The idea was a simple one. We would explore all the secret, remote and magical locations in Southern India in order to put together our own unique itinerary for our yoga retreats. This is a story, told in hindsight, of two yogis, on our own quest to bring joy, steadiness and ease into our lives and those around us, drawing on yogic philosophy for guidance. Sthidhi is the name we have chosen for these transformative yoga experiences, meaning position, seat or balance in Sanskrit.
The Light Within Man
Feeling perhaps a little jagged from the ordeal of living in Bangalore, one of the most noise polluted cities in the world, (Blog 1: The Self as Dear) we decided to find a slice of peace using the ‘eyes-closed finger-poised over GoogleMap’ technique. By now we were all set. Fully operational car, check, a gas stove, check, some pots and pans, check, a fresh batch of vegetables, check, a double sleeping bag and a tent, check check check!! We had spent months reading up on the key mountains and beaches in South India, plantations, resorts and eco communities. But throwing caution to the wind, we decided that Sivanasanmudra looked very green on GoogleMap. There was only one road. So only one way in and only one way out! How exciting!!
It should be noted that at this stage we already knew, without either of us making a formal proposal, we were going to get married. Aside from the romantic association with marriage, on a practical level, having been unceremoniously declined a tourist visa, we were even more determined to be together and travel to one another’s countries. This entailed getting a marriage certificate and a visa and that’s no easy task! But our purpose was clear: journey inwards towards our kindest, most loving, best version of ourselves, and externally - travel, learn, experience and share. Keeping this close to our hearts carried us through so many obstacles and challenges during the 8 month journey ahead.
One story which depicts the power of faith in our human capacity for love begins right at the start of the journey on the way to Bannerghatta Forrest, just outside Bangalore. We saw a colourful looking temple a-top a huge boulder in the distance. Chempakadharma Swami Temple, offered panoramic views of the town below. Monkeys casually hung out on the steps leading to the temple, which were carved out of the rock. Mysterious monolithic pillar carvings were placed carelessly on the outside of the temple at random distances from one another.
Gazing at the garish sculptures placed in the alcoves of the stepped Gopuram (Dravidian pyramid structure), we spent some time comparing our knowledge of Vedic stories. There was Durga, the great goddess incarnated as the combined power of all divine beings, vanquishing the asura Mahishasur; Krishna as a naughty child, with his hand in the butter pot; and Brahma with his many faces so he could see the goddess he created no matter where he sat. The goddess of creativity Saraswati usually depicted with a sitar, was formed by Lord Brahma splitting himself in two. Hinduism allows worshippers to align with any of the deities, since they all represent aspects of the highest truth.
On our descent, a finely aged older woman gave us some Prasad (in this case millet or Kesari). Prasad is offered, usually at the end of ritual ceremonies primarily to the gods, but also handed out to others as a gesture of good will. Her inquisitive smile seemed to say: “..perhaps I am recognising the divinity within you, and within us all?..”. She hiked on ahead before I could offer a word of thanks, or even attempt a psychic retort.
Akhil and I continued down the steps and reached the same woman who had been asking for money as we passed her, on the way up. She gestured again and again she was hungry. We were in the throes of the de-monitarisation fiasco, hence had literally no change, and we had already eaten the Prasad. Then I recalled the flower I had been gifted by the Pujari (temple priest), which I had since clipped to my hair, and gave it to her. She absolutely beamed. I knew the stark and cruel truth was that it was not enough to help support her needs, but it illustrates just how faith offers a million smiles.
For all the world’s disparity and inequality, despite the despair, neglect and pain there are always instances of love and hope. In the Chandogya Upanishad it was written: “Now that light which shines above this heaven, higher than all, higher than everything, in the highest world, beyond which there are no other worlds, that is the same light which is within man.” The magic is there, whether we see it or not is another matter.
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