Magical Mystery Tour

you are just there
no future
no past
a table is a table
a chair is a chair
just being

all is being

Split Seconds
— Bharat

“Woodstock was a wake-up call for me; 500,000 people all full of peace and love,’ says Bharat with the look of someone who has seen a thing or two. ‘I met the Merry Pranksters of Ken Kesey fame and thought these people were from outer space—turning everyone on with LSD. But that kind of started everything for me.”

Bharat is your veteran hippie, his deeply sun-tanned face almost a testament to his many years journeying around the globe. Although his interest in the science of drugs stared out as purely academic—he was taking a university research course in pharmacology—it soon led him to turn that interest into a lifestyle.
   ‘I started experimenting with psychedelics and mushrooms. Then I became a hippie, dropped out of university and got involved in the student demonstrations. I decided I just couldn’t be a part of this society any longer.’

This is the philosophy by which he has lived ever since.

Bharat and I are sitting opposite each other, cross-legged on meditation cushions. This is one thing you notice about people who have embarked on a process of self-awareness—that there is a lack of need for personal body space. In the beginning, I found this phenomenon disconcerting, to say the least; now it comes as second nature to sit right up close to someone so that you can practically smell their breath. His accent is a melody of his many years on the road—a Jewish New York drawl, overlaid with the incantations of India.

The Teachers of One: Living Advaita
Paula Marvelly

Armand introduced me to Bharat, and they’re a wonderful pair. Armand has the wiriness of a former gymnast. He’s a psychologist, nutritionist, and Vipassana teacher. At 67, he bounds around, taking true delight in sharing food, stories, friends, advice, and joy. Bharat is more fragile. He likes to deal with people one to one, and he likes silence. They met in India, where they’ve both mostly lived for thirty years, following the teachings Ramana Maharshi.

We’ve become a happy little band here. On Tuesday, we took a ferry to the National Marine Park at Ang Thong. I climbed to the lookout point while they snorkelled, and on the way back we lined three deckchairs in a row and nodded off to head-bobbing sleep like old friends.

Bharat read my palm yesterday. This was a master reading—his book on palmistry comes out in the autumn. I spread both palms flat on a sunny table in the restaurant while he examined them through a magnifying glass, muttering at my ‘electric’ hands, my strong heart line, my weak life line. We were quiet afterwards. Today, I wrote down what I could remember of the reading, amazed that my hands could confess such secrets to a near-stranger.

It’s an odd adjustment to come from the excessively rational environment of Manhattan software engineering to the slightly skewed world of fasting, Advaita, and palmistry. When I meditate, the faces of my engineer friends float up with raised eyebrows and we mock it together. Dervala’s Magical Mystery Tour.

But a girl gets tired of logic, you know. In Southeast Asia, projects and algorithms seem more illusory than prana and souls.