Ashram on the Ganga

For decades we have enjoyed a rare and close connection with Swami Chidanand Saraswati, whom all endearingly call Muniji, the head of one of the great ashrams in Rishikesh and our erstwhile Hindu of the Year. We are eager to visit them and to join in the famed evening arati to Ganga Mata that they hold every night.

We cross the bridge and walk through the narrow streets that lead to this amazing place, sitting with Muniji and his able administrator Sadhvi Bhagavati for a few minutes before the call comes that all have gathered at the water's edge.

Muniji guides us to the ghat where hundreds have gathered and where that very day 12 priests chanted the Hanuman Chalisa for twelve full hours, 54 rounds that they will repeat tomorrow.

Such a sweet way to be with the river and with devotees of the highest caliber. Hours pass. Devotees come to their guru's garden to ask questions, seek counsel and blessings, offer gifts and service. Swami speaks a lot about the need for toilets in India! A surprising but much-needed subject that is dear to him. He even has a bio toilet experiment that he shows us, right in the ashram.

A lovely way to end our day in Rishikesh. Jai Ganga Ma!

A Dip in the Holy Ganga

For a long time now Yoginathaswami has held a gentle wish in his heart that, one day, he would touch the River Ganga, bathe in its sanctifying waters. That desire was finally fulfilled in Rishikesh.

We were taken to the river's edge by the swamis of Omkarananda Ashram, to a gentle spot in front of one of their many massive buildings. A sandy beach greeted us, the river's soft invitation to enter.

Yoginathaswami went first, finding a spot deep enough to permit the required three immersions. Then Sadasivanathaswami followed, soon to learn how very cold this water is. It makes sense, as it is all glacial melt here, not far from the beginnings of the great river. It even has that tell-tale color that glacier waters always have. Cold. Cold Cold! Blessed. Blessed. Blessed!

We bathed with a mind that all of Gurudeva's shishyas were here with us, all dipping down with us, all releasing karmas of the past, all receiving Siva's special grace. Jai Gurudeva! And thank you, Bodhinatha, for blessing this journey.

Off to Singapore

Today, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami and Sannyasin Shanmuganathaswami left on their two week journey to Singapore and Malaysia. Upon reaching the airport, the two had a firsthand look at the Airport's island author display, which showcases the Master Course Trilogy, Lumarian Scrolls and The Guru Chronicles, as well as photos of Gurudeva and the monks.

Off to Rishikesh, Land of Sages

We reached Dehradun airport after a day of flights from Chennai and were escorted into Rishikesh, just half an hour away. The two swamis from Kauai Aadheenam were generously welcomed by the disciples of Sri Swami Omkarananda, whose story has been told in the pages of Hinduism Today and whose Swiss ashram was a part of our story on Hinduism in Europe. Bodhinatha has been to their Rishikesh Ashram, but this is our first visit. We spoke with the swamis about publishing, about guru bhakti and more.

Upon our arrival at the Dehrahdun airport we were greeted by Nageshwari (Padmarajah's wife--from Malaysia) and a local devotee. She is spending several months at the Omkarananda Ashram doing seva. 

We were greeted by three of the senior resident monks who have lived here for decades: Swami Vishveshvarananda, Swami Satchitananda and Swamini Somashekari. We attended their evening 6 pm arati at the ashram's Kamakshi Amman temple. The temples here all follow the South Indian tradition, and the ashram is rightfully proud of the traditional form of the temple. The founder and guru, Swami Omkarananda, is originally from Andhra Pradesh, though he settled in Switzerland and Austria for many years. Right now they have 20 local priests doing the nitya puja and havan. 

After a light dinner, we were taken to a delightful kutir--very clean! We can see the Ganga flowing from our kutir. The ashram is supplied with water from Ganga. So we were fully immersed in sacred water!

The ashram is not exactly on the banks of Ganga but about 600 yards away. They do have another property with a padashala that sits right on the bank of the river. It looks like an ancient Vedic-age place with incredible scenery. Within just a few steps one can walk into the holy waters. They have a four story building that is functional and are building a couple more. The first two floors are utilized by padashala boys, while the top two stories are reserved for monks.

Chennai Gatherings

Yoginathaswami and Sadasivanathaswami are deeply impressed with the scale of development in India. Here in Chennai there is a massive rapid transit train initiative underway that goes for miles and miles, something that will transform the landscape (traffic) here.

Having settled in for a few days, we were able to catch up with our reporting from the road and to sit with many good souls, begin some projects, end others and just spend friendly time with families in the area.

We are in the Chennai airport, online due to our Airtel modem which works everywhere (something that is priced beyond reach for the monks in the US). Swami and I will sleep on the banks of the Ganga tonight, a fact that would certainly have confounded the early sadhus and sannyasins who explored Bharat on foot in those early days. Not to mention that not that many decades ago it would have been unthinkable that this report, replete with photos, could be in your hands within moments of completion.

With infinite blessings from Bharat Mata to the many who are, in fact, but part of the One...

Archives are now available through 2001. Light colored days have no posts. 1998-2001 coming later.

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