My Journey to Kailash with Sadhguru

My Journey to Kailash with Sadhguru
Kailash, in its majesty! (Pic courtesy: Isha Foundation)

Some wishes take many lifetimes to fructify.  You instinctively know those moments when they happen.  There is no drumroll or lightning in the sky or music in the background.  But your essence shifts.  No one else may ever know that it has, but you do.

Going to Kailash and being with Sadhguru was one such wish that my soul had probably kept hidden for many lifetimes.

But why even go to Kailash?  What is it for us ordinary mortals that we can sense or understand?  What can we get there that we can’t get sitting in our house?

These are questions that come with many people and in many conversations.  The honest answer is that I don’t know.  I don’t directly understand Kailash.  It is way beyond my perceptive abilities.  But as much as I don’t want to “believe” its greatness, I also don’t want to “disbelieve or reject” its greatness.  I can understand and know my Guru, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, to be my age’s Shiva through personal experience.  And, if he says he wouldn’t bow to anyone or anything – except his own Guru – over and above Kailash, then it must be something very out of the ordinary.

There are many stories – of the first Jain Tirthankar and of a Tamil lady Yogini – who showed their utmost respect for Kailash.  But, for me those are stories.

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What I do surely know is that my world is made of my sense perceptions – from the five senses.  And, even my dog has better ability to hear, smell, see and sense than I have.  Even sitting in my room, if my dog had ability to speak, she would tell me of thousands of things happening in there that I wouldn’t know.  In that sense, my dog has a FAR bigger WORLD to live in than mine.  If my world is just 30% of my dog’s, then my ability to comment on the finality of life is that much reduced.

On the other hand, Yogis have been known to have a perception that is far beyond physical limitations.  For example, in South India, there is a custom that the newly weds go out and look at one star in the Great Bear constellation for auspicious energy and start of a new life.  This “star” is called “Arundhati-Vashisht”.  Strange, that a star would have a couple’s name of a great Rishi and his wife?  Well, it turns out that this is not a star at all.  It is a twin star.  And unlike, other twin stars in most galaxies, this twin star is not one where one star remains stationary and the other revolves around it (hardly a model for a good marriage); but where both stars seem to be revolving in an orbit, one behind the other, as if going after – or leading – each other.  So, how did the Rishis know that this star from all the stars in the sky was a twin star, and that too a special one at that?  Yes, without a Telescope!

If people with such an elevated sense of perception have bowed to someone with very deep respect, then it is important that I let my being be “introduced” to its energy.  This is what Sadhguru says about Kailash:

All the mountains around Kailash are either the same height or a little smaller and there is molten soil around. The Kailash peak is of a very different type of rock than the rest of the mountains. Something happened here that we can’t explain. We are trying to look at the rocks and the soil in a scientific way, to see what caused the temperatures to rise between 800-1200 degrees.
Today you can see the same powerful energy forms in Mansarovar which come and go. It’s not a coincidence that Kailash and Mansarovar are so close by. There is tremendous potential in that energy. You know as you were with me that some time back I was so sick that doctors in the US had given me just two weeks to live. When I came to Mansarovar a few months’ later people who traveled with me saw how weak I was. I wanted to use the energy available here to heal myself. All I needed was a strand and within 24 hours I was healthier than I have been in the past seven eight years. The German doctor who treated me in New York City and had traveled with me to Mansarovar was astounded. He couldn’t explain what had caused the transformation.
That is the power of that place.

When I look back at my visit, I realize that Kailash’s greatest contribution to me is in breaking me down, yet holding the essence of me up.

Mount Kailash and Manasarovar
Mount Kailash and Manasarovar. What more to say? (Flickr\Saumil Shah)

Journey and Itinerary

Let’s get into the trip to Kailash now.

Here was the itinerary:

Day 1 (July 23): Travel to Kathmandu.  Complete the paperwork.  Stay in Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Day 2 (July 24): Stay in Kathmandu.  Visit Pashupatinath Temple, Bodhnath Stupa.  Indian batch arrives.

Day 3 (July 25): Visit to Bhaktapur and Thamel for last moment shopping for the tougher altitude.

Day 4 (July 26): Travel to Kodari Border and to Tibet (China) onto Zhangmu.

Day 5 (July 27): Travel to Saga from Zhangmu.  “Altitude Test” at Saga (roughly 15000 feet).

Day 6 (July 28): Acclimatize in Saga for Altitude Sickness and lack of Oxygen.

Day 7 (July 29): Travel to Mansarovar Lake from Saga.  Meet Sadhguru.  Sathsang with Sadhguru

Day 8 (July 30): Stay at Mansarovar.  Initiation and dip at Mansarovar.

Day 9 (July 31): Travel to Kailash.  Meet Sadhguru at Kailash

Day 10 (Aug 1): Kailash Initiation.  Stay at Kailash

Day 11 (Aug 2): Leave Kailash.  Travel back to Saga

Day 12 (Aug 3): Leave Saga, travel to Zhangmu

Day 13 (Aug 4): Leave Zhangmu, and enter Nepal to go to Kathmandu

Day 14 (Aug 5): Fly out of Kathmandu

Suggestions for Effective Journey

Here are a few suggestions that will help:

  • Pack light stuff – lighter pants, lighter t-shirts, lighter undies and lighter shoes.
  • Pack thermals and warm stuff.  Isha gives you Down jackets but they can be big – although very warm and good.  For a big guy like me, it was very tight.
  • Make sure you get REAL Waterproof stuff.  Test it out really well, before you go to India.  Also, check your gloves etc, if they fit well.
  • If you are very cleanliness conscious, make sure you have Hand Sanitizers handy.
  • Men and Women have to pee out in the open on the way – so please be ready for that.  Enough care is taken by every bus to take care of privacy of women.  Women can also try the “Shewee” – here is one source.
  • In Mansarovar and Kailash, you will find small tents with holes for relieving yourself.  Every effort is taken to make it as convenient as possible, but be prepared for this experience.
  • Food wise, you will be fine, as the Sherpas will cook the best Indian food every where.  But if you have issues with Indian Masala, carry a few energy bars – but please DON’T over do the bars!

Isha Foundation’s Kailash Yatra

There are many organizations that take people to Kailash and Mansarovar, but I would suggest Isha Foundation for many reasons.  Click here for more Information from Isha’s Kailash Journey.

Life and Death:

Every year 50-60 people die on the Kailash journey due to altitude sickness.  At Isha, the record is perfect.  Why?  Because there are around 5-8 doctors – couple from the Ashram and others who are meditators – travelling along.  The team has a whole entourage of medicines, Oxygen cylinders – large and portable (for teams of 4 to take on treks for extreme emergencies), and also Gamma bags for extreme emergencies.  5-6 people were extremely sick when they reached Kailash.  They were initiated and then packed into Ambulance and transported down to Mansarovar.  One of them, a doctor from Florida, said she had oxygen rate of 50 and BP of 140 – “I was a sure case of Heart attack happening any moment”.  But she survived and was fine in a day after being in Mansarovar.  Health checks are done at every location and doctors spend hours going over your health measures and latest stats to make sure that no one who is sick escapes proper medical measures.  And, we were roughly 180 of us!!

Sadhguru’s Entourage to Kailash (Pic courtesy: Isha Foundation)
Volunteering as it should be:

The volunteers who make this Yatra happen were amazing.  They are “Super humans” actually.  They sleep regularly at 1 or 2 am and are back at work at 4 or 5 am – sometimes they work through the night.  Don’t ask me how they do it, but they keep up with this for the whole 2 weeks!  When you are trying to work with someone like Sadhguru, you need to be that way I guess.  Just as an example, Sadhguru took a team of 14 / 15 people through un-conventional route on Land Cruisers (thats the only vehicle which works there in Tibet) – camping and driving through the Tibetan desert over 5-6 days from Kathmandu to Mansarovar.  And he drove the whole distance.  Met us at Mansarovar, left the next day to Kailash.  Spend a day and morning with us, and immediately after initiation, left for Mansarovar for the subsequent batch to initiate them.  Then he drives back to Saga.  Had reached around 8 pm, when we reached around 10 pm.  He left with his group for Kathmandu at 3.45 am.  Reached Delhi, had a Sathsang!  If you closely watch his itinerary, you KNOW he is not Human!

Going as Pilgrims:

As Sadhguru says very well – you can either go to Kailash as a Pilgrim or as a Mule.  Or worse – as a tourist.  Most so-called devotees go as tourists.  And if you look at the state of the sacred rivers and pilgrimage areas and temples, you will know that these Religious Tourists are extremely Vulgar.  Their internal vulgarity spills out in desecration of temples and rivers via pollution and all sorts of stuff thrown around.  But, to fully understand the level of how this vulgarity spills out, it took a couple of Sherpas’ statements to drive the point home.  One said – “I wait for the entire year for the Isha’s group to come, because the other Indian groups are rude and extremely abusive”.  The other one said, “I just refuse to work with any other group than Isha’s, because they abuse us for everything”.

Being a pilgrim takes a certain level of being for a person.  And the whole process of pilgrimage of Isha’s Yatras is to put you in that state of being of a pilgrim.

Surprising Food and Service:

We were in Mansarovar and it was raining.  But Sadhguru wanted to have a Sathsang.  So, his Land Cruiser was summoned and used to power the mics and light in the tent to have the Sathsang.  He was amused at our comfortable journey, since he had come 500 km driving through the tough Tibetan terrain and a couples of night ago had woken up with 2 inch of water in his tent.  “You will miss the whole point of being here”, he said.  And then wished “I wish that your tent leaks and you also have some discomfort.  With Chinese building the roads, you have arrived in too much comfort”.  5 minutes later the tent where Sathsang was going on, ripped through the center due to weight of the rain water that had collected above and a section of people got completely drenched in the cold rain water.  He laughed out loud and the Sathsang ended pretty quickly.  45 minutes later was our dinner in the same tent.  By the time we came back, the tent had been fixed and water drained out, an array of 3 curries, roti, rice, salad, and popcorn (YES!) was ready.  Not just that, in another corner the Sherpas were busy making fresh Jalebis with the frying pan and the syrup pan in place.

A tough Guru and a tougher set of volunteers and Sherpas in toe.  How do you beat that?

All the above reasons are for people who just want to compare the material tangibles.

Being with Sadhguru, my Shiva!

For me, it was my deepest wish to be with a being like Sadhguru in Kailash.

Through the journey, my oxygen levels had fallen at lot of places but I have learnt to manage my body and mind somehow.  I decided to walk the path to Kailash without a porter.  It is not just the weight that was the issue, but also other things.  For example, my jacket (marked clearly “Waterproof”) failed when it poured on the way.  As did my “Waterproof” shoe that I bought from Academy here in US.  “It must be for lighter rains”, suggested a friend.  “Well, when it really pours, THAT’S WHEN I REALLY need a “WATERPROOF” shoe and jacket, isn’t it?  If Academy is into selling toys, it should be called Toys R US!”.  🙂

Well, I was wet to my thermals and tired carrying all the weight through the walk.  The walk was slow and tedious.  I reached my room and assessed the damage.  Almost everything – thermals, t-shirt, jacket, sweater, socks and shoes were all wet.  I just had one more change.  I got into that lest I catch cold and get fever.

With a poncho borrowed from my room mate, I walked down the stairs from my room for a cup of tea.  And Sadhguru came out of his room as people gathered around his room.

I was tired, wet, and cold.  But this moment was enormous for me.  I finally was in front of my Guru with Kailash on the other side clearly visible.  And it was pouring.  I just fell at his feet and started sobbing.  The world had stopped for me.  I could only clearly sense Sadhguru and me there.  I have recollection of another lady falling at his feet right next to me and me getting up and standing a few feet away in pouring rain as  tears kept flowing.  He was joking with people, laughing but I could just see his face and then his feet and then his face again.

Over the entire journey, I had been at his feet many times.  This scene had happened before.  Only this time, it was real and it was mind numbing.  I wasn’t fully in my senses.

Must have stayed in that state for 20 minutes of so in the pouring rain.  And, then he went into his room and shut the door.

I know that there is lot of distance for me to go, since I was the only one whose presence he didn’t even acknowledge.  Except in his silence.

He is Shiva and I know it in me.  I can’t explain it and however I put it, it seems very trite.  But he IS Shiva himself.  That is the only way I have received him.

My Guru and Kailash

In my school, I had read a verse by Kabir –

गुरु गोबिंद दौऊ खड़े

काके लागे पाऊं?बलिहारी गुरु आपने;गोबिंद देऊ मिलाये

(My Guru and God, both are standing.  Whose feet should I fall at?  Blessed is my Guru (and his feet will I fall at), for he is the one who can introduce me to the God)

Intellectually, it was not tough to understand this couplet.  But it took me being with Sadhguru in Kailash to fully realize what Kabir was saying.  When your core is ready to fall at your Guru’s feet for that is the ONLY doorway to the Ultimate, in sheer desperation and complete submission, that is the only time you can fully realize Kabir’s import.

Here are some pictures from my Journey to Kailash

Prayer Flags on Way to Kailash
Prayer Flags on Way to Kailash
Beggar in Boudhnath Stupa in Kathmandu
Beggar in Boudhnath Stupa in Kathmandu
Shop near Bhaktapur
Shop near Bhaktapur
Panel on a Temple in Kathmandu
Panel on a Temple in Kathmandu
Landscape on the way to Kailash
Landscape on the way to Kailash
Lake on way to Kailash
Lake on way to Kailash
Lake in Tibet on way to Kailash
Lake in Tibet on way to Kailash

Featured Image courtesy:

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