Varuna lived with his wife in a small cottage not far from the water’s edge. It was an isolated beach, small, protected from the wind and waves by a finger of land that jutted across the bay. On rare days the swells wrapped around the finger, producing a small beach break that Varuna sometimes rode. It was a beautiful setting and the atmosphere was pleasant.
It was Michael’s first visit to Varuna’s home. As he coasted down the hill and into Varuna’s drive, he killed the motor on his car to avoid breaking the stillness of the evening. Varuna was having a few friends for dinner and he had invited Michael along. It was a beautiful evening and unusually warm for that season. The front door was open and there were already half a dozen people sitting on the low cushions on the front room. There was a candle flickering in the centre of the low table they were sitting around, and it cast shadows in every direction. As the shadows danced across people’s faces and up the walls, Michael’s eyes drew accustomed to the dim light, and he stepped through the door. Varuna and the others greeted him warmly, and someone tossed him a cushion from the corner. Michael caught it and sat down by the edge of the table.
Conversation was soft and fluid, and interwoven with frequent laughter. It was an incredibly mellow scene and Michael was glad to be part of it.
As Varuna’s wife and another girl served the dinner, Bill, who was one of Michael’s old schoolmates, spoke. “You a vegetarian, Varuna? I didn’t know that.” “Yeah,” replied Varuna. “I stopped eating meat a few years ago. At first it was just a health thing, but gradually I began to notice that it made me more sensitive and clear-headed.” “Doesn’t it affect your surfing, though?” asked Bill. “I mean, if you’re not as strong, it seems logical that you won’t be able to surf as well or as long as you could before.” “What makes you think I am not as strong?” replied Varuna. “As far as endurance goes, I find that I can surf longer than I could before, and more smoothly too. One thing I noticed in the beginning is that I felt lighter in the sense that I didn’t have to carry such a heavy load in my stomach around all the time and waste half my energy digesting it.” “Besides, Bill,” a voice interjected from across the room, “you ever seen this guy lose a race for a wave?” Everyone laughed and began to eat their dinner. It was a beautiful meal and satisfying in every respect.
Outside the moon had risen and was visible through the window. The sky was clear and windless. “We ought to take a walk,” Varuna suggested. “Such a beautiful night—it’s a shame to waste it by staying inside.” They walked down the pathway to the beach and then along the water’s edge until they were at the center of the bay. The moon was nearly full and not yet overhead. It cast a path of dancing light across the surface of the bay. A steady stream of small swells moved smoothly across the illuminated path of the moonlight and broke about 30 yards from the shore. About three feet in size, they hit the small sandbar and gently peeled off for twenty yards or so, then converted to foam, disappearing as they lapped at the shore’s edge.
Varuna, who was walking in front, turned around and spoke to everyone. “Do you ever listen closely to the sound of the sea? Sometimes I come here at night by myself and just sit here with my eyes closed and just listen.” His voice had an incredible sort of feeling in it as he spoke, and Michael, along with the others, perceived that his words were more a general request than a question. They sat in the sand and closed their eyes, letting the gentle yet powerful vibration of the ocean fill their ears.
Softly, so softly that it was barely perceptible as being distinct from the ocean’s roar, Varuna began to AUM. Michael listened closely to the sounds as they complemented each other, the steady purr of the surf and the elongated AUM sound flowing from Varuna’s lips, which rose and dropped and gently intertwined itself with the sound of the sea. Softly Michael began to AUM, then the others. Enveloped in sound, they all took part in the organic concert. The sound vibration seemed to spread over Michael’s body and he felt vibrant with energy, life. His skin tingled and his inner being tingled. He felt himself to be an integral part of the sound or energy beneath all things. He felt one with it, yet simultaneously experienced and appreciated his own individuality.
Behind him, Varuna’s wife began to slowly strum her guitar, and it seemed to him that the guitar too was AUMing. The guitar sang a simple melody, and the sea droned in the background. Varuna’s wife began to chant, Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana. The sound filled Michael’s ears, and he too was softly chanting. They were all chanting, and the ocean was AUMing in the background.
The intensity of the chanting increased, then slowly died away. Soon they were again sitting silently with their eyes closed, listening to the sound of the ocean. Michael opened his eyes and gazed at the small waves breaking on the shore. “Why don’t we go for a surf?” he said spontaneously, and then laughed. “After all, it is an incredible night and the moon is nearly full, and it probably won’t be this warm again until mid-spring.” They ran laughing back to Varuna’s place, slipped into their wetsuits, and pulled their boards from atop their cars. Michael chuckled to himself as he ran back down the moonlit beach and into the water.
Written with Ted Spencer
Read the sequel: “Varuna ~ This Is Not Perfection”
Read more about surfing and meditation in Riding Transcendental Waves by Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda.