Time In Silence and Solitude in India

My Return To Maun Room After 28 Years, by Robin Armstrong

Armstrong, Robin, July 1968 in Kumbakonam

Robin Armstrong, the day he emerged from solitary darkness after 13 months.

 

On September 1 to 8, 1997, I returned to India and spent one week in the Maun Room at Kumbakonam. My early experiences in Maun Room in 1968 and 1969 were the most valuable experiences in my life. They have always stayed with me. It was, however very convenient to have them in a pocket of my memory, as something I had done years ago. It was safe to refer to. What had happened could not be changed! I could talk about it with being challenged.
Returning to the Maun Room forced me to bring the past to the present. No longer was this something that I did. It became something I had to do in the present. It was no longer safe. Everything could change in a moment.
Irregardless of how much time one spends in Maun Room, each day presents its own challenges and tribulations. It is never easy! One has to do an audit of one’s reality. Hari Om. Who am I? and where is God? Hari Om.
The ashram and the Maun Room at Kumbakonam had changed dramatically since I had been there. It did not matter to me because this was home. I was born in this room. This space with concrete walls was my spiritual Mother!  Mother had changed over time!
The ashram in 1968 was on the Cauvery River on the outside of town. It was isolated and quiet. The property beside the Ashram and the Maun room was a Bamboo grove which made music when the wind blew. No one lived there. Now in 1997 population growth had made its impact. The ashram was surrounded by homes, mostly poor makeshift huts. These huts were built right on the edges of the ashram property, right up against the fence. The Bamboo grove was gone and one yard from the Maun room there were families living in these simple shelters. Time changes everything, and I had been away a long time.
The Maun Room in Kumbakonam had not been used in many years and it was made ready for me. I was very grateful to Hasmukhlal and Hari Mehta because all the other Maun rooms on Gujarat were booked for the next two years. If I was to return to India I felt that I had to go into the Maun Rooms again. Through the grace of Mota, Hasmukhlal and Hari made everything possible. Hari Om.
The Ashram had changed. The Mehtas were living there now. The property had be renovated and the entire property had been significantly improved. It was beautiful to see. The trees were all twice the size as they were on my first visit. From the outside the Maun room looked the same. The fence on the one side with poor people living against it was the most noticeable difference.
The Maun room itself had changed! A four feet by four feet alter to Ganesh was built into the room on one side. The room was quite small to begin with so this statue was very imposing. Looking one way in the room it was a temple to Ganesh. Looking the other way it was a simple Maun Room. At first I was unpleasantly shocked by Ganesh’s presence, but this room was my spiritual home, and it wouldn’t make a difference to my chanting Hari Om when I was in it.  So I accepted Ganesh as my companion in Maun.
Once in Maun I realized a special meaning in Ganesh’s presence. Years before when I had my vision in Maun room, It came as a blast of lightning in a dark thunderstorm. The lightning seemed to hit the room and blast open the wall, and then it struck me. I expected that I was dead, but after a few moments I began to wonder what had happened. As I wondered, I seemed to travel in my consciousness out to the source of that lightning. When I arrived there I lost myself and had a special cosmic vision of the nature of the Universe. I probably remained in a super-conscious state for several days, and I question if I ever really returned to what was previously normal consciousness. It was this vision of light and of the meaning of life that led me out of the Maun room and back to Canada.
The statue of Ganesh was too large to simply put in the room. Part of the wall had to be torn down so that it could be pushed into the room. The part of the wall that was torn down was the very same part that in my vision almost thirty years before, was hit by the divine stroke of lightning. Behind the statue of Ganesh was a white sun with the word OM in the centre of it.  The very place where that white sun was on the wall, was where the lightning flash of my illumination had struck. And it had an OM right in the middle of it. To me this had significant repercussion and was far more than coincidence. As I chanted in the Maun Room I felt that I had witnessed the birth of a God over time. Where the vision of my life was, there now sits a stone image of Ganesh. From here on I enjoyed thoroughly the company of Ganesh in Maun. During my week in Maun the statue of Ganesh changed its appearance several times. As I walked around the room chanting Hari Om, the statue of Ganesh kept changing into the image of Sathya Sai Baba. This happened repeatedly through the first three days of my stay in Maun.
The first challenge of my week in Maun was overcome by my acceptance of Ganesh’s presence. The second challenge, and a much more difficult one was the close proximity of the poor families at the side of the Maun room. I could not in all consciousness chant loudly through the night or early morning hours as I was aware of it keeping the neighbours awake! Then in the daytime hours, I had to deal with the noises of their domestic household activities, which fortunately were reasonable. This forced me to chant silently instead of openly. A third formidable challenge was the presence of a television on the ashram. Electronic vibrations are a disturbance to sadhana. Yes even electronic bhajans are at times a disturbance for me. Someone singing bhajans live would not have been so soul-less. These challenges created in me a stronger need to chant within and hold to my inner silence. In their own way each problem was a blessing, helping me to increase my intensity. Fortunately, thanks to the grace of Mota, and the love of Hasmukbhai and Hari everything else ran smoothly and made my fifth time in Maun Room a meaningful and successful venture.
It must be understood that this Maun Room had not been used in many years, but it had been maintained as a temple. The functioning of a Maun Room would therefore be more difficult and not as automatic as the regularly used rooms in Gujarat. I am so grateful that this, my special room where I have spent over fifteen months of my life, was made available for me after my being away for such a long time. Hari Om, Mota Hari Om. My comments are not meant as critical statements but to explain the nature of my challenges in Maun. In coming out of Maun Room, everyone was really loving and considerate, but I had difficulty in being around the television. Fortunately it was not always on, and I could usually go down to the river and chant.
One of the most wonderful things about my trip to India this time was that I found out about the people on the outside of the Maun rooms and they helped me to find out some information about the life and person of Mota. I have only met Mota a few times but I have felt his inner guidance  for years. I did not have any of his literature to read as it was all in Gujarati. Now I have been blessed with material about and writings by Mota which have been translated into English. I have found a new relationship to Mota and his ideas. Hopefully more of Mota’s works will be translated into English.
On leaving the Maun Room, I was renewed again. The Maun experience was once again in the present and not comfortably resting in my memories. I have daily kept up my chanting over the years, along with meditation, and my reading of the Bhagavad Gita, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. But now I had renewed my contacts with the devotees of Mota who have affected my life so positively, and I have some of Mota’s books to study. Hari Om.