While in West Texas, on November 13, the Patel family took Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami and Sannyasin Senthilnathaswami on an outing to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. The 3.5-hour drive across the flat desert of the Permian Basin, dotted with the occasional oil well and nothing else, was finally rewarded by the subtle hills of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
After descending in an elevator 750 feet in one minute, we entered the caves.
The experience of the caves is really not possible to describe accurately, or depict accurately in photographs--unless, of course, one has the equipment and skill of Ansel Adams.
We learned all about stalactites, the formations that hang from the ceiling, and stalagmites, the formations that build upward from the cave floor.
This is the King’s Palace, a very large room in the caverns. Special lighting has been installed to highlight some of the formations.
These caves were not formed by underground water like most were. These caves were formed by water on the Earth’s surface back when there was ocean above, 150 million years ago. This water seeped down through limestone, carrying bits of calcite which then stuck together one after the other, creating all the formations. This tiny pool was created by recent water seeping through. The caves are still active. Whenever there are rains, which is rare in the desert above, the water slowly pushes through, and formations continue to grow.
The letter "Ya" in the Panchakshara Mantra, Namasivaya, stands for the soul. Bodhinatha uses the Panchakshara Mantra to show how the soul is initially drawn by Siva's veiling grace, which leads the soul to maturity through experience in the world. Then comes Siva's revealing grace. When we've had enough of the world, Siva's grace pulls us toward God. The mantra also has the simple, two-syllable form. Si- Reflecting on God the Transcendent Absolute, Va-God as the All Pervading Consciousness