Category Archives: India 2015

I Thought I Could Never Go  — By Rama (Ruth) Brooke

When Swamiji first began offering trips to India, I thought I’d never be brave enough to go. On the 14 plus hour plane ride over I could taste the “avidya” (the not-knowing who I am) as I left behind my family, work, pristine environment and all that I know well.  Gradually my attachment to these identities began to melt with each mile, as we approached the Maha Devi, the mother land of yoga.

DSC_0891Several days later, after soaking up the powerful shakti from the abhishek in Nityananda’s temple, from the yaj~na (Vedic fire ceremony), day two of Shivratri (a 3-day Shiva celebration) and our daily Guru Gita, meditation and asana practices, I feel my “container” expanding.

Earlier I had not able to sustain the openings.  The bliss would come and go, come and go; one minute ecstatic, seeing Consciousness in myself and everything around me, the next contracted and experiencing limitations. Now, increasingly, there is a spacious calm in the ecstasy.  With a few mantra repetitions, I can settle into the bliss.

It is always there; the undercurrent of Grace. Nityananda’s Grace pervades everything and everyone in Ganeshpuri: the beautiful, the ugly; the clean, the dirty.  Everywhere you turn in Ganeshpuri there is Nityananda. You cannot escape him. As stated in Shree Guru Gita, verse 63:

 

The Guru knows: I am unborn,

undecaying, no start or end,

unchanging, consciousness and bliss,

smaller than small, greater than great.*

*Translated by Swami Nirmalananda

It’s Everywhere — by Monique Martin

You can’t run away from it; it grabs you every time. In the chants of the Brahmin priests, in the flames of the fire, in the temple, in Nityananda’s house, in the room where he took Mahasamadhi, in the sounds of the bell and the beating of the drums, in the murtis, under the banyan tree that Nityananda planted near the river, in the air, it catches you every time.

DSC_0102You cannot hide from it, Kundalini “Sakti. It’s even at the tip of your tailbone.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Impressions — by Yogeshwari (Melissa) Fountain

Beloved readers, yogis of the heart: salutations from Ganeshpuri!
Every day I journal my impressions, inner and outer, and try to find a way to describe what is happening to me (to all of us) in this magical, mystical, beyond-time place. My awareness keeps expanding and what I thought was so succinct yesterday shrinks in comparison to the next day’s recognitions. Here are my hot off the press bullet points — for now.

Swamiji describes Ganeshpuri as a sleepy little village. Yet it is hardly ever quiet and rarely seems to sleep! The cacophony of outer noises (bats flapping, dogs barking, horns honking, mantras permeating the air, bird song, kettle drums) oddly draws me deeper inside to the quiet of my inner Self. When I am at home, my outer environment is controlled and quiet, but my mind drives me nuts. Funny about that. Ahh, India.

DSC_0313Swamiji’s satsangs each day are filled with revelation, the Guru’s Grace. What rivets me is this: in our supplications to the Divine, we ask for so little. We ask for peace, protection, prosperity. We ask for help with our problems.

But in truth all we need is found in these five words: May I know my Self. This is my prayer now.  Come to a Ganeshpuri retreat with Swamiji and be prepared. As the Bible says, you cannot put new wine in an old wine skin!

Of all our practices, attending the 4:30 am Abhishek, the bathing and adornment of Nityananda’s murti (statue) continues to reveal new inner truths each day. Inspired by this ritual, and wanting to continue it at home, I bought a small murti of Him. I had the temple priest bless it. This means I bring to my home not a decoration, but a living, breathing source of the Divine.

Deeper still is the awareness that I am that source of the Divine. It is worthy and holy to bathe the murti of Nityananda, but how am I handling this murti — me? My body, my mind, my soul? Proper diet? Discipline in practices? This is worthy and holy. And yet I realize that without a continued inner worship of my Divine Self, it all becomes mere ritual.  This retreat has made me want so much more.

A Is for… — by Dean Cilley

Abishek is the ritual bathing of the Nityananda murti in Ganeshpuri each morning.

Balabala picked me up on arrival at the Mumbai airport for transport to Ganeshpuri at 1 AM.

dhotiClasses in Svaroopa® yoga asana were taught by one of three great teachers — Kamala Gross, Bhakta Johnson and Yogeshwari Fountain — daily at 11 AM.

Dhoti is the ceremonial clothing worn by men.

Early risers get the most out of each day (by attending the Nityananda arati).

Families provide support so we could all travel here to Ganeshpuri.

Gurus are everywhere.

Holy cows wander the streets.

Incredible — India is really incredible.

Jaya jaya arati” is sung to honor Bhagawan Nityananda.

47Krpa — Guru Krpa— is Guru’s Grace.

Lineage of Gurus:  Bhagawan Nityananda, Swami Muktanana, Swami Nirmalananda.

Moti and Iqbal Memon cover the logistical needs to make our trip go smoothly.

Nimboli is the home of the Fire Mountain Ashram, which hosted us for lunch one day.

Opportunities abound for meditation and deeper spiritual practices.

People — one of every six people in the world lives in India, the largest democracy.

Quintessential spiritual experiences happen in Ganeshpuri.

Ritual is a part of every day in Ganeshpuri.

Tuk-tuks are the small motorized rickshaws that offer public transportation.

Upma is a tasty breakfast dish.

Valentine’s Day is when this blog was written.

Weather in Ganeshpuri is sunny and dry this time of year. How nice!

Xtra-special is the time we shared together here in Ganeshpuri.

Yes, I am returning…

Zoom is how fast our time went here.

Sweeping the Dirt  — Kabir Cloonan

February 14 — On my way to the temple, I met a lady sweeping the dirt walkway. The interesting thing about this town is at first glance it looks rundown, chaotic, even a little backwards, but if you look closer it’s exactly the same as any town. Just place a shopping mall in the center instead of a temple. You see, this town was built around Nityananda.

“Hello,” I attempted to communicate while looking into her eyes to see if I can perceive contentment, i do and we talk. Turns out she 55, has one kid and her husband passed away 2 years ago. Her clothing and teeth show her poverty but she’s not living on the street; she’s just poor like many others around here. She says with a smile and a nod of her head, that she is doing seva for Nityananda.  She’s been sweeping around the temple for 35 years.  I say thank you, thinking this place wouldn’t be here without her. We talk a short time longer and I say good bye.

Indian broomI get some chai from a vendor and sit.  And think… It makes sense, sweeping the dirt walkways keeps the streets clean, which keeps the town plaza clean, the temple steps and the temple floors clean. She not the only one doing the sweeping, I just happened to talk with her. By the way, seva is not a job; they are sweeping for Nityananda.

I realize that I sweep the dirt too, but in a different way. I sweep the dirt from my body through a healthy lifestyle; I sweep my speech, trying to be kind and talk meaningfully to others; I sweep my mind by consciously trying to catch my tendencies, replacing un-serving thoughts with ones that serve my path.

It’s devotion that we have in common.  The actions one undertakes are not the important part but our intention.  You see, the lady sweeping is devoted to serving her Guru. This is her practice, her doorway.

The temple in and of itself is just a building.  It can’t bring you anything, unless you’re willing to devote yourself to sweeping the dirt,

Where’s your doorway? You’re standing in it…

 

February 15 — I talkeded to the same lady this morning, but there’s not much contentment in her eyes… in fact I see none.  Now I look further and see she is wearing a badge; I did not see it the other day.  Then she asked me for money.  I’m polite, we talk for a bit and then I walk away.

Shortly afterward, I spoke with a man walking along the river, i asked him if the ladies sweeping get paid. He said that they work for the temple and get their housing and meals taken care of.  That’s not my definition of seva..

Why am I spoiling the story?  Because I thought 35 years of devotion was beautiful.  Because I’d like to have that.  Because I’d like to be so certain and have no shadow of a doubt.  And if I see it others it gives me hope that it exists.

I know it doesn’t matter what others are doing, it only matters what you’re doing.  I’ll keep sweeping the dirt.

The Heart of Ganeshpuri – by Amala Lynn Cattafi Heinlein

Ganeshpuri makes everything so easy! (of course, that is after  the Grace knocks you on your ass, picks you back up, and blasts your heart open! LOL). All of the things that seem so difficult at home are easy here. I easily get up before dawn, meditate for extended periods, walk to temple in the dark to bask in the power of ancient rituals that are so beautiful! To the people fortunate enough to live here, it is just their everyday normal… To me, it is reawakening!

India started to call me several days before I arrived. The plane ride started to set the stage: my in-flight TV did not work, so I just read Muktananda’s words, recited mantra and slept. Upon arrival I was moved to tears to be immediately able to recognize the quiet stillness in the middle of the swirling chaos that is Mumbai.  That stillness had been eluding me in recent weeks.

Ganeshpuri roadThen Ganeshpuri opened its heart to me once again.  This little village, that looks like a dusty little one horse town to the unaware person, is the source of the most auspicious moments of my life, and the source of my relationship with Swami Nirmalananda, my Guru.

We had a Yaj~na a few days ago, an ancient fire ceremony. It was held under the huge banyan tree where Nityananda sat to meditate when he first arrived in this region. It is also the same spot where Swamiji took her sannyasa vows, and the yaj~na today was officiated by the same Brahmin priests!

All things in Ganeshpuri seem to have lovingly aligned to bless me in this lifetime with the Grace of Guru. I am so aware of this and so, so grateful. Ganeshpuri is my heart. I have received so much because of this little town. So much more than I could ever repay.

Up in Flames — by Bob (Rudra) Nogue

In our satsang with Swami on our first day, she described the impact of Ganeshpuri as follows: “your limited idea of who you are burns up here”.  She used a description of a process called etching as a metaphor to outline what happens.  Swami’s use of this metaphor really awakened something in me; I have been reflecting for a few days on what that might be.  Here’s what has occurred to me to date.

The process of etching typically uses acid or some other abrasive substance to imprint a pattern onto something such as a piece of metal or a piece of glass.  Something that was plain or perhaps had no further use is turned into something useful and indeed beautiful. Swami commented, “Ganeshpuri’s Grace can be like acid or like nectar.”  If I am not open to this Grace it can be like acid attacking my limited beliefs and desire to maintain the status quo.  As I open myself to Ganshpuri’s Grace, the nectar of new possibilities flows like I have never before experienced.

etched tree sansoucie-comI see a few other connections to etching and the experience I am having.  It strikes me that, as with an artist creating a beautiful etched piece, it all starts with an idea.  My experience of Ganeshpuri is brought to life by the teachings of Swami.  She has an amazing ability to take the subtlety and beauty of the ancient teachings that we experience in Ganeshpuri and bring them to life and relevance for a North American audience.  I often marvel with the fact that many solutions that seem new and revolutionary in our society were figured out and are well documented in the ancient texts that Swami brings to life for us.

A final thought is that etching takes something that already exists and applies a technique to it, which destroys parts of what is there in order to create something new and beautiful, yet without destroying the essence of what existed before.  What the teachings of Swami do for me, coupled with Ganeshpuri’s Grace, is to allow me to merge what I learn and experience with who I already am.  I can recognize that I am, in fact, already Shiva.  Now I have an increased ability to see myself in this way.

Etching seems to destroy what already exists but in fact, it removes the limits that were there and allows the beauty and possibility of what already exists to be available now.  So does Ganeshpuri!

Profound Fire Ceremony — by Rudrani Nogue

yajna flicker-comI have been immersed in the fire of yoga like never before! The main purpose of the sacred fire ceremony (yaj~na) was for the maintenance and protection of Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram.  My husband Rudra (more about that later) and I had the honor of being the officiating couple, which meant we were performing the rituals on behalf of the whole group and the Ashram.

I was dressed up in a lovely bright blue and purple silk sari with bangles and jasmine in my hair (which cooled my head.)  My husband was in a traditional Indian outfit (red and gold trim) supplied by the priests, who also dressed him. Our role was to perform each small piece of the ritual.  The priests chanted while directing us step by step during the whole 6 hours of the yaj~na (with a lunch break).

We performed several pujas in the morning. Their purpose was to clear the space for our afternoon Vishnu fire ceremony.  There were 7 priests: 3 on either side of us chanting and one more who was helping us perform the ceremony.  Being in the middle of this clear strong powerful ‘surround sound’ of the priests chanting was both beautiful and mesmerizing. This role required that I stay conscious and not drop in (not easy) to perform the rituals with my husband.

The chants were intricate with small snippets of repetition, but most were all new chants through the whole day (in Sanskrit of course). I was in awe of the priest’s dedication and the study and practice it had taken for them to do this.  I had no idea what the words of the chants meant and that was a gift which allowed me to experience and feel the clearing of the chanting without my mind being involved. It felt like we were inside the chanting which made it easy to be in consciousness itself.

One part that stood out was during the puja to Vishnu. The small metal statue actually moved from the form to the formless in front of my eyes.

During the yaj~na I had to surrender and let go of my resistance to sitting for long periods of time as my body was aching and there was intense heat by the fire.  I had no choice, I just had to sit there and keep going, just like life.  I was challenged at times to stay conscious and stay seated so that I could fulfill my role in the puja.  I did fulfill it and I am so blessed because of it. And, my surrendering is truly a work in progress.

It was such a joy to share this sacred ceremony with my husband Rudra (Bob).  He asked for a Sanskrit name from Swamiji just before the yaj~na began. Rudra is a fine balance for my name, Rudrani.  Bob accepting a name brought another level to our marriage relationship of 32 years.  The yaj~na provided this new place to be and Bob’s new name is a part of that.  Vishnu brings the Divine into our daily lives through supporting the continuing of our ever growing relationship.  This whole experience will bring our relationship to another new level of growth.

I am ever grateful for this opportunity to perform this yaj~na seva for Swamiji, our ashram, our Svaroopa® yoga community, my relationship with Rudra and my Self.

Morning Meditation — by Gayatri Hess

nityananda on bedEvery morning I wake up, get dressed and slowly walk the rocky streets to Nityananda’s temple. I walk alone and savor this time as I do japa, take in the pre-dawn awakening of this sweet village, and prepare for morning abhishek.

In abhishek, all my senses take in the full experience of the morning with Nityananda. I am filled with great love, gratitude and reverence for the Divinity I experience and see in each action and person. I drop in and out of meditation and experience abhishek on many levels, but the sweetest part of my morning is when I cross the street to His House.  I sit where Nityananda lived, His presence as real as if I were actually sitting at His feet. I feel the love and guidance of Swami as if I were sitting at her feet too.

How blessed I am to be in this village of masters; how blessed we all are to understand that we have this support when we sit and meditate and live our lives. Even sweeter, when you start home from work in the late afternoon, think of Ganeshpuri — this village is alive with preparing Nityananda for His day.  Close your eyes and imagine this outpouring of love honoring Nityananda and each of us. On Namah Shivaya.

Lucky to be in Ganeshpuri!  — by Kusuma Sachs

It’s 9:30 pm and most of our folks are sleeping or in bed.  I am writing by the light of the computer so as not to (hopefully) keep my roommate up.  It’s weird to be typing…my fingers are not used to the keys and they are swollen as I attempt to get acclimated here, body and mind. I spent most of the hot part of the day unconscious or catching up on some sleep, so now I am wide awake!  The day ended with a sweet Satsang Swami held for the community as well as the group of us.  The theme was “How fortunate you are to live in Ganeshpuri…. How fortunate we are to be able to visit Ganeshpuri,” and imbibe in Bhagawan Nityananda’s Grace.

Imbibing his grace started this morning at 4:20 with the official wake up ceremony in the temple with the blowing of the conch shell, the drum sounds vibrating through the floor and the ringing of the bells.  Our group was the majority of the people in the temple this morning, with two others who Swami has known in the past.  One is a woman who was at Baba’s ashram with her and has been staying in Ganeshpuri for a while.  The other is a Swami whose name we love to butcher!  It’s Swami Niroopamanada but she goes by Niroopamaya (I think).  She comes here from the USA as often as possible and stays 3 months at a time.  I see her as I go visiting the temple or participate in another arati in one of the other temples in town.

This morning just as it was getting close to Arati time (6am) we heard the beautiful voices of a group of women singing outside at the Shiva temple, singing a chant to Shiva.  Swami went out to see them and she said it was lovely, especially since it is rare for women to be singing, as it is usually men doing the chanting and singing around the temples.  It was a sweet treat hearing it from inside the temple as well.

The days are so full, it feels like I am writing about last week instead of today.  We are all easing into the retreat and being helped by reminders that we are probably having jet lag as well as vata imbalance, which the travel can bring on as well as climate shock from cold winter temperatures to the 90 degree high each day.  To help us we are drinking lots and lots of water and today a bowl of ghee appeared on the dining tables to be consumed liberally!  No problem there!

peacock feathersI shared a sweet seva with another yogi this afternoon.  We put a handle on the peacock feathers she uses when giving darshan.  It took more than two of us, because we also had to find someone who could actually thread the needle to sew on the fabric.  Thanks to two of the men, Bob and one of the men who is helping manage the retreat, who were able to do it.  I tried for about five minutes and gave up.  So now Swami’s peacock feathers have a soft orange handle!

There was much more happening today, and for a large part of it I spent much of it “unconscious in consciousness.”  There is no better place to be in that state.  As Swami says, we are lucky to be in Ganeshpuri, very lucky!