So we decided to have a “guys” weekend.
No, not Vegas.
It is as picturesque in person as countless books have led us to believe.
We immediately set out for the hills, hiking along the Ganges into the beautiful wilderness all around.
On our walk, we decided to relearn what we knew very well: Never look these monkeys in the eye. We had about twenty of them running after us. They stole our bananas.
It was getting late as we approached an ashram that had been recommended to us a few miles hike from the city. The area was beautiful, unfortunately the ashram was having a retreat and couldn’t accommodate us (for a reasonable rate). It was too late to make it back to the city so we started looking for a nice cave to stay in. I’m a natural city boy so was not actually too in to the whole cave idea but it was getting late so I was just going with the flow.
This family street vendor (they sleep on cots just inside of their store) took pity on us and opened back up to serve us chai and porotas. Street food in Rishikesh is fantastic.
While we were there, we enquired about a small temple that we had passed on the way. They told us that no one was in charge of it and it would be fine for us to sleep on the roof, but that we would certainly freeze… and we certainly did.
By 4am, we couldn’t take the cold any longer, so we got up and started heading back for town. Fortunately, the kind vendors were just getting up as well and invited us in for chai.
Usually this bridge is full of people, motorcycles and cows dodging their way across, but we got back so early that it was in a peaceful state.
All of the rooms in town were still occupied from the night before, so we decided to hike up the opposite side of the Ganges to Vasishta’s cave.
Around the corner is the cave they call Jesus’ cave from the lost years. We had a nice meditation there.
After we got back to town we went looking for rooms in the many ashrams there. All were completely full and turned us away. This was a shock to us because at Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri we would never turn anyone away. We just put more and more people in a room. We have a firm there-is-always-room policy.
Having lugged our packs around for nearly 48 hours we decided to take a break and get something to eat. Immediately everyone passed out on the table.
Finally we found board in a guest house and headed out for the Ganga Arati. By then, I had already bathed twice in the Ganges and was feeling the devotional spirit.
Some pilgrims asked me to take their photographs.
The next morning I had the first hot shower that I’ve had in a year. (Hey now. I shower everyday, but it is always with cold water) I then headed out for a nice walk alone. I came by an alley full of Sadhus that were getting chai. Seeing all of them together like that made it look a bit like skid row only color coordinated, so I nicknamed it Sadhu Row.
I then headed down to the Ganges to offer my prayers, but having had that great hot shower, I wasn’t about to go for a dip in the freezing waters. I decided to just salute the river and sprinkle some water over my head from the shore. What happened next I decided to immortalize in 140 characters:
Stood before Ganga thinking, “make me a better person.” As I bent towards the water, my mobile nearly fell in. Nice try Lord, nice try.
I continued on with my phone and my distractions.
Two more dips in the Ganga and finally we had to leave. It was a great trip.
Going into the Ganges is kind of like going to confession. You feel cleansed afterwards. But then, after spending a little more time in the world you feel like you need another bath. Our last dip was after dark, just before we were going to leave. We were very solemn and I decided that this time I would take a small vow that I could take with me as my connection with the Ganga. I took the vow not to curse anymore as I am quite proficient in the art.
The vow was easy to keep but had other unexpected affects on me. When you curse it keeps you in a hardened space. By stopping, I stepped back into a softer, more meditative place, but since everyone around me hadn’t changed their language I became more affected by what I was hearing. Suddenly, whereas before I was not at all bothered by hearing any words, now it was like little bombs going off around me. Of course, I just let them be. I am very satisfied with my decision, though. Just one small step on the road to becoming a better person.
Thank you Ganga. Thank you Rishikesh.
What was the last place you visited that had a lasting affect on the person that you are today?