Tuesday, October 27, 2009

08 September - Journey Back: Uttarkashi

I awoke yesterday to the sound of the river. How beautiful. How sweet. A bird joined in chorus outside my door and a stray cow from the village outside my back window. I had spent the night in the Chinmaya mission in Uttarkashi. The Ashram is so beautiful and kept so neat and tidy. It sits along the Ganges, further up the hill. It is a hive of activity and a sanctuary of peace. By this i mean that much work gets done here, silently, behind the scenes so to speak. The Chinmaya ashram is a very special place. When one is closer to the Tapovan Kutir with eyes closed, one cannot help but feel the sentient vibrations that constantly resonate in that place.

The day before, whilst sitting on the banks of the Ganga with Swami Tatwananda ji, he shared something with me. This was one of my most memorable conversations with him. Subtle, sentient, sweet and sublime. :) One of the secrets he shared with me was that one of the things that separate Mother Ganges from all other rivers is that she is constantly chanting the Aum. If one can afford to, one can hear it. I had stored this statement somewhere in the back of my mind and had lost the link to it. Nevertheless at 7:00am I sat at the Kutir where Sri Tapovan ji, a wise saint and sage, did his Tapas for more than 30 years. What i experienced was too beautiful for words.

I closed my eyes and i could hear it. The Aum!!! It sounded like a hundred Gregorian, Hindu, Buddhist monks all collectively singing: AUM. It was coming from her. It was coming from the Ganges. It stirred up emotions inside me. I watched as these emotions came to me. I observed the effect it had on my mind and body. I observed the sensations created all through my body. I drifted off.

Work at the Ashram is seamless. I woke up at 5:00am. I took a bath. The ashram had hot water. It felt very different after taking a bath in near freezing water the last four days. Ganges water is cold in the north. I took a bath in Bhojwasa, between Gangotri and Gaumukh and it must have been about 3degrees at most. I washed my clothes and hung them out to dry. I followed through with my practice of Asanas, pranayam and Dhyaan and was out the door by 6:40am. Neville ji, one of the workers at the ashram, was waiting outside to serve me with a nice cup of hot chai. It was still cool outside and the chai was a welcomed relief. I began to make my way to the place that had become so familiar and welcoming to me: Sri Tapovan Maharaj ji's Kutir. I passed Didi who was sweeping the steps so gracefully. I did my namaskar to her and to Sashi ji who's job was to wait on all residents at the guest house. I made my way down the winding path, past the rose bushes and up the stairs into the Kutir. I sat and was at total peace. I heard the Aum again as i closed my eyes. Mother was singing her beautiful song. In the Kutir, i felt and heard these things. I felt the presence of Sri Tapovan ji, I felt the mantras reverberating through the spaces and the walls, through my body and being. I felt great devotion and sacrifice in that place, calling me to a deeper walk.

The bell rang at 8:00am for breakfast. We were served a South Indian breakfast. It included Sambar, Idli and chutney. It was very tasty. :) Afterward i made my way down to the meditation hall next to the Kutir expecting a satsang of sorts with the local ashramites and villagers. Instead Swami's from all the different ashrams in Uttarkashi filtered in, one by one until the room was filled with about 150 swamis, male and female. I was the only person in that entire room that wore clothing that was not Saffron. Further more, i was the only non-swami present. :) I was EXTREMELY uncomfortable, yet excited and humbled at the same time. Slowly the swami's began to interact with me, one by one; a kind gesture, a soft smile, a loving gaze until my inhibitions began to drop and i started to ease into my environment. When this happened it dawned on me that i was not surrounded by personalities or ego but by encompassing love. Mahatma's; humble men who had given up all worldly attachment and small identifications in order to serve humanity at large. These were the real swami's; men and women who have heard the call to serve the world and each other. With deep love and devotion they began to chant the ancient mantras of old, charging the atmosphere with love and divine energy and i out of all people, found myself in the middle of this. How fortunate i was. I closed my eyes again in pure bliss and drifted off.

07 September - Journey back: Uttarkashi

People take rest here in this place.  People find home here at Mothers shores.  I met a swami named Hari Om Ganga.  He came from the south in Kerala to help his guru with his cave in Gangotri.  Just to clean it up and make it more secure.  He was not a swami or anything at the time just an ordinary educated man who had an interest in Hatha Yoga.  He ended up staying at Uttarkashi for 15 years.  When i saw him, saffron cloth and all, i recognised a simplicity and a purity in him.

06 September - Journey back to Gangotri

I woke up at 5 this morning to the sound of the conch in Gangotri.  I could hear the Ganga roaring from the room where i spent the night in Ishavasya Ashram in Gangotri.  I shared the room with the four swamijis from the Chinmaya mission in Kerala.  One of the swamijis is swami Tatwananda, the one i have been developing a relationship with. 

The night before was very tough for me, so many thoughts arose from the deep, so many vices, i could literally feel them choking me.  Last night was different though.  :)  There was a power and a deep peace.  I could feel the energy coarsing through me, calling me, waking me up at different times during the night with what seemed like electrical surges through my body.  It was exilerating and exciting.  Last night was very different.

I woke up at 5, took a bath.  The water was very very cold.  :)  Not as cold as my Ganga bath but almost there.  It rained today.  I decided to leave with the four swami's to the Chinmaya mission in Uttarkashi, the place where Sri Tapovanji did his Tapasya for about 30 to 40 years.  It was a funny situation.  None of us could speak fluent Hindi.  (They were Malyali speaking) We took a bus, assuming that the driver would take us to Uttarkashi.  That was not the case.  He took us as far as a village just past Harsil and asked us to get off.  We were a little confused but agreed that the fare he charged us was surprisingly less for an intended journey all the way to Uttarkashi.  A truck driver offered to take us the rest of the route.

We reached the Chinmaya mission around 2:00pm, all cramped up and tired from our 6 hour long journey.  There were 7 people jammed up at the back seat of a truck that was supposed to only carry 4.  Upon arriving at the ashram, swami Tatwananda asked me to follow him whilst the others unpacked.  He took me to what seemed to look like an ordinary porch or patio within the ashram.  He kneeled down in the centre, said a prayer, stood up and asked me to do the same while he made his way to another swamiji in the ashram, paying no attention to me.  I kneeled down and slowly became aware of the sensations in my body.  It seemed like an external force was acting upon it.  There was a tingling sensation and a depth that seemed almost endless.  When i closed my eyes i became aware of very intense sensations in my forehead and upper body as if it was pulsating to a very beautiful rythm.  I did not feel like opening my eyes.  I did not want to.  I felt like i could stay there forever.  After what must have been some time, i could hear swami's voice, it was slowly getting louder as i drifted back into that reality, waking me up from what felt like deep sleep.

I opened my eyes again and could once again hear the river along with the swami, calling me.  Besides him was the other swami.  They both waited patiently, smiling.  Swami Tatwananda introduced his friend as swami Dayananda, the presiding swami of the ashram in Uttarkashi.  After doing my pranams, i was asked to join them for lunch.  I am now writing from my room in the first floor of the ashram.  It is very beautiful up here.  The air is clean and fresh.  The monkeys are going about their usual village taunts and the Ganges is clearly seen and heard.

After lunch, I took a walk with swami Tatwananda along the banks of the Ganges.  She draws all creatures unto her.  We spoke.  We listnened to each other and to her voice that resonated deep within us.  I am truly glad for meeting this man in the saffron cloth.  His eyes are deep, gentle and compassionate and he speaks the truth.  He is with others but he is truly alone.  He is complete in the Self.  In that regard, I too wish to be like him someday.