The night of Siva

On the night of the eleventh of February, we had an all night chant and mantra yagna around a sacred fire (homa).  This was the beginning of Maha Sivaratri, the night of Siva. This is the night when yogis pay their deepest respect to Siva for allowing them to receive the teachings of Yoga. Yoga is that scientific system that helps those who are able to concentrate their mind, energy and will, to unite with their inner divine Self.  The goal of a yogi on this evening is the ecstasy of union with Siva in an ecstatic dance of Consciousness.  It is a night that can stimulate deep internal consequences that creates transformation.

We began at 6pm just before sunset and completed just before sunrise, 6am. It was very sweet. There were about 130 people tending to the fire chanting throughout the night.  Those attending to the chant are from Europe, Russia, Brazil, North America, Sri Lanka, Singapore and all parts of India.

It is a night to reflect on the questions in one’s soul. It is a night in which one can make a prayer from the heart and expect to receive an answer.   I pray to be able to see the unadulterated truth on all levels of my life and being and to know  it, when I see it.  I make my prayer and hand it over to the fire. 

We go to the bathing ghats in the morning. There are thousands of people in an area that we expected to be relatively empty.  Nowhere today, can one find relatively empty space, not even in back alleys.  There is a large procession, perhaps the largest of all the processions, and people are loitering and cruising the streets waiting for it to begin.  The time and routes are held a secret to the crowds.  We know only where the parade of sadhus will conclude and that is at Hari ki Pari, the main bathing ghat, where it is said that Brahma first welcomed the Ganges.

 We return to the campgrounds for breakfast of iddly and uttapam and chai. The lentil delicacies and warm spicy tea are nourishing and nurturing for all of us, and even if we are a bit sleepy and cold we are also delightfully content.

Before we can consider where we might go to view the parade, a procession of nagababas passes us in the streets. So many naked men covered in ash; young and old, all shapes and sizes,  muscular, skinny and really chubby  walk pass us.   A woman close to me squeals, startling me.  She begins to cry hysterically.  She claims a baba has given her saktipath and she rushes over to him laying her head on his the feet.   He is brusque with her, pushes her off and marches on.    Other people rush him to pranam, perhaps hoping for shaktipath or some boon.

A large magestic  float is coming toward us.    Hundreds of disciples of Sohambaba walking with tree seedlings in their hands, precede it.    Sohambaba is an environmentalist who preaches bringing peace to the world and the planet.   We see Sohambaba standing on the float, surrounded by others in shades of pinks, yellow and orange.  He is very bright and has a shinning face and eyes.  He looks down at us and seems to recognize Govindan.   There are many sadhus on horses and it is all very impressive, but the crowd begins to close in on us.  We are all shoulder to shoulder and it is impossible to step aside.  Then pushing starts from behind us. One can do nothing but push back and hold one’s ground.  A security police uses his stick to force us away from his car.   I consider that it will not be possible for us to view the procession at  Hari ki Pari.  It is much too congested.   We are not used to such crowds .   Govindan and I, along with four Indian students are able to break free of the growing mob of people moving like a single force in one direction and head for our hotel. We choose to eat lunch in a quiet restaurant and talk of Kriya Yoga. We discuss our mutual interest in having an Indian acharya.

Many of the nagababas of the Juna akhada are seated naked in their tents chatting with visitors of all kinds, doing pujas and of course smoking.  They are very friendly and sweet, however they smoke a lot; it seems almost constantly.  They smoke herbal intoxicants from a pipe called a chillum.  The herbs are ganja, bhang or bhatura.  The smoke tames the senses.   It squelches desire for both food and sex they say.   Those babas who speak English seem open and willing to tell their life stories to sincerely interested visitors.  

They seem to know who we are or at least I often hear them say Mahavatar Babaji and Badrinath when I walk slowly by their camps.  Perhaps that is just a coincidence.  In the night all the camps are alive with ecstatic chants of Siva.   There is a celebration in the air over Haridwar, which lasts over several days. It is like the weekend-long wedding parties of India.

We are enjoying our sadhana times as much as our visits to the various camps and enjoying our repeated visits to Anandamayi Ma Ashram and Swami Kebalananda’s ashram where Lahiri Mahasaya meditated.  It is during these times when we are all most often granted a glimpse of a hidden world and  experience the most profound peace and beauty.   We are all grateful for the  flowering of the spirit which is a source of joy to us and to those around us.

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