meditation

Importance of Sanskrit Pronunciation

Sanskrit is a phonetic language of natural sound partitions. Not only do the sounds connect to nature, one could say they are the energetic representation of nature and the cosmos itself.

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I’ll start by saying I’m thrilled at the expansion of modern Yoga and its reach into every part of the world.  We are very fortunate that the world of Yoga is vast enough and diverse enough that it contains a little something for every seeker.  It is truly and positively life changing.  Some are not drawn to deep meditation and the physical practice of Yogasana becomes their chosen form of meditation.  One can go very deep even with Yoga Vinyasa, and further can in fact reach those high states of liberation through the practice of matching breath with movement.  Point being, there is something for everyone.  In my own personal journey I was not only drawn, I was pulled by a force that would not be denied into the deepest most authentic forms of Saadhana (daily spiritual practices) available.  All diversity aside, it is also true that with the expansion of the modern Yoga world it is the duty of a devout seeker to be mindful of the authentic principles that lead us to such a point.  More and more teachers are certifying teachers and there is a fine line of dilution taking place.  The more the information is watered down and made so called, “accessible” the more we step away from the original tenants of Vedic Wisdom that guided us here in the first place.  Without these origins it is impossible to say that the world of Yoga would thrive.  Vedic Heritage has not survived for thousands of years because it is antiquated.  It as survived because even at Its most esoteric level, Vedic Wisdom is applicable here and now!

The Sri Chakra is a Geometric Energy Vibration that is brought to life by the correct pronunciation of the Sri Devi Khadga Mala Stortraratnam

I attended a workshop from an “A-lister” Yogini.  She was talking for 30 minutes about a specific pranayama (life-force control technique), and for the life of me I could not connect to which pranayama she was referring.  Then it hit me, “oh she’s trying to say Bhramari Pranayama.” This particular technique I am well versed in and could still not make out what she was describing.  There are multiple points to mention here:  First, Sanskrit is a phonetic language of “natural sound partitions,” not only do the sounds connect to nature, one could say they are the energetic representation of nature and the cosmos itself.  Secondly, when mispronounced the words do not ring in the ear in the natural way and this gives a subtle throw and wobble in the mind, which actually cause confusion and disruption.  Lastly, and most importantly as a so called “teacher” of Yogic Wisdom it is important to be as authentic as possible because now there are literally thousands of people out there pronouncing the word incorrectly which is directly contributing to disinformation and pulling us away from the Divine Source.

Now, some have argued that purity of intention is EVERYTHING and pronunciation is secondary to that.  I can relate to that in some ways and will admit that regardless of pronunciation one could stoke deep meditative feelings by uttering a mantra without proper pronunciation.  However, the purpose of uttering that mantra is that the energy vibration without fail produces a result, because it is directly linked with nature, and is in fact nature Itself.  Sanskrit is the very structure of the cosmos as well as the human body.  Walking the fine line of science and devotion one could even say that Sanskrit letters and sounds tug on the strings of Divinity thus, Divinity responds accordingly.  Meaning, if the Sanskrit mantra is uttered with not only Divine Pure Intention and also correct pronunciation, then only are the Divine Strings connected and the fructification of the result made possible.  The result of a meditation on a mantra is Grace.  Devotion and Faith cannot necessarily be defined or put into words, yet Grace can be felt tangibly.  Further, it is not only important to feel the Grace, it is also important to imbibe and honor It by living it out in the daily life.  The result (Grace) will not stick and create lasting change and deep connection with Divinity without these principles being attempted and respected.  To say that it is ok to recite and listen to Sanskrit Mantra that is mispronounced is akin to saying one would enjoy listening to music that is completely out of tune.  One simply would not buy and album or listen to music that is not pleasing to the ear, or completely out of tune.  When an instrument is out of tune we may even cringe as if it hurts our soul to hear such a thing.  Whether we are conscious of it or not, this is what our brain and nervous system is doing when Sanskrit sounds are not pronounced properly, because it is literally going against the natural sound vibration of the macro and micro world.  When a Yogi or Yogini is an adept in Sanskrit pronunciation one can feel the difference.  One may even say, “Oh, that is the most Divine Sound, I felt my heart come alive and chills all over my body.”  It is not only do to the purity of intention, also it is the correct pronunciation that rang so true in the heart that “Grace” was felt deeply.

There are of course exceptions to any rule.  A Jnana Yogi (Knowledge Seeker) may not care for the correct pronunciation because in depth knowledge of spiritual principles itself is a liberator.  The Jnana Yogi can feel the depth of Grace because that Divine Knowledge has satiated worldly desires and brought them to higher states.  That Yogi or Yogini can cultivate and even confer Grace due to the depth of authentic knowledge.  However, that does not take care, give mindfulness or respect to ancient Vedic Heritage that brought us these Divine Teachings in the first place.  Even the Jnana Yogi must eventually realize the importance of this principle.

Sage Vyasa, Ancient Rishi, Guru, Seer of Vedic Sacred Sound

One might also say, “well, I don’t have an Indian accent so it is not possible for me…”  This is also a statement of ignorance.  Sanskrit pronunciation is not accented.  Again, it is a natural sound partition that is found in all of creation.  The Great Seers of Vedic Wisdom and the safe keepers of Sanskrit sounds were absorbed in deep meditation.  These Divine Seers have the level of meditation to be able to actually “realize” the Sanskrit verses.  Through Their Divine Realization the Sanskrit Sounds were heard and connected with every element of creation, thus, Sanskrit and Vedic Language has been completely unaltered from time immemorial.  ALL other human languages have gone through drastic alterations and changes over the course of human evolution.  Vedic Sanskrit and Classical Sanskrit have not.  This statement of truth only proves the literal meaning of the word Sanskrit (Sans-Without, Krit-Critique), that which is already perfected.  We wouldn’t look at nature, the cosmos and Divine Mother Earth and say, “what an amazing accident?”  We wouldn’t look at the anatomy of the human body and say, “look at the RANDOM make-up of the body it’s so flawed.”  We say the opposite.  Any environmental scientist will expound on the great complexity of the PERFECTION of Mother Nature.  Every facet of life works together to support the next, and through our deep meditations we have realized that matter is most certainly linked.  When we pronounce Sanskrit Mantra correctly we are tapping into a direct channel, a direct road map to the Divine Principles which already exist in Mother Nature, The Cosmos, and our very own human body.

I truly hope these words are an inspiration, especially to those that wish to share Sanskrit, Vedic and Yogic Wisdom with others.  These authentic teachings are both being supported be devoted seekers, and also brushed aside and diluted.  The modern Yoga world could embrace the side of support as a form of Seva… Meaning, performing our duty as devout seekers to respect and become a walking representation of the ancient and Divine Spiritual Truths.

Lastly, one may be asking, “where can I receive more authentic training?”  For this a personal introduction is necessary, there are literally none I would recommend on line.  Contact me in person if you would like more information: j.tyagaraja@gmail.com

Hari Om… With the labor of Divine Love,

Tyagaraja

Tyagaraja Performance Weekend in Lake Charles Louisiana

Tyagaraja performs an intimate set of original music on Aug 10th and the next day follows it up with a unique Yoga and Meditation workshop. A worth while weekend and unique experience in Louisiana.

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Meditation on the Ganga

Tyagaraja Live

Aug 10th 9pm

ALL AGES WELCOME

Stellar Beans

319 Broad St Lake Charles LA

Yoga and Meditation Workshop

Aug 11th 10am

Center of Yoga Lake Charles

321 Broad St Lake Charles LA

Register Online at this link for the Yoga Workshop

Tyagaraja performs live in an intimate setting at Stellar Beans Lake Charles Louisiana

Mindfulness and Wellness a Holistic Daily Yogic Practice Center of Yoga Lake Charles

India Tour Schedule

New bookings from Yoga workshops to live shows have been added. More to come!

New bookings and dates have been added.  Tyagaraja and Gunjen Mittal have been in Mumbai networking and setting up many different events from Yoga to Music!  See below!

Dec 21st – Tyagaraja Solo Performance Ivy Grand 9pm

Dec 25th – Dance Performance with Expressions Modern Dance Company

Dec 26th – 28h in Pune

Jan 1st – Ivy Grand New Years Celebrations 9pm – 1am

Jan 3rd – Tyagaraja w/ band from Pune Blue Frog 10pm

Jan 5th – Tyagaraja performs with Hipnotribe Hard Rock Cafe’ Mumbai 10pm

Jan 14th – 20th – Tyagaraja and Gunjen teach Yoga/Dance and Meditation workshops at The Art Loft

Jan 27th  - Tyagaraja performs in association with Muziclub at Arc Asia Pune 8:30pm

Jan 29th – Tyagaraja acoustic solo set at The Farmers Market Bandra Mumbai 12noon-2pm

Feb 3rd – New Delhi venue and times TBA

more to come…

India Journals- A Devotees Journey to the Lap of the Mother

When the lights close, the drums begin to pulse and rushes of sound vibrations penetrate your very being. The only lights are the hundreds of ghee lamps all around, and the main flame in the inner sanctum of the Lalita Parameswari Devi. Many rounds of flames are offered to Divine Mother.

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In the Auto Rickshaw in Chennai India

We’ve been in Chennai for a full day now.  When we arrived Gunjen kept saying, “I can’t believe I’m in India.”  Oddly enough, her statement was not made from a place of excitement.  She was feeling unmoved, and what felt strange was that she thought she was supposed to feel different.  I knew that she just needed to connect with her parents and leave the thoughts of ‘back home’ out of her mind.  Then she would settle in and India would become her and she It.  Now it was time for breakfast, and the reason I knew was that the air was filled with a mix of morning freshness, incense, and sambhar.  I knew just what to have—uttapam, and idly vada, fresh pomegranate juice, and of course CHAI!  If you can’t tell by now I love Indian food, especially South Indian.  I also love Chennai.  It is a crowded and polluted city, yes; however, it has this flavor that you can’t quite put your finger on – you are confused as to why you love it so much.  I think really, it’s just because it has all of India in one place.  Chennai is much like Bangalore in that it is an old Indian city with modern development.  Not just buildings and malls and things, but ayurvedic clinics, schools, yoga centers, ashrams, temples, and yes, tons of shopping.  These places still have both old India pulsing everywhere you look, yet evidence of the strides taken to be clean, and more conscious, which is a modern philosophy.

Mathi and I, we are wearing the same Lungi, that is why some Indians laugh at me because I have the same clothes as the Rickshaw drivers and servants, still quite beautiful.

Mathi and I, we are wearing the same Lungi, that is why some Indians laugh at me because I have the same clothes as the Rickshaw drivers and servants, still quite beautiful.

After we spent some time resting and having delightful conversation about the plans of our trip here, we went to purchase a sim card for Gunjen’s phone.  Gunjen’s tension completely subsided when the call was made.  It’s not that Gunjen has an attachment, more so that she knew that her mom would be worrying until she heard of our safe arrival.  And yes, now we had finally ARRIVED.

First we had to shop.  We packed lightly and knew we would purchase everything needed for the ashram before leaving.  I had been to Chennai once before and knew where to go.  I was even recognized by Anand and Raju the rascal.  Now that I knew how much these guys straight robbed from us one my first trip, I had a bone to pick.  Anand raised his hand and motioned to me, “Tyagaraj.”  His massive forehead and eyebrow bones are the first thing I saw.  You can’t see his eyes because of the dark shadow being cast by his orbital ridge.  I walked slowly over to him like a well trained vet.  “Yea, I’m not using you this time, you totally ripped me off without even thinking about it last time.”  He said, “Oh, no Tyagaraj this is good price, waiting time.”  They always have some stock selling point it’s so humorous.  Clothing shop salesmen tell me, “Oh, very good quality, hand made, hand made.”  Everything is hand made in India!  Even the super express highway is made by hand! (Which is actually only a 3 lane highway, but still I saw with my own eyes, women in saris carrying bags of concrete on their heads.)  We found a new driver, Mathi, that seemed an honest enough man, he hosted us around Chennai for the rest of our time there.

View from Hotel room in Chennai India

View from Hotel room in Chennai India

It is now our second day in Chennai.  Gunjen is in the shower and I’m sitting on our 4 story balcony watching the parrots zip from tree to tree.  We are all waiting the birth of this morning’s Sun.  We have quite a few things left to gather before heading to the ashram tomorrow.  Yesterday we started our day with the Kapala Iswara temple a beautiful Dravidian Siva Temple.  I didn’t see the main deity on my last trip.  This time Gunjen and I head straight for the center Gopuram.   We walked into the main sanctorum with respect and as if we new what we were doing (and we do.)  We took Darshan of the sacred Lingham in the center and began to circumambulate it when a priest spotted us.  He was dirty and his white dhoti was gray with soot and use.  I watched the pandit tell a temple employee to make us leave.  He came straight to us and said, “No foreigners.”  I said, “No, I’m Hindu and pointed to my tilak (third eye marking.)  Gunjen said, “I’m from India,” with her best Indian accent.  (which is good because she’s Indian)  I said, “Bhagavan is for everyone.”  He just kept repeating himself, and telling us to leave so I made the decision not to test the waters if we just stayed.  Gunjen and I had fun scoffing at how ridiculous and hypocritical it was not to allow non-Hindus into the main shrine of the temple.  (More on that subject in a later chapter about Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai.)

Close up of a Gopuram at the Kapala Iswara Temple in Chennai

Close up of a Gopuram at the Kapala Iswara Temple in Chennai

We went on gathering the rest of our ashram needs.  After two days of running around in Chennai I am ready for the tranquility of Amma’s ashram and temple.  We tried to find many different sources of transportation to the ashram and eventually went with Gayatri’s long time driver.  Even though he charged a bit more I convinced Gunjen that it was not just one of these places where you can pull off on the side of the road and ask someone where it is.  It is a very remote place and there are horror stories of devotees getting lost going there.  Kumar knew what he was doing and exactly how to get there.  It would be a stress free trip, with the exception of the bumpy pot whole infested road that leads deep in the forest and to the lap of the Mother.

From earlier morning onward we are traveling to the ashram stopping along the way several times for breaks and photo ops.  We even paused for a bit at Amma’s school and visited with some of the children that came running out to our car.  So sweet.

Students of Amma's free school.  Mostly tribal children from the surrounding villages

Students of Amma's free school. Mostly tribal children from the surrounding villages

I began to see the mountains off in the distance and told Gunjen, “See those mountains, that’s where we are going, we’re close.”  A complete sense of silence began to cover my heart with It’s blanket.  Gunjen and I naturally stopped talking to each other as we gaze at the country side and peek over the dashboard and out the window to get a better view of the approaching Garudadri Hills.

Sri Hanumanji, He is double side, from this angle His eyes are looking directly in line with the top step and doorway of Amma's Temple

Sri Hanumanji, He is double side, from this angle His eyes are looking directly in line with the top step and doorway of Amma's Temple

Gunjen was marveling at the giant Hanuman statue you can see from a great distance giving blessings to the forest and the surrounding villages.  Our heads were shaken from the bumpy car ride, but we felt alive with energy and our eyes wide open.  As we approach the gate, a temple worker comes running with some keys.  Pilgrims dressed in all black stop to stare at us.  I take some video of a monkey having its way with something on the side of the dirt road, and point it out to Gunjen.  She laughs and can’t help but comment on the cuteness of our relative.  The monkey’s eyes are present and totally aware.  I watch her as we pull into the ashram and the gate closes behind.  I’m sure we would see each other every morning for the next two weeks.

The first person I see when we arrive is Laure.  She looks red in the face, sweaty and tired, just as we were about to become.  I hadn’t even paid Kumar and we were already receiving our to-do list.  We lugged the bags and all the things we bought for donations, like soaps and brooms and things, up to our rooms.  Gunjen and I gave each other a final, but not so final kiss and hug and got right to work making beds and moving furniture.  I had told Laure at the end of the last tour that I would be glad to come over to the ashram a few days early to help set the place up for the rest of the devotees, because I knew she was running the retreat with Lalita.  Lovely Gunjen and I had a wonderful time joking and playing while we worked.  We didn’t even come close to having it ready when the temple tour devotees arrived early, which meant Amma was on her way.

the ashram rooms are simple, no amenities, the tent is because mosquitos make their way into the room

the ashram rooms are simple, no amenities, the tent is because mosquitos make their way into the room

We went our separate ways to clean up and change clothes.  I was ready for my first shower out of the bucket with cold water.  I still take showers with cold water because of that experience.   I took Gunjen on the roof for a moment as the sun went down.  Now it was real, and you still can’t believe it.  You look around at the trees, and the ancient space of it all, and you think to yourself, “Why me, why am I privileged enough to live this moment?”  We spotted people lining up at the front entrance of the temple.  There was a small assembly of students from Amma’s school, and some of the young pandits in training that are for the time being living at the ashram.

Tadaka Sai is his name, so smart, so pure, I loved watching them learn

Tadaka Sai is his name, so smart, so pure, I loved watching them learn

The youngest and most beautiful of the group sounds off in the chanting of the Saraswati Mantra after some introductory mantras.  Everyone chimes in and repeats the Mantra over and over.  A full hour goes by, and I was reminded of tour, just waiting and waiting to leave, and no end in sight as to when you might get dinner or bed-rest.

Durga Mayi Statue and the Mountains in the background, so serene

Durga Mayi Statue and the Mountains in the background, so serene

When Amma’s car finally arrived I could see the full moon leering overhead.  I felt an instant surge of energy erupt in my chest and spread throughout my body as if the moon shot an ancient bolt of shakti directly into my heart.  Even more silence and comfort began to rest within me.   From the moment we arrived and within this moment and throughout the rest of my second stay here at the ashram, I felt right at home…

Amma told all the devotees to take rest and then meet in the Temple for Aarthi and our first greeting.  This is where the real fire takes place.  The Mangala Aarthi every night in the temple is so powerful and so intense.  The pandits close the lights and add dramatics to the ceremony.  It’s nice that way.  Aarthi is a very special ceremony and should be given concentration and respect.  (For those that don’t know Aarthi is simply waving flames and offering them to the deities.  The idea is that the flame represents the universal consciousness of the highest state.  When we offer this flame of consciousness to God, God then returns the energy.  Also fire is one of the most ancient and sacred symbols, therefore with every flame we are connecting with our ancestors.  There are many more details to this puja and when done with a pure heart can be a very moving experience.)  When the lights close, the drums begin to pulse and rushes of sound vibrations penetrate your very being.  The only lights are the hundreds of ghee lamps all around, and the main flame in the inner sanctum of the Lalita Parameswari Devi.  Many rounds of flames are offered to Divine Mother.

Lalita Devi, this statue was being painted outside on the temple grounds, wish I had an update photo of the actual temple, powerful place

Lalita Devi, this statue was being painted outside on the temple grounds, wish I had an update photo of the actual temple, powerful place

Amma describes this temple is Tri Shakti Pitham—the Seat of Three Divine Mothers, or Divine Energies.  Shakti—power, or energy or life source is always referred to as a Divine Mother quality.  Finally they place all flames into one and offer them to each shrine individually in the temple.  The drums and the clanging bells dance and become my heart.  Even with all the intensity, you feel nothing but peace and contentment.  The Sri Chakra at the feet of Divine Mother Lalita Parameswari is covered in kumkum (red vermillion powder) and flowers from a day of puja and Lalita Sahasranama (thousand names of Divine Mother).  Amma’s concentration never wavers.  She is totally absorbed in the Aarthi.  The young pandit steps out of the main shrine and the drums stop.  The rest of the pandits sound in the closing mantras as they offer the Aarthi flame to everyone in the temple.

Om Hiranya varnam harineem

Suvarnaraja tasrajam

Chandram hiranmayim lakshmim

Jatavedo mamavaha

Gunjen holds her hands out in front of her as if she is cupping the incoming of energy from the temple, and at the same time offering her prayers and surrender.  This sight brings great peace and comfort to me—to know that my partner shares in the same love and admiration for these practices as I do.  I fall in love with Gunjen all over again at that moment.  My love for her matured and blossomed in that small fraction of a second.

Gunjen after an evening Aarthi celebration.

Gunjen after an evening Aarthi celebration.

I felt that this was the best possible situation for us to place ourselves.  We had both just been through very difficult—life changing events and now we are in Sacred Mother India, in this amazing Shakti Pitham, offering our prayers and improving our inner beings.  The mountain is strong and steep and we are climbing to glory!  Amma gives a small talk after the Aarthi and then we have a late dinner.  Tomorrow we will be initiated into our silence.  I am ready.

(This next piece was taken from my notes on the first day of the meditation retreat.)

Swamiji:

Sati Devi lives in the cosmos.  Her body dispersed on Earth in 18 different places in India.  These places glow with divine brilliance so that the ancient Rishis spot them.  Once the Rishis found these Pithams they performed intense tapas (spiritual practice) and meditations.  Later after these energy centers have been established by the Rishis they build temples over these “self born” energy centers according to the forms the Rishis experience there in their meditations.  Most of these sacred temples still stand in India today.  This particular place in Amma’s ashram is the only Lalita Parameswari Temple in India.  This Lalita Parameswari temple is known as the jeweled eye of Mother where all the Vedas, and all the Divine Mother Energy is absorbed.  When we are in the presence of Lalita in the Temple we absorb all the 18 shakti pithas.  It is said to witness this Divine Energy is to have all samskaras (negative karma) of the past burned.  We are immediately pulled into the energy field.  (and let me tell you personally that when you are in that temple you feel all those things it’s an amazingly powerful place.)

After morning meditations and Surya Vandanam, some devotees would gather to watch the sunrise

After morning meditations and Surya Vandanam, some devotees would gather to watch the sunrise

that's when I would have CHAI!!! Ah Yeah!

that's when I would have CHAI!!! Ah Yeah!

India Journals 2010 a Real India Experience

It is not the same as thinking of the river in your mind and praising it. Actually being there and feeling the River’s vibrations is totally different. It has an intense effect on your body. And sometimes the lessons we learn are hidden within the seemingly difficult experiences.

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This piece could be given so many titles

“My First Dip in Mother Ganga”

“The Real India Experience”

“The Ganga is not just water, It is also FIRE!”

Sometimes the lessons we learn are hidden within the seemingly difficult experiences.

Yajna

Yajna

This story begins with my decision to finally take the full body bath in the sacred Holy Mother Ganga.  I waited until I found a secluded place of the main strip and also waited until the inspiration hit me.  I chose to take the dip on Friday, Divine Mother day.  I went down to the river bank along a back road where all the babas and sadhus spend their days.  At this time all was quite early in the morning.  I went at 5 am before sunrise over the mountains, and chanted all the mantra I know on top of a huge rock as the mighty river flowed beneath me.
Bathing in the Holy Mother River Gangaji!

Bathing in the Holy Mother River Gangaji!

When I first set my feet in the water it was freezing beyond imagination, yet as soon as I dipped my whole body under, I felt no cold, only peace and bliss.  This would be the only peace and bliss I experience throughout the day.

The fire began to burn the moment I arrived back at the so called Ashram I was staying right on the river bank at Laksman Jhula (Bridge, Swing).  The ashram manager was no older than me, Indian fellow huge beard soft voice, slow in movement, very high vibration, very spiritual dude.  I had found a simple and very clean hotel off the main road, up a large hill, down this non-descript alley way, and was checking out.  He gave me my total and my question was WHAT?  He was charging me double per day than I had expected!  Normally I would haggle with him angrily as you have to do, but that was more difficult because he was on such a high plain.  So he came down a little bit but not much.  I was frustrated and learned a lesson, and its harder being on my own, if Gunjen was with me, that certainly would not have happened.  So now I needed more cash to make it through the week.  Full of spit and fire I walked up the steep hill to my new spot, nice family owned place, clean, no AC cheep as all get out.

View from my room in the ashram in Rishikesh

View from my room in the ashram in Rishikesh

Using the forces of the Earth I was also on a quest to find a center piece Murti (image of God) for mine and Gunjen’s puja room.  We wanted a marble statue with, most importantly, a nice looking face with eyes and a smile that set you at peace.  I had been searching for one for days, and trying to get the best price and buy it from a shoppy shop where I actually liked the people inside and felt a good vibe from them.  On my way to the shop I found an ATM and was denied cash withdraw… more money issues.  That was common on my last trip, some ATMs just wouldn’t let you take money for whatever lame reason.  So I was again frustrated yet never the less, moved on.  I stopped at a few more places before going to the one that I like most just to be sure I was making the right choice of Murti.  I had a long conversation with the owner about his family and why he does what he does, and decide to make the purchase.  Again the card was denied.  This time feeling concerned I went to an internet stall to look at my bank account.  Frustration brewed when I could log on to every other site in the world at this internet stall except the freagin’ bank.  So I pick up my wiry bones to the next stall all the way across the bridge of Ram Jhula (swinging bridge dedicated to Lord Rama).  Sure enough some funny business was listed on my account.  Some purchase at Rajun Cajun in Houston, I thought, WTF! (that means Why The Face?)

The most frustrating part of this bit was that it was around 11 am and earlier than the butt-crack of dawn in US so there was no getting in touch of anyone, family, nor the bank.  So I was stuck, alone, frustrated and worried.  I started to write in my book back at the Hotel.  I was so upset that money holds so much weight in this world.  Many friendships and marriages end because of it, and now my peace of mind was being stripped.

Perspective

Perspective

I had a meal at this hippie joint called Little Buddha, it’s an utterly amazing place right on the river set high looking down on the River scenes.  My plan was to keep breathing and wait until a decent hour to make more phone calls.

Waiting for Aarti

Waiting for Aarti

My favorite part of being here in Rishikesh is every evening they have a Mangala Aarti (waving of the flames) and a yajna (fire ceremony) on the river bank at Parmath Niketan Ashram.  The sun sets as hundreds of people from all over the world (mainly Indians and the young Pandits (priests) of the Ashram, sing bhajans to the river.  I called my father because mom wasn’t answering, it was still very early morning in US.  She has signature and access authorization on my bank account.  He said he had been trying to reach her too.  I tried to keep my heart soft, and told him I would make another call after the Aarthi.

Giving Offerings into the Yajna Kund (fire ceremony pit) directly on the Ganges River Bank

Giving Offerings into the Yajna Kund (fire ceremony pit) directly on the Ganges River Bank

The first few times I attended the Aarti I was taking video and pictures, this time I just vibed it out and sang my bloody heart out.  Jai Jai Gange, rang in my heart.  Observing the level of devotion in the hearts of the people in the surroundings of the eveing fire ceremony was so inspiring.  You can truly sense from these people that they are connected in the channel of God, and are sitting and bathing in it.  There are no words to describe the feeling exchanged when chanting, singing, and praising the Holy Mother River.  It is not the same as thinking of the river in your mind and praising it.  Actually being there and feeling the River’s vibrations are totally different.  It has an intense effect on your body.  The sun setting, the moon, the energy of the stars, and planets, the trees and birds and nature around, the devotion pouring out of the hearts of the people here, the love, the excitement, the hope and praise.  It leaves me feeling like I am merely a particle floating around and an energy web, and that web is connected to all things.

My relationship with water, trees, nature is deeply inhanced through these practices of sitting at the fire, connecting with the water.  If you listen without thinking, and open your heart to the energy of the Mother Earth, She will speak to you, She is aware of your presense and wants to give to you.  All we are doing is taking, and feeding, little do we give to the Mother Earth in return.  The least we could do is give a little heart felt praise.  It feels warming to the heart.

Sunset  duriing praise and Aarti for the Gangaji

Sunset duriing praise and Aarti for the Gangaji

The ceremony was over and I called my mother.  She had all the news… finally.  Word was that someone had indeed stolen my identity info and was trying to make purchases, the bank knew that I was in India from a note I had placed on my account before leaving.  So when the Rajun Freakin’ Cajun purchase was made, they shut r’ down.  Good thing!  They said they saw many attempts, and two other attempts made in Houston, one at a Kroger that was an attempt to totally drain the account, how uncomfortable.  My mother explained to them that it was impossible for me to sift through the service number at the bank and that she could handle everything from her end.  The plan was to open the account for just long enough to make my withdrawal and then close it again.  My nerves were on high, because that meant I needed to withdraw all the money I needed for the rest of my trip….  which was tens of thousands of rupees (Indian money).  I stopped at the ATM, it was open, the time here was now around 7pm and already completely dark out.  I stepped in the ATM stall while the guard watched closely. (This next bit lacks in spirituality so if you are here just for that I’m sorry in advance.  However, it is real to life and anger and frustrations are all part of that.  I’m just being honest with myself and who I am, so that I can improve, I don’t say by any means, that my behavior is acceptable.)  I made my phone call to mom, she then called the bank.  I had to wait and call her back to know that the account was open.  The guard gestured for me to step aside and let the next person go.  I told him, “sure please wait,” He didn’t like that.  Called mom, got the go ahead.  I kept mom on the phone; she could tell I was nervous.  The Indian ATM’s say weird verbiage like “current” instead of “checking” so I tried and failed several times trying to find the right buttons to push, dropping the f-bomb left and right, all the while a line was building and the security guard was getting more frustrated with me, and tapping and poking me.  I told him bluntly and angrily, “you are going to give me the time I need to do this, now BACK UP!”  He didn’t say a word after that.  Even now as I right it I’m dying laughing inside, and in actuality it all went by so fast I’m not sure if I actually said it aloud or in my head and with my body language, (my mom swears I didn’t) however it makes for a better story, so I’ll leave it in.

I tried to withdraw a large amount of rupees, it kept telling me to ask for a smaller amount I did this about 15 times no kidding.  All the while my mom was saying stuff like “it’s ok, just breathe” and I could hear her do it like she was telling herself, and stuff like “please Jesus” damn right I’ll take anybody at this point, Laksmi, Jesus, who ever just get me my damn security!  Finally after what seemed like a million attempts I withdrew a little less than half of what I needed to finish out my trip.  Oh, but the story is not even far from over, Lo!

courage

courage

My phone call with my mom ended awkwardly because she couldn’t hear me, the phone was losing reception, little did I know it was because a MASSIVE rain storm was about to cover Rishikesh.  I hopped on the bike I had rented because the auto-rickshaw guys overcharge and I hate bargaining with them every freakin’ time.  I found a back road to my hotel near where I had dipped in the Ganga.  It is pitch black dark back there and you have to be really careful, yet this time, the rain started trickling in.  Before I made it a few feet, it came a “frog strangler” as the redneck side of my fam would say.  The rain was gushing straight down, I had my backpack with both my cameras and was getting soaked. I chose to just charge it the mile or so back the hotel and hope my back pack held up.  Weaving around cows and cow patties and driving over pot holes, pumping with all the will I have to bike up steep hills so I wouldn’t have to get off the bike and walk with rain gushing down, and racing around through God knows what else.  I made it back to the main road, yet my vision was so impaired from the rain I couldn’t find the small alleyway to my hotel.  I ducked under a small chat hut (fried food) to look in my bag, the camera was not wet, yet my back and body was drenched like I had been swimming.  An Indian man said, “Kya” (what?) I told him Gangotri (the name of my hotel)  He said, “Upside” and pointed, whatever the hell that means.  I took a deep breath and said f’ it.  Who knows how long this storm will last I’m not waiting here. I hopped on the bike and pushed the peddle, the chain had come off and I scratched the hell out of my ankle trying to get going, so pushing my bike in the downpour I carried on.  Lo!  I found it!  Except this time it was not an alley way. It was a river!  Not just a river but black water of straight garbage runoff and rain storm raging overhead making it impossible to even see.  Ankle deep in the trash river I was pushing my bike up the steep hill, so exhausted I was literally gasping on the out breath saying “huuuuh, huuuuuuuuh,” Finally I made it to the cover of the first floor of the hotel.  Parked the bike and walked my soggy sack up the 4 flights of stairs painting and heaving.

Fog set in the morning before the storm, it felt like living amoung the clouds

Fog set in the morning before the storm, it felt like living amoung the clouds

The story continues, as if this is not enough!  I am not in a hurry at this point, and slowly open the door to my room, with my first step in my room I slip and bust my ass.  Lord why has thou forsakenith meith.  I looked up at the sky and said what the hell, one more crack eh?  I stripped my clothes off as I tried to slow my breath, I could feel the atrophy in my muscles and fatigue all over my body.

I’m leaving so many little things out, like I actually went to 5 different ATMs all over the city, and talked to so many different people and came across so many obstacles, just imagine having to live everyday with that struggle…even to complete the simplest tasks you have fight your way through.  Imagine having to fetch water from a community faucet in a village, bring the water back, boil a huge pot over fire to get the water hot enough for cooking and laundry—then spend all day actually cooking or doing laundry and that’s just the beginning… there is still work to be done to make money for food.  Whew, it’s just exhausting taking all that in when you bear witness to it firsthand.  The point of the story is clear; life is just very hard here.  You have to keep calm and keep your wits about you.

working

working

Another couple of lessons and points are:  Part of being purified is getting burned, that day I was burned to a crisp physically and mentally.  I went into the Holy River wanting the water to cleanse my spirit and instead of water, Mother shot with fire, and oh yea a massive rain storm that didn’t let up until 4 am!

Devotion

Devotion

The rain pounded my balcony and window and reminded me who I am.  I didn’t sleep that much that evening—just continued loving the rain and respecting the great awesomeness of the Mother Earth.

Another lesson and a vision that popped in my mind was that God was telling me to be more cautious with my money that I will need it for something more at the end of my trip, so I’m not going back to the shoppy shop to buy the Murti, it was not meant to be.  Also going through all this trouble and knowing that the Indian people live it every day, made me feel that my problems are really nothing. Yet, I relate only to my own experience, so today was quite heavy.

Higher up in the mountains of Rishikesh along the Gangaji.

Higher up in the mountains of Rishikesh along the Gangaji.

I felt lonely and decided to give the bike back and take the time to walk slowly all over this beautiful place and do things that are, well, free!  Like observe, write, breathe, and meditate.  I am now on a quest to develop a deeper sense of patients, being able to listen, to be humble, to live a simple life, to not take absolutely anything for granted.

Other related stories click the links below:

Wonders of Rishikesh and the search for the Emerald Nose Stud

India Journals Delhi, Rishikesh, Deradhun