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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In the Heart - 2