Unlike last year, this time I didn’t lose any photo’s, but… I now have so many photo’s that I decided to just put a selection. The next three pages are taken from my website where I am keeping photo logs of my travels… If you like to see photo’s from Africa and beyond click here, but… keep focus… first have a look at the ones related to the India tour 🙂
Namaskar and Happy 2002!
If I could only add the fragrance as well…
Hope you are all well and looking forward to what this year will bring.
04 Jan 2002: I am writing (or at least making a start) from Patna, India. We spend some inspiring hours with Dada Chandranath yesterday, he is one of the first Acrayas (teachers) Baba (affectionate name for our Guru) trained to give initiation to others. Those days all the Acaryas were family people but later, as the work was getting too much, Baba introduced the Monks and Nuns who could dedicate all their time and without bondage to spouse or children. Still family people can become Acarya and work in their local vicinity.
5 April 2002 Well as you see above I did put some photo’s but that was it… An other two weeks gone! To sort the photo’s is actually quite a bit of work and after they have to be reduced to a size more appropriate for this message. Back to Delhi… Not so much to say about it, all the margiis for the India tour met up and we jumped on the train to Ananda Nagar the next day. It’s an overnight journey which was quite a new experience for many. In Bokaro we had to wait for the train which would bring us the last 30Km, in the west we are used to have trains quite regularly and long waits are rare… Here it’s quite normal to have to wait hours. After a while you get used to it though:-)
Once we arrived in Ananda Nagar I found that the Sadhana Shiviir program we came for had been cancelled because few had registered. I expressed to the Dada in charge that our group had come early especially for this program and they had been looking forward to it. I suggested we could do it just a bit smaller size and surely some of the other margiis who came early would like to join. Actually Dada was very happy to make it possible, the program had been going for years and always very inspiring. So few hours later we decided we could go ahead. We were about 20 margiis, few Workers and indeed we had a very inspiring time!
Immediately after the Sadhana Shiviir the Didi’s invited all the overseas margiis to visit their Masterunit. They have a place about 5Km away from Central Ananda Nagar called Uma Niivas. There are schools, childrens homes, college, and many other projects. As it’s a bit out of the busy area, they don’t get so much exposure for all the hard (and good!) work done there. Every year they organise an open day and organise transport to get there. On arrival there is a guided tour of many of the projects a delicious meal. The day ends with a cultural program of song and dance by the girls from the children’s home.
Unfortunately no photo’s this year as one Dada borrowed the camera… One older photo above. The next day DMS started, a three day program attended by 10,000s of margiis from all over India and the world.
Well this brings us only up to the end of 2001… More in next instalment otherwise the e-mail will get too big.
From Ananda Nagar we went to Bodhgaya, the place where Buddha got enlightenment. We stayed in the International meditation centre, a Vipasana place who welcomes people from other paths as well. The monk in charge is always very hospitable and likes us to join the meals… unfortunately they use onion.
Bodhgaya has a very different feel of other Indian towns as it’s predominantly Buddhist, many Tibetan people are there and often in December the Diala Lama visits for a while. At that time there are hundreds of monks and nuns as well as Buddhists from all over the world.
A short walk away is the place where the descendant of the Bo tree stands. It is thought that under this tree Buddha took the determination not to move until he would reach the Goal. He sat for 40+ days and finally his mind merged with the infinite. After this he came to Sarnath where he gave his first Sermon on the three noble truths. Actually Baba told the, real Bo tree was indeed in that area but not quite there, it had been few hundred meters away but no descendants are there. Who knows this tree has still some relation with the original… maybe not as great grand child but ate great grand cousin or so:-) However, The tree or a tree, it’s the focus point for the Buddhist pilgrims and many other visitors and there is a sentient environment good for meditation. When there is any special occasion the whole place is light up with 10,000 of little oil lamps creating a beautiful atmosphere.
This time one Didi joined us for few days to the delight of the group. I am not really a fan of temples and never really took the effort of checking them out. Many countries have put up their temple and thanks to Didi pushing us (me) to them I had the chance to have a look. And I didn’t regret! It’s so interesting to see how each country has a complete different idea of how the temple should look like. The Japanese, austere and, in my opinion, a bit cold. The Burmese? very colourful and bold paintings, the Tibetan one again different and so on, I think we saw about 10 different ones.
Than just outside the Tibetan temple we heard tremendous noise from inside and wondered if some kind of ceremony was starting so we went inside to see. But nothing there… Just some kids studying the scriptures. Than again a bit later the same noise, but this time we were still inside and saw what was happening. It were the studying kids! They would read the scriptures quietly for some time maybe 5-10 minutes… but than, like children everywhere, they would get restless. So the system was that every that would happen they would pick up some instruments (like this long horns in the photo) and just make what ever noise they could and as loud as they could. After a minute or so, once that energy was expressed, they would again peacefully continue their study! Great idea, and very effective. Maybe something to introduce in our schools:-)
It seems that having the biggest Buddha statue is something to aspire for, so in many places one can find these. For me they are not so special unless the art work is exceptional but in this case the sunset behind it made it really beautiful!
From Bodhgaya to Jamalpur. A often challenging journey as for part of the train ride there is no reservation and these trains can be really packed. However we made it and walked to our Jagrtii there.
This is the very first Jagrtii of our mission and Baba came here many times. Baba didn’t believe in pilgrimage but certainly to visit the place where He was born, grew up and started Ananda Marga gives us a better perspective. So many of the ‘Baba Stories’ (real experiences of the devotees with Baba) happened here in Jamalpur. Seeing the place and experiencing it’s vibration gives a deeper meaning to all these ‘stories’.
Jamalpur is a relatively quite town with a big railway workshop, it was surrounded by dense jungle but unfortunately that has been cut, also the hills itself have been cut, blasted with dynamite to make gravel for the railways. The photo below is ‘The Tamarind Tree’ a place where Baba often went. The first Kapalika initiations were given there. In it’s time this was in the jungle, and the area was (is still) called Death Valley… No one dared to go there even in broad daylight. Last century a whole army had disappeared there. (Oops, I have to catch up! We are already a century further. It happened in the 19th century) That time it was dense jungle but now all trees are gone except this tree and few others. The people in the town have great respect for Baba and last year a little platform was build around the tree to protect it and as you see, for us it’s great to sit for meditation. During the day the blasting can be a bit disturbing but in the evening and night that same atmosphere can be felt as many decades ago, meditation feels really special and it’s much easier to go deeper.
We visited quite a few other places: the tigers grave, which is an other famous place. In the late 19th century there was a tiger who was creating a lot of disturbance in the town, one brave Englishman went to find and kill the tiger so the town would be safe. He found the tiger (or the other way round) and a fight started and in the end both parties died. Both graves are in short distance from each other on what is now a big field. Almost every night Baba used to visit this place with a group of Devotees. Here He would give guidance and share wisdom, a few of the early Ananda Marga Publications were dictated here in this mystic environment.
A bit further up in the hills is a Kali temple, Baba used to go there often in His early primary school days, again it was a place where few would go as there were still wild animals in the jungle. Someone followed Baba and witnessed Him sitting on the back of a tiger! He used to go there for hours and sit deeply absorbed in meditation. Several years ago I went there alone and found a nice place for meditation, I enjoyed and sat much longer than I thought, the year after I found out that this was the spot Baba used to sit! This time also we went there and did meditation with the whole group.
After we visited Baba’s school, birth house (which was demolished but will be rebuild) and lastly, probably the first time in a long time, we got permission to go into the office where Baba worked for many years. All the people there knew about Baba and few had even worked under His supervision in the 1960’s. Though not members they have deep respect and many interesting experiences of Baba’s natural and super natural…
After two days it was time to go to Patna. I didn’t want everyone to go through the same trouble (standing on the train for hours) as on the way coming so I managed to get reservation for an early morning train… Everyone was looking forward to a relative comfortable journey and we brought our breakfast along with banana, yoghurt, and many other nice items. The train was a bit late (not unusual!) and when it finally arrived we looked for the carriage were we had allocated seats… And… looking everywhere, running up and down the train (outside) but our carriage was no where! The last moment we had to just enter the what’s called ‘general compartment’ and sat squashed in the entry with our packs and breakfast. I felt so bad putting everyone again in such difficult position but what to do? The others got over it more quickly and while I was still digesting our the trouble I was giving to them, they had made themselves at home and started distributing the food. Yes, it is not only learning to be able to do meditation under difficult circumstances…
After a while we got some seats and maybe after two hours we could all sit. This is India!
In Patna we took taxi to the Prout Office and the next day we could visit Dada Chandranath. Dada is one of the first Acaryas in Ananda Marga, his wife was the first lady Acarya. In those days all the Acaryas were family people, later when the mission grew and the travelling needed was not practical anymore for family people Baba introduced synyasies, those who fully dedicate their life to teach and guide without bondage of family. Still today dedicated members with family can become Acarya and work in their local area. Anyhow this Dada has after so many years of meditation definitely reached a high level of realisation and just to be with him and have some questions clarified by him is very inspiring. I could explain exactly the same questions but when you hear the answers from someone who has actually realised these things in their own being, rather than just understanding in the mind, makes a enormous difference. The other part which is always inspiring for me that he (and his family as well) were normal people, who led a normal life and trough sincere practice have reached perfection in life. Dada was a police officer which is not an easy job, further in a corrupt system he had to balance his uncompromising strictness in spiritual morality a diplomatic way that he could do his work without getting in trouble with his supervisors and supervised workers. He managed very well and even those corrupt officials developed great respect for him and gave up trying to manipulate. Dada is now in his 80’s but still up to date with everything and more disciplined than most of us!
We took an other day rest in Patna and next day we were on our way to Nepal. This brings us only to the 10th January…
Though the multinationals are slowly entering India, in Nepal they are making themselves known where ever possible. That the bill boards spoil the view is only minor, spoiling peoples minds to drink garbage at high price instead of nutritional food. Also Alcohol is pushed everywhere and in the evenings you find many drunk. It’s bad in the west but here the cost of it is so high that a lot of families cant afford essential things. It’s sad, when you see the beautiful old woodcarvings and other handicraft made in the long winter evenings and now people drinking instead. The introduction of pseudo-culture robs people of their traditional values and customs. It has happened all over the world.
Still lot’s of positive things everywhere but we shouldn’t forget the impact the western nations have and what damage the multinationals are doing. With full legal backing naturally… morality is not an issue these days! We have to change this!!
After all the travelling and stress of crowded trains, busses and cities it was great to be able to relax in quietude and peace. The hotel had a nice backyard with grass, and we were allowed to use the kitchen so we could cook our own food. For us it’s hard to eat out because of the special vegetarian diet, so where ever we can we cook ourselves. This guarantees us not only the right type of food but also the right quantity… and much cheaper too! Preparing and cooking together is also very good to get to know each other better:-)
Just five minutes walk from our Hotel was the lake. Pokara has one part which is just normal city, noisy, dusty and crowded. But the other part is mainly for tourist, it’s right on the lake and relatively quite. Especially this time in January it’s very quite as its low season.
After few days we were ready for the trek. A ten day 120Km journey from Pokara all the way up to Muktinath (3800m). Most of the trek follows the Kalimandaki river which has been flowing from the Tibetan plateau from much before the Himalayas were born. The result was that while the Himalayas were coming up the river was cutting down through it. So the river cuts right through the massive and brings us from the subtropical south side which has plenty water and plenty lush vegetation to the dry and desolate Tibetan side. At the same time we go up in altitude so we also move through all the different climatic zones. In the beginning there are bananas, oranges and plenty greens. Than apples & apricots around the village of Marpa. They have recently installed a solar drying system and the high quality dried fruits are found all around Nepal. Beyond there are no more fruits:-( But here buckwheat becomes more popular and makes a very tasty cereal also the pancakes are delicious! Beside food… also the character of the villages changes with the change in climate and altitude.
One other feature is the multitude of suspension bridges, the old wood and rope ones some planks missing… and the new steel ones slowly replacing the older ones. The trail has been different every year as always some land slide will alter the route. Good for us that most of them take place in the end of the rainy season and not in winter. Still one huge landslide few years ago took place only short time before we came, the dust was still in the air and the river was blocked by the debris. That time we traversed a steep makeshift trail when already dark. We were shocked to see what we had done what we came the same route back at day time…
I always like the day that we are walking through the pine forests, not sure if it’s the quietude where most noise gets absorbed by the blanket of pine needles and the moss on the trunks or teenage memories of long walks in the pine forests where I grew up. Mediation was really nice there.
After the Alpine forests we get to cross some dusty dry glaciated valleys where the wind was playfully lifting the dust and blasting us merrily.
After all the lush green from the lower area we arrive in the Alpine climate. The valley was once filled with a big glacier, but now millennia after the last ice-age it’s a flat area with lots of round stones and the river winding in between, changing it’s course every year. The wind is enjoying itself very nicely with all the dust and the people trying to walk… Often we had to walk backward just to keep our eyes free of the biting dust. I must say I enjoyed it too, I like to feel the force of the elements (within limits…)
Later we reached Marpa where we took a late noon break and prepared our lunch. The photo above is quite funny for those who know (and can read the signs…) It tells 24hour hot water… this is the biggest joke around as normally the water is freezing cold, only if very fortunate and you are the first there is a slight chance that the solar heating took at least the bite out of the cold water. Guess in Summer the hot water is indeed available, but than you may prefer a cold shower anyway!
Cooking our meals is an other adventure as due to our diet we cook ourselves. As the kerosene cooker is a bit wind sensitive we have to find a place inside. Sometimes people invite us in their home, curiously looking what these overseas trekkers prepare, sometimes the hotel or shop where we buy the vegetables allows us to cook there. Most Hotels were we stay are not so happy as they make little profit on the rooms and enormous amount on the meals. So when a big group comes to their place they often see big $ to be made… but by the time it comes to negotiating the cooking those hopes evaporate. Mostly we still leave as friends 🙂
Above Marpa towards Jomson you can see what the forces of nature are doing in their free time, the rocks bend like dough in the process up pushing up the Himalayas. Also the first Yaks, and Oxen, and few other members of the bovine family.
Jomson is a little bigger town with small airport, but otherwise not so interesting. It has a bit of Wild West feel to it with the wide, windblown dusty roads and lots of hotels. We decide to walk to the next town, an other three hours walk over the glacier bed.
There we actually had a really hard time to find an Hotel which allowed us to cook our self but finally we managed. Actually beside our diet which is hard to get, cooking has some other advantages… one we don’t get sick and we can cook good quantity and actually feel satisfied. The meals you buy are expensive and too small to be filling, so you have to buy two plates… Capitalistic system has definitely reached all the main trails:-(
Next morning we start the final leg of the trek, we leave the Kalimandaki river and go right into the valley which bring us to Muktinath. After an hours climb we got to the point of the photo below. Mountains and snow all around. The photo above is taken somewhere on the ridge you see straight below. In the far end you can see two peaks, in between is the famous pass “Thorong La” at 5400 meter above sea level. The highest point we go is just below where the main ascend starts. That point is just 4000meter. To cross that pass is a very tough journey (and insane in winter) one has to leave like 4am and reach the next village after the pass late afternoon after a 10hour walk! No, we take it just to Muktinath:-)
The valley to the right is where we came from and the valley to the far right (or the very first part on the left) is where the Kalimandaki river continues to Upper Mustang an independent Kingdom. It pays tribute to Nepal (and is part of it on the map) but in character it’s Tibetan. Till 150 years ago it was part of Tibet. Next tour we hope to visit there instead of Muktinath.
I apologise if the photo doesn’t quite fit on your screen… but trying to catch the vast views of the Himalayan mountains is not so easy. The photo just fits on my screen 🙂
We normally stay in Jarkot, which is not so touristy and just half hour walk from Muktinath. Muktinath is quite sleepy this time of year as few venture this high in the middle of winter. Still everywhere are handycrafts displayed in the hope someone will buy. The police is registering all the tourists and stamps their trekking permits. Also not much work and pool is played to pass the time. This game you can find all over Nepal and people get very exited playing it. It uses disks, not balls and they are shot with the fingers but otherwise it looks the same as billiard to me (not that I know that well)
Visiting some of the temples above Muktinath and relaxing in the sun.
Finally our trek is over, after walking down from Jarkot we stay the night in Jomson where we catch an early and breath taking flight back to Pokara. From the windows we could see all the high peaks and a lot of the route we walked.
We stayed few more days in Pokara, with boat rides on the lake, going round with rented bicycles but finally there was no escape from ending the tour returning to India. It’s always a sad moment when each is again going their own way after having become like close family during all the trials together. At the same time it’s great to know that we have family everywhere!
That was it for 2000-2001 continue for photo’s from earlier years.