After the mammoth Devi Bhava in Paris, Amma and the tour group journeyed to the French ashram to spend the night. The ashram is located in a 14th Century fortified farmhouse complete with defense towers and moat (now a duck pond). After some delicious refreshments, many of us were ready for a tour of gardens, orchards, seed bank and many other features. We were particularly interested in seeing the “Bee Meditation Hut” which had been constructed by the youth.
Bri Dipamrita, in charge of the French Centre, ushered us into the small, but exquisite, hexagonal structure. (The hexagon is the shape of a honeycomb cell.) The hut had been constructed using straw bales, plastered with straw and clay with a wooden framework. Stained glass windows graced the door and the ceiling. The south facing walls held several bee colonies and a glass window, covered by a brown curtain, gave access to the hidden world of the bees. We could see the honeycombs forming as the bees went about their incessant work.
Sitting for meditation with the humming sound of the bees and the smell of beeswax for company was a transcendent experience. The low hum sounded like the primordial hum of the universe and perhaps it is. For without the little honey bee, life as we know it on earth would be almost impossible to sustain. The bee has been associated with the Mother Goddess since Neolithic times in many cultures. It is also known as the intermediary between humans and the divine.
As we were in the middle of Navaratri, the great festival of the Divine Mother, many of us were reading the Devi Mahatyam daily. I remembered the references to Bhramari. “When the great asura Aruna shall wreck havoc in the three worlds, having taken a bee form, consisting of innumerable bees, I shall slay the great asura for the good of the world…thus whenever trouble arises due to the advent of the danavas, I shall incarnate and destroy the foes. Our own demon destroying and bee loving Bhramari was at that moment staying a few metres away in a tower of the ashram. She has given all the instructions for the development of the Centre, which has clearly flourished in the ten years since its inception.
Late the next morning, Amma came out to spend some time with the devotees and tour group in a large renovated barn. Amma looked carefully all around with particular attention to beautifully worked beams and rafters supporting the second story. She spoke quite a bit about how to relate to people in the most effective manner, served a lunch of lasagna, salad and chai, danced at bit and then went for a tour of the new medieval garden and the large ancient oven, which stays hot for 4 days after stoked. Here, the ashramites bake delicious breads, cakes, pastries of all kinds and even dry herbs when the oven has cooled down. Amma floated back to her camper, extending her arms to everyone as she walked. We entered the buses and waved farewell to the devotees lining the driveway to see us off. Amma stresses the unity of hearts in each satsang. Our time in France had indeed been a time of unified hearts and we carried those warm memories with us, across the English Channel to London.