Travel Stories

Sunil and Getting to Delhi

38. Yoga in Varanasi with Sunil

            His name is Sunil Kumar Jinghan, honors in psychology, as his sign says, and yoga pushpa, yoga bhusan, yoga visharad, and reiki master.  At forty six years of age Sunil is the real deal, a slightly paunchy man, with an immense chest and lung capacity, surprising flexibility and great strength, who integrates spirituality, breathing, healing, asana practice, meditation, chanting, mudras, affirmation practice, passion and good humor into his yoga. I spend every minute of my time that he will have me with him in Varanasi, and because his studio is in his home, and he is a gracious man who appears to like me, that turns out to be a couple of eight to ten hour days of yoga, conversation, eating, playing with his infant daughter, hanging out with his young wife and co teacher Bharti (therein a love story), his senior student, Simon, his housekeeper, his cook, the electrician, his brother, his nephew, miscellaneous students, and the monkeys on the rooftop.  I even join Sunil one evening as he moves about in the alleys and streets of Varanasi on missions I cannot fathom, Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote.  It is something beyond ironic, in this city that so repels me, that if I never visited again in life or death would be fine with me, that I should find a yoga guru to whom I am so powerfully drawn that I can imagine returning for a two month teacher training immersion.  Is it really true that whatever happens is the only thing that can happen?

            I like Sunil’s character, his energy and passion, the breath of his knowledge, his vibrancy and vitality.  He has far and away the best yoga library I have ever seen.  I read somewhere on this trip that knowledge is the foundation for right action, but that right thinking must be applied to right knowledge to make it of righteous use, and that the final element in bringing right knowledge and right thinking into proper fruition is character.  I’d been thinking about that on the trip in relationship to myself and to a number of people I know before meeting Sunil (who I got to thru a rickshaw driver in Pune, who led me to Dharmavi, who led me to Aparna, who led me to Varanasi, and then Holi Day, which led me to Heidi, who led me to Sunil) - about the nature and quality of our knowledge, thinking, and character – and I particularly admire how these elements appear to be playing out in Sunil, who says more than once that, since effect depends so much on what is going on in our minds – particularly during our yoga practice (which relates so powerfully to my experiences and my reactions to teachers, tone, language, and setting in my own yoga experience) – that that is why affirmations are of such vital importance. Sunil has a number of great affirmations he requires the student to say out loud at times during practice, just as we chant, and breathe, and move.  Many of the affirmations are of his personal creation, and many are taken from Gertrud Hirschi’s book, Mudras,, which Sunil provides me a copy of.  I particularly like saying while in spinal twist, “In the form of a spiral my path leads to the divine goal where joy and peace rule,” and in back bends, “My heart leads from time to timelessness.”   I can’t remember what asana Sunil thinks this is appropriate to but also I love repeating, “I give my best, the rest is given to me.”


39. Getting to Delhi

The long train ride is again easy and pleasant.  Comfortable.  I write and read.  I sleep.  I eat and drink things I worry about, but eat and drink anyway.  I have a couple of brief not very interesting conversation, you know, where are you from, where are you going, why, how do you like India, those sorts of exchanges, although one exchange with a twenty-nine year of man who was “in” finance, who had lived in NJ for four months working for Goldman Sachs (you’ve heard of Goldman Sachs, he asked me), who had traveled in the U.S. by car as far as Chicago, spoke quite good English, and wanted to chat me up was noteworthy.  We started with the usual pleasantries, although I was also able to ask him his impressions of the USA (“very well organized,” “highways with even numbers going east and west and odd numbers going north and south,” “subways built a hundred years ago with tall buildings on top of them that have not fallen down”).  And when we get to the why am I here question for some reason I tell him about Miles, about how I’m bringing Miles’ ashes to India, and Miles’ connection to India.  And I do this in just three or four minutes, but he is absolutely wrapped up in the story, and when I finish he is almost on the edge of tears it seems, as he reaches out his hand to take mine, and pulls me towards him, and with a slightly uncomfortable hug says, “I love you, man.”