While exploring the ruins of Maharishi’s ashram, I came across many trippy murals which made me wonder what folks were on back in the day.
Who knows? Maybe they were simply high on Transcendental Meditation.
Before leaving the ashram, I thanked all the creative souls for sharing their visions of beauty, bliss and the great beyond…
…and contributed a few words for the future.
On a rainy afternoon in Rishikesh, I had a chance to visit Indian Guru Maharishi’s ashram. A spiritual retreat in the 1960s for creative minds like the Beatles, the former ashram is now retreating into the earth.
Walking alongside cobblestone memories of an era too radical to fathom, I heard occasional gusts of wind sing, “let it be, let it be, let it be, oh let it be, there will be an answer, let it be.”
And so I rolled a fat one and did just that.
The blessing above is posted inside Anand Prakash’s dining room in Rishikesh, where authentic Indian food is served three times per day. From sambar to kofta to tikka masala, this ashram prepares the best sattvic meals that’ll keep one’s mouth watering throughout yoga class.
I love this swami! He sits on a golden throne in front of a family restaurant ringing his bell and wearing more eyeliner than Alice Cooper. His name is Chotiwala and he makes the best curd in Haridwar, a holy city in northeast India where Lord Shiva lets down his locks in the form of a river—the mighty Ganga.
Haridwar reminds me of Varanasi (in an uplifting kind of way). Both cities are very old with teeming ghats running along the same river. Sadhus are plentiful, living modestly and worshipping their deities of choice. The aarti ceremonies are awe-inspiring, using fire and song to glorify the five elements. And Lord Shiva is everywhere…
…watching over us with deep affection.
Not much to do in Mathura but shop and temple hop, so I was thrilled to find ancient sculptures at the Government Museum. Throughout its long history, Mathura has seen Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and Vedic spirituality flourish. Many art schools taught students how to build large, ornate works that represented their beliefs. Here are some stunning examples!
Meandering through Vrindavan is a frenetic thing (which is great for those with adventurous hearts). From dawn to dusk, the city is filled with nonstop energy! People worshipping deities, drinking chai, haggling with merchants, chanting mantras, dodging monkeys and cows, driving to who knows where in cars, bikes and rickety rickshaws. Everyday something new and exciting happens. That’s Vrindavan’s charm (and curse if you step in something mushy).
One of my favorite things to do was walk alongside Yamuna as the sun set and lanterns sailed across her violet waters, hearing the soothing chime of temple bells as swamis commence their nightly puja.
As the Vrindavan Sky cried her summer tears, I visited the ISKCON Temple (Krishna Balaram Mandir) and got myself better acquainted with Srila Prabhupada’s message of Krsna Consciousness. Born and raised in India, His Grace was instructed to move to New York in 1965 to spread the word of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (founder of bhakti yoga), teaching sanskrit, Vedic principles, mantra chanting, sattvic cooking and other immersive lessons that would help spiritual seekers everywhere reconnect with their true nature.
At first, I couldn’t understand how simply chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare could reconnect us, but after reading how this present Age of Kali (a time of low ethics) has convoluted the heart with greed, deceit and jealousy, I realized that simplicity is what makes it so effective. Not only does the mantra’s vibration cleanse the heart, but it puts one in a spiritual place. And once there, you can begin to see how the material body isn’t truly you—
the soul that drives it is!
And it’s eternal!
So grab a harmonium, mridanga and karatalas and start chanting.