I must have been nineteen when I wanted to run away, or rather ride away on my motorcycle. By then, I had hit the Indian borders several times, and I knew if I had to cross them, I needed documents and funds. I decided to start a business that would generate the needed money in a year or two – then I would be gone. That was the dream. At that time, the poultry industry was booming, so I chose to get into it. I borrowed small amounts of money from many people and bought a piece of land. With a bank loan under a scheme for unemployed graduates, I started the construction on a shoestring budget. I learnt to use dynamite to dig a well and I struck water. Then I built the structure and set up everything else – just me and one more worker.
Many times, my hands cracked and bled from the work. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful period of my life. Once the farm was established and everything was in place, I just waited for the time when I could sell everything and ride away. If I finished my work in the morning, I was alone for the rest of the day, in a very remote place with beautiful trees. I sat upon a tree or swam in a nearby pond or in the well. I created poetry about everything that I could see – a blade of grass, a grasshopper, anything. I wrote hundreds of poems, read some, meditated a lot – a good time. But one thing I didn’t like about the poultry farm was the stink. I decided to plant the entire land with jasmine. This would also generate additional income, or so I thought. There were factories close by that bought jasmine flowers to extract the essential oil. Based on the price per kilogram, I calculated in how many months I could make enough profit to leave.
I planted a few acres of jasmine, and they all bloomed. As I sat outside in the night, the sight of flowering jasmine plants in the moonlight was unforgettable. The jasmine flowers shone like a galaxy of stars, while the rest of the plant with its dark green leaves merged with the darkness. I enjoyed this sight a lot, and the fragrance was intoxicating – so I never sold a single jasmine flower. Because of the jasmine that was all around, I named the farm “Charm Farm.” Cobras love jasmine. My cobras, my jasmine, and my meditation – I was doing great. Sometimes I even forgot my motorcycle. Initially, smelling the jasmine was just a beautiful experience.
Fragrance has this quality. If you simply take in a fragrance – in such a way that the source of the fragrance is not the flower but you – it opens up a different dimension. The flower is not the fragrance. It is your senses that create the fragrance. Not everyone experiences it in the same way. A dog for example has a very sensitive sense of smell. Still, if he smells jasmine, he will turn away. Whereas if he smells a piece of meat, he will be excited. It is not the jasmine per se which is beautiful. This is why, in yoga, we do not pay so much attention to the outside – we pay attention to our instruments of perception. It is you who decides the quality of what you perceive. The sense of smell is one dimension of perception that people rarely explore. At the same time, it is easy to grasp because it is a rather simple and limited dimension.
If you want to experience pure sense perception without judgments, you could try a simple process which involves smelling a jasmine flower. This is not about enjoying the fragrance of the jasmine. This is about using the fragrance to access the perception of smell. This is to provide an opportunity for you to experientially understand how senses can open up. This is about approaching something without judging it as good or bad, nice or not nice. It is the way it is. Most of the time, your joy comes from your judgment. If you judge something as nice, you enjoy it. Conversely, if you judge something as “not nice,” you will suffer it. You could look at it like this: Jasmine just has its own fragrance, which is not for us to judge. But you could use the fragrance to become conscious of your ability to smell.
Here is what you can do: Keep a jasmine flower in your left hand, between your thumb and your ring finger. Sit with a slightly upturned face and close your eyes. With your right thumb, gently block your right nostril, and breathe through the left nostril, about ten percent deeper than normal. Hold the flower about six inches away from your nose. If you are willing to pay attention, you can feel the fragrance from a certain distance. If necessary, bring it a little closer. Just feel the fragrance. Keep your eyes closed, and don’t bother about the sounds around you. That way, your ability to smell will be enhanced. Your sense of hearing, smelling, tasting, and seeing are connected – even physiologically. For one kind of sense perception to get enhanced, you must reduce the others. Only pay attention to your ability to smell, not the fragrance of the jasmine. And do not judge it as good or bad.
This is the nature of fragrance: If you only know the beauty of the fragrance, you become a romantic. If you know the chemistry of the fragrance, you become a scientist. If you know the ecstasy of the fragrance, you could become a mystic. If you become the fragrance, you will become the very source of creation.