Radhika, Sensei, I and Akira san (who drove the temple van), trundled along rough roads until we hit our first village, not so far from George’s farm. The area is beautiful – ranges of pale blue hills in the distance, Plenty of trees, a large lake with pink water lilies, home to a couple of turtles that often sunned themselves on a rock in the middle of the lake, orchards of mango and chikoo. And the odd chicken farm here and there that would make me sad.
“Why don’t we try some ashram? People will be more spiritually inclined there.” I suggested. “There’s Guru Freddy’s ashram somewhere around here.”
On our way, past fields of finger millet, we stopped by a little shop at a junction to ask for directions and noticed a large village to the right.
“Let’s check it out,” said Radhika.
We went through lanes bordered with clean neat houses, some of them with small gardens and asked our way to the headman’s house who wasn’t there. Dejected we went back to the van, but as soon as we reached it, a dark young man clad in a ‘lungi’ came up to us and asked what we wanted. I do not understand Kannada, but I could tell the gist of the conversation between Radhika and the man who invited us to his village nearby. How happy we were! He said there were 300 houses in his village. He got into the van and we took off, excited, grinning at each other. Finding a village for the Kyudo was not something that happened by chance. It was Maitreya’s plan.
Radhika spoke to the man’s eager family and showed them the photographs of a famous South Indian actor who had attended the Kyudo. They were impressed. We were offered fresh coconut water from their own coconut trees.
The ceremony was held in a school room. I conducted it with Radhika while Akira san took care of filling the forms with the names of the attendees.
Unpacking the ‘portable altar’ was a joy. Unwrapping slowly and carefully, the three tall polished brass lamps, the incense, the little brass urn in which to stand the incense, the yellow altar cloth and most beautiful of all, the porcelain Laughing Buddha, my favourite among the many figurines I had seen.
All windows and doors were closed for the secret initiation. Usually in the villages, people would hang around the windows to watch.
After we had offered the bananas and coconuts, lifting the platters to our Third Eye and then placing them before the Maitreya, Sensei knelt on the rug laid out on the floor. Then Radhika as Conductor 1, standing to Sensei’s right, lit the bunch of incense from the lamp she had already lit, shook the bunch to snuff out the flame and offered it reverently to Sensei.
Amidst our chantings of the names of enlightened beings, Sensei stuck the fragrant incense into the sacred ash in the urn. She invoked the enlightened beings and burned the delicate rice paper with the names of the recipients Akira san had written on it, so their names would be “transferred from this world of suffering to heaven”. It was fascinating to watch the paper shrivel and float up speedily. We caught the smouldering bits of paper when they fell, so they would not fall upon Sensei.
I uttered the oath taken during the Kyudo, asking the attendees to repeat the lines after me. I was very careful at such times, nervous that I might miss out a word. There was a murmur, interspersed with a word here and there because villagers don’t normally speak English. But it’s the intention that counts. The oath requires that one confess if one regresses, not deceive teachers, pass on the message to others and cultivate sincerely lest one is “punished by heaven”.
Then Sensei went to each individual, and with her left hand, gently made a sweeping gesture over their eyes without touching them, and then with a circular movement of her right hand, she “opened” the Third Eye without touching the forehead. “Close your worldly eyes, open your Third Eye, the objective eye, the neutral eye, free from duality; the Eye that sees reality as it really is.”
We watched intently to check whether the recipients were holding the secret hand mudra on their chests correctly, whether their eyes were open. Most tend to close their eyes at this point, but the eyes should be open, looking at the central flame behind the Maitreya, just above his shining bald pate.
Akira always took great pains to place the lamps correctly. She would adjust the placement and all of us would step back to check whether the lamp was exactly at the centre point of Maitreya’s head. Any aberration in this placement was supposed to have negative results.
It was the most well organised ceremony, with people coming in themselves and sitting down in rows so we did not have to shuffle them around much.
Sensei was thrilled with the discipline and cleanliness. They had washed the floors, got a table ready for the altar and brought in lots of fruit and flowers as offerings.
One hundred and thirty seven men and children attended the Kyudo that afternoon. Sensei had hoped for a hundred, so we were elated. Unfortunately, the women were busy with household chores.
I hadn’t had time for breakfast that morning and felt hungry and tired. I told Radhika this when she asked why I looked so tired, after which they kept saying, “Poor Anita san!”
At the next study meeting in the temple, Sensei praised the “brave heart, courage and sincerity” of the introducer who she said, did not have a thought about her hunger either. They don’t usually name names in the temple, which is wise, for it helps to keep egos from burgeoning, but everyone knew I was the introducer and many said they were inspired.
“Anyone can do it,” I told them. It was ‘Kyudo Month’ and those who introduced the most number of people would be rewarded with beautiful pendants, bracelets and statuettes of the Maitreya.
I have won these competitions several times and own a large collection of statuettes. I have given several away to friends who attended the Kyudo.