New Pilgrim Letters

#1 May 23rd, 2005, 23:46
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  • tarakananda is offline
#1
Dear friends-

Many of you have enjoyed Brahmachari Matriprasad's Pilgrim Letters
at http://www.atmajyoti.org/indiapilgrim.asp . Due to a recent trip to India, and recoverring from India's gift of malaria, it has been a while since new ones were posted. Finally today another set was posted, complete with photographs, of his adventures Omkareshwar, and various holy places in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, including Ramanashram in Tiruvannamalai, Swami Ramdas's Anandashram in Khananghad, Sri Rangam and Rameshwaram. This new page is at
http://www.atmajyoti.org/pl_pilgrim_letters_3.asp

Below is a sample:

Dear Swamijis,
Namaste. Let me think what else I can tell you about our favorite subject: India. I know–the Narmada. I do not think I’ve described that yet.

The Ganga and the Narmada are somewhat different. Being an adopted son of the Ganga, I can speak with some experience! The Ganga never looked to me like real water. Even downstream in Varanasi and Calcutta where it is so shamefully dirty, it just doesn’t look like water. One time while going by boat to Dakshineshwar, I kept thinking that there was an oil spill on the water or something, as it looked like something was glistening on top of the water, but I kept putting my hand in the water and finding it clear. I realized I was literally seeing light shining off the water.

It is absolutely sinful, though, that the Indian people and government haven’t put some kind of restrictions on dumping filth into the body of the Devi. In Gangotri there are signs by the Ganga in Hindi and English that say, “The Ganga is the heart of India. To throw trash in or defecate on her banks is a great sin. Did you come to this holy place to create merit or sin?” Only in India. But what hypocrisy when you see what happens further down. I was reading a couple of days ago that someone was complaining to Ma how dirty the river was in Varanasi, and She agreed, but then said, “The nature of the Ganga is to purify and anything that is immersed in her is absorbed by her purity.” You can see that, as it is still holy.

Up further, from Haridwar up to the source is a different story, though. In Rishikesh, the Ganga really doesn’t appear like water. I always thought it looked like it was made of a combination of green silk and light. Even the way it flows, and the patterns it forms as you look across it are just not what water does. I always felt that after bathing in it, I was not just purified, but actually subtly transformed.

The Narmada is different. From experience I truly, truly believe in the idea of the holy rivers of India literally coming from a Divine source. The Narmada (from my limited perception) looks and behaves like regular water, but with an incredible vibration. It feels like it is a physical embodiment of sadhana shakti, and I really believe that it comes from God specifically for sadhus and their sadhana. At Omkareshwar it is very clear and green, and cool but not as cold as the Ganga. It has a similar, intense auric field like the Ganga. One day I walked far upstream on the mainland bank (it’s all forested, hilly wilderness for as far as you can see) and sat on a flat rock that was out in the water, so that the river was flowing all around me. The purifying flow of the aura was almost overpowering it was so incredible. It is no accident that thousands of years of sadhus have done tapasya on its banks.

Besides bathing and doing my laundry in it in the morning, in the afternoon right before my meditation period, I go down and take a brisk swim. The afternoons are actually comfortably hot, and this is incredibly refreshing, plus it washes out any post-lunch tamoguna1 in the body and mind and really gets me ready for meditation. I swim about a third of the way out and tread water against the current for exercise. I find that if I stand neck-deep in the water, facing the current and repeat “Om Namah Shivaya,” amazing things happen. It is definitely in some way connected with the Shiva aspect of God and really comes alive if you tune in to that.

Living in Omkareshwar, where there is some kind of Shiva shrine every three hundred feet or so, and doing Shiva puja every morning in our Shiva mandir, I am coming to intuitively understand a little more about...
(to read more, go to: http://www.atmajyoti.org/pl_pilgrim_letters_3.asp

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we have.

Swami Tarakananda
#2 Jun 4th, 2005, 17:19
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  • Stephen L. is offline
#2
Thanks for posting this latest set, Swami tarakananda,
Stephen.
Last edited by Stephen L.; Jun 8th, 2005 at 04:02..
#3 Jun 5th, 2005, 20:22
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#3
a quote from the article:

"Outside the ashram is a real freak show, with the usual display of the traveling foreigner: 1) back pack, 2) inappropriate and frequently disrespectful clothes"

hehe, the irony of it:

when bhagavan (ramana maharshi) first came to tiruvannamalai he threw away all of his clothes and sat naked for meditation in the temple. ofcourse the hypocritic priests accused him of not being dressed respectfully enough.

and now people are accusing others of not being properly dressed in an ashram of a man who wanted to be naked and only after being forced by the priests started wearing a loin-cloth.

#4 Jun 7th, 2005, 01:33
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#4
Two of the most necessary faculties in spiritual life are: discernment and truthfulness. Look at the full quote that the above poster omitted:

"Outside the ashram is a real freak show, with the usual display of the traveling foreigner: 1) back pack, 2) inappropriate and frequently disrespectful clothes (I have even seen people wearing blatantly obscene t-shirts), and 3) always, always, the woman in tow. But these were just shadow figures from somebody’s nightmare and passed across the scene without causing a ripple. The power and holiness of the whole area is so intense that I do not think it can be spoiled by anything.

The Westerners actually staying at the ashram were a much better quality. Most of them were dressed modestly, many in Indian clothes, and all seemed very serious, and behaved respectfully, spending a lot of time in meditation. I’m sure they benefited from their stay–it would be hard not to."

To not be able to discern between the renunciation of Ramana Maharshi and the slovenly and disrespectful attire and behavior of some of the American and European "wanderers" is to ignore the obvious. And to misrepresent the author by omitting major parts in the quote to paint a false picture is not admirable to put it mildly.
#5 Jun 7th, 2005, 02:33
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#5
heeeey, just a minute, there!

for some "wanderers" wearing clothes in which they feel good is as important as it was for bhagavan to get buck naked. you may have heard of relativity.

secondly a few of ramana's direct disciples, westerners who are considered as saints, wore plain shorts. yes ladies and gentlemen, they showed their knees! lol

for many orthodox people, wearing shorts is also unappropriate and would probably have told those saints to wear something more "respectful".

and a few more great quotes from this litterary gem of modern spirituality:

"The only time I do not feel at ease is on the rare occasions that other Westerners are present!"

"The grounds are beautifully shaded and have wild peacocks wandering around. Also wandering aimlessly around can be seen great herds of unsightly Westerners!"

"I spent my whole stay there as an intense meditation retreat. Looking back, I do not think I had a single conversation with a Westerner the whole time, but either kept silence or spoke with the sadhus I met."

"Rameshwaram is a beautiful seaside village (with no Westerners in sight!)"

and my favorite:

"This would be a place-to-die-for to own, but you would have to spray a powerful insecticide to get rid of the noisy swarms of Westerners!

There were about two hundred people there, about ninety-five percent Westerners–hatha-yogi types and yoga babes! The truth is, though, as horrible as it sounds (and is!), I wasn’t repelled by them, for they all at least had enough interest to come half-way around the world and endure the hardships of India to experience the place."
#6 Jun 7th, 2005, 02:57
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#6
The point is - if you read the letters - is that there are the those who are upward striving (Western and non-western) and those who are not (Western and non-western). It is a matter of culture and spiritual orientation, not of place of origin.
#7 Jun 7th, 2005, 03:28
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#7
if that truly is the case, i apologize for criticizing the author's article.

it's just that it felt strange that one would judge someone's spirituality just seeing people from the distance without knowing their orientation (i'm saying that cause there are many westerners who imitate indians in clothing but are not spiritually inclined and those who wear western shorts and t-shirts and maybe even be saints (such as major chadwick/sadhu arunachala, the famous disciple of the maharshi).

anyway best of luck to the author and u (if you are 2 different people)

on the good note, the article reminded me of the afternoons i too spent on the hill behind anandashram and the oceanside behind kanhangad's railway station.
ahhh, those days...
#8 Jun 7th, 2005, 04:19
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#8
What you say about the clothes not making the aspirant is true.

The author, Brahmachari Matriprasad (now Swami Mangalananda Giri) was raised in Texas, and as many people who love India, felt like a fish out of water in his native country, until the wonderful experience of discovering India made him come to Life, in a manner of speaking.

Upon receiving his letters, we were inspired to visit the places he wrote of, and in trips in 2003 and 2005 travelled to many of the places he told us about, and our emails to the head of the Ashram will be posted at http://www.atmajyoti.org/ in the near future, along with more pictures such as these: http://www.atmajyoti.org/indiaphotos.asp

Truly, Ramanashram, Arunachala, and Anandashram and its environs are places of wonder.
Last edited by tarakananda; Jun 12th, 2005 at 05:57..
#9 Jun 7th, 2005, 13:15
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  • Nick-H is offline
#9
Quote:
Originally Posted by tarakananda ... ... ...our emails to the head of the Ashram will be posted in the near future, along with more pictures such as these: http://www.atmajyoti.org/indiaphotos.asp ... ... ...
What, here? If you feel they are of general interest to IMers then a link will do, without extensive quoting.

Lots of good stuff on religion, yoga, spirituality etc gets discussed on IM, but this thread feels to me a bit much like a mouthpiece for one particular school and that doesn't seem appropriate to me, any more than it would if it was one particular travel agent.

Anyway, I'm just one IMer stating his opinion...
~
Life gets aadhar every day.
.

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