Tag Archives: spirituality

Shigatse

Shigatse is home to the Tashilhunpo monastery, founded by the first Dalai Lama and ever since home to the panchen lamas of the gelukpa order or yellow hats.

The  centuries old lifestyle still seems pretty much preserved (at first sight) despite the Chinese rule ; a joy to wander around and mingle a bit with the ever cheerful monks.

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The Boudhanath Stupa

I have spent 6 weeks in the Boudhanath area in Kathmandu  after staying in the rather crazy Thamel district where the bulk of tourists end up and where noise is rampant. You gotta like it.

If you like things really chill and you’re not against a good old spiritual vibe along with more pleasant city surroundings then Boudhanath is where you might wanna end up  when you hit the Nepalese capital, whether or not on your way to do some trekking.

It is a very sacred place for Tibetan buddhists but it is also a favorite hangout for the youth dressed in the latest fashion fooling around with each other under the almighty piercing eyes overlooking the Boudhanath area.

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Where is God?

When God created the world, he used to live in the world, in the marketplace. But his life was becoming more and more a torture because people were continuously coming with complaints. Somebody’s wife is sick, somebody’s child has died, somebody is not getting employment – all kinds, all sorts of complaints. People were not even concerned whether it was day or night. Twenty-four hours a day he was listening to the complaints and naturally, losing his marbles.

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Finally he asked his advisers, they said:  ‘in the first place it was was wrong for you to create the world, in the second place it was wrong for you to live in the world. Now escape, otherwise these people are going to kill you.’
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‘But’, he said, ‘where to escape to?’
somebody suggested: ‘go to Everest.’
He said: you don’t know the future. I know past, present and future. Soon a guy, Edmund Hillary, will reach there. And once he sees me, soon the same trouble will start: buses, roads, airports, restaurants and hotels all around. People will be coming there to complain about their problems and troubles. The same thing will start.’
Somebody said: ‘then it’s better you go to the moon.’

He said: ‘you don’t understand. There is not a single place in the whole world where man is not going to reach one day or another.’

Where_is_God_7One old adviser, who rarely used to speak, whispered in the ear of God. ‘I know about one place where man will never reach. You just get inside him. He will look everywhere, but he will not look within himself.’
And God said: ‘that seems to be sensible.
And since then he has been living within you.’
Now that I have told you the secret it is up to you. If you want to go and meet him, go within. But don’t complain. In fact he will be very happy to see you because he has not seen very many people in thousands of years, only once in a while.
Where_is_God_8The people who have reached him have reached by becoming silent, alert, conscious. They don’t complain, they giggle, they laugh. And I say to you: God joins in the laughter with you!
But it has to be an experience, otherwise it will be only a belief. And I don’t want to creat a belief system.
– – – Taken from: ‘Osho, the rebellious spirit’

Badrinath Yatra

Badrinath is one of the holiest and definitely one of the highest points of pilgrimage for a Hindu to go to.

Located only 24 kilometers from the Indo-China (Tibet) border, at an altitude of 3000m up in the Himalaya’s the pass to the sacred pilgrim town is only open during the summer months.

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‘Town’ really is a big word for a bunch of barracks which serves to temporarily house the summer pilgrims on their way to the real deal which is the beautifully decorated Badrinath temple itself

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Reference to the lord Badri-Nath has been made in the Vedas. The mountains around Badrinath are mentioned in the Mahabharata, both amongst the main Hindu scriptures.

The Pandavas were said to have expired one by one, when ascending the slopes of a peak called Swargarohini (literal meaning – the ‘Ascent to Heaven’). They passed through Badrinath and the town of Mana, 4 km north of Badrinath, on their way to Svarga (heaven). There is also a cave in Mana where Vyasa, according to legend, wrote the Mahabharata.

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The pilgrims take holy baths in the ice-cold riverwater in front of the temple before queuing to enter the sacred site to perform worship and thus fulfilling the Badrinath Yatra, the pilgrimage

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According to the amazing accounts brought forth in Yogananda’s classic ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ the deathless saint Babaji is living in a remote valley in the vicinity of Badrinath

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And as I was contemplating my existence in the surroundings of Badrinath suddenly a mysterious figure dressed all in white appeared  seemingly out of the blue…
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Haidakhan Babaji (part2)

click here for part 1

Haidakhan Calling

30 years after Haidakhan babaji had left the body I arrived in Haidakhan. Finally! Haidakhan had been on my radar for a long time and I always knew something was up there for me. 8 years ago I crossed the junction at Haldwani leading to Haidakhan while on an epic adventure trip through India on the classic Royal Enfield motorbike.

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I often heard that one makes it only to Haidakhan when one is ready for the experience. Every now and then people immediately leave again upon arrival as the energy can be too much to handle all at once.

I had a strong sense of the appropriate timing now so I took the journey up there. I was literally jampacked with the locals in a shared jeep, me being one of the  sardines in a can making its way up on the long winding road through the hills. I really had to hurt myself in order to catch a glimpse of the amazing scenery unfolding. When we arrived in the valley, I jumped out of the can and  the sheer beauty  was  flooding me. I would stretch my fins out into paradise…

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After checking in I immediately took to the riverbed for my first bath. After all I AM a fish and I thrive in water. The singing stream  here surfaces a little further up so it’s crystal clear water here which might be a very unique thing in this very polluted country. A reason for celebration on its own!

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The day upon arrival is a day free from ‘duty’  so I spent it in the  gorgeous surroundings. I would find my favorite places for the next few weeks. Like the Hanuman statue in the middle of the riverbed next to an amzing Bodhi tree.Haidakhan_Babaji_16

In a funny way I had been looking forward to the daily schedule that starts at 4AM (!!) as yours truly wanted to regain a healthy portion of dicipline in his life.

I have to add immediately that we were kinda expected to take our morning bath in the river before 4.30, but after 8 felt a little better to me Haidakhan_Babaji_3when the sun was out to carress my body. Yes I was aware of the fact that Haidakhan babaji (who never or hardly slept) used to send people to have a bath at 2AM! Quite an awakener!

 Haidakhan_Babaji_7At 5AM it was time  for ‘chandan’ when colored sandalwood paste is being applied to the forehead in stripes and a dot (bindu), which leaves a cooling, grounding effect to the head. I missed chandan the first few times as  the clock of the man giving it  was half an hour ahead! But when I did catch up with him in Babaji’s ‘kutir’, ‘His’ room, the reward in the early morning was pretty awesome as the presence, energy, in there was very (very) strong, impossible to describe appropriately so let me put it very plain and dry here: it blew my mind away.

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We were standing in line and had to move quickly in and out unfortunately but I managed to linger a little second longer (which is a long time seen from the timeless!) before I moved out and went into the temple to sit for meditation which was pretty easy with no mind interfering…

Haidakhan_Babaji_12At 6.30 aarti would start, the singing of devotional songs, everyday the same beautiful riddle. It was like stepping into a stream and by singing and singing one gets carried away by the flow itself and gets into surrendering mode word by word, closer and closer to the source of it all. Aum…..

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You see, this is a bhakti path, a path of surrender to the divine by means of devotional actions. This path is relatively new to me (in this lifetime at least). What is very apparent here is the making of ‘pranams’ which means the bowing down in front of a statue or image. Where I totally loved to go with the rhythm of the songs and surrender more and more into that, the ‘bowing-thing’ went too far for me.

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So where people were even throwing themselves on the floor, stretching out in front of Babaji, I remained with what felt real to me.

I noticed the fascinating hazy zone defined by learning to move more into surrendering mode but also staying true to my own experience and not being bothered too much by what the others are doing.

There were moments where I actually did bow down when I felt connected to my own guru self deep down there. That honouring felt like a gentle breeze inside of me washing away resistance.

Sacred_Places_7Then it was time for my daily porridge at Raju’s just outside the temple grounds with a view that took my breath away (if it was not gone already)

Or I was at the shop of a great fun guy called Pan who would always surprise you in his very cheerful way with things curiously available in such a remote place…Haidakhan_Babaji_21

Karma Yoga

If you would ask me: “what was Babaji’s main teaching apart from the very general notion of ‘truth, simplicity and love'” then I would have to answer you: Karma yoga!

Karma Yoga means selfless service, work offered to the divine. By working from that intention, one cleanses the layers of selfishness that most of us have around us. (I would say). I had known of karma yoga pretty much since I was on a spiritual path but never felt the inclination towards it for seemingly obvious reasons as I can do work anywhere and at anytime if I wanted to, right!?

But now I knew there was something here to discover for me, I felt passionate to understand its jewel as most often the most profound things are found right in front of the eager nose…

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I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when I took to sweeping ; with the Indian version of a broom in my hand now I took to my duties as a ‘karma yogin’. With sufficient ‘truth, simplicity and love’ towards myself I would say even though I had a ‘little thing’ going on with ‘the others’ which very soon would challenge me a lot…

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It was said in the morning gatherings that karma yoga is being done in community and everyone is working same hours and we all stick to the schedule. Great. Really.

Haidakhan_Babaji_9When everybody is feeling inspired from within then we all have a blast together doing our karma yoga. After all, being in community with a genuine community feeling has become a real desire of me. I got fortunate glimpses of that in the past and I have an intuitive outline of what it is that suits me. Even though yes indeed, I might hold a utopian ideal with me altogether…. time will tell…

Haidakhan_Babaji_13While I was sweeping my way inside myself being bended over the broom, hurting my back, which would soon be aching for some good oldscool Hatha Yoga, it suddenly dawned on me I was pretty much the only one working full-on, but as it might very well be my own projections surfacing from within the inner turmoil, I let it be while I was checking in with my guidance…

Haidakhan_Babaji_10I was also responsible for the trash in the ashram.  Organic is being separated from inorganic but still I had to swallow my resistance and burn the plastic (a curious indian custom). The fumes of the plastic and cloth and what is it not all went straight up around Babaji’s Kutir (the special place I described before and might be holy indeed in the core sense of the word), o irony!

Haidakhan_Babaji_11Yes I made it a point in the community but very soon had to let it go and surrender to the nasty Indian way. And as Babaji is able to manifest a body at will I’m sure he can deal with some nasty fumes as well…

There’s a curious mix of visitors here.  I have visited ashrams of Babaji in Holland and Italy and they were really nice places. Here in Haidakhan, apart from the Germans, it is the Italians who are strongly represented and I loved their craziness and the jolly passionate surrender when singing.

Haidakhan_Babaji_6I saw that karma yoga works, and how, and why… a sweet revelation. Even though my mind was often in a lot of agitation and hesitation between confronting the others (who insisted on the schedule) with their lack of alignment with the schedule and at the other hand stepping it up a notch towards just minding my own business.

Sacred_places_5In the end I found a middle way in partly expressing my frustration and leaving all the rest to ‘their own karma’.  At least I have swept my own!

A lot of that frustration simply vanished by me simply sweeping the ashram (often in the burning heat which made me take to electrolytes) and also by my three baths a day in this amazing Ganga water.

Sacred_Places_2So often there is talk of the holy rivers in India and the amazing benefits you get if you take a bath in a certain place. I never got that, but here I definitely got something in that understanding for myself, in a similar way I experienced it in the healing waters of Stuart Springs near mount Shasta in California, another place very dear to me.

Legend has it that the Kumaon Kailash in Haidakhan was the original centre of pilgrimage before it moved to the ‘popular’ Kailash in Haidakhan_Babaji_8Tibet. Whatever is true about it, the cave at its foot, where Babaji meditated for a long time -and it is said Shiva himself a loooooong time ago- is really special. I was always eager to get in there after my ‘karmic duties’ and river baths but

Haidakhan_Babaji_5after half an hour I would be burnt -not by the sun this time- but by the sheer power present there. I was hardly able to get out on my feet (even though I had to walk on all four to get in and out) to find my way  into the cooling river again.

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The flow of my daily rhythm then would take me to Prakash at the ‘cave-side’ of the river. Prakash was Babaji’s pujari (someone who performs rituals and ceremony) for many years and now is pretty much retired and is fortunate to spend his remaining years in this divine center. He felt like a very old friend to me. His demeanor is so calm that it felt I not only took a bath in the river but soon after that also in Prakash’s presence. When he saw me from far he would wave and affectionately exclaim: ‘Shambu!’

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We enjoyed each other’s presence mainly in silence, listening to the river and the wind in the trees. I would ask him questions on his life with Babaji which he answered but silence took over very soon again as if he were saying: ultimately, there really are no questions, there is only surrendering to and being THAT

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check out part 1 where the Babaji story is put into perspective

 

useful links:

http://www.haidakhanbabaji.com

http://www.anandpuri.com

http://www.babaji.net

http://www.planetbabaji.com

http://www.babajiskriyayoga.net