10th December, 2002
India tour: Starting in Delhi, and than quick to Rishikesh a complete contrast with the polluted and noisy Capital.
One week of regular collective Kiirtan (chanting) and meditation along the River Ganges, quite days checking the spiritual bookshops and outings. The ashram where we stayed had also many programs going, but we were free to do our own practices. Bhagwati an American sister in charge of the people visiting was most accommodating in all our needs down to sentient food and a big mat so we could do meditation on the rooftop.
Day trip to the top of a nearby hill with a temple on top and view of the Himalayas
Every evening we joined the Arati organised by the ashram on the banks of the Ganges, lots of beautiful bajans and chanting . Afterwards we would do meditation. After a week in this inspiring we moved on to Varanassi, same Ganges but twice as wide and many times more polluted 🙁 Still it’s worth visiting!
From Rishikesh to Varanassi, visiting Sarnath where Buddha gave his first sermons at the famous deer park.
In the evening we went for a boat ride on the Ganges, on the way seeing the sights and on the way back singing Kiirtan and doing meditation in the rowing boat; very nice!
This time we got out at the cremation ground and were shown around by one of the priests. I think it’s good that these things are right in public and not hidden. Death is one of the few things we are sure to meet one day… better to get used to the idea it’s part of the cycle. It is a bit confronting to see bodies burned on wood fire but the local people seem to be used to it. Naturally for those who lost someone it remains painful, attachments are deep, that is also part of human life.
In Ananda Nagar we had a bit of a disappointment, the Sadhana Shiviir (meditation intensive) had been cancelled due to a transfer… We, and also other overseas margiis had been looking forward to join this event preceding the main program. Dada Shubacetananda from NY, helped me to kind of get together something to replace it. We more or less succeeded aver a bumpy start. We visited several Tantra pithas, places where meditation comes easier, and had collective chanting, meditation and inspiring stories mornings and evenings. (most of the time…) Also some classes actually happened.
One day we went to visit Makanji. He is a simple man, little education but his mind is in tune with the Supreme. For him it’s almost as difficult not to go into deep meditation as for us to try to get there… After he told many stories about the time he got initiated by Baba (our Guru) we asked him if he could describe his feelings when doing Dhyana (deep meditation) he said that this will be very difficult… he tried anyway and got lost in this ocean of concious in the process… When he came back to normal state he was glowing and and inspired us about Sadhana.
Yes, education, standing, or any other external things have nothing to do with being able to realise oneself, rather someone with simple and one-pointed mind can reach easier!
Sadhana on the rocks overlooking the river. This place is also a Tantra Piita. The place is ‘vibrated’ because a yogi has been doing meditation for many years in this spot till getting realisation. Even many years after the difference can be felt when you sit there to meditate. As many Yogies have visited the area of Ananda Nagar there are many such places.
One of the yearly events is the visit and guided tour of Uma Niivas, the Womans manged Master Unit about 5 Km away. They have childrens homes, schools, college and many other activities. This day the children prepare a cultural program and delicious meal.
Didi Ananda Ragamaya who was going to join us for the rest of the tour played some of her songs. We we fortunate as we got many more songs during the rest of the trip! One little girl has also prepared her dance but has no chance at the program. I am not sure if it was because lack of time or that she was too young, in any case she gave a master preformance!
So many more events and happenings during the time in Ananda Nagar, I could fill two more news letters with the photos… but I won’t:-) The next one is from Bodhgaya the place where Gautam Buddha got realisation.
4 – 16 January 20013
Bodhgaya, Jamalpur and the first part of Sikkim.
Bohdgaya was very colourful this year as we came just before the Daila Lama was coming. All was being decorated and 1000s of monks and devotees had already assembled. At night the oil lamps were putting the main temple and the area around in a mystical atmosphere.
One day we went to the cave were Buddha had meditated, it was a refreshing walk away from the crowd till we go closer… 100s of beggars lined up to receive the alms. The cave itself was small and vibrated only the constant sound of coins dropping in the donation box was a bit distracting from meditation… Also human, candles and incense were competing for the same oxygen…
Time in Jamapur, the birthplace of our Guru was recovering time. Quite a few of us had caught sour throats, especially Tanmayii was under the wool for most of the time. Still we had time to see all those places mentioned in peoples experiences with Baba. The place top left was were Baba spend a lot of time to practice Sadhana when he was in primary school, also the Tamarind tree below was one of his spots. All this used to be dense forest where ordinary people wouldn’t even dare to go in broad daylight. The Tamarind tree is in death valley, called like this because a whole regiment of the British army had disappeared there… But what ever the scary stories around it, it’s a great spot for meditation.
After Jamalpur we were going to Sikkim, our original plan to go to Nepal was cancelled due to the unrest there. The easier journey to get there was via Kolkatta so, though not planned we decided to spend few days there. Our camp headquarters has been there for two decades before it moved to Ananda Nagar few years ago. Still many things are managed from there. Our Guru also spend much time there and we had the opportunity to visit His house an do meditation in His room. Also the museum He made from all the presents from all over the globe was really interesting. All things had nametags telling where it was from and who gave it. We found several items from people we knew.
A place where I, and probably most of us, would never go was… very mundane… Pizza Hut:-) After long time away from the food we are accustomed to Pizza was a real treat. Not to forget the Ice-cream sister Shukla’, from Italy gave us after the meal!
Sikkim is part of India but very different from the other places we visited. It only joined India few decades ago and had been an independent kingdom since 16th century. Its predominantly Buddhist and the people seem to be still relatively unaffected by the influx of pseudo culture. Although it’s promoted as tourist destination we saw very few overseas tourists.
Lot’s of beautiful, bright and boldly coloured temples with fine details.
At Medan we went to find a cave,. It was one of the four most sacred in Sikkim as one Lama had meditated there for many, many years, in complete darkness and without food. Sustaining himself on the water dripping from the ceiling in a little pool (more like a cup) next to him. It is believed that visiting this place will wash away all sins… I really don’t believe it’s that easy but it was a place were our meditation was deep and peaceful.
To get there we got on a share jeep but would never have found it if not one of the other pasengers offered to lead us there. Again at the cave, it would have been unlikely we would have found our way it, and even less likely out without our guide. At one point we had to slide on our stomachs to enter the main cave system. It used to go all the way to the other side of the hill, maybe two km, with enough twists and turns to get lost beyond recovery… A cave-in few years ago blocked it not to far from the entrance and unfortunately (or fortunately for those who like me…) I couldn’t explore further. This could have been the last issue of the newsletter, if… at least the camera would have been recovered…
The way back was easier but a steep climb up to the main road. Half way a whole group of children raced down the hill on wooden racing cars… I looked dangerous but it seemed to be under control. Just like the sledge riding on the snow in nearby hills I used to do as child… I am sure my parent would have thought it insane if they knew:-) But we did survive and like these kids had lots of fun!
16 – 27 January 2003
More of Sikkim:
The Himalayas seen from the highest hill, photo’s can’t really capture the grandness!
One day we climbed Medam hill, the highest hill and closest to the Himalayan range. It was 13Km up and there was supposed to be a shorter way down at the other side… Things weren’t meant to work out… two third up the hill we managed to lose each other and half the group went to one place they thought to be the highest point and the other to an other place… Myself and Shriila’ had most of the lunch so we were ok:-)
There was little we could do as we thought eventually the others will join but that’s what the others thought to! Anyhow we did meditation un top of the hill (over 3000m high!) and it was beautiful, the air fresh and bit cold, but no wind at all, the sun kept it very pleasant. Also no noise at all and complete feeling of peace, before even starting meditation. We thought to do 20minutes, eat something and try more to find the others but when I looked on my watch 45min had passed blissfully!
After still the others were no where to be seen and as we knew there was an other 13Km to go down we started. And, (doesn’t it always happen?) right at the place where we lost the group we found them. It seems they had gone to the right place… but I think both were right!
Half the steep journey down the hill was made through dense forest and in darkness. Didi and myself made a game of not using the flashlight, sometimes easier than getting blinded by the light. It’s also fun as you have to rely more on the deeper senses. We all made it back safely.
Next day we went to the supposed to be beautiful next town, but it seems just tourist town, with too many hotels. We couldn’t even buy food to cook! Malati and myself went 8Km down the hill by jeep to shop and going up… no more jeeps, too late. We ended up walking back up! That was after an already tiring full travel day. Anyhow we did cook a nice meal and got out of the place the next morning renting a jeep for the day.!
Sacred lake, surrounded by prayer flags, not sure if the sight will give liberation as promised but beautiful it is!
A trip with water falls, sacred lake and cave and finally a stay at in a picturesque mountain village. with interesting cooking arrangements…
Actually this village was the birthplace of Sikkim, the first King was crowned here in the 16th century.
On our way back to the capital, forgot the name…, we stopped to visit one monastery an hours walk up hill. Lots of stupa’s, prayer flags, brightly coloured temples and nice meditation.
Finely painted details and more and more prayer flags everywhere. Very colourful and festive
Well, that was the end of the tour at least for the photos. From Sikkim we went to Calcutta, we had one more Pizza as goodbye party, Paviitri who came on the first part of the tour also joined us here. Than same evening, with more delayed trains… I actually don’t even write these things anymore as it’s part and parcel of travelling in India. Four hour delay is nothing, 12 hours is a small delay and 24 hours is starting to get a real delay… you get the picture:-) From here some went on for more travel but most of us went back to Delhi to depart from there. I am going to send everyone who came on the tour a photo CD in return for a little story… these will be posted on the India tour website.
To be continued 🙂