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Published: September 16th 2014
Istanbul, Turkey; Mussoorie Express (Delhi to Haridwar) .. my mind, and Haridwar, India
“Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else......To live is enough” Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind Beginner's Mind
Wednesday evening Sept 10, at about 5 pm in Taksim, Istanbul. I was sitting chatting to my host Peter (German guy who with his wife Sibille, lives and works in Istanbul) about my flight to Delhi the next day. He asked when I would arrive and I knew it to be around 6 pm, thinking my flight left at 1 pm the next day. Wait a minute.... that does not really make sense. How can that be? I remember about an hour later to just go and check my ticket again. ….... Holy shit! The flight leaves at 1am, not 1 pm on Thursday.
It's OK. I have loads of time to get to the airport. Just I was planning to have a restful night in my hosts' comfortable bed, take it easy in the morning, do some relaxed yoga, and then take myself to check-in and fly. I still arrive
Ghats at 7 am
Pilgrims and locals go to the river early in the morning for a ritual bath
in plenty of time only to find that the 1am flight to Sharja is delayed by 90 minutes. I find a corner in the waiting bay and lie down for one of my short naps. Why not? At 2.20 am I wake to a silent and empty dimly lit room. I have slept right through the boarding call. I grab my stuff and rush to the gate which has now been locked. Staff are just packing up. They let me through without question and I catch up to the last passenger as he is just about to step onto the plane. OK, the gods are playing with me (or let's say my own actions are playing with me).... Am I looking for some excitement in my life? Do I really need to create it like this? I think that's enough for one day.
4.30 am Saturday morning, meditating on a train. Not the easiest manoeuvre to do on the 'Upper Side' birth, but if you turn your back to the aisle, and rest up against one of the down support steel straps, there is just enough head room and leg room to effect the required pose. It's my first
Not the naga babas but some others on the ghat
Many saddhus congregate in Haridwar... either passing through on their ritual paths or staying put for some time (or coming back again and again). Many sleep out or in makeshift huts or in temple grounds or Ashrams.
day back in India, and through the marvels of internet booking I was able some time ago to secure my birth and ticket on the Mussoorie Express to Haridwar.
Let me explain something about the liberties Indian Railways take with the use of the English language. There are 'express' trains and there are 'super express' trains. Needless to say, this 'express' train takes 8 hours to cover the just over 200 km distance from Delhi to Haridwar. But when one is sleeping it makes little difference (so this is not a complaint, just an observation).
As I sit meditating I am bathed in a sensory reminder that I am back in India again. There are smells (nothing unpleasant) and sounds. The most characteristic is the chai wallah
moving through the carriage chanting “chai, chai
”. I swear that there must be a special course these guys take to perfect the low drone of this chant. It is reassuring in its familiarity. I am here again, home again.
Having arrived in Haridwar and taken a room in a familiar hotel, I take a stroll along the ghats and through the markets with a smile on my face.
Ghat at 7 pm ...arti time
Arti is a Hindu ritual performed all over India at sunset. This ghat is where the drop of elixer fell.
Haridwar is an ancient holy Hindu city where the Ganges river first enters the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Along with Ujjain, Nashik and Allahabad, it is one of four places in India where amrit
(the elixer of immortality) was accidentally spilt by Garuda. These sites now rotate (every 3 years) to celebrate of the Kumbha Mella
. I was here in 2009 during the last turn for Haridwar (the next being 2021). Millions of Hindu pilgrims, devotees, and tourists congregate at this event which goes on for over a month, performing ritual bathing. The Allahabad one (where the Ganges and Yumana rivers converge) is the really big event with more than 30 million attending (the last being 2012).
By midday I am ready. Ready to be reunited with Gladys, a red Royal Enfield motorbike that I have owned now for 4 years and travelled 50,000 km on, up and down and across India. I leave her in India when 'abroad', this time with my friend Ranjeet (the local Enfield Dealer) in covered storage. She (Gladys) is in good shape, just needing a battery charge boost and some clean fuel. Soon we are on the road getting reacquainted.
Last night (it now
Haridwar on any other night
Throngs and throngs of pilgrims just keep coming to Haridwar every day all year long .... maybe a little less in winter due to the cold.
being Monday) I was reading a chapter in a book called 'Buddhism, Its not what you think'
by Steve Hagen. It was about the 'no gaining idea' of Zen (as described by Suzuki in 'Zen Mind Beginners Mind
'. The thought about how you can have no gaining idea e.g. 'I will meditate and become enlightened.... I will meditate and be a better person' etc; and that although you allow the thought, you then just watch and disarm it through acceptance BUT then your gaining idea becomes the idea of not having a gaining idea.... of achieving the state of no gaining idea. Which of course is a 'gain'. It cracked me up.... I started laughing uncontrollably in my room here by myself..... No, I don't think I am going crazy. I just came to this amazing realisation of how our fickle minds operate. It was like being slapped by a guru
(well I don't have one to slap me). I just kept laughing about this monkey mind and the poignancy of this play of mind where mind just keeps on trying and trying with gaining ideas even about not having gaining ideas. To quote a friend of mine “I do
Some of Lesley's stash
By the time I was done, this pile had at least tripled I think
love the idea that it’s pointless to have any idea, especially the idea that you have no idea. That twittering voice is relentless”. But I do digress.
Each day on my stroll on the ghats, I stop and sit with some naga babas
I had seen some years ago in Varanasi. Shiv Rag Giri Maharaj bases himself in Haridwar, and his chella
is Manog Giri Baba. In the background is the flow of the constant and impermanent river Ganga
... a metaphor for life...ever changing and an illusion.... flowing into the massive sea.
, the naga babas
, are often naked and covered in ashes, with long dread locks twisted with Marigolds piled on their heads like crowns. About 1,000 years ago, a number of lineages of naked yogis, or naga babas
from among Shankaracharya’s order of Sannyasis, formalised ancient bonds into an association called the Akhara
. The nagas
I encountered were not often naked and seemed distracted from any spiritualistic path by a focus on possessions, money, fame (Manog is very proud of having many pictures of himself on various internet sites) and of course smoking charis
as often in a day as possible.
My friend Leslie from Byron Bay in NSW Australia runs a small bead shop selling all manner of trinkets, bracelets, necklaces and other items. I suggest that I could be a kind of free lance buyer for her when I see anything interesting in India. She agrees and I am given a purposeful task, starting in Haridwar, malla
capital of the Hindu world. I start buying pendants and mallas
and strings of fake crystal and other beads and sending them in a parcel to Australia. It's fun. To side up to a seller crouched on the ghat with her wares displayed on a blanket and choose a bulk number of items is a buzz for me and an unexpected windfall for the seller. I bargain a little as that too is fun... but everyone is happy at the end. This morning I will post a 2 kilo package to Leslie.
There is nothing much to do and all to be.
Tot: 2.265s; Tpl: 0.059s; cc: 19; qc: 86; dbt: 0.0561s; 1; m:saturn w:www (184.108.40.206); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.5mb