Day 11: Goodbye, India

mooo

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.

lotus guru

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.

Hari Om

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Day 10: Maharishi Ashram

Maharishi and Co.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.

Me too!

Day 9: Rishikesh

Dinner Blessing

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.

Day 7: Mathura

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!

Day 6: Vrindavan

 

Shakti Maa

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.

Day 5: Vrindavan

Murti of Sri Prabhupada

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.

 

Day 4: Vrindavan

Warning: When visiting Vrindavan, one must be watchful of monkeys. They are known to snatch bags, food, cameras and other belongings right out of people’s hands. Driving in a tuk-tuk through downtown Vrindavan, one of those light-footed rascals snatched my new sunglasses right off my unsuspecting head. Hitting the brakes, the driver turned around and asked if I’d like to “re-purchase” them from the monkey’s owner. Refusing to be scammed (and feeling quite foolish about the whole thing), I shook my head and told him to proceed (the monkey waving a pair of knockoff Ray-Bans over an amused crowd).

 

After checking into Radha Palace, a simple and economical hotel near the main temples, I gathered my wits and walked to Prem Mandir, a beautiful white temple that narrates the glorious childhood of Vrindavan’s own, Lord Krsna.

 

Gaining a better understanding of Krsna and His many feats, I clutched my belongings and exited the temple gates, making sure a monkey didn’t catch me off-guard and snatch away my inner peace.

Swing of Love