Category Archives: India

KUMBHA MELA. Posted on March 18, 2013 by Swamiji

by Sheynapurna (Sandy) Peace

The Himalayan Institute campus is so near that it brought the actual Mela to us without having to physically go. The energy of the Mela was there, strong and intense even our secluded area was calm and serene. Still, on the first day most of us walked to the Mela grounds. Not being a primary “bathing day,” the crowd estimate was only 15 million people. The Mela (fair) grounds are vast, covering about 20 square miles. Tidy areas of tents house people, cows, goats, malas (bead necklaces), art work, saris, chai and huge tents where Swamis gave talks and thousands of people chanted. Long avenues of sellers hawk their goods including include beans, rice, other grains, fresh vegetables and fruits, flowers, nuts, all sorts of spiritual accessories, fans and piles of different colors of powdered kumkum.

Signs point to the Sangham, the point where the rivers meet and where thousands or even millions make their way to take a holy dip. Holy men are everywhere, holy women, too. Sadhus give blessings, and while some want money in return, others are there to bless. Their Shakti is so profound that even I can feel it. I am humbled and near to tears. As Kamala Michelle Gross says, “Walking among the millions of people at the Mela was profoundly peaceful, yet full of sights, sounds and vibrations that are still coursing through me. It is an experience that not only lives in memory but through my entire being.”

The Himalayan Institute offered many activities. There were optional walks to temples, walks to the Mela (guided and unguided), walks to villages where cows and water buffalo live in the front yard or even in the ‘garage’, time to do asana, meditate and of course the time to do bucket laundry and take bucket baths. Time to listen to the choruses of bird song and to watch people walk the road to the Mela, the women in bright and beautiful saris, many carrying burdens easily upon their heads.

And time to eat. We were awakened daily for 5:30 am chai, prayers followed at 6:00 in the Sacred Grove, then breakfast at 8:30. As Kusuma (Karobi) Sachs shared, “Amidst all the Mela events, one thing that stood out for everyone was what we put in our bellies: the food. Luckily we did not have to worry about the safety of the food, being cooked by western standards. But we all found out something about Indian culture, true of all cultures of those less fortunate than us: eating rice, potatoes and wheat chapatis is a staple at each meal. Many Westerners balked at the offerings of both rice and potato dishes which appeared so often but, in India, potatoes are considered a vegetable. We were being fed local, fresh, organic vegetables throughout our stay. In much of India, obesity is not the problem; lack of food is, so eating 3 carbohydrates in one meal is a feast! Personally I love potatoes and was thrilled at their abundance everyday!” We enjoyed evening chai at 4:00 and dinner at 6:30. Plus we chanted the Guru Gita with Swami Nirmalananda each morning at 7:00 and had satsang with Swamiji at 4:15, with our chai. This was a marvelous opportunity to integrate our experiences, Swamiji being the greatest of teachers and attracting several of the Himalayan Institute guests as well as ourselves.

To me, one of the best times was night. Our campus has silent time from 10 pm – 8 am but it was silent only on our grounds. Upriver at the Mela came joyous continuous chanting. All night long the voices of thousands roared down the river. One night I heard chants to Hanuman, another night to Krishna and another the sounds of Om Namah Shivaya. My earplugs kept this muted but it was never quiet, except the night of the thunderstorm when all we heard was thunder and rain. The next day it all returned: the chanting, the bells, the drums, the conchs, the joyous sounds of millions of people worshipping God in song.

This is what Kumbha Mela is really about. Millions coming for blessings, for love of God. The energy of this place, the rivers, the people, have an indelible effect. I wrote in my journal, “…dropped into meditation fully conscious. Could hear every sound and yet I was also deep in the swirling mandala of All-That-Is. I am the Ganga and the molecules. My energy body vibrates deeply. I am Everything! Vibrating consciousness and yet still here.”

GANGA: The River Runs Through Me

by Jyoti Yacobi

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A river runs through me

She is the Ganga, Kundalini, the Milky Way

I am all That

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I pour my tears, my pain and sorrow

Into Her vastness

She takes me and holds me in Her lap

She carries me like a new born child

With great love and a gentle touch

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She is the bridge that carries me through the river,

The ocean of not-knowing

To the shore of the knowing of my own Self

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She is the Life that runs through my being

She is the One and Only

She is the One I Am

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I pour my soul into Her

I lean into the flow of the sound

That emerges from beyond the mind

I am the beginning and the end

I am all that Is

I am That

I Am

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India in Hindsight. Posted on March 16, 2013 by Swamiji

by Swami Nirmalananda

As I settle back into my American routines, I can see a gradual improvement in my ability to describe what happened on this India trip. Being immersed in the Grace of the holy sites we pilgrimaged to was an experience, as so many are saying, beyond words. That’s because the power of those sites is such that it propels you past the words you usually use, into the vast innermost beingness that is your own Self. What words will describe that?

An immersion into consciousness is a treasure beyond price, whether for a moment, in your own meditation or yoga practice, or whether for weeks, as we experienced in Ganeshpuri and Allahabad (the location of this year’s Kumbha Mela). The value is found in the experience of consciousness itself, but if it is a true experience, it’s not dependent on place, for consciousness is everywhere. Consciousness is everywhere, everywhen, everyone and everything. The goal is to know, and see, and be That — everywhere, everywhen and with everyone and everything.

So the value of the pilgrimage shows up in the return home. Over 43 yogis have stepped back into their lives, with the same wheres, whens, whos and whats – but the yogi is herself or himself different. Who are you now? Who are you in the same places and in the same relationships – you’re a new you, while you are the you that you have always been. All at the same time…

For now, I’ll describe it this way:

Ganeshpuri provides an immersion into the Grace of the Guru, where the gift of your own Self is being given 24/7/365. Try to avoid Grace in Ganeshpuri — you’ll fail. Bhagavan Nityananda can overpower your resistances, even though He is not embodied any more. His tangible and continuing presence in Ganeshpuri, supported and maintained by those who still serve Him, propels you into your own Self and leaves an indelible imprint on your heart.

Allahabad provides an immersion into the purity and spaciousness of pure Beingness. This is also a gift of Grace, but it’s an impersonal type of Grace — not grounded in the relationship between one who knows and one who seeks. An ethereal type of consciousness, the joining of the rivers bathes you in a pure flow of irresistible consciousness. It a time-sensitive experience, at its fullest only once every 12 years. Ephemeral, it gives you a glimpse of your own Self that leaves an indelible imprint in your mind.

Benares (Varanasi) is embodied Grace. The flow of consciousness, embodied in Ganga (Ganges River), is an external expression of the uprising flow within. Your own upliftment is made real in this Grace, the revelatory power of Kundalini outside and inside. The city of “Siva, every street corner gives you another opportunity to see and worship God. Temple bells sound as you walk by, following the cows and dogs through the ancient alleyways. Life is real in Benares, truly real — and truly holy. Benares shows you the Divine in every form passing by, and leaves an indelible imprint upon your whole being.

I was fortunate to bring a small group with me to Benares, all of us continuing on from Ganeshpuri and Allahabad. While I was there, I received the keys to my new home, a small house alongside Ganga. I’ve been trying to buy something there for more than five years, and was able to complete the purchase just one week before, with the help of my Indian family there.

Varanasi-house-150x150We gained access to the house on our last day, seeing the “before” – there’s a lot of work to do before a Westerner is comfortable in it. “After” will happen in 6-8 months, and then I’ll be able to invite you to visit me in Benares, when I am in residence there. My primary home continues to be in Downingtown, but now I’ll have a personal home when I’m in India. Finally! After 37 years of visiting India, I have a home there!

My new home does not affect any of Master Yoga’s or Svaroopa® Vidya Ashram’s activities. It is a personal residence, not financed by either organization or through anyone’s donations. How fortunate I am to be able to fulfill one of the traditional functions of a swami, to create a home in a holy place. Perhaps you can visit me there as well as in Pennsylvania. And allow Benares to imprint upon your whole being. OR simply do more japa!

India Treasures, Still Coming… Posted on March 12, 2013 by Swamiji

SO EASY! by Sarvataa Christie

Ganeshpuri, what a place! Now called home, it has hens with waddles, the roosters have, too, of course (but much larger!), the cows have horns and humps and roam free, along with the dogs and cats. And the people! Oh! The people! So friendly, lovely and gracious. The villagers either came to Ganeshpuri for Nityananda , are descendants of those, or are the indigenous jungle people for whom this land has always been home. I am surrounded by Nityananda!

Waves, smiles, namaskars, “hi”s hand to the heart and nods abound from passersby who are working, bicycling, or motorcycling (with sari-ed women riding side saddle!). The villagers love to have their photo taken and especially love to see the photo.

Rosie always greets us with a big “Welcome Home”! My first day, I missed the taxi back to Fire Mountain Ashram. I cried and cried and wanted to go home. My cries were met with a big hug and a call to a “Tuk-Tuk” (motorcycle-rickshaw). We can walk anywhere we want to or need to be, although in the afternoon you probably wouldn’t want to (too much sun)!

After discovering my papaya allergy, Moti separates it out from the other fruit. He also came back the Ashram, where I dropped my room key, found it, and brought it back to me so we could get into our room! From the conversations with the locals and the police (while registering as tourists), to the elderly lady who saved me from the heat by sending me to the park for shade, while I was waiting for Nityananda’s house to open, to the tailor who stayed up all night (this is not India time, not even close!) to make my sari for Ganesha’s Birthday Yajña the next day… and I can go on and on and on… I am taken care of.

The gracious hosts of Fire Mountain Ashram are also wonderful sevites for the Shree Nityananda Education Trust. They have many, many wonderful programs for giving back. I know that this is not the reason for coming all this way; that’s to know my Self. That is everything. But to be so taken care of, and so welcomed, and made to feel at home here, in this place, allows for a haven for “Shakti Fever” while diving deeper into the knowing of the Self.

I am Nityananda. Nityananda is me. Nityananda is Home. Nityananda is everywhere. I am home here. Home is within me wherever I go. Om namo Bhagavate Nityanandaya.

NITYANANDA, by Jyoti Yacobi

The enormous rhythmic sound of bells and drums

The glorious chant of Brahmin priests

It is that time of the morning again

To call Nityananda’s vastness and eternality

Into the beautiful golden murti

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The yogurt, milk , honey and water bathe and caress His form

At some point, there are no differences –

Whose hands are washing whom?

Who is the object of such great love and devotion?

Who is the one who adorns this form?

What is the subtle formlessness

That manifests this form?

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Then I sense this powerful, enormous energy in my body

Infinity contained within my own form

For an instant, I doubt whether I can hold it

And then – freedom and expansion

Nothing can keep me away from you, Nityananda

Nothing can close the door to my own Self

Swami’s Home from India! Posted on March 8, 2013 by Swamiji

In returning home from the India trip, I’m delighted to find everything running so well at the Ashram. Your Swami is nicely supported by the Ashram staff and sevites, which makes it easy for me to turn my attention to the Bondage & Freedom course, with the first article coming out today. I can turn my attention to the new “Tadaa!” and the English translation of Shrii Guru Gita. I’m able to focus on supporting yogis in the throes of deep transformation as well as prepare for programs like Sunday night’s Shivaratri celebration. So much going on – so many people helping.

Your donations make a difference — your generosity makes all this possible. It’s just like a PBS fundraiser, “Your gift makes us able to serve you.” Our Swami Support fund still needs help this year, or we may have to cut back on our staffing. That would reduce my available time, because the tasks don’t go away, they just roll uphill to the next available person.

gazebo_2-150x150Our Temple Builder fund is just getting a start.

My India interlude makes it clear to me how important it is to have the sacred site — the temple that makes the Inner Divinity tangible and palpable. I sincerely hope we can build our backyard gazebo this year, something like this beautiful structure, with planning for a statue of Shiva in the center (in 2013 or 2014). This brings together the beauty of nature with the beauty of meditation — all in our own backyard.

Our third funding initiative, Ashram Essentials, covers the costs of our in-house programs and online libraries. The library has a new online profile, thanks to our website seva team headed by Tanmayee and Glen — click here to see the treasure trove available to you. We especially hope you’ll enjoy the new audio format, now accessible from mobile devices, plus presented in an easier to find and easier to use format.

marble-box-150x150Your Ashram needs your support. If you can send only $5 or $10, it makes a difference. If you can send that (or more) monthly, it provides continuing support. As announced in “Tadaa!” your new monthly donation makes you qualified for one of the Taj Mahal marble boxes, with ash from our Ganeshpuri fire ceremony! I brought these back just for you.

Thank you for making the Ashram a possibility, a reality — in your life and in mine.

With love and blessings, Swami Nirmalananda

Click here to make a donation in any amount. Thank you!

Ganeshpuri Stories Continue. Posted on March 7, 2013 by Swamiji

GANESHPURI SCHOOL VISITS, by Karen McGraw

I had an opportunity to visit two different schools near Fire Mountain Ashram. One is a boarding school for children of migrant farm workers. We brought fruit trees for the children to plant at their school. The gardener from the Ashram came to oversee the planting and to demonstrate how to properly plant the trees. The children dug the holes, carried water and pails of composted soil. This is a co-ed school so both boys and girls, in their colorful dress, participated. It was a sight to see a dusty, dry open space turn into a promise of green that will produce fruit to eat and beauty for the eyes. I was particularly struck with the way the project was conducted because the idea is to teach the children how to plant and care for the trees, not just to give them the trees.

The second school is a 15-minute walk from Fire Mountain on a hard packed narrow path that wends its way through dry rice paddies waiting for the monsoons, past a working brickmaking operation, and a newly established neighboring Ashram. The village is charming with fences, swept yards, planted tees and even trash cans. The school children were waiting for us. Cynthia, from Fire Mountain Ashram, organized learning centers for the five of us to supervise. The children rotated through each center with different activities such as completing a puzzle, playing with Legos, having a story read or my activity which was teaching colors and shapes. The students were delighted and delightful.

THE NITYANANDA PARADE, Thursday February 14, 2013 by Padmakshi (Andrea Wasserman)

You may have already read about the early morning abhishek (ritual bathing) of the Nityananda murti in the temple in Ganeshpuri. While the large, life-sized murti is bathed daily, so is a small murti of Nityananda that sits right next to it. On the lunar anniversary of the installation of the murti on Nityandanda’s tomb, many special events occur in Ganeshpuri.

After sunset, the small murti is placed inside a fancy hand-held carriage, reminiscent of how royalty would be carried from place to place. Flower garlands are draped around Nityandanda’s neck, and the inside of the carriage is adorned with flowers. The carriage is slowly paraded around town as mantras are chanted, from the temple, through the streets, stopping often so the villagers can touch the murti, offer more flowers, and even take a blessed flower petal from inside the carriage.

The parade winds its way back to the temple, where the carriage is placed on the floor as more rituals are performed, and the villagers crowd around, all trying to touch the murti for blessings and to retrieve a flower or two. The murti is then reverently picked up by a Brahmin (priest) and returned to his resting place on the altar.

For me, this portrayed rural India, many people of all ages, peacefully gathering together to bow to a great Master, joyful in the chanting of the mantras, devotional in every aspect of their lives. Kind, peaceful, simple hard-working folk incorporating deep beliefs and rituals into their daily lives.

Gems from India. Posted on March 5, 2013 by Swamiji

Connecting with Friends

by Lucia Miller

Who knew I wanted to go to India?

It wasn’t on my “to do” list, yet here I sit, settling into a quiet inner stillness. Each day there is an opportunity to go to “downtown Ganeshpuri,” to witness and participate in temple celebrations, to walk through town and visit local shops, or just wander off from our homebase at Fire Mountain Retreat Center across the river.

It is Fire Mountain where we spend most of our time for meals, satsang and yoga. We gather every day – morning, afternoon, and evening under a huge soccer ball shaped dome with skylights, with mosquito netting all around. There’s plenty of room for yoga blankets, chairs and the whole gang of Svaroopa® yogis. Funny to see all the familiar plaid blankets just a few feet away from a big cow pasture and coconut trees. If you go to http://www.firemountainretreat.com/ , you’ll be able to see a picture of this amazing space.

The retreat center is not large and what strikes me the most is that it’s right in the midst of the countryside. You can see and hear and taste all of the village life going on around you – brick makers, grazing cows, local workers coming and going, children walking by going somewhere. And what you can count on is hearing them shout out “hello” as they pass, like a joyful bird call, and we call back “hello”. It’s all so amazingly simple.

You don’t have to be here to be here but being here is like nowhere else in the world. To live is to love, and when you are in Ganeshpuri, you do nothing but love.

The Walk of Your Guru

by a Ganeshpuri Retreat participant

When you look at photos of Nityananda, do you see pure love?

To walk the paths and lanes where Nityananda once walked.

To meet his photographer’s son! Who carries on his father’s work.

To chant slowly Om Namah Shivayah in the dome while awaiting Nirmalananda to arrive.

It is loving to reach these lands as we have, in this age, to carry on what the sages have laid before us. Think of what those who have lived here – what they have devoted their lives to! Swamiji says that most of the people in Ganeshpuri moved here, or their parents or grandparents have relocated here in devotion of Bhagawan – that is the reason they are here.

Who will you follow and let lead?

Big Shakti from a Small Village. Posted on March 2, 2013 by Swamiji

Please enjoy the continuing stories from our recent India Pilgrimage…

By Daya Ma (Amanda) Ahern

A few days into Ganeshpuri, Michelle Gross and I bumped into each other in the dining room after most of the yogis had gone out on their day’s adventures. Michelle had heard about “Nityananda Island,” so asked me to join her. As I wanted to do some sketching, I jumped at the opportunity and we asked directions from our in-house jeweler, Sunil, who is also going to be cooking for the Varanasi group. He carried Michelle on the back of his motorbike to the turnoff and I walked along to join her. We wended our way across the rock pools in the river and very quickly landed on the island.

We were searching for the big tree where Baba Nityananda used to sit. As there many trees to choose from, we inquired from one of the many friendly locals, “Baba’s Tree?” In the heat of the day we were pointed in the right direction and came upon three large banyan trees. Immediately we knew which one it was as there was a puja on the tree, with a lingam decorated with golden marigolds, a small statue of Satya Sai Baba, a spiraled banner tied around the tree and a framed picture of one of the many Indian Gods leaning against the gnarly old tree.

Not one picture of Baba in sight, but the locals insisted it was the right tree. So many enlightened beings — how to choose? We settled in the shade on a raised garden step to take photos, rest and paint the magical scene before us. A local woman arrived to confirm we were in the right place and proceeded to do pradasksina (walk around, in a clockwise direction) around a small garden with a handful of sacred Tulsi plants. She bowed and touched the plants, then her heart and forehead.

As we sketched and absorbed the divinity of the grove another swami in bright orange, came to pay homage to the tree, the puja and palpable energy of the divine dwelling in this place. He promptly leant on the tree and went to sleep. In town, Ganesha’s birthday celebrations continued while we enjoyed the ongoing chanting wafting through the air, “Om namo Bhagavate, Nityanaandaya.” The pace and the peace of this magical land where they broadcast mantras all day fills you up. Actually it more than fills you, because we are swimming in it all day, every day, like moving underwater. Big Shakti is the way of life in this small village.

What a blessing to be here with Swamiji. She has generously shared her local knowledge and experience, which has made the transition to this vastly different culture easy. It feels like home after just a couple of days. Today we are in silence so the Shakti is more magnified without the external chatter. OM Namah Shivaaya.