Saturday, January 29, 2005

Under The Spreading Banyan Tree (Finally)

We meet with Pedro for lunch but have one more obstacle to overcome before we finally get to walk in the grounds of the Theosophical Society - the security guard at the gate. Yes, we had the audacity to arrive at 5 to 2, and walking hours are clearly stated at 2pm. If he lets us answer the oceans will dry up, all cattle will be stillborn and a plague of ladybirds will descend upon Chennai for a year and a day, feasting on every Thali they can find. At least I think that's what he's trying to tell us. In punishment we are made to wait until 5 past 2 before entering.

Our first stop is the Banyan Tree, which is the second largest Banyan in the world at over 250 feet wide. It is reputed to be between 200 and 400 years old (sources vary greatly). It is just not what I expected, being spread out over a wide area with numerous smaller trunks and aerial roots.

We move on, and even though there are some interesting parts to the grounds I have to say I am disappointed with the neglected feel to the place (even though there are quite a few people working on the grounds). The main headquarters is impressive in a white marble sterile sort of way, and just outside a little lotus tank catches my eye (and my camera). Les guides us to a little Buddhist Shrine which is another great photo-opportunity as I leave Les and Pedro (Colin has headed off to KYM for a consultation) chatting about the differences (and similarities) between Zen and Vipassana meditation.

After a while we head back to the gate and await the return of Colin (and Suresh). Back at the hotel I go for a nap, exhausted by the touring we've done. I awake with a start and kick my travel alarm across the room, having lain round the wrong way. A few hours later, after hitting the Internet, I am back in bed and again wake with a start, this time kicking a glass across the room with more damaging consequences. A mixture of the cold and jet lag keeps me from a good night's sleep, but eventually I manage to drop off.