A few short years ago, if you told me I would make a priority of going on a pilgrimage to India I would have laughed. But reading Autobiography of a Yogi changed everything for me. What follows is a description of the first AOY stop on pilgrimage.
We arrived to the hotel in the early evening – the sun having already retired. Crisp 50’s temperature and relative quite a welcome change from the dusty cacophony of Delhi in the upper 90’s. A simple yet flavorful assortment of dals, chutneys and parathas greeted us for dinner. I’ll admit to struggling to embrace most all of the desserts I encountered, but that would change. A panoramic picture above a window boasted the view one may see should you be graced w/ a cloudless day. Ok we’ll have to check that out in the morning.
Retiring to our room, we discovered the water heater non-functional – it was working before dinner. The front desk suggested maybe we should turn it on. I mentioned that it was turned on, which is how I knew it wasn’t working. The next 45 minutes or so included multiple visits from staff examining our water heater. The following morning we were to visit Babaji’s cave and I was counting on a warm shower to start my day. At one point, the front desk offered to bring us hot water in the morning. I paused, then politely declined their offer and confirmed my preference to have it fixed tonight. Eventually, they found a fuse in the hallway needed to be replaced – problem solved. With breakfast at 7, the bus leaving at 8 the alarm was set for 6am.
6am: the cool tile floor chilled my still waking feet and reminded of where we were – Ranikhet, India, Himalayan foothills. Hmmm, would we be able to see anything this morning? As I looked out the window, a tingling shot up my spine, goose bumps all over and an awed silence ensued. We were looking out on a crystal clear morning, the sun, not risen for us, was reaching those same ever snowcapped peaks we saw in the dining room panoramic – a range in excess of 25,000 ft. In the foreground were tree covered rolling hills where the morning mists had settled in the valleys. It’s one of the moments one never forgets – so very fortunate to have the experience.
After breakfast, a 2.5 hour bus ride up the foot hills passed through multiple towns and villages – each with ample reminder of how very fortunate we are in so many ways. The bus ride was followed by a 90 minute walk/climb to arrive at Babaji’s cave (where Lahiri meets Babaji and is reminded of his past incarnation). I often heard meditating in places with spiritual significance can provide deeper meditations and I was quite excited to experience this. It was now time to meditate in Babaji’s cave. What I experienced will ever stay with me – a cherished moment in this incarnation. Suffice it to say I emphatically lend my voice to those recommending meditation in spiritual locals.
And so started our pilgrimage to India. While above is a small sample of the 21 day trip, it is representative of the whole. We saw patches of beauty interspersed with compassion inducing poverty. Throughout it all was meditation at spiritually rich locations.
I should add that the organization of the trip by Krishna Das and Keshava was amazing. We received an itinerary showing exactly where we would be and when. And despite some impressive traffic delays, we remained on time always. They could not have done a better job.
There are many reasons to go on a pilgrimage. But the only one that matters is the one that compels you to actually go – may you find the motivation.