Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reminiscences and photographs from India

The spiritual heritage of India has become an important part of my own and of Western thinking generally. Here two of the world’s greatest religions were born, as well as the legendary techniques of release that gave us yoga.

Reading and studying and traveling in India (and practicing Indian lifestyles like vegetarianism, yoga, meditation, and various forms of Vedanta psycho-philosophy) have all helped to shape and (potentially) improve my nature and essential-soul-stuff.

Bathing in Holy Mother Ganges
(Colorado's Arkansas River...in India)

Varanasi, the great Indian City --
also called Kashi,
"the city of light",
or its English name, Benares 

Bathing in the Ganges (a river said to have fallen from heaven to earth) is the first act of Varanasi pilgrims and a daily rite for Varanasi residents. Some of these bathers and pilgrims are old and feeble, weary from long life journeys, emaciated by maladies, saddened from losses and troubles; and the morning air blows sharp, the river’s water runs chilly over them -- running from the Himilayas across the great Deccan plains to cross the fertile country and end in the sea. Yet there they stand, breast deep in the cold river, with dripping saris clinging to their thin or aged limbs, visibly shuddering under the shock of the water, and their lips blue and quivering, while they eagerly mutter their invocations. None of them hesitates; into the Ganga they plunge on arrival, ill or well, and scoop the holy liquid up with small, dark, trembling hands, repeating the sacred names, and softly mentioning the sins they would have the river carry away and the beloved souls they are there to pray for.

Sadhu (wandering holy man) offering thanks to mother Ganges

Pilgrim praying on Varanasi Ghat
Most people who sample the quality of Indian food, music, dancing, literature, architecture, philosophy, and spirituality acquire a lifelong taste for all things Indian. If world trade were conducted purely in cultural products, India would have a thumping annual surplus!

The Taj Mahal
 “The soul of Iran incarnate in the body of India”

19th Century view of Taj (under British occupation)

Sinking Temple at Manikarnika Kund

Manikarnika Ghat is the most auspicious place on earth for a Hindu to be cremated...in the very center of Varanasi along the Ganges. Every hour of the day bodies are carried through the alleyways of the old city to holy Manikarnika, the temple of cremation. 

Varanasi emits one of the most intense “religious highs” you will ever experience…!!

Dr. Scott at Manikarnika on the Ganges, Varanasi India

The Eldest son preparing to offer the remains of his parent to the Ganges

There is little I have seen in the world to compare with the splendor of the holy temples of Varanasi, seen from the river at dawn.

The rays of the early morning sun spread across the river and strike the high-banked western face of this city – the Luminous, the City of Light.
The temples and shrines, ashrams and pavilions that stretch along the river for over 3 miles are golden in the early morning. They rise majesticly on the high riverbank and cast deep reflections into the waters of the Ganges. Long flights of stone steps (called ghats), reaching like roots into the river, bring thousands of worshippers down to the river to bathe at dawn. At the top of these steps in the narrow lanes that lead from the city down to the river moves the earthly drama of life and death, the clip-clop of cows, the rumble of wooden wheels of vegetable carts, the ceaseless weavings of motorbikes and scooters, the ping-ping-ping of bicycle bells…the entire melody of Varanasi, which devout Hindus call samsara. But from the perspective of the river through which the living fluids of the great god Shiva flow whose city Kashi is, there is a vision of transcendence and liberation, which Hindus call moksha.
Mark Twain quipped:
Benares is older than history,
older than tradition,
older even than legend,
and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”
Varanasi’s shrines are heaped with flowers and filled with the smell of incense, the chanting of prayers, and the ringing of bells. Hinduism is a tradition that has imagined God in a thousand ways; a tradition that has been adept in discovering the presence of the divine everywhere and bringing every aspect of human life into the religious arena. It is a religious tradition that understands life and death as an integrated whole. In Varanasi the smoke of the cremation pyres rises heavenward with the spires of a hundred temples and the ashes of the dead swirl through the waters of the Ganges, the river of life.

Gandhi Institute, Varanasi India

Scott at Gandhi's memorial in New Dehli

Dr. Scott elated with the sounds, smells, history and meaning of Varanasi

Aerial view of ancient Varanasi
Dr. Goodheart (Dr. Scott's Guru) shows up in
Varanasi at Kedara Ghat on the Ganges

Dr. Scott and Dr. Goodheart doing yoga at
Shiva Temple, Benares Hindu University
Department of Ayurvedic Medicine,
Benares Hindu University, Varanasi India
My final posting on this Blog is about a Sadhu I met on my last trip to India (Varanasi). Ruph Nath  lives close to his ghat, called the Kedara ghat (run by South Indians), and he performs japa by counting the beads of his tulsi mala in the yellow bag; he uses his right hand – the ‘clean’ hand – but excludes the index-finger – the ‘ego.’ As a result of this meditational use, the mala gets loaded with spiritual energy. To prevent dissipation or pollution of the spiritual energy, the mala is often kept in this special bag, called gomukhi, that is, ‘cow-mouth.’ The cow, as everyone knows, is holy in India because it is Shiva’s “ride” when he’s on earth, and his ride’s name is Nandi. (I shit you not!)
Ruph Nath at Kedara Ghat, Varanasi India
Sukh Deva, Sadhu giving me a powerful eyefull of Shiva near Manikarnika ghat

Shiva's ride (when in Varanasi), Nandi

Like all the Mondo-Boppo Triple-Pleated Uber-Gods and Sadhus in India, Shiva himself is the coincidentia oppositorum: he is Creation and Destruction, he is the Lover and the Celibate turning his sperm into spiritual Shakti, he is the Unmovable eye of the universe and the Yogi; in his person all dualities are contained, resolved and transcended. In other words, Shiva doesn’t give a shit; while giving a shit with high-octane passion!! Even with 5 million plus sadhus in India, very few of them has so much as nibbled on the edge of the patty of the great Hamburger of Bliss that is the final goal, Shiva himself. The rest of us are still only licking at the lettuce hanging out the sides.
Someday we'll all be like Shiva...until then, let's travel to INDIA!!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice materials....
    It made me feel nostalgic about my homeland which I left long long time ago....
    You are a very lucky person to have the direct experience of the intense and very comforting spiritual feelings..... by just being there and having all those deep and mystical knowledge on the power of being there in Benares !!