Ganges

“My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth ‘I was the same’. As a little girl ‘I was the same’. ………. Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change around me, in the hall of eternity ‘I shall be the same’. ——Sri Ma
Sri Anandamayi Ma
This is how I knew her just some days before she left. The picture of compassion and serenity and all goodness combined.
I will allways be greatful to Jean, who I met one day in Shantivanam. He had just come back from a retreat where he received initiation from Anandamayi. I noticed something different about him. There was a smile on his face and his eyes sparkled and there was a definite change that had come over him and so after breakfast I enquired and he said, “Come let me show you some pictures” and he took me to his hut and explained his trip to the little village where Ma’s ashram was and how he was able at last to get initiation from her after waiting a full year. this was his second trip. Then he showed me her picture and I felt I had to see her. He explained a bit of what was happening and that an auspicious time to go there will be a few weeks prior to her birthday and to be there for that and so I made plans. Jean went ahead and it was agreed that we would meet there. I was told that she was India’s greatest saint and I really wanted to see her.
I had travelling for quite a while now since visiting Arunachala. I viisted quite a few catholic monasteries and communities and then I was in Delhi, of these I will write later.
It was from Delhi that I travelled some eight hours by bus to Haridwar. The bus had not yet stopped when someone threw a lighted cigarette through the window and somehow the fire caught on the silk Indian shirt of a man seated in the row behind. it created quite an argument and nearly broke into a fight.
I was exhausted and left quickly and got a room in the nearest hotel for the night. The next morning I went for a walk on the banks of the Ganges and of all the thousands of people there, I ran into Jean. It was great as he had found a room in a place and was able to get me one. It was only three rupees a night but what a place! Like a stable for animals but it had a door and a lock and a roof over my head and scorpions running around on the floor at nights. Good thing I had a flash light so I could avoid them!

My clothes were terribly dirty from travelling and so in the afternoon I went down to the river to wash them. It is amazing how, with some soap and sunshine and a few beatings, the cotton pyjama or yoga pants became so white and dried so fast on the rocks.

I saw a young Hindu priest in the water saying his prayers and with cupped hands he drank. I was staring at him and after his prayers he looked at me and smiled. “Can one drink this water?” I asked, he said “Of course, Ganga is God!”  I was thirsty and cupping my hands I drank from the Ganges. It was cooling and pleasant and I drank again and again. When my clothes were dry and I was heading back, I saw a family there with a dead body and they were dipping it in, the last bath before cremation !

In the evening I went for darshan at Anandamayi Ma’s ashram. It was in a house which her disciples had built for her at the time and on the banks of the Ganges. Recently it has been made into a Center (An International centre has been recently built in Kankhal ( 4 km south of Hardwar, on the Ganga), which is also 200 km north of DELHI in Uttar Pradesh.)
Kankal was the little city where I saw her and I will never forget that place for more reasons than one. In the evening at 6 pm was the usual time for darshan. (Darśana (Darshan, Sanskrit: दर्शन) is a Sanskrit term meaning “sight” (in the sense of an instance of seeing or beholding; from a root dṛś “to see”), vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for “visions of the divine,” e.g., of a god or a very holy person or artifact. One could “receive darshana” of the deity in the temple, or from a great saintly person, such as a great guru)

The way it went was that I would arrive there and there would be other people waiting outside until at six precisely, a swami would open the little gate and we would come into the yard. All the windows were closed and we never knew which will open. It was like playing a game as we walked around and suddenly a window would open and everyone would rush to it and we would see her in the room either sitting or even at times in bed as her health was diminishing.

At some point the swami would tell us that it was time to go and they closed the window and we left.
Sometimes it would last for longer periods and sometimes there was some talking and at other times it was all in silence. People came from far away and they came just to have her darshan. Just to have a glimpse of her or to have her see them and go away feeling blessed. One day as I was walking very slowly, I heard the latches in the window next to me being undone and I froze. The window opened and there she was standing a few inches away and I said “Jai Ma!”.
She took out her glasses and looked at me with a smile.

She looked very much as she does in the picture at the top of the page. After leaving I would always go down to the Ganges and drink from it. There was a strange thing that always happened after I saw her, as I walked away, so many prayers arose in me. I would suddenly find myself saying the rosary or the Our Father but it was always Christian prayers.

There was an Austrian swami who spoke English and I had a good talk with him. I asked him if Ananadamayi was initiating anyone and he asked why and I said I would like to know if I could receive from her and he said he will ask her. He said that it was normal for Westerners to wait for one year.
I met Sister Sarah (Sara Grant, RSCJ (December 19, 1922–2002) was an British Indologist, christian missionary, and one of the pioneers of interreligious dialogue in the twentieth century.[1] She came to India in 1956, as a missionary and member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, became actively engaged in interreligious dialogue in India, and was a leading figure in the inculturation (imbibing local cultures) movement that she started in India following Roman Catholic priest Richard De Smet in the early 1970s. [2]
She taught in Mumbai and Pune for several years, and remained spent many years as co-acharya of the Christa Prema Seva Ashram in Pune, which combines the Hinduashram and sannyasa model and Christian monasticism.[3]
She was with a Canadian girl and they were at the darshan one evening and we met afterwards and went one day for lunch. It was quite a painful experience as most of the restaurants had these wooden fire stoves and the smoke filled the place. Very hard on the eyes.
One never knew who would show up at the evening darshan. One evening one of the brothers from Shantivanam came. it was so good to see him again.

There was a little enclosed yard around the place where I was staying and Jean and I decided to try cooking our own food. We were able to buy the necessary items..a pot and spoon etc. The first meal was easy as it was rice and yellow chick peas. The big job was getting the fire started but once it was going, it was just a matter of up keeping it. we both had cooking abilities and so we were able to share.

In the evenings the mosquitoes were voracious and there was no mosquito net in my room and so I used to make a fire in the corner with leaves and when the room was filled with smoke, i would cover my head and go to sleep. Somewhere after mid-night the smoke had died down and the mosquitoes were back. All I could do was to get dressed and go down to the Ganges.

Re-reading all this in my diary really makes me realize how we can do things when we are young. At my age now, I could never dream of enduring all that I did then.

The Ganges had a spell on me. I found it hard to leave. Every day I went in to bathe in it and in the evening after darshan I would go back to drink. I could spend hours roaming the banks of this holy River. There were lots of swallows flying around and children playing by the river. There were the funeral people and cows straying around. But this was not Kashi (Benares) Here the river was much cleaner.

One day I went for my usual swim in the afternoon and when I went back to my place, I could not get in because it was surround by a pack of red howling monkeys. I made a sign to chase them away but a big one, exposing its teeth and howling rushed me and I had to run.

Ma was not too well and word got around that maybe there would be no darshan today. I decided to go to Haridwar and cross over to the other side of the river to visit that part of the Ganges. I thought that it was the most beautiful river in the world and i wanted to see as much as i possibly could.
We were within walking distance to Haridwar and only a few minutes by rickshaw to Rishikesh and a few minutes over the bridge and we were on the other side. See how beautiful the river is in these areas,

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