Sometimes I romanticize the monastic life. At times I even think I could shave off my hair, let go of everything and spend the rest of my life in meditation contemplating the workings of the universe. Then I get a taste of it and realize just how cut out for it I am not.
For one thing, there’s this business of getting up while it’s still dark out. Often I’m an earlier riser, but I like to early rise on my own schedule. This means beginning the day with a cup of coffee, lazing around, reading, going for a walk, talking to my cat.
Last week I spent some time at the Hare Krishna ashram in Guwahati and they win the prize for early risers. At 3:30 a.m. some monk walks around clanging a bell in order to get us over to the temple by 4 to chant and clap and do the Krishna thing.
I had to ask. Why 4 a.m.?
And the answer is because in the early morning there is a cosmic opening and God hears our prayers better. But when it’s 4 a.m. in India, it’s 4 p.m. somewhere else. And I really don’t think God wants to hear what I say when I’m woken up by bells at 3:30 in the morning.
As if the early rising isn’t bad enough, the Hare Krishnas are so strict they don’t even drink tea which explains the splitting headache I had my first couple days while I went through caffeine withdrawal.
So early rising. No caffeine to wake me up. If I were male there might be compensations. They get to hug each other, hop up and down, play the drums and cymbals. We women are pretty much relegated to clapping on the sidelines.
It’s probably good to get a dose of reality now and then. The monastic life is hard. It takes an incredible amount of discipline, faith, commitment and trust in the path. I don’t see myself taking monastic vows anytime soon.