Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mythological Games in Switzerland

Switzerland, July 2004-

Being the only assistant in the small crew, i was overwhelmed with work of different departments on this outdoor shoot. On this day we had wrapped up early. When i entered the dining area of the hotel where everyone gathered to relax after the days shoot, i found a group in the right corner engaged in some board game and playing it with a great deal of enthusiasm. On one side was Shahrukh and on the other side was Farah Khan. There was Pam Aunty, Payal, Vaibhavi Merchant, Anil Mehta sir and some other top names of the industry playing that game. They were playing in a fun spirit and yet by their comments one could sense the competition between them. 

The questions being asked covered various fields of science, entertainment, sports, religion and mythology. At one point Farah asked a mythological question which seemed like a complete bouncer and no one was expected to know the answer. So to get things going she asked "Kisi ko aata hai jawab ya points le lein?" before she could discard the question, i blurted out - "Daksha". I immediately regretted it because everyone began looking at me. After a few seconds Farah said in her usual dry tone - "Achha guess kiya ,... sahi jawab hai!".  I moved on and sat on another table to make the call sheets.

After that round of game was over, they began making new teams. As i was working against time to finish my work.. i heard my name called out. Shahrukh had chosen me in his team. I wanted to opt out as i had work.. but then wondered, when again would i get a chance to play.  Srk saw my reluctance and said "Arre call sheet jaane de, ek din nahi diya to chalega.." Farah said dryly "Waise bhi tu kaunsa time pe aata hai.." To which Yashji sitting on another side began laughing.

Giving one answer was fine.. but i wasn't sure i knew all the answers to questions on mythology or religion despite my deep interest in it. The game began. I sensed the competition and will to win despite outer niceties. Srk is very intelligent in quiz games, i didn't get to do much, but the team went along well until Farah asked the question "Which avatar of Vishnu was there during both the Ramayana and Mahabharata periods?" Unlike other questions this one was met with a muted response. I quickly thought about it and said "Parashuram," to which Srk immediately repeated 'Parashuram' as if he knew it too. Farah's look, which was one of - 'this ones in the bag', changed, and she said - "Correct!"

The game progressed further with a lot of tiffs and arguments till things became a bit tense. At another critical point she asked another mythological question - "What did Sita give to Hanuman to show Lord Rama as proof of meeting her.?" Immediately Shahrukh said - "Her ring," which the rest of the team agreed to. Farah was about to give the verdict, when I said to Srk that this may be incorrect. Lord Rama gave the ring but Sitaji is said to have given an ornament she wore on her hair. I do not know what that ornament is called, but on it was studded the gem famously called - the Chudamani. 

Srk wasn't sure about this, he felt it was the ring. The team agreed with him. I was feeling pressured as Farah wanted us to answer quickly with a time limit decided in our last argument. Srk said - "Pakka maloom hai tujhe.." Some other person confidently emphasised that "it was her ring,.. just answer that!" But i looked at Srk and repeated what what i knew.  Srk changed his answer to Chudamani! To which Farah said - "Wrong answer!" I wanted to bury myself. Srk asked for the right answer to which she said - "Shikhamani!" 

Srk said that this is what he said that its the ornament of the hair! I  explained that Shikhamani maybe an assumed name, but it was called the Chudamani and began to describe it -"It is about this big in size, a bit oval and honey coloured, not exactly honey coloured but a bit like...."
They were all curiously looking at me and Farah put their look into words saying "Tu aise bol raha hai jaise tune khud dekha hai?" That shut me up and i withdrew as the game came to an end.

I do not recall who won but that night as i tried to finish my work my mind kept going to the summer just a few months back that I had spent in Brindavan.

Swami had come to Brindavan as He usually does and i had the opportunity of serving in His residence - Trayee. One evening after the bhajans at the Trayee sessions, I was alone sitting guarding the interview door which was open, while all other boys were sitting at the main door attending the Trayee session. I could hear the laughs, claps and occasional sounds of awe from within the house. At one point the energy changed.. I sensed a great deal of excitement almost flooding out from the house. When i looked up at the sevadal boys, they had all gone on their knees trying to see something in great excitement. 

I wanted to rush over, but i could not leave my place out of a sense of duty. Then i looked at my leader Harish, who in excitement motioned me to come over. In a nano second i was there. Swami was walking amongst the boys, the staff and VIPs showing something.. and such was my good fortune that I reached there just at the time Swami was closest to us. I saw with my own eyes a glittering Jewel, smooth, almost emanating a glow from within. To my eyes it seemed honey coloured, but it could also be because i saw Swami's palm through it. Having seen the created I switched my attention to the creator who was still moving around showing the jewel to the other boys looking at it curiously.

When Swami sat back on the jhoola, the gentleman who was speaking said in awe and with folded hands that "We all have been privileged to see the Chudamani which Ma Sita had given to Hanuman to show to Lord Ramachandra as proof of having met her!"

The Chudamani

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Of Dreams and Divine visions

This morning while having a conversation with my sister, she shared a dream she had a couple of days after Navratri.

“I saw a dream of Divine Mother. It was a majestic vision of Her sitting on a rock with one leg folded and the other down. Behind her sat an enormous lion. 

I approached and sat at Her feet, taking it in my hands and pressing them as I looked at Her beautiful presence. In my mind a thought occurred that I should ask Her about my daughter T. But before I could ask, She read my mind and said “She is my daughter.. I always look after her.”

I replied “Mother have i brought her up well?” She smiled and gestured with Her hand and nod of Her head that I have done well.

I then asked “Mother what should we teach children to make them good human beings?”

Mother replied in chaste hindi-

“Do not lie.

Without faith, worship and prayers are meaningless.

Avoid bad company.

Do not rejoice at others sufferings, be happy at others happiness.

Do not complain always. Believe that whatever I do for you will be for your good.

Take care of your elders; to give them peace is your duty.

Whatever you do today, do with the awareness that you will reap the fruits of your action soon. Keep an eye on your own karmas.

You will always receive fruits of your earnest efforts.

Patience makes life easier. Patience during sorrows keeps the mind peaceful. Patience during good times will prevent rise of ego/arrogance. Patience is great strength. 

Always remember that I keep an eye on My children at all times. Listen carefully always to your inner voice emanating from your conscience. “

As a parting note She said “No matter what, I will surely give T the fruits of her labour. Have faith in my words.”

As the dream ended I woke up feeling very clear. It was 5:45 am in the morning.

Curious to know more, I asked her if she could describe what Divine Mother looked like?

My sister replied that Her presence was glorious. “Describing Mothers beauty would not be possible” she said. “No creative mind, no poet would have the vocabulary to describe Her Divine beauty. It was beyond compare! She wore rich red clothes and Her jewellery shone with divine lustre. Her tejas (brilliance) was as bright as the sun yet pleasant. When She gestured Her hands at me in blessings I noticed how small and sweet they were. Her words were spoken in shudh (pure) hindi.” I asked if she could give an example.. she replied that one of the statements She made was “Bina Vishwas ke prarthna, pooja nirarthak hai. (Without faith, prayers and worship are meaningless).” Those who understand hindi will know that this is not the conversational hindi we speak everyday. She further shared that what took her constant attention was the presence of the huge Lion sitting behind Her. He was a royal looking creature, beautiful and ferocious, but sat very peacefully behind Her as if in protection. Its eyes shone beautifully.

The purpose of sharing this is not merely to reveal someones dream. This is an event where Divinity interacted in a mystical, non-human form with an ordinary, everyday person. Even the most devoted human, often considers God a distant entity. And yet in my study of spiritual phenomenon, I have come across numerous times when often everyday humans have had some interaction with the Divine realms. 

One would naturally wonder what could have caused a dream of this nature to occur to her.
So I asked my sister if she had done something special that brought her this blessing. She shared that for the past many years she gets a special darshan dream after Navratri.. Mostly it is Swami (Sri Satya Sai) who comes and blesses her, only this time it was Divine Mother. She confessed that unlike other members of our family she does not follow the rites described during Navratri days. She prayed once to Swami that she would not like to follow rituals only because others are doing so.. that when she feels inspired within then she will observe all formalities. So she was herself unsure as to what caused this grace.

Also she says that my niece (her daughter T) is not necessarily religious or spiritual.. but she has a deep connection with Lord Shiva and Parvati ma. Every monday she makes it a point to go to a nearby Shiv temple and pray, although no one from our family has encouraged her to do this.

Further she recalled a remarkable incident that my niece shared with her. 

Once when my niece was little she was very unwell. She would puke out any water or food that she had consumed and thus she had become very weak. It was jaundice related ailment. Her stomach would pain, and she found it hard to sleep. The doctors were concerned and told my sister to take full care. One night my sister was tending to her, when my niece asked her to sleep and if she needed anything she would wake her up. So my sister slept. Late in the night my niece woke up needing to go to the restroom. She didn't want to wake her mom. The room was very dark. My niece got up and to her surprise saw a women who she recognised as Mata (Divine Mother) sitting next to her in a red saree and was massaging her stomach. Convinced that her illness was causing her to hallucinate.. my niece made her way to the restroom and then had some water to drink. When she returned through the darkness taking the support of the wall, as she was feeling weak.. she entered the room and noticed Divine Mother still sitting in the same place. Too weak to stand and look, she thought she would lie down and then gaze upon Her form. It was not possible for her to sleep in those days. But the moment she put her head on the pillow, she fell into deep sleep.

It is natural to want to examine in every way possible the authenticity of such events. Could this be hallucination.. could it be a viral imagination playing itself out in the subconscious? But the proof is in the tasting. My sisters dream was not merely seeing Divine Mother. It was in what was shared with her. The wisdom revealed is in sync with what we learn from Swami and our scriptures.. and my sister, also in a self examining mode shares that what she heard was not something that she previously contemplated on in any ways.

A sevadal friend Santosh, once shared with me that he was asked to take a sadhu for darshan in Ramesh hall in Brindavan. After darshan he found the person looking perplexed. When he asked what happened, the sadhu replied almost a little frustrated that it was not possible for him to have Her darshan. When asked further, he replied that Her jewellery shone with such lustre that it was not possible for him to see the Divine Mother. Now my friend was confused. He asked him if the sadhu had the darshan of Swami? The sadhu pointed to a nearby photo of Swami and said “Do you mean when you have darshan, you see this form?”. “Ofcourse” my friend replied, “what do you see?”. The sadhu replied “I see the Divine Mother walking amongst us. Her presence is so majestic, Her aabhushans shine with such strength, it is as if each has the light of the suns in it.”

This statement compliments the narrative of the above dream.

Another event is from my own childhood. I was studying in a boarding school in Panchgani, when one night I had the most memorable dream. 

I found myself in a mystical environment. It was like night time. I saw Lord Vishnu in the reclining form on the Ksheer Sagar. His feet were close to me and His head away from me. His body was beautiful blue and He seemed to recline in a restful pose, His eyes closed, soft smile on His face. What distracted me from gazing at His appealing form was Adishesha. As I was at the feet of Lord Vishnu, Adishesha's hood was nearly over me as well.. It was a beautiful yet frightening spectacle. Its hood of many faces was bejewelled and shone with many colors.. although not trying to frighten, yet the presence of the enormous creature took most of my attention and i remember covering my eyes from it and trying to see Lord Vishnu though my fingers. There was a bright light emanating from His chest, and although i had no way of knowing yet I knew that it was emanating from the jewellery the Lord wore. The feel of that vision was other-worldly.. I did not feel that this was taking place on earth. As the dream got over it caused me to wake up spontaneously. I found all the other children sleeping in my dorm and I realised it is still very early morning.

One could say that my imaginations could have created this dream … except when I had this dream I was a kid studying in the first grade. I had no concept of Adishesha or for that matter Lord Vishnu.. It was beyond my imagination to conceive even remotely of such a vision. Thus i found the details remarkable when as I grew I learned about Lord Vishnu reclining on a serpent in the ocean. Even the jewel Kaustubh that He dons on His chest was what I realised was the glittering jewel causing so much light that it almost hid Lord Vishnu’s face.

Dreams are a strange phenomenon. Often we have dreams which just reflect back to us our everyday life events.. But every now and then, and many humans would have experienced this, we tend to go deep and experience something uncommon. While our physical body rests, our inner astral bodies can take our dim awareness to various subtle realms, sometimes even penetrating the causal worlds where Divine realms exist. 

Makes one wonder - Is God really distant from us or is it so only in our thoughts. The divine realm is much closer to our reach then perhaps most of us think. Nor is it exclusive to the saintly class. The everyday people are after all God’s children too.

Reminds me of something both my Guru and Swami taught. My Guru revealed that everytime we sincerely think of God, it elicits a response from Him in someway. Swami says that the amount of time we spend with God sincerely during our waking hours, God spends that much time with us during our deep subconscious moments whether or not we are fully aware of it when we awaken. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

In the Heart - 2

Mt Kailash ~ Majestic and Shy
                                                                Continued from In the Heart - 1

As if the endless walk towards the base was not enough, the heavens opened up pouring hail from the sky which was followed by an intense but thankfully brief spell of shower. The air suddenly turned chilly as i felt grateful for the waterproof clothes and the thermals within.

Sabu, my cameraman friend, our sherpa and I resumed our journey to the base. My mind was occupied with what took place at the Dolmo la pass.  “He is Shiva”, “She is Shakti” - I kept repeating this to myself as i crossed any male or female. I felt a sense of awe at the revelation though i knew well that unless i could translate this experience to an everyday approach with people known and close to me in my world, it would be of little use.

Walking along i had a wonderful encounter.  

Somewhere along my path, a beautiful, fluffy and rather large rabbit hopped out of the grassy greens onto the path and began hopping in front of me. Its luxurious fur was brown and pure white in colour. The funny thing is it acted as if it was scared of me and would hop in front and then stop at a distance, look behind, wait for me to catch up and then hop again as if i was trying to catch it. This drama was very enjoyable. I marvelled at how and why this little creature choose to give me company. Soon it left as abruptly as it had appeared. I had read that often Masters in these mountains take various forms to give darshans to devotees who seek them and wondered if the little royal looking rabbit was one such Master.

The never-ending journey continued and finally - Home Base! Or so i thought, finding two of our sherpas sitting casually conversing with one another. But they informed me that our base was yet 30 mins away. They had been sent with some tea to serve us as refreshment knowing that we were walking and shooting our film at the same time and would be exhausted. I was deeply touched at the gesture and relished the 2 teas - a masala chai and a ginger flavour, much favoured by most in our group. We shared the tea with other few pilgrims - the Shivas and the Shaktis, as they crossed us by. Our Journey resumed. It was getting dark. A few laborious steps more and we were finally Home!

I was completely drained. A friend called out my name. I could see the bright smile on her face as she greeted me with an embrace knowing i had done the arduous second day of the Kora on foot. So numb did i feel that i was hardly conscious of my body or the embrace but i became aware of something else. 

Even in that fatigued state, I felt a warm tingly sensation at the heart region. Almost like a low voltage current flowing into my heart from her heart like a gushing stream of light. It was such an astonishing experience. At first i thought that it had something to do with her and that she must be an elevated soul to be able to do this. But after her around 7- 8 more friends and fellow Kailash pilgrims embraced me and the feeling of this stream of light flowing to and fro my heart kept growing. I realised the scriptural truth behind the science of an embrace. The purpose of an embrace is to connect the heart chakras of two souls. It is spiritually the highest form of gesture to show love. Thus it is that when Sri Rama wanted to show His love for Hanuman, He embraced Him. Perhaps my numb state of body permitted me to recognise this subtle exchange which is otherwise lost to us in our body awareness. In the region of Kailash such experiences and awareness was effortlessly possible.

Connecting the heart Chakra - Hugging Mohanji @ Mansarovar

The leader of our group, a saintly figure - Mohanji, who had been keeping us spiritually oriented on this journey, asked for us. We greeted him as he kindly spoke to us and blessed us for our efforts. Skipping dinner, I crashed upon the first bed available, set up in a humble and rustic cowshed. A friend came over and kindly massaged my head, given the constant headache one feels in the high altitude. I fell asleep immediately and then had the experience which was the crowning glory of my trip.

Just a night before we had had the privilege of sleeping very close to the most visible part of Mt Kailash. This night in my dreams i had a visitation of the embodiment of Shiva Shakti. As i slept, i found Baba appear in my dream, in a very young and handsome form looking intently at me with a smile on his face which seemed to say “So, you did it!”. I hurriedly approach Him to greet Him and He loving patted my cheeks as He use to in my days with Him in Trayee Brindavan. I woke up the next day still feeling the gentle sting of His pat on my cheek. The dream soared my spirits as i readied my tired body for the last days trek.

Before i began, i realised that this was the last day of this journey around Kailash. In my attempt to overcome the obstacles of the journey, I (and i guess most of us) had forgotten to enjoy the journey itself. So this day i decided to take it easy as the last day was easy compared to other days. I walked my path more in awareness of the mountains, streams, the flora and fauna, the beautiful blue skies and nature around me. I stopped every now and then and lay on the grassy mound looking at the sky, feeling the sun, closing my eyes, breathing the air, listening to the awesome silence. The beauty around me was breathtaking. It was depressing to think of leaving this paradise and going back to the chaotic world which seemed like entering darkness.

Sitting on the grounds, soaking in Kailash - 3rd day of Kora

I walked even slower fearing the end would come soon. At this stage the Kailash was no longer visible to the eye, though its presence was strongly felt. Knowing the end to be near, i stopped and faced the sacred mountain, went on my knees and tried to connect with the same divine energy which had so generously made itself available yesterday. I prayed deeply asking it to keep me here with it, that this felt like home. The thought of the world with all its agendas seemed repulsive. I pleaded like a child. 

Suddenly that energy in all its strength was there once again. In a fatherly way it declared -
Why do you fear the darkness of the world? Let the darkness fear you, for now each of you carry the light of Kailash within. Know that light to be with you always and spread it to all who come into your lives until you realise not else but the light that you truly are!”

Once again the image of a golden Kailash seemed to impress upon my consciousness. I understood that geography had no bearing on the truth.. That the truth was within me and it was for me to realise it wherever divine providence had placed me. Deeply uplifted I walked along reaching the end of my most blessed journey.

At the end of my sacred adventure,, with 86 other Gods and Goddesses

Truth be told, a small part of me doubted my experiences. I wondered if the high mountain airs and my tiredness caused me to hallucinate. I did not share any of these experiences with anyone, holding it deep within me revisiting it again and again to see if its impact on me lost its power with time. But as time passed, i still felt the awe recalling what i had experienced, and never could shrug it off as my imagination. Eventually my everyday life overwhelmed my consciousness and i lost awareness of the sacred message... until the mountains drew me to them and gave me this message yet again; this time in …

Badrinath Temple, July 2015

A temple is a mirror reflecting  God within each one of us..

As i sat at the foot of the sanctum sanctorum, absorbing the wisdom that was graced with, I decided to put things to one final test.

All along this journey I was carrying prayer requests on behalf of those close ones who were suffering various challenges life had imposed on them. In all my prayers I was not able to successfully let go and surrender these requests to God. They would remain with me, worry me and bear heavy on my being. So, i thought, if my experience in this temple was true, then i should be able to pray on behalf of all those people and at the end get up feeling light and relieved, convinced that my prayers were heard and that all those people would be taken care of.

With that, I closed my eyes and one by one remembered those in need, putting their prayers forward to the divine presence that one could tangibly feel in the temple. Unlike other times, this time i did receive a response.

As i visualised the person i prayed for, surrendering him or her to God, i saw a bright light emerging from their heart, expanding and overwhelming their being to an extent that the person himself was lost in its sea of brightness. This pure light was full of strength, wisdom, love and optimism. No amount of doubts could shrug off this image from my mind. It was a very encouraging and heartening sight. I tried to see where the problems of the person were in face of this light. To my surprise, I could see they still existed, even though in a very minuscule form, although it was easy to know that the light could overwhelm the darkness easily.. yet it remained. I realised then that the problems and issues in form of this darkness has its place and karmic purpose in those peoples lives. 

The Light ~ around you, within you, is you..
Yet again an unheard voice explained -

This is the true state of every being in this world. Darkness co-exists with light. Humans focus only on the little darkness that they have invited into their lives; whereas Saints, who are awaken to truth, focus solely on the light which is their true nature. It is for this reason that Saints can cross through this difficult world unconcerned with all the troubles and obstacles that confront them. They choose to live in awareness of the truth that they were, are and ever will be sustained and protected by the light of God which is ever within them around them and is them. This is your truth too and of all the people you pray for.

I opened my eyes and looked into the sanctum sanctorum. To my joy i felt relieved of the burden that i had been carrying around with me all this time. I felt my prayers had been heard and all those people would be taken care of in a way which was for their highest good.. I quickly bowed to the alter, made a small offering and got up in order to give way to others in the vast crowds behind me. 

The Unexpected Grace - The Tulsi garland
“Hey Boy..” A voice called me from behind. As i turned, the priest from within the sanctum flung something at me which i saw him retrieve from the idol of Sri Badrinath. I caught it and found it was a garland of tulsi leaves which until sometime ago was adorning the handsome form of the idol. Considering this unexpected grace and most precious of prasad as a further proof of the inner communion of the day, i left the temple.

From that day on i tried not to focus on Gods presence solely being in the temple. Sometimes when it was crowded, I sat outside by the side of the temple, meditating upon the Badri form within me.. At other times I found myself accompanying those guests who were privileged to receive an invitation to witness the early morning abhishekam within the temple. 

Thats me in the corner - Finding my religion

I knew well that this experience was not the end, but a grace towards a beginning. The real challenge would now be to live it daily. When maya confronts me with its charms and lures would i be able to remember the presence of the light within me?

A year has now passed and i have fallen and risen many times. Its been nearly 11 months since i wrote the first part of this blog. Frankly, this blog has not revealed anything new under the sun. The Vedas declared it millenniums ago.. Christ said as much - "Know ye not ye are Gods!"; and I am convinced that many a souls visiting this sacred realm have experienced such grace in greater measures.  And yet I was unsure if i should reveal these experiences at all.. but i have, knowing it to be the truth. 

God is around you, within you, is you, here and now, if you choose to accept this reality as your own. This truth and blessing belongs to everyone. 

And so i write these words sharing them with you, while sitting at the sacred Mt. Kailash and Badrinath…. The Kailash and Badri in the Heart!

Post Script ~

A few days after my writing this post, I chanced upon the following extracts from a book of spiritual experiences that I was reading. I quote -

"..during meditations, I started receiving very clear messages in form of thoughts. Initially I had great difficulty describing my experience. Since I was not hearing a voice through my ears and I was not seeing a person talking I couldn't tell exactly what was happening where the information was coming from. After several attempts I was able to describe it as a thought in my own mind, but it definitely was not my own thought because some of the things I heard I can hardly comprehend leave out being able to think about them on my own. Though it was not a voice that is normally heard by ears but it gave a voice like feeling. I was able to tell the gender of the voice. from the fluctuations in the tone I could also tell whether it sounded happy, serious or joking etc."

On Healing - " God is in every person. God does not suffer. There is no suffering of the Atman. It is the mind and body when not controlled that goes through sufferings. Sufferings are also due to Prarabdha Karma."

It seemed as if this was brought to my attention to confirm my own experiences, since I was very hesitant to bring it out in the blog. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In the Heart - 1

It began with a call i received late one night. 
“Do you think you can come to Badrinath? By Swami’s grace we are conducting an Athi Rudra Maha yagna there.. It will be an event worth capturing .”

A month later I found myself yet again in the deeps and highs of my beloved Himalayas. 

The sacredness, purity and cool airs of the mighty mountains took me back a year when i found myself at the feet of Lord Shiva at Kailash. This year it was Sri Vishnu who had summoned me to His abode to celebrate a Rudra yagna.

Like all grand sacred events, this one too welcomed us with a shower of rain. A fall of a drop and the temperature sinks to freezing cold.. The Yagna fire caused warmness in the heart for more than one reason. Listening to the powerful mantras and moving amongst  heat generated by the 11 yagnakundas can cause the consciousness to elevate beyond measure as the mind becomes a mute spectator, bedazzled by the purity of the occasion.

And yet there was something which caused me deep concern. I had not come alone, but was carrying with me various prayer requests to be offered to the Lord on behalf of various friends and people known to me closely, who were assailed by numerous problems.. the sickness of a child, a wife concerned about her husbands health, a sweet lady bearing numerous pains in her failing body, a beautiful couple distraught at the state of their handsome little son considered abnormal by societal standards, friends carrying social/marital problems and others.. Thinking about these issue bore heavy on my state of being. The high state of consciousness experienced in the yagna shala during the day was offset by the low feeling of gloom that i felt in the evening as i pondered over these issues. 

I tried to surrender these urgent requests to the Lord during my meditations but they returned and would always loom on my mind. With problems like these, the world seemed a heavy place to live in. I just couldn't let go of these thoughts... A state of depression persisted.

Part of the Yagna blessings was that the temple authorities of Badrinath had graciously permitted us to chant the Sri Vishnusahasranama in the temple precincts. 

On one such evening after the chanting and the deep meditation that followed, i entered the temple to have my first glimpse of Lord Badri Vishal, as He is referred to in those regions.  Like all major temples of India this one too was over crowded with people. Each person was trying his/her best to get a glimpse of the Lord. Naturally there was a degree of pushing and shoving and unfair tactics at play. Any state of calm, gathered in the meditation was lost as i tried my best to crane and stretch to steal a glimpse of the Lord. It suddenly occurred to me as to how we were behaving. I wondered what use there is of travelling thousands of miles to these remote regions and then to jostle and push through crowds to see the divine.. Where is the devotion? where is the discipline? To what end do i wish to see the image of the Lord given the chaos in my mind? 

Perhaps if i removed myself from the temple, the others would find at least some more space to enjoy the darshan. With this thought i mentally bowed before Lord Vishnu, and began making my way out through the crowd towards the exit.

The Divine had other plans.

One of our chief priests, Sri Sekhar who was within the barricades guiding and explaining the devotees the history of the temple, saw me and motioned me to come within. Not too sure, i decided to go with the flow and made my way in. There were no crowds here. I could sit at the boundary of the door to the inner sanctum, the closest one could get to the Lord, with an uninterrupted view of the divine figure.

I held my gaze one pointedly on the diamond eyes of the Lord, and continued thinking that to what end do we come to these temples.. If God is within me why do i travel distances to see Him in numerous forms. Is this a form of delusion too? 

Amidst these troubling thoughts, i suddenly found the presence of a clear light within, coming from the sanctum sanctorum in form of an intuitive understanding. An unspoken voice expressed:

“Temples such as these have a role to play in the divine human drama. These temples act as mirrors. When a devotee stands humbly before the altar, it reflects back the divinity within each of us. It shows the devotee the presence of the divine in the sanctum sanctorum of his heart. For that is where God has always truly been. But man has forgotten. The temples remind him. Is this not the reason why when a devotee after travelling miles, comes to a temple and  beholding the idol with his eyes, he then closes them and journeys within?

“In a temple, more than darshans of the divine with the eyes, one should have an inner attunement with the heart. Attune with devotion. Why worry about the crowds? Maya has its role to play, even in a temple. It disturbs your attention with crowds of people in the outer world and crowds of restless thoughts in the inner world. Be undisturbed, be even. Since ages humans have come to this temple to learn the truth that the real Badri is within.. in each and every one of you. If you understand this simple truth, then know your journey to be blessed and fulfilled!”

As I grasped what i received, I had goosebumps. This was not the first time I was hearing these words. I had heard them before, in similar circumstances, at the same time - one year back, from the same source - at Mt. Kailash.

Day 2, Dolmo La Pass, 19500 ft, Mt Kailash.

All my preparations at the physical and mental level had lead me to this hour. And it had failed me. 

Sheer fatigue overwhelmed my being as i climbed the seemingly unclimbable Dolmo la pass. I began regretting wanting to do the whole pradakshina on foot. I began regretting not taking the allopathic medicines to attune to the altitude. Summoning my last reserve of energy i finally climbed the top. After taking deep breaths of the low oxygen air I asked my sherpa “So this is it!” He looked at me pitifully and turning his head right he pointed towards the sky. I looked at the direction to see a peak and an ant like formation of humans who were laboriously climbing it. That was my destination.

View en-route the Dolmo La Pass

I choose not to elaborate the battle i fought with every step i took. For the first time in my life my body had failed me. My sense of devotion was gone. I was no longer chanting the mantra that i had received in my meditations* to be chanted during the Kora. I was angry at Shiva (Auspiciousness) and Shakti (Divine Energy) for i was convinced they both had forsaken me. There were others like me who were struggling on foot. But the locals were indefatigable. Old, almost ancient tibetan women in their 60’s and 70’s passed me by carrying children on their back, giving me their wrinkly smiles of encouragement. Some patted me on my back, some said words of encouragement in their dialect, others dug into their bag and gave me herbs which they said would help me. 

One step after the other, I finally reached the summit of my journey - The Dolmo la Pass, 19500 ft above sea level. As i crashed upon the nearby inviting rock, I closed my eyes and let go of my body and mind and became nothingness. Let me state in no uncertain words that I was not meditating or praying. I was purely tired. 

Moments passed and then it happened.

In the quietness of my being, I felt an unmistakable presence of a pure energy which i knew to be with me all along. Like a sharp ray of light in a dark cave, I heard its intuitive message of light beam into my being uninvited, and its unspoken message became part of my deeper understanding.  

It conveyed to the effect:
“You have been summoned, thousands of miles away from your home to these parts to impress upon you a single truth.. That the Kailash you always sought, is within you. The Shiva and Shakti principle is within you, and within every single human you encounter in life. If you assimilate and make this truth your own, then know that you have received from Kailash the highest one can receive and know your journey to be a success.” The vision of a golden Kailash flashed in my inner being and impressed itself on me.

I opened my eyes.  My tiredness prevented any elation. I became withdrawn as I got up and continued my descent from the peak into the second part of my journey. No longer did i focus on my tired limbs and walked robot like one step after the other in what seemed like an endless journey towards my base. My mind went over and over what I had experienced as I checked and rechecked if i had been hallucinating. But my mind seemed to be in a coma and refused to think let alone create such a profound experience. Above all i had felt the presence within. It was vibrating in my being. 

Any trace of doubts that i had, would be removed that night when i was blessed with a vision of Shiva - Shakti.

To be continued..

*Note : Prior to my kora i was dwelling on what mantra to chant through the kora - the sacred - Om Namah Shivaya, or the shorter - Shivoham, both of which carried the same meaning. In one of my meditations, i fail to remember where, i surrendered this query to God hoping i will receive His will in some sign or form. To my surprise, i received an instant reply. It wasnt either of the mantras, it was a third mantra - Samastha Loka Sukhino Bhavantu. This was what i was suppose to chant during the kora.

I wasn't up for it.. i protested that this was my first trip to Kailash. "Let this trip be about You and me, lets keep the lokas out of it. I can chant that anytime else." But the clarity with which this mantra persisted told me that this was divine will. An understanding came that God, the lokas and i were not separate. Let my blessing be a blessing for all and so i gratefully accepted this as my mantra for the Pradakshina.

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