By Vijay Ramanaidoo
When I first heard about the trip to Kailash with Mohanji, I had no intention of going as this year was to be a significant birthday milestone for my wife, it was also our 20th wedding anniversary and my daughter would be turning 18 around the same period. I thought that it would not be fair for me to go to Kailash alone when the whole family could have a holiday together. However, my wife thought differently. She strongly encouraged me to make the journey as she understood the spiritual significance of this pilgrimage, that it was an opportunity of a lifetime (that may not come again) and that the pilgrimage would benefit generations of our family.
In the end, nine of us travelled from the UK, including Swami Govinda who has been living at the Skanda Vale ashram in Wales for the past 20 years. The circumstances of how he came to travel with us was very unusual. In late May 2014 I went to the ashram to participate in a sponsored walk to raise money for their hospice. I went to the ashram a day before the walk and met one of the ashram residents. When I told him that I was going to Kailash he mentioned to me that Swami Govinda had always wanted to go to Kailash. We joked that Swami would have to travel in astral form from one of the temples as it was unlikely that he would ever get the chance in this lifetime! As I walked up the hill to go to the temple of the divine Mother Kali, I met Swami Govinda. When I told him that I was going to Kailash he mentioned that he too would like to go one day. Again I thought to myself how could he go – he is a Swami who has been living in Skanda Vale for the last 20 years. Later, as I sat in the temple in front of the divine mother Kali’s form, the thought came to me that perhaps Swami could come with us and we could help with the arrangements. However the closing date was in February 2014 and it was now May 2014! The next day, after the sponsored walk, we made enquiries with Sumit in India to check if there was any space available for Swami. Sumit responded by saying that there is one place left! After getting permission from Swami Brahmananda (head of the ashram) arrangements were made for Swami to travel with us. Swami Govinda later informed me that before hearing of the offer to travel with us, on the morning of the sponsored walk, he actually had a dream that he was travelling to Kailash with a group of people! He also informed me that his Guru (Guru Subramanium, the founder of Skanda Vale) had often spoken of his desire to travel to mount Kailash but did not get to do so before his passing. However he mentioned to Swami Govinda that should he ever get the chance to go to Kailash he should go! It was an incredible blessing for Swami Govinda to travel with us and his presence enriched the whole group.
Leading up to the pilgrimage, I had many work pressures and was also coordinating some building work at home. Therefore I could not prepare adequately either spiritually or physically for the trip. However, having read the book ‘Kailash with Mohanji’ I realised that the main requirement was grace and this was my only hope of successfully completing this pilgrimage.
A few days before the trip I had a dream that I was travelling with a group of people on a journey when a strange looking man came up to me. His features were half man and half monkey. He spent some time talking to me, however, I have no recollection of what he said. As he was leaving, I felt that I should give him something. I looked in my pocket and found a slightly squashed laddu. As it was the only thing I had on me I offered this to him. He took it and left silently. This dream gave me hope that the grace and blessings of Lord Hanuman was with me and our group.
Grace was evident in smoothly overcoming the many difficulties we faced such as obtaining permits to get into China (while other groups stayed behind, still waiting for the permits) and getting helicopter transport for 100 people (including Sherpas) to fly over the massive landslide which destroyed the road to Tibet.
On our first day in Mansarovar, many of us were feeling ill due to altitude sickness, not helped by reduced acclimatization time due to the delays in obtaining the permit and delays caused by the landslide. I was not sure I would be able to take a dip in the cold waters of Mansarovar because I was not feeling well. However, as Mohanji stepped into the water I decided to follow. We performed Abhishek on Mohanji with Mansarovar water and when I took my first dip in this divine lake I touched Mohanji’s feet under water and felt his hand on my back. What a blessing! The first dip in Mansarovar sanctified by the opportunity to touch the Guru’s feet! This gave me the energy and the strength to take 27 dips in total. The dips were done for self, family, friends, colleagues, Gurus, Sai family, the world, the Universe, the whole of creation and everything that is and everything that is not!
That night we had the amazing opportunity to witness celestial beings paying homage to Shiva by taking a dip in Mansarovar. They appeared in light form like multi-coloured stars hovering over the lake, moving this way and that, dipping and disappearing. This was an astonishing experience.
The next day we participated in the divine Homa beside Mansarovar and we had the beautiful opportunity to chant the Rudram (special prayers to Shiva) and had another chance for a dip in Mansarovar.
The day before the parikrama I was still not feeling well with dizziness, vomiting, headache and nausea despite the best efforts of Deepali and Andre. When we were asked whether we wanted to take a porter, pony or both, I was persuaded to hire both as I could hardly walk 60 metres let alone 60 kilometres.
On the day of the Parikrama we were allocated our ponies and porter and I thought that I should get Mohanji’s blessings before starting. I touched Mohanji’s feet and he said ‘you will do well’. With this blessing I decided to walk with Mohanji for a while. I started walking and followed in the footsteps of the guru. As I walked, the pony and porter went ahead without me. Therefore I carried on walking with Mohanji while he pointed out the faces of Kailash, the caves and other points of interest. About 6 hours later I found that with His grace I had walked the whole of the first day!
That evening I again was not feeling well and wondered how I could make it the next day. In the morning Mohanji called me to the balcony and we did Arathi to the West face of Kailash. I again touched his feet for blessings before starting my walk. I sent the porter and pony ahead and decided to walk again. I walked on and on and on. Slowly but surely upwards, inching towards the top of the Dolma La pass (5700 metres high).
With every few steps I had to stop and catch my breath. The air is so thin that it’s not possible to get sufficient oxygen without resting every few steps. I realised that I was short of food and water as the porter and pony had gone ahead with my rucksack. Like an angel Namrata suddenly appeared on her pony. She saw me resting on a rock and insisted I take some of her water, some sweets and a huge bag of dates. I did not want to deprive her of her water and food so initially refused but she was insistent showing me the other goods she had on her! This helped me a lot. After an exhausting climb I reached the highest point and saw Mohanji. I immediately touched his feet and gave thanks. When Sumit and Hein arrived, Mohanji asked the three of us with Biba to go down to Gauri Khund for a puja conducted by Panditji. He asked me to be very careful as the path down and back up was difficult. On the way down I fell twice but eventually made it down. The five of us performed the puja and made our offerings. Mohanji had asked me to offer something from the UK. As I sat, I realised I had brought nothing to offer. All the offerings for the puja had been provided by Sumit. I looked through my pockets and there was nothing. I then realised that I was wearing an emerald on a chain. The colour of the emerald mirrored the colour of the water. It seemed to be an appropriate offering. An emerald to adorn the home of divine Mother Durga! I took the emerald from the chain, made a sincere prayer and offered it into the depths of the Gauri Khund. I prayed for permission to take a rock from the Gauri khund with me and I took some Gauri Khund water to offer to those back in the UK. While making my way up I fell again, knocked a small boulder that slowly rolled down, knocking Panditji’s Lingam into the Gauri Khund! I watched horrified but saw panditji swiftly dip his arm into the water to retrieve the lingam! It appeared as if the lingam wanted to be immersed in the Gauri Khund water.
After climbing back up from the Gauri Khund I walked across the glacier, down the mountain and on and on for what seemed an eternity. The pony remained unused. About 13 hours after starting the second day I made it to the guest house where Mohanji was waiting. I again touched his feet with immense love and gratitude.
The third day was a relatively short walk of about two hours. The pony and porter were sent away again and I continued to walk. I felt an enormous energy, I could feel the energy around me, swirling around my face and body. I overtook people on ponies and marched on until the end point of the parikrama. I fell at the feet of Mohanji and offered my love and gratitude. It was only by his compassion and grace that I managed to complete this. We took lots of pictures, everyone was in a celebratory mood, we had completed the parikrama – this year was special. One parikrama is equivalent to 12. I was elated at the achievement and could not believe that I had managed to walk the whole journey.
As we went onto the coach, nausea, headache and extreme fatigue overtook me and I literally collapsed into a seat on the coach. It was as if I was given the divine energy and grace to complete the parikrama and now it was over the energy and grace was taken away leaving me feeling the same way that I had been feeling before the parikrama!
On the coach journey back, despite the exhaustion, I reflected on this incredible journey. I looked up at the sky in front of me and saw a perfect and beautiful image of Shiva’s face in a cloud formation! The eyes were almond shaped and perfect. There was the nose, the mouth, the ears and the head, all perfectly formed. The pilgrimage was completed with the most wonderful darshan of Lord Shiva. All by the power of His grace!