Samdarshan - Learnings from ESI

Posted by Christopher Lowman on Feb 14, 2017

[Originally Posted by Christopher Lowman]

Between October, 2015 and January, 2017, I spent a cumulative total of 13 months living at ESI next to the Hriday Kunj, in one of the “Be” meditation huts. What unfolded in between turned out to be a somewhat unexpected and arduous inner journey—the potency of which I am just starting to get a glimpse of now, having left that sacred space a little over two weeks ago.

I want to share here what I consider to be the root of that experience. Root meaning the deepest learning, deepest insight, and deepest part of me that was affected by that journey. There are
dozens of things I could focus on but I want to try and give words to the primary bhav that feels to be of greatest personal significance.

First, a brief introduction for those that don’t me. In 1999, when I was still in college, I met an Ayurvedic doctor in London whose single treatment caused me to understand that everything we tend to seek in the outside world (security, happiness, love) can be internally derived. I intuitively understood that this tool I had just experienced, Ayurvedic medicine, was a path to that end and that by cleansing your inner dirt, as this medicine does, your full human potential can be expressed effortlessly. At once, I realized there was not a more urgent task than this. I traveled back to New York City (my place of birth) inspired to find an Ayurvedic doctor there and continue with this work. Knowing whatever I would be doing in the future would not require academic education or credentials, I even considered dropping out of college (but did end up graduating in 2001 from NYU).

Who am I? An intention to know myself and discover the “Kingdom of Heaven” described in the Bible. And the same could be said for all the time and activity that has past since. It’s all a reflection of this. After that experience in London, a path opened up, one that I have been walking in trust ever since. That path led me to the underground electronic music industry, to an intense corporate
consulting job, to California to be with my dad during his final days, to studying and practicing various methods of yoga and sadhana, to difficult relationships and dark nights of the soul, to Indian saints and Hindu temples, and then to Rwanda in E. Africa in 2009.

When I tell this story about reaching Rwanda, I usually invoke Joseph Campbell and his famous quote, “If you follow your bliss, doors will open where you would not have thought; and where
there wouldn’t be a door for anybody else.” In Rwanda, I found my bliss. There, I had the blessed opportunity to work in a therapeutic context with a number of young adults who were left orphaned and severely traumatized by the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The heart breaking “survivor” stories I heard, seeing how my education in medicine could help, the exquisite sense of humanity I experienced from those with so little, and the joy of travel combined to form a question in my heart, “How can I do this kind of work full-time?”

In 2011, I followed my bliss. I quit my job, gave up my home, and shed myself of the majority of my possessions and took a dive into the unknown. I reached Ahmedabad and the Gandhi Ashram and the rest, you could say, is history. The doors that Campbell spoke of, started to open. Present day, I spend large swaths of time in India and Kenya, traveling back and forth in a play of sadhana and seva. After more than six years of living like this, I think I can safely say an answer to the question I asked in Rwanda has come. That’s enough about me. ;)

So what was the root bhav of staying at ESI all these past many months? What was the result of merging with the heart centre of that special space? As I spoke about in last year’s “laddership” retreat, the sanskrit term sam seemed to be following me around quite closely. My room at ESI is called Samagrata. An ashram I connected to intimately near campus is called Samdarshan, and the anchor of that space is called Swamini Guruma Samanand Saraswati.

Something was trying to inform me about essential sameness/absoluteness/completeness. I can be a terrible judger. Terrible. To the point I cause myself and others pain. That’s not a
quality that can hang around on the path to zero because it separates zero into one into two. When I judge, I separate myself (as superior) from the thing (usually a person or behavior) I’m
judging. Suffering and tension all around is the result.

At ESI, we sometimes have issues with behavior (mine included) that breaks our fairly strict honor code. What I witnessed time and time again — much to my awe — was how those issues
were given space to be, no different than our beautiful palms growing on the Dil Ki Rasta that appear to be “in the way” and requiring pruning. The issues were not immediately fixed. There
were no sit down talks and the like. Instead, they were given a place at the table—in certain instances, appreciated even.

I heard Jayeshbhai say recently, concerning the “administration” of ESI, that he is not interested in perfection. He’s not interested in correcting every single so called wrong. He said he’s most interested in people being in a state of joy as they work (imagine!). To me, that means increasing your tolerance for people’s idiosyncrasies. ESI is a space of cultivation or incubation, and Jayeshbhai similarly gives all its guests and residents space to cultivate themselves. Often that means allowing them to make mistakes or break the honor code.

In a powerful sit about a week before I left, he told me directly that he is always ready to love and serve whoever, in whatever shape they are in, no matter what they have done and that he leaves administration and interventions to “the space.” In that exchange — and this is not an exaggeration — I felt as if I had been given a glimpse of what God’s love is like. Universal.

Unconditional. Non-judgmental. Totally, 100% forgiving of every blasphemy. It was profoundly humbling knowing my own judgmental tendencies. Such was the root of my 13-month experience. Seeing (and receiving) this type of love and realizing that behind it lies samdarshan. Seeing all as the same. Seeing all as One, which means not believing in essential difference. Everything has its place. All the trouble in the world and in people has its rightful place. All the good, the same. Everything is playing its part. How can we, in our limited understanding of the whole, judge right, wrong, good, or bad? All labels dissolve. Nothing needs changing, nothing needs doing.

With this understanding more firmly established in my heart, I realize you can relax more. You can let go of any need you might have to intervene but, instead, let things and people be, and allow whatever power that makes the seasons change, handle the rest. In the meantime, our job becomes to enjoy, love, and serve… for all is well.

Though the seeds are still sprouting, I feel forever changed because of this unique experience and the love and I knowledge I received. It’s as if a stuck window has been opened and the wind and sun are entering again to do their healing rounds. I’ve even witnessed myself being more open and loving in instances where maybe that wouldn’t have been the case before. I would like to end with a bow of deep gratitude, as well as with a prayer that this new awareness enables me to become a more refined instrument of service to the world, as well as a kinder human being.

Posted by Christopher Lowman on Feb 14, 2017 | permalink

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  • khushmita wrote ...

    Thanks for sharing this reflection of truth, love and compassion at its very core with all of us Chris. It was deeply enriching to read and learn from.

  • Smita wrote ...

    Chris I am lucky to have met you at ESI and get a visiting card the logo on which speaks volumes about you. You are a man of few carefully chosen words whether you are speaking one to one or one to many.
    The blog is so deeply enriching, heartfelt and soulful thank you appreciate the sharing.

  • Sanchi Chandna wrote ...

    Krishna Bhaiya :) I have heard many of this from you and I want to tell you. You too are an example of Samdarsh. How your looked at your fall at the leprosy community, the twisted ankle you and before that :)
    I love you :)

  • Kishan wrote ...

    Dear brother, deep gratitude for consistently teaching me to open the heart and to deepen to become the instrument of thy love and grace. It's a blessing to witness part of your journey and every time I had an opportunity to interact with you with or without words, I learnt, I learnt to cultivate seeds of "Samata" equanimity and of Sam Darshan. While you are traversing your path in another land with the spirit of Love Jagat, your noble friends including me are also benefited in the journey together. With prayers and metta, bowing to your heart...

  • Ashima wrote ...

    Dearest Chris! Thanks so much for sharing your deepest bhaav! I remember listening to you as you spoke of sam at the leadership retreat and it is such a deep learning to read your reflections. I feel like I should keep reminding myself that "all is well" and my job is only to enjoy, love, and serve. Thank you again so much for this blog post. I know I will keep coming back to it.
    lots of love

  • Jyoti wrote ...

    I am touched by the way you share your reflections and the process(is it the right expression.)you experienced with all openness and no defences! Wonderful.
    I want to and will try not to presume.

  • Rajni wrote ...

    Thanks for beautiful article. May others get inspired and follow suit. Our mind is the cause of all the sorrows. I have read many positive thinking articles and get benefited by inching towards positive attitude. Having full faith in Sri Sathya Sai Baba and his teachings my life has become worthwhile, desireless, compassionate and serving others.
    I love reading your article. I will share it with 200 of my email contacts and scores of friends on FB as well as on . Many of them love my posting everyday. Thanks a lot.

  • Dinesh wrote ...

    I am ignorant -- ESI? What is ESI? Where?

  • Karan wrote ...

    Dear Dinesh, ESI stands for Environmental Sanitation Institute, (see link) - will give you more details about the work they do for environment and sanitation, but to know how they create a space empowering an individual for inner-transformation ( like the one shared above!) you will have to visit ESI :)

  • Zilong Wang wrote ...

    Thank you, brother Chris/Krishna, for sharing your deepest yearnings and learnings! It is a blessing to receive your bhav through osmosis next door to you! :)

  • paperhelp wrote ...

    The department of the ESI has been opened from the several years ago and all the professors of this has been qualified from the international universities. These universities have been also taught the member of paperhelp company that are making the papers for the books.