A lot of people ask me, “What was India like?” To experience India, one must travel there. Most people will never step foot on its land. I have an inside look at this fascinating country and I would like to share a few of my own spiritual reflections.
India is a vast land with crazy, populated cities and third world villages. There is no place on earth like India. It is a mix of garbage, hospitality, dirt, tradition, poverty, and beauty. India mirrors all the good and the bad in life.
I have several reflections that I brought back from my experience in India. Each one created something new in my consciousness. Several of these experiences was at Parmarth Niketan Ashram – a place I’d like to return to. Parmarth Niketan is five hundred miles north of Delhi; about an eight-hour bus ride. It is at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and the Ganges River flows through the town.
The spiritual teacher of the ashram is Pujya Swamiji. The ashram is famous and well-known around the world. The Dalai Lama, actress Uma Thurman, and singer Sting have all visited the ashram recently. Even Prince Charles and Camilla visited in November 2013. Parmarth Niketon is active in community service and has projects for orphans. The ashram currently houses 200 orphan boys and it has plans to open an orphanage for girls. The ashram is working on women and girl empowerment projects, rural development programs, and environmental programs. Parmarth Niketan is an amazing and magical place to stay.
One reflection brings me back to my first morning at the ashram. I attended the Vedic chanting group that gathered at five in the morning. It was still dark and foggy outside as traveled from one building to another. During the chanting session I was absorbed by the singing and chanting. My body swayed to the music as I connected with the people around me. The orphan boys played instruments and lead the chanting. The monks in orange robes sat on the stage.
I was in pure bliss and happiness to be at the ashram. During the quiet, meditative time I had a vision or realization. I understood my connection to all things and I understood the power of touch. As I touched the floor of the temple, I connected with all the people who attended there in the past and with all those who will attend in the future. I was the link; living in the present. Like quantum physics, I could tap into the energy field. After this realization, I was aware of my hands and I took off my rings so that I would not restrict the flow of energy. I knew I could connect with all that is…all that was…and all that will be.
According to John Hagelin, an American particle physicist and the director of the Transcendental Meditation movement, “In our quantum view of the universe, consciousness is ubiquitous. Intelligence is everywhere. And the deeper you go beneath the surface, the more intelligence, the more dynamism, the more awareness, until at the foundation of the universe there is a field of pure, abstract universal existence – universal Consciousness…the unified field.”
After the chanting ceremony, I walked with my fellow travelers to the beautiful Ganges River. It was still dark outside with emerging light beams from the rising sun. The moon was in its full splendor and the air was crisp and cool. I could hear the river flowing and feel the mystical ambiance of people wandering about.
I felt a magnetic pull toward the Ganges River. I sat next to the flowing river as the current was alive and wanting. It was dangerous to sit at the edge of the bank because of the fast current. I could see the dark ripples in the water and the reflection of the rising sun.
In that moment my heart was full of gratitude. I was in India! Tears started to warm my cheeks as I sat alone with my scarf around my head. They were not tears of sadness. They were tears of appreciation and understanding.
I put my hand into the water to feel the power of the river. The Ganges River is holy because the people of India say it is so. Where people put their energy…their worship…their love – this makes something holy. All through India, everywhere I went, I touched my hand to the sacred buildings, the temples, the land and the people.
Another reflection…the group and I hiked through Rishikesh to visit a Catholic nun named Ma Tureeya. Ma Tureeya stressed the importance of service. She said, “See suffering and reach out.” India has a lot of people living in poverty. In my mind, I have a new definition of poverty. These people were dirt poor! Many were living in shacks or on the streets with make-shift tents. It is shocking to see hundreds of poor people. Riding in a luxury tour bus looking out at starving, poor people did not seem right. I remember seeing a raggedy six-year-old boy walking alone and barefoot, in the cold, from car to car during heavy traffic begging for money. This image continues to stay with me.
Ma Tureeya understood the “other dimension” and said something profound: Make space for the divine to enter. She said it’s important to sit in silence and go inside. To go inside “to see.” She said, “God does the work, not the ego. Do not seek the fruits. See what God wants of you – this is important. Put your total trust in God.” She also stressed the importance of less possessions and more giving. Since I’ve been back from India, I feel like I have less attachment to my life and the things in it.
The people of India have transformed my consciousness in many ways. I admire how they are so dedicated to their Gods. In India, worship is part of everyday life. Temples and shrines dot the land. I remember seeing a middle-aged Indian man in his cream-colored underwear dipping his whole body in the freezing Ganges River. He used the water for spiritual purification. I, too, felt the mystical power of the Ganges River. According to author Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa), “These places are where the material and spiritual energies overlap. Although the spiritual energy may pervade the universe, at such holy places or tirthas the experiences of higher dimensions are easier to attain. This is what gives these places special meaning amongst those who can perceive or know this multidimensional aspect.”
Visiting India is like stepping into the unknown and you have no choice but to trust. India runs on crazy. Nothing seems to make sense but it all works out in the end. Just like the caterpillar that thought its life was over…then it turned into a beautiful butterfly.