India Dreaming
Accounts of previous tours to India by Sundaram




We were advised that the Lahiri family priest would be arriving the next morning at 9:00 AM & that if we were there when he arrived we would most likely be able to enter the home. So we decided to return the next day & proceeded on our way to the famous Kashi Viswhanath Temple, the holy center of Kashi (Varanasi). Kashi Vishwanath is one of the 12 Jyotir Lingams in India: centers of extraordinary spiritual power. This is the temple made famous in America by Krishna Das & others singing the bhajan specifically dedicated to this temple & this specific form of Shiva: Hara Hara Mahadeva Shambo / Kashi Vishwanatha Gange. (Later in our yatra, Shivani & I would also visit two other Jyotir Lingams at Ujjain (Mahakal) & Omkareswar). In previous years we had always bemoaned the fact that no Westerners were allowed to enter thistTemple, in order to preserve its holiness. This time, however, the government had changed that rule & we were allowed entrance just by showing our passports & chanting "Om Namah Shivaya!" I think we were all universally disappointed! We were pushed & jostled thru the wet & slippery corridors, got barely a moment to pour our milk over the Lingam, then pushed out only to be accosted by an array of priests demanding money. Such, unfortunately, is the sad state of worship in many of the larger temples. Although the spiritual power is undoubtedly there, the experience was not altogether an uplifting one!


In the afternoon we visited Sarnath, the "Deerpark" where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment. After achieving the state of nirvana under the Bodhi Tree in Bod Gaya, the Buddha walked across the country to Varanasi, giving his first sermon to a group of five disciples here. The exact spot is commemorated by statues re-enacting that divine scene. A huge stupa, a large Buddhist monument composed of brick, stone & mortar, has been errected here. Saranath is one of the chief pilgrimage sites for Buddhists of every country. The main temple contains a beautiful large gold Buddha. In the altar is enshrined a fragment of the Holy One's bone. The temple walls are filled with beautiful frescoes depicting various scenes from his divine life. The spiritual vibration here in this temple is indeed tangible, saturated with a deep, comforting peace. We were allowed to go behind the main altar, to view the container which carries the bone fragment when it is presented once a year for darshan, & to sit for meditation. This was a special honor & blessing for us all.


After leaving the temple we sort of spread out & made our way, one by one, to view the stupa, about 1/2 mile away. As I was walking along the walkway I noticed Shivani walking with two little beggar boys about 1/4 mile ahead of me. When I caught up with them they were all three standing together with eyes closed & hands in anjali mudra, reciting the Gaytri mantra together. I joined in. What a delight! What had happened was this: Shivani was walking alone toward the stupa when she was accosted by the two little beggar boys who were pestering her for "just one rupee." Instead of responding to their demands she started chanting the Gayatri mantra. Soon they were chanting with her. By the time I reached them they were all three in a calm & peaceful state of consciousness which I could feel as soon as I arrived. It was a joy to join in & share the peace with our two
newly found friends!


The next morning we returned to the home of our dear Paramparam Gurudev. We were there before 9:00 AM but the priest was a no show. Disappointed, we made our way down the lane closer to the ghat, arriving at Satya Lok, the home & ashram of Shebindu Lahiri, the other great, great grandson. There is a beautiful life-sized murti (consecrated statue of Lahiri Baba in a nice mandir here, along with a very large Shiva lingam, all decorated nicely with garlands of marigolds today. (In The Pictorial History of YSS book there is a picture of Sri Daya Mataji meditating next to this divine statue.) Across the courtyard is a small shrine & lingam under which is enshrined a portion of Lahiri Mahasaya's ashes. We were able to meditate there undisturbed for quite some time -- & so our disappointment at being unable to enter the home itself turned to acceptance & enjoyment of the presence of the master yogi, who, after all, is everywhere!



Part 13: At Ma’s Ashram