India Dreaming
Accounts of previous tours to India by Sundaram



Part Five: Vashishta Guha


Retracing our steps for a moment: While we were awaiting the return of Colin, Tiffany, Jim & Elizabeth from their day-long excursion to the Tungnath temple, Shivani & I caught a ride in a truck, going from the Monal Hotel in the hills above Rudraprayag into the village itself. It was evening. The rain began, so we bought an umbrella from a shop & strolled through the lanes in a euphoric state, looking in shops & just enjoying the evening. I sat in a tea shop drinking chai & eating hot mountain samosas (my favorite!) The street seen reminded me -- if you can take the leap -- of a Thomas Kinkade painting set in village India! Very romantic.)


Vishishta Guha ranks way at the top of my favorite places in India, especially for meditation. It is located just north of Shivpuri on the bank of the Ganga. There is the strong possibility of a past-life association involved here. I love to meditate in the stillness of that divine cave & was eagerly looking forward to what would be my fourth visit there. Also known as "Vashishta's Cave" or "Vashishta's Ashram," the Rishi Vashishta, who was the guru of Sri Rama & his brothers Lakshman, Bharata & Shatrugna, reportedly lived here 9000 years ago. Swami (Papa) Ramdas tells of his visit here in the 1930's in his amazing book "In The Vision of God" (highly recommended). For 30 years the cave was occupied by the great God-realized saint, Swami Purushottamanandaji Maharaj, until his mahasamadhi in the 1960's. Today the cave & the small ashram adjacent to it are run by two very saintly swamis, both of whom are direct disciples of Swami Maharaj: Swami Chaitanyananda & Swami Shantananda. The latter travels widely & is friends with our YSS Swami Shantananda & has stayed for a time at the Yogoda Math Ashram in Dakshineswar. I had just completed reading his wonderful book, "Fragrant Flowers" before I left for India. It is his spiritual autobiography & includes many stories about his guru, Swami Purushottamanandaji. I had secretly hoped to meet him but had heard from reliable sources that he would be away from the Guha & in Kolkatta at the time of our visit.


The third day we were at our camp was a beautiful, sunny day. It was the day I planned on visiting Vishishta Guha. Seven members of our group decided to go river rafting that day & to stop by the Guha later on in the afternoon. Four others decided to go with me to spend most of the day at the Guha. When the time arrived everyone else had decided not to go. Some wanted to rest & stay around the camp, or weren't feeling so well. I got a ride to the Guha & walked down the steep pathway onto the ashram property leading to the cave. Standing there alone was a swami. I went right over to him & discovered that this was Swami Chaitanyananda. When I mentioned that I had just finished reading Swami Shantanandaji's book & had hoped to meet him, he said, "He's right over there." He had returned earlier than expected. I took the dust of his feet & we talked for awhile. He also gave me a copy of a new English translation of Swami Purushottmanandaji's autobiography, translated by Swami Chaitanyananda, which Shivani & I then read to each other during the rest of our yatra. He told me, "Go and meditate in the Guha," which I gladly did.


The cave extends into the hillside about 60 feet, then opens into a room big enough to seat about eight people. There is a round stone seat where the master used to meditate in samadhi. The rustic cave altar includes a Shiva lingam & an anthropomorphic Shiva Mahadev murti. A couple of oil lamps are the only illumination. The spiritual vibration is very tangible. At first there was one other person meditating in the cave, but he soon left & I took his seat in a far & dark recess. There I was able to meditate alone for an hour. During the following hour, three other groups of people came in, stayed for a short time & left. After 2-hours I came out feeling very blessed & greatly uplifted in spirit. I then went looking for another cave close by which, although I had known about it, I had not previously visited. It has become widely known as "The Jesus Cave."


Swami (Papa) Ramdas tells the story in his wonderful book how Ram (God) directed him to find Vashishta Guha back in the 1930's. At that time there were no roads or main trails leading there & it was only a rumor that it even existed. He began following the Ganga north from Rishikesh &, thru Divine grace, eventually did find the Guha. It was occupied, at that time, by a yogi who told Ramdas that he could stay in a smaller cave nearby. That night Jesus Christ materialized in that cave before Papa Ramdas, thus the cave has since been known as the "Jesus Cave." Our dear friend, Swami Nirvanananda, wrote his beautiful chant to Christ, "Om Namah Kristaya" here in this cave as well.


The "Jesus Cave" is part-way up the hillside facing the Ganga across a wide rocky beach. The view from the entrance is spectacular. It is not very deep. In the back a small, white Shiva lingam has been installed. I meditated there for a while, then the rest of our group, the “rafters”, arrived & I guided them to the various sacred locations. When we left our camp on the morning of the fifth day we all stopped once again at Vashishta Guha on our way to Rishikesh, thus everyone in our group had the opportunity to visit this very holy pilgrimage destination.



Part 6: On To Rishikesh