9 Nov 2012

First part of the Pilgrimage

Here a very long but nice e-mail from Paartha about the first days of the Pilgrimage: 

East India with Swami, November 2012

We (most of the group) arrived yesterday morning in Kolkota after a long journey from Frankfurt via Dubai. 
After passing immigration and getting our suitcases, which fortunately all arrived, we met Gurdeep, our guide, who showed us to the bus. The busride from the airport to the Hotel took about 50mins through the Kolkota traffic (taxis, rikshaws, people, trucks, cows, dogs, bicycles, motorbikes, etc). On arrival at the hotel, we even got garlanded with fresh flower garlands. After taking our rooms, we had an introductory round with all the participants of the pilgrimage. We realised that we are a very diverse group, people from Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, UK, Austria and a small group from Portugal. 
After we all introduced each other, being in Kolkota, it strongly pulled me towards Dakshineshwar, where Mahakali was waiting ... Finally I found three others who were still fit enough and willing to share a taxi with me and we drove one hour to Dakshineshwar. It was one of the longest hours for me... When we finally reached, it was already dark. One enters through a busy street, full of shops that sell all sorts of Kali items. Once the street is over, one enters through the gate where the taxi can park. Once in there however, it gets very quiet and peaceful. We bought some prasad (flowers, incense, sari, etc) and entered the huge temple compound. We came to the main temple where the aarti was going on. Our taxi driver, who became our guide, led us around on the other side, where we could look at the aarti and have Darshan of Ma from only a few meters distance, right behind the priest who was doing the aarti. Dakshineshwari Kali, or Bhavatarini, stands there in the middle of the altar, very impressive. Her eyes are very intense and look directly into ones heart. With her left hands she cuts the head of the demon, with the right ones she takes away all fears of her devotee and grants boons and fulfills all wishes of those who consider themselves her children and pray to her with love and trust. 
The aarti went on for about another 30 minutes, with many people sitting and standing there, singing and playing drums, all completely focussed on Ma. But no matter how many of her children are there, She hears them all and tirelessly listens to them and serves them. After the aarti, we were the first ones who could go into the sanctum to offer our flowers, etc. The priest took the offerings and gave it to Her. Then he gave us some other prasad and flowers that had touched Her divine feet, standing on Her husbands chest, and we had to leave the sanctum again.
Outside, we got some kumkum on our forehead. We then walked across the square to the Shiva temples. There are 12 smaller temples in a row, representing the 12 Jyotir lingams found all over India. We walked around them also. Then we visited the simple rooms where Ramakrishna & his wive Sarada Devi had lived. 
It was really quite something to walk on the same ground on which Sri Ramakrishna, while serving Ma Kali as a priest, had been walking so many years, as well as so many saints that met with Ramakrishna during his lifetime. The atmosphere of the temple is very peaceful, and the place is kept very clean. And apart from some electric installations, the places look still the same as when Ramakrishna was alive, it feels as if one could meet him any moment...
After leaving the temple, on the way back, we stopped at „Park Street“ to buy sarees & kurtas. This street is full of market stands and shops, this time with real Indian products... I even found a small crown for our Krishna in our Temple in Shree Peetha Nilaya... Finally we returned to our Hotel to catch at least a few hours sleep...
Today we got up at 6am in the morning to have breakfast, cause at 6.45am we already had to sit in the bus to drive to the airport to pick up Swami. I managed even to finish my tilak at 6.44am and wasn't even the last to jump in the bus. At the airport, we had to by „airport tickets“, 60 Rupees each, to be able to enter. After waiting only for 10 minutes, Guruji arrived. Everyone of course quite excited to meet him. 
After he changed himself into his Indian clothes, we all got on the bus and drove to the first temple of the tour, the Kalighat Temple. Kalighat is one of the 51 Shakti Peeths of India, it is the place where Sati's toe fell on the earth. The scene around the temple was very lively and colorful! It must have been quite a cultural shock for all the people from our group who got here for the first time. Almost half of the participants have never been in India before, and the Kalighat temple is certainly different from what they have seen before. After entering the temple, we had to take off our shoes and step onto a „not very clean“ temple ground. In this temple, She is there in the form of a rock with big eyes and a big tongue on it. After having Darshan and almost being crushed by some eager people, we were led into to the room behind the sanctum where we could sit and meditate for some time. Guruji very much enjoyed to „meet“ Kali there. 
Shortly after our meal, we arrived at Mother Teresa's house. We visited her samadhi (tomb). At the entrance there was a strange sign for Indian „standards“, it said: „Please do NOT remove your shoes“... Inside it was very still, and the atmosphere was very peaceful. Swami and everyone else meditated for about 15 minutes next to Mother Teresa's tomb. Afterwards we visited a small exhibition about her life in the room next door. It was very impressive to see how much dedication there was in this woman to make a difference in the world, a difference for those who had less than nothing. One of her quotes was: „I want that the people out there do not see me anymore, but that they see Jesus in my place“. So much was her love for Christ, that she wanted to completely dissolve her person in His person. She also said, that what Christ had suffered on the cross, is the same suffering what she sees today in the people on the streets. Her room, where she lived and worked, not bigger than our small rooms in Springen, was directly over the kitchen, where it would get extremely hot during the day. Nevertheless she never complained, and kept using this very room during her whole lifetime. The sisters were very sweet and gave us small pieces of her clothes. Despite (or maybe due to?) the harsh conditions and the tough life they lead, they all, without exception, had a big smile on their face, and their eyes sparkled with happiness. Once could see that they had truly given their whole life and being into the service of Christ by serving the people.
After leaving Mother Teresa, we went to see Jagadbandhu Prabhu. He is considered to be an incarnation of Nithyananda, the brother of Chaitanya. He was only 27 years old when he died. He is mentioned in the book „Saints of Bengal“ that some of you might have read. We were warmly received in that temple by the priests. Although they did speak neither English nor Hindi (only Bengali), it was still a nice „exchange“. 
The next temple we went to was „Shri Shri Mahanam Angan“, dedicated to Lord Chaitanya and other saints who propitiated the chanting of the Divine Names. We stayed only a short time as the lecture that was being given was in Bengali and none of us really understood what it was about. The lecture was anyhow soon over cause when we stood at the book stand to buy few books and pictures, there was a power cut and the whole temple was left in darkness (and silence). 
The next day we started at 9am in the morning. We drove about one hour to Dakshineshwar Temple. There we bought some nice red Hibiscus garlands, as Kali Ma loves red Hibiscus, as well as Marygold flowers. 
We queued for Darshan for about 15 minutes and were then able (again in my case) to greet Dakshineshwari Kali, the same murthi that had been worshipped by Ramakrishna for many years. Then we went to his house where we sat for mediation. It was very, very beautiful to sit there and absorb his divine energy. It was quite a big contrast to the Kalighat Temple that we visited the day before. Swami said that Kali is in both temples equally, but that in Dakshineshwar, people do not just come to ask and beg for things from Kali, they come more out of love and devotion, that is why She feels much sweeter here than in the other place. Then we had one hour time for shopping, which was of course greatly appreciated by most people. I also managed to buy one or the other devotional article of Kali :) 
Back in the bus, after trying for about 20 minutes to take one turn in a narrow street, we finally succeeded to head towards Ramakrishna Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, founded by his foremost disciple, Swami Vivekananda. It was quite impressive to see this huge compound with university, schools & temples. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos. There was also Ramakrishnas mahasamadhi there, as well as the one of Sarada Devi, his wive and spiritual consort. To me her presence was especially strong there and for the first time I was able to “connect” to her also inside me, which I was very happy about. Especially to visit the museum, with all the articles, clothes, etc that she and her husband used, was great and let us participate in their lives and energy. When we finally got out of the museum, it was already dark, and we did not have enough time to drive to the Baba Lokenath temple which closed already at 7pm.

Thanks, Paartha!