Monk in the City: Dada Shiveshananda

He sat in the middle of the temple with his legs crossed and eyes closed. The view was rather familiar, though I have not seen it since the last time I was at his training center.

He was Dada Shiveshananda, but I personally call him Dada. It was a generic designation for the Acaryas (monks) of Ananda Marga, an organization founded in India by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti.

It was November 2015 when I first met Dada. My sensei, Leo de Mesa, brought me to the center not because of Dada, but Datu Shishir Inocalla, the real-life Michaelangelo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and a world-renowned arnis master. He was personally trained and ranked by the founder of modern arnis, Remy Presas.

I avoided making any noise in the middle of Dada’s meditation. From where I stood, a sense of the vibrations emanating from him felt strong, like some force pulling me to enter into a trance, which does not intend to make me sleep but rather liberate my mind. I can still remember his words when I used to stay with him during the early days of the center.

Meditation Temple

“Man need not to be attached in this world, Jonah. You see, we have met a lot of people in the center who simply came and went. Some of them stayed with us, to help us grow, but others would need to leave because there is bigger work for them outside. At the end of the day, what we need to bear in mind are those lessons we have learned from them, and let us always keep them in our hearts, because their absence does not mean they are gone. They might be away physically, but they’re always with us, like the Supreme Consciousness. And what we need to do is to be one with the Consciousness, one with the universe. These, all of these are temporary. Look within you, meditate, because inside you is the answer you are looking for. Remember that whenever you point to the sky, three fingers are pointing back to you.”

Dada was already looking at me while I was contemplating and slowly walking toward him. He appeared to be surprised by my presence, maybe because it has been years since I last visited him. He was smiling. He stood from where he was seated, so I made my approach. We talked for a while and he started to show me around the center.

Many things have changed, I told myself.

The Garden

Dada walked me through the garden, till we arrived in the area where a wooden bench was placed in front of the Chinese bamboos. Beside that was our former office, marked by a pathway leading to the gym. Until now, I’m still amazed by the murals here. I remember Manu, the friendly guy in dreadlocks, who painted all of these and gave me my first ever henna tattoo.

The former office is now a room intended for visitors, though sometimes being rented by people from across the globe. Normally, people in the center who train in martial arts would be renting this room because it comes in a reasonable price with free vegetarian meals.

Before entering the gym, I reiterated to Dada that there has really been a great development at the center, because when I used to live here, this part of the gym was covered with net to prevent the “terrorist” from entering. Terrorist was the term used by Dada for mosquitos. I once asked him about this, and all he could say was: “Because they are”.

The number of people in the gym was unbelievable. I am not used to seeing this many in one area. I felt a sense of nostalgia take over me.

Former Office now Room for Visitors

I woke up few minutes past four in the morning. Kiirtan was playing outside my room. It was that music mixed with the mantra, Baba Nam Kevalam. The bed beside me was already empty, which means that Datu Shishir has already gone to the shower, and anytime soon the morning routine would start.

Every day we need to wake up at 4 a.m. This was the rule of Dada. Part of the routine was to do an hour of kiirtan and a 30-minute meditation. At first, I found it weird, but I got used to it in no time.

Dada would always lead the kiirtan with a guitar, singing the Baba Nam Kevalam along with different tunes. I, on the other hand, would take other available musical instruments to jive with the beat. This way, I also keep myself awake and focused on what we are doing.

I moved out of my bed and when out of the room. All the lights were on and Datu Shishir appeared from the shower. He greeted me, Namaskar!, and I responded.

After the morning preparations, I heard Dada’s call, “Jonah, the universe is waiting for you! Come now!” So, I rushed to the meditation hall.

Things went on as expected, but his time, Dada informed me that I would have to do yoga with Datu Shishir. I was hesitant at first, because I thought that that was only for the ladies. Anyway, I was here so better waste no time.

The Angels of the Dance of Death

“So, these are the people who are training here, Jonah. You may talk with them. I’ll just change.” Dada was already introducing me to the people at the gym. They were martial artists, people who practice Yaw Yan or Sayaw ng Kamatayan (Dance of Death). I smiled and started to look around as Dada went to the room to change his uniform.

Out of boredom, I checked Facebook on my phone. I scrolled down my newsfeed to read posts which can either make or break my day, whichever came first. I always laugh whenever I see people quarrelling about politics on my newsfeed, especially when both of them are fanatics of a political figure.

One time, there was even this friend of mine who posted about eating lechon and the other got offended because he said that he was a vegan. I did not know what their actual problem was. So, I deleted their arguments which they posted on the comment section of my thread.

YawYan practitioner meditating before the training

A notification appeared in my messenger, “Hey! Are you coming home this April for the town fiesta?” It was Rosario. The girl I met—well, not simply met but to whom I formally introduced myself in Baclaran last week. After that incident of bumping against each other, we started to constantly communicate and talk about things, from the professional to our personal lives.

I did not know what to do, whether I would need to reply or what. I stared at the bubble of her face on my phone’s screen.

“Jonah, let’s go!” I looked at Dada. He was wearing his usual orange uniform, which he said to be a symbol of happiness. He walked towards me and we started talking in Spanish as we head in front of the gym. G



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