THE GAUMUKH EXPERIENCE.
POWER OF A STORY
Before the beginning of time a story was born. Her name was shakti. There was nothing and we may call it Shiva. From this Shakti there emerged movement, sound light, elements and evolution. The Story merged with the trees flowers earth and elements. Those who paused and listened could hear her stories. This story wandered about from place to place, was told from person to person in the form of folktales around the fire in every part of the Universe. In India she also became the fire around which people felt warm listening to stories. She was part of the rivers on whose banks saints and people meditated and listened to her stories. She merged into the Great Himalayan mountains and spread herself so people could listen to her silence. She can never be forgotten, and she never will be as long as the Mountains and rivers last. She has no death and the only immortal one who will remain long after the Earth is extinct-stories.
CAPE TOWN-GARDEN ROUTE
Once upon a time … such powerful words. Four words that make you sit up and pay attention; words that can call to order the unruliest of crowds, words that can pull you out of your reverie and make you listen. That’s the power of storytelling. Who instills this seed in us? Do our ancestors pass it down or is it their blessings and good deeds that take us on the right path? Do we have a chance to meet them? Are there coincidences? Do we believe in Celestine prophecies? I had lot of questions in my mind?
Then it happened-2006
Memories freeze as the images of the past create vivid pictures of the places traveled by. It is not the destinations but the landscapes you drive past on your journeys that remain. The ocean winds as I drove through the Monterey bay in California the climb up to Gangothri and the Himalayan sights and the Alakananda and Bhagirathi rivers playing hide and seek, the bridge between two rivers on each side at Kambadkone in Mangalore, a mountain suddenly emerging and becoming larger than heaven as you walk through the Alps in the Austrian border, the huge Bodensee lake in Ravensburg Germany a flight of rare birds flying above and stretches and stretches of the waters, or just a route of wild flowers that look more beautiful than any botanical garden all along the garden route from East London to Cape town in South Africa.estretch of wild plants growing unevenly and yet supporting each other in the Gardn Route of South Africa , a sudden twilight hue being supported by clouds and the different new moon shapes in each coutry. Close your eyes and now here is a memory for you….
2007-NOT A MIRACLE BUT A REAL STORY.
My best friend Alamelu passed away on March 1st 2007. Her last wish was to travel to Rishikesh. I had been there just once before my father passed away in 1995. My father passed away on March 2nd,1995.
March 20th 2007
I had a call from the organization called Room to Read in Delhi to do a workshop for their global team. I was excited and happy. Where? In Rishikesh. They had chosen Dayanand Ashram as the venue.
Hmm! I thought I could offer prayers too for my friend and took the opportunity to facilitate the Workshop. It was at the same time that a camp by Dayanand ji himself was also being conducted on the same campus.
One evening early in the week I sat by the Ganges where a devotee of His holiness Jagadguru Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswathi of Kanchi kamakoti Shankaracharya ( who had attained Mahasmadhi in 1994 ) approached me and began to speak about our rituals, Karmendiyas, Indriyas etc. I was not familiar with many of the terms and he stopped abruptly and asked me to return next early morning before 5a.m to take a dip in the Ganges.
I was very scared of the water and its spate and also mortally scared of dips. I ignored him but surprisingly woke up around 5 and decided to go to the Ganges and as I stood looking at the dark cold mother Ganga I was scared. I just then saw him. He lead me towards the water and asked me to take several dips thinking of my ancestors, my father and my friend. I felt supported and took the 13 dips.. I then just sat on the banks of the Ganges as I noticed the stars fading one by one and the red scratch of the rising sun in the sky. I closed my eyes and meditated .It was chilly and cold but my mind was fresh. I then took the prasadam at the Ashram for it was Ramnavmi.
“ When you visit again in September I will take you to Badri Kedar and Gomukh,” said the devotee saint.
A lot of questions arose in my mind. My mind spoke to me – things do happen don’t ask too many questions, just go with the flow – what it too many….within me … theism and atheism – religiousness, a battle within. I was also a person who was a little more practical who always asked why we have to do things. This was March 2007 and September was nearly six months away. Next morning I was pondering about all these happenings. It was a very beautiful morning and I saw this little dew drop and it was also time when I was contemplating what I am doing an who I am actually whether I am going to continue with storytelling, am I a trainer, am I am messenger of somebody, was I a good mother and what is this whole life. I had ceased to create stories, very few stories after the Mountain and the Bird. I started reading and telling, whatever I came across I associated and told. So I thought- have I ceased to create. It was a very clear mind that day and that’s when I created the dew drop story. I compared myself to this dew drop saying I am very like this which doesn’t have an identity. Its transparent and keeps rolling on, just drops in the morning with no feelings. What is it? The dew drop rolling along wanting a colour – goes to the sunflower and asks can you give me color – The sunflower says – I am the only one who faces the sun, so don’t disturb me. Doesn’t even look at the dew drop. Dew drop feels bad and keeps rolling on and gets a lovely smell. Let me take the smell at least. By the time it enters the rose garden it gets poked on all sides and the rose says, ‘who did you even think you can enter.’ The it rolls on and sees the beautiful lotus. ‘Let me get the lotus colors at least.’ Before it gets into the water the lotus says, ‘Don’t come you will dissolve in water., you won’t even search me. By the time its evening it is rolling on and on seeking something. Then almost sunset time – it looks at the blue creeper – I myself am so dependent I can’t help you in any way.’ Ok let me on now that I have started my journey let me see where it leads. Its night pitch dark and suddenly it hears a voice saying that – Hey I see the full moon in you. Who is this, looks around – tries to look at itself, can’t really see much and finds this beautiful jasmine flower. Jasmine flower says, come on hop on me.’ See you can be like me, if you hop on to the rose you can be like the rose You can take on our colour, our smell, our shape – you can change and you can reflect the sun in the day time. Aren’t you lucky? Why do you need a definite shape/color/smell? Aren’t you happy the way you are? Suddenly the dew drop realises, what am I searching for? I am fine the way I am. Acceptance of oneself was the answer. It not about what you want to become – just accept yourself. I created this story and felt very happy. I actually had no intention. I still did not trust him. He said he had spent over 34 years with the Shankaracharya of Kamakoti Kancheepuram and had come to Rishikesh to fetch the Ganga waters.
Time rolled by and I got back to my Storytelling courses which had been running successfully and traveling to Madurai Rameshwaram, Pune Mumbai with my workshops.
August I received a call again from the same organization to conduct another workshop and from the Azi Premji foundation to do it in Uttarkashi. I suddenly remembered the devotee .He said after the workshop he would pick me up and take me to Gangothri first. He had all the equipment for me but I had no idea what or where I was headed towards.
TRIP TO GOMUKH
After the workshops Jagadguru Shankaracharya’s devotee picked me up along with another devotee of Dayanandji’s and we proceeded towards Gangothri in a cab that took nearly 10 hours and after taking a dip in the Gowri Kund we decided to rest in the ashram there to prepare for the climb the next day. I had not taken the trouble to find out what or how steep it was and just follow them. I had not made any attempt to know the distance or to equip myself. However the devotee had already got the jacket and boots to climb. The climb was steep and the road was stony and rugged. It was cold and I began to feel the difference in the temperature as I ascended the mountain not knowing it was nearly a 22km trek all the way up. After nearly 2 hours I felt hungry and there were no shops on the way. We were carrying some parathas which we had and I had neither a stick nor water.
After 4 hours of climbing I lost them. They had gone ahead. I noticed some people returning from Tapovan and they gave me a stick and some water. There was a man carrying some loads on his back a local Sherpa who told me to keep pulling the little grass from the sides of the mountain and to keep smelling them for they were the oxygen suppliers.
I had climbed for nearly 8 hours and suddenly saw an ashram and some people. I not only spotted them but knew we had reached Bhojwasa. An old Babaji washed my feet fed me and gave me a little kutir to rest for the night. Legs ached to rest and soon I was in a trance. In the middle of the night as I peeped out of the tent I froze as I looked up the Universe above me. The astral lantern lit up the night sky. I felt I could touch the sky. A thousand stars seemed to descend upon me. The air was sparkling and just one bird was soaring into that pristine and silent crystalline night. The silence was profound. I could hear my heart beat loud and clear. The great rhythm of nature pervades everything, and I was woven into it with min and body. Even imagination was forced to recede I could see this beautiful canopy of a myriad stars and planets descend upon my consciousness.
It was as if the curtain was suddenly drawn and one can directly experience the stars. The celestial bodies seem to govern the rhythm of life here. This is one moment when I recall was a self renewing moment for me and I could sense existence.
Early next morning after breakfast at 6 the three of us continued to trek for the next nearly 6 hours. It was a bit flat but very unruly with no roads but just steep climb up and down. I could hear the loud roar of the fresh new young river girl the Ganga jumping and skipping along the route. The waters were blue green with chunks of ice floating so close as we climbed and descended. And then I was her……….She was gushing out of the mouth of the cave covered with blue green jaded rocks. It looked to me like I had reached fairy land. The chill icy wind tried to get into me through my jacket and shoes which were quite wet by then.
I just sat on one of the rocks and closed my eyes to listen to the GUSHING WATERS OF THE GANGA. to me it looked like a womb from where Ganga was being deliverd. I watched the cave and was messmerised by its sight . Against the backdrop of the Shivling, Thalay sagar , Meru and Bhagirathi I began to walk back. Oops! I had lost the devotees again. There was no one in the vicinity around and I found myself amidst these tall Gods of heaven like a little dwarf trying to find my bearings. The role of heaven and Earth seemed to be reversed. Where to move? How to return? On one side was the young Ganga jumping up and down in full spate with ice and frozen parts just rushing and gushing forth.
The side where one had to trek just had some stony hillocks and unshapely huge boulders. I just climbed and got down and again climbed and descended trying to find the route and suddenly before me was this huge hill and I was completely lost. I froze. I froze in such a way I could such sense a little fear slowly grappling me. I had not eaten since 6 a.m and now it was nearly 2 in the afternoon. “ Can you hear me?” I shouted. “ Amma, Appa, Ramana I screamed and wailed,” the fear of death slowly entered into me as I watched something like a dust storm rise from above. I just sat on a boulder and looked up at this hill. I saw a face a strong confident face with long lose untidy hair almost sweeping the snow and his face with just a little dirty orange cloth wrapped around his waist. He just held out his hand and shouted “ come up now in Tamil which is my language. I had no time to think. I just trusted and followed his instructions. Put your leg in the hole at the side he said and just lift yourself and I can get your hand. I did not know how he reached me. Was his hand that long or did he bend so much but all I knew that I felt the firm grip of his hand on mine and my shoulders ached a lot as he pulled me up. He then showed his back as he jumped above those little boulders and hills and put me on to the path that lead to Bhojwasa ashram. That tool nearly an hour. I could only see the long hair sweeping all the snow and gravel in front of me. As I picked myself up it was too late. I saw him disappearing into the snows and across the hill.
I slowly returned to the ashram and Babaji fed me parathas again and said he would see me in the evening around 5 p.m for tea. I woke up and saw them again. Babaji listened to my story and was not surprised. I saw the bare snow clad mountains tower around me and the sun radiating its setting light on the mountain tops in red yellow pink and purple. The sky was turning a blue velvet colour. The mountains and the sun seem to be complete here in these parts and time is only about the Sun, Moon stars and mountains.
I went back to the Kutir after having trekked for nearly 18 hours and my tired feet froze into the earthy bed.
The next morning Babaji too returned with me as we descended. The descent was quite easy thoug it took nearly 8 hours to come down slowly watching the Himlayas change colours and shapes at each turn.
In spite of the feeling of smallness rather feeling humbled against the vastness and grandeur of the mountain landscape despite the winds and weather being unpredictable, I had never felt a sense of greater freedom or independence than when I stood helpless in front of that hill crying for help. This freedom is not about “being able to do what we want” but the capacity to be accept the unexpected, the unthought of situation of life, with an open mind and to be able to adapt myself without losing confidence in the deeper connection between the inner and the outer world.
We then traveled to Gangothri again and to Kedarnath. Yes I did trek there too and reached Shivas abode. And after that traveled to Badrinath. After completely surrendering to nature and her whims and fancies in all the places I concluded my trip by going to Pandukeshwar Yogadyan as the name suggests from where the Pandavas had taken their last journey. It was quiet and was like a solo violinist playing on the last string in the clouds above. Serenity is the right word for I was surrounded only by Mountains the quiet statue of Badrinath ji in the Yoga pose and the Himalayan peaks Nar Narayan rising on both sides.
I did not pray nor meditate for thoughts stood still and I allowed myself to be drawn in by Lord Vishnuji’s idol so peaceful and quiet.
PANUKESHWAR- YOGDHYAN- FROM WHERE THE PANDAVAS TOOK THEIR LAST JOURNEY
Anthropologist Lyall Watson, who wrote in his book Elephantoms.
….reluctantly I learned the lesson of silence. It wasn’t easy. Western awareness insists on things as the focus of sensation and attention. We find it very hard to think of NOTHING. Emptiness makes us uncomfortable. SILENCE IS, more often than not, interrupted by thoughtless applause from someone who thinks the symphony is over. We are all a little anxious about intervals, finding it very difficult to foster the art of meaningful pause. We do our best to abolish empty space, dead air, filling it instead with clutter, forgetting that it is precisely the Nothingness between things that defines them, setting them apart from one another. We need to stop talking and Listen. Learn to listen to silence because the secrets often lie in the space between the sounds. The sounds of silence.
Gaumukh is 18 km trek from Gangotri and is considered to be the origin of holy river Ganges. After visiting Gaumukh, one generally retreats to Bhojwasa for night halt. Hence the trek actually worked out to 22 km. The return 14 km trek from Bhojwasa to Gangotri is performed on the next day.