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Rishikesh Diaries

part two

October 28, 2010 by Amanda Lynne

Amanda: I experienced tips of my roots in India. An almost unrecognizable essence that could be triggered by a Sanskrit word, an elderly woman arranging flowers for aarti, a beggar on the street saying Hari Om as I passed by, or genuine eye contact from the shopkeeper handing me a cup of chai.

What is a spiritual lineage? I never met either Swami Sivananda or Swami Radha, so how is it that I identify so strongly with this lineage?

Paula: Upon entering the Samadhi Temple at the Divine Life Society, a red carpet leads to a flower-laden shrine of Krishna. Inspirational quotes, pictures and stories line the walls, shining through with Gurudev’s wisdom and pervasive love. As we sit and wait in the women’s section, I feel like I have come home.

A white robed man enters the hall, unfolds an orange towel and begins to chant Om Namo Narayanaya. Everyone joins in, filling the hall with sound . As we chant, my mind focuses on the words, finding the breathing space in the pauses of the call and response pattern. The leader randomly alters the key, perhaps to bring my monkey mind back to the powerful vibrations.

Peace. Peace. Peace. My legs begin to fall asleep but instead of indulging the habit of immediately seeking escape from the discomfort, I sit with it. I acknowledge it, chant into the deep pockets of pinched nerves and simply observe.

Samadhi Shrine, The Spiritual Hub

After an hour we stand for aarti; we have to be quick to pass our hands over the swiftly moving plate of candles. Then we stand in line for prasad: samosas and sweet lentils!

Once everyone has cleared from the hall, my heart leads me to the front of the temple and into a black zebra marble room. Be Good Do Good appears in thick silver letters above the entrance. Various offerings, garlands, candles and hanging brass lamps give light to the room. I bow down and an intense mix of emotions swells from within. A single tear sparkles onto the floor below. I smile at my offering and think of how many tears have blessed this floor along with mine.

I am grateful for Swami Sivananda’s life and am in awe of Swami Radha’s courage, trust and vision. Being here, I am gaining a deeper sense of her love for him, recognizing what a beautiful man he was. I think of Radha: Diary of a Woman’s Search, and the intense and inspiring experiences she had here, and her commitment and trust in the divine process.

Amanda:  Today I feel disappointed with Rishikesh and India. It seems like a superficial circus of mystical illusions. Selling spirituality has confusing and conflicting messages clothed in orange robes and Om tattoos. The Divine Life Society has been the only refuge of authenticity we’ve found – except for the odd person we meet that has dug deeper to the roots of themselves and the traditions embodied in this place.

Diary of Two Women's Searches

I put my feet into the Ganges and splash the holy rivulets over my arms and head. The water cupped in my hands is clearly full of ash, dirt, silt, sewage and who knows what else? It’s very cold. Although we’re 400kms from the river’s origin in the Himalayas – the water isn’t clear here, it’s more like a chocolate milk colour. Thick, dark grey swirling clouds of prayers and reincarnating bodies. There is a reverence for water here that I just cannot comprehend.

Swami Radha often spoke in her diary of going down to the river whenever she was confused or contemplating the new experiences and concepts that were being revealed to her, and I find myself asking some of the same questions: What is Karma? Divine Law? Reincarnation?

I came to India with ten years of practicing and studying yoga, spirituality and philosophy and still I’m baffled with the attitudes and customs of the people here. Finding my cynicism taking over, I reflect on a conversation with a friend who thought that a philosophy of karma and reincarnation has encouraged apathy in India and an attitude of “I’ll do it in my next life”.

Memories and cynicism are swept away

I reflect on the responsibility and effects of thought, speech and actions as it relates to karma. I also wonder how in a culture of enduring Divine Feminine worship, with bodies of water named after goddesses, that domestic violence can be so pervasive and socially accepted to some degree. Sacred cows roam the cities without an infrastructure to care for them, they are loved by the people, but rummage through garbage for their nourishment. I gaze out again across the river. The winds change.

I think of the cultural implications of patriarchy on this land, and the confusion that it must have bestowed. In university, I did some research into the transition from earth goddess to sky god religions as directly related to the institution of patriarchy.

Approximately 6000 years ago the first wave of Indo-European Kurgan tribes (Aryans) invaded and conquered the relatively peaceful agrarian Earth Goddess cultures of India, Old Europe, Turkey and Iran.

As a result of these invasions, historical, ancestral, mythological, and ecological relationships began to change significantly reflecting a more distanced, fearful and aggressive relationship between humans and nature, and the gods these people worshiped.

Over the course of the next two to three millennia these nomadic warriors imposed an entirely new set of ideologies and values that have been at the foundation of the Western worldview ever since. What a history. The river rushes past and I let my memories and cynicism be swept along with it.

I take a deep breath and smile at a beautiful old woman on the steps of the river who is arranging floating flower offerings with prasad and candles for aarti. I buy one from her and reflect on our time here. What were we really in search of? Did we find it? As I watch my little light float along this revered river of life I see more clearly that my search was to connect with the spirit of Swami Radha, to what the essence of radha yoga is, and with the family and lineage that I find myself calling home.

What were we really in search of? Did we find it?


Returning home to Yasodhara Ashram, I experience a bodily sensation at satsang that I have never felt before: Devotion. My eyes well up with a feeling of deep devotion connected to my belly and my heart, it is an all consuming experience.

What I need is here. It’s in the Kundalini book, and it’s in the swamis and teachers here, who, just like Swami Radha and Swami Sivananda, have devoted their lives to selfless service and to the Divine. It’s all here. It’s in me.

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you, Paula and Amanda, for this touching and thought-provoking glimpse of India and of our spiritual roots.

    Comment by Anne Churchill — October 28, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

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