the understanding of the unity of all Life, or World Brotherhood. Considering that this was the Victorian era, the founders of the Society were certainly ahead of the times. Theosophy has played a major role in bringing about increased awareness, worldwide, of metaphysical concepts, and the understanding that all religions are based on the same Truth. The various religious Teachers may have been different, but all of these leaders were essentially talking about the same principles.

Adyar has been the International Center of the Theosophical Society since 1882. Most of the buildings included in this post are over 120 years old. The property is situated on the Bay of Bengal (aka the ocean) and is a wondrous natural park in the midst of the city of Chennai, the 4th largest city in India. The Adyar Library and Research Center houses many very old manuscripts and is visited by scholars from all over the world in their research efforts. In the spirit of religious unity, there are throughout the grounds, temples honoring many of the major world religions.

Each year from November through January, the Society hosts a study course called The School of Wisdom. I am participating in the 2009 course, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to spend several months studying philosophy among world class scholars and spiritual teachers. The recent classes have focused on the Jnana Yoga wisdom of J. Krishnamurti.

The monsoons have taken a break, which means that now it is very hot. Imagine Miami in the summer without air conditioning! As I said earlier, heaven and hell can be the same place!  For instance, a huge Thanksgiving feast may indeed seem like heaven going down but the resulting lethargy could be more similar to…… !  I hope you all have a happy and conscious Thanksgiving!! Love from steamy Chennai.

As always, click back and forth for a better view of the photos.

Monsoon. Mosquitoes, and Meditation

It’s been an interesting week here in Chennai with the beginning of the monsoon season. Torrential rain has made it difficult on almost ever level. Since my mode of transportation is a bicycle, flood rains make it hard to get about for shopping (food and clothing, I am still working on an Indian wardrobe) or Internet (communication with you all) or you name it. I showed up for a class at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram
( more on that in another post) soaked through to the skin, literally!!

Thusly, life has been a bit like living in a terrarium, with everything damp and soggy. Chennai is tropical, and the plant life is amazing; palms, ferns, and flowering trees to boggle the mind. With the onset of rain, the mosquito population has increased exponentially. Now my life involves a combination of skin repellant and citronella candles and benzocaine. A first for me is waking up with bites on my lips!! a bit like collagen injections!!

All this then is the backdrop for a Vipassana meditation retreat with a visiting teacher, Ajahn Sumedho Bhikkhu, of the Thai Theravaden Buddhist tradition. Imagine torrential rain, mosquitoes, and 6 hours of meditation a day! Sumedho is an amazing teacher and I am so very blessed to have this opportunity to practice with him. However it is a bit comical. When the Buddhist’s say heaven and hell are the same thing, they mean it!

It’s a bit hard to take photos in the rain. These were taken during the daily lull in rain and will give you some perspective. Well, if I was looking to be comfortable ……. !  I hope that the love and prayers from the fire in my heart will arrive dry to you all there Stateside.