musings on spirit tour of India…

This February I had the pleasure of taking my dear friends Vivi and Eraj from Greece, along with a group of their students form NYSY Yoga Studio, Athens for a Temple Tour of India. We were about 14 altogether and we began our journey together in Chennai. After visiting the Shiva Temple and the Vivekananda House, we got on the road and visited Mahabalipuram’s Shore Temples and Five Chariot Temples. In Pondicherry, we spent a night exploring the town and then the amazing eco-village, Auroville and its Matra Mandir. Onwards we went, to Chidambaram and the Shiva Tandava Temple, Kanchipuram and the Mango Tree Temple and onwards still to Tiruvanamallai, the home of Ramana Maharishi and the Arunachala Hill I have named my seva project of Yoga & Ayurveda offerings…
Once back in Chennai, we were in for a most unusual experience. Supposed to catch a short plane ride to Varanasi to spend Mahashivratri in that most sacred city, we were instead destined to fly to Bangalore, sit on the plane, hop to Delhi, sit on the plane, hop to Lucknow and, it being dark now, get on an old bus and drive 7 hours to end up the next morning in Lucknow! Below is the poem that came out of it:

COMING INTO BENARAS: AN ODE TO SHIVA

Chennai, early morning of Maha Shivratri
An easy ride to the airport with well crafted plans
At the counter, a first hint of what is to come
The unraveling takes place, patiently directing us
To catch up, breathe, hold, plunge, let-go, then:
What is His wish? Because there is little doubt
Who is orchestrating this, the symmetry is uncanny
So then the parts to play: good cop, bad cop
Watching it all as the parts are spontaneously revealed
Phone calls, texts, a stern matriarch who takes no shit
Their turn to play good cop, bad cop, tables turned
They win, so we can let go, relax, surrender
So much arises on this crazy, nonsensical
Plan of theirs, which they truly are convinced
Is the only way, and we are in for a ride.

 Jet Airways to Bangalore is bumpy and sudden
Great finessing by ground crew: easy off, easy on
We sit and watch, this is not a dress rehearsal
Not wishing to be mere spectators, we act out importantly
More phone calls, check the group, where is the promised food?
Then we are on our way to the next stop, my stomping ground
Delhi is approached with peace prayers and chants to Shiva
And it occurs to me: pleas to Brahma take forever to fructify
Pleas to Vishnu are about achieving His abode
But prayers to Shiva are never denied, as He knows
Our secret wants, He panders to the ego’s will
Creates such strength of it that we flounder in desires
Ravana conquered all the worlds, his insane appetite
Is mirrored thousand fold today in our Hitler-s and such like
Shiva gives to those who ask, till they beg for a Rama
To end their ravenous hungers, eating up all other egos, ages
Swallowing smaller fish, minions in millions, even the very
Earth, Water, Sky fall prey, as the demons seek Salvation
Or the Destruction of the very Lord, Who alone can save them,
By fiery astra-s, astral missiles armed with Spirit-s of Devata-s,
Consuming, burning, devouring, even hungrier than us all

 But now we touch Delhi, softly we take off again
Onwards to Lucknow, a city with childhood meaning
We will pass briefly through it onwards to Varanasi
It is another short ride there, ending in dusk,
Knowing little of what lurks in the shadows
Led to an unlit bus, again it is about who is in control
From the airline rep being all business to the world weary
Munni Bhai, straight from Bollywood casting, with bleary eyes,
Reeking of paan and yet he drives us onwards confidently
On crazy Indian nighttime roads filled with truck drivers
Railroad crossings, countless speed bumps on the highway
What is it we can do now but sing to Shiva Himself
On this wedding night of his; he knows where he wants us
And it is not in a hotel room in Varanasi but instead
On an old bus singing his praises all together, each one
With his or her thoughts but willing to let this unfold
The surrender is part exhaustion and part exhilaration
But the witnessing is in each one’s eyes, which are
Trained upon me, looking for signals that can explain
This madness adventure as it is in sense that we seek
Our understandings and acceptances, the unknown
Must remain an enigma, the moment needs rationale

 Varanasi appears gradually, it is now that quiet before dawn
Dogs are awake and there is stirring in the new day, Shiva’s wedding
Now belongs to last night, now the wedding city calls us
To rest, in a hotel I will never again stay in
But for now, it is welcome as the journey ends.

Later, we continued to Delhi and then I begged leave to rest before flying to Greece to teach there before returning home, a much richer man: so much treasured learning had happened on this trip.
Album of photos from the trip: Click Here

At a little off the beaten track Hanuman Temple

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