India … just the beginning
Where to even begin?! Part of my body feels like it is still soaring somewhere over the ocean, heading for America – not fully here yet. The blessings of this journey to India will continue to reveal themselves in the weeks, months and years ahead, but I want to capture a few thoughts before time gets too far away from this trip.
The basic itinerary:
I joined the Ananda Seattle Pilgrimage four days after it began, so missed out on the first leg of their journey to Puri to see Sri Yukteswar’s seaside ashram. I arrived to join our merry band of 34 pilgrims in Kolkata where we visited Yogananda’s childhood home at 4 Gurpar road on the very day of his Mahasamadhi.
We also visited his best friend Tulsi’s home, where Master stayed on his visit to India in 1935 and where he started his first Yogoda satsang group as a young teenager. Tusli’s home is one of the most spiritually powerful places I have ever been and his daughter Hassi is the first saint I was able to recognize for her spiritual power. Her energy is just unmistakably pure. Her home is stuffed to the brim with amazing relics from the Master’s of our path, nearly all of whom have visited this modest home and blessed it with their darshan. Hassi tells the story of her mother finding Anandamoyi Ma, Master, Tulsi, Kebalananda and Sri Yukteswar in her downstairs sitting room doing Durga puja with such devotion that they were all levitating and the entire house was filled with blue light. She painted the interior blue afterwards as a reminder of the blessing. And that’s really just one of an endless string of mystical, magical things that have occurred in this home.
Next we took a bus to Serampore to see Sri Yukteswar’s ashram and to visit with Master’s family who still live nearby – Durlov, Bubu and their son Ishan (decedents of Ananta). We also walked along the ghat where Babaji appeared to Sri Yukteswar sitting under the Banyan tree. It was a lovely morning and afternoon spent in meditation there together, followed by a delicious lunch with the Gosh family.
Then we headed for Dakineswar; the incredible temple dedicated to Kali where Sri Rama Krishna spent most of his life in a meditative trance with her living form. Master also had experiences there of Kali coming to life and enchanting him with her divine visions. He visited this temple often with his teacher, Master Mahasaya as a young teenager.
Overall, Kolkata was an amazing place to meet up with the group and a great way to kick off the pilgrimage…although I did miss out on the coconut and flower greetings that the others received at the Coco Palms resort in Puri!
From Kolkata, we flew to Pune for the Mahasamadhi celebration of Master hosted by Swamiji (Swami Kriyananda) in the new Ananda community there. It was a joy to see so many dear friends who we haven’t seen since they all visited Ananda Village in California last summer. It was also a joy to be in the Ananda family vibration for a few days and to celebrate this special occasion together. We were lucky to get to celebrate his actual Mahasamadhi in his Gurpar road home and that they waited to celebrate in Pune until the next day, when we could get there to join them.
Badri and I had the great blessing of tagging along to a dinner with Swamiji that was cooked by my mom. We felt the blessings of Swami darshan greatly and had a wonderful time enjoying some laughs and great (non-Indian) food together! He’s quite fond of mom’s fondue (as are we) and it was great fun to poke our bread spears into a pot of melted cheese together and enjoy a whole meal without any “masala” spices!!
Next stop was Varanasi, which was, as I remembered from my last visit, CRAZY. I love Varanasi, but it’s the perfect example of duality in motion. The deep spirituality there can be felt the moment you enter the city. For thousands of years this city has been the spiritual hub of the East. Varanasi is home to the most famous burning ghat, where the fire used to lite funeral pires has been guarded and kept alive for more than 5,000 years unbroken. Yet, for all it’s spiritual prowess, Varanasi is hellishly dirty, stinky and overrun with chaos. I love this place. While there, we visited a shrine to Lahiri Mahasaya, who lived in Varanasi, and the Trialanga Swami from the Autobiography of a Yogi. We also visted one of Anandamoyi Ma’s ashrams, which is quite lovely and satwic.
From Varanasi, we headed for Delhi, where most folks went on to see the Taj Mahal the next day. I got a small case of Delhi belly at that point and had to sit that excursion out, but was able to heal in a day and charter a taxi with one other pilgrim who also missed the Taj the next day. The Taj truly is a wonder of the world – it’s external beauty is unparalleled by any building I have ever seen. It was an interesting contrast to go from sites of such inner beauty, but outer simplicity to the most grand building ever constructed…with lavish semi-precious gem stones inlaid into it’s marble columns and walls both inside and out. Imagining the place before the British stripped it of it’s actual precious stones, it is truly fantastic.
The final leg of our spiritual journey brought us to God’s sacred land – the Himalayas. Nowhere on earth does every atom sing with the Divine as perceptibly as those sacred mountains…at least in my humble opinion. An overnight train from Delhi dropped us at 5am in a town at the foothills of the mountains. From there we ventured by bus along the harrowing, twists and turns of the lower Himalayan mountains towards Raniket. We stopped for sadhana at an ashram of Neem Karoli Baba (Ram Das and Krishnadas’ guru) and one of his disciples, Mauni Maa.
Our hotel in Raniket was a dream – with sweeping views of the high Himalayan peaks from every room and the kindest hotel staff we ever encountered. We enjoyed a good night’s rest and prepared ourselves for the journey to Babaji’s cave the following day.
No place I have been can quite compare to the deep vibrations found on Drongiri mountain and inside Babaji’s cave – where Babaji and Lahiri reunited in this lifetime. After a beautiful hike up the mountainside, in the footsteps of Lahiri AND the Pandavas who once lived there, we enjoyed several hours in and around the sacred cave. This was the site of my first round of 108 kriyas just two years ago with my father. I struggled on this trip with my meditations, largely because of my health this time, but meditation was effortless inside the sanctuary of this cave. It was a perfect way to close a journey that has been truly epic.
On the way back to Delhi, we enjoyed over an hour of darshan with the woman saint, Mauni Maa before getting back on the long train ride away from God’s beautiful mountains. Mauni Maa is a direct disciple of Neem Karoli Baba and has taken a vow of silence for the past 60 years. Through the use of her tablet and the help of her son, she answered questions from our little group of pilgrims and gave each of us a personal blessing. A lovely close to a beautiful journey.
So, that’s where we went and what we did. How it has changed me is still unfolding and will have to wait until both of my feet have settled on the earth and time has allowed the true depth of this journey to sink in.