Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Trip to Ganeshpuri, India

Meet Nityanda.

The shiniest jewel of my recent India adventure was my stealthy pilgrimage to Ganeshpuri, a small jungle village about 90-minutes north of Mumbai. I went to see the former home of Nityananda who is one of my greatest spiritual teachers; I've felt his presence around me for years, and his teachings just make sense to me. Nityananda built his last ashram there and took mahasamadhi (or mystically kicked the bucket) in 1961. This place has been on my to-do list for about 9 years!  Check that one off!

But you need some back-story before I share the sweetness from that day. I will share my own experience of Nityananda, rather than make a poor attempt at retelling people's accounts of his mysterious nature.

In April of 2006, I was en route to Cambodia for a job. I went to interview survivors of the Khmer Rouge and to write about sex trafficking and different community development projects in the tribal countryside. I went only four months after a two-year living stint in Kabul. I was operating on emotional fumes, and the physical/post traumatic burnout that comes with living in a war zone; it's because of this that I doubted my decision to go. Could I really handle another adventure?

I boarded the plane in Portland, Oregon to fly to LA for the night. The plan was to fly to Bangkok two days later. My nerves tied my stomach into a knot as the plane ascended into misty cloud fluff. I was worried, and I did something I had never done before--I talked to Nityananda in my head. I said, "Nityananda, if you can hear me--and I think you can--please show me a sign that Cambodia is part of my path. Please bring me to someone who loves you as much as I love you. That'll be my sign!"

Kali on the dashboard! 

Two hours later, my friend Katrina greeted me at LAX. As we drove on, I noticed a postcard of Kali on her dashboard. I asked, "Is this yours?" She said, "No, it belongs to my friend Greg. We're going to meet him right now, before we go back to my place." We rolled on to meet Greg. The weather was overcast, but warm. The smell of Pacific salt was thick in the air as we pulled up to his place that overlooked the Santa Monica coastline.  Katrina and I approached his door. My pulse quickened, and I didn't know why. Something inside let me know that meeting Greg wouldn't be an average experience.

Greg opened the door, and I felt an undeniable and explosive connection to him the instant our eyes met. He was something like a brother from another mother, or a long lost love from an almost forgotten time.  Yet this was the first time I saw him. How strange... As he welcomed us inside, I saw pictures of Nityananda and Kali all over the place. All over, in almost every room! And that was it--the immediate response to my silent in-flight request. Here was the one I asked Nityananda for on the plane that day--the one who loves him as much as I do.

Our deep conversations carried us into the evening, and so Katrina and I chose to stay. I rested alone in the night glow of Greg's meditation room, just below a picture of Nityananda that watched over me as I surrendered to my dreams. The appearance of Greg--the sign I requested--confirmed that Cambodia would treat me right, and it did. A story for another time...

The market at Ganeshpuri

Cut back to Ganeshpuri last month...

The driver turned a corner in poofs of sparkling dust. An 80-something year old woman stood no more than five feet tall in the middle of the dirt road and hailed our car. The wrinkles in her face spelled out an ancient calm and strong presence. We opened the passenger door, and, like a ninja, she effortlessly catapulted herself into the car. Surprising for someone who looked so tiny and frail.

I felt the energy of the car shift to a higher frequency as she situated herself. It was something that could be felt, like a subtle warm breeze on the skin. The silent sparkles of joy in her eyes touched my heart. She spoke in Hindi, which I don't speak, but something intuitive told me what she said. After she finished, I asked the driver to confirm that she told a story of how Nityananda used to materialize money out of nowhere to pay the day workers who built his ashram. He said yes, and, "How did you know???"  "Lucky guess" I said with a minimal grin.

She also mentioned how her husband ran the first cafeteria at Nityananda's ashram and how she talked to him when he was still alive. She said that she has visited the ashram everyday for nearly 60 years.

We arrived to the ashram five minutes later. I watch our new cosmic grandma hop down from the car and scurry to the temple where she made floral offerings, probably just like she has everyday for 60 years. Meeting her was much more satisfying than seeing the ashram. She was a living, breathing record of my teacher and of a time long gone. She was my precious moment in India. I will love the memory of her for years to come.

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