By Rajesh Kamath, India
Kailash! To paraphrase Star Trek, it is the final frontier, a place where few people have ever gone before. Eight billion people on the planet and yet only a chosen few are privileged to undertake this amazing pilgrimage. And this privilege comes only through grace – the grace of one’s ancestors, the grace of one’s Master, the grace of Lord Shiva, and the grace of the Guru Mandala (the Masters of the Tradition). Nothing but grace gets one an invite from Lord Shiva.
It is this grace that opens the doors to various experiences on the pilgrimage. It is this grace that keeps one alive in the harshest of environments on this pilgrimage. It is this grace that allows one to successfully complete the pilgrimage. I have seen some pilgrims who feel that they were entitled to receive this grace – wishful thinking that they are special in some way to deserve it. To mistake grace with entitlement can only be termed as sheer ignorance and, without a shadow of doubt, ego and ingratitude of the highest order.
According to Mohanji, a pilgirimage to Kailash is complete when one takes a dip in the holy Manasarovar lake and has a darshan (holy sight) of holy Mount Kailash. Optionally, one can perform a circumambulation around holy Mount Kailash – either via the Outer Kora (circumbulation) route or the Inner Kora route. By the grace of Mohanji, I have been very fortunate to be on the Kailash pilgrimage twice – once in 2014 on the Outer Kora route and once in 2016 on the Inner Kora route.
Like most Hindus, I had heard of the holy pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. Thanks to an amazing mythology attached to it wherein Lord Shiva stays atop this beautiful white snowy mountain in the middle of nowhere with His family and His army. It could as well be a fairy tale because not many even dream to undertake this pilgrimage unlike the Char Dham (“four abodes”) pilgrimage – a pilgrimage to the four holy sites in India widely revered by Hindus and considered highly sacred to visit at least once in one’s lifetime.
The Kailash pilgrimage is not even visible on anyone’s radar, much less doing it. Even those that wistfully think about doing it feel that it is a pipe dream. And yet here I ended up doing a Kailash pilgrimage with a powerful Master a couple of months after vaguely thinking about doing it. If that is not grace, what is?
Listening to the experiences of a (now ex) colleague who had done the Kailash pilgrimage twice with the Chinmaya mission, got me thinking about doing Kailash. I checked with his contact but they said that they did not have any pilgrimage planned in the near future and would get back to me if and when they do. Out of the blue, I received an SMS from the Mumbai Mohanji center that Mohanji would be in town.
And guess the topic at the satsang (divine discourse) when I entered the room – Mohanji had just asked one of the attendees, Dhritiman (aka DB), to talk about his Kailash experience from 2013. At the end, DB mentioned that the pilgrimage would happen in four weeks at the end of that same month (July 2014). Talk about synchronicity! For me, it was like a huge flashing neon sign that I should join the Kailash pilgrimage.
In spite of the last minute runup, the whole registration process was unusually smooth thanks to Sumit from the organizing team and the invisible grace of Mohanji. It was sheer grace that allowed me to participate in the pilgrimage.
Someone canceled at the last minute opening a slot for me to join the group. The Chinese usually required the group permit to be applied a month or two before the pilgrimage (which would have ruled me out). However, that year, the Chinese delayed the group permit application process to just before the start of the pilgrimage.
Finally, my mind started playing games. Do you really want to go to a pilgrimage where you don’t know anyone? Wouldn’t it be better to use the two weeks to finally do the much-awaited motorcycle trip to Leh and Ladakh (a holy grail for bikers to ride on the highest motorable road in the world)? Finally, better sense prevailed and I decided against the motorcycle trip to join the Kailash pilgrimage.
2014 was a special year for the Kailash pilgrimage– the year of Dev Kumbh which comes once every 12 years. Dev Kumbh is special in that each Kora counts as twelve. Each Outer Kora (a 56km circumambulation around Mount Kailash) done that year got one the benefit of doing twelve Outer Koras and equivalently the twelve whammy of transformation.
On the flight to Kathmandu, I bumped into a girl from the Mumbai meditation group who was also doing the pilgrimage. She mentioned that there were around 85 people from around 20 different countries. I balked at the size and diversity of the group. I was expecting the group to be small – around 20-30 people. A vague thought surfaced to hijack the plane, turn the flight back and head back home.
When I reached the hotel, I saw a multitude of people outside the hotel enjoying the traditional Nepalese welcome. Most of them apparently knew each other. Hugs and greetings were being liberally exchanged. The one person I knew in this huge group had disappeared into this overfriendly sea of humanity. I tried my best to dematerialize myself.
I usually feel very conscious in a group setting. Breaking the ice is an ordeal for me because I am not sure what to say. The awkward pauses after the initial greeting are the stuff nightmares are made of. Once I get to know people, I am the loudest one in the room. When people who know me meet people who don’t know me, they get surprised because either group can’t seem to correlate my quiet self and my loud self.
Since there was not much I could do now, I decided to go with the flow. Since I lacked the spiritual abilities to disappear at will or the Harry Potter invisibility cloak, I did the next best thing. I moved over to where the bags were being offloaded and started helping there. Interestingly, this happened to be one of my fun tasks throughout the pilgrimage.
I had volunteered to help out with the pilgrimage and was assigned to daily task of getting the bags ready for loading each morning and unloading and distributing the bags in the evening. Interestingly, this pilgrimage is all about releasing baggage. Much like life, people would initially let go of their baggage, feel empty without it and take it back very soon.
It turned out to be a richly diverse group with all the obvious differences of color, race, religion, culture, nationalities, etc. Yet, it was an amazing group and, by the end of pilgrimage, they all seemed like family.
The pilgrimage felt like a special homecoming where long lost loved ones met after a long hiatus. Subsequently, I have come to expect this at most retreats with Mohanji. Our wider spiritual family reuniting with us and getting every closer, re-igniting the flame formed from the sparks of numerous past life interactions.
Back then in 2014, I smoked heavily. The first thing I did was to find the kindred company of fellow smokers in our pilgrimage group. And I found two active (a Romanian and a UAE born Indian) and two passive German smokers who were only there for the company. We whiled the night away discussing spiritual conspiracy theories over coffee and cigarettes. One of the Germans (henceforth referred to as Z-man) was very interesting.
Z-man could tap in and figure out the past life connections of any two people. He was also sensitive to energies; and had an “eye” that could see and “ears” that could hear. There was a Serbian doctor in our group who, for some reason, I kept referring to as Boris (wasn’t his name). I would apologize and the kind doctor finally told me, “Never mind. You can call me Boris since you like that name better.”
I told Z-man about this Boris episode. He went quiet, closed his eyes and on opening them said, “Russian war. 1800s. You were soldiers. You were younger. He was older. He died before you. His name in that life was Boris.” Such interesting “factoids” would be served at a moment’s notice by the Z-man!
Back then, I was a spiritual greenhorn with energies, visions and such amazing happenings in the parallel spiritual reality. Still am! The Z-man was my guide helping my “blind” self understand the import and magnitude of the spiritual occurrences that were unfolding during the pilgrimage.
He was instrumental in unravelling, to me, the significance of the pilgrimage. Post Kailash, he also helped me decipher some of my spiritual experiences. As you can see, the Divine always provides for the spiritually disabled. My sincere and heartfelt love and gratitude to the Z-man.
The day before we were scheduled to leave Kathmandu, my fellow smokers decided to go cold turkey. Inspired by them, I made one feeble attempt to quit smoking the following afternoon during our visit to the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. I left my packet of Indian cigarettes and the lighter on the wall near the temple and threw a conciliatory hopeful prayer in the direction of the Lord Pashupatinath (Lord Shiva) to take care of the addiction.
My resolve was steadily weakened and eventually undone by the evening as I headed out to the bar in search of cigarettes. Thus, began my parallel experimental odyssey into the murky world of Nepali and Chinese cigarettes through the pilgrimage. The ones where the brands are recognized by color and the potency by how the smoke burns on the way in.
A landslide happened in the countryside the day we were supposed to leave Kathmandu. This took place exactly between Kathmandu and the Chinese border. The landslide broke a dam and almost 500 people died that night. The tour operators informed all Kailash groups that roads leading to the Friendship bridge had been devastated effectively cancelling the pilgrimage.
No pilgrimage and the money paid would be forfeited since it was caused by “acts of God” circumstances. Mohanji told Sumit that cancelling the trip was not a solution in his Tradition and tasked him to find alternatives. Sumit acted quickly and took a decision, which was backed by Mohanji, to engage helicopters at an extra cost to pilgrims and fly over the impacted area to get to the other side.
It took a whole day of back-to-back sorties to get the entire group safely to the other side. After our last sortie, these helicopters were recalled back to assist with the emergency and were not available for general purpose usage. We literally made it through the skin of our teeth. Remember, almost all pilgrims from other groups were still stranded in Kathmandu. Isn’t this a sheer miracle?
In spite of smoking heavily all the way through the pilgrimage in high altitude environments, I hardly faced any breathlessness save some teething acclimatization issues on the first day at Nyalam. I breezed through the first day of the circumambulation of Mount Kailash and blazed all the way up to Dolmala pass on the second day. Dolmala pass was the highest point of our pilgrimage and the trek up to the pass was supposedly the hardest part of the pilgrimage.
I was so proud that I had reached Dolmala pass comfortably despite my smoking habit. I decided to celebrate with a cup of noodle soup and entered one of the tented restaurants. I noticed Mohanji and some of the group were already sitting there and joined them. After a while, they left and I proceeded to enjoy my noodle soup.
As the noodle soup spread it’s warmth through my body, I decided to spend some more time resting. Time went by and I realized that I was just sitting there. I was glued to the wooden bench. I had no interest to get up and proceed with the trek ahead. I just sat there watching everything around me. It felt like eternity. I struggled to do something but I was paralyzed.
Suddenly, I heard a voice from within saying, “Run!” Here, I couldn’t even get up and something within was asking me to run. I shook my head. And then, the voice pronounced even more powerfully, “Run! Run! Run! Just run” Something took hold of me and, as if pushed out, I jolted off the bench and started running out of the tent and across the trails leading downhill from Dolmala pass.
In those high altitudes, people walk slower to conserve energy and here I was running through the trails in heavy army boots like a crazed mad man. Must have been quite a sight! I kept running for a very long time until I was sure that the inertia and lethargy had left me. I stopped running and continued to walk the trails to Diraphuk, our camp for the night.
That’s when the ordeal started. One turn around the mountain led to another; and then another; and then a new mountain would appear; and the scene would repeat all over again with no end in sight. I was stuck in an infinite loop like in the movie Groundhog Day. To add to my woes, I met the girl from the Mumbai meditation group who was in a terrible shape and was sitting by herself on the side of the trails.
She had all but given up and was preparing herself to get petrified into the surrounding barren mountain landscape. Here, I was struggling to finish the day’s trek and God sends me another struggler for company. And a “tortoise” at that. Reminded me of the Marathi idiom, “Dushkalat terava mahina” (the thirteenth month in the year of famine). Abandoning her was tempting but not an option.
Given that she was doing worse than me, I had to focus on her and how to get her to complete the day’s trek. I prepared for the worst. I had figured that it may be past sunset and possibly way into the night before we get to the camp at Diraphuk. A fuller moon in the sky would ensure that we had enough light along the way.
I buckled in a bit tighter to be ready for the long haul and do whatever it takes to get both of us there. I had to employ every tool in the book to encourage her to take a few steps every now and then. And the elements played their part by peeing on our efforts by raining at frequent intervals and making things just a little bit harder.
In hindsight, her entry turned out to be a blessing in disguise for me. From the top of Dolmala pass, I had zombie walked the whole way till I met her. Because of her, I forgot all my troubles and was provided a strong intent to complete the day’s trek. As we got closer to the camp, she regained her mojo and we walked into the camp by twilight.
And, the same zombie walk was repeated for most of the last day (day 3) of the Outer Kora as well. Mohanji once remarked to me, “You only think you walked Kailash. You were unconscious. Someone carried you.” I have no choice but to grudgingly agree. I know that if it had been left to me, I would never have completed the trek by myself.
All through the Kailash pilgrimage, I felt a deep anguish of being separated from the Divine. It kept expressing itself very strongly several times at periodic intervals throughout the pilgrimage. Like there is an awesome party happening in the neighborhood. You can hear the sounds and see the lights. And you want so badly to be there. But no one invited you and you don’t know where it is happening so you can’t gatecrash it.
And you feel that they don’t want you there. I felt a deep agony for the fall from grace that required me to be born on earth. When alone, I would sing devotional songs, be deeply moved to tears and call out to be taken back from whence I came though I had no clue where that was.
After the first day’s trek, we reached Diraphuk which is the closest one gets to Mount Kailash on the Outer Kora. Mohanji wanted the priest to do a puja at Charan Sparsh (literally “touch the feet”) – considered the feet of Mount Kailash located a 3-4 hour trek from Diraphuk. That year, the Chinese army were denying access to Charan Sparsh.
A few members of our group went to request for permission. I didn’t know it was Charan Sparsh and erroneously thought that we were going to the base of Mount Kailash. I stood alone in front of Mount Kailash and strongly implored that I wanted to be let through to come closer (more like I deserved to).
For some strange reason, I felt I was entitled to go there and touch Mount Kailash. I cried with a deep anguish both within and without. However, we were denied access. So, we had to abandon the prospect of going there. It was not to be. I had deep feelings of betrayal and abandonment at that time.
Like the Godfather “Fredo, you broke my heart” kind of let down. I still can’t explain why I felt that way on that day. But the Master listens to all true cries of love and showers His grace to grant those wishes. This wish found fruition in my Kailash pilgrimage part deux in 2016. To read about my Kailash Inner Kora experience, please check the Kailash with Mohanji – The Inner Kora book on Amazon.
I remember the night vigils when we were staying on the shores of Lake Manasarovar. We were told that divine beings come to take dips in Lake Manasarovar and appear to us as beautiful lights. Mohanji had warned us to watch and pray to them from a distance. He specifically asked us not to interact with them since their high energies could fry our nerves leaving us dead or worse in a vegetative state.
Late in the night and in the wee hours of the morning, we would sit in groups just outside the gates of the compound and patiently wait for them to show up. And show up they did! Bright lights in multi-colored hues. They would radiate a bright luminous glow, increase or decrease in size, change colors, move in all directions – come closer or go farther, go up and down, left and right – flash on and off, come close to the surface and disappear for a while (presumably taking dips in the lake).
You couldn’t mistake them for anything else. In particular, I distinctly remember this group of three with one shining brighter than the rest. They kept flashing in sequence and moving around as if dancing to unheard celestial music playing in the background. A truly blissful experience.
I did have a “surreal” out-of-the-ordinary experience. On one of the vigils, I ended up staying out longer than the rest of the group. The place was so serene that it felt just good to spend some more time out there all alone. Suddenly, I noticed light shining from my right. The place gets hazy and misty in the night and hence the light was diffuse which made the scene all the more surreal.
Imagine my surprise, when I saw a few hazy white beings of light walking around a couple of hundred meters in front of me. They were slightly tall and were walking in a straight line. It looked like a scene from the movie, The Village, when the beings visit the village. I watched them with baited breath unsure whether to stay put or quietly head back.
They were too close and I was already in their presence so I decided to stay put while praying to Mohanji and the Masters to protect me. They walked quietly past me towards the end of the road. Suddenly, there was a commotion as I heard them talking to each other followed by the sound of vehicles revving up to life. They started their vehicles parked in the distance, got into them and left.
My “divine beings of light” turned out to be a group of local villagers. The light was possibly from their headlamps and they were covered from head to toe with blankets (that appeared white in the ambient light) to protect from the biting cold. Stupid people! If only they had parked their vehicles out of sight and hearing,
I would have been convinced of my surreal supernatural experience of bumping into divine beings of light. They ruined my perfect story for future generations on how I was lucky to encounter a group of divine beings and survived to tell the tale.
Throughout the pilgrimage, I got a first glimpse of the Master that was Mohanji. I was in awe of Him and maintained safe distance yet kept meandering close to Him. I was shadowing Him most of the way not really sure what was expected of me or what I expected of Him. I got to observe, first hand, some of the miraculous experiences like His face showing up on Mount Kailash complete with sunglasses and head dress. He told us, “Shiva is teasing me.”
Or when we were massaging his feet on Dolmala Pass, his thighs and calves became as hard as stone and he teasingly enquired if they were like Hanuman’s. In one of the odes to Hanuman, he is referred to as Vajra deha Rudravatar – the avatar (divine incarnation) of Rudra (a form of Lord Shiva) whose body is as hard as the vajra (the thunderbolt weapon of Lord Indra – the king of Gods). Yes, they surely felt like Hanuman’s.
A brief background. Since the start of my spiritual journey, I have felt a deep connection with Mahavatar Babaji and felt his guiding hand. Incidentally, I discovered Mohanji while looking for Mahavatar Babaji spots in Maharashtra to visit during my two week motorcycle trip through Maharashtra in December 2012. I chanced upon Mohanji’s three-part blog post, “Babaji beyond Definitions”. A must read for those who haven’t.
Later, I explored his writings and teachings and also his meditations. I distinctly remember that when I left home for my first meeting with Mohanji, I had the intuition that I would meet my Master. Throughout the satsang, my eyes were glued to his feet. And yet that didn’t feel strange to me either. After the satsang, my mind played its usual tricks and I was not so sure anymore.
After the meeting, I remember telling my friend that Mohanji is good but I don’t think he is my Master. In hindsight, as Morpheus said in the movie, The Matrix, “Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.” I followed his practices quite regularly but never accepted him as my Master. Through the pilgrimage, I was led to consider the possibility that Mohanji could be the One. The question, “Who is my Master – Mahavatar Babaji or Mohanji?” bothered me.
On our return to Kathmandu, I happened to be sitting in front of Mohanji over lunch and, as usual, an informal satsang started as he answered questions asked by the people seated around the table. In response to one of the questions, he answered my unspoken question while looking straight at me. He said, “The Master in front of you is the Master for you.”
“You may want to learn from a ‘higher’ Master but that has no relevance. A student of the first standard may want to learn from a college teacher. But he needs to progress through the intervening standards and reach the collegiate level before the college teacher can teach him anything.”
“A Master can, of course, hand a disciple over to a ‘higher’ Master if he so feels but that is based on his complete understanding of the disciple’s needs. It is not appropriate for a disciple to harbor that expectation since they don’t understand the bigger picture. The Master that is brought to you is your Master.” That put paid to the recurring question in my mind.
Since I was a relative newbie to being around a real Master, I got acquainted for the first time with the different flavors of devotion to the Master. I observed public displays of fawning devotion from many pilgrims and naively took them to be real expressions of love. I felt sad that I lacked the deep devotion within myself compared to what I saw out there. A few months later, most of them disconnected from Mohanji for trifling reasons.
They chose to weigh the words of others over the truth of their own experiences. I now realize that one’s outward expressions are never a reliable measure of the depth of one’s connection. However, some like Sumit who preferred to work silently in the shadows, left a deep impression and inspired me to dig deeper and achieve a greater degree of surrender.
The same goes for experiences shared by people at the end of the pilgrimage. Some pilgrims had amazing visions of Shiva and His family or other deities. Some pilgrims had reached a point of perfect peace, bliss, joy and other good-to-be-in states. Some were experiencing perfect stillness and silence. Some released a lot while others were feeling emptiness. Some had become enlightened (ok. nobody said that but you get the drift). I, for one, felt even more confused than I was before the pilgrimage.
Another pilgrimage experience. The Manasarovar lake was very cold when we entered to take our dips. During my first dip, I found the fellow pilgrim next to me chanting the Lord’s name loudly in a continuous stuttering repetition. His body was also shaking wildly. He was not very responsive and I felt that he was in a very deep trance. Probably in communion with the Lord. I decided to discontinue my dips to watch over him and help him back.
He was in this state for a while as I stood with him and held him steady. After some time, he hinted that he wanted to head back. I held him firmly and guided him back. As we came closer to the shore, he started collecting stones excitedly and also handed me some. I figured that spiritually imbued objects become more apparent in a higher state of consciousness.
Anyways, I helped him back, got him into some warm clothes and headed back to complete my dips. The next day, he sought me out and thanked me for helping him. He said that his body froze in the icy waters and he was unable to move. The chanting and the shaking were his involuntary reactions to the chilling experience. So much for my awe at being fortunate to observe one in an exalted state.
I now realize that experiences are just indicators given to seekers to suggest that they are headed in the right direction. The reason they are given and the manner in which they are given have significance only to the seeker who is experiencing. Hence, it does not make sense to compare our progress based on other people’s experiences. In some cases, the experiences are just elaborate illusions constructed by the mind to entertain itself. One’s transformation is the only true metric of one’s progress.
Life after Kailash was never the same. I attended the Rishikesh retreat with Mohanji later that year in December. Over the months, I had the grace to travel with Mohanji several times. I disappeared from office so regularly that people in my office started joking that I worked between vacations. Slowly but surely the spiral loop of my connection with Mohanji kept getting closer and closer.
Exactly a year after Kailash, I decided to quit work, a day before my birthday, to be with Mohanji for good. I wanted to be free (of the corporate rat race) on my birthday. The interesting part was that it was a very natural process. Not easy but natural. Mohanji suggested that I continue for one more year so I have time to decide before quitting. But I had had enough by then and chose to cut the cord immediately.
The Kailash pilgrimage effected a major transformation in my life and set me firmly on the path. Hence, I have nothing but the highest respect for the Kailash pilgrimage. For me, the choice to do the Kailash pilgrimage is the clarion call that a spiritual seeker answers to indicate to the universe that he is done with playing games and is ready for the highest that evolution has to offer – total and complete liberation.
|| JAI BRAHMARISHI MOHANJI||
Published by – Testimonials Team, 16th June 2019
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