Tag Archives: Travelogue

Stop before you Start!

18 Aug

Stop before you Start! 

~ the amber light for all spiritual aspirants, to pause before they start the journey

So you’re bitten by the proverbial spiritual bug. As soon as you’ve listened to a mesmerising Master eloquently explaining what enlightenment is, on YouTube, and soothingly assuring it’s a possibility for everyone – that includes, ahem, you! Or when you’ve seen your BFF lose weight miraculously, a mere month after s/he started a new yOgA practice, which s/he learned in your workplace itself. Or when you simply couldn’t put down the book on the methods for self-realisation that you picked up at the airport (at double the cost of Amazon, no less) during one of those pointless business trips. Or when your fav celebrity – one of the many, obviously, since there are one too many now – gushed about how her recent initiation into mindfulness has transformed her as a person overnight (though there is no proof of any such transformation, other than her own assurance to famished fans like you)!

Anyway, one or all of the above happened to you within the last fortnight and you’re all fired up to start the journey to know. Umm, you don’t know yet what you really want to know, but who cares about such nuances anyway. If your fav celebrity got transformed, you, her die-hard fan, too will most certainly get the transformation. And how could the bestselling book be wrong, you ask yourself. And the weight-loss too is a dangling carrot that’s hard to ignore. And, if in doubt, you can always check with the YouTube Guru, who seems to know about everything under the sun! So you can hardly wait and are all set to press the ignition button.

Wait… wait… wait… Hold on for one moment please. Consider this the amber light that may actually prevent you from wrecking not only your #MakeInIndia superbike by jumping the Red, but also potentially wrecking those around you – on the road or at home or even at work, for that matter. Please Stop, just for a moment, before you Start that journey, which might be inevitable, who knows.

The long journey to self-realisation is a lonely pursuit. And a very selfish one!

What the h#!!?,” you may baulk. “Aren’t there millions of seekers, like me, who are on the path, being part of so many spiritual organisations!,” you might marvel. Yes, but…

IMG_20170712_093824There may be many fellow seekers along the path, or on a different path, to the same destination. They may even be part of the same spiritual organisation that you chose to be a part of and may do all the same programs that you do and do all the daily practices that you are supposed to do.

But, rest assured, each journey is different and every seeker has to pursue the journey alone, even if s/he is part of a group of seekers. And because you are aligned with a group of seekers who are all guided by the same Guru doesn’t mean you are all going to work together for everyone’s enlightenment. Tsk.. tsk.. Self-realisation is such a self-explanatory term that one should never get lost in any imagination about it’s self-centered nature. There is no getting around the hard-to-swallow fact that it’s about you and you alone.

sp1.jpgIf I become a better person, as a result of my spiritual practices, won’t the people connected with me be thrilled?,” you may wonder. Indeed, they will be. And the weight loss would certainly earn a few more admirers as well. But…

There will be many spectators along the path – loving family, caring friends, acerbic critics, unqualified self-proclaimed masters, et al. All of them are but mere spectators, who haven’t started (or concluded – especially the half-baked masters) their own journey yet. In fact, many of them won’t even have a clue about the existence of such a journey. They are so entangled in survival that they may not even be interesting in knowing about it, let alone support you in pursuing it. So, don’t be surprised if the beloved ones end up being the befuddled ones, not being able to comprehend what’s going on with you, i.e. the person they thought they knew all along!

I’ve got a fantastic Guru guiding me man… someone so popular that everyone from politicians to celebrities to industrialists line up to be at his events that happen all over the nation!,” you may protest. Well…

Guru_Swamy3

If you’re blessed, you may actually have a Guru (Spiritual Master, not the head of some religious establishment), with boundless compassion to guide seekers like you, shining the light along the path. But even s/he isn’t going to literally hold hands, till you reach the destination.

Not only that, the Guru will strip you clean of all the pretensions of your very existence, including the facade of personality that you’re hiding behind, in order to eke out a living in this man-eat-dog mad mad world that’s hell-bent on self-destructing the only planet it has got to live, so far, in this vast, still expanding, universe. Be assured, it won’t be a pretty sight, when you’ve no other choice but to look at yourself, in all your true-self g(l)ory… eeew! And that’s exactly what a real Guru does to you, because Guru is the light that annihilates the darkness of your hilarious ignorance, which you presumed to be intelligence, until the tables are turned, upside down.

adiyogi41s.jpgAll right, now that your iMax sized imaginary world of spirituality is shaken a bit with shattering Dolby Atmos sound, you better pause for a moment at this Amber sign (umm, Amber is the warning sign, in case you routinely fail to notice or jump at the sight of it on the roads), before speeding away into the unknown, but not uncharted, long winding path of spirituality.

Oh hey, you’re totally free to proceed on the well-known path of religion, which is the always available alternative, which most humans find very comfortable to tread, during any part of their existence. But that’s not going to take you to where you may actually want to go, since, most unfortunately, all the savvy preachers, heavy tomes and slick videos and impressive social media posts won’t bother differentiating one from the other, i.e. religion from spirituality. They are distinct and almost diametrically opposite.

The journey to realise the Truth isn’t a fun tourist trip that anyone curious can undertake. It’s a challenging yAtrA (pilgrimage) that not many get to complete, within a lifetime.

Yet, it’s been diligently undertaken by many, willingly, from time immemorial. And most of them did (and still do) have a Guru to guide them along.

Of course, anyone can start it. Even you, who loves whistle-worthy silly dialogues like “ரிஸ்க்ன்னா எனக்கு ரஸ்க் சாப்பிடற மாதிரி!” (“Taking risk is just like eating rusk for me!”) can. No one’s going to stop you from starting. And no one’s going to be there to ensure you sustain it. Or even complete it. You’ll be on your own. All the way, from start to finish. Hard to swallow but hey, that’s how Truth is.

Fun fact: The spiritual journey neither has a fixed schedule nor predetermined levels of difficulty.

RealizationBoth the length and difficulty of the journey is determined by you, not anyone else. So, if at all you don’t make it all the way, or you take a very long time to make it – may be a few lifetimes, the only being you can blame is yourself. And the “I told you so!” spectators will still be around to rub some salt on your wounded ego.

Along the path, there will be…

  • a number of tempting side attractions that will distract you from continuing the journey.
  • many a roadblock that will test your resolve to continue the journey.
  • a multitude of moments when you will be so exasperated that you just want to drop everything and run all the way back to where you started.

Naturally, there will be a number of fellow seekers too, who will pat you on the back, saying “Well, we’re on the same boat sis (or bro)!” hoping to cheer you up.

With plethora of content and myriad media to consume it, there are any number of aids available to a seeker, who should know how to utilise them, to progress further, along the path. The YouTube video that ignited the fire in you is one of them. That overpriced book full of practical methods is another. And it’s quite possible to be so enamoured by such aides that you may be stuck right where you are, without even realising it. After all, more videos and books are getting published every day. From everyone who thinks s/he has figured it all out!

CDD9-3And, if and when you make it to the destination, in this birth or another, you may be utterly baffled to realise that the journey is indeed the destination and you didn’t even have to undertake the gruelling journey in the first place, to realise what has always been there, right within you. Bummer!

Yet, upon the conclusion of the journey, you will end up immersed in the state of eternal bliss, overflowing with compassion, just like those who have attained self-realisation, before you. From time immemorial. And here’s the best part. There’s absolutely no obligation whatsoever for you to even share the experience with anyone, let alone shine the light of your hard-earned gnAnA (wisdom).

For every Agasthya Muni or Adi ShankarA or RamaNa Maharishi or Sadhguru, there have been thousands of other realised beings who simply chose to remain in the state of bliss, finding no compelling need to share it with anyone else. It’s certainly possible for you to be like one of them. Seems like a very tempting bargain, eh!

GuruPurnima1All said and done, there is a reason why there have been and are only a handful of realised beings and Masters, even as the human population kept on growing relentlessly. They are the only ones who walked the path all alone, all the way, consciously avoiding the distractions, and reached the ultimate destination, with or without the guidance of a Guru. They are the ones who have seen the glorious light of Truth, shining forever, within themselves. They are the truly blessed ones who had the glorious darshan of the Ananda ThANdavA (dance of bliss or ecstacy), with their eyes closed. And only a few of them, in an outpouring of compassion, chose to guide others along the path, as Guru.

So, before you choose to get on the path of spirituality, which btw – just to reiterate, because it’s extremely important to know – has nothing to do with religion, simply because someone known to you has done so or some social media post has fired you up, do take a moment to assess yourself. And be honest with yourself in accepting the fact that you may not be ready yet.

20120625_143222The humility to accept your lack of readiness to even begin the spiritual journey in pursuit of Truth, is indeed the starting point of the enchanting journey to everlasting realisation of the Self! Your humble acknowledgement of “I don’t know,” will eventually become such an unbearable thirst that it can be quenched only by the one(s) who has been there and seen that. Who knows, s/he may happen to you in this lifetime itself (don’t ever try going around shopping for a Guru – it just doesn’t work that way), to nudge you along the path.

Well, the Green light is on. It’s up to you now to Pause your Start or Continue unwaveringly. Happy journey fellow seeker!

May Grace be with you for a purposeful Life overflowing with Joy.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

SG1

Swamy aka @PrakashSwamy is a seeker (full-time may sound funny, but that’s a fact) whose seeking was on-and-off from his teens (when a maternal uncle took him to a Transcendental Meditation program) and switched gears upward in 2009, when his Master Sadhguru (Mystic, Yogi and visionary founder of Isha Foundation, awarded the Padma Vibhushan by Indian Government in 2017 for the remarkable social endevours of his spiritual organisation) initiated him into the ancient Kriya of Shambhavi Maha Mudra. A few more advanced Isha Yoga programs followed, culminating in Samyama, the 7-day Silence program, in 2013. With Shivanga, the yatra to Velliangiri Mountains, aka Kailash of the south and the yatra to Kailash itself (in Tibet) happening in the same year (2013), Life, as he knew it until then, took a decisive turn. Swamy eventually bid farewell to his lucrative, and reasonably successful, corporate career in 2015, which he assures is a planned retirement, to pursue the VAnaprastha phase and experience Life, the way it is, with a definitive purpose – of attaining self-realisation.

UpaGuru1Swamy considers himself twice-blessed, since, apart from being guide by the boundless Grace of his Master, from within, his ongoing journey is also being actively guided now by his Upa Guru Shri Sohamanandaji (the other bearded one, in the above pics), who is kind enough to not only to dispel his ignorant assumptions about spirituality from time to time, but also to take him along on the life-altering yatras to spiritually charged spaces such as Pancha Bhuta Sthalas (sacred spaces of Lord Shiva, associated with the five elements) & Sabarimala (both in South India) and Char Dham, comprising of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedharnath and Bhadrinath (on the mighty Himalayas). These days, in his own words, Swamy’s existence – one day at a time -is focused only on “Read, Write, Meditate!,” not necessarily in that order.

Oh, in case you are curious, Swamy hasn’t attained self-realisation, yet.. ha.. ha.!

img_20161225_080543.jpgYou may enjoy knowing more about Swamy‘s spiritual journey and experience of Life the way it is in his poetry (Dhinam Oru Padhigam hymns – 218 and counting…), blogs, quotes and social media posts (links to all given below).

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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Explore Swamy’s creation (blogs, quotes, poetry, reviews, photography…)

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GangA Nhadhi DheerEy ~ Step 0

19 Jul

GangA Nhadhi DheerEy ~ Step 0

In the mountain abode of the Lord of Gods!

At 4.44 pm on 8th July 2017, the tower of the temple came into Swamy’s view. It was exactly as seen in the countless photos that pop up from a Google search for that exalted place. The 16 km uphill trek that took a little over 7 hours was about to conclude. But unlike in KailAsh, the floodgates held strong. Until an hour or so! 

When Swamy inched his way to the ancient temple that millions dream of going to, but only a few thousands actually manage to do every year, most only once in a lifetime, and had darshan of the Lord, the floodgates blasted open… washing away the wrongs – known & unknown – committed over several births, including this one. They weren’t tears of toil or torment, but those of pure joy. 

Through teary eyes, Swamy drank to his heart’s content, the magnificently decorated Swayambhu form of Lord KEdArnAth, the Lord of the Gods, MahAdEvA, glittering in beautiful alankAram, that’s more like his brother-in-law’s. It reminded Swamy about Lord AruNAchalA at ThiruvaNNAmalai, literally in the other corner of this culturally rich, complex nation called BhArat.

The wavering mind that usually wanders all around, simply seemed to stand still. The legs that were begging for rest, after the slow & steady uphill trek for over 7 hours, weren’t complaining anymore. Every acquired thing that was considered something in this lifetime, suddenly appeared insignificant. The mantrA that was being chanted inward almost non-stop till then too has chosen to remain silent. Nothing else seemed to matter anymore – other than just being in the presence of Lord KEdhAr, encompassed by his absolute stillness… immersed in his boundless Grace… 

The darshans of Adi Guru will continue to happen, all through the next day, Guru PUrNimA, a very significant day of the year for spiritual seekers. Some of the darshans were so intimate that Swamy, along with the fellow yAtris, would perform abhishEkam and arpaNam to the Lord inside the sanctum sanctorum, which is unimaginable in his state, where the Lord & DEvi can only be worshipped from a significant distance, especially in popular temples. One has to pay a hefty fee to get a closer darshan of the divine. Getting inside the Garbhagriham is entirely out of question. But in KEdhAr, the most benevolent Lord would let anyone – irrespective of caste, creed, status, wealth, fame, et al – to not only see him up close, but also to touch his Swayambhu form and offer worship directly. 

Two incredible happenings, within the short duration of a couple of days, would change Swamy’s perception of ancient consecrated spaces, forever. Experientially, of course, not philosophically. His inner experience at KEdArnAth, one of the holiest spaces of worship for the followers, believers & devotees of Lord ShivA, would incredulously repeat at BhadhrinAth, one of the holiest spaces of worship for followers, believers & devotees of Lord VishNu, in exactly the same way. 

The experience would quite literally show Swamy that 

அரியும் அரனும் ஒண்ணு, அதை

அறியாதவர் வாயில மண்ணு!”

“Hari (Lord VishNu) & HarA (Lord ShivA) are one & the same. 

Those who don’t realise that (Truth) will simply persish (to be born again)!” 

… next in GangA Nhadhi DheerEy … 

“Step 1 ~ DEvi delays Swamy’s yAtrA!”

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy 

🙏👣😌🙌🌻

GangA Nhadhi DheerEy” is a step-by-step retelling (well, almost) of Swamy’s absolutely enchanting ChAr DhAm yAtrA experience, which happened with his Upa Guru SOhamAnandAji’s able guidance, in July 2017, along with a small group of fellow seekers.

Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake! | Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!

16 Oct

Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake!

Trave(b)log on Swamy’s Kailash-Manasarovar yatra through Isha Sacred Walks!

Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!

Sadhguru_Kailash1Swamy looked up and gasped. Words that are usually his friends (he is a writer, after all) deserted him and lay around like the innumerable pebbles that were almost everywhere on the path. After months of planning, preparing, wondering, praying, practicing, imagining and of course packing (more about them in later episodes), it was an incredible feeling to be actually there in that sacred space. With Joy Drops streaming down from his misty eyes, Swamy stood there silently, wondering if this was the culmination of the journey of a lifetime or a beginning of a new one that will be as marvelous as the path paved by nature for the 115 yatris who trekked along with him, ably, gently and kindly led by the exceptionally capable Isha Sacred Walks crew! Click this link to read Episode 1 – The Seeker’s Tale!Swamy @ Kailash

Swamy’s yatra started on 14-Aug-2013, with a flight from Chennai to Kathmandu via New Delhi. Like any Isha program, the utmost care for all participants and amazing attention to detail started right from Chennai airport, with group check-in directly to Kathmandu (hence, no overweight luggage worry) and even packed breakfast for all yatris. Packing for the trip was crazy and got completed (sort of) only in the wee hours of the previous day. Swami went to sleep well past midnight after publishing a blog post on pro motion that was also the promotion for the yatra (you may find links to Swamy’s blogs at the end of this post).

Swamy got introduced to a few fellow yatris at both Chennai and Delhi that included interesting beings such as a uniquely attired veterinary doctor who also happens to be a Kailash veteran (this was his 4th trip & 2nd with Isha), a retiree who has done many trips including the Alaskan cruise despite his physical condition (which he handled on his own with poise), an LIC employee suffering from severe arthritis but driven by her fierce devotion to Sadhguru, an elderly devotee from a leading hospital group family who can barely walk but tirelessly covering a long list of holi sites over the years and a successful business person and IIM alumnus whose bucket list starts with the Kailash trip! And the enchanting group of people Swamy got to know kept on extending till the very last day of the yatra!

Tribhuvan_Airport1Nepal looked ravishing from the air with lush green fields surrounded by majestic mountains, until the yatris sighted Kathmandu. Immigration clearance was quick (Indian citizens don’t even need a passport to enter Nepal – even a driving license will do) and the ever friendly and exceptionally capable Sherpas (more about these amazing beings in later episodes) welcomed the group with a shawl in the designated buses.

Kathmandu1The drive from Tribhuvan International Airport to the hotel showed, like any world capital city, Kathmandu too is a concrete jungle with haphazard construction dotting both sides of very narrow roads. The road to the hotel was lined up with showrooms of all Indian automobile manufacturers, further showcasing the friendly relationship of both nations. Maruti 800 taxis looked funny (the Nano taxis in Sri Lanka actually look cuter and probably are better suited for the purpose as well) but were apt for such narrow lanes, err, roads. Well, it’s time you met the enchanting country of Nepal to hear what we’ve been through and done there, right from the horse’s mouth!

Kathmandu4Namaskaram yatri (or seeker or tourist or reader or whoever you are). I’m Nepal, until recently the world’s only Hindu nation. After the horrible assassination of almost my entire royal family a few years ago, things have changed dramatically for me, politically that is. Now I too am a democracy, not too different from your country Bharat, aka India. Though just a fledgling democratic nation, with a lot to learn from my bigger sister Bharat Mata, I already resemble her in many ways – from ill (or no) planned infrastructure such as pot holed roads to chaotic traffic that’ll make everyone other than Nepali drivers go crazy to bickering politicians who love to play the musical chair for the Prime Minister’s gaddi! But what’s the shame in being the younger replica of an illustrious elder sister whose rich culture and heritage still inspires awe in whoever experiences her warm Aditi Devo Bhava nature!

As the entry point for both mystic Kailash and mighty Everest, I host hordes of pilgrims, trekkers and tourists every year. So, it is natural that tourism, hospitality and sale of mountaineering and trekking equipment and accessories are the prime sources of revenue for me (apart from handicrafts, artworks, garments, carpets, pashmina and paper), despite the fact that access to both these mountains are seasonal due to weather.

Soaltee_Plaza7I’m very proud of my enterprising and enthusiastic citizens, most of who wear the thilak (bindhi or kumkum) and a bright smile on their fair faces (a vast majority are Hindus). While the women dress exactly like their Indian sisters (Churidar, Salwar or Saree), men wear a waist coat and a topi, over their kurtas. Either almost every citizen of mine speaks Hindi fluently or travelers like you have no clue about the difference between Hindi and Nepali. Hotel Soaltee Crown Plaza, where you’ll stay before you start your yatra and after you conclude it, is one of the finest 5-star hotels I have that hosts thousands of tourists and yatris every year. The mountain vistas seen from the hotel rooms would give a glimpse of what you would see and experience later during the yatra.

Daily_ScheduleOn the evening of Day 1, after the Sathsang, a sutra (sacred thread) dipped in turmeric was tied to the wrists of all yatris. Isha’s thoughtfulness was at display once again, when each yatri was also provided a white cloth to tie on the wrists over the sutra, to avoid any stains on the furnishing in their rooms! Day 2 of the yatra began with Guru puja – a daily ritual to pay obeisance to all the Masters that have graced this planet and showed the path to many a seeker over millennia that kept promptly reminding us the purpose of the yatra – quick breakfast at the restaurant (it was too early to try so many varieties of dishes served) and some spirited singing of the Indian National Anthem in the bus (it was August 15th). We visited the ancient Pashupatinath temple, Patan and Bakthapur during the day.

Pashupathinath11Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath Temple was founded. The temple for Pashupati, the Lord of all Pashus, which are living as well as non-living beings, dates back to 400 A.D. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga, i.e., holy symbol of Lord Shiva. A sprawling temple spread over large tracts of land, the temple is throbbing with praying, offering and meditating devotees. There is also a cremation place a la Manikarnika Ghat of Varanasi, just behind the temple, along the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu. There are many legends describing as to how the temple of Lord Pashupatinath came to existence here, including this one.

Pashupathinath3aLegend says that Lord Shiva once took the form of an antelope and sported unknown in the forest on Bagmati river’s east bank. The gods later caught up with him, and grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form. The broken horn was worshipped as a linga but overtime it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsmen found one of his cows showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine linga of Pashupatinath.

Pashupathinath14

Sadhguru, the living Master and founder of Isha Yoga, explained the significance of Pashupatinath through a puranic lore, as the place where the Pandavas caught Lord Shiva’s (in the form of a Nandi, aka, bull) forehead or horn, while the hump, body and tail of bull surfaced elsewhere such as Thunganath and Mukthinath, each of which become sacred places of worship for the Lord of the Cosmos. The pre-vedic period Linga (8 – 12000 years old, at least) has 4 faces (6 according to locals – one each on top and bottom, unseen of course). It shouldn’t be a surprise to any devotee to find pashus (cows) lying right in front of the garba griha (sanctum sanctorum), exemplifying the fact that Shiva is the Lord of all pashus, i.e., beings.

Patan_Panorama

Patan was another kingdom (like my sister, I too was divided into many small kingdoms, which were later brought together by Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha king) and has ancient pagoda like structures with intricate wood carvings. It is among the largest cities in the country, along with Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Biratnagar. The city was initially designed in the shape of the Buddhist Dharma-Chakra (Wheel of Righteousness) and has many monuments including the stupas erected by Emperor Asoka and the Patan Durbar Square, which has been listed by UNESCO as one of seven Monument Zones that make up the Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site. While visiting its many temples, one is certain to be amused to see Gopika like ladies clad in red in the Krishna temple, sitting in front of the Lord’s sannadhi (an energized space with the sacred deity). While the Isha yatris roamed around marveling about the architectural splendor of Patan, they also helped me set some record of sorts in the number of locks sold on a single day as most of the 116 yatris bought at least one, if not two, locks! Some of you may find it shocking that animal sacrifice is still in practice in some of the temple. The water buffalo’s intestine hanging in the entrance of the palace is an intriguing and disturbing reminder of this ancient ritual that feels out of place in these modern times. Bhaktapur_Panorama1s

Bhaktapur too was a beautiful kingdom but just exists as a popular tourist spot now. Located about 20 km east of Kathmandu in the Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur is known as the ‘City of Devotees’, the ‘City of Culture’, the ‘Living Heritage’, and ‘Nepal’s Cultural Gem’. It is one of the 3 royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley. A city built with temples or designed as a large temple complex, the city is dotted with pagodas and religious shrines, unfailingly making any visitor marvel at its mere sight. The museum at Bhaktapur has many a painting that showcases an amazing handshake between Buddhism and Shaivism in brilliant colors. Many forms of Shiva and Devi are very much part of the tantric practices in Nepal and those of you from India may not be surprised by this at all. Lying along the ancient trade route between India and Tibet, Bhaktapur is surrounded by mountains and provides a magnificent view of the mighty Himalayas.

Bhaktapur_Panorama2sRaj, a young art student and aspiring tourist guide does such a fabulous job of taking yatris like the Isha group around the town filled with monuments, most terra-cotta with carved wood columns, palaces and temples with elaborate carvings, gilded roofs, open courtyards that some of them ended up buying an enchanting painting of Buddha’s life story from his painting school. The fact that a portion of the sale went to an orphanage obviously helped the sale! Some smart yatris also purchased quality woolen clothing and accessories at throwaway prices, unlike their not-so-smart fellow yatris who’ve spent a fortune buying them in India! Raj may one day join the eclectic brigade of young tourist guides, who are proud about their nation’s culture and heritage and keep reminding me of my glorious past that I continue to cherish. Some of the Isha yatris also went to the neighborhood of Thamel, Kathmandu’s primary “traveler’s ghetto”, packed with guest houses, restaurants, shops, and bookstores, catering to tourists. A few devout type yatris visited popular temples in Kathmandu such as the Swayambhunath (Monkey temple), Kumari Chhen (the temple of living Goddess) and Kali temple.

Bhaktapur40After a long day out, Swamy and his group of Isha yatris returned to the hotel, had a sumptuous dinner, packed all their stuff in the large duffel bag (more about it in the “Despite my stupidity” episode later) provided by Isha (how thoughtful of them, again) and hit the sack for an early morning start to Tibet. Read about it soon in Episode 3 – The Nomad’s Tale!

Note: All the photographs – except Sadhguru’s & Lord Shiva’s – have been taken by @PrakashSwamy (or another yatri using Swamy’s camera) during the yatra. You may view more memorable pics taken at mesmerizing locales in, around and en route to Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake in Swamy’s Picasa album!

.

Love + Gratitude > @PrakashSwamy

Be Joyful & Spread the Cheer 🙂

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Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake! | Episode 1 – The Seeker’s Tale!

23 Sep

Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake!

Trave(b)log on Swamy’s Kailash-Manasarovar yatra through Isha Sacred Walks!

Sadhguru_Kailash3

Episode 1 – The Seeker’s Tale!

Kailash8A gentle, cold breeze caressed the tired body. The sky was clear and there was still ample sunlight. The only sounds that were audible were the steady stream flowing below the small wooden bridge and heavy breath that was trying to suck in as much oxygen – a rare commodity at 17500 ft. – as possible into the overworked lungs. It was 7.20 pm CST on 22nd August, 2013. Among the range of gray mountains that were silently watching the lean figure clad in 7 layers of clothing stood the majestic granite monolith, clad in pristine white snow. The Mystic Mountain that is worshipped as Lord Shiva’s abode – Kailash Parvat (Mount Kailash)!

Kailash1After a nine hour trek (time taken by Swamy, not necessarily all yatris, many of whom were much better accomplished to do it in half that time) over 15 kilometers, on a 1500 feet incline, Swamy looked up and gasped. Words that are usually his friends (he is a writer, after all) deserted him and lay around like the innumerable pebbles that were almost everywhere on the path. He quickly stepped across the bridge and stood on a smooth rock that waited for the inevitable to happen. Like a million times before. Swamy quietly prostrated on that stone, facing Kailash. And then the floodgates blasted open to let Joy Drops stream down from his eyes, uncontrolled, like the many waterfalls seen all along the path.

After months of planning, preparing, wondering, praying, practicing, imagining and of course packing (more about them in later episodes), it was an incredible feeling to be actually there in that sacred space. Swamy stood there silently, wondering if this was the culmination of the journey of a lifetime or a beginning of a new one that will be as marvelous as the path paved by nature for the 115 yatris who trekked along with him, ably, gently and kindly led by the exceptionally capable Isha Sacred Walks crew!

Animals27Making the Kailash-Manasarovar yatra (pilgrimage) is a lifetime ambition for not just Hindus but for seekers from as many as four other religions. It is not easy for any but has been made possible for many with better infrastructure that takes one closer to the Mystic Mountain. But the last mile (pun intended) – not just one or two, about nine or so – still has to be made by foot – either the yatri’s two or the pony’s four, on which (s)he rides. And nothing prepares one for the experience of the mountain itself and the path leading to it (or the totally enchanting Yaks and Sherpas that tread it like free spirits), which probably remain as raw and pristine as they were when Lord Shiva himself must have roamed the space in physical form!

Sadhguru_KailashKailash can do many things to a yatri. But the first (and probably only, for the devout ones at least) thing it does is to make one feel utterly, helplessly and honestly humble. As Swamy’s Master Sadhguru says, in the cosmic scale of things, we are so insignificant that we’re not even the equivalent of a speck of dust on Earth. And Life the way it is, is nothing but the Cosmic Dance of Shiva, the Lord of the cosmos. So it is but natural for a seeker to feel absolutely humbled in the Lord’s abode. Upon its darshan, all one can do is to remain awestruck, unable to peel one’s eyes from its magnificence. All the pervasive but pointless thoughts about I, my & mine will melt away like the snow that covers the sacred peak, leaving one feeling stark naked – not in the pervert sense, but in a more subtle, subconscious way – getting exposed in all one’s gory (sorry, any sense of glory must have already gone with the remaining I (non)sense)!

Kailash_Painting1True to being the most mystic of all places sacred, where the Lord, his first disciple (and significant half), their wards and scores of his ganas, gods, yogis, saints, monks and seekers have resided and roamed around, Kailash will play hide and seek with the seekers through mist and snow, like the younger child of the Adi Yogi, Lord Karthikeya would have with his elder brother Lord Ganesh, his foster mothers – the six apsaras known as Karthigaip pengal – and maybe even the ganas. Now you see it and now you don’t. The whole place seems to change so dramatically within minutes that you’re left feeling vulnerable with all your defenses down, because this doesn’t fit into the image of any defined places that are confined by boundaries, known to you. It doesn’t matter who you’re or how high and mighty you’re in the social hierarchy in the material life. Out here, everything, including the terrain, weather and all beings including those who made the effort to be here, will have to play by the Lord’s rules, which naturally amplifies the mystic quotient of the nature of the place itself.

Kailash27As one settles down in the humble place called hotel (remember, everything around here, except the Mystic Mountain, is humble), with the omnipresent gaze of Kailash’s North face piercing through the glass window round the clock (it’s funny to talk about time in a space that has practically remained timeless, from time immemorial), the reality slowly dawns upon the self. Despite one’s heroic or superhuman (depends on what genre’ of movies one prefers to watch or kind of books one reads) effort in actually making it this far (irrespective of what the pony or porter would think about it), there is surprisingly no sense of accomplishment or achievement within. Instead, one starts feeling a deeper sense of fulfillment. And that feeling starts growing with every passing minute, relentlessly, until it becomes all encompassing. One just can’t feel like one’s normal self anymore. The realization of what Sadhguru meant when he said, “Just Be!” suddenly dawns upon the self, leaving the already breathless one speechless!

Kailash5Now that you’re sufficient mystified about the Mystic Mountain, Swamy will try and take you through his life-altering journey to Kailash-Manasarovar, organized by Isha Sacred Walks (A1 group, 2013), through many an enchanting tale, told from the viewpoint of a multitude of companions (not just his ilk) on this possibly once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. Shambho!

Next: Episode 2 – The Kingdom’s Tale!

Note: All the photographs – except Sadhguru’s & Lord Shiva’s – have been taken by @PrakashSwamy (or by another yatri using Swamy’s camera) during the yatra. You may view more memorable pics taken at mesmerizing locales in, around and en route to Mystic Mountain, Mystery Lake here!
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