Mark Moxon wrote:The Summer Palace
My intentions in Mt Abu were physical but somewhat less romantic: I had an aching body and wanted to do nothing strenuous for a few days. I couldn’t have picked a better spot because, according to my guidebook, there was precious little going on in Mt Abu, and that suited me fine. What I didn’t realise was that the guidebook was utterly useless when it came to the reality of Mt Abu: it turned to be one of the highlights of my trip.
I did indeed spend my first two days doing next to nothing: writing letters, resting my aching toe (following the climb in Palitana), eating copious masala dosas in the local restaurants and ambling round the lake. My hotel, the Shree Ganesh, was so friendly and pleasant I nearly forgot I was in India (especially as I had satellite TV in my room, a bonus in a room costing Rs150 a night), and I revelled in the holiday atmosphere. Doing nothing was never so much fun, but I can’t seem to do nothing for more than one day or my head explodes, so I decided that my foot would just have to suffer: Mt Abu had things to explore, and I was bloody well going to explore them. Overlooking the lake is the Maharaja of Jaipur’s old summer palace, a mouldering old building perched on top of a sheer granite hill. I wandered up there on the morning of Wednesday 17th June, just for the view, and soon found myself chatting to the caretaker.
‘Want to come inside?’ he asked.
‘If it’s possible,’ I replied.
‘Why not?’ he said, and unable to think of a reason I followed him up to the roof. ‘I sleep here every night,’ he said, pointing to a beautifully constructed pavilion on the top of a tower, the highest point of the palace. Climbing to the top, I had a view of Mt Abu that was beautiful in the daytime, but which would be simply amazing at dawn and dusk. ‘You sleep here?’ I asked, unable to believe that a man with such a non-end job – looking after a building that’s used for nothing and doesn’t even see any tourists – could have such a stunning bedroom. ‘Yes, every night,’ he said, and winked. It wasn’t just the shaggy beard and George Harrison hair that made him look happy, it was his eyes. I was to come across quite a few other intensely happy people in Mt Abu.
One of the reasons for this is the Brahma Kumaris Spiritual University, the headquarters of which are in Mt Abu. Purporting to combine all the religions of the world into one spiritual philosophy, this multinational collection of ashrams is totally funded by donations (evidently very large donations) and fills the streets of Mt Abu with white-clad people who are obviously quite at ease with life. I decided to float along to the centre’s museum where the basics of their mission are explained, mainly because I’d never bothered to venture into an ashram, and this was the nearest I could get without risking my mental health.
It was a real groovy trip, man. It was, like, far out, know what I mean? Sitting alone in a theatre equipped with funky lasers and mellow soundtracks, I listened to a delightfully English accent tell me that if my life was getting me down, I could solve it all by getting into meditation. I found out that if the rat race was proving a burden, I could commune with the one true God and get into real salvation. And then I began to lose track of quite what was going on. Perhaps the problem was that my life wasn’t getting me down, and the rat race was proving nothing but a distant memory, but I still wanted to know what it was that had made The Maharaja of Jaipur’s old summer palace overlooks central Mt Abu
The headquarters of Brahma Kumaris these centres spring up all over the world, providing guidance to all sorts of nationalities and creeds. Unfortunately the woman’s diatribe started to sink into the realm of sixties cliché, and that’s when I realised that every cliché has to start somewhere, and I’d surely found a place that was responsible for some of the more embarrassing psychedelic buzz words. Meditation is cool, but it doesn’t half make some people start spouting bollocks, and the Brahma Kumaris presentation was no exception.
I had already met two kindly products of the university in the street who had practically begged me to drop by for a chat and to meet the only westerner currently studying there, an Australian painter called Dave; my idea of hell is something akin to being stuck in an ashram with an Australian painter called Dave, so I thanked them and managed to escape, but still the influence of Brahma Kumaris lived on in my visit to the museum. Here’s an example of what I discovered about the Meaning of Life. A big sign sits in the museum, proclaiming the following: Puzzle of Life Solved
All suffering is due to vices. Vices are due to ignorance. Ignorance can be removed by Godly knowledge. Godly knowledge is imparted by God himself at the end of Iron Age (Kaliyuga). This is the end of Iron Age. Therefore, now you can attain supreme purity, peace and prosperity, which is your godfatherly birthright in the new Golden Aged world now being re-established. Now or never.
What the buggery is that supposed to mean? If that one’s a little too esoteric, try this one. On
another wall in the museum is the following list of entries in God’s curriculum vitae:
• Who is God? Supreme Father of all souls
• Name: Trimurti Shiva
• Form: Incorporeal point of light
• Abode: Infinite divine light (Brahmlok or Paramdham)
• Attributes: Purifier; Ocean of Knowledge; Bestower of Peace, Love,
Happiness and Bliss; Almighty Authority
• Occupation: Re-establishes one original Golden Aged deity religion after
destruction of numerous Iron-Aged degraded religions of the world.
• Time of Descent: Confluence (Sangam) of the end of Iron Age and beginning of Golden Age (at the end of every Kalpa – one Kalpa is 5000 years)
Whoa! So God is an incorporeal point of light, after all, and that’s what students like Dave get into when they hang out doing Raja Yoga in their ashrams (of which there are over 4000 in over 60 countries, incidentally). It all starts to make sense now ...