Existence in Sanskrit is called Srishti – manifestation – and not Kriti – Creation. For manifest to occur, unmanifest is an absolute necessity. Manifest, however, has no existence of its own. Its a reflection. A limited yet potently interesting one. When the manifest is “destroyed”, what remains is the raison d’etre and the substratum of manifest – the unmanifest.
Destruction of manifest is an occurence only in the realm of the manifest. It has very little significance for the unmanifest dimension. Death of a dream is not the death of the dreamer but the dreamed. Which never was.
When you go to Shiva, the destroyer – of the manifest – then do not go to Him with a prayer for sparkles and music to be introduced in your dream. But, for the dream to end, so you could live. If dream is the only life you have known, then it has to end for you to live Life outside of made-up dreams. Destroyer, that Shiva is, is therefore, a relative word. One who Ends the Dream is also the “Waker up” to Life.
Wonderful trappings of the dream are great entertainment. Once you deem a dream as the only life, then the intoxication is almost impossible to break. Submission of the heart, body, mind and soul are the only way to make one pliable to reach out to the unmanifest.
The Himalayan Dhyan Yatra provided a small journey to that point – where one could touch the unmanifest without the entanglement of the manifest. When an old Yogi, educated and articulate, sits on the banks of Ganga in sub zero temperature – with just enough food, clothes and shelter to make him live through the time until he completely experiences the unmanifest. A morsel less, a cloth less or a inch of the patched roof less would mean sure death for him. Yet, he lives on, borrowing rather than snatching his existence from the nature. Seeing those who live on the cusp of manifest and the unmanifest with all roads back to the manifest burnt out – is an experience that is worth more than Doctorates from all Ivy League Schools put together.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, the mastermind of the entire Yatra, is no easy Guru. He would rather jolt you out of your dream than cajole you to a better one. The problem with the world is precisely that. Everyone wants to experience a better dream. There is none. All the aspects of the Yatra were as if personally touched and crafted by Sadhguru for a purpose. Every step that any aspirant took was a step to a dimension that one didn’t quite fathom. The lives were touched in a way that people would never remain what they came in as.
Witnessing Miracle as he walked quietly
Venkateswaran CP is an Engineer. He suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis – a rare form of joint ailment, where the lubrication in the joint starts to go away. Many years back he had had a joint replacement for both his hips. Now, since a year, the ailment had been detected in his spinal cord, due to which he had severe pain in the neck area and the back had bent due to the weight of the body and the inability of the spinal cord to take the burden. With such odds, many cannot even live a normal life. But Venkat is different.
The trek from base to Kedar was steep and tough for many. Many used ponies to traverse it, which isn’t a bad thing given their personal situations. But Venkat had set his eyes on reaching Kedar feeling one rock and step at a time. He was slow but he finally finished it. That, in our eyes, was such an amazing feat, knowing how we all struggled through the distance. Venkat, wasn’t done however.
Kedarnath, was a “luxury trek” compared to the 14 km climb from Gangotri to Bhojwasa and then further 4-5 km to Gaumukh. Unlike Kedar, there were no shops on the way and no help. Anyone who started from Gangotri had to either complete the trek himself or be carried by others to the final destination. We couldn’t turn back. Breath-takingly beautiful yet a treacherous terrain was in store. Very narrow paths where one slip would be a sure death in the raging Alakhnanda. The focus and athletic ability were one’s prime allies. As we reached near Bhojwasa, it had turned dark. And, many didn’t have torches. Walking, focusing on the narrow and dangerous steps and rocks and hoping your foot won’t slip while you were blindsighted was not the easiest thing for anyone. Volunteers and porters helped impromptu.
As we reached at the camp, we came to know that 35 folks were still en-route and the darkness had set in. Even in broad daylight the journey was treacherous. At night, it would have been impossible I thought! I was so tired and cold that if I had closed my eyes, I would have fallen asleep. We were requested to help by going back and helping those who were still on the way with torches – for some may not have any! So, we started our way back from the Bhojwasa camp – tired, cold and hungry.
It was almost 8.15 pm and I was sitting on a rock in middle of no where. The camp was a little distance away and mountains were dark. Stars, however, shone brightly overhead. It was as if thousands of Yogis were peering down on us from above the peaks. Stillness, darkness and a state of nothingness with sub-zero temperatures. The last of the 35 trekkers were walking in who had been caught on their way in the dark. There were a few folks at the top of the hill with flashlights, I was in the middle and two at the bottom. A flashlight came on. “Anyone new?” I shouted. “Yes, Venkat”. It was the name I had been waiting for. As he came near me escorted by two volunteers with flashlight, head bent as it had been due to his condition all the trip, with his plastic cast in place, he walked slowly but surely. “Shiv Shambho!!” I shouted. “Shiv Shambho” he repeated back as he walked on. He went on past me in a rather uneventful meeting and welcome. “One more coming” I shouted downhill to the two waiting there. And their flashlights came on lighting his path.
Human triumph against all odds is usually not accompanied by any dramatic drums or music. Many a times, those who have mastered their will against immense odds just do it quietly and strongly.
He then went on to trek to Gaumukh, another tough trek through huge rocks, boulders and yet another treacherous path. Venkat’s trek will remain a life long lesson for many of us who were fortunate to witness his walk. When I asked what helped him through? “Even though I wanted to chant “Shiv Shambho” on the way, I couldn’t”, he said. Because, Sadhguru’s special mantra, which he consecrated and through which we can access his presence just kept ringing in his mind and body. “It just kept repeating all over for me”, he said with an unassuming smile. Grace happens, I knew now. And how!
In the lap of Adi Shankara
Shankara was an extraordinary being – an intellectual and a physical superman. In his short life of 32 years (780 AD to 820 AD), Shankara traversed the distance from his native Kerala to Badrinath and Kedarnath 3 times, once when he had come to Badrinath he came to know of his sick mother and he rushed back. He re-consecrated the idol and the temple of Badrinath as per a dream and vision he had received by finding the long lost idol in the hot water lake right beneath it. He also went and set up “math” (Centers of Excellence for Hinduism – Vedanta) in Dwarka (Eastern most part of India in Gujarat) and in Puri (in Orissa). So he walked South to North 3 times and East to West once.
But he was not about his journeys only. He also wrote the most authoritative commentaries and treatises on Vedantic texts like Upanishads and Bhagwad Gita. One cannot fathom when he would have gotten the time to do so though.
Although an intellectual giant in Spiritual area, he wasn’t enlightened. As a Brahmin, he was still proud of his lineage. One day, as he came out of the river after the bath, a Chandaal (the lowest caste) person came in front of him. He became very upset and ordered him to move out of his way. “Who should move Sir? Me or my body?” replied the Chandaal. Shankara immediately realized the significance of the question. All that he had written about and taught all these years stared at him in one simple question. His oratory and intellect seemed dwarfed. He fell in the Chandaal’s (who himself was a Realized Soul) feet and attained enlightenment. From then on, Shankara never spoke a word. He was last seen in a small place behind Kedarnath. A place which he had carefully consecrated and then left to disappear.
It was September 23rd, when we set out for Kedarnath. Little realizing that on this day many years back, Sadhguru himself had his moment of Enlightenment in this life. It was a sheer coincidence. Unplanned yet serendipitous.
The walk to Kedarnath is special. If you are open you can experience yourself in ways you can’t think of. I know I did.
As we all trudged into the guest house at Kedarnath, we received the message from the Brahmacharis of the Isha Yoga Ashram that we have to meet in the Shankaracharya hall behind Kedarnath temple. As I walked to the hall on the wooden patio lined with tents full yogis settling down for the night. Many taking in their drugged smoke and some making their food, I saw a small door to a large hall. Walking into the hall was a surreal experience. It was dimly lit with Shankara’s idol and a special place. We settled down and then the magic happened. We went through a round of meditation that can move anyone. Even a soul in coma. By the time, the session ended, the combined Grace of Shankara and Sadhguru and many other Masters, who we couldn’t know of, had helped us touch realms we had rarely done before. Spiritual miracle wrapped in historical time warp made for a scintillating end to probably the most significant day of our entire journey. A day where we got a chance to touch Shankara with one hand and Sadhguru with the other at the same time.
Takeaway from the journey
For most experiences you have “Takeaways” for them to be significant. And then, there are experiences where you are taken away! Himalayan Dhyan Yatra took some part of me away. I left a big part of myself on the hills of Gaumukh, the Golden lit Neelkanth, the floor of Shankara hall, the road to Kedar, the streams of Ganga, the stars of Bhojwasa and the many dirty dusty roads of Rishhikesh.
What I left there was significant. What I carried back is not important. It will function in the world like it used to. It just won’t live the same way. Before I had taken my first step on the journey, the life had just happened as a rut. Those 15 days, I lived my life for the first time.
The manifested substance is gone, I now carry the frame along. One day, when I realize it completely, the Dream will come to an end. And the Dreamer will live Life the way it should be lived.
[Personal thanks to Venkateswaran for letting me write about his journey, which will remain our inspiration in life]
(Link to the Himalayan Dhyan Yatra website: Isha Kailash)