Some of you may be wondering, what is a typical day in a Hindu Convent like?
Let me tell you, it starts pretty early.
6:30AM is when the Little Shrine in the back of the convent opens. It is a small room, enough for two people to sit side by side comfortably, with an altar of Ramakrishna and Holy Mother arranged there. They are ritually offered breakfast.
Some of the nuns wake up at three of four AM – I barely make it up at 6:30 to start the day and sluggishly walk through the gardens to the shrine to meditate…I have never been a morning person.
Then at eight o’clock we have breakfast and afterwards I am usually assigned some duty of ‘karma yoga‘ for the day, which usually constitutes working in the gardens, helping to prepare lunch, or cleaning the convent and temple. As with the role of karma yoga, all your actions should be directed as a service to God. And here it feels very real as the flowers in the gardens will be offered; the food you prepare will be offered; the temple is the house of God and you’re caring for it. All of these things bring an extra purpose to your actions and cast a spiritual light over your duties. The importance of Karma Yoga however is that every action can become a spiritual action, as long as the doer places that spiritual intention within their mind. Thus, it frees you from your work (especially work you don’t like doing) because suddenly it is not for your own trouble you do these things but for another.
Today, however, I was assigned to play with kittens!
Then, at noon, the food that has been prepared for lunch is offered again in the little shrine. Once food has been offered it is blessed and is called prasad. Which we then consume. As the nuns love to say, prasad is good for the soul.
Then it’s usually more karma yoga and then I just can’t take being awake that long anymore so I have to nap.
I wake up in time for vespers or arati at six. It is a really beautiful ceremony, with offerings of flowers, incense, and music (all the ceremonies tend to be really beautiful). Here is a link to one of the songs sung during arati by the Santa Barbara nuns.
After arati, maybe there is a reading from a religious text or a class after hosted by a visiting swami or by one of the nuns. But usually I just make myself a light dinner and go straight to bed to wake up early again the next day.
All in all, it is a very peaceful time being here. For me, you really see how much you can get done in one day and still feel constantly busy. As well, it does the soul tremendous good to be in a place of astounding beauty and spiritual purity.