Kolkata, Friday 4th January 2013
Shiva and I left Australia with Jagatambe, Gayatri, Savitur and Ganga early on 1st January, bound for India and the Shiva Pure Bliss retreat which commences in the Holy city of Varanasi on 6th January.
Due to changes in flights by the airline, we ended up with a 6 hour wait for our plane in Bangkok. Not being ones to waste an opportunity, we found a private room at the airport (through Divine providence) and set up our own Shanti Spa. We gave each other foot and hand massages which delightfully filled in a few hours, we talked about the forthcoming retreat and our anticipation of things to come. We arrived in Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) very late on New Years day ready for a good sleep.
During breakfast at the hotel we reunited with Bhadrakali and Lalitha Durga, then the 8 of us headed for the Ramakrishna Belor Math. This is a Kolkata institution, founded by the great Indian saint Ramakrishna, and then developed by his incredibly able and enlightened disciple Vivekananda. Vivekananda distinguished himself in the West by being a speaker at the World Parliament of Religions and giving some inspiring addresses about unity, the oneness of all faiths, and calling for an end to bigotry and religious injustices. His 9 year teaching mission occurred at the turn of the century until he left His body in the very early 1900’s.
Vivekananda’s Guru Ramakrishna was an uneducated man who served for a while as priest at the Kali temple. However he was so often out of his body in Divine rapture that his duties as priest were somewhat neglected! He was replaced, but his Holiness was obvious, and He was given His own space to reside at the temple so that his devotion to Kali could continue uninterrupted. He knew all the scriptures without ever reading them. He became enlightened in every religion during his life and could teach from any of them.
To get to the temple here in Kolkata we were taken on a wild ride in 3 beaten up old yellow taxis through some of the poorest and dirtiest areas of the city. The squalor, sights, smells and ingenuity of people existing in such seemingly desolate circumstances and their resilience was a reminder of the strength of the human spirit and the complexity of life.
The moment we turned into the Ashram, the energy changed completely. At once we were flooded with the Shanti of the hermitage, and of the energy of devotion that pervades the Ashram. We were drawn to the banks of the Ganges River, and to acknowledge the flow of Divine energy that, miraculously, is palpable and strong even here in Kolkata which is right at the end of the long rivers journey. It is here, at the Bay of Bengal that the mighty Ganga meets the Indian Ocean. While the pollution of the river is terrible, the energy is vast. To me it is one of the miraculous paradoxes of life that this should be so. The spirit of this river is truly something to experience.
We went then to the Ramakrishna temple, where His body was buried well over one hundred years ago. Many people come to the temple from all over the world as pilgrims, just like we did, to imbibe the spiritual energy and receive the blessing of this great Guru and Paramahamsa. We each received very clear messages from Him and felt the shakti pouring down, blessing each of us.
After meditating for a while in the rather busy temple, we found Vivekanadas temple, where His ashes were buried. My heart opened very wide and tears came, as a long ago connection to the soul of this Holy man came to life. We circumambulated His temple and sat in meditation receiving his blessings before heading to the final place of pilgrimage for me, which was a simpler construction where the ashes of the senior disciples of Ramakrishna other than Vivekananda were buried. Again the Holy energy was very strong, and I knew that this unified group of monks were actively assisting our Unity group within Shanti Mission. How joyful to find friendships that transcend place, time, race and lifespans. This was a very poignant place for me, and for Ganga, who also felt a huge connection to these long dead men.
We returned to our hotel, somehow the journey was much less intense as we digested the spiritual energy, and then spent some time meditating together before resting in the afternoon. My next letter will be from Varanasi, where we are taking part in the next chapter of our spiritual adventure here in the motherland of spiritual experiences, India.
Blessings and love