Again, Seeking the Self in India

We leave tomorrow for India.  Satchidananda and I are taking 30 people on pilgrimage to the Garhwal Hills in the Himalayas.  We have been planning a trip to check on the building of the ashram in Badrinath for two years.  We had hoped the ashram would be completed by fall of 2012.  But a building ban was put into effect for the whole village, almost immediately after we began construction about three years ago, as if some invisible forces were weighing many great considerations.  It has always seemed important and meaningful to be building here, and the delays have only made us more resolute.

People ask me, if I have ever had an experience with Babaji?  Does Babaji exist, really?  What I tell everyone is, if you really want the answer to that question, go to Badrinath.   Badrinath is for me one of the places Babaji abides.  His energy is always there and I think everyone feels it in one way or another.   Badrinath is more than a location in the Himalayas, where meditation comes easy; it is a place that resonates with devotion in the physical body, mind,  heart.  I cannot explain it better than that.  Badrinath itself is is like a deity,  a formation of Devotion.  Badrinarayan temple will grant devotion  to carry you along an advaita path, the way of unity. 
It is so easy to lose devotion, to lose focus, to forget the Self, while living in the West; easy to bcome distracted, even jaded and synical about that which nutures your soul.   Badrinath recharges you with powerful forces of devotion.   Devotion does not demand that you go through great trials and tribulations.  You do not need to make nothing into something or something into nothing.   It just happens when you meditate sincerely and with aspiration in Badrinath.  

 There is no where else like Badrinath, for me; no other Temple or town in India or elsewhere, which feels so familiar or significant.  ( Kyoto, Japan does follow as a close second).   But Badrinath is the place I can return to in my mind.    By simply think ing the name, Badrinath my mind leaps there.    My mind can dwell there easily in the forms and sounds and scents and taste and feel of the place.

 It is as if  my mind exists in  Badrinath and so I can enter this place at will.   I have carried it back with me.   It never leaves my mind so I can recall it when necessary.   It is not like a memory, it is like  experiencing it in the present moment… what I see, hear and smell,  the feel of the cold in my throat …everything so specific; it all comes to revisit me.   I am there.  

 Badrinath is  magnificient with it’s location in a valley surrounded by steep snow-tipped peaks and endless sky, but it is not an easy place to visit.   The trip up is usually troublesome and the temperatures hot by day, cold by night.   The food is limited in this high altitude and often smells of kerosene.  I eat little and rarely feel hungry.   Badrinath is known for its Tapt Kund, the hot springs, but it is so hot that I have never been able to slip all the way into it.  Ritualisitically I slide my legs in, they immediately turn lobster red; I throw water on my face and over my shoulders and slip out of the woman’s tank as fast as I can get my clothes back on.

The villagers of Mana a small nearby village (India’s northern-most village) impress me with their strength, sweetness, an ease in the face of harsh mountain living conditions  and their sense of humor.   These peoples of Indo Mongolian race live in the region from April to November and then relocate to Joshimath during the hard winter months.   The valleys around Badrinath and Mana, near the border to Tibet, as legend has it, is where the Pandavas of Mahabharata traveled to Heaven.   Legend or not, there is something magical about the region  and  just walking on the paths around there connect you to something celestial.    No one is immune to the effects of this region.

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